It was no longer important that we'd had to come from three goals behind in the last quarter to win or that we nearly stuffed it up in the last 20 seconds we were 1-0 and heading into a game that everybody assured us we couldn't lose. Which as a Melbourne fan is exactly the point where you should start panicking.
Essendon's makeshift side had been horrid during the pre-season and played like a rudderless wreck again Gold Coast (though at the time of writing the Suns have just done what we will never do again before they bulldoze the place by winning a game at Subiaco, so perhaps that was a stronger formline than it seemed at the time?) so it did seem likely that we'd win. Just like when we played them last time after they'd just lost by 100 and everyone was buzzing about the chance to kill off the legend of James Hird only to launch a comeback in the last quarter, and get within two before Joe Daniher sunk us. If you thought The Comedy Club had shut its doors you were sadly mistaken, everyone not wearing orange is invited.
For the last few years there's been no such thing as a dull Melbourne vs Essendon game. Twice now we've been beaten favourites in close matches, twice in years where we were the ones with half a list who shouldn't have been in the AFL we've won as underdogs in thrillers and for the decider they beat us by 148 points. There was also that NAB Cup game last year where we warmed up a year early by losing to a side heavily reliant on fill-ins courtesy of a blooper kick in defence. When you throw in the Chris Sullivan Line game, the 2000 Grand Final and Neale Daniher's last game the overall balance is tipped well in their favour.
There was no need to go over the top about the projected margin or ease of victory, I'd have been perfectly happy with a bog standard win and personally expected that we wouldn't get there without a violent struggle. Because bitter experience has told me that we don't bash teams, we bore them into submission.
Free-wheeling excitement machine sides will probably kick the suitcase out of Essendon, but for all the barely concealed glee about how exciting football was 'back' after Round 1 (which lasted a quarter into Friday night of Round 2 before people were complaining again) there is one team that can be relied upon to fly the flag for the sort of low scoring, ponderous, grindhouse football that plays right into the hands of opponents like this.
You're not going to win many games scoring 10.7.67, but once in a while when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars we get away with it - and if that had happened today there would have been no moaning from me, I'd have happily taken the four points and run across Yarra Park to Jolimont Station stuffing them up my jumper.
No matter how seemingly weakened the opposition were, if we'd found ourselves 2-0 after the first fortnight of the season the lid would have flown off so violently it would have interfered with civil aviation. I desperately wanted to believe this was the case, and to join in safe in the knowledge that we'd most likely lose the next two anyway but the nagging feeling of impending doom could not be shaken.
I've been permanently scarred, this was supposed to be a week for the masses who have been gagging for the opportunity to take out the frustrations of the last few years on a suitably hapless opponent. They thought this was going to be the birthday party to celebrate us hitting legal age by thrashing somebody. How's that working for you? The idea that we were going to run riot all day and rumble them by triple figures was laughable considering we're lucky to kick 100 points in a game.
And that's where this comes in:
It was all very presumptuous to decide we were going to win easily. My football punditry skills are on a par with Brian Taylor but I did write somewhere (not that I can find it now) that this was the worst time to play the new look Bombers - while the recycled players were still motivated, the kids were full of beans, injuries hadn't taken a toll and they hadn't yet been demoralised by repeated thumpings. Whether you cared to admit it to yourself or not it was a danger game.
I tried to be positive about starting as red hot favourites, thinking that the lessons we'd learnt last week would be refined into a well-oiled machine which could not possibly fail to win. Even if the Bombers jumped us they'd tire etc.. etc.. but I only half believed it. It was a miracle that we avoided providing the first win to either Gold Coast or GWS, but if there was any team who could waste a free kick like this I was a member of them. It really helped soften the blow a couple of hours later when we'd cocked it up.
Seems like everyone involved with the all-important on-field side of things entered the game with the same casual attitude towards Essendon. There was a distinct lack of interest in going near an opponent for four quarters, and while they were full of fire in the first few minutes we could barely stick a tackle. The projected fatigue issues never came, and if anyone suffered it was probably us.
