Sunday 2 August 2015

Take off your pants and jacket

Odd week for football, average week for race relations, great week for sweeping bad news under the rug. Say there was a club who couldn't properly execute a 20m kick and they wanted everyone to talk about something else, any other week you'd be stuffed. This week the furore caused by West Australians making noises like constipated cows whenever Adam Goodes went near the ball, and many ordinary attempts at justifying everyone's 'right' to join in, ensured that Carlton, Melbourne AND Brisbane all managed to avoid anyone seriously asking the question of "what the fuck were you thinking?"

Thanks to Melbourne winning I'll spare you from a Roos-esque distraction piece where I waffle on about social issues without actually getting anywhere, but let's just say that even if you remove race from the potential reasons why you might show up and 'boo' Adam Goodes it just boils down to whether or not you've got the right to act like a hurtful, anti-social arsehole to a fellow human being - and that's not a great place to be.

It's hard to take the moral high-ground on these matters after being involved in this, but at least when you have the good manners to use words then people can judge your actions without the need for endless debates and think pieces. The nearest thing to a personal connection I have with Adam Goodes is that I was completely confused when he was involved in the three-way Brownlow tie because I'd spent the afternoon ripping cones but he's a human and a human who is obviously feeling the weight of being treated like a criminal for one of many poorly defined reasons. Continuing to 'boo' him does not necessarily make you a racist, but it does make you a cruel bastard.

In itself the practice is 'harmless', but if your kid went to school and was followed around all day by people booing them wherever they went you'd storm into the Principal's office and tip a table over. The argument that his actions on or off-field justify it is bizarre, and that standard is applied with the consistency of a holding the ball decision. I hope those of you who spent the week furiously justifying your god-given 'right to boo' didn't go hoarse hooting at Dane Swan (kicked the suitcase out of a cleaner), Marley Williams (broke somebody's jaw in a pub) or Taylor Adams (biffed a nightclub patron). Lucky their answer to Barlow and Chambers weren't out there or the moral compass would spun out of control.

Not that I'm suggesting any of them should have copped similar treatment, because for one they've all been judged by courts and secondly if you're over the age of nine no matter what the circumstances are booing makes you sound like a candidate for electric shock therapy. Whether you're losing your rag over a player, an umpire of the quality of chips at the MCG just take a moment to think about how you're rejecting thousands of years of development of the English language and expressing your displeasure by making an indeterminate noise. Even the word is open to ridicule, can't we at least find a sensible name to describe this practice? If we can't say 'king hit' any more surely there's something for which removes "boo" and inserts "dickhead".

You can't legislate against it without going well over the top, and even when the original point has been lost some people will push this to the limit for the rest of his career just to prove that they can, but here's to a bit of humanity breaking out. There's fat chance of that, so as nothing's more enjoyable than people you violently disagree with being sad here's to the Swans somehow coming back to win the flag. Your views may vary, and the best of old, white establishment British luck to you if they do but when you find yourself on the same side of an argument as A. Jones, Panahi, Devine, Akermanis and Bolt then it's probably time to reinvestigate where you're at.

After all the hot-takes in the world an 11-year-old kid summed it up.

He'll be leaning over the fence calling Jeremy Howe a cove next season but at least his heart is in the right place now. But you've not come on here for lengthy discussions about reconciliation, you've come to enjoy the continuing story of the Melbourne Football Club nudging me towards a mental breakdown. Well stiff shit, that project has been temporarily halted due to hurricane force gusts of magic in the Jolimont area.

Beating mid-table teams is what we do best, but after the grim reaper was spotted removing a vest late in last week's game it seemed unlikely that we'd be able to take advantage of Collingwood's ordinary form. One day I'd love to come out and topple a big side, but we're still in "take it where you can get it" territory for now so anything will do.

