It's about this time of the year that everyone starts to look for the finish line. Players, coaches, interim Presidents, fans and internet nutbags. Especially internet nutbags, because we consider the period between the first delisting of the year and the last pick in the rookie draft to be the most exciting of the season. And so it shall be again - more careers cut short (and that's just the draftees) and more people like me falling for the "it's all going to get better next year" propaganda.
After the fortnight we've just had I wouldn't blame the players for giving up as well, and as long as they can get through Carnival of Hate V and not give the Giants their first/only win over the season I can deal with them pulling the pin in the last few weeks too, but I'm almost emotionally done. There was still an admirable amount of leaping about and swearing at the television tonight, but at the point where losing to Brisbane by 19 is actually a good thing that's when it's time to float through the last few weeks of the year under heavy sedation.
I'd consider myself to be fairly tolerant of abysmal football (you'd have to be), but if I hadn't 'missed' the Essendon, Hawthorn and Collingwood abortions, I'd have found myself sleeping in a gutter by now. It can't be too long until a mercifully short (for you anyway, I find it all therapeutic.. to a point) post like this turns up and my commitment to season 2013 is declared all but over.
Before any suggestion of putting the shutters up could be considered we had to get through our annual ludicrous but lucrative excursion to Darwin - the sort of pointless but profitable event that we'll still be trying to rationalise to ourselves (taking the game to remote communities! Escaping the Melbourne winter!) in a decade because we're still too skint to be able to ditch it. I'll be flinching when the fixture comes out next year in the fear that they'll find a way to schedule us in both matches at the ground.
One thing you can say for the Territory experience is that at least you always see something interesting happen when we play there. In 2010 it was holding on for a one point win as Jamie Bennell and Neville Jetta both played the games of their lives before Jamar conducted his post-match interview while sitting on the ground completely knackered, in 2011 it was Emo Maric kicking goals 'galore' in our last win before the apocalypse and in 2012 we had not only Jeremy Howe's Mark of the Year runner up but the otherwise near flawless Colin Garland committing an error that sums up our dark era in a way that only Morton's 'kick' that Queen's Birthday can match.
For some reason after one thriller and two reasonably close, entertaining games (entertaining enough considering players had to duck off to a meat locker during play to cool down) the AFL fixture rorter decided to break us and Port up - scheduling them against Footscray in the first game of the season just in case they decided the Dogs are going to be the long term Darwin team while we're shunted off to Cairns to replace the now suddenly loaded Richmond.
Then they take a game that might draw a respectable crowd at the MCG thanks to Fitzroy fans and send it north so that we can play GWS, Gold Coast and Fremantle at home instead. I respect the fact that we've had a cracking 'football' draw this year (and haven't taken even the remotest advantage of it) but we'd better get some bonuses from the AFL in next year's fixture for having willingly surrendered our club to them during the year. Let's play Gold Coast there instead next year - there's no way I'm missing out on the chance to abuse $cully on our ground at least once a year.
Was it wrong to get moderately excited when we kicked five goals in the first quarter? You knew that we'd follow it up with one (or less) in the second (just like our last start at the ground) but at this point any scraps of hope are accepted without question - I don't give a toss if we somehow end up with pick three instead of pick two, now I just want wins by any means necessary.
It didn't hurt that we were on the end of several umpiring rorts in our favour for once (how was Grimes not holding the ball? What about the King of Sizzle doing a Tornado DDT on Ash McGrath and not getting pinged?), but at times we did look like a reasonable football team in that first quarter. Alright, Brisbane aren't all that much better than us but considering we were effectively playing short with Teen Idol Toumpas totally unable to get near the ball and Trengove running around like your granny (he improved, the Teen Idol sadly did not). All that and the now traditional total inability to get a clearance out of the middle without the aid of a free kick.
It all balanced out in its own way, and with Viney back and allowing us at least some reasonable clearance play (not out of the centre, but that's too much to ask for at the moment) despite Jones being tagged to buggery we even looked half potent going forward despite Dawes and Watts playing like they were still up to their neck in the Kardinia Park swamp.
