Sunday 6 April 2014

Don't cry for me, I'm already dead

Well that's it for me, I'm done. Goodbye Melbourne FC I can't take any more of this. I'm giving up on this team until approximately 1.45pm next Saturday. Not really, I'll still spend all week thinking about them, but if I wasn't a confirmed fanatic (and not the "oh he's fanatical, that's cute LOL" type, the "oh my god he's filming a martyr video" type) then today might have pushed me over the edge into actual public declarations that I was giving it away. Which usually means "I will be back when we're good again", but should at least buy you another decade of free weekends before you a bandwagon worth jumping on rolls past.

Whisper it quietly but I still have no regrets. What else was I going to do this afternoon, tend my garden or see friends and/or family? It's an addiction, and  I'll either outlive this club or go to my grave being one of those people who voluntarily watch something every week then spend their time whinging about it.

It's not just an addiction, it's supermasochism. I need to watch this documentary again to make me feel better about dedicating so much mental energy to supporting the Dees. Not to give away any crucial moments of this important piece of cinema but the big ending is a close-up shot of the the guy hammering a nail through his flange. That's still marginally more painful and needlessly self-harmful than watching the club continue its transformation into the 'before' version of the Cleveland Indians in Major League ("Here's the pitch... oh shit") without any prospect of a Wesley Snipes inspired happy ending on the horizon.

Most addicts hit rock bottom eventually. Gamblers start pinching money off their grandmother, gamers keel over after 37 consecutive hours of playing and drug addicts eventually find themselves hocking discount sexual favours on a lonely street corner. My 'Carlisle Street at 2am' moment almost came today when I found myself watching a team sitting on 11 points with a minute left in the second half, 'only' eight points behind thinking "geez I hope they don't kick a goal here or we'll be too far behind to win." That's the sort of confidence that this club fills me with, and I'm one of the rusted-on freaks. God knows what 'the kids' are thinking. Actually, I can tell you exactly what they're thinking "Gee I'd like to follow an up and coming team of go-getters like the GWS Giants."

Instead of getting seriously into gambling or drugs I chose football. Which on the whole is better for ones health, but it still feels like it's heading towards rack and/or ruin. Regular readers may remember I deliberately changed jobs shortly after the 2006 finals series to be able to watch every single game. To find out how that's working for me you just need to know that last week's 93 point loss was only our 17th worst performance since Round 1 2008.

For want of anything better to do with my life I've got plenty more interest left to give, even if enthusiasm is running on empty, but the point in your life where you have to admit that something has gone drastically wrong is when you enter a game against the GWS Giants thinking that even the narrowest and ugliest victory would be an all-time great, life affirming moment. I just need to see a win again, it's been 281 days for god's sake and even then we almost lost. If it wasn't for Jack Watts' mark we might be looking at the full year without victory in a couple of weeks.

There's no point comparing ourselves to the Giants any more. They are rapidly pulling away from our league (and to be fair pending Carlton somehow managing to lose to us next week that is currently a league with one team in it), and it was telling that two of the players who stitched us up today weren't even from their cavalcade of quality kids but Shane Mumford and Heath Shaw. Two players practically in the prime of their career brought in to play specific roles and doing so perfectly. Players who wouldn't touch us while wearing a HAZMAT suit these days.

On the other hand one of our best was Daniel Cross, recruited in the twilight of his career in an attempt to drag others up to his level of effort (does he have a track record for performing miracles?) and support 'the kids' - most of whom are now playing for the Casey Scorpions. I've loved his work over the last couple of weeks (not that there's been much else to enjoy), and the fact that he's thrown himself into the cause so recklessly he's sporting an Abdullah The Butcher style wound on his head so large that you could stick a casino chip in, but where are the real impact players? The only one we've managed to get our hands on or develop in recent years has all but given the game away, and we're left with a list that has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Our drafting and development woes are well known, and thus we're left with a side who can't even land a handball on target in perfect conditions let alone in the Sydney Showgrounds hurricane belt. People who talk even half seriously about a promotion/relegation system for the AFL are idiots, but as neatly encapsulated here (in far briefer terms than I could ever manage) we are "off the pace". That's certainly putting it politely. When we're involved this league is like the good old days of the Melbourne Cup before the internationals were let in and rancid 600-1 horses like Sunshine Sally could somehow qualify only to finish 50 lengths last. In 2014 we are in danger of achieving Count Chivas status, so far last that we almost trample Peter Hore as he runs across the track.

