Sunday, 28 May 2017

Nobody does it better



"Eventually me and a friend,
Sort of drifted along into S and M
I can take about an hour on the tower of power,
As long as I gets a little golden shower" - Frank Zappa


They used to say that there was nothing boring about following Melbourne except the football. Now suddenly every game is a nerve-shattering terror ride where you're never sure what weird or wonderful scenario is coming next. I think this is an improvement, though my cardiologist may provide a dissenting opinion.

It's strange enough that to the end of Round 10 we've won more games both at Docklands and on Australian Central Standard Time than at the MCG, but all the bonkers Hutchence-esque comebacks have left me with as significant a case of sporting PTSD as you can get from a team who is 5-5 and won their last game. Postcards to the usual address if you can provide an explanation of what's going on, I've got no idea.

A pattern has emerged during International Near Death Experience Month. Twice interstate we've started as the better team, but been unable to convert opportunities and slowly slipped towards a five goal deficit before rampaging to victory in the second half. Then twice at the MCG we've turned up half an hour late, gone five goals down and had to launch noble but ultimately failed recovery missions. I remember when we were (relatively speaking) MCG experts, now we're Everywhere Else specialists - which is not going to help us in the long term but is doing enough to keep us in the running now until we can work out how to play a first quarter at home again.

This game had disaster looming over it for multiple reasons. First that we were red-hot favourite, though people have learnt their lesson now and nobody was talking like it was a certainty. Secondly it was in the Alice where we'd only ever won financially and had an existential crisis last year as a Port side featuring somebody called Dougall kicked their 20th goal from an empty square. And third, for reasons as unclear as everything else they do the AFL let Gold Coast turn up in an Indigenous Round jumper that clashed with ours. Good thing you don't need uniforms to provoke a turnover-fest when we're involved. In fact it probably gave some of our players an excuse for kicks they would have botched under any conditions.

My concerns went through the roof when it was revealed that Tom McDonald was playing forward from the first bounce again after the surprise-free move provided absolutely nothing last week. I know we'd dumped Weideman and didn't have a forward to play in his place, but as they eventually discovered in the second half if McDonald wasn't a crucial player in defence then it made infinitely more sense to play him in the ruck and let Pedersen go forward and do what he did practically every week of his career before Gawn and Spencer went down. He didn't kick any goals, but the improvement to the structure was immense. Even with Frost and to a lesser extent Sizzle Jr covering the Suns best forwards I'd still rather have Sr down there, but in the short term he might have to take a surprise career turn into centre bounce rucking and we'll rely on the midfield to help keep him afloat.

The Sizzle Surprise worked well against the Crows because a) they didn't see it coming miles off, and b) because he went to CHF and helped create a contest. This time he was thrown deep forward, expected to mark hopeful high kicks into the breeze it didn't work. It was a bad move in a long line of Plan A disasters this year, but yet again Plan B turned up to save the day and secure orgasm for whoever the sick freak is that's masterminding these comebacks. At one point he and Christian Petracca even got caught in the footy equivalent of walking towards somebody on a footpath and both repeatedly stepping in the same direction trying to get out of the way. Earlier he'd won Truck a free kick in front of goal by playing up a light whack to the face, so costing him a second chance levelled the score between them.

Kicking into a strong wind with no obvious forward line to speak of didn't bode well, but for the first few minutes that didn't stop us from constantly getting the ball down there. I'd seen this before, and knew that unless we made some of the entries count that it would eventually backfire. And what do you know, after a few minutes riding out the pressure Gold Coast bounced down the other end and kicked a goal. I don't know what I expected, it might have been due to necessity but a forward line featuring Bugg, Harmes and a McDonald couldn't possibly have been expected to kick goals on request. Under the circumstances everyone involved should get a medal for valour to recognise scoring 122.

