Monday, 3 September 2012

One day in September

I'd love to say this post is fantastically late because I was out on the piss for Mad Monday with Nathan Carroll and we'd only just been released from police custody, but it was just a case of having too many better things to do than piece together strands of a post written on two different computers, a phone - and at one point when something came to me in a train - pieces of crumpled paper.

Shouldn't have bothered in the end I'm sure you'll agree, but as Bill Hicks said...


It would have taken a brave pundit to publicly claim that this game was going to be anything less than a steaming pile of toxic turd. When the main storyline of the week was Leigh Matthews advising the Dockers to openly point shave against a team they couldn't lose to in a million years in order to ensure a home final that should have been the cue for all but the most tragic supporters to find something better to do on Saturday night.

And indeed they did, with just 81,000 bothering to tune in. It wasn't quite the tax write-off that our match against GWS was (57k) but still when Fox Sports tally up where they've had value for money in the first year of the broadcast rights there won't be many of our games featuring in the top 100.

For those of us who a) had nothing better to do, b) have a track record for severe Bob Flanagan grade masochism or both there was the chance to see one last limp performance as everyone on and off-field desperately stretched for the finish line after having spent the whole year crashing into every hurdle imaginable.

Those of us who did subject ourselves to a going away farceshambles before the year ended at least saw the Melbourne Football Club strike a vital blow for the integrity of the competition. Yes, that Melbourne Football Club. Table this at the Tankquiry - with Freo provided the opportunity to manipulate the result in order to finish lower and get a 'home' final by default we took a stand and said no. They needed to beat us by no more than seven (if we scored 40, but how shit would you have to be to.. oh, I see) and we opened the game by gifting the two goals before 21 of 22 players (though I'll excuse designed council worker vestee Josh Tynan) had managed a single possession. NO CASE TO ANSWER YOUR HONOUR.

In the sworn testimony in front of the Grand Jury we might not mention that losing benefited our draft position, but let's be fair there are a lot of MFC players who have gone through their entire career not winning in Perth despite having a red hot go so why should this have been any different? Even with our best 22 out there we'd still have ended up being squished like a bug, so the question was just how bad it was going to go get and how much fight would be shown as we were inevitably put to the sword.

When a team has had a bottom-of-the-harbour scheme style season they're supposed to field a team full of kids and roll over and die in the last round, and we did our bit for both stereotypes by putting on the Fitz and bringing Tynan back then getting belted - but does it always have to be like that? We can't all be so lucky to play mental teams like Melbourne or Richmond in the last round but how do Port climb off the canvas two years in a row after nightmare years to put in a respectable performance in the last game with a team full of nobodies? Beating us in the last round of 2011 didn't help Port much, but at least it gave their fans a few months of belief rather than a creeping dread about being shit yet again next season.

Then there's GWS who had an even better excuse to run around in front of an empty stadium and take their deserved beating against North. They'll all barely out of primary school, have been waffled almost every week for six months and are being forced to play Israel Folau just because. Yet somehow they manage to trouble North to the point where the Roos put in a stinker and 'only' win by five goals, all but forfeiting their chance to stay in Melbourne in the first week of the finals and putting Freo in an almost unmanageable position to massage the result and stay in Perth for week one.

Sure they COULD have put the handbrake on in spectacular fashion and either lost to us (highly unlikely), let us get close enough to manipulate percentage appropriately OR they could just belt us as you'd expect and enjoy the experience no matter what the implications are for having to travel to an Elimination Final.

In the end they had a bit each way before realising we'd declined the written invitation to have a go and from halfway through the second quarter decided they'd might as well put on a training drill with some white clad traffic cones instead. Sadly for Roscoe the margin in the North game had left his in an almost unrortable position, and so we got kicked to buggery.

Not that I'm suggesting he ever considered pulling off any shenanigans, I'm in the Andrew Demetriou camp where I firmly believe tanking and the manipulation of results does not exist. So let's shut down the Tankquiry and give us some extra picks to say thanks for keeping Freo honest.

