Sunday, 30 June 2013

Neil Craig: Our Mastermind

The stat is dead. Long live the stat. Goodbye to a fun fact that I have championed like no other in the last few years, one that has been adopted by television, newspapers and even last night's SEN commentary team. I'm not claiming credit for its popularity because you'd have to be Brock McLean's mate Blind Freddy to miss it, but the fact remains that for the first time since Sunday 2 September, 2007 (that's five years, nine months, 28 days and 2128 days) we have beaten a Victorian side other than Essendon or Richmond. Since then we've had four Prime Ministers, four state premiers and I've moved Demonblog Towers three times.

No need to get over excited though, we're still no good. That's one more Victorian club down but there's six others to go. Let's take all the positives out of last night and get to work winning another game at some point against Carlton (2128 days and counting), Collingwood (2211), Geelong (2613), Hawthorn (2599), North (2506) and St Kilda (2487). It's also 6223 days since we've beaten Fitzroy but I won't hold that against anybody.

We might have gone into last night with a losing record against the Bulldogs dating back to the night Ben Holland ran riot in late 2007 (where I clearly showed scant interest in reporting on it), but at least for once you could walk in the door of the MCG thinking that we were half a chance of beating one of the seven Victorian clubs on THE list.

The last time you could honestly think that (with apologies to last week) was the Jim Stynes tribute game against the Dogs, where at least we weren't disgraced but still didn't go near actually taking the points. Tragedy and what were in retrospect very obvious signs of impending disaster aside at least we still had hope in our hearts that night, now there are people who would sell their soul to Satan just to finish outside the bottom four.

A year and a half on and we're both still crap, but somehow Footscray has manage to avoid the same sort of scrutiny that we've had. Possibly because they've never lost by 150 points, backed up losing to Gold Coast by winning two games in a row and haven't sacked every second person in their administration. Still despite them clearly being a better, and more stable, side so far this season and punters everywhere refusing to go near us with somebody else's 10 foot pole it was just the night to go along and either see a win, a narrow loss or some bizarre hybrid of the two where we win despite falling off a cliff for the last 20 minutes.

Not that anybody did bother to turn up, with 21,217 being our worst attendance for an MCG game since Round 7, 2002 against St Kilda (when we were good). The Lions test and the (seemingly) far more interesting match between Geelong and Fremantle wouldn't have helped, but as good as the Fox Footy era is it's removed one of the reasons people go to watch their team when they're shit.

A rubbish crowd for a game between two of the three worst sides in the competition, one plummeting from the dizzy heights of being good and one which is still in 10,000 shattered pieces, is no surprise. These days aren't made for sides like us. Games between the big four will always get huge crowds thanks to bandwagoners and theatre goers on top of their already large constituencies, but actual gate attendance is practically out the window as a measurement of anything now that people can stay home and watch even the grittiest game in the comfort of their own house. Why wouldn't you risk a Dwayne led commentary team when the alternative is carting your family to the ground to pay $4.90 for water to go along with a floppy hot dog purchased from a surly 15-year-old IF you can find any open outlets within three levels of where you're sitting.

The game is still king no matter how many times various people (not the AFL though, who are good people to the last drop these days) try and stuff it up, but for the casual fan who follows a side that are no good the idea that you have to go to the majority of games in person is dead. Especially if you've got kids, with all the crap that they'll pester you into buying one trip to the game is probably equal to your entire Foxtel bill for the month. Why not just stay home and watch it until your team gets good and you can justify jumping back on? As long as you at least buy a membership and spend your time at home ensuring your kids keep following us no matter what then who am I to complain? Hopefully one day we'll put on a product worth leaving the house for.

On the other hand just when you think everyone must have stayed home and watched it on TV the ratings are out and it seems only 94,000 people bothered (though I'm assuming a huge spike in the final term), so maybe it was just a rubbish game between two rancid sides that nobody other than the faithful cared about? Even the Casey VFL match got half that, which at least proves we (or more accurately Jesse Hogan) are good for ratings somewhere.

Queen's Birthday might have marginally improved our position, but one thing we've got going for us is that this year we've got better home game attendances this year than North and the Bulldogs, so at least when the Grim Reaper comes to haul a side off to Tasmania we should be able to throw them in front of the bus first. It's a surprise that we're in front of anybody considering that at least most teams - even the free falling Dogs and mentally nervous Roos - provide the odd reward to their fans for turning up, whereas other than one enchanted evening where Essendon's 2012 implosion began and some token efforts against Franchise sides we've offered precisely fuck all for two years. Given the circumstances I'm reasonably happy with the crowds we get - although now that we've got only home games against Sydney, North (at Docklands) and Fremantle to come as well as the Darwin game I suspect that it's not going to be pretty to look at that table again in 10 weeks. But if we finish last (of Victorian clubs) would it be such a surprise? I'd say it would be a miracle if we didn't.

