Sunday 22 June 2014

Flattened like a tack

There's a clear pattern emerging that shows the 2014 Melbourne Football Club is causing a wider outbreak of self-harm than Leonard Cohen and My Chemical Romance combined. What sets them apart from the 2013 is model is that now they're doing it to opposition sides as well and not just their own supporters.

Which is not to say there was a great deal to be happy about in the drab, lifeless loss to North tonight but considering we last beat them 2864 days ago it's not like it came as a surprise. Last week was magical and will live with us forever, but while we're good at frustrating teams into losing the plot temporarily you don't get to have the opposition collectively throw in the towel during the last quarter every week.

We'll be living off that game until Round 1 next year, but it's still fair to say that plenty of air was squeezed out of the red and blue balloon this evening. Not getting thrashed is a reward in itself, but as odd at it sounds when we're only one win and percentage away from last place tolerance levels with honourable losses where the opposition spend half the game necking themselves before scoring off our turnovers is wearing thin.

The Adam of 22 June 2013 would be horrified to hear me speak like that, but if we're going to go anywhere in the short term we can't just enable ourselves to be stretched like a rubber-band every week in the hope that the opposition won't be able to break us. Hooray for slingshot footy and all that shit but tonight we just looked second rate again. At first we looked reasonable as long as we could get the ball inside 50 instead of giving it back to North or fannying about with it 60m out from goal, but by the end it was just a case of kick it forward and hope that the opposition defenders spontaneously combust - because if somebody wasn't going to take a pack mark (and usually they didn't) there sure wasn't going to be anyone at ground level to keep the pressure on. Result - a total lack of crumb or forward pressure, leading to North usually rebounding with the greatest of ease and about 13 free players.

The advantage to this version of the MFC over the previous two is that the intensity level is through the roof in comparison, and it does cause teams to briefly fall apart and forget how to play football. Unfortunately for us there's only so far you can get with pressure - it eventually has to be backed up with quick, accurate ball movement which creates attacking chances. I refuse to acknowledge our reasonable disposal efficiency considering how much of it was side-to-side dink, and how much of the 20-25% of the time when it went wrong cost us. I'm also refusing to concede inside 50's as so few of them in the second half were quality.

Accurate kicking for goal kept us in it at first, but you could tell from the first few minutes that North were the better side and would eventually win. It wasn't just the farce of a first goal where Bail missed Nathan Jones' invitation to fumble the ball over the line and instead cost us a goal. That didn't help, but we did turn the tables and get in front not long after so it was hardly fatal. It was that we not only gifted them all seven goals of the first half via turnovers but that they always had players running free no matter what happened. Even when it was the result of a turnover - and you didn't have to wait long for one to happen - they had players everywhere while most of ours were just trotting around 10m behind.

When we got the ball everyone usually had two players on them or nobody was running for the guy kicking it so he had to stop. Even when they did run into space - usually when we were kicking out of the backline - they'd usually get ignorede. That coupled with the fact that half the team decided to go missing after last week's heroics made for tough slog, and it was a miracle that we managed to be so close at half time.

With the old 'attempted tackles' stat going off the charts North should have already put us away at half-time. After last week I couldn't rule out a stirring comeback, but unfortunately unlike Carlton (7.16), Adelaide (9.13 with additional shit delivery to the forwards), Richmond (9.20) and Essendon (10.17) the Kangaroos arrested their brief slide into completely inept football before it became fatal, and midway through the third quarter decided to do to us exactly what the Bombers would have if any of their players still had an interest in life.

They were still inaccurate - who will ever forget that amazing Nahas miss/pass fiasco in the first quarter? - but between our turnovers and their hard running it created enough chances right in front of goal to ensure that they'd get the required score eventually. Speaking of Nahas I've never seen somebody wander off so casually after suffering a serious injury. He was either incredibly stoic or in shock. Well done to Neville Jetta for showing a Joe Daniher-esque level of sportsmanship by calling for the trainers, even if it was his tackle that had caused the injury in the first place.

One thing I was happy with was seeing Howe used once or twice in the Jamar role for the long 'get out' kick after a behind. We've been using the same tactic for so long it was nice to see somebody realise that the best contested mark in the side would be a handy option for a play which is effectively "boot the ball to a pack and hope for the best."

There's not much else to get excited by. Vince ran riot in the first half, Dawes played his best game since Adelaide, Cross did a reasonable tagging job on Dal Santo, and nobody suffered an obviously career ending injury. Other than that we were mostly horrible, the game itself was pox (yet again showing that teams scoring +100 does not necessarily make something worth watching) and North just puttered along like a team who is going to roll into September by beating slop then lose by 10 goals in the elimination final - but good luck to them, at least they'll be there while we're studying draft previews and floating absurd trade week scenarios involving Jack Fitzpatrick for Jeremy Cameron.

The performance of Bernard Vince deserves star billing, but even though (spoiler alert) he finishes so far ahead as our best player that he should get double points North eventually worked out they should send somebody to stand near him halfway through the third quarter and from there on his influence was curbed. Still, 41 touches represented the outright 4th most for us on record so who am I to argue? It should be noted though that the moment they cut him out of the game was the same time when they piled on a bunch of goals and killed us off. Hardly Bernie's fault considering the heroics of his 25 touches in the first half, but when the heat was on him in the second his 16 weren't nearly as damaging. Might not have been a problem if half his teammates had bothered to show up.

