Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blue Murder


How very Melbourne, to be halfway up the ladder then fall off. To take all talk of a miracle finish to the season that you'd still be thinking about on your deathbed, tie it to an old stove and throw it in the harbour.



After several months total over the last few years where workplace productivity ground to halt as the result of crushing defeats it was about time that I got a full week to panic over upcoming results instead. All we needed was for Sydney to beat North in Hobart and to avoid cocking up the biggest free kick ever against a side who'd just lost nine in a row - with a side serving of tension about percentage - and we'd be alive next Saturday. We didn't deserve to make the finals, and we'd have undoubtedly been pantsed in the first week if we got there but we'd have been a chance. Then disaster.

The tension woke me up at 5.30am two days in a row, and continued through the game until now where my jaw is so tightly clenched that I expect to wake up in the morning with a crushing headache but not be able to chuck a sickie because everyone will think it's just because of the result. We got the fourth leg of the Mighty Ducks finish when Sydney withstood two comebacks and an interest in punting the ball straight at opposition defenders not seen since us on Queen's Birthday last year to beat North. With GWS about to finish in the top four it was NQR to be investing so much emotion in the still unlikely fifth, sixth and seventh legs of the MDF - but given that beating Carlton was supposed to be the easiest of the three it pointed to at least six days more of belief. Don't trust anyone.

All I asked for was to beat a side that had lost nine games in a row so we could end the #fistedforever era, no matter what happened next week. 10 years would have been a good time to switch off the analogue signal, move to digital and try to put our various disgraces behind us as we moved to the Mid-Table Mediocrity era, but here we are empty handed and broken-hearted again. It's not even about finals (well, not 100%), even if North had won yesterday I'd still feel the potent mix of shame and anger at losing yet another game as red hot favourites.

I'd even held my bile when they unnecessarily tinkered with a winning team by making three changes. What a time to give Viv Michie another go as a defender when he'd shown stuff all in three appearances this year. Statistically he wasn't bad, but if there was a way to rate overall attacking impact he'd barely move the needle. Given that we didn't even bother to tease picking Grimes in the extended team on Thursday I expect he's told us "I'll be right at Casey thanks", and they might have been wary of Salem after missing half the year but even Matt Jones would have made more impact than Vivian. I can't see why Harmes had to go out in the first place, he hasn't been great in the three wins but obviously the structure had something about it when we were knocking over Hawthorn and winning in Adelaide for the second time in 15 years. Garlett was an enforced change with a mysterious skin infection (probably caused by a racist Port fan throwing rotten fruit at him from over the fence), but while I was originally accepting of a Weideman/Pedersen switch did nobody consult the Bureau of Meteorology forecast when picking the side on Thursday night?

The issue of setting out for a crucial game with a Watts, Hogan, Weid triple terror forward line who'd never played one competitive game together was one thing but in the wet it was madness. For the third time this year we entered a game knowing that at least some of it would be played in the wet and didn't do anything to try and change the way we played. I've lost confidence in Dawes but at least the other two times we've tried it with an experienced, premiership player and not a second gamer. What were they thinking? Who knows if either of Carlton's late outs were enforced, and who cares - you're not on the bloody honour system to only alter the side on the day of the game if somebody suffers a legitimate illness or injury. Even worse that this time Casey was due to play in Geelong the same day, so we had access to bringing any of Garland, Pedersen or Harmes in from the emergencies. Having two talls in reserve with heavy rain forecast, did they pick this team out of a hat? Still, I tried to stuff my reservations deep inside and hope that everything would turn out ok. Ever been in a situation where you have a sixth sense something terrible is going to happen but you miraculously emerge from it unscathed? That was me from 6.25pm Thursday until 1.25pm Sunday.

Due to poor research I had no idea my train line was out for track works, leading to a mad scramble and illegal parking to get to the MCG before the first bounce. I got there just in time for the Blues shooting fireworks as their side ran through the banner, accompanied by people running around waving flags with the premiership years on them. It was well over the top for a team that has done nothing for 20 years, but it must have had some impact on our players who were spooked by the pyrotechnics and smoke as if they were passing under the Do Lung Bridge. I though the worst that could happen would be losing one or two players to smoke inhalation, but it got so much worse.

