It’s a proven fact that everything was better when you were growing up. Music, TV, films, games (video or otherwise) and everything else except – in my case at least – the lack of a system that allowed you to watch on demand videos of people hurting themselves with amusing commentary played over the top.
The theory holds true when it comes to footy. With respect to the run we had in the second half of 2000 I've never had a more enjoyable season than 1998 when I was 16/17. Good luck then to anybody aged 8-18 that hasn't already swapped footy for mugging old ladies and who is planning on looking back misty eyed at the good times of their youth misspent watching this club. There's probably been enough highlights to get you through five to 10 minutes, but we're probably not going to have enough material to put out a DVD.
The Deepression unleashed by last Sunday threatened to ruin my entire week. I progressed quickly through the five stages of grief and skipped directly to anger. That afternoon I'd yelled at the heavens (or more accurately the roof of the Ponsford Stand) in frustration, trudged home with a scowl on my face, passive aggressively mashed my keyboard until the early hours of the morning then showed up at work to be greeted with genuine sympathy and somebody actually saying "I didn't think we'd see you today after what happened."
If that was all it took for me to refuse to show up they'd have hardly seen me last year, but as much as I probably should have taken the hint and gone home I'm not quite at the point of next level football related insanity where chucking a sickie due to being upset over a game seems like a reasonable idea. By that time my jaw had just about unclamped without surgical intervention but I still spent the day sulking about the events of the previous afternoon. What that was supposed to achieve I couldn't tell you, it was as pointless as a player complaining to an umpire about a decision but it feels like the right thing to do in those circumstances.
Then as time approached to stomp home and masochistically watch our 'performance' get torn apart on all the footy shows, the news dropped that we'd launched the most audaciously timed attempt to take the heat off a performance in the history of footy by releasing a statement confirming we were having a ping at a priority pick in this year's draft. Given that the default position of all fans is to crack the shits at anything that may benefit others it was always going to cause chaos - and that it did in magnificent fashion that lasted the rest of the week.
My spirits wouldn't have been boosted nearly as much if it wasn't for the reaction of others, but watching pretty much everyone who isn't associated with us do their block over the 'audacity' of a club making an application that the AFL probably won't even consider before tearing up was glorious. Opposition fans would point out that if this is the sort of thing that makes us happy then we must not have seen much success recently. Well that's the point isn't it dumbass?
As every format exploded with the great, the good and the educationally suspect potting us I was enjoying an energy boost not seen since the Essendon game. While bored journos were busy elbowing women and children out of the way to get to their desks and write an article condemning us I was busy climbing into the Hertz foxhole, taking up a position behind the Betta Electrical flamethrower and preparing to defend the arguably indefensible like no time since the darkest days of the Tankquiry.
Less than 24 hours before I'd been slaughtering everybody involved (in the on-field stuff anyway), but if anybody's going to throw hand grenades at this club we don't need to outsource the job. We'll do it from a position of genuine concern while the disaster tourists can concentrate on playing finals, achieving wonderful mid-table mediocrity or kneeling down and saying thanks to their chosen deity that your club hasn't ended up in the same death spiral as us. Yet. At which point you will clap like seals when your team invokes the famous rule 19.2 and asks to be granted some sort of priority national draft selection between picks 1 and 100.
As we discovered after 186 and have rediscovered several times since when it all goes horribly wrong the most comfortable thing to do is to adopt the sort of siege mentality that North fans invented but we've perfected and strike like a viper at anyone who goes above and beyond to lay the boots in. When everyone stopped talking about the putrid performance and instead turned on us for having the gall to try and get ahead after years of being cannon fodder the flag was flown agenda for the rest of my week was set. King of Corporate Sizzle Peter Jackson you mastermind, one minute I was about to despairingly throw all my MFC merch onto a bonfire (metaphorically at least, I've got NFI how to create a bonfire), and the next I was ready to punch on to defend the club's honour against anyone.
And with the knowledge that it would probably end in a demoralising defeat on-field I went about enjoying myself in the meantime, inciting every Melbourne fan I knew against the whingers and windbags who blew a gasket when the news came out. I'm not sure violence was ever mentioned, but a lot of things were said so best not to rule anything out.
Now even though I'm writing this from deep inside a compound in Waco, Texas it should be noted that even I don't think we should get a priority pick in the top 10 of this year's national draft. In fact there's a part of me that wants us to get absolutely nothing so that on the off-chance that we actually get it together one day under our own steam it will be more satisfying to shove it right down the throats of our many detractors. On the other hand at the moment we're footy's equivalent of an unconscious person lying on the footpath and you'd like to think that somebody would recognise this and call for some sort of help.
