Sunday, 5 April 2015

Reclaim Round 1



What a remarkable situation we find ourselves in where a win over a plastic franchise nearly brings a tear to the eye, but here we are. In the end the opposition was irrelevant, after nine seasons of having our summer dreams violently snuffed out by half time of the first meaningful game the victims might as well have been Peel Thunder for all it mattered - another weight has been lifted and we are free to go into Round 2 on a high for the first time in a decade.

How long has it been since we've won in Round 1? Well, it was the first home and away match I ever 'reviewed', and Ryan Ferguson was adjudged second best on ground. It has been a while. That night I was so keyed up on the emotion of the Troy Broadbridge tribute and the electricity of our performance that after the game I went home, got in my car and drove to Geelong for no apparent reason, arrived at about 2am, turned around immediately, got home and chucked a sickie from work the next day - which didn't make the report for obvious reasons.

Since then Round 1 has usually been a downer. Other than the draw that opened that ice addict of a season in 2011 we've seen defeat (2007, 2009, 2010) and disgrace (2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), all while never getting closer than 21 points other than the draw. After going through what often seemed like the best time of the year to be a Melbourne fan - trade, draft and time trials, Round 1 has more often than not been the sporting equivalent of fatal free-fall caused by malfunctioning helicopter blades.

The problem in the last three years has been that every time we've gone in thinking we were going to win or (at least be a red hot chance) only for it to blow up in our faces. Last year there were excuses about injuries to key players, but losing to St Kilda was still a uppercut squarely to the jaw. This time, with conventional wisdom suggesting that if Ablett never did his shoulder the Suns would have played in the finals and poor old Guy McKenna would still have a job, nobody was tipping us and almost every Melbourne fan I know was thinking of nothing more than bedding in the recruits and fighting out a battling loss to give us a much needed rev up for the rest of the year.

Instead something wonderful happened, the sort of thing that will cause you sit through the buffoonery of any footy panel show (unless you're me and missed the Sunday ones while writing this) just to hear them heap faint praise on us after six months of paying not even the slightest attention. The game won't go down as a classic based on quality alone, but all of a sudden I've got renewed hope in my dark, distressed heart that it could be a turning point for us to look back on in a few years. If not at least it'll go down alongside games like Carlton 2014 as enjoyable wins, but not as enjoyable as knocking over Essendon with 19 seconds left.

It just went to show how much better a surprise is when you've drastically lowered your expectations. See also Watts, Jack - the people who lay in wait for him behind a hedge with a artillery battalion will never be happy but for the rest of us who have stopped expecting him to be a Jonathan Brown (or indeed Jesse Hogan) style military strongman or a Lynden Dunn-esque angry defender yesterday was a revelation. Or more accurately a welcome throw-back to 2011 when he was just starting to find his feet as a forward and had enough confidence to blind turn nobody like he was pressing buttons on a Playstation controller. Amazing what happens when you play somebody to their strength (runs quickly, leads well, generally an accurate shot on goal) instead of trying to ram the square peg into the round hole. Hopefully the temptation is resisted to move him from one spot to another just when he's finding some form, but no doubt with Dawes back next week he'll be shifted to a half-back flank again and it'll be back to square one.

During 2012 putting him down back and letting him mop up cheap touches briefly seemed like a stroke of genius thanks to the fact that he's a great field kick, but even though it looked good while the side was having a rare positive day out it fell apart badly all the other times when we were being flogged - and having both and a coach and supporters calling him every name under the sun can't have helped his confidence. I gave up on judging him against his draft position long ago, and while confidence fluctuated wildly throughout last year resolve is strong to just enjoy the ride of a 200 game player who generally appears to be a nice guy despite all the shit that's been hurled at him and who doesn't beat up taxi drivers or abuse women. Near best on ground performances in wins are a bonus.

Of course there are still people dying for excuses to hate him, and they'll have their time to shine. Witness the reaction from some sections when he dropped an easy chest mark, but then contrast that the reception he got running off after kicking a goal straight after. It didn't have the same force of the good guy turn that Heritier Lumumba has undergone when our fans realised he was a valuable addition but it was nice to see that either the majority of people are fair about this sort of thing or have been battered so much over the years that they can be bought off by a goal.