But who gives a shit about Ross Lyon, Freo or North right now? Let's concentrate on our own self-loathing and anguish at the end of what was the worst season since 1981 (messiah failure), 1997 (statistical fiasco) or 2007 (shock explosion) depending on how old you are.

Just when you thought you'd had two fingers waved in your general direction by this club enough times in 2012 it was a classic last minute FU to go out kicking just five goals. At least usually even when things turn out badly you might get seven or eight goals minimum - maybe something memorable to send us off into the post-season? Nah, bugger it we'll have three Bailey Quarters in one game instead. It wasn't our lowest score of the season (no really), and we didn't lose by a hundred but it was certainly an apt way to shut the door on a year which gargled some of the sweatiest plums in all of the known universe.

It's a surprise we didn't lose by more considering how much Freo dominated and how our players lost the ability to hit a target via handball from two metres away, but they did clock off en masse for the first half of the second quarter. The unkind would say the only reason we dominated for ten minutes was because Freo were trying to measure the lengths they'd have to go to in order to get the 'dream' result, but how about we give our side some credit for once and say they actually had a good stretch. It was just that we had a forward line consisting of Fitz and nobody else so of course we weren't going to capitalise.

If Freo were playing normally with no thought to the end result it wasn't for want of encouragement to open up on the rorts from the Fox Footy commentary team, and more specifically Dermott Brereton. It started when they interviewed Lyon before the game and he had to stand there being diplomatic as this clown stands there openly asking him if he's going to match fix. Then for the first three quarters every piece of stream-of-consciousness bollocks that came out of his mouth was related to how they were going to go about fixing the score. Freo's lawyers must have knocked on the door of the Fox Sports commentary booth at 3/4 time because he finally gave up rather than wasting our last quarter of footy for the year guffawing about how difficult it would be for Freo to blow a 50 point lead.

I rank Derm one level above Dwayne Russell, Tony Shaw and Brian Taylor. As long as we're not involved I can watch a game where he's calling and deal with some rambling bollocks, but when we're involved it makes me want to kick the TV in.

The commentary team cheerleading for one side to roll over for the other was distracting enough, but in a game where the opposition get 108 more disposals and we kick bugger all goals how am I supposed to remember any more than a handful of interesting moments?

I certainly remember Joel Macdonald becoming the latest player to suffer from my stamp of approval and take more than a quarter to get a kick before promptly shanking it straight out of bounds. I remember Watts hitting a target every time he got the ball but spending the rest of the time running around looking like he wanted to be anywhere else. I remember a LOT of ineffective disposals. One thing I don't remember was Blease doing anything other than kicking a ripper of a goal, because he didn't do anything else.

Yet again the midfield rested almost entirely on Jones' shoulders (despite a tag) with some token late season help from Sylvia and cameo appearances by McKenzie and Trengove - both of whom tried the hearts out but can't kick to save themselves. All that and Sandilands treating Jamar with disrespect at bounces before wandering forward and outmarking everyone because he's a bloody giraffe. Hitouts are as big a myth as inside 50's, but if you're going to lose them then get ready to win clearances or get ready to be beaten up.

Yet again the backline were forced to prop us up and block total disaster. Frawley looked far better than he has for the last few weeks and but for a couple of wonky kicks McDonald continued to be solid. Also Grimes - how good has his end of the year been? If Jones has been our best player from Round 1 and will win the Best and Fairest by 2000 votes I suspect Grimetime might run a close second in the latter part of the year. Here's to his first injury free season not being his last a'la the perennially crocked Jamar.

Nicholson was good too, and for once I'm willing to look past atrocious disposal to give votes to somebody who didn't hit targets because most of the time he was panic kicking due to lack of targets after going and getting the ball with hard work. Possibly not getting a game in a finals bound team, but we're not going to be one any time soon so welcome to the senior list. At least if it all goes wrong he's got an excuse for playing like he came from the amateurs.

