Monday 18 April 2016

Floating to the surface

Through my many years of writing Unabomber style manifestos about the Melbourne Football Club it's been rare to enter a fourth quarter thinking we should win. Not nearly as rare as knowing we were going to win (which by my count hasn't happened since the original Carnival of Hate) but with an added level of terror where you know snatching defeat from the jaws of victory will lead to much heartbreak and despair. Eventually we'll win enough games that throwing one away from a winning position won't be fatal, but if we'd lost from our three-quarter time position yesterday I'd still be walking home via Dimboola now.

For those who've been waiting patiently since mid-2011 for the right to be arrogant at the football again the good news is that we're closer than ever. I've got no more dislike for Nathan Buckley than most other opposition coaches, but if he had to be the victim of our latest building block towards respectability then tough luck I'm going to enjoy the guilty pleasure of tipping somebody else's club into talkback horror. I don't keep figures on how many sackings we've provoked (and let's be fair, unless he's been toppled in a midnight military coup Eddie's not going to admit defeat this easily) but two that come to mind were St Kilda '98 and '06, and at least both of those were after finals not in Round 4.

Not winning a game for the first month of the season most years didn't help, but when was the last time we dipped an opposition coach into the cooking pot this early? Richmond supporters had a bit of a meltdown when we beat them in the Anzac game last year, but nobody paid attention to them because that's their standard operating procedure. In the end it provided a much needed prompt for them to start taking the season seriously, and they went onto bigger and better things (better than us anyway). It might do similar for the Pies, but everyone knows if the coach was an outsider not a club legend he'd be on the end of the Matthew Knights treatment, catching a taxi home because somebody had put his car up on bricks.

Given how bad they've been this year it seemed ridiculous that the Pies started such warm favourites, with our price continuing to drift throughout the week. Congratulations to those who can bring themselves to bet on the Dees, I spend most games feeling like I'm about to do a Gawn in China impersonation so god knows what would happen if there was a financial interest as well. It seemed like a classic 50/50 game to me, but obviously there was an expectation that they'd come out firing after a week being battered in the media and that we'd done all we could in Hobart.

All hope went out the window and I decided it was a 10/90 game to be lost in bizarre circumstances when Collingwood paid good money to vault Jesse White into the side at four hours notice without having named him as an emergency first. If this was a trick play designed to flummox us it didn't have the desired effect considering White went into defence and proceeded to do what the kids refer to as "fuck all".

I'm not trying to tell Collingwood what to do, but given that McDonald is the only true tall in our defence I'd probably have tried to stretch us with a second option. He's not much chop, but to paraphrase Bill Hicks our defeat was "going to take a very special forward... or a bunch of average ones". There were already concerns about Cloke having flashbacks to Queen's Birthday last year and remember what he was being paid mega money to do, so it was money poorly spent when White looked completely uncomfortable in defence. It took them until the last quarter to move him forward, where he also looked completely uncomfortable.

They'll be fined for bringing him in, but that's no concern for a moneybags club who probably can't turn a cushion over at the Whatever It's Called This Week Centre without finding a bundle of cash. The argument was that they had "no emergencies" available after Tyson Goldsack had become ill, but given that the news was first reported by the AFL's official spokesman at 1120 (then again on another Twitter account other than the official AFL one half an hour later, because why just put it on the actual @AFL account with 600k followers when you can post it everywhere else first?) and their reserves team started game over the road at 1210 nobody's buying that.

The Sunday surprise led to a frenzy at the Kent Kingsley Klub, with Kent himself called back to the office to switch to DEFCON1 as we entered an imminent "maligned playing running riot against Melbourne" situation. How could they not understand that if we were going to fall for any sort of ploy involving a bizarre player that the American they've just promoted from the rookie list would have been the perfect secret weapon? We're vulnerable to internationals, somewhere Tommy Walsh is sitting on a couch in Ireland still chuckling to himself about the day he took us to the cleaners at the SCG. As it was the launch codes stayed firmly into Kent's pocket, at least until that great lummox Ty Vickery kicks six on Sunday night.

I my entire train trip pondering what it was going to be like when the White/Cloke show delivered 14 goals and we were left trodden into the MCG turf while Pies fans everywhere rushed to pat the coach on the back and say "I always believed in you mate". Such is life as a Melbourne fan, those of you who follow other clubs might think you know what it's like to be neurotic as a supporter but only the Tigers come close to us - and at least they've got a big enough supporter base to comfort themselves by acting as a mob.