There were so many magnificent storylines in this game that I don't know where to start. It's easy enough to come on here and moan about how poor we've been in defeat but what am I supposed to do now? Usually the timing of our goals is my marker to remember what happened in the game but - and I can't believe I'm saying this - this week there were too many. This is a situation I'd like to be in every week if at all possible. It was a modest score by anybody else's standards, but our highest since the fourth quarter avalanche against GWS in 2013. If you'd rather a game where we didn't just feast in carcass then go back to the $cully game in 2012. And if you refuse to accept that GWS exist - and I don't blame you - then set your clock way back to Round 14, 2011, where we kicked 17.16.118 to beat Richmond in front of 61,000 people (!!!) and leave ourselves half a game inside the eight with bright lights on the horizon - which as it turned out were from an oncoming train.

Indeed it was a four quarter performance against a finals contender - the ladder is generally the only thing I ever get close to predicting correctly and I had them finishing seventh - and while we got some help from the Suns kicking for goal like muppets and subbing off their only decent key forward for reasons unknown (was there an injury or was Rocket on the gas?) let that not detract from the way we played like the gameplan and psychological shackles had been thrown off. There was a bit of corridor work last year, but the few times we slashed through the middle stood out like dogs' balls after two years of hugging the boundary - this was different. It was like new moves had been added to the arsenal in the two weeks since the Essendon game. There'd been hints of this happening - especially against the Bulldogs - but yesterday the plan operated at high efficiency with pleasing results. No idea whether it'll last or whether 16 coaches are now preparing man-traps for us in the centre of the ground but at least we enjoyed one afternoon of free-flowing and at times wonderfully reckless football (at least to the untrained eye, it probably all made perfect sense to the people involved) that made me understand what the fans of other clubs are on about when they talk about footy being exciting.

It also helped that we did a great job of keeping Ablett out of the game for three quarters. No doubt he'll eventually get three Brownlow votes on name value alone, but even allowing for the fact that he's about 25% fit we squashed him. Much of the credit goes to Jack Viney, who like a luxury Jordie McKenzie could tag for Australia but fills me with terror every time he kicks. Everyone likes to point out that his dad wasn't a great kick and that turned ok, and I'm sure it will but at the very least we've got ourself a player who can pay for his wonky disposals by doing bang-up jobs on the best players in the competition with a hint of scrag. At least unlike 2013 Gaz took his beating like a man instead of running off to the umpires demanding free kicks.

Whether or not a fit Ablett would have delivered victory is questionable, I'd say the way he was being sat on and his cameo performance up front in the last quarter they'd have been better off conceding defeat at half time and sending him forward to help sort of the slurry that their alleged goalkickers were serving up. But they didn't and we won, so sucked in to all 13 Suns fans.

The added bonus was that in the end we did it comfortably enough as not to cause heart attacks. Our membership has an average age of about 72 so thrillers aren't good for anybody's business except the person who runs the bequest program. In fact it got to the point where I even started to enjoy that unfamiliar feeling when you're sick in the stomach at being so far in front that it would be embarrassing to lose but you're not confident your side can hold on. I thought I felt it in Ballarat a few weeks ago but this was about 500% more brutal because the eyes of the footballing world were on us.

There were certainly times when it was looking dicey, but where we'd have keeled over and died in the last couple of years (if we had managed to get that far in front to begin with) there was new-found resilience. When they kicked the first three goals of the last quarter my heart sank because it seemed that that half our side were spent. Jamar had already been cramping up like a mofo late in the third quarter after playing 80% of the game in the ruck, and now more of his teammates were walking around with hands on hips so it was all set for disaster. But no, enter Lumumba with the intercept, the goal and the Broadway style high stepping celebration and the ship was steadied long enough to crush Gold Coast's fragile spirit and send everyone who mattered home levitating about two foot off the ground. What a day out it ended up being - a carnival atmosphere for the whole family, and especially the kids who really needed this one so they could go back to school with some strut for once.

