It had to happen eventually, after a winning streak stretching back to late 2006 I finally took the voluntarily decision not to go to a game at the MCG. Let's file it under the vague heading of 'personal reasons' (of a non-life-and-death variety, and nor did I have the squirts thanks for asking), and if I'd really pushed myself I might have made it there by 2.10pm - but even when I only suspected that it would be a total disaster it would have nothing more than ticking the box without my heart remotely in it.
The decision was made days ago but any chance of storming across town to make it there for the first bounce was officially cancelled when the teams came out on Thursday night. It was like the club sitting down and writing the letter which admitted we were a total impediment on the competition. Whinging about team selection is as popular amongst those of us with no idea about the real business of footy as complaining about the umpires and bemoaning how the game is not as good as it used to be but I feel on this occasion it was reasonably justified.
What we were left with at the time was one of the most inspiration-free lineups of modern times. It started with Jamar - they must be trying to make him quit so they don't have to sack him a'la George Costanza at Play Now Industries when we're more of a Kruger Industrial Smoothing sort of enterprise - left marooned at Casey while we initially dropped Pedersen and ensured that The Spencil (retained despite no discernable attacking qualities) would have at best a half fit Dawes for backup against a premiership ruck division.
I thought it must have been because it was going to piss down raining. Until I looked at the weather report and realised that it was going to be as sunny as you get for May 16. So that was odd, and if you need to pick one ruckman to go against the defending premiers then with apologies to the whole-hearted performances he puts in every time Jake is not it. Even if we got the taps we were probably going to lose the midfield battle anyway so you may as well pick Pedersen and sacrifice some tap power for vastly superior around the ground abilities. Maybe even through Gawn in at the deep end just to see what happens - players have occasionally been known to surprise in the seniors even when not dominating the seconds. Would certainly be a sign that there's some interest in him for the future.
The return of Michie worked for me, but I'm not sure what he did in the VFL that justified bringing him back after dropping him the week before. Should have left him in to start with instead of chopping and changing every week, but what do I know? Bail and Matt Jones in gives me zero confidence but I'm ok with everyone having at least one game before being written off - may as well do it in a game where we were always going to be fisted, and it's not like our depth stretches much further past them anyway. Surely every available player on the list is going to get a run before the end of this year and we can at least now be sure that neither of them is going to rocket to unexpected stardom when confronted with the reigning best players in the competition.
Considering Jetta appears to have fallen off the face of the earth I was ok with Grimes coming back, and he was alright without being spectacular, and had no major worries with Newton being rotated out. Even if JFK wasn't injured he should have gone anyway so that's fine but not sure what more Watts was supposed to do. I'm not taking any of this "we wanted to give him a full game for Casey" bullshit - if you tell me he came out and didn't do what he was supposed to do last week fair enough but otherwise it's suspect. May as well have just dropped him before last week instead of sitting him on the bench for three quarters then expecting miracles in a game with zero fizz left. Apparently he dropped himself, which I believe about as much as Jesse Hogan only having general soreness. Some Melbourne fans will still find a reason why it's his fault that we got flogged, it's what we do.
Selection issues aside I would have been there anyway if it wasn't for myriad dramas, but in the end it was worrying how easily I came to the decision and didn't even go close to wavering. The fact that we play football so boring that the timekeepers have to take Ecstasy to stay awake until the end hasn't caused me to stray before, and if circumstances were different it wouldn't have this time but given that it wasn't our home game I didn't even feel compelled to do my bit for the crowd figures. I've been there for enough guaranteed losses over the years that not even that has stopped me before but the last couple of weeks just didn't feel as essential as it has in the past. Is this middle age I see approaching?
Once the game started I felt some pangs of regret, and not just because we kicked two goals in a row to briefly give us hope of avoiding a thrashing. The main disappointment was that it was practically impossible to see what was going on via television with all the shadows across the ground. For all the whinging about the Docklands roof causing visibility issues this was just as bad. Of course I've never noticed before because no matter what the game was I wasn't all that interested. Even the Grand Final is secondary to stuffing my face full of chips all day. Now just when I wanted to know what was going on it became a confusing spectacle. Never again, take me back o' mighty Ponsford Stand.
