Monday 13 May 2013

Black Sunday

"I tried to put everything into perspective
Set it against the scale of human suffering
And I thought of the Mugabe government
And the children of the Calcutta railways
This worked for a while"
- Half Man, Half Biscuit, National Shite Day

And so it's come to this..

I expect that right now, even hours after that abortion of a performance ended that Sack Neeld campaign HQ is pumping like the world's greatest nightclub. Unless the board unveil a collective pair of brass balls (and brass ladyballs) the likes of which this competition have never seen before in the face of the mobile execution squad which is rumbling its way towards AAMI Park with about 20,000 people behind the wheel he's coached his last game of AFL football and you the people who have been trying to hang him for a year have won. I think.

A few weeks ago he escaped the death penalty only by virtue of a last minute goal avalanche, but capital punishment is absolutely the next step after losing by 10 goals to one of 'those' teams, even if they were higher on the ladder, had won more games and were favourites. Like strapping the guy who killed your granny into the electric chair and hitting the juice it doesn't bring her back, and it doesn't discourage others from having to suffer in the future but it feels good at the time - and that's all that counts.

Vengeance is yours, and to be entirely honest I can't say I'm all that heartbroken but I hope it achieves something this time. Last time when Bailey went we toppled statues in the street and thought that we had been saved from a lifetime of mediocrity only to be plunged into the greatest catastrophe going.

Barring one of the all-time great miracles and/or K. Sheedy being 'available' after being run out of West Sydney on a rail for saying this then your coach next Sunday afternoon at 3.20pm will be one of a) Leigh Brown, b) Neil Craig, c) Jade Rawlings, d) Brian Royal or e) Todd Viney. Given that the first four are up to their necks in the same quicksand as the guy who's about to be handed his P45 and the other one hasn't been near match day coaching since the last game of 2011 I'm not sure I'm supposed to get excited about any of this - but to so many it will simply be a case of 'anybody but'. Maybe they could take it in turns a'la Collingwood in the NAB Cup? One assistant each week for the next four until the bye, then Viney, then Kitty from Progressive Insurance and a couple of competition winners after which we decide who did the best job and put them in charge for the next two months.

Not sure any of the assistants even would want to taint their resume by taking this side on for the next 15 games. It might be a case of the last guy out of the room being collared and forced to do it against his will. One way or the other there's going to be an empty seat next week because its usual owner will be headphoned up and wondering how in christ they put some dignity back into this footy club.

Talk about adding insult to injury, I'm sure we could have been in the same position right now if we'd lost by 20, 30, 40 points - but somehow we contrive to get rolled by ten goals and it all seems so much worse. BECAUSE IT IS. 10 goals last week was a laugh, and who cares. 10 goals this week is let's throw cinder blocks at the Demon Store until we feel better.

I'm not even sure we'd be avoiding the 'sacked coach' discussion if it had been a one point loss, but the funny thing about us all killing ourselves over losing to Gold Coast is that they've now won nine since the start of 2011 and we've won 13.5. If they've just overtaken us officially you can't say it wasn't coming - but it's not just about one defeat. The 'special' feelings that are reserved for losing to an expansion club can be fatal to a coach (ask Matthew Primus and Brett Ratten), but this is just the end result of a side losing 24 games since the start of last season, of which only two could be even generously be considered to be 'honourable' (excluding the ones where we kicked a few cheap ones in the last to make it respectable).

They are as follows:
Round 5 2012 vs St Kilda at the MCG
Round 16, 2012 vs Fremantle at Docklands

That's it. Don't tell me Blease going wild when St Kilda had given up, 'only' losing to the Bulldogs by 21 or not losing by 31 goals in Geelong count as honourable - because all three might have had their moments but none of them were even remotely 'honourable'. Even the two above are questionable. Every time you think we've hit rock bottom we find new ways make things even worse, and that's what's going to cost a coach his job sometime this week as well as a bunch of assistants and several players in or around early September. Start preparing the bodybags.

Now that Neeld is absolutely dead in the water I hope that whichever untried assistant coach replaces him at least benefits from some of this alleged quality 'off-field' work that's been done under his regime.

That's all we can hope for, that we look back in five years and go "he did XYZ and that somehow led us here today". I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel for him, and without the opportunity to slash and burn the entire list at once like the manager of a soccer team would he can't go on this year without it turning into an utter debacle. Surely if he makes it to next Sunday he'll actually be safe for a while given that nobody expects us to win again until Round 19 but the odds on that are pretty long at the moment. Maybe the presence of the new CEO will stay the execution? Or maybe the new CEO will go 'fuck it' and Neeld will turn up to AAMI Park tomorrow to find all his belongings on the pavement and that his security pass no longer works.

It's just got to the point where you feel everything the poor bastard does turns brown. I've tried to be fair and balanced, and compared to some of the horrible personal stuff people say about him (and let's remember here, he's a footy coach and not Gary Glitter so save the really harsh gear for people who deserve it) but it's one disaster after another with no end in sight. Even when he has had the chance to bring 'his' people in it's been a disaster (and I'm right off Shannon Byrnes again after a couple of promising weeks) so maybe it's a good thing that he could 'only' dump 14.

