Sunday 25 August 2013

Lifestyles Of The Broke And Irrelevant

God said "The meek shall inherit the wooden spoon", and somehow we've ended up in a position where come next Sunday night that could be us. We've already got our hands on it morally, but for the sake of our reputation in the eyes of future generations who will only have raw data to go on can we please for the love of all that is holy not finish last this season? It's already been arguably the worst season the club has ever played, at least let us end it without the shame of 'winning' another spoon.

Considering the AFL fixture is routinely manipulated like a North Korean opinion poll you have to wonder how they let a GWS vs Gold Coast match happen in the last round. The Suns have well exceeded expectations, but surely somebody thought this game would be a contentious one for the last round - especially because the Tankquiry was in full swing when they put the fixture together.

As a karmic penalty for our involvement in alleged past match fixing activities (P.S - James Hird is going to get the same penalty as Chris Connolly. Work that out) it's us and not Gold Coast who are scrapping with the Giants at the bottom of the sewerage tank, so the direct one-on-one Kruezer Cup, loser wins, style matchup is off the cards but if the Giants win early Sunday afternoon wait for every filthy scumbag on the face of the planet to scrutinise every single move we make in what is already an inevitable defeat to the resurgent Bulldogs.

Thanks to Essendon, Steven Milne, Ahmed Saad and the Horny for Paul Roos trilogy nobody's talking tanking this year, but if we're in that situation then say goodbye to any of the traditional last round shenanigans like playing Tom McDonald at full-forward to try and get him his first goal in 50 games. When you've got nothing to play for that sort of thing is a good natured jape, when losing gains you something it's criminal behaviour.

Having said that there is next to no chance that, unaided by conspiracy theories, the Giants will 'accidentally' beat Gold Coast and give up pick one. The Suns are too good, but you never know when a side's going to play for dignity rather than rolling over and dying on purpose. Besides, if they're convinced they can't get a trade done for Pick 1 and can assist Jeremy Cameron to the Coleman Medal why wouldn't they just go for it? The Suns are a better side, but sometimes - believe it not Melbourne fans - accidents upsets happen.

Were we to somehow end up in last place (teams who have their points withdrawn notwithstanding) it would be morally fitting, and some would no doubt think it was the greatest thing that's ever happened (it's been forgotten in all the horror of the last two years that our 'controversial tactics' did actually work in 2010) but personally I'd be horrified to be confirmed statistically - as well as morally - as the worst team in football yet again. If you can't make do with Pick 2 (not to mention the arrival of one J. Hogan) then you deserve to continue to be shit.

Though I'll miss it when it's all over, we sadly can't skip straight to the off-season before confirming our place in history as one of the few sides in the last 30 years to win two games or less in a season (St Kilda '86, Sydney '93, Fitzroy '95 and '96, Fremantle '01 and GWS '12 and '13). It cannot be stressed how heroic those who have watched almost every moment of this season live - including going to many, many interstate games - are, while the rest of us skived off on holidays halfway through or broke our TV by throwing a heavy Foxtel remote through it.

To say we're limping towards the line would be a tremendous understatement. If James Hird is hiding in a bunker under Berlin as hostile forces thunder towards him with murderous intentions we're ending the season as if the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg accidentally declared war on America and wound up having several atomic bombs dropped on them.

We even managed to time our announcement of the appointment of a new Chief Commercial Officer and the re-signing of Jack Fitzpatrick to occur about five minutes before kick-off of yet another 'exciting' Essendon vs major shareholders press conference. Was this an attempt to ironically poke fun at people who drop bad news when nobody's looking, or did they just think nobody would be looking no matter when we released the news so fuck it why not then or 3.32am?

The saddest thing about Saturday is that even at quarter time when we'd played what amounted to a decent, competitive quarter (though mainly thanks to brave defensive efforts) you justk new that we were going to end up getting snotted by more than 10 goals. You really did, every single one of you. The new President doesn't want honourable losses, but if possible I'd have liked the ruthless aggression era to have started next season after we put in a couple of reasonable performances to finish this year off before the toxic waste clean-up crew move in to bury season 2013 under 50 tonnes of reinforced concrete.