It's important to remember - no matter how media friendly the idea of us automatically getting a pick immediately before our first selection - is that the rule effectively says the league can offer anything it likes from pick 1 (which would cause Alan Richardson's head to explode before he had the chance to enjoy being the coach who returned the wooden spoon to Victoria) to the entire top 10 (even better!) or pick 109. There's no formulas, they could - and probably should - wheel a blindfolded Gil McLachlan into the boardroom and get him to throw a dart to determine what assistance is provided.
For the avoidance of doubt this is the law we're talking about. Interpret it as you wish then untangle your knickers before they cut off blood supply.
Obviously the last bit gives the league their opportunity to keep the peace with other clubs and play the hero to 'powerful figures' with newspaper columns of rapidly diminishing readership by turning us down. It wouldn't be a surprise, the league has all but said there's no chance. If they weren't even going to consider it on its merits we may as well have submitted it written on the back of a napkin - but let's just assume for now that due process is actually going to be followed and isn't actually a hasty attempt on our behalf to hush up Sunday's fiasco which has roped everyone - especially me - in hook, line and sinker.
Even if it's all going to end up with us getting naught in a few weeks time, with journalists who aren't allowed near the finals series writing opinion pieces about 'how sanity has prevailed', the question of just how badly a team has to perform to get one of these mystical priority selections is worth having. I would agree with many people in that the rule should be abolished entirely, but for now it's still there and any administrator in our situation would be negligent to not at least have a free swing at taking advantage.
We've been here before of course - last year the league turned us down at our lowest point by claiming we had “significant upside in young talent that is currently on the club’s list”. ‘Significant’ was a bit of a stretch then and it’s even more unrealistic now. At least then the 8.5 win 2011 season would have been counted in the equation, moving a year forward and counting just the last three seasons gives us the outrageous figure of 10 wins in our last 65 matches. Richmond, a club regularly mocked for lurching from one shambles to another, has won seven in their last seven. As this article points out we've been in the bottom two on the ladder – in 16, 17 or 18 team formats – in 98 of 179 rounds since the start of 2007. That’s almost 54.8% of the time since we last played finals spent as one of the two worst sides in the land. How low can you go?
So we've established that - rightly or wrongly - there's a bit in the AFL rulebook that says draft assistance will be considered based on factors including “the recent on field performance of a Club”, and we have established that over three seasons Melbourne has won 10 games with a percentage of 62.64 - making them the fourth worst club since the national draft began after Sydney (8 wins, 1 draw 1992-1994), Greater Western Sydney (8 wins and counting 2012-2014) and Fitzroy (8 wins 1994-1996). One got concessions during, one got concessions in advance and one died in the arse.
It has also been established that over three seasons where there is not even the merest suggestion of 'tanking' that we're statistically worse than any of the friendless early 90’s Brisbane Bears, the salary cap scandal era Carlton, the rubbish without good reason early 2000’s St Kilda, expansion Gold Coast and any other shitbox side you can name between 1990 to this day.
There were probably people threatening to march down the street in protest at Carlton getting a priority (under the automatic PICKS FOR ALL rules of old) after 2003 when they'd throttled themselves via farcical list management decisions and penalties for conclusively proven draft rorting. I was probably one of them, and that's the moral of this story isn't it? Until you've been in the same position don't judge what a shithouse time other supporters are having. Karma has most certainly caught up and run me off the road for anything I said about them at the time. It's like when bell-ends who follow huge clubs that are (these days at least) too big to fail say things like "I can't understand why North Melbourne didn't go the Gold Coast" or "why don't they just merge St Kilda and the Bulldogs". If you can't see a scenario in which your own club might be the one getting relocated or merged then hush up arsehole.
Back to the issues of the day, if you take into account the evidence of our recent record - and pointing to alleged recent improvements is pointless when this group has lost only one less game by over 90 points in the last three years than they've won in total - it seems to me (from an admittedly biased point of view) that there's now way that an honest appraisal of our situation couldn't decide that there was a need for some sort of assistance, no matter how token, while keeping a straight face. The rule suggests that 'other factors' will be taken into account but I fail to see what can be said that would cancel out 10 wins in three seasons. At this point we'd need six wins next year to match the early 90's over four seasons and eight (8! VIII!) to be as good as Fitzroy immediately before they snuffed it. Presumably GWS will win plenty next year and leave us stone motherless at the bottom of the charts.
“Oh but you've had 200 other top picks and wasted them” cry people from the back of the line at Centrelink while waiting impatiently for their own handouts. Big whoop, how else other than suffering a major tragedy or getting half their players banned after shooting them up with drugs is a club ever going to win 10 matches in three seasons without somebody somewhere have committed acts of ineptitude on a grand scale? There's no doubt that we've made major errors in drafting and development over the years, but the good thing about football clubs is while the people who put teams in these positions are eventually turfed out the fans remain - and if it makes you feel better to hunt down and torment future generations of fans for what others have done then you're probably the sort of person who pulls the wings off flies or hunts foreign backpackers like sport in your spare time.
