Sunday 12 July 2015

Down with this sort of thing

If you've got a Melbourne Football Club #fistedforever Rewards Card I hope you swiped it at the gate and earned your "start favourites and lose" triple points bonus. If you haven't already signed up there's still time to get on board, and if there's much more like this by Round 23 you'll have enough points saved up to watch us fall apart and gift GWS a spot in the finals.

With our recent record it's hard to take any game where we're expected to win seriously, but they did just lose by 110 points to a confirmed mid-card side, lost their captain for the season and have the side matter of an international investigation hanging over their heads. It was well premature for people to be acting like we'd rampage to victory but you could at least see a scenario where for once (supposed) class would win out in the end - and for once we'd be on the right of the result. Life lesson learnt - don't trust anyone.

It was the first time in recent memory that monsoonal rains weren't welcome, and the idea of turning the game into aquatic warfare might see us dragged down to somebody else's level rather than the other way around. Mind you it's not like perfect conditions under a roof did much for Essendon last week, and given how most of our team have played more games on Casey Fields (the hallowed frozen tundra) than at the MCG you'd think they might have thrived in the freezing wet weather - a week late for Mark McGough style surprise contract-extending mudlarkery by Bail or Matt Jones.

With the ever helpful weather bureau predicting that conditions would resemble the north face of Mt Kilimanjaro at some point during the afternoon I attempted to rug up but didn't go nearly close enough. When the wind started to pick up along with the pre-match showers it seemed like I'd made a horrible mistake and would end the afternoon having to eat a fellow Demon to survive a'la those South American rugby players, but miraculously by the first bounce it had dropped from 'blizzard' to just 'cold'. Watching Melbourne usually elevates my body temperature as much as my blood pressure so I could likely survive anything off the back of that.

You'd have thought this surprise break from typhoon conditions would have helped us run rings around them. Blaming last week's defeat on West Coast being a top two side was perfectly reasonable, they probably won't win the flag but they're going to give it a good thrashing. Then the next day when we enjoyed watched St Kilda ripping Essendon to shreds while Hird forlornly looked into his magnets as if they were a Ouija board telling him what to do next it was decided as one that we were an absolute certainty - and that's where things went wrong, because in the strange and terrifying world of Melbourne nothing is ever certain.

There's no doubt we cocked up a golden chance at a precious four points against a weakened side, but some of the extreme reactions seem unjustified. I'm not here to tell you how to feel, and I've (surprisingly) never sat down to compile a list of my most horrifying defeats but I suspect this wouldn't even scrape the top 20. It was more confirmation - as if required - that no matter what heroics occurred at Kardinia Park against a side rapidly plummeting into the mid-table we're still firmly rooted.. to the bottom four. I thought we'd win but was not at all surprised to lose.

We could have won, and in many ways should have won but even if you put their stream of self-inflicted off-field turmoil aside for a second without their recent run of injuries they are still a better side than us - so why should it be such a surprise to lose to them? I'm bitter and twisted about what happened - and am not exactly happy about it now - but can't see any reason to hurl Molotov Cocktails at the Demon Shop that wasn't also there after the St Kilda loss, and a win shortly after helped us get over that quickly. Nothing else has worked so we may as well start looking at the big picture now. Until we lose to Brisbane, then you can run through a checklist of the all the usual suspects that I'll be trying to trade, delist or push out into the ocean on a raft.

I know everyone wanted to be responsible for getting James Hird the sack (as if Essendon's board would dare without hiring bodyguards first), and nobody on the planet wanted more than an opportunity to post the video of that guy singing Stand By Hird for the purposes of public mockery, but if you built yourself up for this being a certain, monumental victory then you've only got yourself to blame for the feeling of being cheated. Pouring shit on somebody else for once would have been dandy but what club do you follow and when did they earn the right to swan into any game like hot favourites?

In the vast majority of cases when a team loses by 100 points they at least have a period of improvement the next week. Most of the time it peters out and normal service resumes, but we managed to turn one into a victory over the Bulldogs, so if we can do that then nothing - even the loss of two further senior players as late changes - was going to stop the Bombers from at least rattling our cage, and when we declined to put them away when given the chance several times during the first half it was just asking for trouble. Next time let's just hold the triumphant behaviour until the side have done something to prove they deserve it.

