Monday, 17 August 2015

Complaining To A Tree

It was a brave coalition of supporters who suggested we went into this game "a chance" based on last week's belated comeback and eventual failure.

I suppose after all we've been through we've been conditioned to expect that any great achievement (e.g. a win) will soon be followed by a brutal correction, and for that reason some surmised that the Bulldogs nudging into the top four would be enough for them to temporarily relax and allow us to sneak for a memorable smash-and-grab victory.

Which is a highly romantic way of thinking, and the same people probably quite rightly saw the Geelong and Collingwood victories coming well before the rest of us, but it seemed to ignore the many factors pointing to a fiasco. For one the game was being played on an arena where our opponents are proven to play better whereas on the same ground we are traditionally putrid.

It's true that we rumbled them earlier in the year, but as Richmond have proven the past two seasons there's nothing that forces a fringe finals contender to take a good hard look at themselves like losing to Melbourne. Now against all odds they're a top four side, and no matter what tentative steps forward we've taken this year it was proof that any side good enough to be in the top four race with a month left is well out of our league.

It needn't have ended so brutally though. For the second week in a row I'm floating the conspiracy theory that we were set up to come out playing open and attacking football safe in the knowledge that if it all went tits up nobody would mind because we probably weren't going to win anyway but at least we'd put on a decent show. The difference was last week when it all went horribly wrong we clambered back off the ledge and launched a comeback, whereas this time we ran into a blitzkrieg of such violent force that by the time anyone realised what was happening and reacted we were a million points behind.

It's hard not to admire the Bulldogs, how can you not like a side who suffers the sort of adversity they did in the off-season and manages to bounce back in spectacular fashion instead of flopping the floor in a pile of blood, urine and half-written applications for a priority pick. Not to mention the fact that since the last time we won at Docklands Stadium they have been down, up, down and up again while we've been down, rose on a zephyr of wind around 2010/2011 then plummeted back to earth like the North banner.

 At some times this season we've been admirable too, but this was the ultimate in a team flying high running into one that has is making admiring glances towards Mad Monday. During pre-season when we played what was effectively our first choice team every week I predicted that they'd drop dead by the end of the year, but to be fair I also said that as long as they'd racked up a decent number of wins by that point it would be worth it so would be hypocritical to complain about it now.

Nor were we helped by the long awaited Salem comeback being thwarted by illness (why should he miss out on the fun everyone else had last week?) and Bail being seemingly the only person available to replace him. Then - not that it would have made much difference in the end - instead of opting for the 'last player picked is the sub' theory he was vaulted into the starting lineup. There's probably no better time of the year to throw the fringe like him, Jones and Michie out to see what happens - not to mention raw rookies who haven't yet played a solid four quarters - but in this case it backfired spectacularly. Not that Jones, Michie, Harmes and Neal-Bullen were amongst our worse, but when faced with a difficult situation rapidly deteriorating into hopelessness it was more the expendables than The Expendables.

Based on performance alone Grimes is a reasonable enough sub - as we enjoy the last declining days before the rule is shelved forever - but even if he's not the player he promised to be when we ransacked pick 16 out of Brisbane for him he would have provided better on-field leadership than some of his teammates who developed Thousand Yard Stare halfway through for the first quarter. As it was he nearly pulled of the Matthew Bate move of coming on at half time and falling into the votes for only being involved in half a debacle. Like the loopy umpiring that went against us throughout the afternoon, it hardly altered the course of the game but just contributed to the general air of farce around the afternoon.

We stuffed it up by gifting goals to them on a platter in the first few minutes, and that got them off to a flying start that they took full advantage of, but from then the upside to having to sit there and watch the apocalypse unfold in front of our eyes was that at least we were being torn to shreds by a team playing like stars. Which is at least unlike the St Kilda game means we won't roped into several thousand thinkpieces about the standard of football and why Gerard Healy thinks we should change every second rule so he can have more satisfaction as a neutral.