It was instantly obvious from the first bounce that we weren't on, like when we played the Blues last year and Essendon twice over two years. It was sickening how similar the Round 2 loss was to the one we gifted Essendon at the end of 2015, and this was equally revoltingly as our late 2015 farce against Carlton. We went in as favourite, they had late changes (two in this case, just to taunt us by making their starting lineup even more anonymous), we played a casual first quarter which allowed them to set up a match-winning lead and didn't do more than nibble away at it for the rest of the day. The Blues must have had last year's game on repeat, with Brendan Bolton wearing an even wider grin than usual as he realised we'd probably stuff it up again. We don't have any videos on file of us playing well in the wet, so the least we could have done was watch the first quarter of the West Coast game where we at least scared them shitless with pressure before dying from a wasteful forward line.

The difference was then there was nothing on the line except pride - and we didn't have any of that left anyway - whereas this time a win would leave the door open for a 1987 style miracle finish or a 1976-esque final round horror scenario. I already thought we'd give a little yelp then lose comfortably to the Cats, but that didn't matter because I just wanted to have a ticket in the lottery. For god's sake Chapter 23 of the Mighty Ducks DVD is called "A Shot At A Dream", what more could you ask for? In his last MCG press conference Roos was very keen to point out that the team didn't get ahead of themselves thinking about finals, and I can believe that because recent history has shown us they don't need top eight implications to play miserably against struggling sides.

After previous experience feeling cheated after starting favourites I tried to take to this game with a degree of suspicion, after all hadn't the Blues almost toppled Sydney and West Coast during their losing streak? Even after Sydney blew the chance to thrash the Roos and make our job easy I still wasn't thinking about the percentage implications. I did think we'd win though, how could you not? Even a slight, weedy victory that we all instantly labelled the "worst ever" would have given us a few days to worry about the permutations for next week. If the changes hadn't worried me then their lineup featuring the most unheralded selection of players since Leigh Wardell-Johnson and the 1995 Fremantle Dockers really gave cause for concern. God knows who 75% of them are, but they perfectly executed a plan against a side that weren't up for it so good luck to them.

All I wanted was to get to Kardinia Park with it in our hands. Victory by any margin there was outrageously unlikely, but a win by anywhere between 1 and 999 points would have seen me exit the train at Spencer Street, turn left and enter Etihad Stadium as the most passionate Greater Western Sydney Giants fan ever. In the spirit of apartheid South Africa declaring the members of visiting sports teams 'Honorary Whites' I would have even considered $cully an 'Honorary Good Bloke' for the time in which he could influence our future. Now they're a bunch of arseholes again all we've got to look forward to in a season that had spent a fortnight promising 'something' before spiralling into disaster is him enjoying the final knockout blow by lifting the premiership cup.

After five of the seven legs of the miracle were ticked off and the next leg was up to us I cursed the weather report suggesting a 90% chance of rain, knowing it was likely to slow down our undoubted quality advantage. After intermittent rain throughout the morning the showers returned later, but what actually slowed down any quality advantage was Carlton turning up to play from the first bounce while our lot looked like they weren't particularly concerned. The choke was on immediately when Gawn's first ruck contest only ended in the Blues going forward and kicking a goal - the first act in the crippling stranglehold Bryce Gibbs and the uncrowned 2015 Rising Star Patrick Cripps had over us when the game was in the balance. Both racked up untold possessions in the first half while we practically stood around giving them a rousing ovation,

Deep down I was still concerned about percentage, even as I simultaneously knew we were probably going to stuff this up, but conceding the first goal didn't have to be fatal. Remember, the first step was getting four competition points. From what became a neutral perspective when I started frantically trying to disown the Dees I liked the Blues high degree of niggle. It was a step up from Port unsuccessfully trying to go the knuckle last week and being laughed at, including Dylan Buckley shoving Bugg on his arse after the opening goal. What we needed at this point was for somebody who knew they weren't crucial next week to take a stand and belt a Carlton player but nobody was interested.

We got the goal back when Tom McDonald - playing his third straight week of cock-up free football - devised a blueprint for all future attacks (available unused from the Demon Shop) by whipping a long kick to a pack where Hogan's unrealistic half attempt at a mark cracked open the space for vandenBerg to crumb. Doesn't matter how you get it, but it was telling that even as the goal went through Hogan was busy cracking the shits to himself about missing the grab. He did give away a freebie goal later, so I'm not accusing him of being hungry to a Steve Johnson level (and nobody would care if he was regularly kicking goals) but you do tend to get worried about spending a million bucks a year on him. I suppose we have to take the risk, but I will admit yelling "make me an offer Freo" to nobody in particular when he missed that crucial shot in the last.

