Saturday 11 March 2017

Peekaboo I.C.U

NB: Two days later I realised that we were actually level with Adelaide on points, not four behind. So ignore that bit.

With our grand final hopes hanging by the barest thread and a side whose heads had dropped after bashing GWS' brains out but being beaten on the counter-attack I expected the Crows would clean us up relatively easily. At quarter time when we were 13 points down, only had one inside 50 and no score that looked like it would come to pass comfortably.

It didn't feel right playing a game in the Northern Territory without our fans complaining and somebody forking over a massive cheque to us. In this case it wasn't even our home game as Adelaide includes the Northern Territory in their zone. Let's just assume we finish third next week, at least we can be sour and complain that we had to split Victoria four ways while Brisbane had access to an entire state and Adelaide to a state and a territory. If nothing else, for the first time since the 1993 Reserves saluted we'll be the best side in Victoria at something positive.

What I like about the Crows, and this remains relevant even after they went missing for most of the last three quarters, is that half their side look like members of an outlaw bikie gang. That's the sort of footballers I came to appreciate over our decade of deepression. In 2006 I still had fancy high ideals about us winning with a side of clean-cut VCE high achievers, and by the end was happy to recruit Carlos The Jackal if it got us ahead. On the other hand barely any of our side - even Cranston who should instead be overturning barricades at anti-globalisation protests under a haze of tear gas - look like they'd be happy shanking somebody in the shower block. There's a recruiting market to target in the off-season.

At first they had our measure, the combination of good players that had carried them to five wins to open the season and the thumpers scared us out of it. For all the good signs we showed over the first five weeks there were times where we looked so unlikely to score that you wouldn't be surprised if we became the first team to end a game without a goal. With the Crows still in reasonable form despite their loss a week earlier this looked like our time. At least unlike the GWS and Brisbane games we couldn't go home disappointed at spurning dozens of opportunities if we didn't have any to start with.

Inside 50s are a ridiculously misleading stat in this competition given how few players can kick that far, inside 30s would be far more interesting reading. Until the second quarter you could have dragged it out to inside 75s and we'd have still been in single figures. Other than conceding our traditional goal from unnecessary ill-discipline, the defence were the only group holding us together by quarter time. Given that in almost every other game this year we've been the ones doing all the attacking - usually fruitlessly - it was a rare opportunity for the defence to get some air-time. Two goals notwithstanding they did well - Katherine Smith and her Rapunzel style hair had their best game yet, Laura Duryea continued to impress and Mia-Rae Clifford might not get many touches but is rock solid one-on-one. We didn't have much trouble getting the ball out of 50, it was the next kick across halfway that usually did us in.

The stat of the first quarter had nothing to do with footy, it was the one about the Adelaide player who was one of 18 children. It's not completely unheard of, if they were American somebody would make a reality show about it, but I was wondering if it might have been a fun fact disaster by the commentator and they were actually supposed to say 'eight children'. Like a game earlier this year when they confidently told us one of the players was an electrician, then had to come back a minute later and admit she wasn't. Either way I feel like we should send her mum some flowers for being such a trooper - I've got no bloody idea how to manage one. In a great milestone in our family Junior wandered in yesterday wearing the 2014 member's scarf and the junior beanie I forced onto her head the day she was born.

Considering our attack had done a 180° turn from the GWS game, albeit with similar end results, the most exciting aspect of the first quarter from my perspective was the murderous shirtfront by one of their Wentworth Detention Centre style bruisers. It was thrilling, and sure you can't go around sanctioning that sort of stuff etc... etc... but I was secretly happy that we didn't get a knee-jerk reaction free for it. Based on the umpires practically making things up as they went along for the rest of the game I'm not sure the Crows player would have been penalised if she'd cracked her opponent over the back with a length of wood.

After two goals in five quarters of toil and struggle since three-quarter time of the Carlton game, the second quarter was ripped open in the first 10 seconds. Forget trying to carefully craft a goal, we just whacked it forward from the first bounce for Deanna Berry to run on to and kick the first goal. If we'd maintained that sort of 50% attacking strike rate against GWS we've have won by 233. That caused the Crows to wobble, but it didn't translate to more goals. After 10 minutes of flubbing golden opportunities the Crows went down the other end and ran onto a loose ball to cancel Berry's goal out.

For once we cancelled out an opposition goal almost immediately, with Daisy Pearce finally allowing that kid from the Chemist Warehouse ad to show his face in public again by kicking her first of the season. Now to work on saving the reputation of the lady in the other Chemist Warehouse ad who does an overtly erotic dance routine on a local bus. Daisy's goal came at an opportune time, if we'd gone to half time two goals two or god forbid conceded another it would have been curtains. This left our wafer-thin chances of a Mighty Ducks Light run into the Grand Final alive. There should have been more, Mifsud was so surprised to have a perfect lead supported by an equally good kick that she dropped a simple chest mark well within her range. Nevertheless we were still up to our necks in it, which is usually as good as you can ask for with this team.