Horror first half aside - with both sides playing comic football at times - when Dawes got the 50m penalty and the goal early in the third we were only seven behind. Had even a handful of the players who were AWOL decided to fire up we might have caused North some issues. They'd joined us in spending the second half of the second quarter playing a Three Stooges tribute match before getting a late goal but when that was cancelled out by Dawes we really did seem like a chance of kicking a decent score. Whether we'd have given them a decent scare in the end I don't know, but we ensured that we'd never find out by belatedly tipping over and dying in a third quarter a week late as they kicked six goals in 15 minutes.

It would have been a great achievement to take the lead and (god forbid) go on to win considering we had so many players who had barely been sighted to that point. With apologies to the relative inexperience of some of them none of Viney, Salem, Kent, Grimes, Garland, Bail, Jamar (hitouts be buggered) were giving us anything. I'd throw Matt Jones in there, but somehow he was racking up touches so somebody will write in and complain if I try and drop him. Most concerning were Grimes and Garland who both looked rock bottom on confidence. I'm not entirely certain Grimes would be getting a game every week if he wasn't co-captain - another unfortunate blow for the late Grimgove captaincy duo.

The game was totally stuffed in that 15 minutes, and while all this was going on Riley was left sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs until the 30 minute mark. I'm not surprised they eventually took Salem off (suffering from a grand final hangover and having a shocker) - but at the risk of anti-Roos heresy why wait until the game was completely lost to make the change? If you're not confident in The Pornographer's ability to change a game when he comes on then what are you doing picking him in the first place, much less making him the sub?

The sting (CLICHE) had well and truly gone out of the game (DOUBLE SECRET CLICHE) in the last quarter, and the only interest I had left was seeing just how many touches Vince would get. Amusingly we got to see North get robbed blind out of a goal by the video umpire, but at least it was followed by us kicking two goals in a row and appearing remotely competitive again. Asked to give a prediction at three-quarter time I said a 10 goal loss so at least we beat that. North had lost interest by this point so I don't know how much you can take out of it, but at least we held them to a single goal in the quarter-length exhibition of junk time.

In the end a 15 minute lapse where we got beaten to a pulp cost us. If you take that out we go into the last quarter near enough to make it interesting, and who knows from there? It still doesn't stop it from being a disappointing loss - standards are on the rise and so is expectation, but if we're going to keep losing I'd prefer it to be courtesy of opposition brilliance rather than our own hand.

Casualty Corner
Can somebody get to the bottom of whether Jack Watts' back is stuffed? Just like the Adelaide game he seemed to be temporarily crocked before a bit of downward dog - this time thrilling conducted on field while the game continued - reinvigorated him.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Bernie Vince
--- Such a wide gap that you could fly a 747 through it ---
4 - Daniel Cross
3 - Chris Dawes
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Jack Watts

Apologies to Dunn who might have scraped in for one in place of either of the last two but was probably made to look better by the fact that his opponent did not seem to have the slightest idea of what he was doing. Seemed wasteful keeping him there for three quarters when they could have put him on Brent Harvey in an attempt to generate some more outrageous cheating.

With neither of his closest challengers pocketing a vote Jones moves two steps closer to the three-peat. With a maximum of 45 votes still on offer Jack Fitzpatrick remains a chance of storming home to snatch victory for another fortnight, but Nathan's magic number is shrinking rapidly. Dunn's one quarter cameo up front doesn't affect his status as runaway leader in the Seecamp, and the other two awards remain an absolute farce.

38 - Nathan Jones
27 - Lynden Dunn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Dom Tyson
20 - Daniel Cross
13 - Chris Dawes
12 - Bernie Vince
9 - James Frawley, Cameron Pedersen, Jack Viney
6 - Jack Watts
5 - Jeremy Howe
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Matt Jones, Dean Kent, Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jack Grimes, Mark Jamar (Co-Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jake Spencer (Co-Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Stat My Bitch Up
This week's above average (for us) score lifts our points per game by +.0.26 to 62.76. Still on track for our all time record low 22 game season, and presumably still the worst of any side since 1967 as we were after the Essendon game. A reminder if you've just joined us (DWAYNE CLICHE) that the figures to beat are 66.136ppg for our club 'record' and 66.0ppg to at least score more than Fitzroy in their last season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
First an administrative point from last week - after reviewing the replay of Salem's goal about 247 times Bernie Vince has been upgraded to a share of it for starting it all with a strong tackle inside defensive 50. With no outstanding goals this week our 10 nominees (Vince/Pedersen/N. Jones/Frawley/McKenzie/McDonald/Tyson/Viney/Cross/Salem) retain the lead.

In a substandard field Bernie Vince was lucky enough to also take the weekly prize for his running goal in the first quarter. Bernie wins a night out under heavy sedation with Maurice Wingate.