It was like we decided to try and beat them in a pace battle despite a major disadvantage in speedy players, and that went about as well as you'd expect. We might have the first goal through Harmes but his rushed snap missed to the left, and from then it was a first half procession the likes of which we haven't seen since a certain unfortunate August day in Geelong. Usually

How bad was it? If there was one of those moving lines they have in swimming that shows the world record pace...
... we'd have been behind 186 from 1.51 in the first quarter to 12.30 in the second. Fortunately while the Bulldogs are an exciting side they're no glory era Geelong.

Just by looking at the stats (and by half-time we were losing everything bar hitouts and hitouts to advantage - still love you Maximum) you'd complain about the lack of tackles, but it's not easy to lay a tackle when your opponents are dashing past you before you even realise they're in the vicinity. Or when they cleared the ball out of defence and find four spare players down the wing while we had four of our standing exactly halfway between two opponents frantically trying to work out what to do next. Fortunately for Mr M. Neeld of Tullamarine who has written in asking for a mention of his favourite stat there were also plenty of attempted tackles where an arm was despairingly thrown out in the hope of jarring the ball free/looking like they were making an effort.

It was such an odd game that after personally handing over three goals in the first quarter as part of his cover of Nathan Carroll's thwarted 2006 All-Australian campaign, McDonald ended up being one of our better players. How can a defender give away three goals that basically kill a side off and still (spoiler alert) sneak into the votes? Only at Melbourne.

Speaking of three goals in the first quarter, Congratulations to Jarrad Grant on becoming the latest inductee to the Kingsley/Wilkes Society of crap footballers who have a memorable day out against us after doing bugger all before. He'll be delivering the Brad Dick Lecture at this year's commemorative dinner after ending a run of games without more than one game stretching back to Round 20, 2013 by plundering three goals from us in the first quarter. Only the most depraved Demon loyalists had turned up to see this in person, but if he'd gone on to kick nine then the crowd for our last game of the year back at this infernal venue against GWS would have been lucky to crack four figures - forget about losing by 100 that would have done more than anything to tear a gaping hole in the side of the good ship Melbourne.

The domination was such that it's impossible to pick out any highlights that don't involve the Bulldogs running a training drill around up to 18 bright white traffic cones. It was yet another example in a long line over the last few years of us not showing up to play until the game was nearly gone - or in this case shot through like Bonnie & Clyde - and if you didn't know better you'd think that somebody involved is sexually aroused by watching Melbourne trying to overthrow a five goal deficit. All of a sudden we're the AFL's #1 auto-asphyxiation fanatics, only finding getting a result truly satisfying if it involves nearly dying in the act. Sadly, like many stranglewank enthusiasts, we're eventually found gagged, bound and in a compromising position.

The domination was total, to the point where it looked unlikely that we'd ever be able to keep the ball long enough to get a decent chance at a goal. That's almost the last insult waiting for us, being the first team in 50 years to fail to kick a goal - and more likely than not just to rub it in we'll do it indoors rather than knee deep in alluvial soil on a dilapidated suburban ground.

Metres gained is the razzle dazzle stat of the year, and at one point in the second quarter they were a full kilometre in front of us. Which is no surprise considering that they were heaving forward at a rapid rate while we were generally kicking backwards or straight into an opposition player, but damning nonetheless. Like inside 50's it's a completely useless metric if none of the kicks hit the target, but in this case the only question was which of five free Bulldogs players would you like to aim it at.

For every metre they gained I'd have lost a minute off my life, except that it was so ridiculous that when not screaming blue murder I was almost laughing at the absurdity of it all. At one point they got a goal courtesy of a textbook but in no way difficult shephard on the wing - later we were exactly the same position but instead of putting on a block for his teammate a Demon who shall not be named (why single out one when The Spencil is the only person who has regularly made the effort in the last two years?) tried to run forward to receive a two metre handball but never got it because the ball-carrier was under so much pressure than he completely flubbed it. That's something we don't even do properly when playing well, what hope did we have in a game where our players were so lost that somebody should have fired off a marine distress flare midway through the second quarter.

We finally managed to slow them down, breaking even at two goals each in the last 15 minutes. Just to make sure you knew you were watching Melbourne we even managed to concede one as an exclamation mark right at the end of the quarter. Was it after the siren? I can't remember, I think I had my head in my hands at the time.