The fall-out from last week's dull, inspiration free slopfest was such that when Roos was quoted as claiming we were still a "destination" club it was like calling Mt Donna Buang a "destination snowfield". At the time the idea that anyone would want to join us was ridiculous, now after rolling one undermanned 11th placed side doing their best impression of us playing without a forward line in 2012-13 it seems plausible that everyone from Dion Prestia to Englebert Humperdink would want to join us. That's being a Melbourne supporter for you, we swing wildly from one end of the scale to the other on a weekly basis. Next week we'll lose and be linked to some VFL reserves players.

There are many great things to come out of this victory, but it won't come as a surprise to discover that my favourite bit was when we started leading and kicking to said lead. We must have done it more this week than for the entire season until now combined. Thank god too, because on Friday night I saw a kick/lead by two Hawthorn players that would make you slide off your seat no matter what the prevailing atmospheric conditions. The kicker (no interest in who he actually was) was on a dead angle against the boundary when a teammate (Gunston? Dunstall? Don't care) ran at him, took a mark and a goal resulted. Didn't help them in the end but they'll still win the flag. In the same situation we'd have hoofed the ball towards the square and hoped for the best, which is works once or twice a fortnight or when Hogan can get one-on-one with a defender but is one dimensional and often ends with the ball being rocketed down the other end for a goal.

Demanding that we be more like Hawthorn is to be one of the people who can't understand why we don't have Japanese style bullet trains between Glen Waverley and Flinders Street, but I'm glad somebody was paying attention to either the defending premiers or this blog (probably the latter) because god forbid yesterday saw a Melbourne forward line with space to move and midfielders who were happy to kick the ball to them.

Didn't last four quarters, but did enough to lay the foundation for great things. If we'd played the same game as last week both Jesse Hogan and I would have had a nervous breakdown. Until yesterday the best kick to a lead all year was from The Spencil, and the best lead to a short kick from inside 50 was from Tom McDonald in the last quarter against Essendon while acting with the most significant element of surprise since Pearl Harbour.

I'm torn between winning (marginally) more games than last year and having to play ugly to achieve it. Last year there was no doubt that harsh austerity measures were required to pull us back from the void, but at times this year it's seemed that we were just being boring for the sake of it. It was hard to draw a line between the good times of Kardinia Park and the three weeks in a row of scoring 60 followed by a 46 for good measure. Of course we looked better yesterday because we won, but having an open forward line and being able to hit targets by foot or hand more than once in a row helped. We were also assisted by the Pies having accidentally wiped the St Kilda game off their IQ and not realising that we'd fold like a house of cards under pressure.

Our early momentum could easily have been snuffed out if the Pies had done their homework or taken their chances. We were ripe to have the life squeezed out of us but they never seriously tried. Their non-forward line got an early boost with Howe being unfairly pinged for a throw after handballing it. Fasolo missed and failed to take proper advantage of his weird match-up against McDonald, but fortunately this week when it was clear that something was going against us we made appropriate changes and kept him under reasonable control for the rest of the game.

It seemed odd that against a side who are world standard at playing the mediocre into form that they would drop Jesse White, and after watching them struggle to find any decent targets inside 50 all day the idea looks even worse now. They also dropped the guy who took 300 intercept marks against us on Queen's Birthday so thanks for that too Bucks. Then there was Jamie Elliot arrogantly selected as sub because he wasn't fit enough to play four quarters (as demonstrated when a first gamer was vaulted into the starting line-up after a late withdrawal) because they thought they were going to give him a training run once the game was well won. Sucked in.

They could have easily put us away early if capable. It wasn't just the missed opportunity at goal but their general attack on the ball. If there's any team that you can put away in the first few minutes it's us, but Gawn was dominating the ruck and we were winning the contested possessions easily. They allowed Watts all the time in the world to get his confidence up by delivering Vince's first goal on a platter and we were off to the races.