For once the abolition of holding the ball went our way as a clear free wasn't paid right in front of goal, but in the end all that did was set up an unsuspecting goal umpire for a broken nose, as another Suns player swooped in to snatch the ball off the ground and thump it at maximum velocity right into the poor bastard's face. I say poor bastard, because nobody wants an umpire to get hurt until they've rorted you for at least two quarters, but at the time it was quite literally the funniest goal I've ever seen us concede. It wasn't that he suffered immense pain, but the comical way he toppled over that made laugh so hard that I had to sit down.

For the second interstate game in a row we were at least partially responsible for an umpire being substituted, and no doubt they'll find a way to fine Bernie Vince for this one as well. The additional highlight was Dermott Brereton's attempts to describe the force of the ball hitting him by using the words 'poundage' and 'kilopascals'. Anyone who has had a ball of any variety hit them at close range will be able to explain the sheer eye-watering distress without having to try and sound like Sir Isaac Newton. It might put me on the same level as a Stranglewankist, but I secretly enjoy him as colour commentator on our games because he always says something memorably barmy.

Comedy levels dropped significantly when Gold Coast kicked the second goal as well, and like so many other times over the years it was clear that everything was ok with how we played until the other side got the ball. Off the Suns would go with nary a hand laid on them, as our players either didn't fancy a tackle or stood around looking like they didn't know what to do next. Jordan Lewis was a key offender in the first half, before recovering in the second just when his game was sliding into Tom Gillies import territory. On the other end of the scale Hibberd was almighty again, and I might be in the minority but really liked Jake Milkshake's game as well.

Winning the inside 50s means nothing when they just set up the other team to shoot forward, but we finally started to gain some traction in the middle of the quarter. First Petracca goalled, then Anal-Bullet marked strongly 30 metres directly in front - and horrendously sliced it out on the full. At this point many - including me - were planning to have a car ready at the airport to whisk him directly to Casey Fields but he recovered to play a good game. In fact so many of our fringe players did well that I'm not sure if it was down to them, or to Gold Coast giving up when things got too hard. Let's ask Rodney Eade, who was pictured being massaged before the game, then looked like he was about to put his head in an oven during the post-match press conference.

ANB wasn't the only one butchering it like a madman early in the game, at one point in the first quarter our kicking efficiency was at about 30%. Which was no surprise considering how many hopeful long bombs were being hoisted into the forward line only to be cut off by Steven May - who surely realised halfway through the last quarter that he wanted to play for the other side - or somebody called Leslie (still not sure if first or last name) that was having the day of his life. The Kingsley Klub is dominated by forwards, but there is no doubt this guy will be sitting next to 2015 Queen's Birthday nominee Adam Oxley on the defenders' table at this year's gala dinner.

Considering how impotent the forward line looked, and how out attacks were only good for provoking Suns scores, we did well to be so close late in the quarter. Then to the surprise of not one resident of Australia we conceded in Demon Time (the last two minutes) and went to quarter time deflated. It would have been worse if they'd kicked the second chance we gave them immediately after, and I was already struggling to maintain interest in what was a generally terrible game. The only factors that stopped me from wandering into the street and playing with traffic were an obsessive interest in the fortunes of the MFC and the knowledge that even if we went four goals there would be some sort of bonkers comeback.

We might not have needed to wait until it got into Stranglewank territory if we'd pressed on from the first goal of the second quarter. I don't blame McDonald for being largely ineffectual up front, because that's not what he's trained to do, but he did set up Hannan's first goal by crashing the bejesus out of a pack. For most of the first quarter the commentators had treated us like early Gold Coast/GWS and talked up how brave we were and how morally we were actually winning, which was fine except we actually had to kick the scores with the wind and no decent talls. For the first 10 minutes it looked like the floodgates were going to burst at any minute, but other than Hannan's goal we could not for the life of us convert chances.

It started to fall apart badly in the last few minutes, to the point where we were 23 points down after providing two goals gift-wrapped with horrendous turnovers. Even when Garlett kicked a goal right on the stroke of half-time I didn't believe we could win, I'm suffering from comeback fatigue. My commitment to the game had wavered so far that I started cooking dinner at half-time, and carried on even when it wasn't finished at the start of the third. For the first few minutes all I could hear from around the corner was Gold Coast extending their lead and had no regrets whatsoever. Then just as I sat down to eat the comeback began, justifying the design decision at the all-new Demonblog Towers to put the dining table in clear view of the TV.