Obviously nobody's expecting victory at this point of the year, even if people involved the club can't publicly admit that or crack gags about it without being suspended for a year, so as much as we'd have loved to avoided entering into spoon calculations at all with a surprise win over the Dean Bailey powered Crows (and was Dean even there yesterday? You'd have thought the TV would have been all over that subplot.. if they had half an interest in talking about footy and not random bullshit) it wasn't going to happen - but at least turn a narrow quarter time lead into a six goal loss rather than totally rolling over and dying to the tune of 11.

Even though it was clear that the dam walls were always going to break at some point it was hard not to be at least slightly impressed with our first quarter. The chase was good, our ball movement was ok, the defence stayed strong like it always does and Dawes being back in the side meant that we at least had some sort of target to kick it at around the 50.

You could tell things were going right when Watts a tremendously bullshit free when his opponent was accused of shepherding out in the greatest miscarriage of justice since the one in that Bob Dylan song. Never fear though, history is a wheel and our brief rise up on its spokes quickly turned bad as we barely got another free for the whole game and Patrick Dangerfield (oh how glorious is it to remember the day Jack Trengove knocked him out and we won by lots?) almost had more for the whole day than we did.

But still, at the time everything seemed to be going reasonably and while nobody who follows this club is ever going to fall for one quarter again even I started dreaming about ruining their last game at Football Park as we did Carlton's last game at Princes Park when we were still winning seven minutes in the second quarter. It was still fairly obvious that if they got their forward line working properly then we were in huge trouble but as Carlton showed a few hours later you can dominate inside 50 as much as you like but it doesn't mean anything unless you put the ball between the posts enough times.

This is not something we can be accused of doing very often (four quarters total this season in fact - the last against GWS, the first three against Footscray and bugger all else), and when fist was reintroduced to back passage in the traditional fashion with four goals in four minutes the Crows had done in as much time as it takes to run a mile what we struggle to do in four quarters. All of a sudden when the pressure came we reverted to our default state of playing like a crowd trying to escape a burning theatre.

Not that I wanted him in the side in the first place, and as rude as it seems to be to say it in the circumstances nor do I want him there next year, but I'm prepared to pay credit to David Rodan for being a huge part of our success in the first quarter before he got injured. I suppose everyone perks up when they see the light flickering at the end of the tunnel (in his case for a third time) but one of his clearances out of the middle was almost better than any other this season, and his centreing pass to the square which led to our first goal was team play personified. It was sad to see him get hurt - knowing he'll almost certainly get the chop at the end of the year if he doesn't put his own hand up first, but at least he can say after a rocky season that he went out playing a quality quarter.

The only remote up-side to this injury was that it meant Aaron Davey got to play pretty much a full game. Why he was named as the sub in the first place in the week where he announced his retirement (unless he self-excluded of course) is another one to throw into the "what in god's name are you people doing?" MFC file. We're not trying to qualify for the finals, so who cares if he's been struggling in recent weeks? He didn't do a great deal again yesterday, and looks like be labouring towards the ultimate finish line more so than almost anybody else on our team but that does not matter right now. The man has two games (now one) of AFL football left and should have been given the respect he deserved to play four quarters. If he doesn't start on the field next week everyone involved in the decision is a bum.

You might have thought that in honour of the young Flash Davey practically inventing the concept of forward pressure in his first few seasons (before the team fell off the cliff and we to reinvent the concept of actually getting the ball forward in the first place) we'd have celebrated one of the great modern day MFC careers by trying to keep the ball in our forward line for more than five seconds a time - but that's not taking into account the fact that we haven't recruited a small forward who even got close to playing a senior game since Jamie Bennell (who ended up playing anywhere but until about five minutes before he did his knee). We do not do small forwards. At some points we don't do forwards at all, but when we do they're all enormous. Hence when the hits the ground it races towards the other end like a greyhound springing free from the gates at Sandown Park.