During the week an Anonymous Benefactor, one of the greatest living Melbourne supporters, called to offer me the last ticket in a corporate box. While I never say no to an offer from a legend like the Benefactor if you're settling in for a serious viewing of a game then the box can be a mixed blessing. Free food and drink is ace, being pitched together with 10 people you've never met in your life, including kids and a lady who was so bored during the last quarter that she whipped out a book and didn't look up once not so. It's like being a serious, shambling alcoholic going on a pub crawl with uni students, they don't understand what it's like to be locked into a serious addiction.

Arriving before the benefactor left me in serious mingling territory, and there is nothing I want to do less than engage in small talk with anybody much less people I've never met before and never will again. So I didn't, and after cursory introductions where I forgot the names almost immediately I sat there reading the Footy Record for the first time in a year. There's a column where people write in and ask if their collectables are worth any money, and one guy asked what he could get for his collection of the Essendon magazine "given the club's recent woes" only to be informed that after putting his name to a shameless attempt at profiteering from his club's misery they were only worth $2 each.

There's not much else to justify paying for that publication, other than what I did for the last couple of years before kicking the habit and rolling it up to hit things in frustration. I did learn that Andre Gianfagna is now on the AFL umpiring rookie list, and that in the player profiles they ask "Favourite Twitter account you follow" so I'd be disappointed not to get a run there by the end of the season if not under "favourite footy journalist" thanks to the famous #fistedforever list getting a run in the papers.

Once I'd run five minutes off the clock reading that and failing to introduce myself to anyone who arrived afterwards there was a moment of doubt wondering whether I should have accepted the offer. After having to listen to a Collingwood fan moaning that the game has become too attacking this year and a Geelong fan give a long dissection of their game on Saturday which ended with "I didn't watch it though" I had to temporarily remove myself before it turned into a panic attack and I ended up sprinting for the Ponsford Stand with my pockets stuffed full of sausage rolls.

To calm the nerves I went for a walk, and on my way back in followed the largest man I've ever seen in my life who despite the fact that he was heading for all the free food he could get his hands on was carrying a box of MCG food so greasy that the box was starting to become clear. On the way back from my half-time constitutional he was walking back in carrying hot chips, he'll probably still outlive me but at least there are worse addictions in life than football.

Thankfully the benefactor arrived, and we were within striking distance of the first bounce so I could concentrate on my vendetta instead of small talk with people who were just happy to be there. The next complication was that all the best seats had been taken by freeloaders who didn't really care about the game and a family wearing $2 Shop 'COLLINGWOOD' scarves. This left me perched on a chair (admittedly a comfy one but that's not the point) at the top of the stairs where I couldn't actually see what was happening on the Member's side wing because the window covered it with a reflection of the Southern Stand goal square.

As the day wore on I started to adjust, to the point where in the second half I could squint just the right amount to make out where the real boundary line was and follow the play. Shutting the window would have helped, but given that I'd steadfastly refused to speak to any of the people sitting in the front row it would have felt rude to bark orders at them now.

I'd already caused one near scandal when I tried to change the channel on the in-box TV to our game only for some alpha male Pies fan to snatch the remote away from me to do it himself. First he couldn't get the TV to switch past the first race at Pakenham then it got stuck on a series of blank channels. He got there eventually after handing it to somebody else and barking orders at them, but at least I now had replays and comfort about how much time was left in each quarter.

We eventually got down to what we were there for (well, I was anyway), and what felt like impending doom. The Pies fans present, including Mr. Remote Control, tried to play down expectations by declaring that we were absolute certainties because they were terrible. I recognised that coping tactic from when I did it before the Essendon game. For once the laughable "We hear your fear" flag waved by the Pies cheersquad was aimed at their own fans, and it seemed to mysteriously disappear from the middle of the first quarter until the comeback began. Meanwhile one of them has a banner which reads "15 WITTY WITTS" and they should be sent to Devil's Island for it.

My interest in the tactics of opposition sides is practically nil, but whatever Bucks thought he was going to achieve by playing Pendlebury on a half-back flank in the first quarter is not clear. For anybody who looked at Jack Grimes in his prime and said "I think he can be our version of Pendlebury" this was your day. While we dominated the middle during the first quarter and clocked up a match-winning lead he only got two touches (mind you one was a goal assist) and spent more time looking up while the ball flew over his head. Shock horror when they came to their senses in the second quarter and played him in the midfield he racked up a metric shitload of possessions and gave us trouble for the rest of the afternoon.

