Monday, 25 April 2016

Gawn Service

* Headline courtesy @ethan_meldrum, but as publisher I'll take the heat when some tabloid hack deems it offensive.

Neutral supporters cannot possibly understand the psychological trauma that being a Melbourne fan puts you though. Even after a great victory last week when everybody but the bookies thought we'd win two straight in the same season for the first time since the golden age immediately pre-186 here I was fretting that because we'd unexpectedly beaten Richmond two years in a row now that the whole country was watching we'd probably cock it up. That's no way for a rational person to think, but it's not just players who have been Melbourned by the last decade.

The tension was not helped by a roaring headache caused by a small child earlier delivering me a headbutt that a Glasgow street thug would have been proud of. The pain in my nose and teeth mysteriously disappeared between approximwately 8pm last night and 8am this morning when first the contest, then the jubilation masked the damage like a heavy opioid. Now that I've had time to calm down and watch the replay my nose feels like it's got a Stevie Nicks style hole in the septum from excessive cocaine consumption, but it's all good because we're living in a world where indications are that the worst nightmares of the #fistedforever era have been banished, we're comfortably mid-table almost a quarter of the way through the season and a viable path is emerging to future success.

It's not just Melbourne's fortunes that have changed, after years of hiding up the back sweating, swearing and shaking my supporting life has taken a dramatic turn in the last two weeks. First I was in the corporate box necking caffeine at a near fatal rate, and without much arm-twisting was convinced to sit in the AFL Members last night. There was certainly more atmosphere than when I walked in through an unmanned door during the 2012 Gold Coast game and the entire section was practically me and one grown man supporting the Suns who would wave a tiny flag whenever they kicked a goal.

Being away from the friendly confines of the Ponsford usually has a psychological effect on me, but if the Dees are going to start playing like they're from Hollywood I might as well join in. Who knows what's on the agenda next week, I might just walk into the President's Lunch next week, sit down next to Glenn Bartlett and see if anyone notices. Given that it's our home game at Docklands it will hopefully be held at Nandos. All I know is that I'll be back to perching myself in the rafters so if we lose it will be a sign to give up my loner lifestyle for good and return to the people.

With a second ticket I intended to do my bit for rorting the crowd in our favour by scanning in once on my membership then again on the extra ticket, but thanks to the MCG's ticketing system breaking down I never got the chance. Anyone who's ever tried to buy a ticket at Etihad Stadium knows what a nightmare that is, but at least if you walk up with a pre-purchased ticket or membership you can get in without drama. When I arrived to see the queue at the MCC Members almost in the park it looked like we'd be lucky to get in by the fourth quarter, but the dear old Ponsford Stand came to the rescue as always and the only delay at Gate 1 was the cursory waving of the security wand by a guard who had no interest in actually finding anything.

Ticketing woes have nothing on football woes, and I was trapped in the twilight zone between thinking we were going to win and shitting myself that we wouldn't. This is an unfamiliar feeling, like a movie robot suddenly developing emotions and learning how to cry. It didn't hurt that the whole country would be watching the game, and our response to that sort of scrutiny is usually to fall to pieces or make high profile Fitzpatrick-esque blunders. I went in worried and ended the night in a situation where I didn't have to write lengthy manifestos to soothe my soul, but because I'd had so much fun. What a wonderful world.

Nerves were calmed in the first minute by Brayshaw's goal which he got courtesy of refusing to be tackled. After Vince kicked the second thanks to an Oliver-like handball in traffic from Watts, I even started to think well prematurely that we might win. This was ridiculous because on my personal Duckworth Lewis Method style chart of when you can be confident of victory there is no entry for 12-0 at five minutes into the first quarter. What you could tell was that unlike the Essendon game - which will remain the standard for measuring first quarter effort for years to come - we were 'on'. It didn't mean we'd win, but you could at least be sure Richmond were being taken seriously.

Before you knew it we were behind and that familiar feeling of dread was back. Throwing away a two goal lead in the first quarter is not as much reason for distress as doing it in the last but I'm still not mature enough to see any sort of lead without worrying about what's going to happen next. It was the last lead they'd have all night, but at the time I was thinking about taking up sniffing glue.