AVB's goal was the springboard to better things for one team, and it wasn't us. As part of a near total dominance of the centre Carlton went straight out of the middle to reply within 30 seconds and we were rapidly going rotten. Jones and Viney recovered to play almost as good a game as any of our players, but if anybody could have got near the drop of the ball from the middle in the first quarter it would have helped. Even secondary bounces would have slowed the Blues down, not that we were having much luck there either as they successfully implemented the third man up tactic that has done us in several times this year to neutralise Gawn. And how did we tackle that? By doing the same thing all day long with equally disappointing results.

After so much success playing on quickly all year we played a weird hybrid of trying to do that without options, standing still hoping somebody else would run for the pass or handballing it around in circles until we turned it over. At three goals to one down with no indication that we were going to arrive and being participating any time soon Vince continued a month that has more often than not been diabolical by throwing in a classic 'play on with an opponent right behind you' inside defensive 50. They missed the kick but that said it all about where we were going. Somewhere Brad Scott was pumping his hands in the air and celebrating an Olympic themed Steven Bradbury style escape from last round drama. You're welcome North fans.

That was the point where we settled down and stopped gifting the Blues opportunities, when they were already three goals in front in a game they won by four, and over the next 10 minutes we had a genuine bash but continually necked ourselves with an overdose of dinky handballs. For once the "JUST KICK IT!" crowd had a point, until players starting doing that and only found a nest of Blues. Carlton's early enthusiasm and commitment to driving our players bonkers with physicality had evaporated and they stopped kicking goals, but we looked as likely to get one own as in the earliest days of the Roos regime. We scored 4.6.30 in his second game, and were lucky to get much more than that in his second last. Even when we kicked the last of the term it was thanks to a Carlton turning the ball over from their attacking 50 into the middle of the ground where for once our unwillingness to give the ball to the first option eventually worked and allowed Hunt to dash down the middle and kick it (Dwayne Russell: "That's one of the goals of the year!" You flange, that's not even his best). Have you noticed how he always has one massive dash in the first quarter then a maximum one or two for the rest of it? It was back to the bad times where if things don't go our way we fall to pieces.

After arriving late I thought I was well in the clear of having to contend with people, but there were unfortunate scenes when even later comers filtered around me in the upper-Ponsford (which Carlton had renamed after one of their players because it was their home game. A sleazy move, but one we should totally rip off for next year's mandatory Docklands game) and I ended up perpetuating the stereotype of the ugly footy fan by telling a lippy child aged 10-12 to fuck off. He'd already elbowed me in the head once running up and down the stairs, and when he turned for a laugh after Carlton's last goal I disgraced myself royally. To their credit the parents took it without comment, though given they were letting the little shit run around and do what he wanted it would have been ironic to try and introduce discipline to total strangers. Nevertheless I thought I'd better move before I ended up wearing a two-for-one life ban with the Port fan.

In the interest of trying anything up to and including sorcery I moved to the exact spot as when we pulled off the stirring comeback against Essendon in 2014. Of course that didn't work, but I was feeling such a high degree of sporting confusion and deflation that anything felt like a good idea. We had a 15 point deficit to contend with before we could even start thinking about chipping away at North's percentage lead, but Hunt's goal felt like it should have been the circuit breaker (CLICHE!) to make everyone realise that this wasn't just another Round 22 to be endured. Even if most of them were probably exhausted from going non-stop from the first pre-season game (related: now that we know we have some good players and can win sometimes how about playing some kids in the practice matches next year?) all we needed was one more day then nobody would have had an issue with them crumbling. Instead it was a less surprising flashback to Round 2, where Carlton players bounced around unhindered while we got the ball and had to go around in circles until turning it over due to lack of free targets to kick to.

After taking 15 minutes to get going in the first quarter you might have thought that they'd shout all the right things in the huddle and vow solemnly to come out after the break playing like a team with something on the line. Then for the first half of the second quarter they put on the same pissweak performance as the first. I put more effort into supporting the Sydney Swans, including a rousing rendition of their theme song, than our players did for the first 50 minutes. Serves me right for flirting with other teams and considering the prospect of forming a temporary, unholy alliance with GWS. As our players spent much of the day falling on their arse the Blues were enjoying moments of surprising delight like a player being slung around in a tackle, throwing the ball on his boot and having it dart directly to a guy standing on his own at the top of the goalsquare.