Having watched several (hundred) teams over the years that weren't 'on' you could see that Collingwood were 'off'. Not sure if they just expected to roll up and turn us over on the back of all the 'honourable losses' they'd had in the last few weeks, but playing like us was taking it a step too far. Our kick-ins have actually been reasonable recently (even though 90% of them involving Dunn thumping it as far as possible), so how much did you love when they botched one, allowing Garland to spoil and Hogan to turn around and snap his first? Equally how much did you love the big finger point of acknowledgement by Jesse afterwards? As far as his finger pointing repertoire goes I also enjoy the way he arranges the other forwards - remember it's his first senior year - like a true leader. Any trade that we can broker which ends with another tall forward going to the Dockers so they stop even thinking about him would be highly beneficial.

They should have got that goal back immediately but missed the opportunity and continued to kick in Peg Leg Pete fashion for the rest of the day. Nobody gives a goal back faster than us, and how many times has it happened this year with the backup ruckman in the middle? I'm not blaming Dawes in this situation because it's not his key strength, and I'm not as down on him as some but I would really like Cameron Pedersen to make his surprise comeback soon. Even better, go out and get a real ruck/forward like Charlie Dixon to fit in behind Maximum in the ruck pecking order and alongside Hogan in the forward line.

The Pies were playing really badly, hilariously trying a short pass inside the forward 50 that went about eight metres and ended up being punted out on the full only for us to go down the other end, find five players on their own inside 50 and end with Garlett kicking his first. They were winning the clearances but so what, that was about as good as it got for them. We were playing much closer to the spirit of Kardinia Park than any of the gash that had followed in the next few weeks. If Tyson had kicked a relatively easy set-shot in the last 30 seconds it would have twisted the knife on them, but the way he's going this year we should just be happy that he didn't find a way to get pinged for holding the ball.

It was an encouraging start, but the difference between a lowly side playing above themselves and a good (well, average at least) side playing below is that there's usually only one way for both teams to go. Not only are we masters of following up a reasonable first quarter with a shithouse second but I just felt that when they stopped playing like us we'd get overtaken and eventually relative class would win out. At least if we were going to fold we were making them earn it by laying a series of violent, mean-spirited tackles. No wonder we were stuffed by the end of the third quarter but all's well that ends well. Even Watts, who looked like a completely different person compared the guy who didn't fancy it last week, laid a bump which hurt an opponent - temporarily at least. What manner of evil was this?

As predicted normal service resumed for the first 15 minutes of the second quarter. We blew a couple of opportunities in the opening minutes, but after taking all those marks inside 50 in the first term reverted to type and looked second rate. They got their second goal handed on a platter by Gawn finally coming a cropper taking massive defensive marks, but it's easy to forgive him considering all the good he's done recently. Even when he nearly killed Garland in another marking contest shortly after it's impossible to get upset at a ruckman so intent on getting the ball - so keen to be part of the contest. Jamar has been a warrior over the years but Maximum is the modern upgrade. Now for god's sake somebody sit down and give him a contract with a substantial number on it.

Despite wasting numerous opportunities they got in front quickly enough, and we went back into our shell. No matter what happened from there at least this time we'd played freely from the first bounce instead of waiting until we were four or five goals down. Fortunately Collingwood couldn't sustain it, and after dragging themselves into the lead they shut up shop and allowed us to first steady then to kick the last two goals of the quarter.

Everything about us seemed more adventurous, I loved seeing Garlett in the centre bounce more often this week instead of waiting to use him in case of an emergency and I swear there was a centre bounce in the third quarter where Hogan ran through and caused carnage. There must have been a deliberate move to open things up, and I'm not sure if it worked because Collingwood failed to apply pressure, because of great tactics or because the coaches thought we were going to lose anyway and thought "Let's give them attacking football so when we get thrashed it'll be proven as a bad idea". I hope it was the last one and our solid defensive performance came in spite of it.

Harry O seemed popular with the Pies fans. Never mind that the same people will be queueing down the street to get photos with him at a premiership reunion one day, but I'd have thought this week might have been a reasonable time to temporarily lay off targeting individual players. Anyone who follows the game knows why he was getting the treatment but you can imagine the confusion when a visitor or non-fan tuned in out of curiosity after the events of the week just to see 20,000 people loudly booing a black man. It obviously had more to do with his falling out with Buckley than merely leaving because nobody seemed to mind Chris Dawes, which is ironic because most of them will fall out with the coach as well by the end of the year if they haven't already.

