Sunday, 11 August 2013

National Lampoon's Queensland Vacation


This club has a proud history of disappointing results on the Gold Coast. Looking past recent outrages such as being rorted by a goal umpiring cock up in 2006 and kicking four points in the second half in 2009 our run of vomitous performances at the ground now known as Metricon Stadium stretches back into the 1980's.

In early 1987 the Demons visited the ground for the first time, and suffered what on the surface appeared to be a disappointing defeat to the newly formed Brisbane Bears. Luckily, though, at the time everyone still expected us to lose every game so instead of starting a hate campaign to unseat John Northey (presumably in '87 you'd be doing it on something that looks like this) the gentleman on the left took all his frustrations at following a traditionally awful club out by unloading on the allegedly abusive (but in reality highly charismatic) Carrara scoreboard.

For all the thrills he'd have got from throwing a passive aggressive written hand grenade at the scoreboard Richard probably never anticipated that the State Library of Victoria would go to the trouble of scanning in every copy of the Footy Record and bringing his letter to a modern audience. I'd love to know if he's still clinging to the dream more than 25 years later or whether he did what most sensible people have done and clambered off the side of the sinking ship at some point. I'll bet somebody who reads this knows him, and here at Demonblog we are willing to tell his story in ESPN 30 for 30 style.

It was a coincidence that I found the image above while looking for something else in the Demonwiki archives in just the same week that we were returning to Carrara to play a Queensland based club for the first time since 1992 (4902 people turned up and we lost), and at first I was only going to include it in this post as a comic aside to take your mind off how we'd just lost to Gold Coast.

After diverting to YouTube for an airing of their jaunty theme song I found myself on AFL Tables perusing this list of everybody who had played for them before they shacked up with Fitzroy. Like the early 90's Swans and probably in 20 years' time the 2007- Melbourne Demons there's a sick fascination with seeing the names and career records of some of the obscure players they fielded in their formative years. If you thought we'd put out a few Bodes, McNamaras and Weetras over the last few years scroll down to the bottom of that list and marvel at some of the names.

This inspired me to make a comparison between a side that has become universally acknowledged as one of the most shambolic footy teams ever constructed with the Brisbane Bears. The MFC 2007-2013 story is a well-known one (and if you've just been released from captivity by Kashimiri separatists you can read it all here piece-by-piece until you wish you'd been killed in a US drone strike) but let's pause for a minute to remember how the Brisbane Bears were set-up.

Forget mini drafts, zone selections and millions of dollars for uncontracted players, clubs were allowed to off-load any player to them who had played one senior game or a single finals match. We helped them along with big names like Darryl Cox, Dale Dickson and John Fidge. Essendon offered them Dean Bailey but they said no thanks. Even if you've got a keen interest in obscure footy players of the 1980's I defy you to identify half the players who appeared in their first match.

After surprising the word and winning their first two games they turned out to be not very good at all. This was a side who used their first five top 10 picks in their formative years on Chris McDermott (good player, no interest in showing up), Brad Rowe (14 games), David Ogg (9 games), John Hutton (18 games), Nathan Chapman (49 games) and a bunch of trades so obscure that they make pick 88 for David Rodan look positively sensible (Travis Martin-Benyon! What a name).

They were given six compensation picks in a row in a special 1989 draft and of all the players they selected (including their first two picks, the Jarman Brothers who refused to leave South Australia) they got a total of 15 games. To be fair Darren had already told us to rack off two years earlier when we drafted him, but we (eventually) developed enough talent that it didn't really matter. At least for all we've been through in the modern era the players we've drafted have actually turned up (though you may wish to debate that in Lucas Cook's case) - and even the one who dicked us Nathan Buckley at the Bears style inadvertently helped us score compo picks.

So take the 1987-1993 Brisbane Bears, playing in front of empty stadiums with a team assembled at Pick-A-Part and non-stop administrative turmoil that even we'd shake our heads and stack them up against the 2007-2013 equalisation era Melbourne Demons. I don't think you'll be well pleased at the result.

In that time the Bears 'enjoyed' a record of 36-1-115. They were going so well off-field that at one point in 1992 they had 56 players on their list and other than their measly, often late, football earnings 35 of them were unemployed. Last night's loss on our return to Carrara left a Melbourne team who have had access to plenty of draft picks, highly paid free agents and a salary cap of about $9 million (compared to the 1987-1989 cap of $1.25m, of which you only had to pay 90%) with a record in the same time frame of... 34-2-115.