After months of nerves it was much as expected early in the game - we were clearly brimming with enthusiasm but untidy and unfocused. It took the Suns scoring two behinds before Dean Kent lifted spirits when his brave marking attempt was foiled by some idiot with disco hair cleaning him up. Kent's courage was one thing, but consider that he was leading (*swoon*) to a fantastic kick (*double swoon*) from Hogan (*religious experience*) and dream of a Red and Blue Planet at some point in your lifetime. After he got cleaned up it was heart-warming to see Frost and Harry O first in for the light-hearted shoving/fake biff but everyone kept their head, Tyson was gifted the first goal of the year from the square and was an easy start to the season for everyone unless you were the one wearing the crimson mask and having to be temporarily subbed out for concussion testing.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the first half was the performance of the backline as they continued their good work from the practice games in making the Suns look like us (circa 2012-14). Admittedly Sam Day may as well have had Dame Edna up there for all the help he were getting from teammates, but we still looked difficult to breach. The best of the lot was McDonald, who made us forget (hopefully permanently) about Frawley with a magnificent key defensive performance that ended with him having 10 marks and leading the disposals (!). You still wouldn't have him kick for your life, but what MFC defender of recent times would you choose if you were on the gallows? He flubbed at least one in spectacular style, and his habit of running around his opponent is always on the verge of disaster but it's a good start. Let's see how he goes against a forward line with more than one option, but the early signs are great.

Other than a steel-trap backline the most noticeable thing right from the start was the tackling pressure. All the usual suspects like Jones, Jetta, Viney and Cross were in there but so too were the recruits - especially Brayshaw who made it clear why we hid him in VFL games for the last few weeks when he spent the first three quarters poleaxing people before being subbed off. I also highly enjoyed vandenBerg's performance in this field, he was sold to us as possession machine and showed aspects of that but nobody told me he was such a physical beast as well. No bloody wonder he was getting 56 touches in the NEAFL if he was just walking through semi-professionals like he did to some highly paid AFL players yesterday. He's instantly shot past Matt Jones and Rohan Bail in my pecking order, and the longer we can go without relying on the second tier midfielders like them the better.

I know a lot of people only turned up because it was Round 1, but there was serious buzz amongst our fans when the game started tilting in our direction. As Jamar got the second (caressing the ball through in a way that suggests he is a gentle and patient lover) suddenly 25,000 people realised that we were not only staying in touch with the favourites but actually had a chance of winning, which caused the energy levels to go through the roof. By midway through the second quarter the crowd was so excited that they even went right off when the big screen showed a close up of somebody eating a meat pie. Mitch Clark and James Frawley will probably line up next to each other tomorrow with 90,000 people looking on and each agree that it's the greatest thing ever, but our fans must make more noise per capita than anyone - which is probably because every goal could be the last.

And now a word for my new favourite minority ground - the recruits. It was the most club debutantes we've have in a Round 1 win since Round 1, 1907 when we reacted to a 1-16 season in 1906 by blooding six first gamers and four recruits from other clubs before rumbling South Melbourne at the Lake Oval. Bet they didn't have same the impact our lot did yesterday - even if they were more than half the team. Compared to the seven new players we put out in the first game 2013 and six last year this was a golden generation.

Brayshaw looked like he'd already played about 50 games, tackled everyone that went near him and used the ball nearly flawlessly when he got it. Frost was probably the least effective of the lot but is a significant upgrade on The Spencil as far as field play goes without losing much on the ruck front. vandenBerg is, as previously discussed, a man who looks capable of killing an animal with his bare hands and you can see exactly why Port were so keen to keep Ben Newton but also why he was keen to go elsewhere and play every week instead of pottering around in the SANFL.

Garlett's game was a joy - he plays like somebody driving at 200km/h on a wet road with the same mix of near disaster and thrilling edge-of-your-seat moments. He looked nervous early on, and that first set shot was a shambles, but as he started to chill out and enjoy himself The Big Steal from Carlton started to look even more like the deal of the 21st century. How good was his goal straight out of the middle after we'd just conceded one? It's usually us who have an almighty struggle to get one goal on the board then hand it back 13 seconds later - what divine glory it was to see it happen the other way for once.

We waited long enough for Hogan, and while I would have obviously preferred to see him without the 12 month delay it was well worth it in the end. He kicked goals, he roamed the field like a outlaw biker looking for somebody to beat up and he took contested marks - the best of which saw him dismissing his opponent with a perfectly timed and legal shove before marking. He was in everything and I think I am in love with him. He could be the first genuinely physically scary forward we've had since Neitz.