Somewhere in all this Jack Watts was struggling to see after being punted in the face and Dean Kent was hobbling off looking like he'd suffered serious injury - but maybe this was our time to finally conquer the curse of letting other sides improve when they had a numerical disadvantage. At nearly five goals down, as even I was contemplating storming out and rocking the Kaiser wagon as part of a polite MFC style riot, we launched a mini-comeback. Hogan reappeared to get one and Oliver got justice as last for the Cyril Rioli debacle by milking a 50 after a mark from almost the same spot to cut the margin to 14.

Then our impressive commitment to shooting ourselves in the foot returned. Hopefully everyone's forgotten about the Gold Coast game so I can go back to complaining about vandenBerg not being a forward, and the final act that should see him playing as a midfielder with us or Casey next season came when he marked on the line and instead of kicking it himself tried to handball to Gawn, only for the sheer drop between Maximum's hand and boot to allow Carlton to not only stop him kicking a goal but register any score at all. Gawn shouldn't have called for it with his back turned to the square, but he's got more credits in the bank so I'm willing to forgive him. Shortly after we managed to go from Watts gathering in the forward pocket to Jones being done holding the ball on the edge of the 50 on the opposite side within 10 seconds. Jack was doing the right thing trying to centre for Weideman all on his own directly in front, but the end result said it all about how we were going.

All the while we were being belted in the umpiring - enjoying the odd scenario where we'd kicked a goal from a 50 but hadn't won a single free in the half. To this I said - to nobody - "well if we ever got near the fucking ball we might get an opportunity". My only hope was that in the spirit of the West Coast game there'd be a series of outrageous levellers in the last quarter when the game was on the line that would unfairly carry us to victory. We didn't even get that. At two goals down in the last minute I could handle the disasters which had cost us two goalscoring opportunities, until we conceded one. Given that it came from a free it was a great result for the people who were trying to set up a "we were robbed" storyline, only for the total ineptitude of the rest of our play to relegate that to a footnote.

Sensing impending doom I further relocated myself to the back row with nobody within 30 metres where I could stand up, go right over the top and disgrace my family name. When I had a moment of clarity to think about anything other than how angry I was over the first half I realised that you can very easily sneak from the pleb section into the MCC, as in the very last row the pointy fence is replaced by a rounded pipe. I resolved to wait until it didn't matter if security guards carried me out and try it, then got so upset in the last quarter that the idea was forgotten. Skip the 20 year waiting list and have a go yourself sometime. No matter which side of the fence you're on you'll be able to spot a shithouse Melbourne performance.

When we went forward in the first minute of the third quarter and Watts marked right in front I thought "right, this is it" but he botched a sitter from a similar spot to where he missed in the first game against Collingwood. After a wonderful year it was an ugly way to drag us away from the pot of gold and back towards 10th. He had a poor game, but I'm not going to hold it against him solely, if you send a letter of complaint to GUILTY - c/o Melbourne FC, PO Box 254, East Melbourne 8002 a dozen people on and off-field will rush to open it.

To complicate matters after finishing a week of self-torment with a mad dash to the ground there was a moment shortly after where I suddenly felt quite ill. At one point there were a few brief moments of terror where I thought I'd shat myself, but fortunately my arsehole was clenched as tight as my jaw from anger and hatred so everything was being kept neatly inside. The last time in my life I'd suffered such indignity due to illness was after another bubble bursting loss in Round 7, 1998 so the Dees had some form causing chaos for my innards. I guess we'll discover tomorrow if it was due to a legitimate illness or my version of David Parkin spewing in a bucket through nerves.

There was still plenty of time to win it, and when we held the Blues out long enough to get the first goal of the quarter I tried to convince myself that happy (tolerable anyway) days were on their way again. It should be noted that the goal came from Gawn refusing to get involved with the handballing frenzy in the wet and just pinging it long to Hogan, who then bombed it towards the goal. Watching him kicking to the spot where he should also be standing has been one of my key frustrations of this season, but at least he held a mark and gave his teammates an opportunity. We tried to stuff it up by fumbling around with more handballs before Bugg eventually kicked it, but for the third time we were knocking on the door of a popular comeback. Then immediately from the next bounce the Blues used two kicks off the ground (wet weather footy, well I never) to set up some bloke to boot the reply through traffic and I delivered a lusty kick to the chair on my right.