Three times during the afternoon it looked like we'd finally worked them out and were about to deliver the sort of battling win against an allegedly inferior team that people complain about out loud but are secretly thrilled by. Three times we stuffed it up again on the back of Essendon players roaming free north, south, east and west then kicking to the giraffe-like figure of Joe Daniher who might have been the worst set shot since Earl Spalding but whacked the bejesus out of our defenders with his marking enough times that by sheer weight of numbers he delivered the scores that won the game. He did his best Travis Cloke impersonation on McDonald, quite literally kept Garland at arms' length and at various times got to take advantage of our defensive disorientation by contesting against Matt Jones or Neville Jetta. You know when you tense up in terror every time the ball flies high inside defensive 50 that you're seeing quite the performance.
At this point it should be said that for suspicions about Essendon and a large group of their fans who hold extremist views about sports to the right of Genghis Khan that they deserved victory. This was not entirely a case of us losing it by playing like millionaires while still living in a cardboard box, Essendon quickly realised that we weren't up for it and took full advantage. By the time we came 'good' they already had their tail up and we could never shake them again.
In fact it was more the opposite, they were the more dangerous side all day and we were the ones doing the chasing before they eventually shook us off like rain from an umbrella. The most offensive part of it was the way they turned Free Range Essendon, with loose players all over the place under no pressure whatsoever. Then when we got the ball back we didn't have any, so where had they all gone? As opposed to the humane way they were set up the time we did any good work was when our players were five deep inside a pack like caged hens. In the open we were like any variety of poultry after its head had been lopped off.
I watch games in a state of psychological meltdown which makes analysing tactics almost impossible, but even I could see that their 'spread' (winner - best footy cliché 2013) was what did us in. It meant easy disposals and quick forward entries, giving the guy with the long face who tormented us all day multiple opportunities to finally get it right. My blood pressure normalised by the final siren but during the game it spiked every time I saw people wearing zany numbers like 51 running in waves.
The odd, but hardly surprising, thing about defeat was how most of our best players from last week went completely tits up this time. It was hard to tell if anybody was actually 'on' anyone, but whether Jack Viney was matched up against Goddard or Zaharakis he could barely get a kick while both Essendonians ran riot. Their numbers don't tell the full story because Essendon players were running around racking up high scores like a pinball machine but Jack's did. I refuse to believe that he of all people would have taken the opposition casually, and he was still our leading tackler (though five Essendon players had as many or more so five didn't count for much without support from his teammates) but it was a significant step back from last week.
The traditional Jack Watts false start came back to haunt us again as he went missing for the first three quarters. In the last he did one of those things that make you quiver with excitement with his pinpoint golden pass to Hogan but until then there had been none of the marauding and contested marking we'd seen from the pre-season through the first game. It's no reason to call talkback radio yet, but Essendon weren't falling for the same sort of shit the Giants did. The pre-match video of John Worsfold giving an alleged rev-up speech to the members was so boring it almost put me to sleep but when it came to doing what they pay him to he slit us up a treat.
Gawn did his best in the middle, dominating the hitouts but without anyone to tap to. He battled hard, and of the five vote getters last week went closest to repeating but dominating the hit-outs counted for naught when all the damage was done after the ball broke loose. His day was summed up in two pieces of play during the last quarter - first Essendon forgot to include a ruckman at a centre bounce (we lost to this team) and because he still didn't have anyone clear to palm the ball to he just thumped it forward to generate an attack which we got nothing out of it. Later as the game hung in the balance he delivered a perfect tap straight into the arms of an opponent who stormed towards the forward 50 - the ultimate hitout to disadvantage.
Oliver didn't do much wrong, and his goal at the start of the last quarter was welcomed, but a high bar had been set the week before and after his clearance extravaganza on debut he was brought back to earth with nil. Much to the delight of Essendon fans who had almost stormed AFL House with pitchforks when our man was nominated for the Rising Star, Darcy Parish played a blinder and should become the latest in a long line of players to earn their nod for taking advantage of our disinterest in pressure.