In a battle as uninspired as the match itself Melbourne's effort wins courtesy of the fact that the red/blue alternating lines showed a admirable commitment to providing some colour and excitement when most of the crowd would rather be at home, while North's one was just solid blue with a wall of letters that were far too close to each other. It also lost 97% of its score for having a curtain that a lady had to run past and uncouple before the players ran out.

Ours also offered a $3000 discount on a caravan, which is not something you see every day. 13-0 Dees.

Corporation Corner
I would never accuse the AFL of being keen on money and self-promotion more than development, after all their interest in profit led to us getting a novelty sized cheque last year, but is it really right to play the Little League (or whatever it's called this week) game at 3pm with 250 people in the stands just so half-time can be spent promoting AFL 9's and continuing the absolute farce that is Mars Kick To Kick - where this week the 'winning' 10 tickets were all numbered between 1 and 30.

No doubt the kids enjoyed playing on the MCG before the game, but considering how many people were there they might as well have been doing it at 2.30pm on Thursday. I'm sure the league can force AFL 9's down our throat in hundreds of different ways other than sending out a few teams of dramatically overweight middle-aged people (where was my invite?) during half time. The crowd doesn't give a rats arse who's playing during the break, but surely the kids who play in front of a crowd get more out of it than if you or I got sent out there?

Maybe I'm still bitter about being picked for the Little League in Grade 6 but being unable to take my place because it was on a Friday night at Waverley and my mum refused to drive there. Either way, if they can't at least make room for some kids on the ground at half time they can take their 9's and their Mars Bars and jam them up their clacker. Hopefully parents crack the shits:

Crowd Watch
I was down the front of Q32 in the Ponsford this week, and the atmosphere was about the same as being right at the back. The Melbourne fans barely raised their voices, the North fans sat there and clapped half-heartedly whenever they kicked a goal. Nobody really seemed to care - I'm sure somebody somewhere was being spat at by an opposition fan, but not in Q32.

As shite as a crowd of 26,000 is in the overall scheme of things it was actually a reasonable result considering the clubs haven't done better than 31k for a non-finals match this century - even in the rare years when we were both good at the same time. It didn't hurt that it was one of the replacement games for North members for their matches in Tasmania, or that a significant amount of MFC fans still hadn't barred down from last week considering the shithouse timeslot it could have been much worse. Mind you, if you think the 4.40pm Sunday slot is shithouse they've got Collingwood vs Carlton on at 7.10pm Sunday next week - if they can find any Carlton fans who haven't gargled bleach.

Finally, while I was enjoying my 20 minutes of safe egress to Richmond Station along Brunton Avenue I heard some North fan yelling out all kinds of taunts about the result. Congratulations, you've beaten the Dees - I suggest camping out for grand final tickets immediately.

Next Week
I was half-heartedly watching the Casey game yesterday while doing more important things (i.e folding boxes, vacuuming and generally being the most bland living human of all time) and they looked absolutely terrible. Playing against a Box Hill side loaded with players banging the door down for a game at one of the best sides in the competition can't have assisted them, but as far as I could tell barely anybody deserves to be promoted.

As much as I feel like it's time to start picking some of the 'others' I'd rather they did something to earn it. For that reason I'm going to stick to the tried and true:

IN: Gawn, Terlich
OUT: Grimes, Riley (omit)
LUCKY: M. Jones (have lost interest, but good luck levering him out after 26 touches when everyone at Casey was shite), Salem (back to sub because there's nobody to take his spot)

Time to bite the bullet and play Gawn as first ruck from the start. If he gets in trouble against Minson he's got Jamar as backup, but for a highly specialist position we have to start planning for the future while nothing's on the line. Terlich a straight swap for Grimes because even though I was iffy about him at times this year Grimey has been ropey for weeks - time for one of those "nobody is safe" omissions that ends up with them suffering a season ending injury on a VFL ground with a surface like a car park.

If McKenzie gets rubbed out for Lindsay Thomas taking a dive I'll keep Riley in just because he gives me the excuse to use the term 'The Pornographer' in polite company.

Was it worth it?
Well as long as you weren't a neutral duped into paying $25 to watch it wasn't a complete waste of time.

To be entirely honest by the last quarter I'd had enough and could have easily gone home if I wasn't such an obsessive - but I said that last week and look what happened. Thankfully that's it for 4.40pm games for the rest of the year (and we should avoid it in R23 because we're playing probable finalists North again. Bulldogs vs GWS had got the graveyard slot absolutely sewn up that week), because unless you win or lose in a thriller it's impossible to stop thinking about how much you're going to hate going to work on Monday morning from about quarter time onwards.

Ignoring personal reasons and concentrating on football only it was about as much fun as you can have watching your team lose by 41 points at 7pm on a Sunday night while continuing to make kicking goals look as difficult as crossing the Sahara on a BMX bike.

Final thoughts
There is still time to be respectable mid-table or to finish last. As previously discussed I'll take the former every day of the week, but thank god for a season where there's actually some interest in the bottom of the ladder rather than it just being us and an expansion team who are complete toilet.

1 comment:

  1. Might need to update the "Casualty Corner" section, as it is reported that Daniel Cross broke his leg during the match. He kept playing after it!


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