Never let anybody bring up how awful the Bears were in their formative years to you again without shedding a silent tear. Go back and look at those stats again and think about what it means to be statistically on the same level as a club to who major sponsorship meant a giant PELERMAN'S LIQUOR BARN sign behind the goals and who were universally acknowledged as a shambles to the point where they are what the AFL used to justify giving Gold Coast and GWS such outrageous freebies upon their entry to the competition.

Some of things I read about them were eye watering, and yet somewhere we've still won less games over the years. Fitzroy were 38-0-114 in their last seven seasons, so we're shitter than them as well. And Carlton 2002-2008. And Sydney 1989-1995. The good news is that even if we lose our last three games ('if', ha) our winning percentage will still be marginally above University's ill-fated seven year VFL stint (22.07% vs 21.42%).

Somebody once castigated me on Twitter for always posting negative stats about Melbourne, and all those are Sylvia Plath level bleak, but if you can find any figure about us at the moment that is even remotely positive then I'm more than willing to put it up on a pedestal and treat it with the reverence it deserves. There's your challenge for the week, find a positive stat about our dark ages which compares even remotely favourably to another club without having to resort to the first seven years of St Kilda where they won nine games and seven of them were in the one season.

The only upside to being such a colossal disappointment is that we're so conditioned to pain and suffering now, that like a 500-a-day smoker whose leg suddenly drops off in the night we're not all that surprised at anything happening to us now. In retrospect even last week's loss wasn't all that bad - certainly not in our bottom five for the season anyway. Ok, the idea of losing to $cully makes your skin crawl, and yes every other team in the competition had been decent enough to beat them but really, compare that to the apocalypse the week before and most of our rancid performances this year and it was actually downright reasonable.

That doesn't mean I take back all my heartfelt wailing about how our future is grim and we're going to die or be relocated to Port Pirie. That all remains on the cards if we don't collectively pull our finger out (and if you missed the late Monday morning update to last week's post the AFL confirmed that a measly $138 from each of their memberships goes to the club that is listed for 'support') and stop being a comedy club.

Results like last night's won't help, but if you're entirely realistic about the state we're in Gold Coast are a much better side than we are (even if they are all kids) so it's almost rude to get upset about it. In fact I actually enjoyed being involved in something approaching a thriller - who cares if it's one of 'them', they beat us by 10 goals last time so this is almost cause for a street party.

You can even argue that for once we kicked ourselves out of a game instead of just being amazingly shit from first bounce to last. The 'Dead Cat Bounce' that Neil Craig got in our brief, 'thrilling' 'revival' led to nothing other than cat splitting open with North Melbourne drove over the top of it but there's at least some chance that he might get through to the end of the year without being humiliated again.

Really I'm not even sure why I was still going out of my way to watch. When the news that Cameron Pedersen has withdrawn with illness actually makes you sad you know the team has reached the point where you'd might as well give up for the year. I was interested in seeing Troy Davis play a game at last, and anytime spent with Colin Garland and Nathan Jones is a pleasure but it did seem rather pointless.

Spare a thought then for the real love of my life, the remarkably patient Mrs Demonblog who first agreed to celebrate my birthday by going to the game - then when I pulled out due to being chicken and not wanting to see us lose on foreign soil arranged for a lovely night out in a hotel knowing that half the night would be taken up by me screaming at the television while she sat around twiddling her thumbs. That's true love. She even rang up to make sure they had Fox Sports 3. It's only appropriate considering that the first three weeks we went out was the Sydney, Brisbane, Richmond run which left us on the edge of (mid-table) glory in 2010 but even though she knows full well what she's in for these days it still seemed like a waste.

At least we played a reasonable standard of football befitting being members of an elite competition. The Suns are only in the next bracket above us with St Kilda (Footscray have temporarily escaped) but it's nice to get a reminder every once in a while that there are other teams in the competition that we can compete with. Last week showed it as well, but at least this time it was against a side who had pulled off some decent wins this year - and who went closer to a win in Perth last week than we have for most of the last decade.