But of all the good times courtesy of the new players my personal highlight was the rock star reception afforded to Harry O, probably from the very same people who were threatening to throw their membership into the sea when we recruited him. He was better held in the second half, but it was the performance of a man with something to prove and if he's going to have to settle his feud with Buckley by playing out of his skin then we'll all be winners. The positive reaction just goes to show the idiocy of the people who were going to walk because we recruited him. You can't blame people for being antsy about it given the circumstances of his exit at Collingwood but to grandstand about withdrawing support is wacky considering some of the on and off-field thugs we've employed over the years - and some of the administrative decisions that would should have torched AAMI Park over.

The focus on the new players is not to downplay those who have done it all before but usually without the support - Nathan Jones was immense around the ball as always, Tyson solid as usual with additional goalkicking, Daniel Cross acting like he's five years young and Garland returning to something approaching 2013 form. It was just good clean fun with very few things to go home sore about. Had we contrived to completely throw away our leads in the third or fourth quarter then maybe more cracks would have appeared, but for now it looked like the only person who was out of place was Toumpas - who it would be fair to say is not low on confidence because he doesn't have any to start with. I'm not completely writing off that experiment yet, but can't see what he did in the practice games to justify a Round 1 start and he needs to go back to the VFL and smash it before we give him another run.

When we finished the first quarter both in front on the scoreboard and 10-3 in front on the free kick count I was expecting that the inevitable umpiring square-ups would come back to haunt us in the second quarter, and while there was a fair share of weird decisions (how about the guy being allowed to play on from an OOF free while standing against the fence?) the umpires resisted the temptation to try and make it come out even in the end - probably because they know nobody will call talkback radio to defend the Suns in any state of the Commonwealth. I can say this because we won the count in the end but the idea of free kicks having to be close at the end is one of the worst things about footy fans - sometimes your club just infringes a ridiculous amount of times.

Even though we were in front it was a typical MFC quarter time score of two goals to one, with no indication of the magic that was to follow - before a hint of luck going our way came early in the second quarter as Ablett added yet another goal assist to his career tally by handballing under furious pressure from Dom Tyson.. straight to Colin Garland who turned around and kicked a rare goal before he even knew what was going on. Then Watts marked on the line and goalled to make it clear something was stirring only for the lid to be blown into outer space courtesy of the goal by Howe, Garland, Kennedy-Harris and Tyson which was second only to Salem against Essendon for great modern MFC team goals.

It was then that the Suns clearly realised that they were letting the game slip away and decided to fire up before Rodney Eade decided to make an example of one of his players at half time by killing them. At this point it could have been Ablett up the against the wall, before he did what good players do and created a goal with one of the few opportunities he had to get off Viney's leash. Thankfully this came to naught about 30 seconds later when Garlett stormed through the middle from the centre bounce and realigned himself with a goal.

I loved both the variety in rotations at centre bounces and the way Hogan would start a run-up from inside 50 and storm into the centre square the moment the ball hit the ground. There was just a freedom and openness about us that I can't remember since either that last quarter against the Giants where they carked it or the day we tonked Freo in 2011. Then seconds later Garlett started another chain (CLICHE) which ended in Brayshaw handballing to Jones for another and there was a match day experience in my pants with everyone invited. I'm down for the Robert Flower Wing, but if Nathan Jones doesn't turn out to my generation's version of Tulip then somebody else will have had to come in with a Hall of Fame career to knock him out.

It had been beautiful to that point, but speaking as a fan of a depressed club there was still plenty of time to lose it. 25 points in front at half time is nothing, Carlton were that far in front of Richmond on Thursday night and still never looked capable of holding on (should have picked Garlett and.. oh that's right). But when we got the first goal of the third quarter courtesy of that man Jeff (never, ever Jeffy) standing 30m in the clear on his own and Hogan turning his man inside out to mark we got what ultimately turned out to be the sealer via a few nervous moments. In a return to traditional values, we then gave the goal straight back at the other end - probably because the defenders had blown themselves up running halfway down the ground to leap on Hogan. Lucky we got most of that palaver out of the way in the first round but I'm of the old fashioned opinion that after somebody kicks any goal other than their 100th for the season or a game winner you get back in your position as soon as possible - if you're close enough for a hug, a grab on the buttocks or a bit of a dry root then good luck to you but there's no need for key defenders to motor in from 100m away. Jesse was not going to sit down for the replay and realise that Garland hadn't flown in for a head rub from 10 deep and instantly sign a contract with West Coast.