In their absence it was all about Fitz, whose rise from villain to top shelf cult hero forward is almost the exact reverse of the career of Juice Newton who was the people's champion before he played a game and ended up as a punchline despite averaging more than a goal a game. He must kick his TV in watching Fitz winning such public acclaim - but it's justified. Not entirely sure how he fits in if Jamar and Gawn both stay and Hogan storms into the side next year, but knowing our luck that won't be a problem because he's out of contract and will probably rack off somewhere else instead anyway.
His third goal and subsequent injury reminded me of the time I busted my wrist kicking a belter of a goal in Year 10 and didn't realise I'd done it until I was halfway through a fist pumping celebration. He survived, luckily considering the rude bend on his leg, but even though he came back to take his turn in the ruck and kick another goal he looked crocked from there on in.
Speaking of injuries when Sylvia got hurt it highlighted to me the dangerous gamble that free agent eligible players are taking in stringing their clubs along until the end of the season unless they've already got an iron-clad clandestine guarantee of a contract somewhere else. What if he'd done his knee tonight? You would think that any other interested clubs would immediately tear up any offers given his (relative) age, and that he'd be forced to stick with us on a price not artificially driven up by bidding from outsiders. You could see plenty of clubs still swiping Watts from us even if he did his ACL, but if a 27-year-old is going to miss 80% of next year who's coming with an open chequebook then?
Luckily he didn't, and apart from a couple of howlers (he was not alone on that front) I thought he played a good game considering he wasn't at peak fitness. Having said that I would still remain relatively unconcerned if he went elsewhere at the end of the year.
Just as the printing presses were starting to roll on the I SAW FITZ KICK 10 t-shirts the predicted second quarter debacle erupted. Just like our first match against them this year they went into the quarter time huddle having conceded a score that we're usually lucky to get in the entire game and thought "hold on a minute, what in god's name are we doing here?" Next thing we've kicked 1.4 to 5.1 for the quarter and are - seemingly - stuffed. The only difference to Round 5 was that they kicked straight this time instead of 2.8.
It was starting to go wrong, but at least the effort was there. They always seemed to have players running free, but now so do we - some of our rebounding out of defensive 50 is actually league standard now, and there were some runs through the corridor that were genuinely thrilling. As the game went on, Trengove got into it (definitely can't fault effort there - 12 tackles and some great chases - but I'm still convinced he's not right) and we even started to win some clearances out of the middle. Not for the first time under Neil Craig we actually looked like a proper footy team, and the his double act with Todd Viney in the coaches box was magnificent - they looked as if they'd at least whip Voss and old Owl Eyes Harvey if there was a brawl.
Apart from the centre clearances (which were allegedly 10-10 in the end, which is a stat I call tremendous bullshit on), and our long-term habit of going through a death struggle to kick a goal only to let the other side go down the other end and answer within a minute one of the main problems is that we still can't stop midfielders racking up a zillion touches. God help us all against Gold Coast in a couple of weeks if McKenzie is for any reason not available to come in and at least pretend to shadow Gary Ablett. He may have 60 that night. I'm aware that we have used Nicholson and Grimes in recent weeks to varying effect, but come on. You may as well let him have 60 and concentrate on stopping his Gold Coast chums.
Yet again the defence stood up - Frawley continues to be back at peak 2010 form and apart from one high profile tremendous cock-up to match his kick off the ground last year Garland was excellent too. Fingers crossed whatever he's done to himself is no more than a couple of weeks, rather than something that will interrupt his pre-season. We got stitched up a few times by quick kicks which went over everyone's head, or by short passes to free Brisbane players - but for the first time since Tapscott was running riot in his rookie season we actually look capable of picking the ball up in our defensive 50 and getting it forward without first having to battle through two ball-ups and three throw-ins.
I thought Davey was good too. It seems every time I decide he's done for he fires up, and every time I get comfortable about him playing on next year he drops off the face of the planet. Obviously the "playing at home" factor helps, just like it did for Byrnes last week against a top team before he spent this week fumbling everything that came near him against a mediocre one, but if he can provide crumb and act as a reasonable option around half-forward then there's a place for him. Now watch him get zero touches next week.