The simultaneous best and worst thing about the game was that Richmond only ever seemed to kick goals from our turnovers. You don't want to get into that position too often if you've got any designs on being a good side but at least it left our fate in our own hands, because they had no idea how to create them on their own. They also had a handy habit of giving goals straight back after kicking them, and the lead only lasted about a minute before Watts continued his fiesta of laser-like set shots. We were challenged several times more but never cracked.

The willingness to run and play on quickly this year is welcomed, it means there will be turnovers and you'll get situations like Harry O getting pinched for running too far trying to get the ball inside 50 but that's ok because it's also creating a (relative by our standards) shitload of scoring opportunities the likes of which we've not seen in years. When you put this alongside forward targets, crumb, a killer ruckman and midfielders ready to crash through brick walls the signs are billboard sized. We're at the mercy of injuries but don't be like me and Jesse Hogan worrying about injuries that haven't even happened yet, enjoy the moment.

Richmond had kicked two goals but Gawn was clambering all over Maric (not the good one) and half their side hadn't had a touch yet. We were certainly playing better, it was just a matter of killing them off before they realised how much trouble they were in like we'd done to the Pies. They were probably going to start playing death or glory "you're getting sacked in the morning" footy so any buffer to work with would be important.

Before we get too overheated it's prudent to remember we were playing an opposition horribly down on form, because good sides wouldn't let us get away with some of the loopy kicks and loose handballs like last night. Nor will they reply to Dunn's torpedo into the middle of the ground by torpedoing it straight back out on the full. We were also lucky to get away with Pedersen spending an unusual amount of time in the ruck during the first quarter after Gawn had been dominant, playing some sort of first half as he marked everything that came near and kicked two goals. Our fortunes rest on his shoulders like no other.

After a few minutes where the game devolved into a complete slopfest and the door cracked open slightly for the Tiges we came alive late in the quarter by playing with genuine freedom and hate in their hearts for the opposition. We'll see what happens when we run into a side who aren't famously flaky, if we can find a way to batter Hawthorn without provoking them into kicking nine goals straight in response we'll have officially graduated from Football University.

From Richmond nearly kicking a goal with two minutes left we were the beneficiaries of some muppet kicking the ball out on the full under no pressure - which happened several times during the evening - which first led to Garlett's inside-out wondergoal then Gawn's screaming pack mark. Those of us who remember Maximum's first shot on goal on debut from the top of the square still get nervous when he takes one to this day but god knows why he's actually a rock solid set shot kicker now for somebody who has to drop the ball two miles to get it on the boot. We might be teetering on the brink if he's injured but for all the whinging about us needing a forward/ruckman who could take the heat off him why not just have one guy who does it all?

What a return it was for Garlett, four goals just when I thought he'd mysteriously lost the use of his foot for the rest of the season like Sam Frost last year. If Carlton hadn't just won a game it would have been another opportunity to laugh heartily at them for letting him go in one of the worst trades of the 21st century.

Gawn's goal capped off the sort of collapse that we used to do, and might very well do again in the future, having a side in sight in the last 90 seconds then letting them kick two goals to steady going into quarter time. Which is where the fun really kicked off...

I'm still unconvinced as to the merits of Tomas Bugg as a footballer, but as a personality he has rocketed to the top of the charts with a bullet. He is the hateable character I've waited years for, through false alarms like Dunn and Tapscott who tried but never quite achieved major league status and Dean Kent who may actually be a violent offender at heart rather than just a serial pest. What a first quarter of Buggery it was - refusing to let go of a tackle, laying a bump that was lucky not to hit his opponent in the head, teaming with Dean Kent to spew invective in the face of Trent Cotchin after a Hogan mark then sitting on the ground after the last Gawn mark casually listening to several Richmond players screaming abuse in his face while ignoring the umpire's requests for him to stand up.