That goal began a storming comeback, which unlike the second quarter was backed up with scoring, and while the defence was still holding firm we were suddenly getting done over by speculative snap shots from the boundary and crumb from a throw-in. Fortunately as the quarter progressed we took the blows and got back on top to kick three of the last four goals - including what turned out to be a super crucial one to Newton in the last minute. My favourite was the Watts-to-Garlett alley oop where Jack put his basketball background to good use by slapping the ball down on the goal-line for the Man That Carlton Forgot to smash home into an empty goal. We were still miles from the Chris Sullivan Line but surely this time we were home.

Apparently not, because another blistering comeback was on the cards. It was always going to be too much to ask to kick away in the first few minutes and leave us with a peaceful 20 minutes to end the game. Ablett finally showed up and kicked two in a row to cut the margin to eight points and that sinking feeling was back in vogue. We'd battered them around the ball so much during the day and put on so much forward pressure that it just felt like we were about to be carved in two. Shows what I know, but the sickness I felt when they had a shot soon after this leads me to believe if we were ever five goals in front in a Grand Final I would lose control of my bodily functions the first time the opposition went inside 50.

Fortunately the Suns - not for the first time that day - attempted a short pass inside 50 instead of having a shot and cocked it up. We might have had our own game-changing blunder when Toumpas didn't get his handball away to Newton with an open goal beckoning, but your friend and mine Heritier Lumumba was on hand to relieve the pressure with his intercept and goal. They had another pair of chances which went nowhere before we were gifted a lucky free inside 50 courtesy of the ball bouncing off one of their feet and out of bounds (the sort of thing that usually happens to us), and Watts converted from a satanic angle to heap further humiliation on the people who had written him off earlier for the dropped mark.

I still wasn't entirely sure we could keep them out, but at least there was now a reasonable buffer to defend with time ticking away rapidly. If Ablett hadn't capped off his worst game in years by dropping a sitter in the square we might have had more dramas before Hogan and Newton kicked a sealer each and we went - as the kids would say - right off.

The best bit - other than the pressure, the adventurous ball movement, a rock-solid defence and having forward targets - was the spread of goals. Not just the variety of players kicking them, but the way they teased us with two in the first quarter before kicking five each in the next three. Even nearly a day later it's hard to fault the feeling. It was like watching the first half of 2011 without so much reliance on first year players - and for all our sakes other than the sickos who just come on here to see me skirt close to a breakdown let's hope there's more to come. I still can't see us being any better than the bottom four, but that in no way precludes us from winning six or seven games and having a thoroughly good time while we do it.

Random thoughts
Lynden Dunn has become such a prominent verbal abuser that even when he's giving his teammates goalkicking advice it looks like he's screaming vile hate speech towards them. I desperately want him to become a figure of hate for opposition fans this season.

(In the original version of this post I neglected to mention another Dunn classic - the bit in the first half where he did a fake headbutt towards an opponent with a maniacal look on his face then trotted away greatly enjoying what he'd just done. Not sure if this was captured by the TV cameras, but if not the MCG should cut it from the scoreboard tapes and provide it to the National Museum for Sport as part of an exhibition highlighting the best in footballing insanity. He won't get a statue like Jones but everything he's been involved with since shaving that stupid moustache off will be fondly remembered in these parts long after he's gone).

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
An early triumph for defenders, the much maligned and players tossed away by Carlton for a packet of chips. The four time champion also gets off to good start. Congratulations to those who have registered their first ever AJM votes - now Garlett has as many in his career as Emo Maric and The Spencil while Newton joins Viv Michie, Guy Rigoni and James Sellar on one.