In the end those first two goals - courtesy of Garlett running to the line to make sure he didn't stuff it up and Pedersen taking full advantage of his 'unexpected' second life courtesy of a contested mark which put higher paid players to shame - meant bugger all. At least unlike last week when we had a brief period of domination against a superior team early in the first quarter we got something out of it before folding like a house of cards. Still, rancid teams kicking a couple of pre-consolation goals at the start of a game before dying in the arse happens so often now that it's almost not worth getting excited over. Over on the other channel St Kilda were doing exactly the same thing and they managed to hold back for another couple of minutes before they were beaten comfortably - but the finals scores seem to indicate that they put up significantly more resistance than we did.
Another goal would hardly have altered our destiny to be a punching bag but there was a third one on the cards before a horrible kick (Grimes? Does it matter?) brought the momentum to a violent halt - and that was it. Where Roughead had opened the game by unexpectedly booting a set shot straight out on the full once they got a roll on it was unstoppable. So much running in waves, so many accurate disposals. On the other hand we were at the very peak of hit and hope, usually to an opponent. God only knows how one football team can end up with so many players who can't kick - just a reminder at this time that Geelong has converted a steeplechaser into a reasonable footballer.
By the time Frawley got a kick we'd already well and truly punched ourselves out and it seemed only a handful of people could be bothered heckling him. They might not have realised it was him because the kick came in the middle of the ground, but god knows he wasn't required in defence. I can't hold it against him, he did his time in the asylum. I only wish he'd put his hand up a month before the end of the season, admitted he was going and stepped aside for a continuing player to take his spot instead of pretending that his decision was up in the air. Still, that's sleazy modern football for you so get used to it.
The game was over by quarter time. Our cavalcade of industrial triers had nothing on them, and anything that was being tried to put the breaks on them wasn't working. The highlight after the first two goals was undoubtedly the footage of Roos berating Spencer for having no idea at quarter time. I hope Spencer's response was "then why did you pick me?" The Spencil was semi-reasonable with ball in hand (compared to expectations) but when you pick him you're also picking major limitations. The fact that he's now up to 17 disposals in a row with 100% efficiency is a statistical quirk rather than an indication of being at AFL standards - and in the case of one of the kicks it should be a prompt to ask questions about how efficiency is measured.
I'm all for coaches berating players publicly as long as they're putting an arm around them in private, and I'm not to know if he'd done something specific wrong so I'm not potting the beration itself but the 'incident' still highlighted what a shambolic selection decision it had been. By the end he was totally stuffed and I will never fault his effort he should filed under BREAK IN CASE(Y) OF EMERGENCY only.
Pedersen was barely used as a back-up in the ruck but was fantastic as a forward. There is absolutely no reason that in a straight one-on-one battle you wouldn't pick him over Dawes at the moment. I was almost a lone Dawes apologist last year but he nearly lost me by getting needlessly suspended in the last game of the season and has done nigh on bugger all since returning. When you're in our position it's hard not to respect a premiership player but it's not a gold pass to a game every week if somebody's doing a better job. It's not to say that Pedersen (still can't bring myself to return to the classic nickname) is going to do it every week but he showed plenty today so I want him to be given more opportunities. Can also pinch-hit in the ruck and fill in down back if required. Reminds me of the SME, maybe that's why I like him so much.
That said the generally shambolic nature of our side was highlighted during the second quarter when he took a screamer of a pack mark 40 metres out (good) and botched the kick and failed to make the distance (bad) only for there to be two Hawthorn players waiting to mop the ball up and not a Demon to be seen. Not that we had any other talls forward of centre who could take a contested mark but somebody might have brought the ball to ground if we were lucky. Instead we got the grand score of 0.0 out of it. Next thing they cut to Salem sitting on the bench icing his burst hamstring for god's sake. We are a rabble in practically every aspect. If you listen to the guy who wanted to be President it's the board's fault. Pardon?