“OH BUT THE TANKING” they cry, with voices quivering, tears pouring down their cheeks and their lungs burning from the injustice of it all. What tanking is that exactly? You've got theories on what happened in 2009 and I've got theories about what happened in 2009. We probably think the same thing but in the end the only thing the club got pinched for not lagging in one of the two
The idea of one pick doesn't seem so bad considering we'd be onto our third and St Kilda their second under the old rules, but I can understand the apprehension of opposition fans when they're force-fed the talkback friendly idea that once the Frawley compensation is applied we're going to get three picks in the top five. This is obviously highly unlikely - as previously discussed any priority pick awarded has absolutely no connection to which spot you finish in on the ladder and it would cause the likes of Newbold or McGuire to have an aneurysm - but we all want to firebomb opposition clubs when they do something that might even moderately inconvenience ours. Would I care about the competitiveness of another club if it wasn't mine that was in the handout queue? Of course not, I'd be on here calling them filth. It's the nature of footy fans.
I even understand that professional outragists and coffin kickers like Caroline Wilson, Mark Stevens and #ballbagbarrett are duty bound to sell papers and drive website hits by arguing hysterically against it but I'm happy to debate anybody that we are in exactly the situation rule 19.2 is there to deal with. The Saints may very well be in the same position as us next year (if they win one game) and in that case they can have one as well. Everyone else should take another minute to appreciate that their club is somehow above being involved in this discussion. Follow a team that hasn't scraped the bottom of the barrel for a few years? Well what are you complaining about, get on with enjoying it instead of trying to torpedo those of us trying to better ourselves.
It’s not a case of 'deserving' a pick of some kind, it’s that we've won 10 games in three seasons and have been so desensitised to the point where we're celebrating four wins and a percentage of 67.8 as progress. Emotive arguments about development, tactics and unproven allegations about previous conduct shouldn't play a part when discussing a team with this sort of heinous record. Like I've said before I’ll take absolutely anything from the league just to prove this point. If they give us pick 20 with the proviso that it must be traded fair enough, if they give us pick 30 and say it has to be used on a 30-year-old it’s the thought that counts, if they promote the entire cast of The Recruit onto our rookie list it doesn't matter – as a fan who has sat through years of this shit I just want it officially acknowledged that we have been as horrible as I remember and that it hasn't all been a bad dream. They can then officially shut the gate and add a 19.2 (b) which says we can never, ever get a priority selection again - just don't try and spin bullshit about how we're actually not all that bad off because we've got Jesse Hogan and pick 2 on the way. The last thing we want to do is throw another kid to the wolves and watch him get slaughtered like we did with Toumpas last year.
On the other hand I'm perfectly comfortable for the league to say no to the request as long as the rule is abolished on the spot or it’s established that the future criteria for assistance is that you have to be even worse than we've been in the last three years. I hope it's not because they've gotten nervy over the complaints of some poon with an iPad and an AFL.com.au column. If they’re going to turn us down I hope it’s with a bouquet of flowers and a lovely note that says “sorry we can't help, but we've decided to delete this rule once and for all. PS we don't like Barrett either”.
So, in summary we've 'qualified' but will still go home empty handed. Which is fine, but what I refuse to accept is this idea being floated (including by some of our own) that we're somehow 'embarrassing' ourselves, the competition or football fans in general (has anybody tried to get the rent-a-quotes from the AFL Fans Association on the line for a comment yet?) by simply throwing out a hail mary shot at getting ourselves something for nothing. Could anyone who has watched us for the last three years – let alone the last seven – think that we haven’t been kicked while we were down enough that there’s nothing left on or off-field (excluding major criminals acts or corruption scandals) that can embarrass us? If last Sunday wasn't all the humiliation you needed to take whatever you can get the you've got an amazing tolerance for this sort of stuff or haven't been watching closely enough.
Forget draft picks, do you know what I find embarrassing? The fact that Hawthorn sold $3.7m worth of merchandise last year against our $700k and you can’t buy even buy a kid a Melbourne birthday card in a newsagent. Having people in the office treat me like my entire family has been wiped out by the plague when I walk in on Monday or watching a side we hoped had regained some respect a few weeks ago heartlessly folding like an umbrella against 19 men. That’s embarrassment. Going to football’s soup kitchen again and hoping we get a result doesn't even come close on the shame scale. The idea that it will affect membership is fanciful when you're trying to sell people a fourth rebuild, and I personally couldn't give a rats if any of the players don't like it. Only the fringe players should be worried about somebody coming in and taking their job - the rest should want as many good kids as possible to try and get some life into the place and if they don't then there's 17 other clubs and/or several state leagues who may be interested in their services.