Despite their best player wasting away at the other end it didn't start well for us. In the opening minutes the Pies were on the attack, but we should have realised at this point that their forward line had peaked on Queen's Birthday last year with Cloke kicking everything and could never hope to achieve that level of fluency again - especially with one of the best possession getters in the competition kicking dew off the grass instead of delivering them goalscoring opportunities.

We'd barely been across half way let alone inside 50 when the first goal came against the run of play through Watts, with a dinky roller from the boundary line after Tomas Bugg's second consecutive inside 50 across two states which did absolutely nothing for a forward miles in the clear. Bugg got a lot of touches and inside 50s yesterday, and I'm not saying no to anyone who laid nine tackles but he's quite the butcher - which means he'll fit in well with us.

At least yesterday we did exactly what a team who don't have the sharpest disposal skills should and ran into space to reduce the number of pinpoint kicks required. Meanwhile the Pies were turning the ball over, often in comic fashion, by refusing to accept that they're no good any more and play accordingly. Goals conceded from turnovers is one of the great stats, better than rubbish like inside 50's, and they had some rippers.

To start we had to get our own goals, Hogan continued to demonstrate why one novelty ball drop in a practice match doesn't define you as a forward and even Tyson was taking contested marks inside 50. Brayshaw showed that if he's not yet 100% he's still got the base elements of a magnificent player by gifting Pedersen with a perfect handball to run into the open goal, then when Kennedy squeezed his goal through for the fourth I was jumping out of the comfy chair, pumping my fist and generally not giving a rats about my reputation in front of strangers.

Then as our pressure caused the Pies to snap the comedy capers began, and as they didn't notice Sam Frost running off the bench he was able to do a Channel 9 style snatch and grab of a floating handball then romp into goal. If Dean Kent played the worst four goal game in history against North then Frost might have just played the most bizarre 50% terrible, 50% fantastic Jekyll and Hide game ever. Half of it was dropping marks or running around in circles, the other have was dashing through through the middle, flicking the quick handball which ultimately set up Hogan's first goal and crashing people out of the way.

His well-taken goal on the run from outside 50 came with five minutes left, but after doing all that heavy lifting we were forced to defend for the rest of the quarter instead of pressing on and really kicking their brains in. Given that we'd launched two separate outrageous comebacks on Queen's Birthday last year before Fitzpatrick ruined it all with his tunnel ball antics I was convinced that after our quick run of goals that they had one in them too.

We got to quarter time intact, but I was still nervous enough to launch a Technicolour Gawn at the ground with the same trajectory as a mortar shell. How many times during the #fistedforever era have we delivered a grand quarter like that, then kicked one or less in the second? It's not as insidious as the 61 first quarters since Round 1, 2007 where we've kicked either 0 or 1 goals, but it doesn't help your tension. Just think back to Round 1 this year where we went 5. 0, 1, 6 - you work it out because I've spent a decade trying without luck.

If we'd been the ones who'd just conceded six goals to one I'd have been donning a black veil and reading the last rites, but because we were in the ascendancy it was a case of shitting it about a horrible come from behind win. History was on our side, it would have been Collingwood's equal 8th best quarter time comeback ever, but history means stuff all when you're sitting there sweating like the man bringing his own chips to the catered superbox.

Our success to date had been built on all the right elements, we were winning the clearances, the backline was holding up, we were moving the ball quickly and the forward line was scoring efficiently but it helped to have an opposition who were trotting about casually like they were playing a picnic game. They couldn't play much worse and we probably couldn't play much better, hence the escalated farce/shambles threat level.

As the benefactor and I mulled over all the ways it could go wrong from there the most virulent Pies fan mockingly said "why are you so worried?" Not sure he was even talking to me but the response was obvious "because we're Melbourne fans?" During the third quarter we had a similar 'conversation', which was more just me baiting somebody I didn't know as he suffered a mental meltdown.

Pies Man: "Jack Watts you're soft"
Me: "Yeah, and he's just kicked four goals against you"
PM: "Jack Watts you're soft"

What I needed to calm the nerves and force the contents of my stomach back to where they were supposed to reside was an early goal, so when Harry O laid a perfect kick to a leading Watts 10 seconds into the quarter the well suppressed part of me that feels like Melbourne are going to win burst into the open. Imagine how many feet you'd be hovering off the ground now if we'd gone on to thrash the pants of them? It's my dream to thrash somebody again, but this is why you don't ever demonstrate confidence until you're at three quarter time and the 48 point Chris Sullivan Line has been breached because there is always bad news around the corner.