The Dockers were kind enough not to totally kill us in the last quarter but even if they hadn't scored we'd have had to go another four quarters to even get close to the magic score. Fitz tried hard and I'm glad he got two goals but he's got a lot of work to do in the off-season. Obviously they're not even considering him as a ruckman in the future because he didn't get a token run against Sandi in the middle so the second/third tall forward job is his to have a proper go at. The only downside was that between the televised Casey game the previous Saturday and the start of this one was that he'd shaved off the beard combined with his straggly hair to make him look like a cult leader. Cult leader = cult figure so get the David Koresh look back in by the start of pre-season training.

Other than a few token nice moments from us and their self-preservation/attempts to spoon feed Pavlich the Coleman Medal (which would have ultimately been useless anyway) there wasn't much else to recommend the rest of the game. If there was nobody watching it at the start of the night god knows how many hadn't either flicked to Collingwood/Essendon or White Wife, Black Gentleman's Sausage #9 by the time the siren thankfully came and marked the end of a horrible, horrible year.

My first instinct is that I no longer care who they sack, trade or lose to free agency anymore but that's not entirely true. I really don't want Jared Rivers to go. Other than that there's a few I'd make a case for if I had to defend them in Delisting Court but nothing that should get in the way of the hand-grenade lobbing. I'm firmly in the 'wait and see' camp but Neeld's honeymoon has just ended, time to start rebuilding the rebuild.

For some the honeymoon was over about two minutes after he was announced as the coach, and the bandwagon has approached about 20% Scully (the new measurement for measuring the intensity of footy hatred) by the end of Round 23 but I'm going to stick with relentless optimism until next year. God knows if he can coach or if the assistants around him are any good, but as vile as this season has been he's got to have time to put his stamp on the list. He was good enough not to turn up and shoot everyone at the end of last year, but now the proverbial 'ruthless cull' is in the air and here's hoping Plan B is more successful.

The potential massacre presents an issue in itself. Nobody wants to be rubbish again, and I suspect there will be very polite MFC style rivers of blood if we are, but at the same time if we've come to the point where we're going to admit that the Bailey era list isn't going to cut it then there's got to be a reasonable look at the longer term but if they dump 10 players and don't add any blockbuster free agents from the rapidly thinning pool available then are we all going to be back here next year wailing that we've got a bunch of kids who are running around like headless chickens? Of course we will be.

There's a few 'kids' going into their third of fourth years that should (SHOULD) keep getting better - as well the enigmas like Watts and Morton. But we had all of three first year players in 2012 and only one of them was under 21 so unless we're going to be treated to Lucas Cook flying in like Batman and belatedly proving why we drafted him over the romper then there's not going to be much scope for natural improvement amongst the kids who are already there.

I'm not writing off 2013 in advance, but unless something drastic occurs then I don't see any reason why we'll finish any better than 13th (ironically exactly where I picked us to wind up this season). Is that going to be enough to keep people from throwing themselves out of windows? I doubt it. Miracles happen but if your mental health is resting on us challenging for the finals next year I suggest you spend the season at a health retreat because chances are you'll be very disappointed. What it's going to be about for me is doing the reverse to this year and getting a shitload of debutants onto the field. Maybe a couple of experienced players from other clubs help shore up the ship a bit, but in the end it's going to be pretty much the same model as this year so feel free to go wild on whatever voodoo style rituals you're keen on.

At least next year you don't know what's going to happen. That's something. There's the small window of hope where you wonder 'what if' before it's cruelly shut down halfway through Round 1. Chances are whatever happens that you won't remember it like you do this one. It's been horrendeous, and much of it has been painful but at least we've still got a club and the sun keeps rising. Tomorrow is another day etc..

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Daniel Nicholson
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Tom McDonald
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to Fitzpatrick, Frawley and nobody else.

Final standings
The Nathan Jonestown Massacre is complete, and even after being tagged to buggery and playing one of his most ordinary games all season he still managed to get a vote due to being surrounded by garbage. Good luck to anybody who has designs on beating this score in the future.

Also congratulations to Tom McDonald who pushed ahead of Magner at the last minute (legitimate vote too, not just there to break to tie - good luck to him that nobody else was any good) to take home the Hilton. In honour of him being the first man to ever win it under the 'debuting in the last month of the previous season' rule it's officially renamed the Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal from now on.