With all respect to Jake Spencer, who played another really good game and continues to be one of the few players willing to chase his guts out and lay blocks for teammates, when we're kicking to him on a lead 45m out on the boundary line then you know we're not going to kick a decent score in the first place - but expecting a forward line consisting of him, Dawes, Pedo, Howe and Watts to keep the ball down there for more than five seconds at a time is optimistic at best.

They all do a decent job at their core role, but anybody who thinks that any of them are going to stop the opposition whisking the ball from extreme of the field to the other in lightning quick time is insane. It's not all their fault though, we should be able to stop it further up the field before our over-worked and depressed defence has to deal with it - but if the total lack of speed and tackling skill in our forward line isn't addressed this off-season then I'll chuck shit/write nasty things on the internet.

Not that during Adelaide's murderous rampage it was all the forward line's fault, we couldn't even get it past the middle of the ground most of the time. He wasn't there for the first couple of goals, so I'm not suggesting it was all his fault but with respect to Pedersen I find it obscene that he was playing as the second ruck while future #1 Max Gawn was running around Box Hill City Oval in a team where Tom Gillies was playing at full forward.

I respect the difficult situation Pedo was in, but it's not like he was getting a kick anywhere else either as the Crows rodgered us. Not that he was alone. When Watts, who had kicked a goal from a perfect piece of forward play in the first quarter and was doing quite well up front when we actually got it there, turned up as a loose man in defence during the crisis it was clear to everyone that the real Dees had returned. Could you not, say, throw Pedo down there and leave Jack up front doing what he does best? I'm critical of his interest in tackling and chasing but marking and kicking goals does not seem to be a problem for him - anybody can play loose down back and take a few marks, but finding a reliable route to goal such as Dawes to Howe/Watts to Clark/Hogan would go a long way to helping us not be beaten to death on a weekly basis with scores than Little League teams laugh at.

Then just as everyone stopped running and the Crows realised that any chance of bringing shame on their club had been avoided we rammed the disappointment home right up to the shoulder by stuffing up an interchange and gifting them another goal to effectively seal the match. Has any club ever been better at deflating supporter expectations within the space of five minutes? We're as good at that as we are at training and attempted tackles.

In the midst of all this Sylvia laid our first shepherd of the season, unfortunately it was on Pedersen who must wonder why a black cloud floats above him everywhere he goes. Having said that we did eventually kick two goals and have a shot at another with delivery from the middle while he was playing in the ruck, so maybe he was doing something obscure well - the kind of stuff assistant coaches whack off over on their ninth viewing of the replay. Either way he's there for another two years so get used to seeing him float in and out of the side every few weeks. I can handle that, we've had plenty worse over the years.

The two late goals momentarily stopped the violence, made things look better and struck a vital blow for this side in their efforts to avoid the worst 22 game season in club history (see below for '97 Watch) but it's the same old story that you've seen so many times in the last few years, with a reasonable start tossed out the window by the opposition blowing us out of the water in the space of 10 minutes. One day somebody's going to come up with the solution to our problem of bleeding multiple goals in a row and the world will be a better place for it. I would very much like that person to be Mark Williams but at the moment I'll take anybody.

Any momentum we had from those goals lasted for about 20 seconds of the third quarter before normal service resumed. Even after we won the ball out of the centre the ball went inside the Crows' forward 50, where Matt Jones did one of about 1000 hospital handballs delivered by a Demon that afternoon to Jack Grimes who decided that handballing wasn't for him and got pinged for holding the ball. It happened to him again later, but at least that time he was caught trying to run away not just being caught like a deer in the headlights. Nevertheless in a flat performance he was still one of our best players - it's just that it'd be nice if we could give him the space to use the ball rather than having to have him get it in traffic every time.

We got away with the first debacle of the quarter, despite Garland being rolled by the strictest interpretation of '15 metres' in the history of the game from the kick in. Then Grimes got done for HTB again, Dunn gave away his traditional cheap free for belting somebody behind play and eventually after two minutes of trying our hardest to gift them a goal the Crows took the hint and kicked it from 20m out.

