Monday, 2 September 2013

The call of the void


We made it. Somehow through the hundreds of disappointments of 2013 both small and large we have collectively endured arguably the worst season ever played by the world's oldest professional football team without any permanent harm. The club lives, admittedly now at the whim and beck and call of the league, but it lives nonetheless.

Somehow we've managed to make it through to the end of a season with a record of 2-20 and a percentage of 54.1% and are still only the second worst side of the competition. It's small mercy considering we're officially the worst non-expansion since Fitzroy 1996 (even the 2-20 Dockers of 2001 had the good grace to offer their fans a percentage of 72.0%) but at times like this you cling to whatever you can find floating past and wait for rescue to arrive.

This morning we draw to a close the #fistedforever era (the hashtag anyway, not the feeling of having your internal organs violated by a footy team on a weekly basis) and begin the process of rebuilding the rebuild of a rebuild. You might ask, especially if you're a neutral, 'why bother?' but surely even an impediment on the running of an allegedly professional competition such as the AFL should be allowed one last roll of the dice before fading into obscurity and/or being relocated to whatever the flavour of the month expansion market is. There will be gruesome tasks to be carried out as payback for what the league's done for us, mark my words, but there's one way to short circuit any of that and it's to get moving and get above a couple of other sides on the rungs of the usefulness ladder as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately before we embark on sport's version of an episode of Grand Designs where nothing ever goes to plan and it always ends up costing three times as much as it was expected we had to plaster on a smile and get belted one last time to close out season 2013. I say unfortunately on behalf of other people, because no matter how awful this year's been I'll still be sad to see footy go even if it is replaced by the off-season, our most exciting time of the year. Driving towards Docklands from the suburbs today I was still yelling abuse at traffic on Hoddle Street when I thought that I might miss any of the game. Why should this have been an issue? Why not just casually roll in at quarter time (other than the fact that you'll miss our best football)? Why even show up at all? Well, I'm quite obviously either not so secretly mentally ill or a super-masochist at heart. The buzz is still there, but it's growing increasingly obvious that the majority of it is down to the desire to see a decent side again.

We can only speculate as to how these posts will shrink to a reasonable length if we ever (god forbid) become a finals contender again - but luckily for those of you who like to press PAGE DOWN several times on a Monday morning I'm still a million light years away from reaching the sort of contentment that will allow me to get on with my life every Monday morning without having poured my little heart out via the pounding of keyboard. At the moment thoughts of the club still consume almost every moment, and I still walk out of matches feeling the need to splurt out everything that comes to mind before I can sleep properly. It's not healthy, but neither is following Melbourne in the first place.

Anyway, apparently we played a game against Footscray on Sunday night. Given this week's complete disinterest at league headquarters for making teams wear clash jumpers (hopefully they were too occupied wiring us millions of dollars through a bank account in the Cayman Islands to realise that Carlton and Port were wearing the same thing in a massively important match) it's no wonder we weren't forced to finish the season wearing that hideous white number - and it would have been most appropriate as a way to end a season where surrender was the key ingredient. Old mate who flew the white flag against Gold Coast was hardly a visionary, he was about a month too late.

I used to be a firm advocate of the idea that no matter how bad a season was that for the sake of history the club should do a cheap package of highlights, burn a few DVDs and wait for completists and other assorted losers like me to give them $30 a copy just to have it in our collection. Then I met seasons 2012 and 2013. God help the person who'd have to sit down and extract the 20 minutes of highlights from each of those years (Jeremy Howe fills about 15 of each), they'd end up in rehab with the receptionist and the twitterist.

At least by playing the Bulldogs, who have improved markedly since the last time we met and are nudging towards mid-table, we could go into the last round not expecting to lose by a hundred. The possibility was there, after all it lingers around us like a toxic cloud, but the handful of loyalists who dragged themselves out of the house against their better judgement didn't have to watch through their fingers like they would if we were playing a potential finalist. Though on the other hand had we played Freo we might have scored one of the cheapest wins in history like St Kilda did, and I'd have taken it gladly.

It was going down the unexpected thrashing route at one point before we rescued some self-respect, and I suppose we're supposed to be happy with an 'honourable loss' considering the state we're in. Bugger that, I'm no longer interested. It's true that I was on here lamenting a few weeks ago that losing a close one (or near enough to a close one) would be like a win at this point of year - but now I'm all aboard the President Bartlett "say no to mediocrity" campaign. Yes to fighting defeats where we go at 100% for four quarters against good sides, no to falling off the face of the planet for 20 minutes and conceding six goals in a row to midcard sides. It's allegedly a 'good thing' to win three quarters of a game but still not even go close to winning because like every other week of the season we rolled over and died as the opposition did whatever they pleased to our lifeless corpse but if that's considered good then we deserve everything we get.

Yeah, we won three quarters. Big whoop let's throw a street parade. Other than the first where we were legitimately reasonable most of the success in the second half came because we were almost guaranteed losers and everyone decided to play devil-may-care Round 23 football. If it had been Round 13 we'd have shat ourselves at the first sign of something going wrong and reverted back into our shell while they beat us with sledgehammers en route to a 40-130 loss.