With our attack running like a 1982 Daihatsu Charade again we had plenty of players averse to having a ping from inside 50, but lots willing to lob the ball at the goal when only Carlton defenders were present. I've hated Garlett's second half of the season but at least he would have had a shot while in the open instead of trying to improve his angle or throw another handball. On the other hand the Blues were kicking long to their forwards (Bolton - not just a man so cheery that he makes you happy just looking at him, but also the KO winner of the coaching dual) who were operating in enough space that they could run and jump at the ball. By the time Liam Jones got in the queue for Kingsley nominations to take it back out to a four goal margin I was nearly inconsolable. With my internal organs rapidly turning to mush I should have walked out on the spot, because while I might have missed ANB kicking the reply I'd also have avoided seeing Carlton get another goal in the dying seconds of the quarter. Remember when we used to use Watts or Hogan to stop the opposition kicking goals in the last two minutes of a quarter? Like, last week? Probably wouldn't have mattered when he was kicking into an open goalsquare.

When that made it an even four goals we were all but dead. Which made it even more frustrating that this untrustworthy group of individuals spent the last quarter thumping shots at goal for 1.6 while the rest of Australia thumped Google looking for the Melbourne version of that BEEF STOCK - CHICKEN STOCK - LAUGHING STOCK meme. Gawn kicked the first goal to tease something special, with the umpires helpfully refusing to check the video even though Carlton players were insistent he'd hit the post, but two minutes later Max was down the other end having some unknown ruckman marking over him for the reply. From the four minute mark of the quarter nobody kicked another goal. Hogan continued the self-fulfilling prophecy of kicking set shots like he'd rather be doing anything else in the world (guess what, you don't have any options that are going to pay you $1,000,000 a season so get it right) and Petracca did likewise straight after, as any hope we had of overhauling them floated away.

Until we needed more goals than there were minutes left I held a childlike hope in my heart but eventually had to concede that we'd been out-coached, out-played and out-hustled by a team who won six games in seven weeks in the middle of the year and none in the other 13. That'd we'd stood back and watched while an almost entirely different cast of randoms to last year turned us over in the first quarter again. As a rule you should never get so stressed about sports, but I tell you what I could have had a little cry in frustration if I hadn't spent the whole game releasing the tension by screaming and hitting things. My putrefying organs told a different story. The rain knocked off the scheduled kick-to-kick session (which should have been replaced by handball-to-handball), further screwing over any Melbourne supporting kid who'd come to the game looking for fun and nobody was going home with any happy memories of the day except Carlton fans and the permanently aroused Dwayne Russell.

Our marketing department probably breathed a sigh of relief, having booked a date at Crown Palladium for the Best and Fairest just days before the finals were due to kick off then having to include a disclaimer that "the date will be changed if the club reaches the finals". As event management professionals I'm sure they had all contingencies covered, but given that at best we wouldn't have known we were making the eight until 10pm next Saturday just how close to an event can you reschedule a major function like this? Good on our players for considering the stress this would cause the office staff and playing accordingly. Incidentally in trying to work out what date it was I Googled 'melbourne fc 2016 best and fairest' and the closest result I could find was a page of news on the 2013 event - featuring a top five placegetters photo of Colin Sylvia, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland, Matt Jones and Margaret Terlich. That's unlikely to help get anyone who's wavering about booking for this year's event over the line - even if Terlich is likely to show up dressed as Jack The Ripper.

At the final siren I just sat in the back row for 20 minutes, not because my legs no longer worked like Essendon 2013 but to properly feel the pain of violently popped expectation. Given there's nothing I can do to make sure this happens again it was completely futile, but try telling that to the other three lone males who were still in place and refusing to move even after I'd come to my senses and decided to leave. I won't be back until our first game next year, hopefully my footprint will still be on section Q36, row MM, seat 26.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Nathan Jones
--- against my better judgement ---
1 - Jesse Hogan

Apologies to none.

Leaderboard
There were three, then afterwards there were still three. The man who has never won before has the advantage but with a shitfest projected next Saturday you wouldn't rule out the pair with a lengthy track record of performing in terrible circumstances. Could I please request that the contenders make it very clear which order the votes should go in to avoid me having to make a difficult decision while sitting on the roof of a diesel powered train wondering why there are no overhead wires to grab.