At just over 10 goals the difference at half time we were still staring down the barrel of a massive loss, but halting the landslide made sure that the 186 world record line shot off into the distance where it couldn't be caught. Which was comforting, and left us just playing to avoid a 27th defeat by over 100 points - and what would have been the 9th in a decade as well as five other defeats of 90 plus.

Then the Bulldogs temporarily decided they'd done enough and ludicrously enough conceded five goals to nil for the third quarter. It was much like their game earlier in the year when they'd blown a 50 point lead against St Kilda, but they had such a massive buffer that there was absolutely no hope of the greatest comeback in all of league history. They could afford to trot around for a quarter and allow us to temporarily pretend we weren't an impediment on the competition.

In its way it was an enjoyable quarter, but even knowing the Dogs were letting us roam free I couldn't truly enjoy it because it seemed ridiculous to be in that situation after the totally inept half before it. I was already sick of playing terrible football and only coming of the game with credit with a futile death-or-glory comebacks, but the fact that we'd left it so that there was no chance of victory just made me angry. Not that angry though, it was all just so stupid that I sat there with what I expect was a bemused look on my face pondering my life choices. The one thing I enjoyed other than the goals was Tom McSizzle suddenly turning into an around-the-ground ruckman and doing a pretty good job of it. He'll never replace the SME in my heart (once more available, not sure where he'd fit in next to Maximum but what a homecoming it would be) but it's good to have as many versatile players as possible.

Naturally after dragging ourselves back into respectability we gave away a shot late in the quarter, and I don't know what I was thinking but when he missed it part of me thought it was a good thing because it kept us in it. The Chris Sullivan Line only applies to leads held by the MFC (and when did we last start a final quarter 48+ points up anyway?) but it gave me some comfort that we were within the greatest margin I'd ever seen the Dees stuff up.

After seeing us fall to pieces in the last 15 minutes against North when they finally broke our back it was foolish in the extreme to expect anything other than another violent crumble, and there were no surprises. Perhaps I didn't expect it to be a repeat of the first quarter where we looked completely hapless. The idea of using up all your energy in a comeback is fine if it's built on manic pressure but it didn't look to me like we were doing anything out of the ordinary in the third quarter so I refuse to put them coming out looking like they'd spent three-quarter time being mauled by a bear down to simply running out of gas.

Surely nobody, no matter how optimistic could have given us a chance of running them down having been 74-2 behind, and our attempt at pulling off the AFL's equivalent of the Fine Cotton affair unravelled in the last term when the real MFC reappeared, crawling to the line like they'd spent three-quarter time being mauled by a bear. Maybe they were all 'ill' again like last week? Which is why we only made one enforced change, and one late change instead of rotating some new faces in.

At least we got a couple of minutes of enjoyment before being completely steamrolled. Fortunately for Jack Watts only friends, family and the most criminally insane Melbourne supporters were still watching (if they were ever) so he should avoid being singled out and chased down the street more than usual for playing a direct hand in the two early goals which set Footscray off on their merry way. The first came via a Hollywood style over the head handball as we streamed down the ground, the second from a flat out rank kick across the defensive 50 and straight into the waiting arms of a gleeful Bulldog who couldn't quite believe his luck. (UPDATE - It has since been suggested that it was Hogan who did the handball, I'm sure it was the other way around I'd suffered such a severe concussion-by-association that it might have been Andy Lovell when it's all said and done)

That was it, Hogan kicked a goal which is always welcome, Garland continued to exhibit body language (don't bother trying to read the face) suggesting he's mentally checked out of the MFC and the Dogs ended with another five goals in a row in the face of scant resistance.

It ended in the most appropriate fashion, with Jeremy Howe steadfastly refusing to rush the ball under pressure and instead trying to find the line like a rugby league player and rightfully being nabbed for holding the ball and a goal. I'll believe the suggestions that he's now a chance to stay when I see a signature on paper, and I don't expect he'll stay anyway so that'll do for him as a Melbourne player in my books. What better way for a player who debuted in mid-2011 to end an MFC career strung out across dozens of disasters than to be involved in a massive blunder. It's been a nice run. His screamers will look nice somewhere else, and some of them might come with the scoreboard not showing his side a million points behind.