5 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Jeff Garlett
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Ben Newton

Apologies to Viney, Howe, vandenBerg, Dunn and Cross - but that's not to take away from about 10 others who were good and/or did exactly what was expected of them.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I have a deep fondness for the Watts to Garlett NBL/A-League mash-up in the third, but I feel that there would be rioting in the streets if this week's nomination didn't go to the clean-as-a-whistle second quarter coast-to-coast (CLICHE) goal finished off by Tyson. It started with Howe (just sign for god's sake) delivering a pin-point kick under pressure on his own line, Garland taking a strong contested mark and JFK running his guts out on the wing to be the next player in the chain. He goes into the middle for Tyson who walks around his opponent with something approaching contempt and kicks a goal on the run to open up a 27 point lead barely halfway through the quarter. Real life was temporarily put on hold. At this point can we get another airing of Sam Edmund's sneering article about ignoring Josh Kelly for Tyson/Salem. Sam, ring your unnamed recruiter and tell them to bash it up their ginger.

Crowd Watch
It would appear that scheduling our Round 1 home game against one of the lowest drawing interstate clubs was fixturing genius by the AFL. After all there's no way 27,000 would turn up for the same game without it having the opening round hope/hype and and an attractive timeslot for neturals. Then you realise that it's all a scam, that GWS are also playing an away game against a bottom two side from 2014 and the whole thing was a way to try and get the two league operated sides into home games next week (Canberra in the case of GWS, and why not because that's where they'll end up eventually) with a first up win to help boost attendances in 'markets' where nobody gives a rats.

If it guarantees us nearly 30,000 against a side who contribute 500 then I'm happy to participate again next year but I'm not being roped into thinking it was done for our benefit. At least we drew a bigger crowd than the big racists vs lefties match at Federation Square.

The crowd was helped by a thumping turn-out in the MCC Members, because the top level of the Ponsford was as relaxingly empty as any game against an interstate club. I only had to go to row P to get three rows to myself in either direction. The only sour note came from the old couple about four rows in front who showed up in the second half and exaggeratedly barracked for the Suns as if they were doing it just to annoy Melbourne fans. No idea what their circumstances were, they might have been Trent McKenzie's godparents for all I know but in the heat of the moment I just assumed that they were turncoats who had switched teams at some point in the last four seasons and took an instant dislike to them. Please note - this does not apply if you choose to follow Melbourne as an adult. Give us your money and you'll go straight to football heaven.

There's something that offends me greatly about fans of the two new teams that I don't get with Fremantle and to a lesser extent Port. It's not about following an interstate team, god knows I follow enough in other sports, but it's about people making a conscious decision to ditch a club and start again. They can't all have come from the Gold Coast or surrounding regions so the only possible explanation is that they know the league will bend over backwards to give the Suns/Giants good times in the near future so are jumping on accordingly because they're either bored with winning flags with their original clubs (poor people) or more likely follow a train wreck like us, St Kilda or the Bulldogs and have decided to go for gold - while probably reserving the right to switch back at a moment's notice if their 'other' side ever starts winning.

By the end I was so excited that as I came out onto the concourse I thought I saw somebody I knew, and with nobody else around decided to run up and leap on him out of celebration. After getting up a reasonable pace I was within about two metres before realising it wasn't who I thought it was, and with no time to think I just kept running - which could have ended up like Bluey Adams vs Des Healey in the 1955 Grand Final if somebody had been coming the other way.

To celebrate surviving I decided to take advantage of the perfectly timed "20% off at the Demon Shop" ad which I'd seen on the big screen and ended up excitedly dropping $100 on merch like a sailor visiting a Tijuana whorehouse. I was not alone, the crush was like the opening minutes of the Boxing Day sales. They talk about wins being good for the bottom line and you go "yeah, obviously" but here it was demonstrated like never before. I've never gone in there after a match before win, lose or draw but I expect the staff are usually sat around a table playing cards before shutting up shop half an hour early. Yesterday there was more trading than the floor of the Australian Stock Exchange, and I loved seeing it.

Need to ring up and change the credit card that my membership is paid on but might wait a few days because for the next few days all operators will be busy flogging premium packages to callers from around the world. If you haven't signed up yet then may I suggest you skip the 240 minute call waiting time and input your credit card details directly here.