It's getting to the point where we're probably only days away from hearing more good ideas from other club presidents, like when Collingwood and Hawthorn wanted us to be given extra salary cap space last year with which to bankrupt ourselves. Sadly we have to rely on the goodwill of the better run clubs to stay alive but fucked if I'm going to sit back and be pontificated to by their fans or cheerleaders in the media. Not sure what I can do about it on a lightly read blog but that's where the rest of the community comes in.
Don't roll over and let these pricks tell you that the club should fold/merge/relocate (and I'm not even going to post a link to that peanut who wrote the article trying to merge us with St Kilda because it doesn't deserve clicks, and I'm already ashamed to have provided one) or that we're doing the wrong thing by asking the question on priority picks. The way Melbourne fans have watched the last few years and retained the ability to laugh at themselves should be studied by medical research institutes, but the hate that this application has unleashed should serve as a reminder to the disillusioned that after 155 years we're not going to be the generation who lets this club get dragged off to the gas chamber.
Not all of us have endless resources of time or money to tip in but I suggest fighting like a bastard on whatever front you can to stick it up these people. As the saying goes “if you sit by the river long enough you will see the body of your enemy float by.” Ever since I was a kid I've had a premonition that I was going to die before I was 50 and haven't done much in the way of exercise or not eating kransky to stop that happening so I've got less than 20 years to wait out the arseholes and watch the Melbourne Football Club finally come out on top at least once. And at that point I'm going to hoist Mike Sheahan onto my shoulders in celebration no matter how infirm both of us are.
It's reached the point where I may have become a little obsessed with the idea of revenge - and I'm not the only one but I'll refrain from identifying the many other people who are clearly exhibiting the same symptoms. I'm hardly going to start an AFL version of the Islamic State but at this point I'm interested in exploring any means necessary within the laws of the game and the country to at least achieve a respectable performance again.
It's not just about what happens on field, think of the difference in job satisfaction for the people who actually work for the club if they end up working for a decent club instead of a trainwreck - possibly for the first time in most of their careers with the club. The membership team whose days revolve around trying to get people to fork out to watch us, the person who has to sift through hundreds of horrid tweets every day looking for genuine questions or enquiries and poor old Matt Burgan living the dream as the chief football writer for the he's followed all his life then spending most of his year trying to put a positive face on one shithouse defeat after another. I expect that Collingwood's offices probably resemble the Wolf of Wall Street where they eat caviar for lunch while our team are forced to eat tuna from a can with one hand while taking an abusive phone call from somebody who wants to talk about Jack Watts on the other. I want success for these people too. Not even remotely as much as I want it for myself, but they're definitely included in my thoughts.
Everyone could do with a lift, and come Round 1 next year nobody other the usual whiners will remember how we got one extra kid if it came as the result of the kindness of the league in recognising our plight. If Scullgove had turned out as we'd expected nobody would even be talking about 2009 now and the process fair or foul which led to us getting picks 1 and 2 would be talked about as if it were genius and anyone who didn't want the extra pick an idiot. Well, I didn't want it at the time (and that's on record if you search the archives) and only reluctantly went along because I was promised good times which failed to materialise. Now we can get something similar by just sending in something written on MFC letterhead, so where's the shame in that? Every building block is another step towards that glorious point where you will (metaphorically if you wish) have your arm elbow deep in the throats of one of our detractors while you scream "HOW DO YOU LIKE US NOW?"
Now that's over I'd like to make a speech:
Anyway, assuming this priority farrago actually turns out to be a surprise win for the YES campaign I look forward to a shocking heel turn involving two of the AFL's favourite charity cases when it’s revealed that we get a top pick but have to trade it to GWS – which they will then on-trade to somebody else for quality senior players in order to fast track their program of winning nine flags in a row. It’s at this point that Gil McLachlan, Peter Jackson and whoever the CEO of the Giants is stand in the ring with garbage raining down on them and admit that they were in cahoots all along. And if that happens I'll applaud, because right now I'd make a deal with the devil himself to get something approaching success in the next couple of years. Watch this backfire when they trade us $cully and I have to unconvincingly pretend to support him in the future.
So anyway after all that point/counterpoint/distraction/diversion we lost a game of Australian rules football by 66 points to the West Coast Eagles. Which hardly seemed a fitting end to a week where journos, pundits and tightarses around the country lined up to spit on our grave. I wasn't expecting a famous victory like the day our team marched off the ground in unison sticking their finger up at the locals or that one in 1998 when we'd been 2014 level shit for a fortnight beforehand but it would have been nice to give them a scare. Easier said than done against a team almost single handedly propping up the league's scoring averages over the last month (while we drag it down) when we couldn't even play well there when we were a decent team but the idea of at least making them a bit hot on the collar appealed. Next thing you know we're 31-0 down and staring at the prospect of our first 100 point loss in over a year.