It was a similar feeling to last week, teasing us with a decent enough first quarter and then crashing to earth in a shower of sparks. If you were stupid enough to get roped in by last week's first term (*raises hand*) then you've only got yourself to blame if you thought anything but a complete and utter fiasco was going to befall us in the second this time around. My childlike optimism had briefly returned last week, but it was back to being shut under the stairs after what happened at Football Park. We even kicked the first goal of the second quarter, this week's version of holding the Crows at bay for seven minutes, before the Dogs proceeded to merrily beat the shit out of us in the midst of a carnival atmosphere.

Despite it being blatantly obvious that it couldn't possibly last there were still highlights out the yin yang in the first quarter. Chief amongst them was James Sellar - practically plucked from the crowd when Dawes injured himself again in the warmup - almost celebrated what must surely be his last game of AFL football by kicking what would have at least been a serious contender for goal of the year. It'll never be replayed, and nobody will ever watch the game again, so let the record show that (as I remember it anyway) he controlled the ball on the boundary line 50m out, kept it in play, turned around and had a flying shot from the merchandise stand which missed by about 1cm.

Bless Sellar he had a huge go for somebody who hasn't played since Round 9 and got about a minute's notice that he was included tonight, but yet again half-forward was our graveyard. Like so many other times this year we could really have done with Dawes being there. Other than the first quarter when we were moving the ball as well as any other time this year and the bits of the third and fourth when we were playing like the Harlem Globetrotters because there was nothing left to lose it stood out as a glaring deficiency. There are still people lining up to whack Dawes, Melbourne fans included, but when he's been fit he's been vital to us not looking like garbage. He might not be the player to turn a side from rubbish to champions single handedly, but what a vital cog he'd be in a side that was regularly moving the ball through half-forward with some speed and confidence. May he return fit and firing next season - considering how little he's played and the rubbish sides he's played in I'm happy to give him a tick for his first season with few reservations. He's on big money, but you've got to pay it to somebody - and the day we have to squeeze players out because we've legitimately run out of cap room will be one that I will celebrate long and hard.

Back to players who aren't perennially injured Kent had a go at his own ludicrous goal in the first quarter as well and narrowly missed, but my secret highlight was Garland's goal after getting a fifty (which somehow despite happening right on the 50m line ended up with him kicking from an angle outside the square due to the umpire being a halfwit) and the issuing of threats and finger pointing at Tom Campbell from the King of Sizzle after Colin was felled. Being insulted by a Melbourne defender is like having somebody attack you in the street with their walking frame, but I've enjoyed his rebellious attitude in the last couple of weeks. Obviously the prospect of having to defend his Demonbracket title early in 2014 is weighing heavily on Tom's mind.

Even if you hadn't seen last week's game (and lucky you) it should have been obvious that the dam wall was going to burst on us again. They were simply a better side, and obviously once they stopped us getting the ball forward and exploiting their wonky defence we were rooted. When we can actually get hold of the football we're not terrible, and the pieced together forward line featuring Surprise Sellar looked respectable enough, but unfortunately key aspects of Australian Rules Football such as marking, kicking and handballing remain a mystery to us.

Suddenly, aided by a couple of barmy umpiring decisions it must be said, when the walls broke they broke with a vengeance. With Will Minson hacking The Spencil to shreds in the middle and every midfielder other than Griffen (tagged to buggery by McKenzie, back home in his proper role and relishing it) running around with the ball on a string (one last CLICHE for the season) we were powerless to intervene. Again for the millionth time this season you could get distracted for five minutes and find that an enjoyable game of footy had been completely ruined. We are the absolute masters of murdering a decent contest at the drop of a hat.

It would be easy to write off the collapse as being the product of the last game of the season with a depleted team, but it's been happening for two years. More than two years, that was one of the things that killed us in Bailey's last season - it was just that there were less of them and we had some good times to balance out the horror. It doesn't help to be rorted with bad decisions or to not be able to clear the ball out of the midfield, but there's got to be more to it than that. It has to be mental. If we've got no interest in paying for a psychologist to come in and sort this out then the AFL may as well step in and fund it like a parent trying to stop their wayward child from being a pyromaniac. Why risk massive investment on the chance that the side you've invested in all turn out to be mentalists? When the squad has been so drastically remodelled over the last couple of seasons and the exact same thing continues to happen again and again there's a bigger issue like AAMI Park being built on an ancient burial site or Sick Building Syndrome.

After being violated for most of the quarter at least we managed to get into a brawl at half time. Wow, that's making me storm out and buy 12 memberships. Great time to be tough after your opposition have just poleaxed you for 20 minutes non-stop. It was a sad indictment on both teams that despite being totally mediocre that they're loose enough with finances to be able to go out and get fined in a meaningless match - thanks minimum salary cap payments. I tried to get excited that we were doing something but ended up walking out halfway through it - the time for the pretence of toughness was about six months ago and we missed the boat so why start now?