56 - Nathan Jones (RAMPANT WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
29 - Jack Grimes (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Jeremy Howe
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (DEFAULT WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Colin Sylvia
15 - Tom McDonald (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Jordie McKenzie
13 - James Magner, Daniel Nicholson
12 - Jared Rivers
11 - James Frawley
10 - Sam Blease
9 - Brent Moloney
8 - Matthew Bate, Joel Macdonald
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Rohan Bail, Colin Garland
1 - James Sellar

Congratulations to everyone who scored a vote, and especially to those who join the hallowed list of players who have done so over the years. To the rest of you, try to do better next time.

Stat My Bitch Up
To wrap up some of the statistical categories that we've been following this season...

Total score (22 game seasons)
Feel like you didn't see many goals kicked this season? Well you'd be right. Thank god for Mitch Clark.

1 - 207.235.1477 ('97)
2 - 224.236.1580 ('12)
2 - 234.225.1629 ('08)
3 - 238.277.1705 ('70)
4 - 253.225.1743 ('96)

Percentage (all time)
After a rocky mid-season point where we touched the bottom five we 'recovered' to 'just' the 9th worst season in history with 67.49%. It was even better than '08's 62.61%. What an era to live in.

Crowd Watch
Allegedly Freo fans are less feral than their fellow secessionists. Having never been there I can't comment, and apparently there was a cracking brawl in the stands, but they're clearly no less obsessed with booing anything and everything when it doesn't go their way.

I know when any jig that was in action was up they may as well have enjoyed the experience of watching us painfully striving to score, but early in the piece when it was delicately balanced at 20 points did they really need to boo every free kick and shot on goal? Feel free to sit back and enjoy a guaranteed win for once instead of playing up to stereotypes and acting like you're at the Nuremburg Rallies.

Next Week
If you're into cheap but cheerful versions of the MFC who have a chance of winning a minor league championship there's always the Casey Scorpions but otherwise you can put your feet up safe in the knowledge that the year is over and you can pay half an interest in the 8 team exhibition series which starts next Friday night. I'm going for Sydney just because I want Mike Pyke and Mitch Morton to win the Exhibition Cup Final.

At some point before Grand Final day the annual Demonblog End Of Year Spectacular will be on here. Just waiting for Don Lane to return my calls about hosting.

Next Year
Now here's where it starts to get ugly and both kids and adults alike have to shelve jumpers when their favourite players get the arse. Let's cross to international waters and see what's happening at the MFC List Management Academy. Look out for the cameo appearance by Max Gawn at the end.

The high likelihood that Casey are going to go out in straight sets again next weekend means that the inevitable raft of cuts might not be as delayed as you might have thought before they kicked three goals on the weekend but it's still highly unlikely that you've seen the last at upwards of five senior MFC players and a couple of rookies.

Nev Jetta and Joel Mac picked a really bad time to play a rubbish game (two in a row to be honest), because when Neeld and Co are rounding up people to put them on the bus to Miller's Crossing those two might find themselves sitting on the roof rack after Saturday night.

Dunn was no good either, and giving away the first goal on a stupid 50 won't have helped, but how much experience can you dump in one go? With Green and Moloney absolutely gone and Rivers every possible chance of joining them to have a crack at winning something before his time is up how are we supposed to make that up? You put too many kids in and you end up like GWS or Gold Coast without the benefit of them all being out of the top ten.

On that note I'll have a go at MFC Delisting Lotto. Hoping Rivers stays and that the rumours about Gysberts and the SME being on the trade block are false and deceptive, this is my betting slip:

RETIRED: Green
FREE AGENT: Moloney
DELISTED ROOKIE: Lawrence, Evans
DELISTED SENIOR: Bennell, Davis, Jetta, Jurrah, Macdonald
TRADE: Morton, Petterd

Nicholson goes to the senior list, Magner and Couch stay as rookies. If Rivers walks Macdonald survives.

Since I started writing this post it's sad to say I've had to add Jurrah to that list of delisted senior players after he apparently announced that he'd be off to Adelaide next year. Club statement seems to indicate that he doesn't want to play anywhere but we'll see what happens over the next few days.