The best thing to do to get people to show up (note our average attendance in 2010, admittedly before every game was on live) would be to win, and at least if not winning providing an environment less depressing than your granny's funeral. Last night was a great start. People actually appeared to be having fun at the footy again, which is a rarity. At least they were until we did our impression of that scene in Fatal Attraction where Michael Douglas thinks he's finished off the bird with the poodle hair via drowning in the bathtub only for her to rise from the dead and go within three points of killing him. At least it was exciting, even if the tension probably put away another five or six of our older supporters.

That we just held on in the face of the blitzkrieg and won makes all the difference. Had we conceded one more goal everyone would be dressed in black today and trying decide whether to drink Jif or Domestos, but instead everyone's beaming and watching the replay, safe in the knowledge that at least for a week we felt like a normal team again. But oh my christ how it could have been different.

There's a game that has been talked about on here many, many times. The ghosts of Saturday 25 April 1992 against Essendon still haunt me to this day. You know the one, the game that gave us the Chris Sullivan Line (a reminder for new readers - you may only relax and expect victory when the lead hits 49 points in the last quarter) and would have totally ruined my childhood had I not been just 10 years old and had we not still been a finals contender for at least a few more weeks.

If you were born any later than 1988 there's no way you remember that game - and none of Dean Kent, Tom McDonald or Jimmy Toumpas were alive when it happened - and I don't remember much except for the trauma of the comeback but I can assure you that this was almost the modern day equivalent with an extra truckload of unnecessary toxic misery poured over the top of an already depressed group of people.

That 1992 afternoon spent in the middle deck of the Southern Stand was traumatic and has taught me to never be comfortable in a match unless certain criteria have been met, but given the situation we're in at the moment to have lost from that dominant position would have been cruel and unusual in ways that couldn't be explained without breaking down in tears and smashing my head onto the keyboard to leave behind nothing but a trail of "tgyrf5t56yrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"style gibberish.

At least my adherence to the CSL philosophy meant that I never relaxed and assumed we were going to win, which might have kept me off the ledge of a building if the game had gone another 45 seconds and we'd lost.

There are many reasons why losing last night would have been worse than that day in 1992, and not only because we've been used as a urinal cake by every credible side in the competition for 18 months but because the force of the comeback was so much more severe. This wasn't a long term project spread across an entire quarter or two, we even strung three goals together at one point in the last quarter, it was a rampage of unbelievable proportions against a side who had ran itself into the ground and couldn't put up more than the flimsiest resistance. We probably should have lost in the end. But we didn't, so for a week at least let's turn off Demonblog's patented Shit Team Filter and pretend that everything's ok with the world.

Even Dogs fans would admit their side isn't much chop these days (albeit still better than us), but that was no excuse for letting us build confidence and play like a real league side for most of the first quarter. This is a team that as last week proved can be easily strangled at birth and St Kilda took advantage of it to put us away in the first 30 minutes. The Bulldogs couldn't do it and let us get up a dangerous amount of self-belief.

Sure we conceded the first goal in double quick time, and ok the Footscray midfield were already on the way to flogging the bejesus out of ours but other than that how good did we look early on? Finally there was an air of professionalism about the team, and the only thing that stopped us racking up an even bigger lead was that whenever we kicked a goal the ball had to go back to the middle of the ground. Such was Footscray's inability to get the ball out of their 50 and over the centre if we'd just kicked points instead we'd probably have clocked up the same score and stopped them getting anything after their first one.

Even the man who has come to embody the phrase 'much maligned' David Rodan looked like he was worth a spot in the team. Only the dumbest of players is falling for his shuffling and sidesteps these days, but you can only dance around the person put in front of you. Good luck pulling that off against Sydney, but at least he's had one misery free day with the Dees.

There's definitely a different atmosphere about the place. In the second quarter I even saw a number of perfectly executed kick-ins right in front of me. Why is it that for the second time we have suddenly discovered the ability to bring the ball back into play when a caretaker coach has taken over? It was just tonight either, they did it last week as well. Ludicrous.

The subtle form of tanking that is "letting the boys play" and not really caring about the result (though when you're two wins and percentage away from the next side on the ladder it's actually fun to win), the three decent quarters last week and just having the pressure of not knowing if you should bother listening to a coach who's about to get the arse lifted must be playing some part in it - but my god do our players look more at peace with the world now or what? Maybe Craig just had the good fortune of coming in at the right time, with Neeld axed before two reasonably winnable games just in case he made himself unsackable with victories, but at the moment I'm not complaining.