At first the comeback didn't have much going for it, their second goal but I suppose it had to happen eventually. It didn't take long before Lumumba set up his second goal of the quarter with another pinpoint pass to a leading forward (all is forgiven) and Hogan had cancelled it out to restore calm.

Being an anti-social git and all-round terrible guest I was listening to the radio the whole time, and after Hogan's near perfect set shot the munters on there spent significant time complaining about his run-up, then I looked up at the TV they were showing a super slow motion and presumably doing likewise. At 9.5 for the season it seems to be working reasonably well, so pipe down dickheads even if he whirls around in a circle first the last few steps are the only ones that count.

When we got another one shortly after I'd adopted a Mark Harvey style expression of shock and surprise:

That was where the offensive ended, with supply lines thinning in the face of a desperate rear guard action by the enemy. It was like Napoleon invading Moscow in 1812, but in nicer weather. We didn't start playing badly, we had good players all over the ground and Jack Viney running around the midfield like a colossus, it was that Collingwood decided to show up and have a go. Bit late for the poor old coach who inadvertently provided Channel 7 with a great afternoon cutting to him whenever he looked like he was having the worst day of his life.

When we gave them two goals in a row I thought "here we go", and even when Watts converted that fantastic set shot from almost the same place where he'd tried that failed pass against North (slightly more difficult to kick with a hurricane blowing through the ground) you knew the momentum had changed. Under proper pressure for the first time all day we were throwing dinky handballs around and panicking, and the door was wide open for a comeback that they were fortunately not good enough to launch. Somebody could have told me that at the time, but I'd probably have threatened to assault them.

Seeing Travis Cloke wander out the back and kick an easy goal caused me all sorts of anxiety. At least if we were going to let him kick goals he could be made to earn it instead of running into an open goal. Then something lovely happened, after that goal cut the margin back to four points with plenty of time left for another that would have had us wobbling all over the place Viney won it out of the middle (the free for too high was suspect considering he was twisting himself out of a tackle, but Pies fans before you burn down AFL House consider that by the time he won the free he'd already broken loose of the half-hearted attempt and was heading forward) and hoofed it long to a contest where that man Watts decided to add CRUMB to his set shots for a fourth.

The idea that Jack Watts might kick a huge bag against the Pies gave me with the sort of spiritual fulfilment that people must get from religion. Alas my red and blue clad religion has left a longer trail of disappointment than Scientology so I knew he wouldn't kick another one. Not his fault, opportunities dried up and he'd done more than enough. Still played well in the second half even if he wasn't kicking goals, and that's three good performances out of four now.

Another (tenuously related) Watts related incident I enjoyed was everyone starting a fight after Dom Tyson was pushed into the post after kicking a goal. Cast your mind back to the day Watts debuted, got buried by Collingwood players and his teammates went "oh well, that's unfortunate". It was also the day SEN stiffed me on a Name A Game DVD for calling after a goal kicked from outside 50 but who's holding grudges? Now we've got some real nutters - and for that all important psychological effect some nutter lookalikes.

Watching Melbourne defend a lead is the only time I can identify with chain smokers. If I were in the stands I'd have nervously chowed down on my fingernails, but with access to an open bar and no desire to get sloshed my own outlet was to continually consume small glass bottles of Coke Zero like oxygen on a failing airplane. By full time I'd had enough that it probably should have killed me on the spot (instead of working its way through the system towards a fatal illness which will no doubt put me away at three-quarter time the day we win the flag. Hope the MCG has an iron lung).

It hardly compared to Hunter S Thompson's daily routine, but he wouldn't have survived into the 21st century if he'd had to cope with following the Dees. Left with an elevated caffeine level that Alex Watson would have been proud of it was no wonder I couldn't sleep for shit last night, even after sensibly deciding not to stay awake until dawn watching the replay and building a small shrine to the continuing health of Max Gawn.

When Frost marked straight out of the middle to start the third quarter I didn't expect him to kick it, but I'd just nervously eaten enough to end up like the BBW (Big Black and White) fellow who'd imported his own chips so it would have been good to settle the nerves. That miss was the prompt for what should have been the grand comeback if the Pies hadn't been so wasteful with their kicking. It wasn't just forward either - after 10 minutes of pressure where the only other score we'd had was Watts sadly failing to add a banana to the mix the valve released in spectacular fashion when they delivered the sort of horrific defensive mistake that is usually only ever perpetrated by sides of our ilk.