Garlett also found himself on the end of 'scenes' after celebrating a goal in the vicinity of their cheersquad with an indigenous shimmy. Unfortunately the borderline incapable people sitting there must not have televisions or access to the news media because they seemed to think it had even the slightest thing to do with them or their club. Admittedly he could have done it at the other end when he kicked a goal in similar circumstances during the first quarter, but even then it was hardly the most provocative gesture of our time. It looked more like a goalkeeper doing the wobbly legs during a penalty shootout. Not that you'd know from the numbskulls commentating (Anthony Hudson is excused because he retained a dignified silence) who treated it like he'd dared opposition supporters to leap the fence and engage in hand-to-hand combat.

Just to prove that they don't just have issues with people of colour and are merely disagreeable individuals who haven't come to terms with losing games of football Jack Watts copped a battering late in the game too, but that's probably more to do with the fact that he had unexpectedly brained them all day.

Much to the delight of the nuffies behind the goals Jeff (never, ever Jeffy) stuffed up a chance shortly afterwards but their own side continued to spurn good chances at a rapid rate so we were able to keep them out for the rest of the quarter. Then after we'd enjoyed the sight of Watts wandering through several hapless defenders before missing, we nicked one ourself through vandenBerg (who bounced back nicely from the James Magner Mature Age Rookie Death Vortex) thanks to the umpire giving us pretty much the only favour of the first three quarters by completely ignoring Jack Viney dropping the ball in the lead-up.

AVB also lifted spirits before half time by poleaxing Pendlebury. He showed his gentlemanly side by apologising but perhaps that wasn't enough to defuse tensions because the two teams paid tribute to the very recently deceased Rowdy Roddy Piper by engaging in one of those fake "flying the flag" fights at half time. The sort of 'brawl' that achieves nothing other than giving the AFL the chance to collect a few thousand dollars which will later find their way back to us in a bailout. The only people who didn't think it was fake were Nathan Jones when he started it and Jack Viney who flew in and tried to kill a few people. Bless him.

Ahh Jones, what a man. How about the look of joy on his face when it all cleared up and he realised he'd caused carnage. He must know that he's only $2250 short of being the most fined MFC player ever and is trying to hit the lead by Round 23. He should have done it before June 30 and claimed a tax deduction. When all is said and done we will build a statue of him, and it will become football's version of Jim Morrison's grave.

You'd have thought that some stage-managed violence would have been enough to fire the Pies up, especially Travis Varcoe who was taking it just as badly you'd expect from somebody who has traded flags galore for a life of mid-table mediocrity, but apparently not. By our standards 41 is a good score at half time, but I was still terrified that we'd only manage 55 by the final siren. It's not like us to play four reasonable quarters, but we soon picked up where we'd left off.

Once we got the first goal of the third quarter I'd have thought it might be time to throw caution to the wind after five straight losses and introduce Elliot, but fortunately Buckley was treating the sub with a conservatism Roos would be proud of. It took two more goals to convince them, and when he eventually came on he was good but if he wasn't capable of doing it all day they were just taking the piss out of us by selecting him.

Everything was coming up Melbourne. We even managed to get a goal straight back after they'd kicked one. This is something that usually never happens for us, and of course it had to be Bernie Vince. Every day he gains on Troy Longmuir to Pick 19 to Brad Green as the all-time greatest final result for a Melbourne trade. Then Watts snapped one and party time started approaching rapidly.

Still thought we'd lose, and I tried to lift the spirits of my companion the noted Twitter shockjock @amul82 by telling him this but he wasn't buying it. And rightfully so as it turns out, but I think he was secretly enjoying losing because it fit his virulent anti-Buckley stance. In any case even if we were to win it seemed highly unlikely that we'd manage it without complications. Four goals is a great head start, but we go to sleep and wipe that off in a couple of minutes.