Look at Watts - he's like a kid living the dream that his most hated teacher has been sacked and replaced with a kindly substitute. There was no saving this season from the start of the second quarter against Essendon, so sacking Neeld earlier probably wouldn't have helped us much but at the risk of going off too early before two matches we're not going to win under any circumstances it seems that the decision to give him the boot has been a good one so far. We'll never know how he'd have gone the last couple of weeks but I'd love to sit down with him for a couple of games towards the end of the year and get a director's cut style commentary about Craig's coaching and how the players are going.

It's understandable that players might not want to sign on just yet not knowing what freak we're going to hire as coach (hint) but surely, SURELY, Jack stays now. Relatively speaking his value has probably gone through the roof after that performance - and if I were the Dogs I'd be telling him that Clark/Dawes/Hogan means he'd be better off joining them for large amounts of cash via the PSD - but if he's half serious with his comments last week that he wants to stay then bless his heart let's give him a small South American nation if he wants it.

As with everyone else who has impressed in the last fortnight there's a bit of 'now do it against a good team', and you sure don't want to be kicking to him in a physical contest with a big defender but he's got to see that by staying with us it will give him an opportunity to spit in the face of his many critics. I will more than gladly line up to cop my goober in the eyeball from him if he'll just sign. Prediction - nine months after the day they put him and Dawes on the half-forward line kicking to Clark, Hogan and Howe there will be a massive spike in births cross Australia.

Gawn (who doesn't quite deserve a whole country yet, but can have a country town if he likes) is another one that I'm convinced will sign sooner rather than later. Ruckmen who actually want the ball and are reasonable kicks are hard to find, and while Minson played the greatest one-man show since Bill Hicks to take the points this week there would still be a queue of clubs willing to open their wallets to lure Maximum across next year. Maybe he succumbs to the temptation later if we're still no good, but for now he's clearly a heart and soul player, cult figure of actual immense proportions and our future first ruckman.

Suddenly between he, Jamar, the resurgent Spencil, Clark if fit and to a lesser degree Puttin' On The Fitz we've actually got a reasonable ruck division desperately seeking a midfield to hit it to. The way it's going you could almost try and flog The Russian to a side who need a one or two year ruckman then draft a kid or rookie list a more experienced state league ruck as cover. Not sure what you'd get for him, but it would get us out of the last year of his contract and allow Gawn to play as our first ruck next year and get a full season's experience while we're still shit. Where do I apply to replace Tim Harrington? Will work cheap.

It was also good to see Frawley back to his best. Given that before he was injured he played a cracker on Franklin I can't entirely credit the Neeld dismissal with his killer game last night but that was a return to 2010 All-Australian form. If we can't do enough to convince him to stay by this time next year then we don't deserve his immense talents. Some of those marks he was taking across centre half-back. My god, talk about falling in love all over again.

Shit Team Filter™ aside we have seen enough in the last few weeks to prove that with Clark, Grimes and Viney included in this team we aren't far away. Matt Jones has levelled off a bit in the last few weeks, but both he and Terlich have shown plenty this year considering what we paid for them so their recruitment has been one thing you can't fault during the Neeld years.

I'll also credit the previous administration with getting Toumpas, who is hardly dominating at the moment but takes big steps every week and for Dawes who I would like to confess to developing a deep love for. A few weeks back it would have been unfashionable to say that (Demonblog Towers would have been egged), but even though I was happy to get him and always felt we paid a fair price he's put in some quality performances in otherwise shit teams this year. He's exactly what we need across the half-forward line, and giving up Pick 20 for an experienced player is exactly what we should have done that year when we had 17 and 19. We also got pick 58 at the same time, but try as I might I can't actually work out what we did with it, unless somehow Terlich at 70 (good result) is the same pick with a bunch of free agent compensation choices and all that rubbish thrown in.

Surely he looks Ben Holland model robotic, wears unmanly long sleeved jumpers and barely fired a shot when we were being eviscerated by Gold Coast, but other than that I'll back his contribution 100% when fit this season - with more than a few years left in him. Sure we could have spent the money on a midfielder instead but it's not soccer, you can't decide that if you don't like what's on offer in your league you can go and buy somebody from Lithuania instead. It's a limited market and we did well to get what we could.