His public profile had already been boosted by that rampage before going through the roof at the end when he started a reasonable brawl by modern standards after abusing some goose who was trying to grow a moustache but hadn't even managed to get it to Lynden Dunn size. He then argued with another guy who looked like he'd been dragged out of the pub to play an AFL game by accident and informed Ivan Maric that Max Gawn had just stuffed him all ends up with the mark. The best bit was the beaming smile Watts had enjoying all this carnage taking place, before Dunn decided that anything Bugg could do he could do better by plowing in to save Salem from the clutches of that lummox Vickery and really kicking off the battle royale.

Helpfully the AFL - the same people who have fined players from both sides a fortune on the grounds that it was a 'bad look for the game' uploaded a video of it to their website which allowed us to review the action and discover that while Bugg might have provoked it with his anti-social antics the best on ground was definitely Dunn, plowing through their huddle and being generally abusive to everyone. God it was fun. The answer of who Melbourne fans can be arrogant towards is still open, but the players can definitely pencil in Richmond.

For all the suspicions about the umpiring in the second half it was difficult to deny we got away with one at the start of the second when Kent was tackled for what should one of the most obvious holding the ball frees of all time. He even looked over his shoulder before tackled for god's sake, and it led directly to Watts' second goal from the boundary line. The umpire who likes to pretend he's about to call deliberate then bring the other hand up for a throw-in also failed to be sucked in by a player reacting to Gawn's brutal tackle by throwing his head back in the opposite direction to where he was tackled.

It was one of the many times for the night where we had the knife poised but couldn't put them away, and they got the goal back almost immediately. Up went my blood pressure again, and when they got another straight after it was heading towards deadly territory again. I'd seen bigger margins than 22 thrown away, but that was either in the pre-186 era where everything was different or when we were at such a low ebb that it seemed natural to turn into pumpkins at the drop of a hat.

When they got the third I was under more pressure than an air traffic controller, but the most pleasing about the evening was that three times we wobbled but stood up, took the blows and kept coming back until their spirit finally broke. The turnover goals continued, with the third one coming from a blunder from McDonald and if Sam Frost had the classic half/half game last week then McSizzle set a new standard last night. Has there ever been a greater difference between power of marks and quality of disposal? The first one was at All-Australian standard and the second was like an out of control fire hose. It was nice to see him recover and hit some decent passes towards the end, because at the start of the last quarter he was wearing self-doubt like a sandwich board. There was also a great moment where he won a free kick, then pushed his opponent back to the ground and took off for a play-on, so how could you not love him?

Another contributor to the all-new Feelgood Factor was the performance of the fringe players. Neither Wagner or Hunt showed anything in the pre-season and I was nervous about promoting them to the seniors but both have shown they deserve their spot. Wagner especially was fantastic, which is terrible news for Colin Garland who might never been seen again at this rate. Let's do it against top clubs before we really get excited, but while both might have their ups and downs they've made a positive start.

We might have lost the lead if Watts hadn't turned a goal into an out on the full with a crucial tackle, and it gave us another life which allowed the People's Champion Bugg to go forward, jump all over an opponent and run into an open goal. Usually after a player creates havoc karma gets him with a shambolic turnover or a shanked kick, and he's had enough of those this year anyway, but to prove the football gods were on our side for once the Buggery party continued unabated as he not only ran into the open goal but raised the arm to salute like David Schwarz against Carlton then gave the "shhh" gesture to the Richmond cheersquad. Opposition fans won't like it, opposition fans can get stuffed.

It was magic stuff, causing celebrity Tigers fan Jon Ralph to sook that he should get a kick before he does that. He did, it went straight through the goal and a legend was born. Having never paid more than cursory interest to his career before he arrived we'd already pegged him as an alternative thinker from the time he donned a bomber jacket to shield against the Gatorade spray after his first game and this almost made him my favourite player. Who gives a shit if he can play football with comedy capers like that? The only thing it lacked for a visual spectacular was a Richmond fan leaning over the fence yelling abuse at him.

Let the record show that I'm not just in favour of these sort of thing because it was our player, that sort of thing should be encouraged across the league. What better fan engagement and interaction can you get? It will happen to us one day and it will be the best goal we've ever conceded.

He nearly got another one immediately after as well, Viney won it out of the centre in a way that I could only have dreamed of until recently and Bugg stormed right up the middle of the 50 only to lose out to a desperate last second spoil. How we got to a point where Tomas Bugg is executing the perfect lead I'm not sure but if he'd kicked that he might have done something in celebration that would have got him arrested.