Then there was Tom McDonald, who I generally have wholehearted support for but this time I'm out and let's try again next week. There were a few good moments here and there, but it started badly in the first quarter when his ill-fated attempt to play-on ended in an Essendon goal courtesy of a kick reminiscent of Cale Morton on Queen's Birthday 2012 and didn't get much better from there.
Still, once Daniher had showed the only thing which could stop him from ripping us to shreds was his own suspect kicking what other options did we have? Stop allowing him so many one-on-ones? Easier said than done when their midfielders both real and temporary were dashing forward with the greatest of us ease.
I couldn't understand why you'd pick Lumumba off the back of one VFL game instead of Dunn, and after four quarters of high steppin' and long roostin' to nobody in particular I'm still no wiser. Dunn might not have been able to stop Daniher but at least he'd have been there in the packs sticking a knee in and questioning his parentage. Harry wasn't entirely to blame for the outcome of the kicks, if we'd been launching the same sort of human wave attacks Essendon were with a phalanx of free players at the end of every ball it would come off quite nicely. When it turned out we weren't he pressed on anyway, probably in the hope than Swan or Pendlebury would miraculously appear in red and blue to save him like the good old days.
It's too early in the season to run the numbers on one goal first quarters again, let's save that for the next one which should be no further away than an injury to a member of the Grimes family, but it was a familiar feeling to toil away for half an hour without converting any decent chances. Only one speculative snap from Brayshaw went through. It was good that the Bombers were committing the same sort of suicidal goalkicking errors that had cost them two games us against us in recent years, because it allowed us to stay close even though half our team were unsighted and most of the ones that were were playing terribly.
We could have had one right at the end if the siren hadn't gone just at the wrong time for Hogan. Cram your comic japes about his run-up, it is surprisingly effective but when you're doing that sort of OCD shit the last thing you need is a siren ringing midway through the routine. It was another average day for him, not even saved with an avalanche of last quarter goals this time, and his frustration will probably lead to him headbutting somebody during the year - whether that's an opponent, coach, umpire or teammate remains to be seen. It would have helped if he could get a free for being molested by opponents, but unless the free can help avoid a stoppage the umpires aren't interested any more. Still doesn't mean he needs to go around yelling his displeasure at the umpire while the ball is still in play, but he's hardly going off like a pork chop Nick Kygios style just yet.
I found it somewhere between baffling and troubling when he was sent to be the loose man in defence at the end of quarters when we were trying to sludge our way to the break without further damage. For all the moaning about Jack Watts being played back over the years surely he's a better option for a 90 second stop-gap job than Hogan? I don't know if they were trying to teach him something or if he just wandered down there himself in an attempt to help but it didn't work and might have cost us the last goal of the first half when he added to the general confusion of McDonald/Garland trying to spoil Daniher.
The missing players were numerous, but there was a surprise positive cameo by Matt Jones. You would expect that in any halfway serious team he would be nowhere near the seniors, but considering where we are I feel like he's done a reasonable job reinventing himself as a running defender this year. Not counting on it to last though and expect to keenly looking at any alternatives from the VFL who are not Dean Terlich by Round 4.
Search parties are still trying to locate Dean Kent, but how good was Ben Kennedy? He's done it in bursts across the four quarters so far but I'll take that for a contribution across the day. Getting him looks like a good piece of business so far, though we wait nervously for Jeremy Howe to turn up for his first game with the Pies in a fortnight and kick six.
My suspicions about vandenBerg stalling this year are nowhere near coming true yet, and I hope he will yet spit in my eye for suggesting it, but it seems like he's spent more time forward than in the midfield over the first couple of weeks. Probably has a lot to do with the rotation cap, and it's not the worst idea ever because he is a big bastard but I want to see him consistently in the middle knocking people over and not roaming the half-forward any more than is absolutely necessary to keep us under 90 rotations.