The opportunity that the priority pick story gave to be shot by both sides of footy's class divide reinvigorated me like nothing since the Essendon win but I doubt it made much difference to the players. Some people (probably those whose names end in Aroline Wilson) will claim the priority talk caused it to push their own agendas, but that ignores the fact that at the moment any motivational tactics you attempt on this side would be like trying to give a pep talk to the crew of the Spirit of Tasmania before going into battle with the US Fifth Fleet. Given the location, the occasion of Dean Cox's last home game and the fact that we've looked like a team playing on an end of season trip for months they were always going to be lambs to the slaughter no matter what happened. Peter Jackson faxing Gil and saying "how about it?" was never going to be a factor.
I actually thought they might have been a bit hasty in hurling ourselves to the floor of footy's welfare department and asking for mercy despite being toothless and reeking of booze last week. Unless there was a deadline they had to meet it seemed like we'd have a much more compelling story to tell after being used as target practice by the Eagles this week. Now we'll probably be denied under the "oh but you won the last quarter", how bad could it be?" argument. Never mind that the best side we could put out involved several players who should be nowhere near an AFL ground and who spent a fruitless evening trotting around Subiaco looking like second class citizens.
Had we won it would have really stuffed up all that stuff at the top that I wrote when Siege Mentality was dripping out of me like I had the Ebola virus, but it seemed a reasonable bet that there wasn't going to be any surprises. Oddly enough in the end we got off relatively lightly. It might have been worse, and at times in the first and third quarters it looked as if we were going to be violently assaulted but instead with West Coast losing interest in boosting their percentage to outrageous levels we managed to 'restrict' the damage to 11 goals - which is practically a thriller as far as we're concerned recently.
Like a fool I eagerly awaited the game all day even though I knew what was going to happen. Unfortunately I failed Time Zone 101 and initially misread the time of the game as being 3.40pm AEST, which would have gotten it out of the way and left me with the night to do something more important/write abusive blog posts. More likely the latter, but even when I suddenly realised that I'd made a horrible mistake and would have to add two hours from the Perth time not subtract and wait until 7.40pm for the game I was still excited. Why I could not actually explain without the involvement of a psychologist. I'd try and book a session Melbourne's but despite another year of bottom four football we don't have one - but that's a whinge for another day.
It may have been that I was the only person other than Dean Cox's family who were interested. Even Fox Sports lost the plot and played a sponsors message several times during the evening letting me know that "this program is bought to you by Gold Coast Suns vs St Kilda at Metricon Stadium. Tickets available now". Which is a tempting offer except for the fact that the game was played on the 2nd of August. Then to confirm my suspicions that they weren't expecting much in direct competition with Geelong vs Hawthorn and were expecting to get community TV style viewing figures Tony Shaw turned up.
I'm surprised Fox even bothered sending anybody over - they should have hired a local boundary rider, pretended the commentary team were there, called the game from Fox Footy's studios and saved themselves a few thousands dollars. It wasn't just them though, even the AFL.com.au 'commentary' seems to have given up at the 16 minute mark of the third quarter.
If nothing else Tony and Dermott Brereton were reasonable value in an otherwise meaningless game for the way they sat there becoming increasingly exasperated with our long line of stupid decisions and amateur mistakes as if they expected something better from this side. You could hear it in Tony's voice that he was secretly delighted to have discovered a team who are worse than Collingwood when he coached them. It tipped over into patronising more than once but if there's ever been a non-expansion side who deserve the "oh wee laddy you had a go but you're just not good enough" treatment (complete with ruffling of hair) it's us.
It seemed we were trying to be a bit more adventurous this week, and thank god for that, but we're a week late and not even remotely good enough to pull off that sort of thing. Other than the enormous pay packet who'd be Paul Roos? As much as I hung shit on him for those ridiculous comments about tanking after the Brisbane game how are you supposed to put any sort of plan into action when your players make such horrific skill errors. We always seem to have a reasonable disposal efficiency, but it seems like a fair share of the cock-ups come either right in front of goal or bring one of our attacking moves to a screeching halt.
He's only got himself to blame in some cases - for instance the aforementioned aggressive extension of Matt Jones' contract in January for reasons best known to people within the club - but when you see a player totally ignore Fitzpatrick running a mile clear on his own and then try to kick it to Dawes as he's been squashed in a 2-on-1 further up the ground you can't help but wonder what it would take (other than the fabled insurance job) to replace enough of our players with enough talent to avoid all the promising kids (all one or two of them) having their development stopped in its tracks by playing for a terminally shit side.