The comeback may have been my fault for thinking (but not saying) that they didn't have enough in them to beat us. Then they launched their second comeback. While we did eventually win quite easily it didn't look that way when Gawn was dying in the arse at a rapid rate, Dawes was expending air like a deflated North Melbourne banner and the rest of the team had switched from running around them in circles to standing still with hands on hips looking like they were about to keel over.

After they kicked two in quick succession we did quite well to lock it up until three quarter time. They should have had another, but fortunately Dane Swan's kick when streaming out of the centre went wide. Our defence did some fantastic work in these few minutes, the only time since the first quarter that they were seriously challenged by anything approaching a competent forward line.

Elliot also had a chance, and by this time Maximum looked like he'd need to be hooked up to an oxygen tank at three-quarter time. The problem was that not only did it look like we were gassing him beyond repair with 30 minutes of football left, but because the fact he couldn't lift himself off the ground any more was ruining our usual get out kick from defence. I can see why they didn't want to use Dawes in the ruck while the Pies had momentum, but we needed to get Howe or similar out wide to kick at. It's just lucky that Max was large enough to force the ball to ground whenever it landed in his vicinity until we were saved by the bell.

There was little faith that we could hold on to an eight point lead with our players looking out of gas and the Pies playing for their season. I'm still not sure how we no only managed to hold on but to win running away. Either Roos delivered his greatest speech, Buckley his worst or after years of people hanging shit on him Dave Misson finally delivered the goods.

We did get a slight hand from the umpires in the last quarter. Round 17's 'Pay Everything Week' had become 'Pay Nothing Week' by Round 18 and we only had eight free kicks in the first three quarters, so if there was any time for the inevitable square ups this was it. If for no other reason we deserved plenty to make up for the tragic scene in the third quarter when Jetta was upended by a player yanking at his ankle and got done for holding the ball. The eveners certainly came, but so did gutsy performances from top to bottom.

They went forward in the first minute and if we'd conceded a goal there it might have been good night and thank you, but they only managed one more point and were a thoroughly dispirited wreck by the final siren. How we pulled this off I have no idea even after watching the replay, but I loved every second of it. As we wrecked their season it got too much for one entitled Magpie who decided to heave his jumper onto the ground in disgust. Poker Face Colin Garland picked it up without breaking facial expression and threw it away, but given that we still haven't re-signed him I'm surprised he didn't just put it on and wander off to the Pies bench. Interestingly enough when we won Garland made exactly the same face he does when we lose by 100. The man is so stone cold he'd beat a lie detector machine.

It was appropriate that Vince would kick the crucial first goal of the last quarter (set up by Viney causing the ball to spill with a beastly tackle then Brayshaw setting up the goal AND laying a shepherd in the process just to prove that we can occasionally play sexy football), then the sealer would fall to Jones after we'd wasted five minutes missing shots that would have put them away. At least all the disastrous set shots had the dual effect of running the clock down and giving all the other players a chance to stand still and recover.

I'd thought Harmes might be dropped this week, but even though he was named sub they showed faith in him and were rewarded. After coming on in the third quarter he had solid impact in the backline while we were trying to save the game, then kicked a vital goal early in the last to effectively kill them off. Just to prove he could do it anywhere around the ground he later hit a belting tackle (unrewarded) as a Collingwood player was dashing off towards goal to cancel out Jones' sealer - but it did enough to stop them scoring. Neal-Bullen, who was pretty good as well, landed a similar big hit shortly after which was rewarded and he did more than enough to show that he's worth persisting with for the rest of the year.

Without a radio handy and no idea how much time there was left I was still scared of a horrible reverse, but at the point where a two handed Dawes shove in the back right in front of goal ended up being paid as a free kick to us I knew everything was going to be ok. That broke their back, and from there we were in total control. The only downside was when Harry O had a shot and missed, because one can only imagine how he would have celebrated kicking the sealer. It would have woven in several cultures, involved a backflip and ended in a riot-provoking gesture towards the hapless Collingwood coaches box.