A kick across goal is the most tension filled moment in football, and this one held up perfectly for Dean Kent to nip in and pinch it. Every time it's replayed in the future it needs to have the Benny Hill music dropped over the top for maximum effect. On the whole his one goal game was far better than his four goal game the week before, but when he gleefully thumped it high into the stands he got altogether too close to the left goalpost for my liking when he could have just kicked it and made of things.

Two more goals, including Pedersen refusing to involve himself in dinky, roller goals by thumping through a drop punt despite the general presence of a defender and then to Viney being on the end of another Pies turnover all but killed off their comeback, but it was the howler that really did them in.

There were several great things about the Viney goal other than the turnover that started it, including Hogan (who was immense up the ground with his marking and passing) slicing a kick to Bugg that was so casual it was almost on holidays, then after Bugg's handball ended in Viney kicking a goal and being bowled over Jack gave the Collingwood bloke a little pat on the head as if to say "better luck next time". It was probably retribution that caused Tyson to be crunched into the post later. Speaking of people with O RLY? owl eyes, if Alan Toovey hadn't moved his head at the last minute after the Tyson incident Dean Kent would have cracked him with a bionic elbow which would have seen them both out on the sidelines Queen's Birthday.

It would be unkind to mock Jeremy Howe for his unfortunate performance, let's get through Queen's Birthday without him kicking eight first, and after 100 games I'm not as down on him as some but he was quite terrible. When he took the mark directly in front of goal I turned around to complain to my MFC comrade only to turn around and see that he'd flubbed it with a failed attempt to set up a teammate in the square. Did it seem to anyone else that the Pies were under instructions to try and walk it in from the square as much as possible? I'd probably review that idea when somebody's taken a mark 20 metres out.

Apparently he tried one towering screamer but I didn't see it. Buckley is waging an almost Neeld-esque war against entertaining football, but if Howe's not taking big marks then he'd better find something else to do quickly. Luckily there will probably be a new coach along before long (and providing they don't lose to Essendon on Anzac Day, Queen's Birthday would be a great spot to push Bucks off the ledge), so he can join Brent Moloney as an inductee in the Angel of Death Hall of Fame as Melbourne players to get rid of three coaches then change clubs and knock off another. On that note next year Lynden Dunn must be set for some sort of record when Goodwin will be his eighth senior coach (full-time and caretaker) in approximately 180 games.

We almost got through another period of domination by the Pies, before finally conceding in the last couple of minutes. It wasn't quite the CSL but I'd have felt a lot calmer six goals in front than five. Down the hatch went another drink as my central nervous system started to react poorly to the massive chemical intake. If excessive consumption had caused a laxative effect it would have served me right, especially considering earlier I'd tried to use the bathroom and couldn't for the life of me tell whether the door was locked or not.

The first goal of the last quarter provided some relief, and neutrals would have understood that it killed the game off but the centre bounce just before was a perfect example of what a lunatic footy turns me into, when the umpire stuffed the bounce and recalled it the first thing I thought was "great, that's two seconds off the clock" with no detectable hint of sarcasm.

After being forced to come from behind three times the last quarter didn't say much for our ability to finish sides off, but we'd done enough in the first quarter to insure us against anything but the greatest disaster. It was more comfortable than it felt watching live, Collingwood were threatening to get a run on but with a forward line consisting solely of Darcy Moore (who is clearly quite good, and should remember what complete arseholes Pies fans were to his dad if he's ever considering doing a runner) they couldn't break through quickly enough to pressure us.

We managed to calm down on the handball blunders which started to cause concern at the end of the third quarter, and with a crippled Travis Cloke (jokes on a postcard please Collingwood fans) barely able to raise one arm he was unable to claim his birthright by showing up for the first time all day to beat us with six goals in the last six minutes.

Not that the Pies were completely hapless in the last quarter, at least they got wise to the fact that Gawn is a dominant ruckman and started to combat him with a third man up to some success. It was a desperate move but it made sense, last week he was hitting targets all over the place from ball-ups. Let's counter it with a fourth man up and start an arms race which will ultimately lead to two ruckmen trying to contest with 34 other players trying to leap over each other to get involved and nobody at the fall of the ball.