I still think he made a terrible mistake not butchering more players when he took over, but it's too late to go back now - wrong man at the wrong time, and we'll never know if going through the process for another two or three years would have eventually reaped rewards because that's not how footy clubs work now. Being a coach is like becoming leader of a political party, if it looks like you're leading your side off a massive cliff then you are going to get knifed and will be forced to slink off onto the backbenches Dean Bailey style for the rest of your footballing life. It's harsh but it's what you sign up for.

Of course this all assumes that the axe will fall sometime this week. It may not, the club might troll its supporters in spectacular fashion by letting the soap opera play out for another couple of weeks safe in the knowledge that not a damn thing can be done before the end to the season to put a competent, league standard team on the field. There's also the chance that we're so financially necked this year that they won't want to pay him out, but if they're going to lob him out of a plane at the end of the year anyway the least they can do is give him an early start on watching old episodes of The Simpsons on Foxtel all day until he can find another job.

It's really not all his fault though. I'm sick of the majority of the players who appear to not give the slightest fuck about what's going on. Maybe I'm the most naive fool on the face of the planet (yes) but I refuse to believe that players would deliberately go out with the intention of making their coach look bad, if only because it would reflect so poorly on them as well.

How would players organise a coup like that anyway? Secret meetings in a Coles carpark? Facebook messages? I'm still waiting for somebody to do the Air Crash Investigation style documentary on how 186 was supposedly some plot to get rid of Schwab gone wrong - because the idea that rolling over (and sure if true, they wouldn't have wanted it to go THAT badly) would somehow get an administrator sacked rather than the coach would be proof that we recruit only players who were dropped on their head at birth.

Instead of actively trying to get the coach the arse I just don't think many of them care what happens. They don't give a shit about what you or I think about them, and that's probably a good thing at the moment. You'd hope the ones that Neeld has personally brought to the club would show something, but of the team on the field today the only ones in contract drama at the end of the season (if my favourite page is correct) are Davey (fast track to retirement), Evans (not bad today, worth persisting with), Gawn (sign him up immediately or DIE) and Sylvia (knows he'll get a game elsewhere no matter what). What do Bail, Byrnes, Frawley, M. Jones, Kent, Nicholson, Spencer, Strauss and Tapscott care about the fate of a coach when they're contracted to the end of 2014? They might end up in the 2's under Coach X next season (or at another club in Frawley's case) but at least they'll get paid for it. How in christ's name do Bail, Byrnes and Spencer get contracts that take them past this year? Did we have to pay Byrnes off with a two year deal just to come to us? I dare say he wasn't exactly in a key position to negotiate at the end of last season so why not just one?

Some of them were ok in patches yesterday, but everyone's got blood on their hands for the situation we're in. Neeld might have self-inflicted wounds but nearly everyone else has had a go at his back in the last couple of years as well. When the man who runs the hardest to get to an opposition player and lay a shepherd for his teammate all day is the giraffe-like Jake Spencer then it goes beyond the whole team tuning out during motivational talks and saving their best work for non-competitive training drills and into the territory of people who should consider alternative forms of employment that they can be bothered with. Sadly to varying degrees of profit many of the players we're relying on to carry 'the kids' are simply appearing just to pick up their bag full of coins from the pay window, and at least one of them should retire and stop butchering his legacy.

Passing by the obvious stat about having a million less tackles despite also having a similar amount less possessions (because that one comes up every week), we had all of seven contested marks on the day and they were shared between four players. Last year when we beat them on the MCG we had 21 shared between 11 players. Add that to six marks inside 50 for the day and weep.  Jeremy Howe was the chief contributor to both stats, and if he adds to the general sense of misery by getting hurt (and I think we all reached for the petrol can and lighter when he and Tapscott almost killed each other) we'd be completely and utterly stuffed. If we could draft top 10 players with the same impact he has, my god we'd be at least not a completely pointless side.

It was to nobody's surprise that Dunn's dream run of one game as a tagger came to a crashing halt when he was forced to go up against Ablett. McKenzie managed to put the brakes on him a bit in the second half, and it was far from his best game but isn't that usually when Gold Coast play well? I don't see them winning too many games when he has 50 touches because his teammates shit themselves royally and look for him every time. Obviously when they lift and take the heat off him they all prosper, and we were more than happy to act as the perfect victims in that scenario because we're a mentally fragile, broken down team playing with no confidence at all. Arise 21 other players and goodbye to the depressed freaks.

Again we didn't start all that badly, is that the third or fourth time now this season that we've got through the first five minutes of a game without conceding a goal? It's definitely the second in a row where we've done that only to find that 25 minutes later we're five goals down the gurgler and the match is basically over. See also Essendon, where we were 'competitive' (CLICHE) for five minutes and then a rudderless shipwreck for the rest. Is it too much to ask for that if they're going to be shit every week that they at least mix it up a bit like the West Coast game?

It didn't help that we still don't have anything approaching a forward line. There were times in the first few minutes that we might have gotten something out of it if we'd had somebody to kick to - just like last week. But wait, who are we actually missing from said forward line? Nobody except Mitch Clark now. Maximum Gawn went hard at full-forward (and he had better not spend too much more time there or he'll be DQ'ed from the Stynes) but he's no Mitch and never will be.