There was further moments of Melbourne-esque football to come. The Pies hadn't been shy about showing their support for Bachar Houli by kicking in straight down the middle all day. Not that it ever seemed to work, but their shocking kick-ins reached their apex in the last quarter when Neville Jetta was pinpointed with a pass 40 metres out. Given the circumstances of the week Nifty might have unleashed an epic celebration of his own, but instead he passed to Jones who finally killed them off with a perfectly taken set shot.

Sometimes you only see things on replay, and late in the game Dunn did the most Dunn thing ever. Even though the game was well and truly over by then Garland was taking a set shot and Our Lynden ran his opponent past then used expressive gestures to demand a 50 from the umpire. If all things were fair this is the sort of guy that opposition fans would be booing, and for that reason I love him.

I'm led to believe that as all this was going on Fox Footy's "Press Red For Ed" wankfest was turning
into a black and white misery session. Any neutral fan who had tuned in before the last quarter was probably just trying to be outraged, but I expect the entire football community came out late in the game to see them slowly unwind when they realised their season was shot and they'd lost to a bottom four side. You can't fault his record leading a football club - and a flag will make any man a king - but he's a rookie list pantomime villain at best. Who'd have thought that anyone sitting in the same room as 'Strauchnie' - the worst Australian comedy character since King Billy Cokebottle - could play a less convincing character. The good news is that he'll have plenty of time to work on his "I'm going to take Queen's Birthday off you!" supervillain while sat on his couch all September watching a Collingwood-free finals series unfold.

It's a win I never thought we'd have, and it's temporarily at least halted the idea that Carlton would go into their game against us in a few weeks thinking they were a chance, so cherish it. For all the mud slung at Roos during the week, plenty by me, he delivered the goods this week. I'd still let Goodwin have a bash at the end of the season, never mind that during the week I saw the extremely rare scenario of somebody trying to sack him as coach 14 months before he takes over. This is Melbourne, there'll be plenty of time for that in the future...

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Bernie Vince
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Jesse Hogan

Major apologies to Gawn who lost the last vote in a thriller. In a highly competitive field the next level of apologies go to (in no particular order) Cross, Dunn, Garland, Garlett, Howe, Jetta and vandenBerg. Harmes also impressive as sub, and no doubt gave McGuire a multitude of opportunities to crack gags about the bloke who cost the Pies a premiership.

Thanks to Bernard's latest BOG and the fact that there are now only 25 votes left to be won the dotted line has cut a swathe through the field, eliminating all but 11 contenders. Bad news for Mitch White but everyone below vandenBerg is now officially out of the running. We can also write off Pedersen, whose miracle recovery won't happen in time to keep him in the title race.

Bernie's now at short odds to become the second import after Brent Moloney to lift the Jakovich, but three of the top four scored votes to at least keep it interesting. Sizzle's chances of finishing on the podium are ebbing away, but he can console himself that Salem and Garland are both barely hanging on in the Seecamp race so he could go from 'provisional' to 'official' winner next Sunday afternoon.

Elsewhere Hogan inches forward towards a Hilton but could still be wiped out by one Brayshaw BOG. vandenBerg also remains in the race but would need a good run from here to trouble the big two. A reminder that to stay eligible for the award in 2016 debuting players need to start their career in the last four games of the season, so if there's any suggestion of a debut for Jayden Hunt this week he should feign a one week injury to ensure eligibility next year.

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

It can't be easy to back-up for crepe paper action in weeks where the club has just turned on a turkey of a performance, but I did enjoy the minimalist Dees banner with My Heart Beats True and the heart rate graph. It was solid, pleasingly old school and was always rotated so that all parts of the ground could enjoy it.

In opposition the Pies banner was by no means terrible. It was decently kerned and the slogan flowed well from top to bottom but ran into disaster trying to centre the last line and crashing it into the left margin. Disappointing way to suffer defeat. Dees go 18-1-0 for the season.