Usually we'd kick five goals in the first quarter then go to sleep in the second but this was the reverse. Either way, if there's a Melbourne half with one 'high scoring' quarter you can be sure the other one will be so boring you'll wish you'd brought a book. We might have kicked five goals straight, but still went to half time five points further behind thanks to the Bombers spraying away indiscriminately at goal. I apologise to the guy sitting in front of me, who hated Harry O more than I hate $cully, who must have heard me say words to the effect of "that's a let off, now punish them" 10 times. Then whoever was kicking in would stand there ignoring decent options before eventually hoofing the ball in Gawn's direction expecting him to get them out of trouble. And back it would come.
Conceding the first goal of the second quarter within a minute suggested that we could get started early on going right off and pouring lighter fluid down the race but it actually provoked the second comeback which roped us into thinking that 'class' and 'quality' might win out in the end. I think it still did, and we don't have the excuse of the courts banning any of our players other than the one we'd bought from them. I wonder if Jake Milkshake was there today, if so he was probably sitting in the Essendon section considering the only thing he's done since joining us have been a) somebody stealing his training gear, b) getting banned from appearing until next year and c) having us stop paying him.
First came the sort of Garlett goal that you'd walk over broken glass to get, where he gathered and took off on a race with two flailing opponents who he beat hands down. The next goal to Kennedy was another tap in from the line, showing that if Essendon were going to neck themselves with wonky set shots we might respond by making sure we couldn't miss. The Harmes goal after a dropped mark by a defender sprung right into his hands was the furthest any of them were kicked from and it came from the top of the square. It was good crumb, it put us back in front and it was time to do one or more of crush, kill and/or destroy.
The tide turned back against us through a Matt Jones blooper, but if you're going to shoot every Melbourne player who commits a blunder than you'll have to wheel in more than Matthew Stokes, James Kelly, Ryan Crowley and a fake Anthony McDonald to fill the list. What he did was far less heinous than Neville Jetta giving away one of the most pointless free kicks in history by clattering his opponent to the ground while the ball was flying harmlessly over their head and through for the point. Without seeing a replay, and I never will, I have no idea what he was thinking.
When Maximum conceded a 50 by failing to grasp the new 10 metre exclusion zone the Melbourne supporters around me began to exhibit signs of the fear that is so welcomed when you see it in opposition fans as they start to realise that they might lose an 'unloseable' game. Anybody who thought it actually was 'unloseable' got exactly what they deserved.
We continued to plug away, and the sight of Garlett converting a set shot from 40 metres out was enough to warm the heart. That would have been enough to keep it under a goal, but our attempts to sit back and absorb pressure for the rest of the quarter backfired when Daniher marked over the unlikely trio of Garland, Hogan and McDonald then ran around and kicked the goal rather than banging it straight out on the full from the goalline a'la Pedersen vs GWS as we'd all hoped.
Only Melbourne could leave you deflated after a five goal quarter but conceding the last goal cost us the quarter, and as much as we couldn't have played any worse yet remained in it there was something unsettling about the way they were overground, underground wombling free at will.
If we'd reset at half time and come out doing something different we might have gotten away with it, but the second half was much of the same, with Hogan usually well up the ground and Watts back in purgatory there was usually nobody to kick to even when we did get a turnover. The Baileyball style swashbuckling from defence into attack worked about as well as it did most weeks during its hey day.
The third quarter provided as much entertainment as World Movies if you don't know the code to access the R rated stuff (that would be '1234' if you're looking for something more exciting to do than watch Melbourne), with both sides kicking one goal. That left our quarter-by-quarter goalkicking tally for the year at 5, 0, 1, 6, 1, 5, 1 which is incidentally the same number as the 'Find Dean Kent' hotline.