There was still horrific skill errors out the yin yang, and we've still got plenty of players who don't deserve to be playing seniors, but you can squint and pretend that if we had Dawes, Frawley and Howe we'd have handled that match comfortably. Maybe not, but considering Dawes had as many contested marks against North when we went forward about eight times a quarter as our entire team did last night you'd have to think he would have helped.

Howe too would have provided a decent overhead marking target up forward - for once we were getting the ball down there enough but this time there was nobody there to mark it most of the time. In fact considering that their midfield, like everyone's, shits on ours we did bloody well to win it as often as we did. You can thank Jack Viney for finally taking the heat off Nathan Jones and not allowing opposition teams to sit on him all day safe in the knowledge that nobody else would get a kick if he didn't. Throw in McKenzie being used properly as a tagger for the first time in ages instead of us thinking that he's suddenly going to become an elite midfielder and it's reasonable to say that we deserved to be in at the end.

To be fair it took McKenzie, Garland and Clisby performing criminal acts on Gary Ablett that the umpires had no interested in penalising to keep him out of it and make him crack the sads but what are you supposed to do, act like Nathan Buckley and let him run around to get 55 touches? If the umpires are too stupid to pay frees (or can't get simple ones right - ask Jarrod Harbrow after his perfect spoil on Kent got ) and can't see Campbell Brown kicking James Strauss in the face then what can you do but wait for the wheel of fortune to turn back in your direction. I suspect he'd pencilled in another three votes towards winning the Brownlow and was feeling gloomy that it was being taken away from him.

Our ball movement was better too, we're still prone to the likes of Nicholson not being able to hit a target if their life depended on it but at least there were times where we had players running hard for their teammates when we had the ball. It wasn't so good the other way - especially in the first quarter when we were as loose as a goose - but I'll take it over the alternative of being like throwing a hot dog down a hallway in both directions.

There might not have been such a sense of (VERY guarded) optimism if we'd let the second quarter play out as it looked like it was going to. Halfway through we already looked as if we'd played our traditional quarter and were going to let them run away with it. Enter Dean Kent, who entered a proud family of players who put in their best games the week after I potted them on here, with a snap to keep us in touch. If Nicholson, Davis, Byrnes and Grimes hadn't all missed relatively gettable shots for the rest of the quarter we might have

A moment please for Jake Spencer, fast becoming an actual useful player. I loved the way that for once his teammates made him kick it instead of handballing every time he got in. Maybe they were just too lazy to get in position to take the handoff but I'm willing to pretend it was a confidence building masterstroke from the coaches. His kicking is actually not that bad either despite a ball drop that even Jack Fitzpatrick would spit at.

The third quarter was quite frankly stupid. We did our usual capsize job in the first few minutes - aided by the umpire who sounded as if he was having an orgasm every time he bounced the ball casually missing Strauss being kicked in the face - before the wheel spun back to us with that criminal free to Kent. From there we looked good to run over them, already one player down with more to come, but botched so many gettable chances. Then after doing all the hard work to get back in front we go and cop three goals in a row to end the quarter, including one in the last few seconds.

We still play such dumb football - Gold Coast players scoring from shanked kicks because nobody's on the line to block it, Fitzpatrick gesturing to Nicholson to have a shot 45m out on angle instead of leading and at least clearing the square when he must know Nicho couldn't hit the side of a barn at any point. Still, all wasn't lost. We still had a fresh Davey to come as sub and Suns players started to drop like war victims in the last quarter.

If we'd taken our chances we'd have won, and if we'd run them off their legs more in the last 10 minutes we'd have given ourselves even more shots on goal which would surely have come off eventually. Sadly this is not the sort of team to take a side down to one on the bench and run them around until they can't move anymore. As they died one by one we somehow managed to keep conceding goals, leaving it too late to kick the last two and get within a reasonable distance.

I'd rather agree with Pol Pot than Tony Shaw most of the time but what in god's name was the point in leaving Watts as the loose man in defence when we were four goals down in the last quarter? He did a great job when he was down there but even though it's not in our DNA there has to be a point where you actually try and win. Even after we kicked the last two goals and needed three in three minutes they didn't make the change - that was odd. It was hardly a match losing non-move, but more ammunition for any club looking to get him to leave us to wave around as proof that we've got absolutely no idea how to use him. I accept the move at first - and it's such a shame again that it left Fitzpatrick and Davis (who looked terrified for most of the game until he got his head cracked open and then got into it a bit) trying to take overhead marks in the forward line.