It's a shame for Dunn that he makes himself look stupid doing stuff like that because, if I may express an unpopular opinion, he was good again today. Certainly in the first quarter at least, when he was mopping up everything across defence. He went missing in the middle of the second quarter but who didn't? To hold it against one of our players for going missing for a quarter would be like not picking somebody because they don't have precision kicking skills, and we'd never do that - isn't that right James Magner fans?

Poor Mags, sat alone at home next to Andrew Leoncelli with both waiting for Neil Craig to call them all week. 51 touches against Bendigo (who went on to lose to Geelong by a casual 201 points this week) obviously meant nothing, and fair enough too, but walking into AAMI Park to discover that the contents of his locker have been couriered to Casey Fields was taking it a bit far.

One of my few highlights of the third quarter - and the second half - was the sight of Jack Watts sporting a black eye. Not for any sinister reasons, I still hope he'll re-sign and play well just to stick it up his critics including yours truly, but because it was it fit in to my dream that one day he'll get busted wide open a'la Jeremy Howe (done for 'tripping' an opponent with his face) and it will unleashed a fanatical bloodlust in him. Unfortunately that's not likely to be happening while he's playing for us, but good luck to him nonetheless. Witness his third quarter goal for an example of the stuff he does when played properly near the forward line which makes us go weak at the knees. Shame we had to go and ruin it by doing the traditional Melbourne thing of conceding one at the other end 10 seconds later.

We might have had another if Davey had gotten away with having his kick touched on the way through. Considering that the umpires stuffed up the review and asked for it to be checked for 'touched off the boot' when nobody was anywhere near it at the time I thought it would have been nice if we'd gotten away with it on a technicality. It's the sort of bullshit decision that would have gone in our favour if it had been the cricket third umpire. Flash should get a two for one deal alongside Essendon and go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try and get it added to his career tally.

Naturally we copped a goal just before the siren. Not that it mattered anyway, other sides would have considered a four goal deficit at the last break as something to aim at - we're lucky to get four goals for the whole match so what was another if not just something to stop us from spending three-quarter time dreaming about a stirring comeback.

Again, there was no expectation of victory is this match but one of the things that shit me to tears was our switches from 60m out from the opposition goal which required us to go all the way back to 20m out. What sort of tactic is this considering that we can't clear the ball past 60m in the first place? At 70-40 with 2mins to go in the third quarter you can be fairly sure you're not going to lose by 150 (but not entirely certain) - what about being positive? Seeing Jimmy Toumpas - playing one of his best games yet even if he does shit himself in traffic at the moment - turn around and hoof a kick 40m backwards to McDonald or Frawley is nearly criminal. Even if nobody's running for you up forward (and they should be) at least try to find a contest. It seems to me if Dawes isn't running his arse off to get the ball up on the wing nobody is.

At this point, despite the late goal, you thought "well, at least we're not going to get thrashed" and there was even some hint of stirring comeback after kicking the first two goals of the quarter within three and a half minutes. But of course we stuffed it up royally by letting Ian Callinan walk through about five players grasping at air to kick the sealer. Another win for fans of 'attempted tackles' and goodbye any chance of ending the Football Park curse. Somewhere Leoncelli and David Schwarz gave up and went out into the backyard to recreate that magic moment in 2001.

Then football's grim reaper, who we thought we'd nimbly avoided for once, came calling for us as usual. Once Howe had been taken off with Richard Tambling's stud marks in his face (accidentally of course, see you at the Dees in 2014 Richard. Oh, wait Mark Neeld's not still in charge) we closed up shop and kicked one more point while Adelaide kicked off party time by booting seven. Go and get stuffed.