What a night he had, right down to winking at teammates after his evil deeds. If the secret recipe for the Jakovich votes wasn't so closely guarded I'd have broken with convention and given him one just for his evil performance. In an episode of Law and Order he'd be the charming mastermind behind the crimes committed by Kent, Viney and Dunn.

I'm sure he gives up his seat to old ladies on the train but he plays football like he's generally unhinged. He was already feuding with Nick Riewoldt after clocking him last year (we can only hope next week will provide more fireworks after they warmed up with some theatrical jostling in the pre-season), but either somebody in the Riewoldt family killed his dog or he just enjoys being horrible because he joined in on Jack as well. Bumping an injured player being tended to by trainers was a bit over the top but if you're going to be a bad guy then go all in. I'm prepared to overlook it due to being genuinely overjoyed at having such a provocative player. Football is temporary, niggle is forever.

Life is unfair as a ruckman, because if his teammates had taken advantage of his work Gawn would have been best on ground by a mile. It wasn't just the goals or the marks around the ground, his taps set up so much in the first half including Salem's goal that restored a 10 point margin. As usual he never tired, but there were periods in the third quarter where he dominated Maric only to watch the ball be swept away by an opponent. Also there was more third man up action around the ground which reduced some of his power at ball-ups and needs to be addressed before smart sides use that to rumble us.

Even our kick-ins look good, other than when Jayden Hunt lost his mind and tried to handball his way out of the square, and we'd often find three targets in a row to at least get the ball to the wing before it was in dispute again. It helped having Gawn running up and down the line marking everything that came near him - and equally importantly in front of goal. How much time did we waste sitting in the reserves while the side was otherwise shit? You can't argue the development path now, but I feel like we could have reached this point earlier. The marks in front of goals were brilliant but I can't be the only one who winced when he and Hogan crashed into each other, if they took each other out we'd be instantly transported back to 2013.

We should have had more at the end of the quarter too, Garlett might have kicked a goal when the ball bounced off Rance's foot and out of bounds (Alex, bless him, demanded a video replay) and not that he was afforded the full 10 metres to run around in but with his record for novelty goals he should have nailed it. Rance would later nearly knock himself out ducking into a tackle but just because he went down clutching his neck he got a free for it. He will probably use it in his defence for belting Watts.

Garlett could have had another one when he and Brayshaw did the old "you first, no you first" routine in front of goal and neither of them ended up having the shot but still we'd kicked five goals in the second quarter where I was wrongly convinced based on previous records that after such a good opening term we'd have followed it with one goal. Then Gus redeemed himself by finding Vince on his own inside 50, he kicked the sixth after the siren and while I was still full of terror at the prospect of losing it was starting to seem like we had enough in us to absorb their pressure and strike back. Which was lucky because it kept happening, but the elastic band never snapped.

Conceding the first goal of the third quarter in a minute wasn't ideal, and gave me shocking acid flashbacks to 2013 when that would happen every bloody week, but it was probably the first real goal they'd kicked all night. It was no coincidence that Riewoldt finally had a decent day against us after Frawley pushed off, because Chip owned him so comprehensively he should have had his name branded across Jack's forehead. Conceding the second not long after was even less helpful, but it made little difference in the end.

You don't know how much of it was Richmond losing the plot or us playing well but if you stacked this game up next to the Essendon fiasco you'd notice we had players running free all over the place, and this allowed us to clear it out of defence and go forward quickly. It was another example of how Lumumba benefits a team playing well where he has moving players to aim at.

It might have been back to nine points but we were still playing better so I was no more scared than usual watching this team play. This was the key point of the game where Gawn's taps were coming to nothing, but while they had us on the ropes they missed three chances in a row before we pulled off one of the great end-to-end goals to ensure their good play had been wasted.