In the minors Neville Jetta is now officially the winner of the Seecamp - Bernie Vince might take me to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to argue that he shouldn't have been disqualified for excessive midfield time but bad luck, after the last month he should be happy that his votes aren't going in reverse. The battle for the Hilton comes down to the last day, with Petracca vs Oliver the main event and Hunt a chance of stealing a share of the prize with a BOG.

46 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
44 - Nathan Jones
43 - Jack Viney
-------
32 - Jack Watts
22 - Bernie Vince
19 - Neville Jetta (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Dom Tyson
14 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Christian Petracca (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Tom McDonald, Clayton Oliver
8 - Billy Stretch
7 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Ben Kennedy, Dean Kent, Christian Salem
3 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Tomas Bugg, Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Cameron Pedersen


Not interested. Dees win - too much ghostly white around the letters on Carlton's one even if they went all out to try and get a result in this segment by putting on a college football style extravaganza. If our cheersquad had put in the same performance as the players they'd have unveiled a roll of toilet paper with a slogan written in texta and expected to get the nod by default. Dees 25-1-0 for the season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
What a rubbish field of contenders - Jayden Hunt wins by default for his big dash. Just as I declared Watts the clubhouse leader for the casual finisher against Gold Coast he goes and has an even casualer (?) crucial miss here but I regret nothing - we have enjoyed a wonderful run by our standards since that day, and without his ice cold finish none of it would have happened. With one round to go - and a high possibility that we will not kick a goal - the medal is in his grasp.

Crowd Watch
Other than the kid I told to do one there wasn't much happening, but I knew I'd gone too far with the lusty kick to the seat when I glanced over a minute later, saw security guards slowly making their way across the top level of the Ponsford Stand and thought "oh shit, I'm in trouble here". Of course they didn't care and were just on their usual rounds but I was already pre-preparing my defence statement of "how do you know I actually connected with the chair?" as if that would have made any difference to them kicking me out. In the end it's a pity they didn't, I might have been saved a quarter and a half of watching complete shit.

Media Watch
To my great shame I was listening to Triple M, and as the commentators were showing more interest in that than the battering they were paid to talk about Brian Taylor declared Wayne Carey their UFC correspondent because "he's done a bit of that in the past himself". To dead silence you could almost hear the sound of Wayne's arms waving around to say "for god's sake man shut up".

Next Week
I can tell you I've got very little interest in standing on a concrete slab at Kardinia Park next Saturday afternoon, and thought about throwing my ticket into the same incinerator that was previously reserved for the #fistedforever hashtag. But realistically I'd be there even if we were 0-21 so some of us may as well make a big effort in the last couple of weeks if the players won't or can't. I will catch three hours' worth of trains, probably stand in the rain and hate every minute of it.

You'd like to think that with a win guaranteeing them at least top four they'll be happy enough with that - but we do have quite the track record of sending demoralised sides to Geelong to be slaughtered, and oh dear they are roughly 120 point wins of percentage away from Sydney and Adelaide. Either way we'll lose by lots, I will get to Spencer Street, walk directly to my car and probably nut any North fan who tries to make a 'funny' comment on the way past.

IN: Dunn, Garlett, Harmes
OUT: Michie, vandenBerg, Vince (omit)
LUCKY: Bugg, Neal-Bullen
UNLUCKY: Harmes, Kennedy, Pedersen + all the other fallen big names

Regulation book plug segment
In a week where the word count regrettably dipped below War and Peace I also lost my big ending. So fuck you very much to everyone involved. So ashamed of being involved that I'm not even going to link and tell you to buy it (but I have the first draft of the cover and will be emailing it to everyone has pre-ordered later in the week where feelings have settled and I don't get 150 responses telling me to get fucked) but we'll get back to the big sell next week. Looks like last day for orders will be around a week after the Grand Final.

Was it worth it?
In no way, and less so than any game since the last time we completely stuffed up what should have been a morale boosting thrashing against them. Jesus Christ, all I asked after 171 home and away losses in a decade was for one big performance to give us real hope before next year. We should still be hopeful because we're heading in the right direction, but this was a last kicking of the corpse.

Final thoughts
I drove home dangerously, ate two KitKats as comfort food and whenever I stopped at a traffic light and had time to think about what had just happened screamed things like "WHY?" at the roof of the car. For at least one more year we remain hard headed and solid fisted.

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