Usually I love thuggery and biff but try showing some fight when it actually counts instead of cowering in the corner and crying while the opposition run riot then engaging in manly push and shove once the quarter's over. Prospective coach(es) must be falling over themselves to sign up to coach this rabble. Sorry, I'm just getting word that apparently they are. I'm sure the pay rate equivalent to the CEO of a major corporation (sans bonuses) doesn't hurt, because nobody in their right mind who is competent would sign up to rebuild this disaster zone without getting millions of bucks for it.

At least, and it's not all that impressive really, we backed up the 'fight' by having a go in general play again in the third term and there were some pleasing results. Our chances of winning were in the toilet, but tell me people weren't discreetly sliding off their chairs all over the nation when Jack Viney did the sidestep around the Dogs players and booted his goal?

Yet in the midst of all this, with the game shot, we continued our capacity for gleefully marching off to the gas chamber without a fight. Minson had been dominant all night, and Spencer was trying hard as always but being flogged. Max Gawn too had done nothing played out of position in the forward line, and had managed just one handball in two and a half quarters before he got the hook - but in the interest of future planning and the knowledge that the game was shot anyway why not take the player getting belted off and give your future #1 ruckman a proper go in the ruck? After all he hasn't had a decent run there since signing his new contract. Sure, you don't want to reward a player who is contributing nothing but who in their right mind thinks Max is a forward to start with? It's not like he wasn't trying, he's just not suited to playing down there for more than a few minutes at a time. He took a couple of decent grabs up there early in the season, but he hasn't been nearly damaging as a forward in the second half of the year. Play him where he's supposed to be played and let the backup do what a backup's supposed to do and play second fiddle.

Tapscott came on and offered exact what he has for two years since Neeld stopped playing him down back where he belongs, extremely little. He's not a half-forward, just give up on trying to make him one. If there's no spot for him in the backline then unfortunately he's going to have to go down the Jordan Gysberts path of hanging around another team's reserves waiting for enough players to fall over for him to get a game. Either that or his new coach might put the tape of some early 2011 games on and realise that we've ruined his career like so many others before. Dean Terlich has been reasonable this year, but like Matt Jones he's a warrior who will be shuffled out the door if we ever become a half decent side - you can't tell me that Tappy wouldn't be able to do the same thing better given the chance. Instead we've tried to make him a league half-forward flank and he never gets a kick. Hope he goes elsewhere and absolutely kills it as a running half-back just to rub our nose in it.

Speaking of ruckmen as we were before the "Save Tapscott" campaign update, is there any danger that Mitch Clark is going to be fit enough to play there next year? His foot seems to be made of high explosive, but with Jamar's career coming to an end and neither Spencer or Fitzpatrick being good enough to play the majority of the game in the middle wouldn't it solve multiple issues? We flog Jamar to a decent club for a couple of years so he can have a chance at winning a flag (with all the respect in the world to him for actually staying with us when he could have walked when almost at his peak) and play a Gawn/Clark combo. Result = profit.

This clears the way for Dawes kicking to Watts + Hogan with Mitch resting down there to cause additional havoc every once in a while. Then, assuming Hogan comes good as expected, you have him as your brutal pack busting, body-on-body forward and Watts leading out like a gazelle and not having to win one-on-one strength contests that he's not made for or interested in. Throw in Howe floating through (possibly literally) and god forbid a crumber and that's one scary forward line just waiting to have the ball kicked to them regularly. Then you keep Spencer as the backup ruckman and Fitzpatrick as the backup forward, hoping that you won't have to use them but not being entirely ruined if you do.

Whatever, let's just cut to the chase and talk Watts. How he teases us. He was by no means world class tonight, but it would still rank as the best last MFC game since no Carlton player went near Travis Johnstone for the whole night in 2007 if he were to walk out on us now. There's no way we're forcing him out the door after that performance, it's just up to him to decide whether he wants to be part of the newest new era or wants to take the easy option elsewhere and get a first-hand look at Mick Malthouse keeling over and dying from a burst blood vessel in the brain during a three-quarter time address.

Despite standing around in the forward line for most of the first half waiting for somebody to kick it towards him (keep waiting) Neil Craig surprisingly managed to resist the temptation to do the old panic move and throw him into the backline when we were being flogged. Because he's ill-suited to it and thank god they finally realised this. In the end persisting with a leading forward inside the forward 50 where he can.... lead paid off handsomely to the tune of four goals. Surprise, surprise playing somebody to their strengths allows them to do some damage. Unfortunately for us his main strength relies on having pinpoint passes drilled at him several times a game, so he's probably at the wrong club to start with but we're owed at least another year to try and give him that.

If he stays I'm still not entirely sure how he's going to fit into our forward line (assuming that Clark's not fit enough to ruck) but if he goes elsewhere they will surely be smart enough to realise that he can't be stuffed laying tackles or going in for the hard ball more than once or twice a game and will instead just provide a midfield who can get the ball in open space more than once or twice a year, some other forwards who will take the best defender and allow him to run at the ball and some crumbers who will give him a reason to go for contested aerial efforts without the ball rebounding down the other end at the speed of light.