Losing to Essendon B in the pre-season caused general commotion but it was easy to explain away as just a pre-season game, and while four months later the general feeling is of gloom so was this result if you take the view that we're a perennially rank side who have only recently graduated from pond scum to flotsam. Maybe it's because I don't hold the same white-hot hatred of Essendon that everyone else does (in fact I'm possibly the only person to dislike them less than when Sheedy was in charge), or because I didn't overcommit to us winning this game but I just think it's not worth going insane over. The coaches waited too long to make changes in an effort to impact the game, they were traditionally gun-shy in trying to change the game by using the sub and Roos trotted out some press conference bollocks about being a young team (well how were they picked, public SMS voting?) but at least we've got the chance to redeem ourselves next week against a side we really should beat - and if we don't that'll be something really worth losing your mind about.

The lucrative junket to Darwin will get some of the blame as well, but I'm not buying that. It was hardly the usual full scale Manilla conditions there, and we seemed to have plenty in the tank late in the game - it was that we'd left ourselves far too much to do and could only get back into the game when there was nothing left to play for. It was a lot like when we beat them last year, except that if that had happened yesterday Salem would have shanked his kick and barely snuck it through for a point.

It was hard to argue with selection, removing a tall in preparation for wet conditions, but while I generally liked JFK as the sub in retrospect maybe we should have put one of the less experienced players in that role. More than comfortable with Harmes making his debut on field as nobody should have their first game sullied by wearing the council worker vest, and Neal-Bullen did well when he came on early last week (though after five goals in two weeks did he go near our forward line in the last three quarters on Saturday?) so I suppose that leaves Stretch. In the end both he and Kennedy-Harris did about as much as you'd expect a last quarter sub to, but Billy had 81% of gametime to do it in. Harmes showed some good signs for a kid off the rookie list but by playing all the kids on the field at once do you think we did exactly what Geelong did against us and tried to sneak them a win in what was perceived as an easy victory? Surely not, still seemed excessive to start all of them though.

I'm all for keeping him in the side given that we're not playing for anything (other than perhaps a priority pick) but now that Kennedy-Harris has been eased back from injury it's time to throw him in the deep end for a few weeks and work out whether he's got a spot when Kent returns. Still not sure why he was in Darwin last week instead of playing another game in the VFL before returning to the seniors, and I suppose that means he had to be the sub but if there's any doubt over a player's ability to go four quarters should they be playing in the first place or are you just wasting everyone's time by picking them to play a quarter? Mind you I called for him to be included so I'm as guilty as anyone.

Much of the angst came from the fact that in the first quarter we were doing most things really well. Gawn was on his way to a historical dominance in the ruck, Vince was picking up touches at will and Viney was doing a blanket job on Heppell. With those factors in play you'd think a stoppage extravaganza would play into our hands, but that fails to take into account the fact that we were going to kick like drunken sailors. The ground would have been heavy from the pre-match showers, but it seemed like we continued to play as if stuck in the middle of a tropical storm - all hoof and hope, no flair or attempt at excitement. I know we're proven to be no good at telling players the time, but if they couldn't work out that it had stopped bucketing down on their own then there is no hope for any of us.

Despite Gawn putting it on a plate for the midfielders we had to rely on the kindness of video review insanity to save us from conceding the first goal. Haven't watched any of the highlights and won't be watching a replay but have got absolutely no idea how they decided that it had been touched on the line. Forget all the other unsavoury stuff, Bombers fans should be pointing at that as evidence of a massive AFL conspiracy against them. They never even got the square ups for being pinged twice (quite rightly) for deliberate. Hands up who else thought they'd give one back to them deep in the last quarter with the game on the line? It was just the sort of luck we needed, and now that the rain had moved off to piss on somebody else's afternoon we took advantage to go down the other end and kick the first of what would seemingly be about 25 goals once we shattered their fragile spirit. Or not as the case may be.