Good win to Hawks. Melbourne sadly at best a VFL side. Not Coach not players fault. Board an abject failure and should resign on mass. 1/2— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) May 16, 2015
Now I've been a Kennett sympathiser since 1992 but that's just trolling. Three weeks ago we were 2-2 and struggling not to touch ourselves up, not sure what the board was supposed to in the meantime. Still don't know what Bartlett was on about with all that New York Yankees carry-on last year but post-AFL bailout he and Jackson have done a great job to get our finances heading in the right direction. Is he supposed to be doing open letters every two weeks like that Skeletor bloke from Essendon? When you're a President with a massive media profile it must be difficult to come to terms with the fact that others can't just get on the back page. If there's somebody better who can open doors for us I'm open to it, and as much as we all took the piss out of David Koch at Port Adelaide that's been a smashing success, but this better not be another attempt to get his mate Alan Stockdale and associated cast of randoms into power.
If Roos vs Spencer was the highlight of the first half then the best bit of the second could only be the 30 seconds of total panic into our backline which featured Toumpas kicking the ball straight up in the air and Howe being pinged for holding the ball to eventually cost us a goal. I swear I heard a commentator suggest that he'd started forward and had been sent back when the Hawks started to get a run on but I refuse to believe it. If he did then his agent is going to have spin bad news more furiously than a Roos press conference to get the rumoured $600k contract. Not that we're helping by leaving him down there to slowly wither away, but I'm starting to think it wouldn't have been so bad if we'd taken GWS' pick seven for him. If only they'd made the offer early enough that we could have used it to get an experienced player instead of rolling in another hapless kid. Still, if it had happened and we were losing to Hawthorn by 100 then I'd be exercising the bloggers prerogative to scream bloody murder.
With Toumpas I'm not sure we haven't squished the life out of him, and we may as well give him a few weeks of continuity before swinging the axe but he's not going anywhere fast. Serves us right for picking what was described as the 'cherry on top' player when the cake box still contained a giant turd but the worst bit is that reliable sources have claimed that we weren't going to pick Ollie Wines anyway so that's another comforting moment in MFC draft history.
As the Hawks scooted away from us they panned to their coaches box and 96% of people in it either used to work for us. At this point my Twitter exploded with people threatening to self-harm, especially over Neitz being a part-time forward coach. What they failed to realise is that on a cost/benefit analysis there is absolutely no point teaching our forwards how to kick when they're playing in a team that quite literally scores 50 every week. I don't think Hogan needs the marking masterclass, and is probably too busy scanning the Perth real estate pages to listen anyway. As for the rest of them well being involved in a successful enterprise is fair reward for what we put them through - it's Brad Green you should feel sorry for, that guy needs a win badly having gone from Neeld-era Melbourne to Carlton.
Like last week we were playing such boring uncompetitive football late in the quarter that I rapidly lost interest. The upside was that unlike last week I was at home and could wander off to the kitchen and start eating crackers. Came back in the loungeroom to see the Hawks in full party time mode ignoring players standing on their own in the goal square to have a shot instead. It was like one of my old indoor soccer games where by the time we were 18-1 down the other side would start trying to tee up volleys or score headers for the last few minutes. Fortunately they managed to kick a goal straight after just in case you thought an amazing comeback was on the cards.
After Sydney relaxed and saved us from a pounding last week the entire half time break was spent speculating whether Hawthorn would do the same, but of course they wouldn't. In the most admirable way they're a pack of vicious animals and were always going to tear us asunder just to send a message to the rest of the competition. Not sure if murdering us impresses anybody but that's not important right now. Just in case you thought there was some chance of relaxation they quickly banged on two goals to open the third quarter - including one where Howe brought Melbourne fans everywhere to their feet by misjudging a ball on the line and letting it fly through. How's that "I really want to sign, it'll be done in a couple of weeks" stuff going? Still no bloody idea why he was our last line of defence.