I don't regret my outburst in the wake of his indiscreet Footy Show appearance and limp attempts at defending a few days later, but if a coach isn't going to accept a man's limitations and plan around them then they can get stuffed. Jack might not be the sort of guy you want alongside you when bullets start flying but he could do some serious damage given the chance. We could end up being tickled by random great performances for the best part of a decade like Sylvia but that's worth the risk at the moment. At least if he does go he's just driven his price up (both contractually and trade wise, unless we get stooged and he goes to GWS in the pre-season draft for nowt), unlike Sylvia who has been on another planet for weeks. Hopefully whatever deal he's made to go elsewhere is already signed (or however close to signing as you can get within the rules) because he's sliding towards the point where he'll have to go with whoever wants him no matter what the price a'la Moloney to Brisbane.

Jack's goal after the three-quarter time siren, so calmly taken, gave us the faintest of hopes but realistically a team who have to take oxygen when they pass a score of 60 were never going to launched a five goal comeback in the last quarter of the season. Almost every side in the competition has pulled off some kind of blockbusting, amazing comeback in the last quarter (and you could argue that we did against GWS but you'd only be kidding yourself) but if you looked deep inside yourself could you imagine us storming over the top of the Dogs to win that game in a million years? I can imagine it the other way around because it almost happened a few months ago, but for us to do it? Impossible.

Even when their players started dying at a rapid rate in the last 10 minutes we'd necked ourselves by playing like gibbons for a quarter of the game and weren't close enough to take advantage. So frustrating, so Melbourne.

Unlike last week, mercifully, there were actually some players worthy of getting votes. Grimes played his best match in a long time, McKenzie's tagging job on Griffin was a thing of beauty and the much maligned (by me) Dean Kent showed that he is probably a Round 1 starter next year after all. I was never against him, but it just seemed unfair that he couldn't be dislodged from the team - even for a week or two - in the middle of the year when he couldn't get a kick. In the last few weeks he's turned all that around and has done bloody well for a 19-year-old. He lacks polish but there's definitely something to work with there.

We had contributors, and it wasn't the thrashing it could very well have been, so that's a blessing of sorts but we can't just plod along thinking results like this are acceptable. If 'he' takes over as coach next year we probably won't win too many pre-season games, but at least it'll be a chance to start putting 'the plan' into action. Don't expect Neale Daniher 1998 or Ken Hinkley 2013 style miracles straight away though, this team has solid foundations but they've been laid by shonky operators who should be getting chased down the streets by film crews from A Current Affair.

If nothing else we said farewell to the Neil Craig era by kicking a reasonable score, but just look at how the Bulldogs have gone forward since we last played them. Now that we're back in that unenviable situation of being last start losers against every team in the competition (The Melbourne Position) how do we compare the two sides then and now? Obviously Dawes would have helped greatly this week like he did then, and for the second time in a row it was our complete inability to break even at the least in the midfield which caused our downfall (or near downfall in the case of the original game). The difference this week was that they took their chances up forward better, our backline wasn't as good and that they were playing with the confidence of a side who has dragged themselves off the mat in the last two months and rediscovered the joy of playing football with their dignity intact.

I want dignity. Then I want respectability. Then I want to expect to be in matches until the fourth quarter. Then I want the ability to hang shit on other people's teams. Then I want to re-achieve independence from the AFL with a solid financial grounding. Then I want to smash everyone's brains in, win a flag and go to Disneyland with three time Brownlow Medallist Jack Viney. Before that we've got more pain and suffering to get through, and it starts right here with the now famous...

'97 Watch
Total 2013 score - 209.201.1455

1997 score to beat - 207.235.1477

Final result -

Analysis - Six goals more but 28 less scoring shots gives this group some claim to a technical victory over the 1997 side, but they can argue that until they're blue in the face but it doesn't change the result - our lowest scoring season since 1968 (20 games) and therefore by extension our worst of the 22 game era.

It does, however, shift the blame off the forwards (a bit anyway) and onto the midfield. These gentleman can now walk down the street proudly, knowing the baton of shame has been passed onto a new generation. And may they keep it forever, and us never be forced to sit through such a pile of shit disguised as 'sports' ever again.

Stat My Bitch Up
Unfortunately for Neil Craig his 1-10 record leaves him with a 9.09% winning record as coach - our second worst on record behind George Haines who had the pleasure of marshalling our winless but war ravaged 1919 who actually had an excuse for being no good. But let's not hold it against him, we don't know what role he had in the excesses and disasters of the Neeld era but at least he put his hand up to take over when the firing squad had finished with his former protege.