Having said all that we were in front early in the last quarter this afternoon, so no doubt had we found some way to hold it together long enough to win instead of rolling over and dying like a mangy dog while your friend and mine Tom $cully did his usual trick of running riot against us before reverting to being the usual sort of mediocre MFC draft pick.

It would have been the most shameful victory of of ALL TIME but my god I'd have taken it. The more astute amongst you may have noticed that I'm basically writing the same thing week after week these days, but it's not easy to come up with fresh and original angles when you're describing the club's worst losing streak since 1982. Such is life as the Chief Football Writer of Demonblog. I bet this never happens to Caroline Wilson. Mainly because she's not written about the game itself since 1981, which makes two of us.

Believe it or not it could have been worse for me. As late as Friday I was sorely tempted to get in my car and drive to Sydney because even though I knew we were going to lose it still felt like I'd be better off seeing it all happen in front of my own eyes. Given that I never even thought of looking at the weather report for Sydney sanity thankfully prevailed without friends and family having to link arms and block access to my car.

Even if actual match description was what I do it would be hard to go into any depth about today's game. Not sure anybody was expecting a classic even if it was sunny, but with half of the game played in pissing rain here's the hapless MFC still trying to link up with handballs and hit precise kicks to a forward line who are at this point reaching John Meesen levels of being fictional. It took until the end of game for us to finally realise that when the ground is soaking wet that you can get more advantage from just hoofing it off the deck instead of trying to pick it up. Maybe there's a team rule that says you're not supposed to, but surely when it starts pouring rain the rulebook is torn up and it becomes survival of the fittest?

How bad was the quality of this game? Well, let me answer that by telling you that the last time a game opened with 10 points or less scored in the first quarter was 1998 when Geelong and West Coast kicked 0.3 apiece at Kardinia Park. I'd like to think that these teams were just defending strongly, rather than both being startlingly inept. It has rained before, and teams (often us) have scored nothing but at least the other side usually has the respect for neutrals to smash through two or three goals minimum.

Did you, like I did, kick your couch or a nearby inanimate object when Nathan Jones went down like a stone at the first bounce? The only place we've not suffered serious injury drama so far this season has been the midfield, so it can't be much longer until he suffers something more serious than a poke in the eye. Apparently having a finger jammed into your cornea isn't worthy of a free kick, but at least the umpires squared the ledger by making up free kicks for the rest of the day. See, for instance, The Spencil winning a free-kick for almost decapitating somebody and Watts getting one for stuffing up an attempt to leap over his opponent.

Speaking of The Spencil he still tries his guts out, even in the most trying conditions. I don't know whether it says more about him or his teammates but has currently racked up the third most tackles for the side behind Nathan Jones and Daniel Cross. That said we've got to get him some help in the ruck, he just got carved to shreds at stoppages. Mumford is obviously operating in a different league to him, but not having a realistic second option doesn't help. Doesn't sound like Jamar or Gawn are coming back next week, and we might get away with it due to Carlton being almost as putrid as us, but the sooner we get another proper ruckman fit and playing the better.

For what's it worth I was into the rotation of players, even if it was a bit deckchairs on the Titanic, I could have left Dunn down back and just swapped Frawley/Howe but he's on fire at either end at the moment. Dunn haters watch your back, he could very well pocket the best and fairest this season. It was reasonable to switch the other two around, Howe got some touches for the first time all year and Frawley got the opportunity to run at the ball instead of watching it fly over his head 20 times a game.

He did quite well too considering that playing in our forward line is practically the most difficult task on the face of the planet, though I did wonder whether it was a bit like when we threw Rivers up there in 2012 because we knew he was going and thought we should concentrate on keeping the defence of the future together.