By quarter-time the sun was out (relatively speaking) and each side had managed just a single goal. I had been so worried about this game turning into a farcical reverse that I'd paid scant attention to either of the matches played earlier in the round, and all I'd seen of Richmond/Carlton was talk at half-time about how it was the worst game ever. If it was worse than this I'd be extremely surprised.

Even now that relatively football friendly conditions had broken out the game was being played as if in the middle of a constant downpour. Based on the lessons learnt in the Geelong game a free-flowing end to end contest would have suited us perfectly, but Essendon successfully managed to clog it up and turn it into a stoppage dominated scrap - and even then with ruck dominance we still couldn't take advantage. It's not like we were finding it hard to get to the ball, it was that we played right into their hands by wasting practically every attacking opportunity we had with panic kicking and a pox forward setup. Essendon were getting their tails up and we were playing like underdogs surprised to be involved in a competitive game.

We got plenty of the ball, but even when we did break free from the endless packs the delivery to our forwards was all eyes-closed hit and hope stuff to enormous packs of forwards who either got in each other's way or led their opponents into the path of a teammate. Later on Essendon showed that it was possible take an overhead mark in 'the conditions' but I wish somebody had demonstrated that to our lot in the first three quarters while they were crowded together as if on the Tokyo underground. At one point during the first quarter our forward entries were so predictable that a flock of pigeons took up comfortably inside 50, safe in the knowledge that nobody was going to run through them while leading or scatter them with a scything low kick. If Jeremy Howe was capable of taking nine of his Mark of the Round nominees in one quarter he'd have been well suited, and would have kicked at least 3.5 with one out on the full.

Admittedly their defenders were playing well, but only we could induct boom recruit James Gwilt to the Kent Kingsley/Beau Wilkes Society of ordinary players who look like superstars against Melbourne. It didn't hurt that we were making him look like Matthew Scarlett by continuously thumping the ball straight down his throat. With Garlett not looking likely early on any chance we had of holding the ball forward was out the window, and much like last week or 95% of weeks the best thing we could do for the opposition was to launch an attack then watch the ball fly out the other way as if shot from a cannon.

During all this Brendan Goddard was running riot, seemingly without an opponent in the same area code. They had 10 of their best 22 out, so you'd think he might be important. I know he had a shocker last week but did we just expect the same thing would happen again? Not quite, he had more touches in the first quarter than he'd had in four against St Kilda. Instead of trying to knock him out of the game we allowed him to roam free for the entire first quarter. Cross did a good job from the second quarter but why did we have to wait until the end of the term to something when it was clear five minutes in that he was tonking us? He was a massive part of keeping them in it early and helping them build enough confidence to realise they either weren't total wank after all and that we were very much gettable.

I'm sure the idea was that when the game broke open we'd run them off their feet, and we were getting it forward a lot only to blunder through numerous points courtesy of inexplicably rushed shots. Have you ever seen a game where we've had so many opportunities for players to run 20m closer to goal only for them to blaze away and miss. Unfortunately our wasteful kicking meant that by the time it happened they were full of confidence and notched up a lead that left us with nothing to do but throw everything at a belated comeback. We nearly got away with it but why make things so difficult?

The tactic of roosting the ball high to a nest of opposition defenders and expecting somebody to take a huge grab was a constant for the first three quarters even when it was clearly not working. The options were Howe (running at an all-time slow screamer rate), Hogan (better suited to one-on-ones), Garlett (five foot tall) or Dawes (not renowned for massive pack marks). No chance of anybody leading into space I suppose? Not unless it was 80m up the ground by the looks of it.

At the other end I thought the defence was solid. Garland and Dunn were good, Jetta serviceable and Lumumba was at least better than the alternatives but probably more suited to a panel discussion about the role of the Albanian Communist Party during the Sino-Soviet Split than to playing in a struggling team bereft of superstars. Imagine going from punting the ball at Pendles and Dane Swan one year to trying to make something of us the next? Good luck with that. Nevertheless he certainly hasn't carried on the play which saw him romp to victory in the Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance.