Matchday Experience Watch
Considering they're our financial betters, and were at the forefront of fighting the 'sterile' atmosphere at games last season I was expecting a full force razzle-dazzle Las Vegas floor show with bungee jumping from helicopters and a live rendition of Good Old Collingwood Forever by a hologram of Frank Sinatra. Instead the McMansioners delivered something only marginally more exciting than what we do for $13.50 a week - and without any sort of competition involving fans nearly crippling themselves. Sadly for those of us who showed up intent on mockery they've saved a few bucks by sacking their Support Australian Hip Hop dance troupe.

They did have a slickly produced video show that none of the members at the top of the Ponsford Stand could hear because nobody had bothered to run it through the speaker system. It featured highlights of Shane Woewodin in a Pies jumper (though oddly enough not him kicking a goal in his first Queen's Birthday against us) and a player giving the weather report. $300,000 well spent right there. According to the weather report it "felt like 9", while according to my observations it seemed the player doing it "felt like a dickhead". They might have been playing it for comedy, but it was hard to judge when you were just watching his lips move and his eyes dart about like he wanted to be anywhere else on earth.

The good news for those of us who have had concerns about the quality of our Hells Bells/Grand Old Flag megamix is that even with all the money in the world Collingwood's attempt to weld some Top 40 garbage to their theme song went even less smoothly. Also suffering some issues was the COLLINGWOOD DOMINATION - ENVY OF THE NATION banner in their cheer squad, which is fine when you're playing a trainwreck side but must have had a series of disclaimers on the back listing all the clubs that they are in no way the envy of. Surely they don't bother against Geelong and Hawthorn.

No matter which club you support everyone was able to share in the matchday experience of waiting 20 seconds for the sponsor-laden animation to loop about nine times before any goal replay. At one point it took so long to get through it that another goal was about to be kicked by the time they'd shown the last one.

Finally, before they shut down all attempts at entertainment and bunkered down for the inevitable "we lost to Melbourne" carnage we got the worst half time quiz ever. The host foolishly made a big deal about what white-line fever psychos the two contestants plucked from the cheersquad were before they proceeded to get the last three questions wrong between them. When has any half-time quiz at the MCG ever ended in somebody not getting the answers spoon-fed to them? One of them was such a huge fan that he didn't know which state one of their players had been recruited from. Maybe spend less time running down to the fence screaming "GET FUCKED" at umpires and pay some attention to the players.

Crowd Watch
When I walked in to find that everywhere up to Row AA in the Ponsford was for Collingwood members only I was terrified. Not because it meant having to sit up the back which is welcomed but because the idea of being surrounded by opposition fans in a week where race issues have been top of the agenda filled me with dread.

The last time I sat amongst these people was on a Queen's Birthday when some horribly low grade woman dropped racial slurs against her own team's players so you can see why I was apprehensive but somehow managed to draw a collection of sane and rational supporters, none of whom had even the slightest interest in king hitting me for being a Melbourne fan (club has form) or taking offence at Garlett's harmless dance. They were more concerned about the Pies going tits up, and when a shot of Buckley came on the scoreboard one of them a few rows behind said: "We've got to get rid of him".

There was a guy in the row in front of me who gave up halfway through the third quarter. Then he returned and announced that he'd left his wallet behind. I pointed out that it hadn't been stolen because there was a Melbourne fan in the vicinity but he didn't bite because he was too busy trying to get as far away from the MCG as humanely possible. Also in front of us was a kid who turned around and asked "Do you know all the Melbourne player names?" after I celebrated another big Maximum mark. Of course I do kid, I've been swearing at them all for years.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
There were a few contenders, none that can match Jones' effort last week but at least these ones contributed towards a win. I'm opting for Hogan's goal at the start of the third quarter where he flew for the pack mark then crumbed his own contest to kick off the ground. Wins like this are what will convince him to sign a 20 year deal. Offer him all the money in the world. What a tragedy that he's in the most competitive Rising Star race for years, last season he'd have won a unanimous decision.