He's been talked about as a potential for the Brisbane job, and why not considering that - sucked in - they're not going to get the man they aimed for when sacking Voss. I'd have thought Owl Eyes Mark Harvey had done enough in the last three weeks to take that job permanently if he wanted it, but if he doesn't then good luck to Craigy and his shock reunion with Moloney and the SME. He's a good guy and he deserves another shot with a non-putrid team. How he must have wished he'd gone there instead of joining us at the end of 2011. Hopefully he's gotten something out of his time at Melbourne, one or two good memories, as well as a substantial pay cheque.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Jordie McKenzie
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Jack Watts
1 - Dean Kent

Apologies to Davey, Dunn, Jetta, Trengove and Viney

Final Results
Jones falls short of the record 56 votes he pocketed in 2012, but his tally is still the second largest in Jakovich history. Viney pockets the Hilton with the largest ever vote tally for a Rising Star, Frawley takes home his fourth Seecamp after a year away and once more the less said about the ruckmen the better.

Congratulations to all award winners, may your victories open the door to television and radio stardom and all sorts of free shit.

48 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: 2013 Allen Jakovich Medal)
27 - Jack Viney (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
22 - James Frawley (WINNER: 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, Jack Watts
13 - Jack Grimes
10 - Shannon Byrnes, Jordie McKenzie
7 - Jack Trengove
6 - Michael Evans
5 - Mitch Clisby, Aaron Davey, Chris Dawes, Jack Fitzpatrick (JOINT WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Max Gawn (JOINT WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), James Magner
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar, Cameron Pedersen, Jake Spencer, Jimmy Toumpas
1 - Mitch Clark, Dean Kent, Luke Tapscott
 
Crowd Watch
Unfortunately Docklands only offers a third row that goes up to X rather than my beloved MCG Ponsford Stand Row LL, but at least unlike our 'home' game there the top deck was open. I'm still not sure who makes these decisions, whether it's the home team or the stadium themselves, but whoever it was should be praised (yes, praised - even if it was the stadium) for allowing people the freedom to be anti-social but also sit somewhere where they could see what was going on. At least this time they didn't try and cram every Melbourne fan in the place into one pocket.

They even opened the food outlets on the third level, which is more than you can say for the stingy bastards at the MCG. Maybe this stadium and I - in a week where the AFL prefers to play a final at Kardinia Park - could be friends one day? As long as the crowds never go above 25,000 (and frankly, what are the chances if we're involved?) and we get to the point where there's half a chance of winning a game there I could even *gasp* enjoy the place.

Despite the lack of a really remote back row where you could be assured of getting away from everybody, and the flat surface right at the back which invites parents to let their bored kids run up and down it all night, I was still able to end the season in glorious solitude. To contemplate a summer without the frustration of watching an awful standard of football in an empty stadium. Maybe I'll aim for the same feeling by getting a Melbourne Heart membership?

Also a big hand to one Dom Barry who, as I was studiously trying to avoid eye contact with while walking past to avoid being seen as a screeching MFC fanboy, said something along the lines of "thanks for coming" as he walked the other way. What a nice thing for a player to do considering the horseshit that we've had to put up with this year - admittedly none of it from him. Unfortunately due to my attempted avoidance of eye contact until the last minute when he greeted me I only spotted another suited player to the right and didn't notice who it was. I would hate for it have been Joel Macdonald and I missed out on the chance to express my frustration one last time at how we spent all last year switching to him with hospital balls that hung in the air for 20 seconds before making him look stupid. Or to have not had the chance to hug James Magner in sympathy until we both broke into tears about how cruel and horrible this club is. At least they were both wearing suits - which fits neatly into my dress code whinge of a fortnight ago.

Finally, to close this ever popular segment which has been nobbled in the last few years by my anti-social sitting at the back of stadiums, let's talk about one of the strangest promotions in league football. The Bulldogs obviously have as fond a memory of the late 1990's as we do and like this guy have invested heavily in rebadged Beanie Babies called 'Beanie Kids'. And because nobody has bought one of these things since they were briefly thought of as a good investment in the 90's they've devised a promotion where you can get one for $5 if the Bulldogs kick a goal in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. Why seven minutes? God only knows, but given that it's not 1989 you have to wonder who in their merchandising team got roped into buying a warehouse full of these things that means they have to flog them for such a low, low price to anybody who'll have them.

I was hoping for financial reasons that we'd stuff them up and hold out for the seven minutes, but they must have known something we didn't because those minutes were when the avalanche began and it was cheap "Beanie Kids" for all.

Good luck to Footscray fans for the future, not only can you score crappy merchandise on the cheap, but the great likelihood is that you'll continue to watch a side who play like they have balls. We should be so lucky.


Next Year (incorporating Next Week and Next Month)
No matter what else happens any talk about us in the near future will obviously be around Paul Roos and his comments from out of nowhere on Friday night that he's suddenly 50/50 on coaching us. Rumour has it that it's more like 99/1 (as long as his family do the right thing and enter the fold as heroes), and it's certainly better than the 'get stuffed' he offered to the hapless Brisbane president but let's not get too excited until we see him in a red and blue tie putting pen to paper.