Riewoldt narrowly missed a shot, Dunn launched the traditional 'get out of jail' kick long and to the left, Watts delivered a spot on handball to Tyson, who dinked it forward to take advantage of Kent's speed, he shot past his opponent like a greyhound let loose from the gates, propped for a second, then found Garlett inside 50, who lobbed a handball over to the top to Harmes to finish from the line. As it happened live there was a moment where I thought he was going to crash into Pedersen in the square and ruin it all, but it turns out the man with the NQR nickname was actually backing away to shepherd and allow Harmes to run in uncontested.

Good luck pulling a top shelf move like that off against top contenders (admittedly we managed it against North a few times), but the fact it ended with somebody putting on a block to protect his teammate made me quiver with joy. In years gone by even if we had somehow managed to pull off the first five steps it would have probably ended with Harmes being tackled on the line due to the lack of anyone providing security. Then straight out of the middle Garlett kicks another and this was the point where I started to believe in a red and blue future.

Consulting the Duckworth Lewis chart (which I will sit down and formally construct one day) shows that halfway through the third quarter the lead would need to be about 55 for me to truly relax but to beat us from there Richmond would need to have lifted their game several times over. We might have discovered a new life of mid-table mediocrity but a good side would have sprinted off on them like the Eagles did in the first half last week.

My self-belief went supernova as Frost's shot looked like it was going through, but when it hit the post I had to temporarily take a breath and concentrate on my anxiety again. It was a mark of how tense the idea of winning makes me that I hadn't left my seat since the first bounce, there was no wandering off for a comfort hot dog I just wanted to stay in one place and probably not blink once for the entire evening.

Then when McDonald continued his topsy turvy evening by gifting Riewoldt with another goal via a 50 any thought of winning was officially stuffed back under the stairs. The thought process I go through when we're defending a lead is something else, if you'd started following me with documentary cameras in 2007 you'd be about to wrap up the greatest decade long documentary ever made. Imagine if every game had seen me attached to devices measuring heart rate and blood pressure with audio of all my conversations (usually to nobody in particular). I wish I'd done it myself, it could have won the Nobel Prize for Scientific Endeavour and would have confirmed that the closest I'd come to losing consciousness at a footy game was that first Neeld win against Essendon in 2012 when my legs stopped working and left me stuck in Row LL of the Ponsford until I could safely walk down stairs again.

They came at us again with another goal, and attacked again from the bounce. With the margin already back to less than 10 if Nifty Nev hadn't perfectly ridden a tackle until he could handball he'd have been pinged for holding the ball and we'd have been wobbling noticeably. It was their inattention at the end of the quarter that cost them again, allowing Tyson to kick a goal in the last minute which restored an uncomfortable but workable lead. Every lead under 48 points at three-quarter time is uncomfortable to me.

The goal was created by two tough as nails moments by Viney, first battling out of a tackle to get a handball over his head, then climbing off the ground and setting Tyson up with another handball. Jack must now be on the outskirts of the top level of midfielders, his disposal is not world class but it's more than made up for with what you would call 'bullocking' if you were flicking through the Big Book 'o Footy Cliches.

Dom turned up for the first goal of the last quarter as well, and left me very much secretly thinking "we are going to win this". A rare full viewing of the replay before writing also allowed me to enjoy the Channel 7 mobile camera crashing into a woman who looked like Gai Waterhouse as it moved through the cheersquad. To prove that we are a better class of people she apologised rather than kneeing the cameraman in the bollocks.

If David Astbury - eight career goals in 45 games, three against us on debut - had kicked a goal when he went forward I'd have first called the Kingsley Klub reporting hotline then started to wind back my predictions about victory. He missed from right in front, which is what you get using defenders randomly in attack, and we went straight down the other end where Garlett set up Frost to thump one home from the square and I would have never have said it out loud but I thought we were home.

Obviously the Richmond fans who stood up and walked out at that point did too, forgetting from so many years of losing to us that usually getting into a winning position causes Melbourne to enter a death spiral. In classic self-deprecating Demonesque fashion they were not heckled for their cowardly departure but for being stupid at leaving when we 'only' had a 26 point lead. The Tigers went forward straight out of the middle and kicked a goal, but these yellow and black loyalists knew their club far better than I did because instead of clambering back up the stairs and retaking their seats as if nothing ever happened they were never seen again.