With four minutes left, five goals required and the Pies activating 'CBF' mode I finally relaxed and conceded that we were going to win. If Queen's Birthday is 'our Grand Final' (and here's to this being the last year we have so few other important games that it has to be) then this was our Prelim. Here's to going into these games expecting to win before long, reducing them to the status of "our Round 15" instead.

Now that we'd won all I wanted of the last few minutes was for everyone to come out alive and for us to kick another goal to take us over 100 points. The first one was half there, James Harmes suffered 'mystery collapse' in the first contest after pushing Taylor Adams into a fence but recovered. The TV coverage was being wrapped up so quickly it's lucky somebody hadn't caused it to drop out by winding a cable too sharply so we never got a replay. We'll wait to see if an assailant is identified by the Match Review Panel or if I'm just assuming a Collingwood player hit him because so many of them have form. (Update - 1444 Monday - Adams officially the assailant, no wonder Channel 7 don't have the right to Crimestoppers because they were no bloody help in catching him)

Part B was duly achieved in the last minute by that fantastic man with the beard to be feared. Enjoying a well-earned rest after another day of heavyweight solo ruckage Maximum found himself alone in front of goal and duly converted. He was so excited by driving in the last stake that he had a flashback to the Schwab era when the emblem on the jumper annoyed Hankook so much they quit as sponsor, which was a lovely gesture except that as we haven't got the emblem there any more he ended up clutching at AHG instead. Maybe it was deliberate, they have been a fine sponsor and if they're reading yes I would like a new car please. Who cares what he actually grabbed, the intent was clear.

Growing up in the 80's it was an unfortunate time to have a mysterious phobia of bearded men. My terror focused unfairly on celebrity chef (and filth merchant) Peter Russell-Clarke who I was absolutely terrified of. I'd run and hide when his show started, and once in a state of sheer panic made my mum solemnly promise that he wasn't my dad. This affected my view of beards for years to come, and it's only now that I can gaze upon pictures like this with admiration rather than suffering night terrors.

The good times might not last more than a week longer but for now we've scored 15 points more than Hawthorn, and when was the last time you could say that? Certainly not after any game against them since 2006.

More relative success please, I'm starting to get quite a taste for it.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
After a spread of votes across the first three weeks it's five of the same this week, and all the big guns other than Vince are represented. It's no offence to the fringe players, a lot of them had fine games but statistically if you're playing well it's going to be driven by your top group.

5 - Jack Viney
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Nathan Jones

Major apologies to Tyson, who lost a squeaker to Jones for the one vote. Apologies too in no particular order (other than alphabetical) to Bugg, Frost, Lumumba, McDonald, Pedersen, Salem and Wagner.

Gawn/Viney 2016 haven't had the same Cosmic Connection as the pre-season, but they've still found their way to the top of a competitive field. Maximum absolutely deserves to be there, and considering he's the only eligible player on the list so far (average 10 hitouts per game) he'll be declared the provisional winner soon. Still, if you were a betting man you'd recognise this is an AFL related award and back the midfielder in the overall competition.

10 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Viney
8 - Jack Watts
5 - Jesse Hogan, Bernie Vince (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Nathan Jones, Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem
3 - Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
2 - Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen

At least the opposition bothered to turn up this time, and for some reason the Collingwood one was demanding people wave their scarves in the air. It was a dull effort, with little to recommend it for a club with so many resources at their disposal but at least it was better than the race hate banner their fans put together to celebrate the Richmond game. If they thought Sheeds encouraging people to swing shit above his head was the reason Essendon beat us no bloody wonder they're in a state of disarray.

Back to banners, ours was a nicely constructed effort featuring the classic Demon in silhouette form, and opting not to join in baiting the opposition while they were down by concentrating on an all-positive method. Handy victory, and 7-0 Dees for the year before the expected joint banner draw next week.

Crowd Watch (Incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
You couldn't get much flavour from the box, but I could see the digital boundary signs which listed their team before the game showing every player in the traditional '[first name] [last name]' format except for 'Greenwood Levi'. Do they even care? Probably not. It was significantly better than their Kiss Cam effort where a ground announcer was alleged to have suggested a patron "get stuck into" a patron with Down's Syndrome.