Amusingly as Collingwood bomb out (though they are still in the eight, if only we had the luxury of bombing out that softly) and Pies fans start to treat Nathan Buckley like their own version of Mark Neeld the same people who chased Dawes out of town with flaming pitchforks are ringing up SEN to whinge that they traded him and got Quentin Lynch instead. Ignoring the fact that a) SEN callers are generally insane and b) they did get a first round pick for him and Lynch for nada I'm glad to see at least some of them missing him.

There's a heartbeat in our side at least. Obviously our depth is criminally poor, confidence doesn't have to drop far for us to completely fall in a hole and fitness will come into question big time after last night but surely even God Almighty Paul Roos himself would have watched the first three quarters last night and thought that he could do something with this list even if he is saddled with some unreasonable contracts which don't finish until the end of next year.

Oddly enough if you took our side and swapped the midfield with Footscray's you'd be left with one good team and one putrid one. Their major (only?) strength is our biggest weakness, which means at least when stupid sums of money are being thrown around at free agents and uncontracted players at the end of the year at least we won't be bidding against each other. Also there's still time for them to 'accidentally' manoeuvre themselves into second last (and doesn't Round 23 become massive on that front? The AFL had better be watching every coaching move and recording every word spoken by their club officials just in case there are tanking shenanigans afoot) and snatch the prized tall forward that they so desperately need. Maybe we could trade them Hogan? For pick 2, 20, Liberatore, Wallis, Griffin, Mission Foods' sponsorship money, their pokies licences and the Western Oval.

It feels stupid to be even slightly optimistic considering what seems to happen every time you get your hopes up a little bit, and to treat a win over another rotten side like it means we're going to storm home to blessed mid-table mediocrity by the end of the year but at least the black cloud has lifted ever so slightly - and for the first time in almost six years you can hang shit on anybody in your office who follows the Dogs.

It wasn't worth getting excited at the end of the first quarter, after all we've played decent opening terms against average teams before being massacred more than once this season - but I'll admit that even in my dark heart there was happiness when Fitzpatrick kicked that improbable banana goal at the start of the second. He looked reasonable as a forward all night but I'm not sure if there's a place for him when we get our proper forward line together - still, no harm in doing his own version of Chris Lamb's 2002 campaign of glory before falling off the face of the planet and winning a few VFL flags.

There were times when we did look very, very good in the second. Watts might have gotten his second goal via the worst kick of all time but at least it went through, but his third was a thing of beauty with N. Jones streaming through the middle and hitting him with a perfect pass on the lead. More of that, for god's sake please more of that. It was so beautiful that it nearly moved me to tears. Two goals to Gia, sadly not left on the bench for three quarters this week, and our continued inability to win the ball out of the middle aside life for oppressed people was starting to look good again.

There was plenty of time to stuff it up in the second half though, and the start of the third quarter was the mirror opposite to the first, with Footscray dominating us everywhere but conceding goals - including the first one to Rodan which marked the biggest good guy turn since Macho Man Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII. No doubt he took the ball out of bounds and the umpire was going for his whistle at one point, and he really only kicked it in the end because the Bulldogs players didn't tackle him properly but who cares? Take highlights wherever you can get them - and it's not like we weren't going to cop a return screwing from a boundary umpire in almost exactly the same spot approximately 50 minutes later.

It didn't hurt that half their team still hadn't shown up and that the likes of Cooney were missing absolute sitters, but unlike the first quarter we eventually broke the shackles (CLICHE) and took over. They got a few goals here and there, and Jack Watts - as high on life at the moment as any Melbourne player has the right to be - got horny for his fourth and botched a golden chance to make the margin even better but by the end of the quarter we might very well have sealed the whole thing and crossed the magical Chris Sullivan Line if everyone didn't start thinking they were Hawthorn. Howe and Clisby could have stuck the knife in as well, but if a guy who had taken two screamers and a second gamer can't have a ping in the middle of party time then what's this world coming to? Let's work on instinct first and deal with discipline later.

It was left to cult leader Fitzpatrick to bring the house down with his second goal and give us a 39 point "surely we couldn't..." margin at the last change. It would have been our second worst loss from three quarter time after that game and only the third five goal three-quarter time lead we had ever blown. At the time I didn't know how significantly history was on our side, but now that I do I'm feeling ill all over again. I've been at a lot of matches that were memorable for the wrong reasons, but this would have been too much.