Other than that we don't really have a forward line. By the time Clark blew his foot up last year we were already forced to use Rivers down there, and given that he's gone, Sellar was down the other end, Pedersen is already out of favour, Blease is the pawn in some bizarre game which involves either being in the midfield or at Casey and... err.. that's it. Good luck kicking a winning score against any team when you're expecting the likes of Bail to keep the scoreboard ticking over - you can't rely on uncharacteristic rampages like Evans against GWS every week, pretty much anyone could have got on the end of one during that. On today's performance Bail wouldn't have kicked goals if he was back playing in Queensland - mainly because he's not a forward but also because he's really not that good. How quickly must have signed that contract extension when it was offered to him?

Dawes went alright when somebody actually kicked the ball to him rather than booting it a metre above his head with two defenders standing on either side - for instance how good was his pass to Howe in the third quarter? Feed him the ball properly and give him somebody to kick to and he'll be fine - not that you could please the humanoids who were giving him the bronx late in the game. A fine welcome to give somebody, what do you people expect the guy to do - actually kick 10 as per his comedy press conference comments? Fark me, we have put up with unbelievable mediocrity from 95% of the last for years and then you flay a guy in the first game whose primary job it is to get on the end of other people's work?

Another frustration amongst thousands is that forward pressure seems to have completely gone out of fashion, and it's hard to understand why considering how many times this year we've been chopped to pieces by teams turning our aimless wanderings towards goal into scores of their own. Possibly because we don't have anybody capable of it, which would seem to be one of the great recruiting stuff ups of our time. Yet again today we'd shamble our way forward, hoof one aimlessly to the advantage of nobody and when our solitary player in the contest didn't get it the ball would be swept up and sent in the other direction at the speed of light. Blease is hardly the guy you're going to call for if you want to up the tackle numbers but at least he's got the speed to get to the contest and make life difficult for opposition defenders - just having somebody within the same postcode would at least provide implied pressure (CLICHE) and force them to think about what they're doing.

But despite the fact that we've rarely, if ever, had forwards on the ground at the marking contest, when opposition teams (doesn't matter which, they all do it) collect the ball and look up they've always got at least one player in acres of space. He will then find a teammate in similar acres, where if you're lucky and they're not all that good a team (don't be fooled by wins over garbage) they will eventually botch a kick and save our bacon. In the next four weeks we play Richmond, Fremantle, Hawthorn and Collingwood. These are good teams. These are teams who will generally not stuff it in the middle of the training drill ball movement and will rack up ENORMOUS wins against us if we stand off and let them run free, slicing and dicing us like a hot knife through red and blue butter.

I don't know if it's a tactical masterstroke or not, but is there any danger Daniel Nicholson could go near an opponent in the back-half of the ground? He just runs around 'in space' like that year everyone thought Daniel Ward was great because he never went near an opponent. I'm lead to believe Nicho was actually tagging throughout the day, which is even more horrifying considering how often he was standing around on his own as play went on nearby. He's another one who has crashed and burned since showing improvement last year, but if you're going to use him as a tagger then no bloody wonder - he can't kick to save himself but we need speed around the contests, let him do that instead of trying to turn him into a negating player because if today's anything to go by he's not got a future in it. But that's ok because he's got another year of guaranteed money to find something he does like doing.

It's getting harder and harder to watch this side, at least if they got thrashed playing death or glory football it would be interesting to sit through. Instead we get to enjoy 'defensive' football from a team who doesn't have the means or the inclination to actually defend. No wonder Frawley has checked out for the year, but it'd be nice if he could make it formal so that we can put somebody else in his spot.

The sad thing about having to put up with a caretaker coach for the rest of the year is that they have to try and placate everyone in order to possibly win one game in their coaching career before it's abruptly terminated after Round 23. If, for argument's sake, Paul Roos walked in on Tuesday intent on the long haul I'd love him to line the players up against a wall and, instead of machine gunning them all and claiming a new squad on insurance, simply ask them to step forward if they really want to play for this club for the rest of the year - every week when available. It should be a properly constituted meeting of the Melbourne FC Truth & Reconciliation Committee, where any player is free to say "NO SIR, I HAVE NO INTEREST" and be set free for the rest of 2013. No playing at Casey, a trade if you want one, come back next pre-season and prove that you give a shit if you're under contract and nobody else will take you. If that means Frawley and Sylvia are never seen again until they're strutting around in Hawthorn and Richmond jumpers next year then so be it. Enough of the passengers.

If it means Aaron Davey is happy to go and start the rest of his post-footy life now and give Tom Couch his spot then good. I don't care if Couch is not half the AFL player Davey is (even today) and is an absolute monty to be delisted at the end of the season as long as he's going to play like he cares. Anybody in the 2014 Contract Club who feels that they'd be better served coming back next year with a clear head can rack off to Bali (as long as they pay for their own trip) while we let the ones playing for their footy lives like Davis and god forbid even poor Tom Gillies (who I'm actually starting to feel bad about being so mean to this year) have a crack. Fitzpatrick, Jetta, Magner, Taggert, Tynan - play them all and if we get thrashed every week then at least we did it in the right spirit. How many rookies can we promote? Get Clisby and Stark in there eventually as well if we have to. Play every single person on the list who wants to be there and let's either never see the rest again or only let them back in when they're 100% committed to the cause.