If you were a conspiracy theorist, and come on footy fans we all are in some way, you'd question how convenient it was for the Collingwood race to be stacked with harmless "support the boys" grannies after the game instead of frothing, beetroot faced lunatics. Not only is it a better visual but only the most anti-social supporter would think of crashing through through the elderly to call a footy player a prick.
Having missed all the fun in the stands there was adequate replacement antics at Jolimont Station. With the platform so full that one nudge would cause people to topple onto the tracks like dominos the sensible thing was to wait for a few minutes instead of storming into the melee. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy light civil disorder, as a lone Melbourne fan on Platform 1 gave it a bit of soccer style "Can you hear the Magpies sing?" but didn't have the balls to go with "I can't hear a fucking thing" in public so "bloody thing" didn't have quite the same oomph.

With tensions amongst Collingwood fans already approaching fatal levels this prompted the obvious retort of "at least I've seen my club win a premiership". Which is quite correct, but you have to wonder what they'd reach for in this situation against sides who have actually been successful. That line is not getting over against Geelong or Hawthorn supporters. In a properly moderated debate you would have scored points for shouting back "At least our club doesn't have a Kiss Cam".

The only reason I eventually decided to join the platform scrum was when I heard somebody effing and blinding about what a bunch of arseholes everybody was. My first thought was "ahh, human misery. This will make for excellent content", but sadly he didn't turn out to be a Pies fan, driven stark raving mad by defeat but rather a spectacular junkie bouncing from side to side at a rapid rate and denouncing supporters of all stripes as "pussy fans".

"I've been waiting here for half an hour and I haven't been able to get on three trains you fuckers!" he shouted to nobody while most people shuffled nervously and I cursed myself for never working out what Periscope was or how it worked. "I just want to get home and get my clothes, and if you don't get out of the way and let me on the next one I'll (inaudible threat)".

When he let a South Morang train go I decided to shift up the platform to ensure we weren't in the same carriage when the Hurstbridge train arrived. Then when the Greensborough train came and went he was still sitting on the ground yelling. He had a touch of the Diamond Creeks about him, and if you were operating with a full deck the best idea would be to get on the train and get as far down the line as possible just in case another group of footy fans turned up but I suspect he didn't want to risk ending up alone on a platform with PSOs holding stop and search powers.

Let's hope he got his clothes eventually, amongst other things. The fun with Protective Services Officers wasn't offer yet, after a train ride opposite a pair of Pies fans who could barely wait to get home and forget their sorrows by enjoying intercourse, we pulled up with the doors opening right into a pair of PSO's who were so bored of mingling with each other every night that one of them asked the first Melbourne fan he could see "How did you go?" It was a reasonable assumption that he was a Melbourne fan, given that he was wearing a Melbourne jumper only for him to respond "I'm a Richmond fan, I was just going for them because they beat us by a point". Any help is appreciated but buying a jumper out of spite is a bit over the top.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Ben Kennedy could nearly be this year's Jeff Garlett, getting nominated every second week then unexpectedly losing the competition when somebody comes along with a belter late in the year but while remains the clubhouse leader and continues to deliver contenders his surgically placed goal in the first quarter comes second.

I'm opting for Watts' opener due to the way he made the most of a shithouse kick after doing all the good work to get in the open. Jack wins a $500 voucher to Megaphone Warehouse so he can hurl abuse at his critics.

Breaking into the lucrative Chinese market
The talk of the week was Port Adelaide trying to take somebody else's home game to China. There was a heavy inference that they'd managed to convince another club to get involved, and if you're a nervous character like me you'll realise the NT deal runs out this year, they were making noise about ditching us a few weeks ago and nobody's announced an extension.

What if we're the mystery partner? What did I say last week about the internationals queuing up to get an exciting side like us to play in their home territory? The only concern I've got is the suggestion that there's no massive pay day on offer for the clubs (and why would there be considering China like 194 other sovereign nations around the club couldn't give a shit) because if China's equivalent of Clive Palmer who likes to throw his money away on lost causes offered us $5 million to turn up I'd consider it.

What could go wrong? Last time we went to China we have Gawn lose his lunch, $cully lose his interest, Kaspersky decided not to continue as a sponsor and Liam Jurrah start his path towards jail. At least we won the game though.

It's all academic considering clubs are supposed to be doing this out of the goodness of their own heart in the hope that the world's most populous nation will fall in love with a game where nobody knows which way a ruck free kick's going to go until the umpire points. Knowing the AFL they'd probably send us there in Round 9 with a six day break.