But surely they couldn't, and more importantly surely WE couldn't. After success briefly dangled above our eyes you had to consider the prospect of a debacle but realistically on the balance of things conclude that we were probably going to win. Then we nearly didn't. Copping the first goal of the last quarter after about 15 seconds didn't help. We'd been flogged out of the middle all night and with Gawn looking like he was about to topple over dead from exhaustion while Minson was as fresh as a daisy after three million hitouts you could sense a wave of panic go across the ground as every single red and blue buttock in the place clenched as one. They should have had another one straight after if Liberatore hadn't hit the post, then did get one for real and MCG attendants were seen ripping open their emergency spew bag supply ready to start distributing to the crowd.

Then, and for future generations reading, this is where it got really REALLY stupid. Next thing you know we've kicked three goals in a row and are actually better off at the 13 minute mark of the final term than we were at the start of it. This is despite barely having had a possession for the entire term - there was some ludicrous stat on the radio along the lines of us only having had 25 touches for the quarter at the 20 minute mark. If you count six or so of those as being either setting up or kicking a goal that's one of the rudest things you'll ever read in your sporting life

But that didn't matter, because when Howe kicked his second we were home and there was nothing that could be done to take the glory away from us. Somebody even yelled 'percentage', which isn't as stupid as it sounds considering that we're still below GWS on that front. Unfortunately that would have required getting a kick, and all of a sudden our already suspect midfield slowed to a crawl as all the players who had been totally anonymous all night decided to show up at once - hello Dalhaus, hello Cooney, hello Tory f'ing Dickson whoever you are and the carpark turned to chaos as all the Bulldogs fans who had done a runner after Howe's goal tried to turn around and get back in to the ground.

At the 21 minute mark on the clock we'd conceded a goal to bring the margin back to 26 points (no worries) and at the 25 minute mark it was back to 14 (sweet jesus) and a full scale MFC capsize was in the making - the difference being that we usually concede goals at that rate in the first quarter or when we're already losing, not from 40 points in front with 15 minutes to go.

When it all started to go tits up it all became about me. "They can't do this to me" etc.. etc.. I know I've dodged three disasters (Essendon, Hawthorn, Collingwood) in person this season, but I did watch them live or as live so the mental scars from those beatings were still there and to throw away a lead like that might have tipped me over the edge. There's no telling what this page would have looked like and how many references there would have been to Colin Sylvia Plath if we'd stuffed it up. It's one thing to be a Geelong fan and see your team be swallowed up by a rampaging Elliot Yeo led Brisbane but at least you can dry your eyes on a choice of three premiership flags. To us it would have been the equivalent of dropping Anthrax on a city which had already been wiped out by the nuclear bomb.

It didn't help that we got rorted by the boundary umpire who just guessed that the ball had come off Margaret Terlich's leg when it hadn't, but that's still no excuse for the free kick landing in the square and the waters parting for Minson to take a huge grab and kick their eighth goal of the quarter with four minutes left. By now it had become very clear to serial pessimists like me that we were going to lose and that I was probably going to die in the bottom deck of the Olympic Stand, hundreds of metres from my beloved Ponsford. Enter another one of the players who had disgraced the name of football all night as Ayce Cordy turns up to kick a goal to bring it under a goal with 90 seconds left. Spew bags at the ready, this was going to be a big one.

Quite frankly I've never been so terrified at a footy match in my life. We've had close wins and losses out the yin yang over the years, even a handful of draws, but I can honestly say that when Cordy kicked that goal I was nearly on the floor in panic and threatening to bring up my dinner in David Parkin fashion. Thank god I wasn't sitting next to a Footscray fan or I'd probably have unfairly throttled them out of nerves. We'd tried dinking the ball around to run down the clock but that had backfired in spectacular fashion, there was now only one way to win and it was for Footscray to stuff up their opportunities.

With Gawn and Nicholson, who had done a surprisingly reasonable job on Griffin all night, nearly dead and Liberatore playing a blinder of a quarter amongst the corpses you knew at this point we were going to lose. Some old lady behind me was convinced that we were fine because the siren was 'going to go any minute', but she was clearly just saying that to make herself feel better considering there was plenty of time for the Dogs to kick another three.

When they got the ball out of the middle and went forward I probably went as close as ever before to having a massive heart attack and dropping dead, but there - ironically saving the day in defence - was Jack Watts. Where everyone else had clutched at marks during the last quarter, and on a night where despite being one of our best and kicking four he could easily be accused of dropping some sitters, up he rose above the pack in majestic fashion and grabbed it. What a man, I never had any doubts *furiously edits old posts*.

From there we could have sealed it, but ironically Sylvia's running long shot at goal which rolled through for a point probably did more harm than good. I'm not suggesting in the circumstances he should have been thinking about trying to land the ball perfectly a foot out from the boundary line as if he were playing lawn bowls but if he had shanked it to that degree - or at least had it sit on the goal-line for a few seconds before being rushed it would have been much better for us that letting them get a kick-in as 3/4 of our team were on the sidelines taking oxygen from a tank.