Stat My Bitch Up
For all the whinging about defensive football we only narrowly beat our season average - lifting us to 71.41ppg - and won primarily because we stopped them (or more accurately, they stopped themselves) from kicking a decent score. At least now we've kicked a higher score than Carlton AND Brisbane, though we're still lagging behind Gold Coast which is no fun. If we scored 120 next week it would take us all the way up to the giddying heights of 76.33. No pressure.

Next Week
For a team that's won nothing in the last decade and have been notoriously prone to spazzing out against lesser clubs North have certainly had us covered. Other than that fiasco in our 'home' game at Docklands a few years ago they've managed to hold us at arms' length for the last few years without doing too much damage. Doubt we'll win, but in a battle between two of the flakiest outfits known to man anything could happen.

I'm not keen on too many changes, but after spending much of the year sooking about Michie being dropped too soon I have to admit that he's not going anywhere fast and we may as well try somebody else. I'd love to pick Salem but the VFL reports suggest he's still a bit rusty so I'll give him one more week in the 2's.

IN: Riley
OUT: Michie (omit)
LUCKY: Grimes (it feels like killing Bambi because he tries hard, and stats would show a reasonable performance but the vibe says when Salem is back at 100% he's in deep shit)
UNLUCKY: Jamar (will be best on ground again, will undoubtedly be named in the extended Thursday team. Won't get a game), Salem

Allen Jakovich Day
Every year on August 3 we celebrate the anniversary of our saviour's demolition job on North Melbourne. He kicked 11.7, one out on the full and got reported for abusing an umpire. It was a performance with it all, and part of a career that demonstrated to Melbourne supporters how it was better to burn out than to fade away. Share your favourite Jakovich memories on any social network you can find using the hashtag #jakoday, and surely somebody somewhere flicking through Twitter on their phone from the bottom of a copper mine in Zimbabwe will turn to their colleague and say "Allen? Is this you?" Then he will return to a heroes welcome and we'll have 80,000 members overnight.

Meanwhile, why not take some time out of your day to watch his greatest day in its entirety:

Was it worth it?
For obvious reasons yes, but also for the opportunity to live out Cameron Schwab's dream and don a sensible private school blazer in MFC colours. I never minded them as much as some, but it's a gimmick that would be near impossible to get over at a club going as badly as ours so it's no surprise that buried deep in the auction items flogged on the website last week were a collection of the blazers in sizes big and small. I went for the largest size possible, made the mistake of thinking I was doing an Ebay style bid where you only have to pay your maximum if somebody pushes you to it and ended up paying $86 for the opportunity to do this photo. Money well spent.
Somebody who was superstitious would wear it every week until we lost, but I'm a hard hearted realist and know that there's no voodoo strong enough to help us win two games in a row so the smoking jacket now goes in the cupboard to be dragged out for novelty occasions and grand finals only.

Final Thoughts
No point acting like we've turned the corner, because we've been going around in circles on like this all season. They don't have to win next week as long as they can move the ball in reasonable fashion and put in a decent performance against a finals contender.

We've managed to knock off +2500 day losing streaks against Collingwood, Geelong and Kardinia Park this season - 3270 days without beating North is the next cab off the rank. If we win that I might believe that better things are in our near future, but until then I will remain cautiously pessimistic. We're four games off the bottom and have helped tipped the Pies into turmoil, that will do me nicely for now.


  1. I am a little surprised that you've not been mentioning the ongoing train wreck that is Essendon.
    There's a very good chance you'll finish above them this season which has to be taken as a win. I understand your hard times have gone on for rather longer than theirs, but there must be some satisfaction to be had in watching J. Hird's face in the coaches box deep into the fourth quarter of most of Essendon's games this year.
    I've enjoyed it, and I think most football fans do too.

    1. If we hadn't lost to them it would have been far more enjoyable.


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