News from the Territories
There's only one other player in the competition whose welfare I concern myself with, so there were wild scenes at Demonblog Towers when the SME (Stefan Martin Experience) suffered SME (Steven May Execution) at the Gabba. We're all distressed at what Stef has done to his hair this year but knocking him out was an extreme reaction. I hope he received the bouquet of flowers and get well soon card that we sent him.

Meanwhile if you were an up and coming professional wrestling tag team you'd be mad not to take inspiration from the move below, I doubt Ablett deliberately whipped him into the path of destruction but imagine the pleasing visual specatcle of somebody doing that into a clothesline or a big boot? If he's interested in a change of career Steven is going to have several weeks to work on his application.
Next Week
Now that we've beaten one half of the Crisis Connection, pressing on to complete the double would almost cause the lid to emerge through the MCG turf and take off like a military drone, shooting at our enemies. The way Richmond are going we should beat them IF we turn up ready to play without spending the week reading our own press, but I would be much more comfortable if the bookies kept them favourites. It would be so Melbourne that after beating them early in the season has started to become a cliche that just as we've got the chance to tip them over the edge into total chaos we'll trip and fall flat on our face.

As for changes what a great dilemma to have, where two first choice players are ready to come back but nobody's obviously got to go. The ins are easy, even though Vince was stupid to get suspended (and at least if he was going to elbow the guy in the head he could have at least stopped him from kicking the goal) but he's too good to leave out. Garlett is an obvious in, and he'd have loved today's game, but given that he's gone from 'nearly' playing in Hobart to not appearing at all this week are we sure they're not hiding an amputation?

Now's where it gets difficult, vandenBerg will have to wait for now and while I'd be tempted to rest Oliver soon he should be rewarded for his performances so far by playing in a big game - also he might not have had that many touches comparatively but there were a couple of times when he did the Matrix moves in congestion to find a teammate and I love that shit almost as much as hearing that Bugg went to give a Pies player his loose boot back then threw it over his head.

Barring any mystery injuries or whatever happened to Harmes/Jones (Matt) right at the end turning septic I drop Jayden Hunt with the greatest of respect and an open invitation to return in the future. For the second one I don't think we need both Frost and Pedersen but both of them played well so I can't justify dumping either.

At the time of writing it seems Jones is the most likely to miss with injury having gone directly from the team song to hospital with a rib complaint, and for the second time this year that's horrible timing for him just as he'd started to consolidate his spot in the side. Otherwise it's spin the wheel of death, possibly landing on Brayshaw.

IN: Vince, Garlett
OUT: Hunt (omit), M. Jones (inj)
LUCKY: One of Frost or Pedersen, just because of 'team balance' (CLICHE)
UNLUCKY: Petracca (Patience my pretties, just one more week. He did it against a better side but just give it another go them wheel him out against the Saints at Docklands. Might even drag a few through the gate for our 'home' game), Trengove (will be happy to welcome him back when a spot opens), Weideman (bad timing for him to show up just as Watts hit form but he's got plenty of time)

Was it worth it?
My word yes, once I got over the horrifying prospect of having to mingle with strangers and came to grips with strange reflections it was an enjoyable afternoon and the first team I'd managed to enjoy 'corporate hospitality' and a win since we rumbled the Eagles in 2009. That day I rolled into a second box at Footscray vs Hawthorn and started drinking heavily. These days you could not tempt me with all the booze in the world to go to a game directly after ours, let's call it a sign of maturity.

Final Thoughts
The building blocks are in place, we've still got important players not at their best and are prone to occasional outbursts of toxic football but I think even though the ultimate goal is still thousands of kilometres of treacherous terrain away that the stepping stone of mid-table mediocrity can be ours soon.

Who else watched Geelong struggling to beat Essendon and thought a) I know the feeling and b) if we can get to Round 23 still a chance of the eight we could take the Cats at Kardinia Park? Too soon? If Leicester City can win the Premier League we can make the eight by 2018.


  1. Well worth the wait, its the details, such as the junkie wanting his "clothes" that make Demon Blog a must. Keep up the great work Adam.

    Any chance Terrance from Toorak could call into SEN now we resemble something close to an AFL side? Nothing better than arrogance and talking some smack at 2-2.

    As for this week, going into the game as favourites is not ideal, here is a stat for you: In Melbourne's past 16 games as favourites we are 4-12. Let the money come for Richmond please, we are no good.

    1. Almost tempting to back the Tiges to try and tilt the market, but I doubt my $5 will make a difference.

  2. Vanders is having a ankle operation. He will be gone for most of the year.


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