Had we not copped the last goal of the third quarter we might have been a reasonable chance, even without Garland and Gawn looking as if he was about to keel over a die from exhaustion. Brisbane were hardly doing themselves any favours, spending large periods of the game practically begging us to run over the top of them but we didn't have the legs.
It might have been different if a big fat deliberate rushed behind had been paid. The Brisbane bloke had nobody within metres of him but dived along the ground and knocked it through 'assuming' that there was pressure when there wasn't any. Cobblers that's not deliberate. Later on we got pinged for the same on an out-of-bounds because Matt Jones didn't expect Tom McDonald to lay a shepherd for him and thought the player would come at him enough to make stepping over the line legal. Surely both of them were basically the same scenario (except, I suppose, we'd have gotten a goal out of ours). Maybe I'm just looking for karmic payback from the Clisby debacle against the Swans, but just because you slide along the ground and would have no chance of picking the ball up and getting it back into play how does that constitute pressure? Boo to our players for not even whinging about it and trying to pressure the umpire into making the decision.
Given that we only kicked one goal in the last quarter (and two at that end for the match - showing the people of Darwin just why we've got a Harlem Globetrotters style reputation for being excitement machines) it seemed silly that we were within two goals in the last few minutes. Would have been Grand Theft Football if we'd won it from there, but I'd have taken it.
Considering that Fitzpatrick and Sylvia weren't 100% and that Garland was gone for the last quarter and a half I'm happy to declare it a 'brave' effort to get so close. Mistakes were made and we did stupid things but there's no point flogging them for it at this point. The whole thing is either one big audition for a new coach or a good chance for Neil Craig to try things out and make judgements about players for when he's handed the keys. Getting close is a novelty, and it's going to take a few losses more thrilling than that to start making me think losing by three goals isn't actually a good thing.
In getting excited about getting close (sad) it should be pointed out that they were without plenty of first choice players while we were probably only lacking a handful, so how much of an achievement it all was is open for debate. I saw signs, but I always see signs. Usually when you get closer you realise that they say something completely different to what you thought.
The odd thing about Brisbane is that they've now won seven games, and Michael Voss is still some chance of getting the sack. As a Melbourne fan try to work that out. Maybe it's because their fans have somewhat higher expectations having seen, you know, success (rumour has it there's something called the top eight) but if we won seven games in a season now we'd carry the coach off the ground on our shoulders - and that's why we're absolute mince.
2013 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Jack Viney
4 - James Frawley
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Colin Sylvia
1 - Jack Fitzpatrick
Apologies to Garland, Grimes, Howe, N. Jones and Trengove (last three quarters)
No change at the top as the provisional winner stays provisionally atop the dais, but a big change in the Seecamp as Frawley storms past people's choice winner Garland and into the lead - with tonight's injury that could leave it as a neck-and-neck race between Chip and Terlich. Speaking of Margaret, his brave bid to score the Seecamp/Hilton double has been complicated not only by a new leader in one award but the sudden re-emergence of one J. Viney (not that one) in the Rising Star after a BOG performance that made ladies and men alike swoon even if he's still not an expert at hitting targets.
As for the ruckmen Fitzpatrick sneaks level despite having played about 25% in the ruck. I've decided that there's no point trying to work out the line at which point somebody should be DQ'ed for not rucking enough - he's a ruckman, he got votes, doesn't matter what he got them for.
34 - Nathan Jones (PROVISIONAL WINNER: 2013 Allen Jakovich Medal)
19 - James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), (Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
18 - Colin Garland , Jeremy Howe
17 - Dean Terlich
16 - Colin Sylvia, Jack Viney
10 - Shannon Byrnes
8 - Jack Watts
7 - Lynden Dunn, Tom McDonald
6 - Michael Evans
5 - Aaron Davey, Chris Dawes, Jack Fitzpatrick (CO-LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Max Gawn (CO-LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes, James Magner, Jack Trengove
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar
1 - Mitch Clark, Jordie McKenzie, Jake Spencer, Luke Tapscott
MFC Facebook Comment of the Week
This intro view bought to you by the PEOPLE FOR MARK WILLIAMS CAMPAIGN - Canberra
Thankfully for fans of Facebook comments the club tried to give us plenty to choose from in the last segment of the year by reverting to the familiar one post per quarter format. Unfortunately the community let both you and I down, and instead it was just 5000 posts of "X is no good", "why isn't this on TV?" (surely people who don't have Foxtel have realised that you can watch games on the internet in dodgy fashion by now?) and "what radio station is this on?" (WOULD IT NOT BE EASIER TO LOOK AT THE BROADCAST GUIDE?).