It could have been worse, but if we play like that against Fremantle they will beat the shit out of us. It's one thing to switch back and forth all day and that might work to a degree against other lower level sides but the Dockers will do to us what North did times 50 if we try to pull that sort of shit off against them.

My main findings from the evening were that Jack Viney will be a magnificent player if we don't ruin him and Daniel Nicholson wouldn't be even if he hooked into an East German style supplements program.

'97 Watch
Total score - 184.174.1278
Score to beat - 203.235.1477
Averaged score required - 66.33ppg
Prospects of achieving the average - Almost none against Freo, not much against Adelaide, ok against Footscray but by then we'll need about 150ppg
Prognosis - Negative

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Jordie McKenzie
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Mitch Clisby

Apologies to Dunn, Grimes, Kent, Spencer, Sylvia and Watts.

Leaderboard
Congratulations to Nathan Jones who cannot now be even tied, and is therefore officially the standalone 2013 Allen Jakovich Medallist - his third triumph in the award. Elsewhere we have a new leader in the Hilton for the first time all year, and Garland is threatening to block Chip winning his fourth Seecamp. The ruckman award remains as much of a farce as ever before and I don't want to talk about it.

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

Media Watch
I'm sure even Fox Footy executives put a line through this one as a dud at the start of the year, and they were duly rewarded with 57k viewers. It was clear nobody was taking it seriously when a) Tony Shaw was involved and b) Matt Campbell turned up to commentate sounding like Barry White because he'd lost his voice. He may as well just have found somebody in the car park and sent them up to call the game on his behalf while he had a medicinal whisky in the bar for all anybody would have noticed.


Next Week
Many of you have already given up and simply come on here to laugh heartily at those of us who haven't been able to shake the habit yet. I've given up halfway through a season in the past, but it seems like the more this club goes to buggery the more I'm trying to martyr myself for it. I'm so emotionally invested in our failure now that if we ever manage to turn it around I'll probably lose interest. So, plenty of time left to act like a teenage emo on the steps of Flinders Street Station until then.

As usual I write this without the benefit of having seen any proper VFL reports other than that Casey were completely shithouse in only narrowly winning, so christ only knows who's disgraced themselves or broken their ankle in a Frankston Oval pothole. Nevertheless three of these are in from injury/illness, so they're

IN: Blease, Dawes, Gawn, Howe, Pedersen
OUT: Byrnes, Davis, Nicholson, Spencer (omit), M. Jones (rested - looks tired)

I say the above with the greatest of respect to The Spencil who is actually in career best form, but call me old fashioned and sentimental but you don't rope a player who could have ditched us for god knows how many other clubs into signing a new contract then drop him for the rest of the season knowing he can't now leave. The waters are muddied even further when Jamar returns, but for now I'd prefer if we concentrated playing the future #1. Incidentally I only just realised Jamar is signed for the next two seasons - how in god's name that works I'm not sure but I stand by the plan to hook him up with a decent team and let him try to play finals while clearing a path for the other two.

As for Davis I don't want to flick him after one game but if Dawes is fit there's really no reason for him to play. He did reasonably well for somebody who was a defender until about a month ago but I'm not sure there's a spot for him next year. Serves him right for not showing anything in the years when we were giving two/three year contracts to anybody who wanted them.

There's a theory going around that you can't play VFL finals if you've played more than 12 AFL games during the year, and if that's the reason we're leaving him out of the senior side then we're an even bigger joke than ever before. I'm all for being nice to Casey after screwing them for so many years but that would be perverse.

If Clisby goes down for his suplex which blew the guy's shoulder out you can have your pick of whoever else you want to bring in because it won't make the slightest difference to our score of 3.4.22.

Exhibition Series Update
I've decided on the order of teams I'm going for in September. If the Bombers get the arse I'll have to reinvestigate the order.

1) Port, 2) Fremantle, 3) Sydney, 4) Richmond, 5) Geelong, 6) Hawthorn, 7) Collingwood, 8) Essendon

Next Year
Days after declaring the Eade campaign to have faded along with the Pies the hot rumour of the week was that he was already signed, sealed and delivered along with Geoff Walsh as Football Manager. I'll believe it when I see it, but I wouldn't say no. After last night I'm promoting him above Craig and into third on my coaching wishlist behind Choco and Roos.