In a press conference that drew worse reviews than an Eddie Murphy film, Roos suggested some of the younger players looked 'tired' and questioned whether they should have picked Angus Brayshaw. His wild snap in the first quarter said yes, his general inability to get near the ball for the rest of the game said no and his set shot in the third quarter where he missed everything from 20 metres out was too puzzling to be properly classified. His cause was not helped by sharing pseudo-sub duties with Oliver as the only two players with under 70% game time and he will be better for the run.
We were forced to come from behind at three quarter time again, as we had against the depleted Bulldogs in the pre-season and the Giants last week so there was proof it could be done. Oliver got the first in near record time - approximately 18 seconds which will have to be amongst the fastest MFC goals I've ever seen - before Watts returned from exile to put us in front a couple of minutes later. Happy days were here again.
For the third time we'd been given a life, then a fourth and fifth when Daniher missed another pair of set shots.Hogan then enjoyed the fruits of Watts' wonderful kick to get his first and last of the day, but the sad thing was I still thought we'd lose. Even though we were now almost two goals in front it was clear that while we had to bust our chops just to get the ball into position to launch an attack they were galloping through the midfield and going long to the same target every time - a target who we'd proven incapable of stopping.
The giant fist hung over us like a MFC branded Sword of Damocles, and our lead barely lasted two minutes before Daniher finally converted a normal set shot. He had to start kicking goals eventually, and the only thing I was surprised about was that it didn't take until after the siren from an impossible angle for him to win them the game. That was it, time for the biggest of cliché of them all - they wanted it more. Our best avenue to goal was speculative toe-pokes while they were finding free men whichever way they turned. It was bullshit, but we've only got ourselves to blame.
As painful as it was watching us slip away having finally got on top again the further it went the less it started to affect me. Maybe it was because I didn't remember until hours later than it meant we'd been beaten partially by Mark Neeld, or maybe it was dangerously bottled up because on my way home I was halfway up the street before realising I was driving on the wrong side of the road but there just didn't seem like any reason to go spare at the time.
It's Round 2, we weren't going to make the finals anyway and we've been humiliated enough times during the #fistedforever decade that they all mix into one big blend of spite. The only difference, other than the perceived easybeat status of the opposition, was that we hadn't suffered a defeat for so long it actually seemed unusual to be going home unhappy.
That familiar feeling of riding high in the Laughing Stock League was back, and it looks like I was the only one to take it with a distant feeling of distress because every other Melbourne fan I know was opening Kickstarter campaigns to buy small boats in which to push players and/or coaches out on high tide. Suddenly we were replacing the captain, sacking the coach and power companies were reporting localised blackouts caused by fans dipping a toaster in the tub. I would never presume to tell you how to react to a result, but the only thing between us and Richmond fans was two hours of carnage on Finey's Final Siren. And three finals campaigns.
We played like arseholes and almost everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves, but the popular suggestion in the immediate aftermath that it was worse than 186 was as laughable. If every match our fans had declared was supposedly worse than Round 19, 2011 that horrifying afternoon would be out of the top 10 by now. The only time it was ever relevant was 148, which lacked six goals of brutally compared to Kardinia Park but was arguably more soul destroying. When you look back at this with some perspective the only way you'll be able to squeeze it into your top 10 is if it was the last leg of a lucrative multibet.
It's one thing comparing yourself to the supporters who have made self-loathing an art form, but it's dangerous to suggest you've got anything in common with their team. I feel like we're at the same point Richmond were four or five years ago where they'd go from losing games they were expected to win one week to pulling wins against good sides from their descending colon the next and nobody would be any the wiser about the overall picture. It shows there's a future yet, imagine the greatest debate in your life being whether or not to sack the coach if he gets you to the finals and doesn't win one.
All is not necessarily lost yet, we could come out next week and beat North for all I know* so let's all step in off the ledge and see what happens next instead of going off half-cocked and generating more opportunities for the players to start playing with terror. Considering one of the main accusations against our players is that they're mentally unfit chasing them down the aisle of the supermarket screaming "GET A KICK YOU BASTARD!" isn't going to help.