All we were left with was the guy who still hasn't realised that Toumpas was a pick four and somebody floating the theory that somehow our coaches are responsible for a player falling across Garland's ankle. Boring. No hesitation in shutting this segment down for the year, though it seems I missed some rippers on this earlier post as the moderators had gotten to them first.
And that's it for the Facebook Comment of the Week for 2013 unless somebody alerts me to something absolutely outstanding and I can drag out one of the old videos on repeat to intro it. Hope you enjoyed it more than I did trawling through hundreds of brain dead comments looking for elusive highlights.
As usual you will probably read this after the Casey game has been played, so none of the ins will make any sense whatsoever after they've lost by 27 goals. Nevertheless based on the form shown in previous weeks (as judged by those updates on the website) I'd like the following:
IN: Barry, Macdonald
OUT: Garland (inj), Byrnes (omit)
LUCKY: Kent, Toumpas (consider last night's fiasco as a lesson and get it right from here)
UNLUCKY: Magner, McKenzie
Obviously if Fitzpatrick can't play The Spencil returns in his place, and if he celebrates by kicking four I'll change my name to Miguel Fernandez and move to Costa Rica.
Even at their psychological lowest, coming off yet another heartbreaking defeat where this time they fell short of doing what most of the league has done to them, you would have to expect that North are going to tonk us. I know if we're within 40 points at three-quarter time 'wags' and 'raconteurs' everywhere are going to be suggesting we're about to launch a storming comeback but we won't. Sounds like a great advertisement for thousands (one or two) to turn up for our home game at Corporate Stadium.
The only thing that stops from being homicidal about having to waste a home game by playing a tenant of the place is the idea that the AFL in their kindness (and in preparation for a later non-hostile takeover) thought we'd get a better crowd against a Victorian side than we would against Freo (which is, admittedly, true) and that they were actually being kind to us. Either way it ends with you, me and about 12,000 people sitting next to each other on Level 1 at 2.10pm next Saturday because they've shut the top deck. Hopefully the place collapses before then.
Hail To The Chief
For an unpaid job that's the equivalent of becoming CEO of Air Congo there are a lot of people insane enough to want to become our president. It's getting to the point where we'll need to have one of those US style debates where 15 candidates are wheeled out on stage at the same time.
Kennett's come and gone, leaving behind Stockdale who is apparently (if you believe the papers) in a neck and neck battle with this guy while heir apparent Geoff Freeman wonders where it all went wrong after he boldly declared we could play finals within three years and then went overseas never to be seen again.
Yesterday I thought I was anti-Stockdale (possibly having been roped in a treat by the Herald Sun article), but now I've realised that it doesn't really matter who the President is - it's a role traded by corporate high flyers behind the scenes. In some ways I still am anti, but what's the use in complaining if he's the man the AFL decides they want to protect their bailout funding? It's not the US Government, they don't just give enormous bailout funds to failing corporations without putting some sort of checks and balances in place.
I won't even hold it against him too violently that he was pro-merger in '96 (well, maybe a little bit), but unless it turns out that the Christopher Kelleher on his ticket is actually Chris From Camberwell I'd still rather they settled on somebody else.
It's irrational, and I can't explain why he makes me uneasy but as it's not our choice anyway there's no point even trying to explain. I'm all for rolling over and letting the AFL stick it anywhere they like for the amount of money they're tipping in to the club, but can we at least try to pretend there's some sort of democratic aspect to it?
Quoth the banker:
Demetriou told 3AW that Stockdale did want to be chairman, but that "we haven't landed on a chairman yet".
"We're going through a process – there is a noms (nominations) committee that involves representatives of the Melbourne Football Club and members of the AFL and we are going through a proper, diligent process."