That's twice in one game that we allowed a side to pile on a bunch of goals in a row to kill us. More comedy capers. One of the unintended consequences of the being the AFL's equivalent of an impoverished, debt wracked third world nation where everyone is dying in unspeakable conditions is that it has destroyed my ability to not only pour scorn on other teams but to even actively dislike them. Even the plight of Essendon leaves me without glee, because I know that no matter how badly the AFL torches them they'll still emerge in better condition than we're in now. Even if their coach and 75% of their list are suspended for 2014 and replaced by their VFL side (Matthew Bate!) they'll probably still start at a longer price for the wooden spoon than we will.

Farewell Football Park
Or more accurately, here's hoping that they attack the place with napalm at 9am Monday morning. I went there once, and as taken as I was with their commitment to Warsaw Pact style concrete architecture and providing an enormous carpark for toothless simpletons to start drinking at 10am I don't think any of us will be sad to see the place go in favour of the newly revamped and probably stunning Adelaide Oval.

It was the day Cale Morton went for a jog when confronted with the prospect of a brawl (though he was clearly trying to run to the contest). Nobody else was there, we lost and spent a lovely night hating the human race in Adelaide airport.

Admittedly we had a few good times there over the years. None of which happened after I turned 21 so the whole place can get stuffed. It turns out that Port are playing there next week, not that you'd know by the way the muppets on Channel 7 were acting, but the sooner a wrecking ball plows through the first Farmer's Union Ice Coffee ad the better.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
On a day when we were actually quite good by our standards (and our standards of matches in Adelaide) it was actually quite difficult to identify a top five players. About 10 players deserved one vote each, but that's not how the system works. Basically what I'm saying is that if you don't like it then tough luck.

5 - Lynden Dunn
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Jack Grimes
2 - Jimmy Toumpas
1 - Jake Spencer

Apologies to the 'unlucky' Dawes, Garland, M. Jones, N. Jones, Sylvia, Terlich and Trengove

Nothing for the top eight today, so Jack Viney officially wins the Hilton. The other awards remain up in the air, with either of Garland or Terlich a chance to jump Frawley in the Seecamp - and Dunn (*ducks*) a chance to tie for first. The ruckman award remains such a farce that if we had one who'd never played before they could come in for the last round and tie for it with a BOG.

45 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: 2013 Allen Jakovich Medal)
27 - Jack Viney (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
22 - James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
21 - Colin Sylvia
20 - Colin Garland, Matt Jones
18 - Jeremy Howe, Dean Terlich
17 - Lynden Dunn
14 - Tom McDonald
12 - Jack Watts
10 - Shannon Byrnes
8 - Jack Grimes
7 - Jack Trengove
6 - Michael Evans, Jordie McKenzie
5 - Mitch Clisby, 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), James Magner
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar, Cameron Pedersen, Jake Spencer, Jimmy Toumpas
1 - Mitch Clark, Luke Tapscott

'97 Watch
Total score - 196.192.1368
Score to beat - 203.235.1477
Score required - 109
Prognosis - Roughly equal to that of an AIDS patient who contracts the Ebola virus while undergoing chemotherapy in the middle of the Gobi Desert.

Media Watch

It's days like this where I start to wonder if Dwayne Russell isn't all that bad after all. I know we mock his ludicrous statements and over the top calls of goals being 'the firestarter' when a side is 50 points behind but at least the stuff he turns up at the game with on reams of A4 paper and starts reeling off is (usually) football related.

Compare and contrast to the Saturday "Arvo" (*spit*) team and Hamish McLachlan with his 300 different ways to reference Weekend At Bernies (because, you see, there's a movie right - and also Adelaide have a player called.. you guessed it...) as Basil and co guffaw along pretending they're having the time of their life. Everyone loves Tom Harley but I'm not letting him off the hook on this either, he's just as bad.

I know you've got to find some way to inject interest into a match that means absolutely stuff all but leave the obscure 20 year old cultural references to enthusiastic amateurs like me and CALL THE BLOODY MATCH YOU HAVE BEEN PAID TO CALL. Even I'd lay off posting links to bizarre interviews by 80's wrestlers if I was employed by a proper TV station. We even got a free Tom Berenger reference in the third quarter, which must have been absolutely baffling to anybody watching who is under the age of 30.