It's not all about how bad we were, Gold Coast were pretty good themselves and have got some killer young players that I'd give my left plum for us to be given the chance to ruin. It doesn't hurt that they've already played the league's two rubbish teams (and have the Bulldogs) next but they're on the verge of the eight. They managed to ride out the pain of being humped every week and even last year when they were still no good they only lost one game by more than a hundred - which is one less than us. In the midst of this incremental improvement (TREMENDOUS CLICHE) they've managed to get 30-50 games and counting into plenty of players, doing exactly what Neeld is always insisting we must do. All the while we're bouncing 'kids' between the seniors and reserves, giving away the likes of Gysberts (maybe rightly so) and Martin for basically nothing and filling spots with the likes of Rodan to artificially inflate our experience level. And it's been a total bomb.

They've now got 10 players between 30-50 games (excluding those who came from elsewhere like Ablett and Harbrow) compared to our four, Tapscott (34), Jetta (38), Bail (40), Howe (41). And other than Howe is anybody really overwhelmed by the thought of any of them being there in the future? I still don't understand what Tapscott's role is, and no doubt neither does he.

Gold Coast's list is heavily weighted by players they were handed in the draft and via concessions but in the grand scheme of things you can extend our list to 100 games and it still only adds Garland (solid), Trengove (troubled), McKenzie (limited), Grimes (permanently crocked) and Watts (enigmatic). As much as you personally love at least some of the players on that list three of them are top 20 picks who are shaping up to be nothing more than solid contributors who still need stars to come in and lift them to the next level. Where do we get these stars from? More roll of the dice draft picks. Not one of our nine players from 30-100 is anything more than a good player in the making, whereas Gold Coast are threatening to have stars out the yin yang in a couple of years.

So we've got that going for us, and if we were capable of changing the flow of a game in any way we might have dragged the margin back to something gettable in the last quarter. There was still three quarters to overhaul a five goal deficit, and if we could actually kick five goals for the game (spoiler: we only just managed it thanks to junk time and Gold Coast running out of fit players) there was no reason we couldn't run them down. Except that we just went out and did the exact same thing again. In every quarter. Until death do us part. At least we got goals, but in another classic Melbourne tradition after we toiled to the ends of the earth for our first two during the second quarter we then turned around and let them kick a reply about a minute later. Then they started kicking goals, and did we reply? Of course we bloody didn't. We botched a few chances and cult hero Gawn got one right at the end but there was no indication that we were going to get back into it.

At best all we could hope for was a narrow win which would please nobody and leave coach and players in the same situation unless they could disguise it again with some sort of feelgood factor generating record quarter. Again this would have taken us doing something different, like y'know playing the sub from the start of the second half in the hope of getting a kick-start? Kent did eventually get the arse mid-way through the quarter after having done almost nothing up until then, but not until we'd officially fucked it all up. It started with the free kick before the first bounce, which all Melbourne fans assure me was a terrible rort, but you would say that wouldn't you? Still, maybe stop trying to be butch and manly for a while and get a kick instead? Maybe try playing a third quarter for the first time all year? Another five goals to one in this one, and at least by this point everyone had given up trying to act tough and sensibly started play for self preservation instead. Well, except Colin Sylvia who decided he was Dirty Harry and assassinated Jared Brennan in what would what might have lifted the team had it not led to a five minute break while the victim was loaded onto a stretcher and driven from the ground half unconscious (though I believe it's not easy to tell the difference with Brennan).

Ah the free kick. I believe it was against Nicholson, which is good enough for me on a day where I've already lost faith in him. At least Sylvia killing somebody had more oomph in it than this pissweak half-hearted jostling with opponents a mile off the ball which cost us the goal. Was it there, no idea. Are we dumb for getting ourselves sucked into a position where we gave away the free? Absolutely. It was about as useful as Dunn's attempts to conceal the enormous quality gap between he and Ablett by 'roughing up' Gaz in the first quarter, a tactic which Ablett  could barely contain himself from openly laughing in Dunn's face about.

Never fear though, because when everyone else is just pretending to be a tough guy we've got former #3 pick Colin Sylvia to pretend AND knock them out at the same time. I'll be generous and call it reckless instead of intentional + high impact (it could slip to severe given that Brennan got carted off, but I think that's more if you fracture somebody's skull) and to the head - so that's level 4, rough conduct and 425pts plus his 93.75 carryover from Round 1 (518.75). Then throw in plus 20% for his two game suspension in 2011, minus 25% for pleading guilty and he should - if I've played Match Review Panel Bingo correctly - just get away with a four game ban (492 points) and conveniently miss all the good teams over the next month before returning to play himself into a decent contract elsewhere over the last few weeks of the season. Personally I'd rather we do exactly what we should have done with $cully and offer him two pieces of paper, a contract and a press statement announcing he'd be leaving and let him decide which one to put his name to. If it's the former welcome back, if it's the latter don't let the door hit you on the way out.

At least when Viney, who was thankfully back to his early season form and we still have time to ruin, killed somebody he did it completely by accident and came out totally unscathed. Unfortunately in the process of ruining Thomas Murphy's 100th game by knocking him the fuck out Jack also prolonged the match by about five minutes, giving everyone who wanted to get their face on TV yelling down the race extra time to get in position. Admittedly this is probably marginally braver than people like me who just sat there swearing openly in their seat (until I looked right and five security guards were standing there. No interest in me they were just bored) but this guy can enjoy copping shit from everyone who knows/works with/has ever met for years while we cowards perched high in the standards screaming into oblivion get to remain anonymous. Suits me. I'd love to sit down with players for a non-holds barred discussion about WTF is going on, but there's no point in doing it by spraying spittle all over them while screaming in their faces after the game - and if we're lucky one of the players will create a 'moment' and snot somebody before the end of the year.