A 20 point lead with 15 minutes left is absolutely nothing, and they got another immediately after courtesy of Pedersen not being paid a mark that would have been given 99 times out of 100. If you put me in charge of the rules committee (god help you) I wouldn't pay any of them with that little control but they do, and so we were duly ripped off. Luckily we got it back almost immediately through Vince's long range hoof and I started to believe again. On my score chart we'd have needed to be at least 36 points up for me to be comfortable but the line was rapidly moving in our favour.

Kent eventually got rid of them with a goal that capped off a great running game and confirmed that we are finally playing with a half-forward line again after years in the wilderness. Now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the warm glow of a big victory. Now it was just a case of kicking 20 goals - we'd done it against North but it doesn't count when you lose.

I'd underestimated how much our win would plunge Collingwood into crisis, it probably helps that they've got a spin department that any government would be envious of but other than the unnecessary drama about whether or not Cloke would be dropped they held things together pretty well instead of descending into chaos.

Looking back it was a good sign that their players ran out the game without losing their minds, which is a positive compared to the complete mental disintegration of the Tiges in the last few minutes - including sending poor old Alex Rance insane and causing him to unexpectedly whack a defenceless Jack Watts in the back of the head on the same night his club had paid tribute to the victim of a fatal king hit.

Even better than driving an opposition player off the deep end was Jack Viney running in and belting him after he did it. Like Dean Kent's bionic elbow last week he was lucky he didn't connect properly, but at least if he had whacked him he'd have gone down making a political statement. How much do you love that we now have players willing to steam in and punch on for the cause? What about the umpire trying to get Viney to stop grappling with Rance by yelling "he's been reported" as if Jack would give a half a shit. In fact it helped so little that the rest of the term plowed in to deliver victor's justice as well.

If we can ignore the cheap-shot for a second how about the way the goal was constructed - it was almost as good as the one that Harmes finished earlier. McDonald took another strong mark, hit a heart-in-mouth pinpoint pass to Tyson, who had his choice of players running everywhere, found Kent to set up Jetta for the delivery to Watts and then after Rance's best attempts to scrag him it was quite literally hammer-time on the back of Jack's head.

Post-fracas Watts got the 50 and his third goal, leaving him in the top 10 of league goalkickers with teammates practically ready to kill to defend his honour. Welcome to New Jack Watts City. If somebody had provided the same sort of violent retaliation on Queen's Birthday 2009 his timeline might have looked significantly different.

Just when you thought Jon Ralph's anti-Bugg spray (so to speak) were the pinnacle of journalists disgracing themselves on Twitter came some plonker from The Age who suggested Rance had done what "every Melbourne supporter has wanted to do to Jack Watts". Forget that the joke hasn't been relevant since Fairfax still sold newspapers, it demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of Melbourne fans who have shown over the years that while they might belt Jack with one hand they want to fight for his honour with the other. It's basically how child rearing used to work in the days where people thought beating up the kids was good for them.

We've been good in last quarters all year and it was satisfying to run away from a team. Even better that it was achieved with barely any scoreboard contribution from Hogan. Maybe he was sad that Fremantle had just lost (don't know why, they will offer him a palace of gold now that they're turning to shit) but it was not his finest outing. Not in front of goal anyway, and not when he did the Sizzle style turnover trying an ill-advised sideways kick when he should have just smashed it inside 50 but he was still a mighty presence around the ground and hauled in nine marks. Expensive decoy, but I'd pay $600,000 to erect a scarecrow inside 50 if it meant we kept playing like this. I also enjoyed his self-abuse when he missed a set shot, if you're into foul language we may be the right club for you.

Even the presence of the trumpeeter noodling away in the stands at the end couldn't ruin the good mood, it can't go on like this for much longer but suddenly football is fun again - and that was no better demonstrated by the last goal, with Pedersen doing his Harlem Globetrotters impersonation to slap the ball out of mid-air to Kent, who set up Garlett up for his fourth. Not to mention Maric trying to hang shit on Gawn for giving away a 50 right then and Maximum just laughing at him.