From there Gold Coast fell to bits and let us do whatever we wanted, I was a big fan of James Harmes earlier in the season and he played another decent game forward. There's no place for he and Bugg in the same 50 though, so now that Bugg has kicked 0.7 ever since I said he was a good set shot he'll have to go. The real driver of the comeback was Nathan Jones, who ran riot during the quarter as he both set up goals and kicked them himself to leave us two points in front at three quarter time. For the fourth time in a row the miracle recovery was on. Theoretically we were kicking with a big wind, but after that went so badly in the second quarter I wasn't cracking open the champers just yet.

I should have had more faith in the theory that once we got in front we were unbeatable, the Suns pulled off a second half quarter capitulation that classic #fistedforever era MFC would have been proud of. Like Adelaide they were reasonably dangerous when they got the ball forward, but as we stopped them from ever doing it the ball stayed at one end for most of the quarter while we racked up a winning lead. I refuse to accept that after a week off their trip to China had anything to do with it, but Gold Coast stopped running and allowed us to trot around setting up three or more on one contests everywhere we went. It was magnificent, and I spent the last few minutes watching in a state of bliss where almost anything could have happened and it would have gone right over my head.

Whoever was in charge of the PA at Traegar Park was so surprised at us winning - even after 20 minutes where it was clearly going to happen - that they played the Gold Coast song instead, which is almost as bad as playing the Nazi national anthem for Germany in 2017. There was a decent period of reflection before it was replaced with what sounded like a cover version of our song that sounded so wonky that it may as well have been the vomit inducing Melbourne Hawks version.

No harm done, we'd just pocketed four points and $118.29 per head. Mission accomplished.

2017 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Jeff Garlett
3 - Michael Hibberd
2 - Jake Melksham
1 - Jack Viney

Major apologies to Oliver, Hannan and Harmes. Also to Pedersen, Frost, Jetta, Neal-Bullen, Watts and O. McDonald.

Leaderboard
Oliver still holds a handy lead at not quite the halfway mark, but it's on at the top. Hibberd is going for it big time on behalf of the defence and Garlett is representing the forwards. In other news Harmes has got one more week as a forward then he's DQed from the Seecamp.

20 - Clayton Oliver
14 - Michael Hibberd (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Viney
13 - Jeff Garlett
12 - Jack Watts
11 - Jayden Hunt, Nathan Jones
8 - Sam Frost
7 - Neville Jetta, Christian Petracca
6 - James Harmes
5 - Christian Salem
4 - Mitch Hannan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
3 - Dom Tyson, Bernie Vince
2 – Max Gawn (CO-LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Cameron Pedersen (CO-LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Dean Kent, Jordan Lewis, Jake Melksham
1 – Jesse Hogan, Jake Spencer

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
The game was blown to buggery when Garlett kicked his fourth from an obscure angle but it was a thing of casual beauty. I will not endorse the AFL twitterist's use of 'Jeffy', but otherwise I could watch this on an endless loop. He can go missing - for instance last week, and several times in the second half of 2016 - but considering we gave Carlton an empty envelope for him and have got 94 goals from 49 games in return it will easily turn out to be one of our best trade deals.
For the weekly prize he wins an High Court injunction against anyone calling him 'Jeffy' in print again. Alternatively if he's into that he can swap it for one free deed poll name change to officially become Jeff E. Garlett. Oliver vs Adelaide remains the clubhouse leader for the overall award.


Gold Coast's effort wasn't even a real banner, more just a piece of vinyl that they lifted up and ran through. On the other hand we tackled social issues with proper crepe paper for a second consecutive week and win accordingly. Dees 9-1-0 for the season.