Somehow, SOMEHOW we held on, more because time ran out for the Bulldogs than anything else mind you. I'm not going to start calling into question our allegedly elite fitness, trips to Darwin etc.. just yet, because it was as much the fact that half of the Footscray side only decided to turn up in the last quarter as half of ours being out on their feet. Max Gawn was blown to shreds in the first quarter and still had to ruck 80% of the rest of the game, I don't blame him for not being able to move at the end.

In all the excitement, and with about 1% left on my battery I attempted to tweet the phrase "get rooted". When I got home and checked my feed (which had gone off like a New Year's Eve on which we won some kind of war) it wasn't there. Instant horror and panic ensued thinking I'd sent it to "a work account". Doesn't look like I did because there aren't 500 retweets and journalists ringing up. God knows where it went though, probably the same place most of our team did at three quarter time.

There were plenty of people saying the Dogs 'didn't deserve to win it', which is horseshit of the highest order. If we were going to blow that sort of lead we certainly deserved to lose it, and if you only turn up for one quarter and it's a winning one then you're doing better than most of what we've served up over the years. But they didn't and now they've got to work out what went wrong up until that point. Not our issue until they show up and wreak terrible revenge on us in the last round.

It seems they're in almost the same situation as us but without as many farcical losses and without having summarily executed all the veterans on their list. Also they've got a midfield that we'd kill for, and is there any doubt now that's the key to having any chance of being successful? At the moment I'd back the Dogs to rebuild much quicker than we did, they'll have big money to spend on free agents at the end of the year, and if they can avoid ruining draftees at a record rate they've got plenty to build on.

Sadly for both sets of fans right now we're all in the same leaky boat. Let's reconvene at (presumably) 4.40pm on the Sunday of Round 23 and do it all again.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Jack Watts
4 - Dean Terlich
3 - James Frawley
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Nathan Jones

Major apologies to Dawes, Fitzpatrick, Gawn, McDonald, Nicholson, Rodan, Sylvia (second half only) and Trengove. Minor apologies to most others. No apologies to barely anyone.

Leaderboard
The clock's ticking on the Jakovich, and both M. Jones and Garland are starting to look over the shoulder nervously in their awards. All three of the leaders should still win though - it's not like anything MFC affiliated to blow a massive lead in the last few minutes.

30 - Nathan Jones
19 - Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
17 - Colin Garland (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
16 - Jeremy Howe
14 - Colin Sylvia
12 - Dean Terlich
11 - Jack Viney
9 - Shannon Byrnes
8 - Jack Watts
7 - James Frawley
6 - Michael Evans
5 - Aaron Davey, Chris Dawes, Lynden Dunn, Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes, James Magner, Jack Trengove
4 - Tom McDonald
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar
1 - Mitch Clark, Jordie McKenzie, Jake Spencer, Luke Tapscott

Curtain Raiser Corner
I did intend to drop in and check out the women's game but was sidetracked and didn't make it. If you saw any of it and want to write a report please let me know via email or Twitter. Fun fact - unless I'm missing something (and not counting lukewarm three-way NAB Cup games) it's the first time two MFC teams have won on the same day since Round 13 1999.

All I know is that we won, for once a #1 draft pick delivered the goods without years of waiting and that walking towards the ground at 6.50pm there were plenty of people who had paid to get in but weren't bothering to stay around for the alleged main event.

Who knows where the concept goes from here. Odds are the next time there's a Melbourne FC team playing a women's match it won't be the same team will all be different, but I'm glad that it's something we involved ourselves in. The good news is that not only did they score a win, but they've earned their own Demonwiki page as well.

The idea of an AFL women's competition is a noble one, but not sure it will ever get up due to financial concerns and interstate travel. Maybe a Victorian only one with some representative games? Even then it won't get a bar of coverage if it's played alongside the regular AFL season. The VFL couldn't get its ladder into the Herald Sun and The Age last Monday, so good luck getting the sort of proper coverage that even top level women's sports like netball can't manage if you go head to head with the Home and Away season. It would have been a good start if Fox Sports had broadcast today's game - even as a red button option on Fox Sports Plus.

How about this as an idea. I've long been an advocate of some sort of summer footy league - with games played for television at night only, possibly only in one or two locations. Apart from the obvious issue of not many grounds having suitable lighting and many that do having commitments to cricket during summer the one thing I've never been able to get my head around is how you'd fill the teams with reasonable players given that they would have just played a full season of local/state football and are about to start another. So why not run the women's league in summer?