"There is a couple of nuances with the (financial) package ... It will be conditional on the composition of the board which of course includes the chairman which again, it is incorrect to say that the AFL is appointing the board."
But more importantly the members aren't. Not we ever do anyway considering there hasn't been a vote in 10 years but it would at least be nice to know that if Mr. X decided to form his own ticket and join the scrum that the league would consider allowing a fair fight - without using the emotional blackmail of holding back the payoff just to ensure that their candidate won.
At the moment you COULD run against their choice, of course you could, but unless you've got $2.3mil to tip in out of your own pocket J. Gutnick style then don't bother because that's what it's going to cost us to vote you in.
I suppose that's the price you pay for throwing your hands up and admitting that the club is completely stuffed - but was it? Everyone's talking like we're going to go bankrupt in the next five minutes if we didn't sell the club out to the league, but surely even dropping $3m this year wouldn't have been totally fatal? Didn't we just gain the best part of $6mil in assets from merging with the Bentleigh Club?
I know we're projected (by the AFL's appointee it should be point out) to lose $5m over the next two years, and that our small profit last year was only thanks to the Foundation Heroes, but something just seems wrong to behave like we're Fitzroy and the Nauru Insurance Corporation has just called up to ask for their money back. It seems to me like we've seen the ship sailing and realised that if we let it go then there'll never be a chance to get on board ever again. Hopefully if they try to force Stockdale on us somebody at least moots running against him just to force the AFL to admit that they'd take the money away if he/she won.
It's hard to say no to shitloads of money and a CEO who - so far at least - seems to be doing all the right things, but how long until it's even remotely a 'member's club' again? What sort of degrading activities are we going to be forced into to pay off the $2.5m? And what comes next? If we're back in the same position in five years are we ringing up Footscray and offering to put a velcro Bulldog on a red and blue jumper?
It does seem like a last roll of the dice - the 'big' clubs would love to clear a Victorian club out of the market, and North, Footscray and St Kilda would be desperate to throw somebody else under the bus to save themselves (though you'd think we'd end up taking at least one of them with us - if not the lot in two simultaneous AFL brokered/enforced mergers) and that makes me nervy. Better to have a last roll than no roll at all I suppose, but I wish the club would hold some sort of free-for-all members information night or similar with AFL representatives present so that people could ask questions about this takeover. Time to accept we've been (willingly) invaded and start to ask what the exit strategy is.
In more important news thank god Paul Roos is running a mile from our job (and allegedly towards the Eagles), because now I can drop the façade that he was my first choice all along. Now it's Choco all the way, just as it should have been when we started the #chokeyourselfwithatie campaign in August 2011.
You're looking at a list full of kids, mental cases and players with abysmal career win/loss records (Jeremy Howe has almost had more winning Mark of the Year nominations than wins, Nathan Jones has won 37 of 151 and Frawley isn't far in front of him in winning percentage) with a respectable amount of players who are - despite our record and percentage - quite good. Time to bring in somebody who not only has runs on the board but will bring infectious enthusiasm as well as recent experience developing kids.
Sure he 'only' won one flag as a coach (as opposed to Roos and Malthouse with the Pies?) and things went a bit tits up near the end at Port but who cares? Rodney Eade is running third in the race and he's been sacked by two separate clubs while winning nowt. Doesn't mean he wouldn't be a decent candidate either - but unless you're in a position to commit Grand Theft Coach like Freo did then the chances are any 'experienced' candidate is going to have had his share of bad times.
I feel like we're closer than ever before. What seemed like just a dream a few months ago could be a reality by October. No actual offence to Richmond but here's to them either totally stuffing up and missing the finals or bombing out in week one so we can get our grubby mitts on the great man as soon as possible.
Also, Neil Craig. I still like him, but he who stands in the way of Choco now must move or be bulldozed by the now unstoppable wave of Chocmentum which is setting me up to look like the biggest poon in history when it goes horribly wrong and tears our club in two.
Just two winnable games (GWS and Footscray) and four potential thrashings (North, Gold Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide) separate us from now and you getting your weekends back to do something sensible with. You'll miss it when it's gone..