This doesn't seem like a polite time to point out that Gold Coast actually look good this year and have our first draft pick coming their way. As long as we don't finish in the bottom four I can live with it, and I think that's an unbelievably mediocre goal that is still well within our grasp.
* We will not actually do this
2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Bernie Vince
4 - Ben Kennedy
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Matt Jones
1 - Cameron Pedersen
Apologies to Garlett, Gawn, Harmes and Salem. None of them deserved a vote but the bottom two spots were a lottery so any sort of bizarre decision might have been made.
Five completely new vote getters, and embarrassment for me leaving Vince out of the Seecamp betting markets as he takes the lead. I don't think he can get to Round 23 without being switched permanently into the midfield and disqualified, but at the moment we could be heading for the first "any other player" win in history.
5 - Bernie Vince (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Viney
4 - Ben Kennedy, Jack Watts
3 - Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
2 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Matt Jones
1 - Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen
It's another victory thanks to our attractive font and strong kerning, but Essendon had to be commended for a reasonable effort. They were let down by a mid 90's font, and a tedious "congratulations Joe Daniher 50 games" message instead of what we really wanted to see - threats of vengeance against the league and media alike. Another point in their favour was the lack of a curtain.
Ours had the western world's entire supply of sticky tape on it, so not sure if it was threatening to tear apart at some point before it was hoisted but a winner nonetheless 5-0 Dees and let's be entirely frank this segment is really starting to lose momentum.
The pre-match antics were a fizzer, maybe everyone was tired from having marched from Federation Square, but there was nothing near the atmosphere of barely restrained violence that I'd been looking forward to. Where was the the modern equivalent of the time Shane Warne had to put a helmet on and plead with the crowd to stop throwing shit on the field? Kevin Sheedy would have been the perfect man to try and calm a crowd threatening to set Pete Lazar alight.
After so much build up I expected the "stand up and clap" session to go for 15 minutes, with everyone acting like a North Korean rally where they were at pains to try and look like they were having the time of their lives when they were actually dead inside. It turned out to be no more enthusiastic than the traditional banner run-through, just with a few more people standing. They stood, they clapped for about five seconds, the theme song played and it was over. Those choosing to protest by turning their back didn't even get a chance because it was over so quickly.
This was followed by Kevin Sheedy earning his head cheerleader salary of $250,000 a year by waving a jacket above his head. When this angle was floated in the papers on April 1 nobody was quite sure if it was an April Fool's gag or not. Considering the original jacket waving incident took place against West Coast if he wanted to make a real impact should have waved a copy of the 2000 Grand Final DVD.
It turned out to be an actual thing, but as nobody bothered to announce to the crowd what they were supposed to do interest was confined to their cheersquad and a small pocket of nutters in the Olympic Stand. The Bombers fans around me couldn't give a shit, which was a shame because if one of them had caught me in the eye mid-swing an afternoon in the Epworth would have saved me from what followed.
That was the last we heard of the pep rally, where was Hird being driven around in an open top car while middle-aged women threw their knickers at him? The closest we got to entertainment from there was when they played Six Months In A Leaky Boat at quarter time, a song that's hardly relevant to two sides who have both been floundering for years.
Matchday Experience Watch
Essendon's usual non-rally day stuff is so cringeworthy that it's lucky they beat us or I'd really tee off. No doubt Sheeds is sitting around thinking it up alongside innovations such as a game dedicated to farmers (Jeff or GTFO) but as the man who is on the record as hating football/war metaphors he can't have been the person who came up with the boundary advertising suggesting Essendon were 'ready for battle' had 'locked on their target' and all sorts of other references to an air force dropping large amounts of ordnance on people below.
Funnily enough when searching for the link to the story where he said no war references I found this from February where he does a war reference. It's since been removed from the AFL website (possibly by request of Kev), but can still be viewed thanks to the wonders of caching.
At least he can't be blamed for the air raid siren they play before games, warmly welcoming those of you who've come to Australia seeking sanctuary from war-torn cultures.