With a forward line consisting of talls and nothing else - but with Frawley back where he belongs in defence - it was fairly obvious that unless we actually marked the ball inside 50 we'd have scant opportunities to score. And so it was - if Kent was supposed to be the concession to a small forward he wasn't having much impact and given that none the forwards we did have were likely to lead to the ball inside 50 it's not surprise that the only goal we got out the first quarter was courtesy of a speculative hoof at goal by Bernie Vince when he couldn't find anyone else to kick to. Of course in true MFC fashion after 15 minutes of scrapping our hearts out to get one goal we then turned around and gave it straight back from the bounce, but that's to be expected now.
Surely one of you works at or has access to Champion Data - is there some way of confirming that no team has had offered leads inside 50 over the last three seasons (at least) than we have. 50% of the ones we did have were probably from Watts in the two games against the Bulldogs last year, but instead of trying to use him to advantage we the ironic scenario of watching him get flogged by former MFC delistee Jamie Bennell. He got better in the second half but the 'much maligned' Jack was getting absolutely buried on commentary at the start - and not without some justification either. The trade-off for his 'laconic' approach has always been his quality disposal when he actually can get the ball, but early tonight he couldn't even complete a simple handball or foot pass. That doesn't leave him isolated amongst Melbourne players, but at least most of them (sort of) make up for it by attacking the ball like men going over the top from a World War I trench. That most of them then have absolutely no idea what to do with it is their issue. I have no doubt now that if we can get a top 20 pick out of anybody for him that he'll be off to win a Brownlow somewhere else. If I turn on the TV next year and see him majestically leading out of the square and taking marks 30m out for Footscray I may actually kick the TV in.
Speaking of players who won't be around long there was further mockery from the commentary team - and my loungeroom - when Frawley stood the mark for a Josh Kennedy kick and forgot to jump as ball hit boot because he was too busy doing a Dunn and throwing grass at the kicker only for the ball to go about 30cm above his head exactly where his arms would have been.
At one point he hit the deck clutching his knee and his future life as the highest paid defender in the league must have flashed before his eyes. Luckily before his agent could find the key to the poison cabinet he recovered and didn't seem to suffer any long-term effects. Which is good, because even if he's going (and watch how fast he'd have signed our deal if he was out for all 2015 causing other offers to mysteriously evaporated) it's extremely rare that I would wish any departing Demon a serious injury. In fact it's only happened once in 25 years, and in recent years but my target keeps avoiding the career ender I've been hoping for since Round 1, 2012.
It was far more concerning when Garland went down early. I don't want to jinx us, but we've had a great run without any of our players doing a knee this year and for a second it looked like he might have been the first. If Frawley's going anyway the last thing we can afford is for another defender to go down to a long term injury. He's been well down on last year but he's still such an important player. Thankfully he seemed to be ok as he initially came back on and played through to the third quarter, but knowing our luck we've probably aggravated the injury and he'll miss all of next year. If that happened we'd be basically guaranteed a year of Howe in the backline - and with respect to his downright decent performances there this year none of us want that, we want him taking screamers and kicking goals.
Meanwhile at the other end Jack Darling was further rubbing in our decision not to draft him because we believed all the carefully planted media stories about him being a sex romper and a street brawler. How many goals did Lucas Cook kick for the Hopetoun thirds this week? I wish Nic Nat hadn't been a late withdrawal because I'm convinced Gawn could have taken him, but when he booted three goals in the first quarter alone it looked like he was going to mock us on behalf of both of them and every other promising kid we've overlooked in the draft in recent years. Thankfully he left us alone for the rest of the game, it would hardly be polite to menace us after we did him a huge favour in letting him go to the club of his choice.
Despite Vince's goal it seemed like it'd be one way traffic for the rest of the day, and while Pedo might have opened the second quarter with a goal inside 30 seconds his miss unleashed another burst of Eagles goals that made it begin to look like we could be set for a 186 style 100 deficit at half time. Thank god then this was the point where we decided to raise our pressure from 'schoolyard' to 'TAC Cup', and that combined with the Eagles missing some easy chances helped us to stem the bleeding.
Not that we were playing well by any objective measurement. Even ex-wooden spoon coach Shaw was laying the boots in to our continually inept play. We did manage two goals though - which is a luxury for us sometimes - courtesy of the long lost Fitzpatrick. And two corkers they were too, a running checkside and a better crumb from a contest than any of our smalls have done in two months. I can't conceive a world where he can play regularly with Gawn, Pedersen, Jamar and Hogan all around (and FFS also Howe in the forward line THANKS) but at least he's not a completely bizarre and stupid option if we need another tall.