They also apparently saved money by trying to beam the game back to us using the Optus Vision satellite, leading to the picture randomly dropping out for a few seconds every so often in the first three quarters - only to come back with green static (as seen above) and a sharp squealing noise.

Crowd Watch
You wouldn't celebrate beating the Dees would you? Oh, apparently you would. Also, when are you ever going to wear your Farewell Footy Park t-shirt or cap again? If the money's not going to charity and you paid money for any of that rubbish then you're a tremendous knob.

Next Week
In a fun twist on 2009's antics we'll know by the start of our game whether or not we're the clubhouse wooden spooner. I have no doubt that unlike that year we don't have a compelling bonus to be gained by losing, and nor will we be in any position to actually win in the first place - but it won't stop every tossbag journalist casting aspersions at us.

It will all be academic by 4.40pm anyway, GWS have the big prize in their grasp and nobody cares if they only finish with one win so I expect it'll be Mark Whiley to full forward and Curtly Hampton to the ruck if they're in any position to win. And good luck to them, not only would it be rude to wish ourselves another wooden spoon but it would be downright hypocritical to go around arguing about another team interrupting our draft pick shenanigans by avoiding victory.

However, if it comes to us 'needing' to lose to get pick one next Sunday afternoon can the 13 or so Melbourne fans who'll be joining me at Docklands next Sunday afternoon please retain their dignity by either openly pretending they want us to win or shutting up about any desire for us to lose. If you walk up to the ticket booth, hear that GWS has pulled off a surprise 1pt win and now wish for us to get beaten then you may as well turn around and go back in the other direction.

Given the circumstances we may as well pick our best side, if such a thing exists in the last round after an already ordinary side is battered with injuries for six months. Footscray have gone so far in the other direction since our last meeting that it's not funny - even since that night both sides have spent the rest of the season playing like the last 15 minutes of that game.

IN: Gawn, Jetta, Magner (HA HA HA)
OUT: Rodan (inj), Tapscott, Kent (omit)
LUCKY: Practically everyone
UNLUCKY: Kent was ok but padded his stats late. He'll be there next year, time to give Nifty Nev a final airing in Victoria before he's coldly dispatched one night at a warehouse in the meat packing district. Realistically Magner couldn't get a game if he blew Neil Craig so it's more likely that Kent will survive and Jetta will get a game having been one of Casey's best this week.

Fitz can also count himself as unlucky, but he's done wonders (relatively speaking) in the second half of the year. If he had a concussion after the Fremantle game I can handle him sitting out next week safe in the knowledge that he's no longer playing for his career.

Nobody will be there, the Bulldogs will hump us (even if at the time of writing they'd putting in a rubbish performance against the Lions) and it will be all mercifully come to an end.

Next Year
Don't despair, every day is one closer to 2014. Surely we've been bled white now and there's nothing left to give, even if we finish last we can do it with more style and less blunt force trauma to the head than this season.

The only updates to last week's list of probable evacuees (willing or otherwise) is that we now know for sure that Fitz has come from the clouds to win a new contract and Flash has officially pulled the pin. Other than that we're no closer to knowing more about Sylvia or Watts, and probably won't until they announce they're pulling the pin at about 9pm next Sunday night.

We can also be certain that Magner is going to get the bullet too, considering that he was overlooked (despite the fan placating but ultimately futile Robert Campbell style elevation to the senior list) for giving Rodan a free trip to Adelaide so he could drop into his old next-door-neighbours' house for a BBQ (which is the only reason I can come up with why we'd pick him at this stage). At least he can go to his footballing grave knowing that 'the internet' was behind him even if the MFC hierarchy weren't.

With not even the slightest of hint during the week as to who our coach will be (other than Craig having some sort of chat with the sham committee) I've decided that we need to employ somebody in 2014 who understands hard times - and I think I've found him:

Final Thoughts
My faith in love is still devout..

1 comment:

  1. He can Bionic Elbow himself all over our collective sorry arses.


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