At the point where Viney inadvertently killed Murphy we were still 'only' 45 points down, and the Suns had already lost Brennan about five seconds after making their sub (shit rule, bring back the full bench) so now they were down to one on the bench so you'd think we'd have banged through a few token goals to drag the margin back to something that even the insanest of optimists could spin as being not all that bad. And you'd be wrong, they extended the margin even further AND should have had more if they hadn't decided to get cute with party time kicks and miss sitters from directly in front. We are only being saved from being the worst rabble in the modern history of the game by GWS - for now. And they've still got a higher percentage and a bigger book of valid excuses than us.

Can we win another game? We won't beat Gold Coast up there (and I'm thrilled that my plan to go to that game hasn't actually been backed up with any action yet. It is quite literally on my birthday and I feel I should find something better to do than sit in an empty stadium trying to self-harm. Absolutely no doubt I'll still end up there), and it's absolutely line-ball whether we can do the Giants the week before. Two games against Footscray should give them an artificial sense of self-worth and other than that we're cactus - roll on another top youth player who unlike Smilin' Jimmy Toumpas will visibly wince when we read his name out or keep a poker face a'la $cully that says "I am going to screw you all later". You know I love a pointless comparison, so here's the class we're in since the start of the national competition. A reminder that we're currently one win and 55 per cent, a number which is not at all likely to go up in the next month. Roll on the big guns:

1 win, 49.5% - Fitzroy 1996
1 win, 63.3% - Sydney 1993 (and we all know who the one win was against don't we?)
2 wins, 46.2% - GWS 2012
2 wins, 58.2% - Fitzroy 1995
2 wins, 72.0% - Fremantle 2001
2 wins, 1 draw, 70.5% - St Kilda 2000
3 wins, 56.3% - Gold Coast 2011
3 wins 62.2% - Ourselves 2008
3 wins, 64.5% - Port Adelaide 2011
3 wins, 69.5% - Brisbane 1991
3 wins, 73.1% - Carlton 2002

That's all the teams that have won three games or less since 1987. Only one team features twice and they're now playing in the amateurs. If we can beat our 2008 mark by 0.1% I'd be chuffed to the bollocks at the moment, but that would require winning two more games which seems about as likely as me being asked to host the second series of Celebrity Splash. I think even if we don't win another game (fork + toaster please) that we can avoid the dreaded 49.5% mark but it depends how bad it gets firstly over the next four weeks and then against Sydney, Geelong and North in the last few weeks when they need percentage boosters. Don't forget we still have to go to Kardinia Park, and damn good sense to hell I'm going back for the first time since 186 because I no longer fear footballing death. If we lose by 200 so what, I'm expecting it now. The reason 186 was so heinous was that it came as a surprise, now it would be lazy of the Cats not to roger us by 30 goals.

It's interesting to see how long it took those sides to crawl out of the toilet and back to respectability. Fitzroy never did, Gold Coast, GWS, Port Adelaide and us are still in it but apart from Carlton (seven years) the rest all got back into the finals within five years - Fremantle (two), Sydney (three) , St Kilda (four) and Brisbane (four). To me that says cross your fingers for a streak of good luck and set your expectations to low for at least three seasons. They shouldn't be slightly higher than they are now, but don't expect the same sort of miracle that so many were talking up post-186 as if we were going to be in the eight straight away just because Bailey was gone. Technically we've already in the fifth season since 2008 so it's likely we're going to be worse than Carlton but let's treat the new era as a totally new team to try and make ourselves feel better.

What it means is that whoever the coach is we all have to back them in 100% for at least three years. Even if we're in the same situation we are now we go for the full three seasons. I will cop Neeld getting the sack now just to try and wash off whatever curse we're under but we are NOT sacking a fifth coach in a row during the season without shutting up shop on the whole club. Get it right this time or pick the next coach via a postal ballot of members.

So good luck to the Suns, they can win the flag for the next ten years for all I care because in that time we'll still be wallowing at the foot the ladder with whichever teams slip into our orbit for a couple of years before busting their way out, leaving us behind in a crumpled, violated heap. By then we'll either have been forced to play matches against small teams in Boutique Stadium or will have relocated permanently (and foolishly) to Darwin.

Maybe in a decade we'll have stopped doing weird things and started acting like a professional outfit. With respect to the people running the club on a day to day level, who I'm sure would scoff at the views of idiots with keyboards looking in from the outside (and so they should) and most of whom probably do a great, unsung job it frustrates me how often we make ourselves look stupid in the public eye. For instance, why is the coach still trying to justify the way the captains were selected 15 months ago?

Forget whether it was a good idea or not (it's too late for that) and forget trying to keep the media happy so they don't run daily hatchet jobs on us (because we feed them so much ammunition they would be derelict in their duties not to) why are we even taking discussion on what is - to us at least - a dead topic?