Stat My Bitch Up
Has one club ever provided the last victory for a sacked coach and the first for his replacement?
Last week I risked a defamation lawsuit by suggesting that boundary umpires had been instructed to let a player carry the ball slightly over the line to avoid a throw-in, and I've refined my theory further. Does anyone else think it was highly suspicious that twice as the ball rolled harmlessly over the line one of our players was nabbed for a pissweak bump or alleged high tackle? To the AFL free kicks are less offensive than boundary throw-ins, so if you see anything that can avoid one then pay it.
It didn't happen in our game, but did you notice during Collingwood vs Richmond how many times a wonky bounce was called play-on? Stoppages have been declared The Great Satan, and they are doing anything to avoid them even if it means not recalling bounces to make it fair.
It's unlikely now that I'll ever be an AFL player but with the new interchange restrictions I suspect I'd love a few stoppages to get my breath back. It's all well and good to run everybody into the ground in Round 2 (unless you're the side the coach has just declared as "looking tired") but come Round 23 the people who deliver water will be carrying an oxygen tank strapped to their back.
Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It must be Garlett, when he wasn't kicking goals or setting them up he couldn't get near it but the one he kicked sprinting away from the Bombers players from the 50 to the line was a thing of beauty. I know 2014 was our lowest scoring season since Hitler was alive but you can see how it happened without a decent, quick small forward. It would be nice if he could get involved around the ground more, but as long as he keeps kicking two goals a game you can't be too unhappy.
As the weekly winner he receives a trip on the Route 19 tram past Princes Park where he may point and laugh in the company of ex-teammates Chris Johnson and Brock McLean at least until they beat us. Ben Kennedy, our best recruit from Collingwood since Peter Moore, retains the overall lead.
Good luck to those of you venturing to Hobart for the final instalment in our decade long quest to win a game against North Melbourne. In that time they've spent that time throwing away huge leads and losing games as hot favourites to the entire competition except us so you could say we were due, but you'd be wrong. May you not end up float back to mainland on a raft with Jack Watts.
We'll lose, it's the amplitude which will determine how mental things get. After that it's Collingwood, who are vulnerable and last start losers against us but still more likely than not to win. If we got away with one of the two I'd be thrilled.
All of Neal-Bullen, Petracca, Trengove and Weideman had good games in the VFL but given that it was a practice match what are we meant to take from it? In the world of secondary competitions the proper stuff in the SANFL, VFL and WAFL is all starting in different weeks, and only of them managed to align with the competition they're supposed to be feeding. At least now that the Foxtel Cup has been shelved there are only two VFL byes and a state game to frustrate us.
Let's not jump at shadows and start indiscriminately axing people just yet, but as there's a 0% chance of my selected omission coming true I expect to be distressed at 1820 Thursday night when the teams come out and they've done some kooky.
OUT: Lumumba (omit)
LUCKY: Kent, Tyson
UNLUCKY: Neal-Bullen (Perhaps if we'd played him in the pre-season instead of picking him in the squad every week then leaving him out we'd have a better idea of whether that form would stack up in the seniors)
Was it worth it?
Not particularly, but the result was appropriate karma for first turning back a birthday invitation then leaving my ill family to go to the game. Setting the bar at births, deaths and marriages is likely to leave me lonely, bitter and twisted in my senior years but having successfully kicked every other vice that I'd perfected in my adult life is it too much to ask for 26 afternoons (the bar is only slightly lower for pre-season games) of every year to indulge my vendetta? Didn't mean I felt any less guilty though.
The joke will eventually be on me when I'm shunned by all then the Dees go out of business.
Maybe I'm not old enough to stop feeling like I absolutely have to be at games, but after seeing so much horror over the years it just washes over me now - especially when deep down I expected it to happen. If $cully had got to that ball and kicked the winning goal last week I'd have had a blow up for the ages but that's personal.
This time while everyone else was tearing their medicine cabinet apart looking for cyanide tablets I just went home, took my kid to the park, went down a slide and moved on with life.