When they finally bulldoze the House of Horrors they'll find the corpse of the Melbourne Football Club putrefying under the thin layer of 'grass' atop the car park roof. It's one thing for teams to have lengthy losing streaks at grounds, but at this place Watts and Garland are now 0-14, Jetta 0-13, Grimes 0-11 and McKenzie 0-10. At least Nathan Jones has one win to go alongside his 24 defeats.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Former tagging sensation and future delistee Jordie McKenzie famously came out of 186 with a well deserved five votes despite the generally vile scenes unfolding around him, but this time I would have quite happily given out zero votes if it wasn't for the integrity of the competition.

---- Undeserved even in regular circumstances ----
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Daniel Cross
---- Even less deserved, and risking censure ----
3 - Tom McDonald
2 - James Harmes
---- Throwing names in the air and seeing where they land ----
1 - Matt Jones (!?!)

There are no apologies for obvious reasons but Hogan was in the raffle for the last spot just because goals are still an amazing novelty when you score as little as we do. He didn't do anything else though, which wasn't entirely his fault but you can't go around handing out votes just because players are surrounded by shithouse teammates.

Leaderboard
Unbelievable scenes as Jack Viney's hot end of season form sees him draw level at the top. What fortune to pocket five votes in a slopfest while Vince was anonymous. McDonald also extremely lucky to poll, but he's not going to say no to falling into the votes for want of other reasonable candidates because it's kept his insurgent Jakovich campaign alive. The line knocks Brayshaw and Watts out of the running this week, and both Hogan and Jones could follow if the top two poll heavily.

In the minors there's no major movement, I'm happy to declare Gawn the provisional winner of the Stynes because the only way he can lose now is if Jamar or Spencer show up and bash out three straight BOG performances - and for those two just getting a game would be like winning awards. Hogan could seal the Hilton next week, but even if he doesn't vote I think Brayshaw has run out of gas and is unlikely to poll eight or more in the next three weeks. Feel the excitement, it might be the only MFC related activity worth following over the next three weeks.

35 - Bernie Vince, Jack Viney
33 - Tom McDonald (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Nathan Jones
25 - Jesse Hogan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
-----------------------------------------
17 - Angus Brayshaw, Jack Watts
15 - Daniel Cross, Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett
7 - Chris Dawes, Dom Tyson
6 - Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland
3 - Viv Michie
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, James Harmes, Jeremy Howe, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Lynden Dunn, Mark Jamar, Matt Jones, Ben Newton, Jake Spencer


A real late season slopfest. Ours was ok, theirs was another from the long line of gags so corny that the stars of vaudeville would refuse to deliver them. Dees win for being solid and old fashioned rather than modern and trendy. Also note the Dogs banner featured a curtain which is an instant DQ. The banner for the women's game was another triumph for minimalism over avante garde bullshit and gives us a dual victory, taking the side to 21-1-0 for the year - with an almost certain win against GWS in the last round.

Matchday Experience Watch
The Bulldogs put on the sort of carnival atmosphere that you can only get with a club who are collectively having the time of their life riding an enormous wave which could crash at any time. It reminds me of us in 1998, and who am I to deny anybody else that sort of beautiful season. They're going so well they've even taken the opportunity to brand all the nanny state big screen messages about not running on the field or throwing a house brick at the umpire.

The only advantage to Etihad Stadium over the MCG is that you can walk around the full perimeter of the ground level without having to produce any sort of pass or credentials. It's a good way to work off the rancid, floppy hot dog you're likely to nervously eat at half time. When I had to push through crowds 10 deep at one end of the ground I initially thought it was the queue for last minute "Oh shit, I didn't think we were going to be any good" finals ticket memberships, but as it was the Bulldogs were taking advantage of being one of the few clubs to sport a domesticated animal as a mascot and allowing fans to pat an actual dog. Thrilling stuff for the kids I'm sure, but not as much as supporting a side who can put bottom level teams to the sword.