I'm no professional in this field, but if I'm advising Neeld or anybody else who's doing media I say don't even get into discussions about that process. Say "We've covered that before, nothing has changed" and move on to the next subject - don't stand there trying to justify a process that everyone has already formed an opinion on, because no matter what else you say the headline news will be "Melbourne coach/assistant coach whoever defended the process of selecting the captains" and we get another run in the press and talkback radio looking as if our club is run like a Tijuana whorehouse. I'm sure it isn't, and that the subtleties of a football club are far too much to understand from the outside but it would be a great time to start acting like it. A Malthouse or a Clarkson might not have made that decision in the first place, but they wouldn't waste their time defending it for years afterwards if they had. When Mick doesn't want to answer a question he doesn't, and ok he's got plenty of credit built up with journos but it doesn't mean the new guys have to roll over and do everything the media tells them to.

If we end up with another first time coach maybe we need to treat him like you would a politician. Do you think Abbott and Gillard come up with anything that they say on a daily basis? I'd say the moment either of them wakes up they're handed a list of things to say and key messages to deliver for the day. I don't know what the relationship is between football department and media/comms team but if I were the latter I'd have at least five minutes a week with the coach, captain and anybody else likely to be interviewed to sit in front of a whiteboard with a) the topics that nobody is to talk about, b) the messages that we do want to put out and work on strategies for them to get from a) to b) smoothly - just like politicians do. The damage is done now, but soon we're going to get a fresh new face and no doubt it will be somebody who isn't used to having a microphone jammed in their face every five seconds so we can do better this time.

You can't control everything, and some people won't want to be controlled, but we've got to restore the aura of competence. It's got flow on effects - the less ridiculous the club looks, the less silly things people say, the more they believe we know what we're doing and have a plan for the future, the less we get battered in the media and the less our receptionist and Twitterist are checking into the Betty Ford Clinic after spending six days a week drinking until they can't stand up due to all the abuse. You have to back it up with results eventually, but just having the look of not being a complete shambles is good for everyone. Including sponsors who we really need now that Opel/Webjet are coming to the end of their two years (and will no doubt walk) and we're losing $1.5m for the season.

Whoever does the Twitter and Facebook stuff needs to be in on this as well - they need to learn that 90% of people won't sit down and watch the press conference, and will likely rely on the edited highlights that come from website/Twitter etc.. to form their opinions or will hear it from a talkback caller or read it on a forum. They need to realise they can 'protect' the coach in the way they report what he says - some paraphrasing isn't terrible as long as you don't make things worse. I think they do a terrific job online considering the product that they're trying to pump up is shit, and considering the amount of ridiculous abuse people are firing at them as if they're talking to Neeld himself, but it doesn't hurt to get everyone on the same page and give them the confidence to know what they can and can't say so they can work on repackaging (CLICHE) the message (SUPER CLICHE) for the majority of fans who won't go out of their way to hear it first hand.

My key media highlight of the day was Neeld trying to explain our woeful tackle count by pointing out that we'd actually attempted plenty of tackles but couldn't stick them because Gold Coast were stronger than us. At that point he may as well have gotten up and left instead of staying there being belted around the head for 20 minutes. Not sure how long they're obliged to stay at the press conferences for, but I'm sure he could have escaped a lot earlier if somebody had been frantically pointing to a watch at the back of the room. What an indictment of a fact though - I don't give a toss if they were actually a 'younger' team than us in games experience, wasn't he selling players like Morton and Gysberts for chump change because they were weedy? What have we done with the rest of the list? This is why effort is great for about five minutes a game then needs to be backed up with some sort of reality.

He's probably lucky that the press went easy on him tonight, I don't know what the etiquette is with sports journos but I've have tried to bait him into cracking the shits in every way possible - "Mark, will you still be coach in the morning", "Mark, do you take personal responsibility" etc.. etc.. until he was all wound up. Nobody seems to do that in footy press conferences. I know it would be considered bad form to ask those questions but the same journos don't seem to have much of an issue writing hatchet job articles, why not grow the proverbial pair and ask it face to face. He can't kill you with his bare hands sadly, and none of us will be able to hear it anyway. Take a chance and see if you can get a memorable soundbite.

My all time MFC media farceshambles moment was when we made Bailey read out his own obituary in front of a blank wall and then constructed the media wall for the interviews after. Cringeworthy amateurism, and thank god they didn't make Schwab commit hari kiri in front of an indistinct white wall - even if he was probably the one who made Bailey do it the first time.

Of course the challenge of looking like a competent, coherent organisation isn't helped by our ex-players going on a world tour telling everyone how utterly shit we are and how the coach has no idea, but that's the risk you take when you come in set on changing everything. If it had worked in the most moderately publicly visible way nobody cares when Rivers goes on SEN and 3AW in the same night to pot the coach for dumping he and Moloney from the leadership group. To his credit Rivers did say that the top shelf reason for leaving was that he was sick of playing for a shit club in front of no fans and wanted to win for once (paraphrase) but it's our continuing state of shambles which allows this sort of thing to happen and look perfectly reasonable. As much as I still love Riv I'd argue for the millionth time that if you need a title to make you a leader you shouldn't be one, but not everyone is a Junior McDonald and remains staunch even when they've been screwed - and unlike anybody who has played for us under Neeld there's no doubt he got screwed.

If you project the image of a basketcase people will believe anything, just think about all the ridiculous rumours you've heard in the last year that haven't come true. People would believe anything about us at the moment and that's our fault. The absurd "Paul Roos is coming to Melbourne" story during the week is a perfect example. One post on a blog with three stories, one of which suggested Sydney was going to sign Fev if they didn't get Tippett, which looked like it was written by a 9-year-old and suddenly everyone's pulling their pud about the brave new era. Not surprisingly five seconds later somebody picks up the phone to P. Roos and he can't deny it fast enough. Have your own fun this week, start a rumour and see how far you can get it.