Sizzle has definitely hit the Nathan Carrolls (hopefully this doesn't end in him punching Ben Holland) and has slid right out of the All-Australian team and is probably off the shortlist now as well. It didn't help that Joe Daniher suddenly decided he was John Coleman and chose a game against us to start kicking flawless set shots after weeks where he couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo.

As an unashamed Sizzle fan I feel like he's been at least slightly unlucky since Queen's Birthday. Remember when Jack Riewoldt kicked 1.4 on him and everyone swooned, now he's had the misfortune of both Travis Cloke and the worst teenage moustache ever worn (with respect to the ludicrous bumfluff Jack Watts has just begun sporting) suddenly discovering hitherto unknown accuracy and people revert to the default status of trying to have him killed. Now based on one quarter against a side who had no idea they'd ever have to defend against him people are trying to start him forward next week. He looks down on confidence in defence, but for god's sake leave him where he does his best work instead of messing around putting players in positions they're not suited to. If he needs to go down there during a game then that's fine, but I'd like to go at least one season without having to use a key defender as an emergency forward. He desperately needs a win, and hopefully that will come against some nobody Brisbane player, but if you think based on one decent game Fitzpatrick can do better then you're involved in a supplements program.

Once the Bombers worked out that we were never going to kick convincingly to the forwards they were free to try and win the game, and did reasonable job of it. We had too many players not showing anything near their form from a few weeks ago - I can't hold it against Brayshaw considering he knocked himself out last week but perhaps he should have been rested. Easy to say afterwards, but he'll have to take a break at some point and maybe a day where it was projected to hammer down rain all day was the best time. It would usually be the sort of game he'd love but if he's out rested this week instead I'll chuck shit.

On the surface of it 10 minutes of inattention cost us, but converting a half chance or two would have gone a long way. We were playing against a team who played the last few minutes of the opening two quarters with a spare man in defence because they were happy just to be close. They were begging to be put away but we just weren't capable of doing the honours. It was less than four goals the difference at the last change but we hardly looked likely to put enough pressure on them based on our performance in the third quarter and our rotten kicking efficiency.

Finally after three quarters of the forward line malfunctioning like a Russian alarm clock they tried something difference, with the left-field move of McDonald forward with Howe back. It must have flummoxed the Bombers and caused Hird to throw his precious magnets across the box because for the first time all day we had a forward in space. There was even one point where he led short to a dangerous position for a team-mate outside 50 to kick to - even our real forwards don't do that. Kicking has never been his strong point so when he got it it wasn't much better than a 50/50 chance he'd kick it - which put him on the same level as most of our other forwards.

When the Bombers fudged a gilt edged chance to put the game away it seemed like maybe it would be our day, then when McDonald and Garlett both goalled to get us with in a kick it was on. Then in true Melbourne fashion we didn't score for the last five minutes. Good luck to them, they wanted it more. If you're looking for individual scapegoats from the last few minutes there were plenty of contenders. Watts could have gone harder for a tackle at our attacking 50 when we were within a goal (just another disaster on our half-forward line) or Lumumba could have made a better contest against Daniher as he went up for the mark, but the fact is we barely deserved to be in a position to snatch it anyway. It wouldn't have been grant theft, but it would have at least been akin to shoplifting.

Still, even when we got within a goal with plenty of time left - in fact enough time that we could still win if they did the usual and kicked a replying goal straight out of the middle - I never felt like we were going to snatch it. Even if we'd got in front I'd have been convinced that they were going to get one back, destiny is a crock but we would have found some way to lose this game. It was foretold in Hird's magnetic Ouija board.

Of course Daniher capped off his perfect day with a clutch set shot to win the game. How very bloody convenient. If we somehow contrived to have one of our traditionally wayward forwards (e.g. anyone but Hogan) play a dominant half to all but set up victory you can be entirely sure they'd miss the most important shot and it would be swept down the other end for the winning goal.

Even after the goal there was still 120 odd seconds left for a big steal, but hilariously (?) after what happened a few weeks ago nobody seemed to be in a major hurry to get the ball forward in this time. Which is odd because we'd spent the rest of the game hoofing the ball forward aimlessly, and now that Essendon were out on their feet and still vulnerable it would have been a great time to do similar. There was only 25 minutes gone when the goal went through, and if nobody told them the time again there needs to be a Royal Commission.