The dog was walked onto the ground pre-game, and sadly failed to provide the ultimate in crowd engagement by humping the leg of a boundary umpire or delivering a withering verdict on the stadium by punching out a log. Four humans in dog suits were then introduced to mild applause, but none of them did anything interesting either. I spent half-time lined up for said rancid hot dog and sadly missed seeing them have a dance competition or appearing on Pal Superfoods Dry Hump Cam.

Crowd Watch
Footballing reasons aside my views on Docklands have softened recently, but the ultimate downside to the place remains how hard it is to get away from people. I had to move twice to get away from having Bulldogs fans sitting directly behind me, and still wound up having to listen to a family who showed up right before the bounce until I could get away.

They were reasonable people, not unnecessarily triumphant or aggrieved by our offensive exasperation but I never knew how much I wanted an interchange cap to be introduced and set at one until yesterday afternoon when one of the kids spent the first half paying more interest in the digital signage listing who was on the bench than the match itself. Never mind that his team were busy delivering the sort of ball-bursting performance that he's never likely to see in his life again, he was more fascinated about Lin Jong sitting down. Far be it from me to mock anyone for having an interest in obscure football topics (related - this week marks six years of Demonwiki), but if that was my kid I'd have told him to hush up and enjoy the juggernaut.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Even though he nearly stuffed it up several times it's hard to go past Dawes' goal when he attempted to run in, then attempted to run his defender and then when he'd run himself into trouble twice decided to boot it over his head instead.

I noted with interest a Footscray defender frantically claiming he'd touched it when the subsequent video replay showed that he was nowhere near. I'm not suggesting he would attempt to rort the system and try and claim such a thing when 10 goals in front, but he must have felt such a vicious gust of wind that it tricked him into thinking it had brushed his fingers. Remember when Mick Malthouse called Addam Maric a cheat in similar circumstances? I would never be so rude.

Garlett still leads the overall race for his goal against the Dogs the first time around. Three weeks left for somebody to deliver a moment of champagne football to snatch it away from him.

Stat My Bitch Up
Apparently Footscray's score was the greatest in the history of VFL/AFL football for a team that had a goalless quarter, which puts us on the end of yet another unwanted (albeit extremely obscure) record.

The good news is that the only other time in history we've lost by 98 it was followed by 10 wins from the next 11 on a run to the grand final so perhaps we're enter a team in the Sheffield Shield this season and win that?

Our 11th score of 60 or less from 19 appearances this year saw our points-per-game drop to 71.6. We're still marginally ahead of Essendon (+18), Carlton (+21) and Brisbane (+40) in points scored, what a time to be alive.

The Merchandise Table
Just when it looked like we were going to get a new logo in 2016 the club has denied it, which is a shame. When we registered the Schwab Shield they ran riot trying to get everyone to stop posting it, and I thought the reason they hadn't done similar this time is because the people now in charge understand how the internet works but obviously not.

The current logo is more divisive than Jack Watts, and while I've never been as down on it as most it represents the apex of the #fistedforever era and as such I'll be happy to see the back of it as soon as possible. How apt that that its creator it has received new life on the same weekend as an on-field disaster.

If the official denials were an attempt to throw people off the scent and this was suddenly unveiled in a glittering ceremony later in the year I'd be happy with it. Not sure it would draw a dime, but what would when you've got a team playing like they did yesterday? The proof that you can flog anything if it's connected to a winning side is demonstrated by Hawthorn's toilet coloured logo featuring a diseased chicken being splashed across $3 million of merchandise last year.

In an ideal world even if it did happen we'd roll out a merchandise/kid friendly Demon as well. As the article linked to above notes, Australian teams don't tend to have secondary logos like US sides but if there's ever been a time to start this is it. What they've come up with for whatever reason is nice, fluffy, corporate and reminds everyone we're pioneers of the sport but try selling that to the kids. It's nearly impossible to strike the balance between 'fearsome' and 'comedic' when creating a demon/devil logo but I'd love to see us have a go.

Maybe the classic logo is part of the President's push towards being the local franchise of the New York Yankees. Sadly our only connection to them at this point is that we're run like the famous Steinbrenner/Costanza era.