Port released a statement saying suggesting they'd be open to looking at home but no way do they actually go and sign him up knowing that after March he could be in pokey for months if not years. So unless something extraordinary happens his AFL career is finished until at least 2014. Which is a shame for us, and for him, but at least we'll always have 36 games (32 of which he kicked at least one goal in) full of highlights to remember him by - and the greatest video of all time.

Yeah he played less games than Andrew Lamprill, Jeff Hilton and Ted Fidge but let's not get all revisionist and pretend that picking him in the 2008 Pre-Season draft was somehow a mistake. We might have had Tom Rockliff, and that might have turned out to be a longer term victory, but it's a bit fanciful now for people to act like him relocating and putting his career on hold was the inevitable conclusion of drafting somebody from a remote community. I didn't see anybody doing a 'countdown to disaster' before he smashed his wrist against Gold Coast last year.

Still, if they were being in any way reckless in picking him (they weren't) it's a shame that old school MFC style conservatism came back into vogue just in time to pass on Jack Darling just because he enjoyed a sex romp or 10.

I'd much rather have LJ than not, but if he's never seen again then we still got more than our money's worth for a PSD pick. If he'd turned around and said he didn't fancy it after two games fair enough, but we got good value before he was rolled by a set of circumstances so bizarre that even if you were setting out to deliberately do lazy stereotyping of indigenous players you probably wouldn't have thought up.

I hope we don't cut him loose completely. Assuming the Adelaide clubs don't want to risk him, and realistically why would you, we should send him off to the SANFL with our best wishes and an open invite to return whenever the situation permits. As long as that's not in five years etc.. etc.. May he kick 150 for Glenelg, get off on a technicality and come back into our welcoming arms next year when still young enough to do some real damage.

While on one hand it's disappointing and sad, on the other it instantly solves one enormous list management (CLICHE) headache. If we had any forwards who were 50/50 they might have just won a reprieve from the Nathan Carroll Memorial Shark Tank. Usually we're lucky just to have forwards so nobody readily springs to mind other than Petterd who would surely have seen the writing on the wall and decided to go elsewhere. Other than that The Fitz is obviously not going anywhere (unless he's being dragged by the leg rope) and despite showing absolutely nothing for two years Cook surely isn't going to get the boot (unless there's behind the scenes shenanigans afoot) but if there was any doubt this has probably saved him.

Other than them for god's sake find us a forward of some age and size immediately or we'll be one exploding Mitch foot or form slump away from 5.10.40 every week. At this point I'll even take Cloke on a billion dollars a year or Tippett and his egg-shell skull. Even Quentin bloody Lynch is an unrestricted free agent who can at least take a mark. Otherwise R1 2013 you're going to have some combo of Sellar, Puttin' on the Fitz and the SME as our other talls. All fine citizens, not 30 goal a year forwards.

If we can't get forwards what about we take the piss and assemble a Harlem Globetrotters style team of old men (most younger than me to be fair) from the remaining available free agents. Roll on Simon Black, Paul Chapman, Dustin Fletcher and David Wojcinski. Also Mark Nicoski, not because he's old but just because I love his gigantic owl style eyes.

On a personal note my near-flawless record of having seen pretty much every minute of every game from 2010-2012 is coming to an end at some point next season, so set yourself to be called upon for a guest writing stint. If the fixture somehow avoids the two weddings that I'll be at during the year then the two weeks I'll be overseas will absolutely end it. I've got a plan though - I'm going to tape all our games when I'm away, not read any papers or check anything online and watch them all as if new when I get home. Good luck with that.

Final Thoughts
And err... that's it. I won't say it's been entirely pleasant to watch, but thanks for forgoing self-harm long enough to show an interest.

4 comments:

  1. This blog is the only joy I've had all season. Awaiting some drug scandal at the B&F.

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  2. The only one who deserves a medal is you, Adam, for sitting through it all.

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  3. Thanks mate. I always read this every week. I love it. We share significant pain!

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  4. How about Bate? I think I would rather get rid of Bate than MacDonald.

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