Matchday Experience Watch
Now there's a phrase that's been inducted into the Cliche Hall of Fame in the last few weeks, and it seems that so far we're the ones who have missed out. Other clubs get a mascot tooling around in a hovercraft (Carlton) and dancing mascots (Footscray/St Kilda) and we had to settle for a solemn and dignified tribute to a legend of the game. What a shame that it is.

By the next home game we'll probably have been forced at gunpoint by the AFL to include some sort of allegedly family friendly bullshit, but really is there any point in trying to top the segment which features rank amateurs risking a broken collarbone trying to take a screamer? Especially now that we've shacked up with Haymes Paint and they also have to do it while wearing Super Mario Brothers style overalls. Save your money on the gimmicks and put it aside for the first person who sues us when we forget to have them sign a waiver and they land on their head.

Another new feature at the MCG is the digital advertising screens, and after seeing a torrent of negative feedback on Thursday night I was looking forward to getting a taste of the Las Vegas Strip excitement just for another chance to whine on an 'against modern football' topic but in the end they were a non-factor. Not sure if it's worse at night or whether we were using a more tasteful colour palette than Carlton but I barely noticed them during play. Though of course something that shows pro-home team propaganda all day isn't going to seem offensive if you are the home team, wait until it's pumping out pro-Tigers slogans in a few weeks and we'll probably all be all over the internet decrying them as the worse thing since the Bubonic Plague.

As for the people complaining about the effect it'll have on the players it's not like the old ones stopped rotating when somebody was having a shot on goal or that there's not 25,000 people or Lynden Dunn yelling abuse at them during play. Football Park had them for years and nobody seemed to care (except perhaps us, and that's why we never won there) so give it six weeks and you won't even notice or sit at home and listen to Dwayne. While the AFL's claim that it was done to improve 'fan experience' is obviously bollocks because we all know the main purpose is to flog more advertising space it's no more offensive than having a marquee outside where people can stop and sign up to an online betting agency.

Winning games is a matchday experience that'll get people dancing in the aisles but I will give a thumbs up to two other gimmicks. The idea of a pre-theme theme is still a bit weird because they only ever get about 30 seconds of it out between players running down the race and going through the banner but if you're going to try and force any hype song into such a small space then Hells Bells is probably the track for the job. In fact it was going so well that whoever was running the audio forgot to switch to the theme song until the players hit the banner, and while the Grand Old Flag should be sacrosanct I actually thought it would be a sick tune to use as a theme.

If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to any MFC staffers who may be violating company IT policies by reading this and ask that if allowed under whatever rules the league have got around this sort of thing that it comes on earlier so we get the full menace of it's intro then segue into the theme as the players form up to crash the banner?

Speaking of hype songs I've always thought that this would bring the house down, especially if there were additional pyro effects going off. Shame you can't turn the lights out for this sort of thing at night games but I guess that's the downside to playing at a stadium with giant light pylons and not some glorified suburban indoor soccer centre like Docklands.


It could be accompanied by a hype video of our players doing horrible things to the opposition, like Dunn screaming in some munter's face and the time Neville Jetta did what appeared to be a Tornado DDT on Ash McGrath and got away with it. Fire it up, and for god's sake the next time Kane comes here on a WWE tour can we get a photo opp with him wearing an MFC jumper - there has never been a better crossover opportunity. The character has even got a backstory tragic enough for him to fit in as a Melbourne fan.

More importantly somebody, somewhere at the MFC came up with the idea of not only using the new found home team scoreboard freedom to highlight victory with the mascot doing a jaunty dance but based it on the fondly remembered 1980's Channel 7 animation that played after wins, and even had the little dude doing the same entrance and exit moves. Whoever it was that include that touch I salute you. Again, when some diseased Collingwood bird is swooping across the screen in Round 18 it will seem like the worst thing ever, but for now it is the best innovation in footy since digital scoreboards.

There was such a carnival atmosphere that even the trumpeteer was wheeled out of the morgue to play during the last quarter. They must have found a cure for 10,000 stab wounds to the back. Is it the same guy who used to wear the velvet jacket and once hit an amazing bum note during the music from Star Wars which provided the perfect metaphor for the Schwab years? Is it also possible that he was sitting there for four quarters at every home game in 2014 waiting to get a run only for us to win nowt but away games?