And that's it. We're shithouse and the entire world knows it. Good luck Peter Jackson, you can sit down with Chris Dawes and reminisce about what it's like to be have once been involved with a properly run, successful club because now you've stepped right onto the flight deck of the Hindenburg. Schwab's gone, the beards and gone, the coach is going and the excuses have all been exhausted. Time to sit some people down and give it to them right between the eyes.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
This is difficult... Top three worthy, the last two are filling spaces. I almost gave a vote to the Spencil for his over the top attempts at tackling which often ended up in a JBL style Clothesline From Hell, but then I realised that he never actually landed one real tackle for the day and gave away five free kicks.

So instead I'll opt for:

5 - Jeremy Howe
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Matt Jones

Apologies to Evans and Spencer. Sellar wasn't terrible either but if I gave him a vote somebody would put a bomb in my car.

17 - Nathan Jones
12 - Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award), Colin Sylvia
11 - Jack Viney
9 - Shannon Byrnes, Jeremy Howe
6 - Michael Evans
5 - Lynden Dunn, Colin Garland (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year) Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
2 - Rohan Bail, Aaron Davey , Mark Jamar (JOINT LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
1 - Mitch Clark, James Frawley, Jordie McKenzie, Luke Tapscott

Crowd Watch
Despite a surprising amount of Gold Coast fans in attendance my arse that was a bigger crowd than Fremantle 2009. Creative accountancy at its best after only 5000 turned up for GWS/Adelaide earlier in the day. Nothing they could do would stop it being probably the lowest total attendance for a 'full' day of VFL/AFL football ever, but how many times did they count everyone to get that figure? I scanned out and back in again before the game, no doubt they counted that as two.

13,304 is bad - and it does put the game into this list (when I can be bothered updating it) - but it should have been worse. Proof undeniable that we've got 10,000 people the club can rely on no matter what. For now. If nothing else I hope this game has re-energised them after we were all about to slip into a coma last week.

Not that any of these alleged 13,304 people were sitting at the top of the Ponsford. And thank god for that. How it comforts me to watch debacles take place from up there, even with bird shit on every seat and last week on my arm. You know you'll always be allowed to yell any sorts of obscenities up there and like a tree falling in the woods if there's nobody there to hear it then it didn't happen. Except when we play good sides, but you can always move right up the back and have about three rows to yourself. Including the front, back and middle I counted 70 people in the entire top deck before the game. Late in the last quarter it was down to 38, which if we project it across the rest of the ground means there were about 6080 people left by the end, which seems pretty accurate.

At least we weren't the only people who looked depressed. Every single MCG employee and contractor in the place looked as if they were about to burst into tears or stab somebody in the face. Obviously they don't get paid based on the gate so fire up a little or vacate your jobs so that members of our playing list may have them. I'd also like somebody from the MCG to take the bible in hand and swear under oath that all food being sold today was actually prepared today - I foolishly bought some chips that if they weren't reheated from last night then I'm not here.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week
I'm sure there's some incredible stuff in the quarter by quarters, and I was almost tempted to throw in Twitter as well today considering the absolute slaughter that account must have copped but let's stick with comments from the post-match and press conference Facebook posts only. If I've missed any belters email or tweet me and I'll update.

I'd love to highlight every post where somebody spelled a player's name in horrendous fashion (including TEENGOVE) but it's already 4.30am so I've stayed with the post-match thread to the end and found gold. First there's a guy who appears to be threatening to either self harm or go on an armed rampage in the name of this club and then one of the greatest celebrity cameos of all time.

I love Fidge's passion, not to mention his name. Who's in for a Fidge led revolution? WE WANT FIDGE! He also played in 31% wins, which by our current standards practically makes him a Hall of Famer.

Also, contrary to what half of Facebook believes you can't get a refund on your membership, so if you feel that strongly throw the bloody thing into the ocean and get on with your life.

Next Week
New coach or not Richmond are going to disembowel us next week. There's something to look forward to. Good timing for Casey to have the week off thanks to a VFL state game that nobody other than the 44 players involved give a shit about. Just when we need to make some hard selection decisions we've got nothing to base it on other than a game against Port Melbourne two weeks before - why do we persist with this shambles of a competition?

I know that I'm practically joining the same queue who were threatening to blow up a school if we didn't play Tom Couch last year but for the love of god somebody give Magner a game. Are we so skint that we don't want to pay him extras? Do we need to put our hand in pocket for the upgrade again like Aaron Davey 2004? He's not the world's best player but some options and variety would be nice - also there's more chance that he'll be there in five years than there will be Rodan being there in January, so give up on that fantasy already and pick the guy so he doesn't have to get a second job dealing Blackjack at the Casino to pay his rent. 

IN: Blease, Magner, McDonald, Toumpas
OUT: Sylvia (susp.), Bail, Kent, Sellar (omit)
LUCKY THERE'S NOBODY TO REPLACE THEM: Byrnes, Davey, Dunn, McKenzie, Nicholson and Tapscott

If Jamar and Watts are fit then Spencer and Dunn can both go as well. I'd be sad to not fit The Spencil in, because if the ship's taking on water at a rapid rate I'd rather go down with players having a go (as unco as it may be) than the ones who have the work ethic of George Costanza and are just there to collect cheques before pissing off somewhere else where they can play in front of decent crowds in decent teams and pot us in the media. Besides he's amusing to watch. You could have all three in the side with Jamar/Gawn up forward, if you were insane. I'd give it a go just for laughs.