Every week I like to complain about use of the sub, and this was no exception. They were obviously waiting to see if Garland could go on before they gave Salem a go but why wait until halfway through the third quarter as if it was going to have any bearing on the result. Without having access to the medical reports or any clue whatsoever I wish they'd just packed Col away at half time and given Salem the chance to play a full half. Again he looked good when he got the ball, and he got into a few good positions so I've got confidence that when he starts to find it more than he's going to be a good player.
We ended up winning the last quarter, and even managed to take a mark inside 50 at one point, but the game was dead and buried by this point. Even though Cross, who had tagged the poodle haired Matt Priddis to buggery for most of the day, was starting to tire and let his opponent into the game the fact that the game slowed to glacial pace played right into our hands.
The final highlight, as the game descended into West Coast trying to kick the ball to Dean Cox and Dean Cox trying not to topple over with a heart attack, was the 'brawl' in the Eagles goalsquare featuring Dunn doing that great insane, wide eyed thing where he demands the opposition player keep hitting him. He may be certifiably insane and I love it. I can picture him playing Russian Roulette in an opium den in Saigon in 1972. This year he's even started doing this with adult players as well instead of concentrating on hapless teenagers. Watts should be forced to watch videos of his angry style all day long and attempt to keep up.
Following Melbourne is like going to an airshow, you'll either have a good day out or hundreds of innocent people will get hurt. Sadly 11 goals in Perth is a result that you could say wasn't too disastrous in the end but it's still nothing to get excited by. There's going to be a lot of work required in the off-season to give us any hope of getting out of the bottom four next year. As always I look forward to it, every day that the club is above ground is a good day.
2014 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Bernie Vince
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Jack Fitzpatrick
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Daniel Cross
Apologies to Tyson, Michie, Pedersen, Howe and Viney.
And that's the end of that. For the fourth time since the award was first handed out in 2005 your winner is Nathan Jones. Our open invitation to Jako to reappear and present his own award stands as it has for the last 10 years. Congratulations too to Lynden Dunn who has pocketed his first Seecamp outright, and to Jamar who now can do no worse than a share of the Stynes. Unless Jesse Hogan is a surprise selection next week the only interest in the Hilton will be whether Salem can score two or more votes to grab a share or win outright. Not much chance if he starts as sub and doesn't come on until the third quarter.
52 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
38 - Dom Tyson
27 - Lynden Dunn (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
22 - Daniel Cross, Bernie Vince
20 - Neville Jetta
16 - Chris Dawes, Jack Viney
14 - Tom McDonald
13 - Jeremy Howe
12 - James Frawley
9 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Cameron Pedersen
7 - Matt Jones
6 - Jack Watts
5 - Aidan Riley
4 - Rohan Bail, Max Gawn, Dean Kent
3 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Dean Terlich
2 - Colin Garland, Jack Grimes, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jordie McKenzie, Jake Spencer
"Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo" say West Coast supporters, but not as much as they usually do because the whole game was conducted amidst a carnival atmosphere where everyone was wearing Dean Cox brand paper crowns that looked as if they'd come out of a Hungry Jacks kids' meal.
Meanwhile speaking of NQR individuals and Subiaco Oval what's the process to become one of those Messages On Hold dickheads behind the goals? They've been at it for 25 years- are they clients of the company, paid actors like the GWS monks or homeless drunkards rounded up on the afternoon of the match? Either way it troubles me and is a practice that must be lost in translation on the east coast. Let's not forget these people did once vote to secede so it's obviously a weird place. But then again we also voted to merge, so probably best not to point fingers.
Stat My Bitch Up
It looks like we've just about done it. That is avoid total humiliation and just stick with mere garden variety embarrassment. We're down from 59.50 to 59.19ppg after this game but the glory of being only the second worst 20+ game home and away side in history can still be ours if we score 'just' 27 on Saturday night. What an achievement, hopefully there's an open topped bus ride down Brunton Avenue on Monday if we manage it. Not there yet, we only get 28 against them at Docklands last year, but you would hope that the fact North can't go up or down on the ladder will help us get what we need early on.
The question now is whether or not we'll end with a better percentage than Neeld's first and only full season in charge. He dodged about 15 assassination attempts to get 67.50 out of his four wins - much of that to do with the Carnival of Hate thrashing of GWS. At three quarter time of this game we'd gone below that, but our strong finish/West Coast giving up left us on 67.88. The bad news is - unless you're Neeld and are laughing maniacally that it's all starting to go wrong - that we're still likely to go under. If we score our average 59 and North score 100 we'll finished on 67.42, but if they only get 90 we'll finish on 67.77.