It's hardly going to give people footy overload considering the ones who'll watch it are probably the same people who pay interest to Morningside vs Yackandandah in the Foxtel Cup on Tuesday nights, but with actual proper club teams playing at least it will give us something to pay an interest in during summer. Given how badly the AFL wants to screw soccer over it would also at least muddy the waters during the middle of the A-League season even if it can't compete directly for crowds and TV audience. It would also give Fox Footy something else to show during summer other than endless repeats of the season over, and over, and over again.

If our new proprietor Mr. Demetriou is reading I would be happy to discuss further and if required act as commissioner to this league.

Crowd Watch
For the first time since the original Carnival of Hate I found myself sitting on the ground level in the 'red seats', and as a result probably didn't see half of what I would have a million miles back in the Ponsford. However I did become acutely aware just how obvious it is when some lone nutter is sat up there in the rafters, so feel free to wave in that general direction the next time you see a shadowy figure perched up there.

In the end a rare game being surrounded by Melbourne fans probably helped in the last few minutes. You may recall my inability to walk down the stairs after the Essendon triumph last season for a good 20 minutes due to my legs ceasing to operate, and had I been up there tonight I'd probably have to have been carried out by St John's Ambulance.

Whisper it quietly but I even.. enjoyed.. being amongst the faithful. Maybe I should go back to my actual reserved area in the Southern Stand, or maybe it was only an occasion to be social because I was in a group, we weren't playing shithouse football and there was the thrilling aspect of being illegally in the seat despite not having the required membership. Maybe not the last one considering you could show a video store membership card and the MCG guards would wave you through at matches like this.

Actual antics were light on. The Footscray cheersquad threw their floggers over the fence in disgust at full time and the guys behind us kept calling Fitzpatrick 'Fisty', which I thought might have breached my exclusive agreement to own all MFC related fisting gags but I wasn't able to get through to my lawyer due a flat phone battery so whatever.

Light hearted shenanigans amongst the audience aside it was a game worth being at. Shame then that as predicted in this space last week nobody was. No doubt plenty of our fans chose the Lions test or any other opportunity to avoid it but I'm not taking the blame single handedly for this one - the amount of Bulldogs fans was the equivalent of what we have turn up for a game at Docklands. Even when the comeback was in full swing in the last quarter there was one lot behind the goals and not much else. No need to take the moral high ground here, we've got a home game at Docklands (booooooo) where we'll be lucky to take 5000 people who have the right to show up for free but won't want to because the place is a shithouse. Maybe Dogs fans feel the same about the MCG? Maybe they just couldn't face the prospect of losing to the world's greatest laughing stock?

The upside was that as everyone knows when a side has the vast majority of supporters in the stadium they've got carte blanche to act like complete arseholes (see Football Park and Subiaco), and that we did. There was even arrogance, ARROGANCE, outside the ground after the game. Melbourne fans who obviously also dabble in soccer during the off-season were delivering all sorts of offensive chanting at Footscray fans. Which considering the way we fell over the line and how they're only moderately less rubbish than us is like a blind man hanging shit on a deaf one but right now I'll take it. It's not like there were any Footscray fans around to hear it, so if a tree falls in the woods etc..

Also there was a dead mouse under the seat in front of me (no really there was, don't click the link if you're antsy about that sort of stuff) which was quite the metaphor for following Melbourne.

Media Watch
Congratulations to David Schwarz for the most shamelessly one eyed radio call of all time. It was like our version of the Eddie McGuire Collingwood channel, except that all supporters who turned into SEN were subjected to it. If I was a Bulldogs fan I'd have flung my radio onto the ground but for purely biased reasons I enjoyed it. He also managed to avoid screaming abuse at Mark Neeld over the airwaves.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week

We've just had a win, surely they can't be upset about that? Excluding all the 'amusing' 'original' posts about the women's match and how we should swap teams etc.. etc.. which would take up about 12 hours of my time putting together the vibe is not surprisingly overwhelmingly positive. So for once we'll try something different and hold an opposition fan troll special.

Sadly for these people only Melbourne fans, no matter how insane they are, get the courtesy of having their names blanked out.







Actually not sure if the one above is an opposition fan or not, but whatever.



But here's the winner, with just a sample of his work below considering he spent half the night trashing us on various threads. Serves people right for engaging with him, but it kicked up a gear when he failed the first rule of Troll School and left his profile wide open so people started bagging him for all the things that have gone wrong in his life. He's also a fan of a page dedicated to women's asses, porn stars by the dozen and lists BDSM as one of his 'likes'.