Now that it's been revealed that he's met with our leadership group (and gee, wouldn't that be riveting for him? Hopefully they didn't give him one of our famous Powerpoint presentations) and even the players aren't denying it I'd say that the improbable is about to come true and somehow we're going to land the biggest fish in the coaching pond for the first time since Barassi turned up in 1981, realised he'd inherited a bunch of hacks and won one game by a point (but still had a better season than we just have). How ridiculous. These sorts of things aren't supposed to happen to us, and I really hope he's doing this for the right reasons and not just to open up a ripper of a retirement fund.

There's a heavy insinuation that the AFL are 'encouraging' him quite vigorously to take up the job, and the fact that Rodney Eade suddenly pulled out and took a contract extension at the Pies a few hours before Roos' indiscreet comments lends weight to all conspiracy theories (either that or he doesn't fancy being the man to single handedly clean the world's largest oil spill) but calm down Melburnians we've been here before. Anybody else remember watching the Grand Final Footy Show waiting for Chris Judd to burst out on stage in a Melbourne jumper? Still waiting

Of course the difference was in that case it was a bullshit rumour floating around the internet and this was the man himself opening the door. With Judd we showed him a portable classroom at the Junction Oval and Richard Pratt showed him a mansion - it was never going to happen. The door is well and truly open on this one, and no doubt we'll find some way to stuff it up before he does agree to sign. Whatever Peter Jackson does he'd better not bring a 'fully loaded' Mad Monday celebrating Technicolour Gawn to meet with him or the whole deal could be blown in an instant AND we'd have to pay his dry-cleaning bills.

Let's just say our plight has moved him (to a bigger house) and he does sign on. Then that is obviously a good thing, even if he did inherit a half reasonable team when he took over at Sydney instead of a screaming wreck, but let's keep our pants on and not get too over excited. First let's get the deal done and pay him whatever ridiculous salary he's managed to wrench out of us (or hopefully out of the AFL, who are desperate for some sort of off-field good news story) then reinvestigate where we're at and how long it's going to take for the Sydney Swans All-Stars (featuring Tadgh Kenneally) to get us at least back to the mid-table mediocrity that we all crave so desperately at the moment.

Don't except miracles. Yes, Port went from garbage to mid-table in the blink of an eye but that's as rare as us doing it in '98. Whether he takes the Neeld year one approach of leaving the list generally intact and having a look at what he's got in the first year (hopefully without the bit where he falls out with half of the players we want to keep) or Neeld year two and swings the axe on a bunch of mid-carders and replaces them with recycled players from other clubs is yet to be seen.

If it's the latter I'd certainly back him to have better success than his predecessor. It's always good to start a new job following someone who was a complete shambles, because you either look good automatically in comparison or can blame everything on them until such time as you've had a chance to right the ship.

While I don't want to see people expecting miracles in the first season, I also don't want to see the whole 'experiment' being written off as a shambles if we're no good next year. It doesn't matter if it's him, Choco (who Anthony Hudson was basically writing off on SEN as the result of what was described as an 'interesting interview') or Other, anything good that happens to us in 2014 is a bonus - this coach will need time. Don't get horny about the Roos era and buy four memberships then ring up the club to blast them about how we're last in Round 16 next year, it doesn't work like that. Both sides of the overly optimistic/panic too easily divide will have to agree to keep it in their pants for a while.

Let's also assume that if Our Paul is threatening to change his mind and take on footy's version of Mt Everest that whatever activities we got up to with Stephen Dank aren't series enough to warrant any proper sanctions against anybody still around or the club itself. God knows when that investigation's going to begin, but hopefully our status as a protectorate of the AFL keeps us out of Footy Jail and that none of what we've done is wicked enough to get ASADA or WADA involved. Surely he's going to get a verbal agreement with the league that the club itself and the majority of its players are in the clear (at least from the AFL) before signing anything. We're in such a deliciously dodgy situation with this signing (if it happens) that I'm starting to think anything is possible and they might even fall for giving us a priority pick - at which point the rest of the league are probably justified in jumping up and down screaming while we laugh all the way to the bank.

I'm not brave enough to make even an uneducated guess on the similarities between our version of the Dankfest and Essendon's. Obviously it's not even remotely on the same scale, but having paid scant attention to their scandal until the dying few days which culminated with James Hird taking his own (footballing) life in a bunker underneath AFL House I still couldn't tell you exactly what they did. I do know the fact that Chris Connolly got the same penalty is Hird for cracking a gag is a bit naff and that there some funny sounding substance with the word LUBE in it involved but other than that I'm stuffed.

The only thing I've learnt, even after watching the 7.30 Report story again, is that people taking underhanded and/or sneaky measures should stop sending each other such detailed text messages. Otherwise there's nothing imported rectally from Mexico mentioned (yet anyway) but there was discussion about giving the players something generally used to treat alcohol or heroin addiction which seems wasted on the players when the rest of us could do with a crack at it.