Despite the fact that we were relatively close at both quarter time and half time (relative to it being a shithouse game), the list of things we couldn't do to a league standard is longer than your arm. It includes but is not limited to kicking-in (so what's new?), getting the ball inside 50, running into space (though they were probably up to their ankles in water), laying tackles, forward pressure and keeping the ball for multiple possessions. Yet despite all this being blatantly obvious in the first quarter we were only a handful of points down at the first change - despite only scoring two points.

I was surprised to find out that we've only had 19 goalless first quarters in the last decade (if you add one goal first quarters, the old Baileyquarter, you need a NASA Supercomputer to tally them all up), but with two in three weeks Roos has already topped Neale Daniher, Mark Riley and Neil Craig and is on world record pace to match the greats of the genre Dean Bailey (eight) and Mark Neeld (six).

UPDATE - If you go from Round 1 2004 to now (so slightly over 10 years) the tally of 0/1 goal first quarters is Daniher - 12 from 83 games (14.4%) , Riley 2 from 9, Bailey 24 from 83 (28.91%), Viney 1 from 5, Neeld 14 from 33 (42.42%), Craig 3 from 11, Roos 2 from 3.

That we've got the same sort of affliction no matter who is in the ejector seat says something about the mental curse hanging over this joint. Three-quarters of the list has been changed over in recent years and we still find ourselves neck-deep in quicksand without anyone seemingly capable on pulling us out. High hopes are held for Jack Viney, but it can't all rest on one person's shoulders. He was well rusty today but still led the team in tackles as many teammates decided they didn't fancy slapping one on, and were instead quite happy to put an arm out and hope that Champion Data noted them down for an 'attempted' tackle.

Shannon Byrnes has laid six tackles in three games, Jay Kennedy-Harris has laid six tackles in three games. The difference is that one of them has been on the field 75% of the time and one of them has been piss-farting around on the bench in a green vest while his teammates allow the ball to be swept out of the attacking 50 at lightspeed. Byrnes is an easy target now that he's stopped kicking goals but he's not alone. GWS certainly didn't seem shy about grabbing somebody and flattening them, and that's why they'll be playing finals soon while we're still racking up top five draft picks.

Despite the ridiculous difference in 'appetite for the contest' (CLICHE) they couldn't put us away. The defence was holding up reasonably well, and despite the fact that they were getting their goals through Patton and Cameron it was hardly the day for tall forwards to tear a side apart. Thank god for that. Not that we had any sort of forward line. Frawley was trying hard to be an option, but the rest of them were just standing still watching the ball get kicked back towards the Giants' forward 50.

I've had enough of this wailing about tall forwards though - it would be nice to have them down there but it's not compulsory to score goals through tall forwards. Look how good Dunn was down there today, give anybody who hold a mark the space and kick it at them and you might just rack up a decent score. Any chance some of our midfielders might chip in? We've got stuff all crumb other than a brief cameo by Dean Kent, no talls, can't kick goals from stoppages in the forward line and a midfield who can't/won't get in positions to have shots - is it any wonder we've scored 17 goals in three weeks? Even when somebody like Fitzpatrick manages to bring the ball to the ground who's there to pick it up? Nobody.

Despite this we hit the lead in the third quarter and looked like a fair chance to keep it going, until we started handing them chances on a platter from our non-stop hit parade of shithouse kick-ins. Obviously Paul Roos is not afraid of doing different things, and thank god for that compared to the last guy, but how many times in a row do you need to cock up in the same way before trying something else? It eventually cost us the lead going into three quarter time.

As an interlude to this in-depth match analysis, I'd be genuinely interested to find out why Toumpas and Trengove were dropped. Not that I'm suggesting they shouldn't have been, but in light of Roos' comments about players who don't do the 'non-negotiables' I suspect neither was dropped purely on form. I've love to know what non-negotiables they didn't do. Maybe Roos just hates the letter T? I thought Toumpas especially had done alright playing the 'hung out to dry on a forward flank' role that Tapscott made famous before disappearing, but he must have done something wrong.