Melbourne Football Club, you magnificent bastards.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes

One of the most difficult choices I've ever had to make, Viney might have smashed the all-time record for contested possessions but I just can't go past Dom - it was the best game he'd played since his first season with us if not his best for us full stop.

5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Bernie Vince
1 - Dean Kent

Major apologies to Garlett, Jetta, Jones, Lumumba, McDonald (for the marks), Pedersen, Salem, Wagner and Watts.

Leaderboard

The bulldozer hits the outright lead in his quest for two in a row, and Vince finds himself teetering on the brink of disqualification in the Seecamp by putting on a master class of attacking football.

14 - Jack Viney
13 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
8 - Jack Watts
7 - Bernie Vince (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jesse Hogan, Dom Tyson
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, Dean Kent, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen


The traditional Anzac Day joint banner draw, and even I'm not partisan enough to try and claim our side looked better. 7-1-0 Dees for the season.

Stat My Bitch Up
Finally the person who wrote in to complain about negative stats five years ago can come back, we've won two in a row within the same season and scored +100 in the same game for the first time since the great crack epidemic of 2011. It's also the first time since Round 8 last year that we've kicked at least three goals in each quarter. There are also reports coming through that we've recorded our lowest rating on the Misery Index since Queen's Birthday 2011.

On the player front can somebody with even more time than me (there must be somebody) let me know who the last MFC player to be at least +2 on his win/loss record before Jayden Hunt? Can't kick-in, can win football games. (Update - 2050 Monday - Thanks to @benno_76 who delivers the answer of Lynden Dunn in rounds 6 and 7, 2006. Matthew Bate was a week earlier in rounds 5 and 6, but he did start his career on an 8-0 winning streak then went 19-1-74 for the rest before getting into positive thinking)

Crowd Watch
Sitting shoulder to shoulder with opposition supporters for the first time at a Melbourne game since Queen's Birthday 2012 was a concern, but would have been a great opportunity for Crowd Watch material if they'd been proper nutters instead of a bunch of scarfers. One Richmond gentleman continued the proud tradition of reminding us that Jack Watts had not lived up to his billing as a number one pick, to which we asked what time Lance Franklin would be arriving to play for the Tiges.

The only controversy was after one ridiculous attempt by our fans by demand deliberate when I said words to the effect of "if you called for deliberate put your head in the oven" only for the guy two seats to the left who I couldn't hear a word from due to having a headphone on that side to turn around and glare in a way that suggested he'd done exactly that.

Worst on ground went to the 10-12 year old kid sitting in front in a Melbourne jumper banging away at an iPad game and not showing even the slightest interest in the game. His criminal disinterest made me wonder how they'd manage to get him in the jumper to start with, but the fact that he seemed to be there with a responsible guardian who was a Richmond fan made it all the more baffling.

Meanwhile you'd think that people who could afford an AFL membership could also afford licenced AFL merchandise but $2 shop scarves were all over the place. Either club is welcome to my suggestion for a scarf amnesty, where anyone seen wearing a bootleg is handed a voucher for 30% off an official version if they dump the old one into a bin at the Megastore.

News came to use from the Southern Stand that there was some real old school top of the Ponsford action going on (except in the old Ponsford nobody would care, and he'd probably having been puffing on a scoob as well):
If we keep playing like this people will start smuggling in amyl nitrate instead of booze and the place will start to resemble Studio 54.

Finally, there noticeably less "we've seen a flag" responses to chippy Melbourne fans at Jolimont Station this week - mainly because people over 40 are too old for that shit.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
This segment has gone through the roof now that there are so many contenders, but one man is the king of this sort of thing and after losing in a photo last week we welcome back Jeff Garlett. With apologies to Brayshaw standing up in the tackle and throwing ball at boot for the first goal it had to be Garlett's first where he ran along the boundary, looked around for an option, went to kick a drop punt then changed his mind and checksided it through on the run.

Apologies to Ben Kennedy but I'm going to have to promote this one to the clubhouse lead, just because there was so much going on in such a short space of time.

The transition goal in the third quarter wins a 'highly recommended' award, but Garlett pockets the weekly prize of afternoon tea at Visy Headquarters with environmental ambassador Chris Judd and Dick Pratt's mistress.