As for the playing list, David Rodan added himself to the list of retirees during the week after doing his knee against Port. It's unfortunate for him that he has to end his career on such a downer (i.e having played for us), but amongst the news of his exit there was one final sad indictment on the Neeld/Harrington list management era - when we traded pick 88 for him at the end of last year he was for reasons completely unknown given a two year contract.

No offence to Rodan who almost (almost) did enough for me to think he was worth another year on the list, and he might have been playing for peanuts anyway, but sit down sometime and try to work out the logic of giving a player who had already had three knee reconstructions, was nearly 30 and had just been all but delisted by a club that were no good a deal of more than one year. You won't be able to work it out. That's proof that everyone involved in list management at this club in 2012/13 should have been removed from office by force if necessary, and I'm sorry that it had to take a man's career ending for this to be further exposed.

No wonder there were rumours that Todd Viney clashed with Neeld over recruitment before the season. If I knew then what I'd known now (and which was kept very hush hush at the time) about Byrnes, Rodan and Pedersen I'd have supported Todd leading a people's revolution to seize power. He'd better not be going anywhere under the new regime, because if true that he pointed out what a stupid idea some of these decisions were then he deserves to stay on and have his stance justified watching [insert coach name here] unravel some of the mess.

These must be some of the kookiest deals ever signed in AFL history. What made them think Byrnes or Rodan were going to go supernova in one year and then either demand enormous money or walk out to third/fourth clubs? Same with Pedo, but at least he's young enough that you can argue him being worth two years. Did everyone see us coming for them with saliva running down the chin and think "oh good, we can cheat this lot"? Football agents and club list managers must have kicked the cat when both Mark Neeld and Michael Voss were dismissed in the same year. The problem is now any mature age recruit we get from another club is going to be treated with the utmost suspicion until they actually prove themselves.

For idiots like me who tried to defend Neeld and rationalise the slop that was being dished up on a regular basis for 18 months, each new revelation like this is like discovering your government has been knee deep in war crimes. Stuff being fair in the future, I'm defaulting to the position that if something seems strange then it's a rubbish idea until proven otherwise - even if it's by god almighty Paul Roos himself. That way you're either right or pleasantly surprised. We'll all be fooled again somewhere down the track, but I doubt it'll ever be on this astronomic level. And as much as I respect Neil Craig if he was involved in those three deals then he can take his place in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague as well.

Credit then to Rodan for retiring and not ripping us off by getting paid for another year to rehab and play one token game if lucky. Hopefully he gets insurance money or something and the injury doesn't leave him out of pocket. Seems like a good guy, and if keen on coaching or similar then he's more than welcome to hang around - it's not his fault some goose put a silly deal in front of him at the end of last year.

Therefore my predictions (including things we already know), assuming that teasing a Taggert debut and not actually picking him means that he's held in some regard and will therefore be given the Davis style extra year are:

FREE AGENT: Sylvia
DELISTED: Couch, Davis, Gillies, Jetta, Magner, Sellar, Tynan
RETIRED: Davey, Macdonald, Rodan
TRADE BLOCK: Jamar, Tapscott, Watts (will hopefully stay if 'the right coach' signs on and convinces him to give us time)

That's nine off the list if Sylvia goes and two rookies. A fair turnover, not including trades. Jetta and Tynan could survive if Roos (how ridiculous does it sound even talking about him as coach? And have you ever thought about what a novelty surname it is?) wants to give a few players a stay of execution in his first year.

Based on the players that we'll have if my predictions above occur to the letter (they won't), and excluding any draft picks, free agents and trades that we get which are set to slot in automatically I can come up with this starting lineup. Players who are rock solid certainties (for me anyway) are underlined. I struggled to find a forward pocket without doing something silly like adding Fitzpatrick and making the forward line even more top heavy - and really the only players I could say are near certs that are left out are Gawn and Toumpas.

B: McDonald, Frawley, Dunn
HB: Grimes, Garland, Terlich
C: Trengove, N. Jones, M. Jones
HF: Howe, Dawes, Kent
F: Watts, Hogan, ?
R: Clark, Viney, McKenzie

Not a lineup that's going to win anything any time soon, but conversely one that could at least snatch more than two games if they all stayed fit long enough. I'm certainly open to suggestions on replacements for the non-underlined players and the question mark. Depth will also be an issue, it's all well and good to talk about 'best 22' but when was the last time a side actually made it to round 1 with their 100% best team on the park? It's no good carrying a wafer thin list through the first month then falling apart and losing the next 18.

We'll still be no good, but it's just about being less no good than we are now. Which is really, really, REALLY no good.

Apparently there's also still football to be played in 2013, but who really cares? Go (without any great enthusiasm) 1) Port, 2) Freo, 3) Sydney, 4) Jared Rivers, 5) Ricky Petterd, 6) Kyle Cheney (if selected), 7) Brock McLean and 8) Collingwood.

More importantly our annual Demonblog End of Year Spectacular will be along sometime in the next week (until then feel free to amuse yourself with previous editions - 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Either watch Twitter or BigFooty for notification of when it's up or just sit here pressing refresh 18 hours a day depending on how much time you've got to commit.