One would suspect that Dean Terlich might be also in trouble considering the spray he copped from Roos after being pinged holding the ball late in the third quarter. It was a great spray, but it's resemblance to Neeld vs Morton 2012 will give extra ammunition to everyone who wants to write him off before he's even started.

As for this week's lot I thought Kent was good. Evans sadly lost all his power by shaving his lovely locks off and was pretty ordinary. Pedersen was much better in defence than he ever has been forward and should certainly stay there for the rest of the years, and the most of the others (other than those who are about to get votes/apologies, and by christ even they were lucky) were going through the motions waiting for their cheque to arrive.

The sad thing about this scenario (if we keep going like this the all-time losing streak record will be equalled on Queen's Birthday - how's that for a promotion to get people to show up?) is watching the life force ebb out of people who I have either known in person or through the massed ranks of the Deepressed on Twitter for several years. People who have been through absolutely everything and now either don't bother watching or duck out for a milkshake the moment it's obvious that we're going to be shite again.

We got the lead back at the start of the last quarter, Frawley finally rewarded for effort, but after that we went missing. There were large periods of the quarter where the ball was going out of bounds or had 15 players sitting on it for a bounce, but we didn't get another goal until the game was completely stuffed. And stuffed it was. The Giants did exactly what they did against Sydney two weeks ago in similar conditions, getting in front in the last quarter then making the opposition look stupid as they ran away to an easy win. So at least we're in solid company.

It's galling to watch Port Adelaide doing so well - even in blowing a lead today they gave their fans full value - and that's nothing against them. Anything that keeps a Victorian team who isn't us out of the finals is good by me, but go back to those insane few weeks from late July to late August 2011 when the footy arms exploded. They were a far worse side than we were - we might have lost by 186 points once, they lost by 138 and 165 in consecutive weeks. If they hadn't beaten us in the last game of the season they'd have finished below Gold Coast in their first year.

If we had that sort of fortnight they'd probably have sent liquidators in. GWS had the draft sewn up, so it was hardly as if pick one was on the cards but no doubt we'd probably have thrown the game just to boost ourselves a couple of spots in the order. They kept their dignity, and it took another year of relatively shit football (better than us anyway) to get it right but their fans are now being rewarded. Meanwhile we're still trapped in the flotsam and jetsam league and the distance between us and the next side up is growing.

We might whinge about equalisation being a crock, but it's just us - even else is close enough now to keep things interesting most weeks. I'm running out of ways to describe this slop. Next week I might just do a cover version of this 1904 classic.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
It's another one of those days where if votes were optional I may have handed out one, and maybe a second, but instead there's at least three undeserving recipients and nobody is even remotely worthy of five. So don't write in and complain, the votes had to go to somebody and I've never resorted to novelty selections or passing yet.

Already struggling

5 - Lynden Dunn
4 - Daniel Cross
Had a go

3 - James Frawley
Half a game is better than no game

2 - Dom Tyson
Nothing to justify it

1 - Jeremy Howe

Apologies to Pedersen (so much better in defence), Tom McDonald and Jack Watts who might have snuck in for one just because. UPDATE - hello from Tuesday morning, I went back and looked at the stats and appears Dunn had nine touches all day and was one of five to get stuff all in the last quarter. God knows how I came up with him as our BOG but it's too late to change now.

10 - Nathan Jones
9 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross 
6 - Dom Tyson
4 - Jack Watts
3 - James Frawley, Dean Terlich
1 - Jeremy Howe, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Off-Field Corner
It looks like Mitch Clark is never coming back, and that saddens me greatly. Not just for footballing reasons (though I won't deny that doesn't play a part in it), but because it's abundantly clear from the tone of this article that there's something extremely serious going on in the background. If pulling the plug on his career immediately is what's best for him then good luck with it. I like how the article, in basically admitting that they have no idea what's going to happen, leaves open the tantalising possibility of him coming back - which in honour of Wrestlemania weekend would be the biggest swerve since Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. But it's not going to happen, that lines is just there cover Mark Robinson's arse if the unlikely happens.