Rocky VII: Adriane's Revenge
Luke Beveridge looks startlingly like Sylvester Stallone after the good times had passed and he'd started making surprisingly lucrative skin flicks with Sharon Stone.

Next Week
... is not the dead-set certainty that it seemed the night before. The Blues play GWS (probable loss) and Hawthorn (certain loss even if the Hawks have nothing to play for) so there's no doubt they're going throw absolutely everything at us in the hope of breaking through for one last victory.

I'm not suggesting any team would ever try to lose (because.. well you remember), but you feel Carlton's management are probably satisfied with how many wins they've had this season. Not that the players will give a shit, so I expect to see any random player they can find getting a game on Sunday. It helps our cause that most of their second choice players are injured, but all that means is that some anonymous Irishman will probably turn up on Sunday and rumble us.

It's about 900 days since we've started favourite and won, and as much as you'd like to think their loss to Brisbane which sent them to the bottom of the ladder on percentage would mean that some real $500k value Tankquiry action was likely next week you can't convince me the Blues players have enough spirit left to involve themselves in any sort of shenanigans before they're all either delisted or traded en masse. The problem is that as much as Carlton fans might want them to pack up and enjoy the top pick in the draft they're so off-chops at the moment that they're just as likely to come out and win, so for the love of god let's strangle them before they even think of getting their tails up.

I just need this victory to confirm that we are better than the bottom three, we can work on the top four next season, just tick off the last victory against the total garbage sides for the year and we can at least take that into the off-season. Surely beating Brisbane, Carlton and Gold Coast is all we'll need to lure the biggest and best free agents next season. Perhaps not...

Casey were as always crap, Mitch White was the best on ground so any danger of throwing somebody else onto the long term injury list to give him a go? Probably not, so I'll be tremendously boring with my changes instead. Best not get too cute against a side with a broken spirit, let's just get in, make them humble and take four points no matter how dirty.

IN: Riley, Jamar, Salem
OUT: Jetta (inj), Bail, Howe (omit)
LUCKY: Lumumba (has been ordinary), Garland (will hold on for a signature for one more week), Brayshaw (tired - get him through next week then pack him away for the season), M. Jones (can't give somebody votes then try to drop them, Carlton right at his level next week then Casey forever)
UNLUCKY: Fitzpatrick (suddenly a forward again and kicked four for Casey. More a last fortnight of the season specialist with one goal from a handball into the square against Freo when we're 80 points down), Terlich (it has been alleged this week that he's actually contracted for next year, if true then we should punch our list manager in the head but may as well actually play the guy), Newton (got plenty of it at Casey but I prefer the violent stylings of Riley in a danger game against an even worse side than us)

Was it worth it?
Not in the slightest, I had better things to do and pushed them aside to venture to the city and enjoy this total gash. The only even remotely beneficial aspect was to provide content when the conversational topic is the most bizarre games you've ever seen in person. Just to top it all off while walking from the ground it turns out I had to go to work at 5.30 this morning - if I'd tipped the car over on the way home it would have completed the hat-trick.

Final Thoughts
It's all gone sour to the point where I'm almost entirely convinced the 6-6-6 McIntyre Number of the Beast system for fixturing the last few rounds is a good idea. Ask me again after we lose to Carlton next week, but for now the idea of running out the season with a few competitive games featuring players galore desperately trying to save their careers is appealing.

2 comments:

  1. Being a Demon fan in Texas (and this week Barbados) I always look forward to your updates. Keep up the good work, it really does convey what being a Melbourne supporter is really like (good natured resignation).

    Loved the 1998 season references, what a beautiful and barnstorming season it was...

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  2. Negative? Us? Given that I've been supporting Melbourne since before Roos was born and that we haven't won a premiership since he turned one, why would we be critical of the results achieved by our playing and coaching groups? Given that competitive sport is sometimes about winning, why can't we be more positive? What a stupid thing for Roos to say! He should be in awe of the fact that we still care enough to be depressed and apologise for his comparative lack of success to date. Having got that off my chest, off to Etihad for GWS. Do not let me down.

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