As the season has gone on I've really matured in the way I take defeat. After we threw it all away against GWS that time I went to the supermarket, stomped around the aisles swearing whenever I couldn't find something then got home and lobbed a remote control across the room. Today there was much swearing under and over the breath during the game but when the final siren went I just shrugged and trudged off to Jolimont Station. At least we have the memories, for a little bit until the kids get bored again and we're left like Homer Simpson in the Hullabalooza episode shouting "For more information on Mark Neeld's surprise first win as a senior AFL coach, consult your school library!" as they run away from us an towards the Hawthorn membership tent.

Speaking of Neeld, at least he and Neil Craig managed to retain their near flawless records of being instrumental in Melbourne losses.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Bernie Vince
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Aaron vandenBerg

Apologies to Dunn (who lost the last vote in a photo finish), Jones, Howe and Cross.

The Reign of Sizzle lasted three months but the dream of a defender lifting a prestigious AFL award ebbs away a little bit more every week as Vince storms into pole position for the first time in his career. He was wasteful with his kicking but who wasn't? With a maximum of 45 votes still available I'll say barring a Jakovich-esque second half of run of form that everyone below vandenBerg is finished for this year. For now everyone down to Mitchell White could still win in a canter, but over the next few weeks we'll know for sure who's in and who's out when the dreaded dotted line of death appears to indicate which players have no chance.

Speaking of Maximum, Gawn has smashed the Stynes field to shreds and saved us from the unusual scenario of Jamar getting a share while also not being acknowledged by the club as an employee. In the other minors Garland's votes keep the Seecamp alive for another week UNLESS McDonald ends up being sent forward in every other game this year and has the award cruelly ripped from his hands by a late disqualification. Finally, with neither of the leaders in the Hilton pocketing a vote it remains wide open for any of Brayshaw, Hogan or vandenBerg to get their AFL career off to a great start by enshrining themselves on our honour roll.

30 - Bernie Vince
29 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Nathan Jones
18 - Jack Viney
17 - Angus Brayshaw (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
14 - Jesse Hogan
13 - Jack Watts
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett
6 - Max Gawn, (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Dom Tyson
4 - Daniel Cross
3 - Viv Michie
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Mark Jamar, Ben Newton, Jake Spencer

Not a great day for the industry, but can you really blame the cheersquads for phoning it in on Thursday night when they thought they'd be sitting there getting pelted with hail all day? Essendon went with a nice, charitable message for the Cure for Cancer, which was let down by overly prominent squares and a demonstration that they had no idea how a hashtag worked by putting spaces between the words. Aren't these the people who flogged #standbyhird, #backourboys and god knows what else? How can they not know how a hashtag works?

There was no curtain, which is always welcomed. They've seemingly been abolished this year (can I take credit?), but when the Bombers players ran out most of them did their own curtain job by ducking down and lifting it up at the front to ponce through. There was one visionary amongst them who refused to indulge in curtain cowardice and instead charged at the thing with his fist in the air and triumphantly punched through. For that I hope he gets three Brownlow votes.

They didn't rotate it either, which is usually a points deduction but under the circumstances they should be commended just for showing up. I'd have accidentally dropped the banner in the carpark, torn the crepe paper by treading on it and chucked a sickie. The other major tactical error they made was holding it up far too early and being left there for 10 minutes losing extremities to frostbite while the Bombers were still in the sheds.

Our effort was nothing to write home about, and looked like it was about to explode at any moment but it wins due to being 20% larger and having a significantly higher standard of kerning than the opposition. 14-1-0 for the year with near automatic wins against Footscray, St Kilda and GWS to come. Can the Demon Army go one better than last season and remain undefeated? Stay tuned, it might be the only thing left worth following later in the year.

Matchday Experience Watch
Air-raid sirens be buggered, when that weather report came out they should have booked Tony Bullimore to do a lap of honour while marine distress flares went off around the boundary line. Mind you, with Tony's MFC-esque record for capsizing you might want to budget for somebody to go out and rescue him midway through the lap.