Terry also appear to be a North fan, which explains why he's into self-abuse.

Koaching Korner

Congratulations to Neil Craig on becoming the oldest man ever to coach the Dees to a win. Certainly something to tell the grandkids about - on the phone tomorrow. He even looked sprightly in jogging off the ground at three-quarter time (maybe he knew what was coming and was getting the hell out of there), and while I'm certainly not suggesting he's high on my list of wanted senior coaches for 2014 (mind you assuming Clarkson can't be extracted my list falls off a cliff after Choco, Roos and Eade so he's probably still in the top five) I hope he stays around next year in some capacity.

Maybe I'm just partial to him because he was a top bloke when I met him last year. Sure we were trapped in AAMI Park corridor together and he had to make conversation, but he asked about why we followed Melbourne, what we expected from the team etc.. and seemed genuinely interested in the answer/tales of woe. It's not hard to win me over, just show half an interest in my over the top emotional investment in the club.

Beating up on a side only marginally better than us for three quarters then almost throwing it all away is hardly one for the CV but I'm a Melbourne fan, you're (probably) a Melbourne fan. Let's take it and run for the hills. I'm assuming the 'freedom' that they're playing with is as much the result of a release of pressure, a devil may care attitude to the rest of the season and two soft games in a row as much as anything but forget the next fortnight of horror he's got a few games to try and rewrite history in a way which at least partially excludes him from the nightmares of the Neeld era.

Also I notice that after variable results with PETER ROHDE: OUR MASTERMIND and RODNEY EADE: OUR MASTERMIND the Bulldogs cheersquad has now settled for something along the lines of MACCA: OUR TASKMASTER. Good for them, we've never praised a coach on a banner and look where it's got us.

Next Week
Let's not pretend that this was the vanguard of a new era, Sydney are going to belt us next week and Geelong will do even worse the week after. But who cares about that for now? At least there's some remote danger that we'll put in two competitive performances. I'm not even thinking 187 in Geelong anymore.

As much as I'd like to break with the habit of a lifetime and simply write NO CHANGE it appears that Blease has continued to be cursed by my patronage and has injured himself. Also apparently N. Jones is in trouble for decking Griffin which is just what we need for our midfield. So on that note:

IN: Tapscott (with no confidence - almost tempted to throw in Dom Barry well before he's ready just to see what happens)
OUT: Blease (inj).

I didn't watch the Casey game but even though I'm reliably informed he couldn't hit the side of a barn in it I'll have Magner if Jones gets rubbed out. McKenzie unlucky on reputation but not on form, he was ordinary before injury so happy for him to come back via the VFL.

Speaking of Casey given how many of the players that we've got no interest in are amongst their best every week we would be the worst humans since Pol Pot to rip them off in the finals and withdraw all our players again. Fair enough if Fitzpatrick spends the rest of the year in the 1's he shouldn't be expected to play an elimination final against Frankston but just let Barry, Couch, Davis, Magner, Taggert etc.. play this time instead of stuffing the Scorpions up in the finals yet again.

Was it worth it?
At three quarter time I said we're either in for a win or a screwjob that we'd never forgot. I'm still not sure I'll be able to scrub the memory of that last 10 minutes (excluding the final 10 seconds when it was clear we'd win) from my mind without adopting a drinking habit or becoming addicted to ice BUT in the end I was left one of the great feelings - winner's nausea- so yes, yes it was.

Final Thoughts
I'm not the kind of person to try and convince others that they're completely wrong and that AFL is the greatest game of all - but for all the other sports that I like and admire show me a competition that would have a game like that just a week after the Brisbane/Geelong comeback bonanza. Watch whatever sport you damn well please but nothing, NOTHING, has more variables and more ways for your team to either prosper or be molested in a very uncomfortable place than Australian Rules Football. And for that reason (but mainly just because we won) I love it.

4 comments:

  1. Massively on board the Margaret Terlich nickname, well above Terlich My Balls.

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  2. Mouse killed either by Doggie surge or the fact that we won......or perhaps by MCG chip - most unpalatable. Great editorial - we all should know that seven goals is never enough! How hard is it to believe that the team playing the first three quarters is mainly the same team that has been playing for the last two seasons?

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  3. Pretty keen on Good Times Grimes getting a gig in the ones considering his shoulder is allegedly fine and he has done heaps of running.

    Straight swap Blease for Grimes. Byrnes and Kent survive purely because we won and they are "forwards."

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  4. If I could have my time again knowing Grimes was ok I would agree with that change.

    Happy to keep Kent because I swear he's a secret psycho.

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