If we were going to come good at any point it would be the third quarter, on the limited historical data available that's our time to shine. After today we're 12.10 to 3.5 in front in that time. Not only have we dramatically outscored the opposition - we're -38 points over the other three quarters - but that's roughly 44% of all our scores. The party continued here, with two goals to no score grabbing back the lead. Mifsud got the first, making up for her dropped mark by kicking a lovely rolling snap around the corner under pressure. Once again domination meant next to nothing, continually thumping the door down but being unable to convert against an opposition all but inviting us to get it over with and kick a goal so the ball could go back to the middle.

It took until the last couple of minutes before a Crows defender went to water in spectacular fashion after getting in trouble trying to play on quickly, she plonked it straight on an opponent like Cale Morton on Queen's Birthday 2012. Shelley Scott - whose fun fact about being a dairy farmer from Colac is almost more popular than Cat Phillips' pace - looked around as if to say "did that really happen" and run in kick an easy goal. This no longer in any way resembled the first quarter. I thought it might have been touched, but the defender showed no interest so there was no need to go to then non-existent video replay.

Never mind that we'd spent a quarter and a half thumping the Crows everywhere but the scoreboard, the margin was still only eight and still vulnerable to one lucky Adelaide attack. Then enter Aliesha Newman and her magic sidestep:
Another goal right after that left the Crows needing three goals in the last 90 seconds, and that should have been the end of them. We blew a few good opportunities to waste time and protect the 14 point margin, but as this league hasn't yet been infested by cynical gamesmanship we didn't take it. Which is a shame, because we could have done with some cheating. They probably thought there was no need, what are the chances of a team kicking multiple goals in a row in this competition? Err, next question please.

The first wasn't all that concerning, unless of course you were hanging on the live ladder to work out how far we were away from the grand final, but when Tex Perkins showed up for almost the first time in a month to snap around the corner with only her second kick for the night and the margin was back under a goal the farce whistle was blowing at a frequency that only Melbourne fans can hear. I dare say we didn't expect the first or the second, because Lauren Pearce was left relaxing on the bench after a job well done while Harriet Cordner - who had all of one hitout before tonight - was left at the crucial bounce. It was reminiscent of that breakthrough win in South Australia in 2014 when the Crows were mowing us down and an interchange fiasco left Jamar sitting down for the do or die centre contest. Even after we won a second bounce Lauren was nowhere to be seen and the Crows went forward again.

Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome is gender transferable, so at this point who wasn't expecting an arsehole of a bounce a'la Toumpas vs St Kilda to put us away? We held on by two points, now all we have to do is pick up roughly 10 goals on Adelaide next week. So, good time for us to start converting some scoring opportunities. If there's any hope of sneaking past them and onto a plane to Brisbane for the decider it rests on first us beating Fremantle handily, but also Collingwood toppling the Crows. The only

It won't happen, but I'm sure like me the frustrations of following any team representing the MFC have thoroughly warmed you up for the main event in a couple of weeks. By the time we're losing to Carlton in Round 2 you'll be pining for these carefree, naive days.

2017 Debbie Lee Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Katherine Smith
3 - Daisy Pearce
2 - Laura Duryea
1 - Elise O'Dea

Apologies to Clifford, Hickey, Mithen, Newman, Lampard, Grierson, Scott and Kemp.

And then there were two. The first award to be handed out this season was a three-way tie, so why not a share here? What I can assure is it that if there is a draw it'll be after a rigorous process, not just deliberately rorting the figures to engineer a feelgood tie.

23 - Daisy Pearce
22 - Karen Paxman
13 - Elise O'Dea
10 - Lily Mithen
7 - Alyssa Mifsud
5 - Cat Phillips
4 - Laura Duryea, Katherine Smith
2 - Lauren Pearce

Another triumph for our fancy iSelect banners. Roll on the men's season, where the opposition put in some sort of effort.
Double points to the Dee Army for going to Perth on Thursday night, then coming home the long way via Darwin to represent the club here. I'd give them all medals. Dees 6-1.

Final Thoughts
If Fremantle hadn't just won their first game of the year you'd almost be convinced that we'd lose. Back on home turf - Casey Fields anyway - they shouldn't pose too many problems but you never know. At least it's all in our hands. The last time I said that we were playing Carlton in Round 22, 2016 to keep our finals hopes alive and we all know how well that went.

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