Other than that bloody siren and nobody bothering to do an MCG version of their post-goal animation so it still showed a fighter jet dive bombing Etihad Stadium everything was fine. Sadly the animation didn't end looking like this:

They didn't have any decent pre-match gimmicks like Howie's Hangers (of if they did all were cancelled due to the conditions, and how I'd love to have seen people trying to take screamers off a tackling bag in pouring rain. The contestant indemnity forms would have been 120 pages each) but otherwise there was nothing amazingly offensive like you'd expect from Essendon such as community serenading of Hird or an ASADA effigy being torched by a rabid pack of supporters then torn apart by hand.

Crowd Watch
Midway through 1998 when we were flogged by St Kilda I sat in the front row behind the Ponsford End goals all day being pissed on from a great height for no apparent reason. If I had any excuse it was being 17 and being such a bland teenager that it ranks alongside staying up until 4am waiting to hear Premier League goal updates on the BBC World Service as the most hardcore activities of my teenage years to that point.

Kids do stupid things, especially when the pinnacle of their lives to that point has been winning the Belgian Premier League with an obscure team in Championship Manager (it's still in the top 100), but what excuse is there for the hundreds of grown adults who spent the pre-match sitting in pelting rain yesterday? Even with 55,000 general admission seats unoccupied you can nearly understand it during the game itself but why were these people sitting there being battered by precipitation just to watch players run through crepe paper and trot back and forth in the warm-up? It defies belief. Fortunately the weather cleared by the first bounce, so they were fine to enjoy the footy and soaking wet underpants for the rest of the afternoon.

In non-weather related news one of the more bizarre scenes of the afternoon was their raffle results being walked around the boundary line by a man holding a chalkboard sign as if all forms of modern communications technology hadn't been invented. The prize was a television but on that form it was probably one of those 1970's ones that had the remote control attached to the set that you could only operate if sitting frighteningly close to the screen.

The poxy crowd figure was not aided by the conditions, or by the thousands of Essendon fans who squibbed it at the prospect of losing to Melbourne and missed out on a win, but I suppose that's the end of the dream run of them playing home games against us at the MCG. Back to the baffling ticket system for their Etihad Stadium home games. Yet another factor that will have our membership department discreetly swigging bottles of rum under their desk before calling another deadbeat who set up their membership on a direct debit then cancelled the card.

After the match the regard shown for society by Melbourne fans in the wake of a disappointing defeat was demonstrated by the guy who threw out any semblance of decorum and was openly taking a piss against a tree in the carpark while families walked by. That's what this sport does to us.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Not many to choose from, and though he did barely anything else it'll have to be Garlett again for that crumb in the last quarter. For personal reasons I did enjoy McDonald's set shot but he's more likely to get an award for being the only forward to lead for a chest mark in the last fortnight despite not even being a forward to start with.

Following on from the controversy last week (when presumably nobody was reading either) in choosing which of his goals would stand as the clubhouse leader I've made a final decision that the one from the boundary against Footscray is #1 for now. That he sealed the game, from a set shot, with the most casual kick of his life and then did an even more casual celebration narrowly puts it in front of his Moscow Circus on Ice goal-line spectacular against the Cats. Quite frankly this award has been a bit of a fizzer this year so hopefully he's got something remarkable left for us in the last nine games.

Stat My Bitch Up
We're down to 72.64ppg, but the good news is that we only need 35.44 a week from here to match last year's record low 22 game season total. So that's something to look forward to. If we kick the current average in every match for the rest of the season it will only be our sixth lowest scoring season since 1970. In researching this hot fact I discovered that in 1982 we scored 113 a game, conceded 125 and won eight games - now that's entertainment.