I could almost be convinced to let Sellar stay just to give us another forward target other than Gawn, but at the moment I would really honestly rather play Fitzpatrick up there no matter how unlikely it is that he's ever going to be of any great senior standard.

Next Season
We are a circus and deserve the appropriate atmosphere. Get Mark Williams in and let's at least die laughing. Picking outwardly sensible and serious people has gotten us nowhere, time to roll in unbridled passion and outright insanity.

Knowing us we'll recruit the wrong one and get the ex-Hawthorn/Essendon player as Captain/Coach.

Was it worth it?
This week no birds shat on me.

Final thoughts
I have no idea what I can do to help the club but I'm up for it. Call me Don. And Mark, I know you're reading, I'll put the same offer to you as I did to Dean Bailey - your first interview after getting the arse right here. I'm ready to go when you are.


  1. Clearly those booing Dawes are peanuts, but it's a sign of where our shattered supporters are at. We've been brutalised for so long we just want someone to come and make it all better..

    Watts was meant to be the messiah and when he wasn't we turned on him. Neeld was next, now we're jack of him. I'm not sure what they expected of Dawes - was he meant to turn our midfield into Swan & Pendlebury just by running around with them at training? - but he hadn't kicked 6 by half time so we're sick of him too now.

    If Viney isn't Gary Ablett by round 10 next year we'll probably turn on him too. The way our player development is we'll probably have turned him into Cale Morton by then.

    The knives have been out for Neeld for a while and that performance has sealed it, a more emphatic coach killing peformance you couldn't imagine. Even 186 was at least against a great team at their home ground. Most of the GC kids would need google maps to even find the G and they towelled us.

    We couldn't handle their strenght? For the love of all that is good wtf have we been doing in the gym for 2 years? Did Misson leave his weight set behind at one of the former premiership contenders he supposedly built?
    - Davo

  2. Great work, can't believe you have the energy to write that much. Big fan of Apocalypse Neeld.

  3. awesome. This is what is getting me through these "lost years"

  4. Great read.

    It would be nice if any of our former players stuck by the club other than Robo.

    Green: coach at Carlton
    Riv, Flower, Schwarz: Poo pooing us in the media
    McLean: Big mouth, killed Grimes.

    Even Gardner is having a crack. He probably wants the presidency back.

    1. Aren't Neitz & Rigoni still at the club too?

  5. I know the service to Dawes was crap but it would be nice if he could take a contested mark or a mark inside 50 if he is going to be a tall forward.

    Sellar has to stay. 11 1%ers, 4 tackles and 100% time on ground and he didn't stand out as being shit like he often does.

    1. I haven't made up my mind on whether or not I think Dawes was a good acquisition as yet but I do think that your appraisal is a bit unfair.

      The guy was playing his first game in a bloody long time, and he wasn't exactly alone in not doing anything up forward. Saying he was crap is one thing, but was he better than the 5 other blokes up there with him?

      I haven't seen a lot of footage so I'm only basing my thoughts on statistics & highlight reels but he seemed like he did fine for his first game.

  6. Lyall St Kilda14 May 2013 at 20:07

    Never have I seen a vote of no confidence put and carried so unanimously. The playing group have had enough of Mr Neeld. If he were a gentleman he would fall on sword and resign immediately. However I strongly doubt that he is because he has delusional beliefs that he is an AFL coach and given time will clearly demonstrate his ability. And so having taken the MFC for a ride he will do it again as he asks for his contract to be paid out. The sad thing is that not only will he take the club to the cleaners but he leaves behind a decimated playing list that once looked good but which never suited his style: my way or the highway. Well Mark it's your time: the highway. See you! So I wrote Sunday evening. But very hard to sack a man on the day you find you're in a hole to the tune of 1.5 million. We're stuck with it and it's going to be an endurance test. Can the club at least get a tactician who can tell Neeld what the other side is going to do? To tell him how to counter the opposition moves. To design a game play than just might work and get the player list interested again, confident again and just maybe winning again. For what it's worth I'll volunteer!

    1. How can you say you've never seen such a vote of no confidence after what they did to Bailey? I think asking, let alone expecting him to, resign is rather unfair. The guy has been in the job for 18 months and people are expecting him to polish a turd into a diamond already. It's not on Neeld that our current team are the worst AFL side in recent history, it's on the club as a whole - and it's certainly not going to be fixed 18 months from now regardless of whether the next coach is the receptionist or Paul Roos.

  7. You need players on long term injury to upgrade Clisby et al.

    I am prepared to donate money towards the purchase of a sledge hammer to help out in this regard.

    Knee reco's are long term.

  8. Anyone else see Cam Schwab's retweet of the Man U account the other day?

    "Sir Alex - 'Important to leave organisation in strongest possible shape; I believe I have done so.'"

    Surely ironic, now that old mate is skipping around NBA games on his payout that is helping to financially cripple MFC at the same time Peter Jackson cites the organisation he left behind as a total mess.



    - Martin


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