So that's two angles to keep you interested in this game, neither which require the fanciful idea that Melbourne will be anywhere near winning. Get that live ladder up on the stadium screen (or more accurately for most of you on the TV screen, or even more accurately who cares because you won't be watching) and give the people what they want - observance of obscure statistical milestones.
Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I've made a startling last minute decision that it's too complicated to share this award between multiple players and that unless something amazing happens next week Christian Salem will be the sole winner of the inaugural award with the other nine being acknowledged for their assists.
Tonight certainly had more contenders than last week, and all of our first three goals plus those to Bail an Tyson had their charms, but the winner for his running checkside novelty in the first quarter - just when we were threatening to score nil - is Jack Fitzpatrick. He wins a surfing tour of Vietnam conducted by ex-Eagle and Demon Phil Read - the first (but probably not last) player whose career I ruined during the Demonblog era by declaring him my favourite. Hopefully he doesn't find Dunn while he's there.
Good luck next week Demons. Your challenge, after you've scored 27 points, is to attempt the most outrageous goals you possibly can in order to challenge Salem for the title. We will be watching (through our hands).
Who knows what sort of tribute the Eagles fans had for Dean Cox considering Fox Footy didn't bother showing the front of it. All I saw was a generic rear-side and the biggest curtain since Carlton. Automatic loss. Ours was, as usual, very attractive - and the pictures of Vince/Dawes were a winner. With the travel bonus and curtain penalty both applied it's an 11 goal win to the Dees, and an overall draw from our trip to Perth.
That's 20-1 Demons and a chance to send us off on a high by tonking North next Saturday night.
Casey lose their last game of the year tomorrow, so I can't make an arbitrary judgement about who should come in based on an upside down, blurry photo of the stats posted by their Twitter account. As if it'll make a difference anyway - our depth is wafer thin at the best of times let alone in the last round.
Unfortunately for those who you who wanted Hogan to get a game (i.e me) the good performance of Fitzpatrick tonight means that there's no way another tall is going to get introduced, so unless Dawes or one of the ruckmen falls down the steps during the week we might not see him again until next year's pre-season.
And so, with absolutely nothing to go on and the realisation that Blease is probably never coming back I'll be relatively conservative in my changes. If Frawley does the honourable thing and comes out 9am Monday morning to declare he'll be off and thanks for everything then add Georgiou to the side as well and we'll always have our last memory of seeing Chip in Victoria being him trudging off the ground getting yelled at by some lady.
IN: Kennedy-Harris, Tapscott (Note from Sunday night - apparently Tapscott got injured and Riley was BOG, so bring him in instead. Who cares if he's an appropriate replacement - what difference is it going to make?)
OUT: Garland (inj), Kent (omit)
LUCKY: Frawley, M. Jones, Watts
As for North you would hope that they're not going to be going at 100% knowing that no matter what happens in either side's game next week that they'll definitely be playing Essendon in an elimination final a few days later. No need to go all out then, why not do a Fremantle 2013, make 10 changes and let an awful team have a morale boosting day out? It worked in getting them to a Grand Final. We can't even realistically bridge the percentage gap to GWS so it's a free hit for lovers of meaningless wins and draft picks alike.
I'll be there. I'd like to say I'm not sure why but I've seen almost every second of this season (other than cracking the shits in the last quarter of the Freo game and listening onto it in the car) and it's only fitting to watch it end as it started - in low scoring, losing disappointment at a shit, half empty stadium.
Rumours of us attempting to trade some or all of Watts, Toumpas, Trengove and Grimes aside the only player left on the uncontracted list who I'm 100% interested in extending is Bail. Which sounds odd considering how often I pot him, but you may as well keep a guy like him around who at least tries his heart out. I'm interested in keeping Tapscott for at least one more year as well. You would think all the rookies would survive, but as for the others I'll predict Blease is gone (with regrets and a retired jumper), Strauss is gone and Terlich is possibly joining them unless we trade Grimes and need to keep an experienced body. Depending on how many picks we've got to work with one of Evans or McKenzie gets the arse from amongst the contracted players, but I doubt it.
As for the trading all I'll say is that I'll accept it (except for Toumpas, I think we need to persist with him) reluctantly in the case of Trengove as long as the picks they get are converted into experienced players rather than just being used to pick kids. We've tried that before and it got us Blease, Strauss and Tapscott - who we're now busy ushering towards the door. More Bernie Vinces and Dom Tysons thanks.
Ahh the trade and draft period, a Melbourne fan's happiest time of the year. Here's to rebirth *clinks champagne glass*
Who can be bothered getting upset any more? I'm not sure that enough of our fans were actually watching tonight for the result to register more than a ripple amongst true believers only. Everyone else has done the sensible thing and tuned out. Not entirely sure it's going to get much better next year but we always live in hope of something mad happening.