As far as individual efforts go, congratulations to Max Gawn on registering the largest number of hitouts in a game by any Melbourne player ever. Unlike other stats that we don't have records back to 1897 for, hitouts are the one statistic that you can be absolutely sure are at an all-time high in the modern era so that's nice for him. Fat lot of good it did us in the end though. Refer to Ross Lyon's answer at the press conference after Sandilands captured the all-time record but the side lost. Except because I'm a stats nerd rather than a cold-hearted pragmatist like Roscoe I'm secretly thrilled about it. You couldn't blame Gawn though, it wasn't just the hitouts - how good were his marks? Finally he is ready to take the #1 spot for good.

As far as individual game records that I've seen live it goes alongside... - Travis Johnstone's 35 kicks, Jordie McKenzie's 26 handballs, Lynden Dunn's 16 rebound 50's, Brent Moloney's 19 clearances + 21 contested possessions (twice), Paul Wheatley and Bernie Vince's 33 uncontested possessions, David Neitz's 8 contested marks, Colin Garland's 17 one percenters (still NFI what that actually means), the triple 10x clanger records of Godfrey, N. Jones and Johnstone and three of four of the equal most goal assists (the eclectic lineup of Jones, Wonaeamirri and Brayshaw). Helps that half of those stats have only been kept this decade and that we rarely do anything of note outside the MCG.

Next Week
On form we should beat Brisbane at the MCG, so spend the week digging a bunker and stockpiling canned food because another debacle looms large. They weren't disgraced against Sydney so anybody who goes on about margins of victory will be bricked up behind a wall until after the match is over.

Fortunately Gold Coast's capitulation against Footscray in Cairns means that even if (?) we lose this we won't immediately be tossed back into the race for the wooden spoon. I've got no doubt we'll do better than last year and win at least one game in the last 10 but knowing us it'll be a totally unexpected result against North or Collingwood then we'll get ahead of ourselves and be embarrassingly rumbled by Carlton.

Happy to stick with all the kids but they've all had starts now, time to bust one of them down to sub and give Kennedy-Harris four quarters to try and prove himself. It would make sense to wait for a report on the Casey game until I decided on the alterations but when Matt Jones, Bail and McKenzie are listed best on ground am I going to suggest we pick them? Probably not, so why delay things unnecessarily?

In any event I'm not going to call for mass punitive droppings, let's talk again if we can't beat the last placed Lions but for now I want to avoid panic and try to back the similar side in. Record breaking performances aside I'm not for the idea of Maximum having to take on Leuenberger and the SME (lining up for another three votes) solo so opting for the reintroduction of the Spencil. A second ruck who could convincingly play forward as well would be my first option but it's Round 16, what are you going to do?

IN: Spencer
OUT: Dawes (omit)
UNLUCKY: Grimes (thought he was quite good before injury - would take him for one of Stretch/ANB/Harmes if necessary), Jamar (purged from history)

If Howe gets rubbed out for Trengoving I'll accept Dawes surviving, but other than the first quarter last week he is offering very little. Even Howe, who looks as likely to take a mark directly in front of goal as the Venus De Milo, compensated with some manic pressure to try and halt his asking price plummeting like the Shanghai stock market whereas Dawes had zero tackles. Not hanging him on that alone given that our beloved Hogan only had one, and he did take a nice mark to set up the first goal but somebody's got to go out of that forward line and he's it. Of course the last time I called for him to be dropped he followed up with a good performance, and I know there's no way they're going to dropping him so here's to another "fuck you anonymous blogger" performance of note.

Was it worth it?
I can't think of anything that happened which was must-see in-person viewing that would be remembered well in the future. Still, promise of Arctic conditions aside it felt essential to be there. Maybe not as essential as it was a couple of years ago but how much can anybody take before wilting? We might find out next week when there are 1400 people in attendance.

Final Thoughts
If nothing else (and there wasn't much else) it was a reminder for Melbourne fans to know their role and never assume victory no matter how grim circumstances look for the other team.

One day we'll start warm favourites and kick away to an easy victory. I'm informed that our performances over the last 10 years to the week are now officially worse than that of Fitzroy, so I'm currently expecting that to happen shortly after we're relocated to Norfolk Island in 2019.

For now I'm holding on to the spirit of Kardinia Park, but my order from has been shipped and is expected to arrive around 4.40pm next Sunday.

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