Next week
Nil. Take a break. Don't try and get the MFC feeling with a length of belt and your fertile imagination.

The week after
Queen's Birthday has lost some shine since the Anzac Eve game came along, but it's still important to show up and win for several reasons both financial and footballing. As badly as the Pies are going I'm not even reasonably comfortable with the idea of winning given our recent record as favourites at the 'G.

Remember last year when they played three ruckmen to try and combat Maximum, only for him to dismiss all three effortlessly then flex the BOG award like a dumbbell? Hopefully they do that again, wasting two spots on players who offer nothing while we break even at worst in the centre clearances. Not to mention the marquee matchup of Frost vs the American bloke where Slamming Sam is already running past the centre circle before Cox realises the ball has hit the ground.

We should win, more because of how badly the Pies are going rather than us playing particularly well, but having given the fallen a second life so often that we're now a registered charity I can't rule out a surprise. If we don't lose players to injuries galore and can avoid giving up a lead due to a numpty start we should hit the real second half of the year in the mix with important players to come back. Maybe if we'd just nudged in front of Hawthorn or North they'd have crumbled to dust like Adelaide and the Suns? We'll never know what went so catastrophically wrong on those afternoons, but winning this week has allowed us to paper over the cracks so you wouldn't bet against another shocking start against the Pies.

Thanks to a state game that nobody gave a fat rat's clacker about I can't even base prospective changes on a VFL game, and all the players who came in did well so it's hard to go wild and throw everyone into the cooking pot like last week. Still think that we can afford to take a punt with King as an inexperienced ruckman to allow Pedersen to play forward, but perhaps not in front of 70,000 people. I don't mind Bugg, and he does get into good positions forward, but I prefer Harmes so somebody's got to make way.

IN: Salem
OUT: Bugg (omit)
LUCKY: Tyson
UNLUCKY: Kennedy, Stretch

Stat my bitch up
There was utter chaos in the Demonwiki division of Demonblog Towers this week when it was revealed that players would be wearing #50 and #67 to recognise the anniversary of the indigenous rights referendum. Thanks for nothing White Australia Policy and associated racialism for waiting so long and creating this issue.

In the end a late night board meeting decided that if a player starts a game wearing a particular number (as opposed to Shannon Motlop randomly donning #53 when his real jumper got wrecked in 2005) we have to treat it the same way do Jeff Farmer or Kevin Dyson switching during the season. So it's shithouse news for 1986 #59 two gamer Andrew Dale, who loses his status as the highest numbered player to play a senior game for us.

Also bad news for Jason Dullard, who had a boring name but an exciting number when he wore 61 in 1992 reserves games - previously the highest number ever assigned to a listed player. Now Jeff Garlett's #67 leaps above both of them, while Neville Jetta will have a cameo appearance in the longer list of players to have worn #50.

Final thoughts
The strange and mystifying world of the Melbourne Football Club adds another chapter that won't tell the full tale when historians look at the stats in a century. We're almost exactly where we were at this time last year, the only difference being a 4% better percentage, but with a bunch of teams one win ahead there's plenty more scope for making the eight if we can keep things together long enough to get the big guns back.

3 comments:

  1. Surely #50 & #67 will carry an *

    If we'd pulled our finger out carried on and won the tight Freo & Haw games we'd be top 2-4... yes a little surprising. Clearly after 9 games we have not hit our straps & played more than 2 qtrs other than in Adelaide (2.5) when the sail was hoisted mid 2nd qtr. If we actually showed up and played at least 3 qtrs in each game I have no doubt we'd be sitting atop right now. But two too many ifs here.

    We now have some season defining games ahead where our belief (or hope) can be shattered or we turn up at the first bounce and Inhave no doubt finals will be made, but 1 week at a time - in this instance 2.... we must take Buckley out at the knees and smash Coll by more than 40pts.

    Carn the D's FFS its time to #RaiseHell

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  2. That goal ump in the Garlett clip looks like he was being held hostage. Maybe he was forced to do it after the real guy was carted off?

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