The bit that makes me feel bad is the suggestion that Mitch feels like he's letting down the club and his teammates. If you're reading I think I speak for everyone who is at the club, follows the club or even knows the club exists in saying that when the list of people who are to blame for the last couple of years is written the guy whose foot exploded twice, then suffered a serious of soft tissue injuries after kicking 36 goals in 15 games will be a long, LONG way down the list next to the receptionst and below the trumpeteer. Get well soon.

Banner Watch
Another victory to the Demons. and a comfortable one too. I can understand why they stuff all the text in the top half of the banner so it doesn't get obscured by anybody running through it (wait, no I don't actually understand that) but why are they still using zeroes instead of O's? Who are the Dem0ns? Are they any better than the Demons or are they a bunch of 15-year-old hackers? 3-0.

Goal of the Year
No change. Best today probably the casual Matt Jones kick in the last quarter when the game was buggered. Clubhouse leader remains Bernie Vince vs St Kilda - Round 1 (long bomb from outside 50).

Coaching Corner
Stewart Dew must be the happiest man on earth that he dodged the bullet of being on a promise to take this side over. Suffice to say the only people who will be answering calls from Roos or Peter Jackson after the last few weeks will be Mark Neeld, Ken Judge and this guy.

Next Week
Carlton are absolutely terrible this year, but just how bad will be sorted out next weekend. Let's win and get Mick Malthouse sacked for a) not taking the poison chalice at the end of 2011, b) for being a shit bloke in press conferences and c) because it will be fun.

On our side, I swear if Rohan Bail is not omitted at approximately 6.20pm on Thursday night then I will complain on the internet about it. Apparently Clisby was better than Trengove in Casey's narrow win over Essendon so I bet even if they do try and recall Jack that he will make the same claim as a well known retired senior player who said he preferred playing with the Scorpions because at least they won.

IN: Blease, McKenzie, Trengove
OUT: Byrnes, Bail, Evans
LUCKY: Evans, Fitzpatrick, Terlich

Next Season
We may win a game.

Was it worth it?
Those of you who travelled from another state to sit in an empty, drenched stadium and watch that absolute godless slop deserve a handwritten letter of thanks from somebody at the MFC (even if it is the tea lady. The receptionist is unavailable as she's called in sick for tomorrow) and an invitation to high tea with the board.

Shameless self promotion corner
The good people at the Footy Maths Institute nominated us for the Australian Blog Awards. Which is nice of them. There's no point pretending I'm generally unconcerned, because if that was the case I just wouldn't mention it so vote early and vote often. I do feel slightly dirty about being such a populist though, so to take the curse off it I must mention that you should also vote for the Institute, the Bulldog Tragician and any other footy bloggers you can find on the absurdly long 'come one, come all' shortlist.

Final thoughts
Twitterist @jmac says it in pictures...

(At least we scored 40)


  1. Chin up mate. As a 39 year old Swans supporter, I can recall some dark, dark, days, but never give up. We lost to GWS too, no shame there.

  2. Adam, at least you had your couch. I was there to watch the umpleasantness unfold. Things looked fairly grim when the back 6 walked to their positions like they were about to be shot. We're a foul bunch with no redeeming features, nor any prospects. I don't understand why people are saying we should have kept Josh Kelly's pick. If he came to us he wouldn't be Josh Kelly. He'd be Trengove. He'd be Toumpas. He'd be Watts. Super talented juniors who caught Viral Demonness as soon as they walked in the place.

  3. Are you saying Evans should consider himself lucky if he gets omitted? If so, I agree. Playing full-back in an extremely dominant under age team many years ago, I still remember the groans from each back-line player as their name was read out by the coach from the team list at Thursday night training. We all desperately wanted to be dropped to the seconds so we could get a kick. I imagine there are the same Thursday night groans from each Melbourne player as Roosy calls out the team at training.

  4. I'm trying to decide if I should go see them play Carlton tomorrow (primarily, or entirely, because I want my membership scarf. Providing it's actually possible to get them at replacement home games?) or if I should save my time and simply pour some vinegar into the paper cut I got at work yesterday to approximate the suffering I'd feel upon sitting through the game in person.


Crack the sads here... (to keep out nuffies, comments will show after approval by the Demonblog ARC)