Doesn't look like he can bothered to me but it takes a special sort of resilient individual to spend any amount of time in our defence without going totally bonkers so I won't blame him if he requests a trade to a psychologist at the end of the year. I'm staying on his side for a few more weeks - it's one thing to play where you're told to but if it's going to be counter-productive either play him where he's supposed to go or in the reserves. I'm convinced there's something suspect going on here, and if you know more on or off the record please use a false name to write in at the usual address with details and if your claims aren't potentially libellous I'll print them.
The rest of the third quarter went about as well as you'd expect. They teed off on us for practice and missed a couple of good opportunities through excessive pisstaking. On the whole we played plodding, incompetent football. The only shining lights on our side were yet Tom McDonald standing up in defence and Pedersen making the best of his opportunities to take screamers and kick goals - if we drop him after Hogan comes back and retain Dawes I may take violent action.
After that it went from bad football to being generally uncompetitive. Even poor old Colin Garland was eventually driven insane after a turnover cost us a goal. The guy hasn't had a different facial expression in several years but as the ball went over his head he dropped down with a look of sheer horror. To his credit Harry O showed why we recruited him by going over, dragging him up and giving him a few kinds words but by the time we're finished with him Lumumba will be so angry that he'll be campaigning to bulldoze the rainforests.
The only remaining interest in the game was whether Garlett could kick a set shot (no, but his running goals have confirmed that his trade deal is back to a total cockup on Carlton's behalf) and whether the Hawks would rack up their greatest winning margin against us. It briefly ticked over the 115 points required to beat the Round 21, 1983 abortion where Frank Rugolo's first match was completely ruined. Unfortunately for Frank and his teammates that day we managed a couple of cheap ones late sneak back into second place. Even Rohan Bail cropped up for one to break the Garlett-Pedersen duopoly - I didn't totally despise his game but only because of the shit he was surrounded by.
As I've shamefully confessed before once it gets near 100 points I secretly want it to go over. I don't know why, it's not enjoyable but there's just a perverse interest in how many times we can achieve this feat before the AFL shut us down. That was #26, and the 8th of the #fistedforever era. Thanks to the two that happened interstate and the wedding I was at during 148 I've now only been there in person for half of them so that's something.
By the end I wasn't even angry, I've reached the level of acceptance about this happening against top four clubs and I wouldn't be surprised about other finalists doing the same. I'll hold off total urban warfare until we've played some of our fellow dud sides again but the only thing that's going to save this club now is something amazing luck. It happens, you win with a couple of high draft picks (which would be luck considering our record) and accidentally pluck a superstar out of thin air with selection 45 then build around that. Cross your fingers, sacrifice a farm animal if you must and hope for the best because we're going to need it.
At the end Pedersen and McDonald walked off the ground on the far right of the group, possibly because they expected that somebody was going to leap out and spray the rest of them with machine gun fire.
I've lost interest to the point where I don't even bother watching the press conference anymore. Did anyone ask a decent question or was it all "so Paul, that was unfortunate. What went wrong?" These are very worrying times.
2015 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Cameron Pedersen
4 - Tom McDonald
----- THE SPACE BETWEEN THE SUN AND PLUTO ------
3 - Daniel Cross
2 - Jeff Garlett
1 - Nathan Jones
Apologies to Lumumba, Grimes and Garland who were reasonable considering the slopfest they were involved in. Vince and Tyson got a million touches late when it meant nothing so I'm not getting sucked in there.
Bittersweet for Cam as he shoots up the leaderboard but loses his chance of lifting a medal at the same time. Meanwhile it's getting serious at the top. The King of Sizzle continues to dominate - opening a three BOG+ lead on Jones. It can't go on forever but in the meantime buy a ticket and take the ride.
29 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
13 - Nathan Jones
7 - Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award), Bernie Vince
6 - Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem
5 - Angus Brayshaw
4 - Aaron vandenBerg, Jack Viney, Jack Watts
3 - Daniel Cross, Viv Michie, Dom Tyson
2 - Heritier Lumumba
1 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Ben Newton
I thought Hawthorn had a strong effort with the milestone photo (ripped the idea off from us I bet) but they ruined it with a font seemingly chosen from a 1979 design book. We, on the other hand had a perfectly kerned motivational speech which was a total bloody waste of time considering what was about to happen but good on the cheersquad for trying. 7-1-0 Demons.
Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It took place amidst an utter porking, and he can't kick a set shot to save himself but I'm promoting Garlett's snap over his head in the last quarter to the lead for the entire season to date. On its own it was genuinely exciting, and just like Howe's mark against Sydney when we were 80 points down I'm not going to hold the situation at the time it occurred against him.
Stat My Bitch Up
We've scored 50 three weeks in a row, which may well be another unwanted record for our horror chamber. Not only the first time we've ever done it but the first time we've scored exactly 50 three times in a year - beating two incidences in 1912, 1957 and 2008. Of course we've scored under 50 plenty of times and there's plenty more time for that in the next 16 weeks.
On some measures it should get 'better' from here, but we're down to 65.57ppg - and for the first time this year allow me to remind you that two of the worst teams ever invented - Fitzroy 1996 and Melbourne 2013 both at least managed 66 while being brutally violated at the other end.
Speaking of the defence - occasional horrible cockups aside I'll back McDonald/Dunn/Garland/Jetta until the cows come home but there's a troubling trend (albeit after playing three quality sides) where our average score against has blown out to 97.42. The good news is that's still four goals better than 2013 but 10 points worse than last year with the whole second half of the year for us to go even more tits up.
Enough of this watching on TV bullshit I'll be back in place for the Bulldogs next Sunday afternoon. A 3.20 game means a) Channel 7 executives will cut themselves and b) You'll be lucky to get a review post until about Thursday but I will try to get something out before you've completely lost interest.
We've had a string of close games against them recently, and I'm hoping for another. They've looked good so far this year other than when playing Hawthorn (I know the feeling) and until spontaneously combusting against St Kilda in the second half last week. Willing to concede that I was wrong to pick them for last place but still not convinced they're all that much better than a bottom four side so you never know. We'll lose but how badly is the question. Hoping for somebody other than the usual suspects to stand up and have a bash.
Casey did what they do best and lost so there's probably not a great crop of players to pick from - but even if they'd beaten Port Melbourne by 200 would you really be excited by any of the potential inclusions? So, on that note I've just guessed the following.
IN: Jamar (FFS surely), Jetta (has apparently had six concussions since January so enjoy him while you can), Hogan (if still alive), Watts (Hasn't done himself any favours since Round 1 and will probably find out that dropping yourself is one thing but getting picked again is another and will then do his knee on some VFL ground with a surface like an asphalt carpark)
OUT: Spencer, M. Jones, Dawes (omit), Salem (inj)
LUCKY: Bail, Stretch, Tyson, Toumpas - who we may well give a go against a lesser side to make sure they are either for the firing squad, battling injury or not good enough yet. Please note: I am only considering the Bulldogs 'lesser' in comparison to Hawthorn so you can't hold it against me when they pulverise us.
UNLUCKY: Riley was BOG for the Scorpions but somebody has to be. If we're going to make #tankquiry style team selection moves anyway may as well give Harmes a game soon. Other than that tumbleweeds are bouncing down the street.
UNAVAILABLE TO BE UNLUCKY: Fitzpatrick landed on his head in the Casey so will presumably be unavailable
In case you missed it
During the week shocking footage emerged on YouTube of our 1990 "Celebrity Variety Concert". Our team took a forensic look at this epoch making event. Watching 2.5hrs of this - including Garry Lyon barely concealing his snag during a cross-dressing skit - was far less painful than anything after the five minute mark of today's game.
Viewing will reward:
Was it worth it?
Pass. But staying home did give me the opportunity to tune into the GWS game about 30 minutes later just in time to see $cully pick up a ball in traffic, burst through a pack, have a bounce and kick a banana goal so that really improved my enjoyment of football for the afternoon. We should merge with Carlton - we can have the blue from their jumper, the red from ours, our nickname, the name of the city they're from and two coaches who jointly ponder whether it is actually possible to polish a turd.
There goes the team we'll never be. At least when they mess around with the fixture we'll have five weeks of competitive games to look forward to at the end of the season.