As for the race to become captain of the Titanic our friends at Melbourne Matters are still plugging away. I'm not all that sure they're getting anywhere fast, and most of their tweets/Facebook posts seem to be getting retweeted by the candidates themselves and the women from the digital agency who put it all together rather than the Velvet Revolution style uprising of the people that they were expecting.

The truth is that most people are so disenchanted at the moment that they're perfectly happy to let the AFL do what they like with us. Peter Jackson seems to have worked out so far (in that he sacked the trumpeter) so that's one positive thing they've done for us - as well as writing an enormous cheque. There's no don't doubt the people involved are successful in what they do, but if the league has any interest in Stockdale and chums they wouldn't be trying to win support inch-by-inch, argument-by-argument via social media.

Admittedly I'd like to know who our President and board are going to be, and I wouldn't rule out a couple of the Melbourne Matters candidates being roped in, but it's not like some open primary where we're waiting for other candidates to put their hand up and nominate. The AFL could announce it as the undercard to the Essendon sanctions at 9am Monday morning for all we know. One way or the other, hysterical "won't somebody PLEASE think of the children" style tweets like this aren't winning me over:
A memo to whoever becomes President, I don't want to hear about how long it's been since we've won a flag. I'm also not that interested in about how long it's been since we played in the finals. In fact I don't even care if we win three games in 2014 as long as following the club stops being a weekly humiliation for everyone involved.

Everyone - including me I'm sure - scoffed at David Koch becoming Port Adelaide President, and while nobody could have foreseen them climbing out of the ghetto and becoming a reasonable football club overnight I was struck by something he said when being interviewed before their game yesterday. He said when he turned up he wanted to make football fun again for everyone involved with the club - and that's exactly what we need at the moment.

I don't know how you do it, and nobody can promise instant good times but at least Kochie's a jovial character. Even before the season started and they were still expected to be garbage he was out there cracking gags, kissing Mark Robinson on the head etc... etc... Compare and contrast to all the people who we've had linked with our job since Don McLardy pulled the pin (with apologies to Glen Bartlett who has never been heard from again since the rumour went out that he was in, but who I've never actually heard from) they're all so grey and monotone. I almost collapsed face first onto my keyboard when Stockdale was being interviewed on SEN and they had to interrupt him after five minutes of talking just as he was about to explain his plan to keep kids interested by putting on sausage sizzles.

I'm not suggesting we should go out and get Dr. Turf to be the President just because he's a Dees man who does gags on the radio, and there's no doubt if Port had bombed out like we have this year nobody - Kochie included - would be having too many laughs, but while it's a given that nobody's going to show up to games when you lose every week and the atmosphere is as sombre as a tour of Anne Frank's House there's also something to be said for having somebody with a personality at the top. A performer. If I can't have one as coach can I have one as President instead? After all what was the great Jim Stynes if not a performer and a uniter? It's not like he came to us having run a bank.

Player wise is this a good time to point out that both Shannon Byrnes, James Strauss and (possibly) Daniel Nicholson are all contracted next year? Also should we be watching out for an announcement from Aaron Davey this week? Surely he wants to go out playing at the MCG, even if it will be in front of 5000 people. Don't tell me he's going to do a Daniel Ward in 2007 and refuse to retire then be surprised when he gets shown the door - go out with dignity Flash, it's the only way.

Final thoughts
The saddest thing about a sad, sad season is that this defeat was probably our second 'best' of 17 behind the Sydney game. What a horrid era we're living in.

4 comments:

  1. Hard to disagree Adam. A truly sad year once again but thanks to folks like you the flame stays alive - just. I'll rock up on Wed night and throw some money at them as usual because, like the 78 yr old on the 2c pokie machine at the RSL, I'm sure one day it'll all pay off.
    One day.

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  2. I have a positive statistic:
    University win this year: 0
    Brisbane Bears wins this year: 0
    Fitzroy Lions wins this year: 0
    Melbourne Demons wins this year: 2

    Though those statistics might change if we're fixtured to play against the last named team of either of the 3 above teams in the next few months.

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  3. I'm calling it - Hamish Blake for Club President!

    ReplyDelete