The Sponsor Shack
Obviously if you were buying a new car (and Melbourne fans do that about once every two weeks, isn't that right opposition fans? *clinks champagne flute*) you'd do it through Automative Holdings Group, but if you were one of the 1800 people in Australia who bought a Holden with the Opel badge slapped on over the top to try and introduce some European suave to your driving experience I've got some bad news for you. On the way to the station I was travelling behind one and it was spewing out more toxic waste than any car built in 2013 had the right to. What an appropriate brand to have been identified with us in our darkest hour.

Next Week

Even though it's on their ground we should start favourite against the Saints in our annual 'home' game at Docklands. The opposition is not ideal, but at least we get our trip there out of the way early in the season and might even get a big enough crowd to avoid it being a financial drain. More important they were rubbish this week so there is some hope of three in a row.

Brayshaw has had his moments forward the last couple of weeks but he's still clearly not 100%. If we can't use him full-time in the middle just yet then let's give him to Casey for four quarters of smashing people around. I didn't think his night could get any worse than when the half-time highlights called him Angus 'Bradshaw' but here we are. Bad time to not be at 100% when we've discovered an unexpected supply of depth beneath rock bottom, but has many years left in which to dominate.

After both Frost and Pedersen saved themselves with good games last week but we really don't need both of them, and Pedersen won the head-to-head battle tonight so it's his advantage.

IN: Oliver, Petracca
OUT: Brayshaw (omit), Frost (omit)
LUCKY: Harmes (due for a rotation)
UNLUCKY: Trengove (will get a very popular comeback game soon), M. Jones (went out at the wrong time)

Was it worth it?
Two in a row, what do you think? I've seen so much garbage since 186 that even if it's destined to fizzle out before long I'm going to ride this wave of public approval for all it's worth before we come out as hated as ever. Oppressed people of all colours (as long as they're red and blue), rise up and strike - at the risk of ending up in the papers for doing war metaphors Nathan Jones is our general, Jack Viney is our metaphorical tank division, Gawn represents the aerial attack and Bugg is the king of guerilla warfare. Let the good times roll.

Final Thoughts

In seven days we've done what it took us all of 2013 to. This is why it wasn't worth throwing yourself under a moving vehicle after the Essendon defeat, there are probably still bad times to come this year to balance out the good but that day was the reminder they desperately needed to start playing properly again. One day you'll send a card to John Worsford to say thanks.

We've missed the opportunity to beat North during the decade (except for the finals right?), but after two wins in a row across the same season instead of a Merv Hughes hat-trickesque split of wins across seasons it's time to attack the other chronic issues that have given us the shits so comprehensively - it starts with beating St Kilda for the first time since 2006 next week, then Hawthorn, then a win at Subiaco before it's knocked down and for god's sake I would like to go into a game and absolutely stomp somebody again. Is that too much to ask?

Not only are we going to Subiaco, we're going to Docklands and Metricon, and Darwin. We're going to Alice Springs, and Sydney, and Kardinia Park and then back to the MCG to win the flag*. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!.


* This man withdrew from the race just under a month later, we may very well do the same.

4 comments:

  1. Nice work Adam, enjoyed the Bugg love. He was outstanding by setting the generally spiteful tone. Looks an absolute prick, and based on the calibre of bloke at Hawthorn this is a very good quality to have.

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  2. Glorious.

    Thought: in the spirit of making Bugg feel celebrated, what about a weekly Rod Grinter Award for the player who delivers the most notable act of thuggery each week. Bernie for Rd 3 vs North, Kent for the Dom Tyson-got-bumped into a goalpost flying elbow, Rd 4, for example.

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  3. Relative newcomer to your blog. V enjoyable. I bow to your superior knowledge of all things Melbourne (particularly being from SA), but Lumumba? Really? I hold my breathe whenever he gets the ball. I nearly died on Sunday night. Surely there are 2-3 others who can take his spot that would give us less hypertension.

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  4. Ahh yes, the new-age Matthew Bate. Perhaps the most ludicrous/amazing series on YT. Personal highlight is when he suggests that 'some people don't breathe enough'.

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