Demonwiki will also be updated to close off 2013 and welcome/farewell players as they come through the door. For an indication of the sort of pages that will be updated (and to get an indication of some of the fantastically obscure and pointless rubbish that you can find on there) here's a list of the 2012 end-of-season updates.


Finally Demonbracket, the competition which captured the world's imagination this year, will be back again in early 2014. The exact dates are up in the air considering the demise of the NAB Cup means that I can't aim to have the Grand Final the day before our first proper match of the season again. Again, watch this space or stay tuned to Twitter for more details. The only change I can reveal at the moment is that seedings will be handled differently this season - instead of the top 8 being the leadership group the defending champion will go in as #1 seed with the top seven of the B&F (including 8th if McDonald finishes top seven) filling the rest of the spots. There will once again be a preliminary round for rookies, new draftees and Maia Westrupp style internationals to try and win their way through to the main draw. Looking forward to it, but sadly we've got to get through summer first.

Was it worth it?
Thanks for coming along for the ride for another season. Demonblog is still mostly written for my own benefit, but it's always nice to know that it provides entertainment for a few other people as well, and will one day confuse the bejesus out of people researching footy in the 2000's.

Was 2013 actually worth it? On first reflection the answer is fairly clear without having to review the 150,000 odd words contained in the match 'reviews' posted on here this season by myself and guest reporters. It seems that the obvious answer is no, but really yes of course it was.

This has been the worst season of my life, and many of you would share the same pain but it's still a blessing to have a club to obsess over like this. That's why for all the worries and panic about us going out of business, or the angry tweets about how we should fold or relocate to East Timor we absolutely must to go to the ends of the earth to fight for its survival in its current form. No partial relocations, no pissing off to Boutique Stadium if it ever opens. Melbourne Demons at the MCG until death do us part.

That's why as discussed midway through the year when I was starting to get really depressed I propose amending or adding to this section of our constitution:

I think the club should be allowed to sell two home games a year somewhere else, but anything over and above that - whether it's interstate or to another venue in Victoria - should have to be approved in some way by members.

It also takes into account the fact that we'll get forced into a home game at Etihad by the AFL every year whether we like it or not. Unfortunately if the league wants something the constitution isn't worth the paper it's written on, and after North stood up to them if they decide they want a team in Tassie full time and we're the victim then we'll be railroaded into it no matter what the members think. Same goes for this boutique stadium which won't be around for another decade at this rate, but at least this amendment would put on record by the members that our club is not for sale without a river of blood running from here to Timbuktu - and would force any board who wanted to go along with a dodgy deal to put it to the members in a vote less rigged than this one.

The only issue is that our Constitution doesn't actually appear to indicate how an ordinary member (or pleb) can put a resolution to the meeting. This is a major issue, but surely I'm just missing something and the members who pay up loyally every year have some way of raising an issue for their fellow members to vote on. It's already dodgy enough that there's no mechanism for fans to call an EGM, but if it were true that they can't even put up a motion to be debated and voted on then we're a less democratic organisation than the Yackandandah Young Liberals.

If you're in with the club (and I know you are..) feel free to email me (anonymously if you wish) with more information and confirmation of whether or not this can be done. If not then (farcical situation alert) the board should be lobbied to put up a resolution to allow people to put up resolutions

Anyway, let's pretend there is a way to do this and democracy isn't completely dead. I'm not hectoring you to vote in favour of it by any means, but at least think about it. Some might even think it doesn't go far enough (as written it does give them scope to flog another game to Darwin if we're really, really beaten up and need another $500k) but it's a start. Let's get it in there and amend as require.

It might not feel like it at times, and I don't want Glenn Bartlett to become our Dyson Hore-Lacy, but the club is worth fighting to the death for. It's no longer realistic to assume that just because we're called Melbourne that we're off the hook and can rely on multi-million dollar rescue packages again and again. Do what you can now to avoid ever being in the situation where we have to fight for our lives. Not everybody has money to throw at the cause, I know other than the obvious commitments I don't, but everyone can do their bit in volunteering, being an advocate for the club, roping some poor foreign bastard who doesn't know what they're doing into following us or holding a knife to the throat of people who dare criticise us (NB: Don't do the last one).

Final Thoughts
I'm bored, when does next season start?   

2 comments:

  1. I do expect Adam 1.0 to win the Sid Anderson Memorial Trophy on Thursday night behind Nathan Jones. Thanks for a terrific year at the keyboard. Sadly, you've provided more entertainment than the football team and many thigh slappin' LOL moments (mind you you've had plenty of material to work with). Much appreciated. Go take a well earned rest, get your body right then have a big pre-season - I reckon we will need you in top form next year. Thanks.

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  2. Hmm, not sure I agree with you about the half time kerfuffle. Personally I loved seeing the players getting into it and actually helping their teammates. The fact they cameo out after half time and won both quarters was just gravy.

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