They've got a far bigger and louder cheersquad than the Bears used to (mainly because grown adults who switched clubs in those days were burnt at the stake) but it would still be nearly impossible for any Victorian club to lose to Gold Coast in a banner-making competition due to their limited resources - but having said that I thought our effort would have taken care of most Victorian clubs. It was bold to focus the front entirely on Lumumba's 200 games even though 199 were with some fly-by-night outfit but it worked a treat. Nobody does graphics on the banner better than our lot, and the picture of H was another winner. 1-0 Dees.

Next Week
As much as I'd love to advocate recognising a win by sending the same team to play Scumbag Scully and his Franchise Friends it's impossible not to recall Bernie Vince, and we could probably do with Dawes up front as well. The complication, and what a great problem it is, comes with Frost having done a more than convincing job as a centre-bounce ruckman alongside a not terrible performance in the forward line. I'd feel a right bastard dropping him now, and everyone should get the opportunity to stuff their old side as soon as possible, so somebody else is going to have to go. I'm going to split the difference on Kent and JFK having both been serviceable and give Kent the travelling emergency rest care of his big bump.

Where Frost's form leaves Pedersen and Gawn I'm not entirely sure. Pedo is a better forward, Maximum is a better ruckman but neither can go into defence if required. The fact that I'm even having this debate (with myself) is a grand step forward - I don't think Gawn can be completely discounted because when Jamar goes he's straight in at #1 on the ARIA Ruckman charts so for god's sake don't do anything that will cause him to demand a trade to Collingwood.

Anyway,

IN: Vince, Dawes
OUT: Toumpas (omit), Kent (omit with so many apologies)

... and if you're going to Manuka Oval please dedicate some of your abuse towards you know who from me.

Was It Worth It?
If any further proof of the effect winning has on the community was required (it isn't) then it came while I was carting my shopping from the club shop back to Jolimont Station (PS - am now 1-0 while living on the Hurstbridge Line) through the traditional death from above kick-to-kick session on the outside concourse. As a little kid no older than three or four roved his dad's kick he was shouting "JONESY! JONESY!" That kid will be there for the unveiling of the statue, hopefully Jonesy goes long enough that he can help fund the Kickstarter campaign to pay for it.

What a time to be alive. Scarves out windows, car horns blaring and people on the train who asked about the result getting the answer I wanted to hear for once. The glee on the face of our fans was in total contrast to that on the club shifters who were starting to wonder whether they'd made the right decision scabbing on their old teams for the promise of one piece of silverware.

The good times might not last so for now you have my express written permission to get your walk on and do a lap of honour at your place of business/school/other flicking lit cigarettes at the three game members of successful clubs who try to make you feel bad about supporting Melbourne. We'll rip the piss out of ourselves thanks and the rest can burn while we clap our hands.

Final Thoughts
That's Round 1 dealt with AND a score of over 100 on the same day. Good god. Now to tackle the other lengthy droughts. Return to this post through the year and check them off as they go down:

- Docklands (2795)
- Collingwood (2856)
- St Kilda (3132)
- North Melbourne (3151)
- Hawthorn (3244)
- Geelong (3258)
- SCG (3270)
- Kardinia Park (3523)
- Subiaco (3956 - and we better get on with it before they shutter the joint and leave us unable to make amends a'la Football Park)

I'd be happy to knock off about six of them this season then pick up the spare as part of our 2016 premiership year.

2 comments:

  1. What a glorious glorious day, & highly enjoyable read. I'd sufficiently managed my own expecations during the week & convinced myself we were no chance so it was a complete surprise/shock to get up.

    As a thoroughly broken individual I panicked when the bugler started playing & thought we'd gone too early but relaxed enough to enjoy it about 30seconds before the siren.

    I reckon that old couple were about 4 rows behind me, i turned around when Harry L goaled & was about to tell them where to stick their booing but realised they were about 80 and held off. The sort of halfwits support the GC/GWS monstrosities never ceases to amaze me

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  2. Brilliant review as always, and the most upbeat one in many a year!! I spent the weekend in Tuscany, and BY FAR the highlight of the trip was waking up at 4:30am and watching the game on an iPad mini. Who needs wineries and countryside when you have J Viney beating the hell out of G Ablett all day.

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