Sunday 25 June 2017

Start the bulldozers, the job is done

It smelled like slow death in there. Malaria... Nightmares. This was the end of the river, all right.

There's something particularly NQR about holding a deep-seated grudge against a sporting ground. Especially one you never have, and never will set foot inside. I can't imagine how the people who have been to Subiaco so many times since 2004 for no reward feel, but watching from afar I despise the place like no other. Now we've done what we couldn't to Football Park and toppled the place one last time before it closes there's no point to West Coast or Freo playing out the rest of 2017 there, the final act is complete. Call in the airstrike. My only regret is that when I walked a lap around the outside in May 2013 I didn't whip out my Johnson and hose down Murray Wrensted's commemorative plaque for his role in turning me into a Dees fan.

Now what was going to be a less than fond farewell to the ground and its loyal band of lunatics, howling for free kicks while waving Messages on Hold placards will be remembered as one of the great wins of the 21st century. It certainly stands alongside the Bulldogs/Geelong games at the end of 2005 for wins that were not only heart attack inducing but involved the crucial element of meaning something for the big picture.

There's a lot to be said for oppressed people rising up with guerrilla wins against Essendon in 2012 or 2014, but this was a step into the unknown. After multiple six day breaks, on that ground, against that team, to build a fort inside the eight, without Hogan, Watts, Jones, Salem on the bench with frozen peas strapped to his hammy, Garlett struggling to move, Viney playing through injury, Gawn in his first game in three months, with a full-back who didn't kick a goal in his first 64 games leading the attack, and a three goal deficit deep into the last quarter. There weren't many more obscure angles available other than aliens landing in the middle of the ground and ushering Basil Zempilas back onto the spaceship.

In 2004 I was living in a studio apartment so small you had the step outside to change your mind, with a secret unapproved Foxtel connection that ran through a window and allowed me to watch Peter Vardy stitch up the Dockers in the wet. Who would have known that we'd get within 30 seconds of never winning at the ground again? I don't even remember what happened when we last beat the Eagles there in 2002, but even though that game was crucial for our finals hopes that year the madness had not yet taken hold so I doubt my reaction was 10% of tonight's result.

So safe in the knowledge that unless we wind up playing a final there (and there is nothing more certain, forcing me to pay big money to go on short notice because I am not missing the return to September for anything) we'd never get another chance to win at that accursed place there was already a heavy psychological toll on me going in. Realistically it doesn't mean anything, I'm sure nobody else is still bitter and twisted about never taking Football Park again, but I just needed to get this monkey off the back to know everything would be ok in the future. And how we did. The circumstances almost make all the losses in seasons where we were no good anyway worthwhile.

Not only was I already suffering severe mental torment from my long distance abusive relationship with a stadium, but also went into the game under a serious fitness cloud due to an affliction that could be anything from the common cold to the deadly Ebola virus. It was a struggle just to get to 19:40 AEST, having spent the afternoon lying on the couch, sweating like a hog and wondering if the dominant exhibition of forward play Sam Weideman was unleashing on the TV for Casey was a mirage. What are the odds him kicking six in a win against previously undefeated league leaders would only be the second most remarkable bag of the day.

If you logged all the times I felt violently ill in a year you'd definitely find the majority of them were on game days. This time sports weren't entirely to blame, I'd had a three day head start on feeling like my head was trapped in a vice. It was so bad during the afternoon that had we been playing at home I'd have even considered pulling out, before going anyway and feeling like death warmed up all night. Instead I was forced to stay home anyway, forget about illness for the two hours that the game was on and feel like a million bucks now. They should synthesise this feeling and sell it on the streets. I haven't had a sense of elation similar to the moment the winning goal went through since December 2007 when I unexpectedly went to a rave at Kryal Kastle, successfully avoided sniffer dogs and witnessed a lady urinate on the front of Ballarat Railway Station.

I can't rule out the illness having some connection with footy, the stress of being on the verge of the top four might do me in before we even get to next Friday night. I'm so confused by the season and what our role in it is that I couldn't decide whether I wanted Port Adelaide to win and make sure Collingwood would be all but knocked out of the running for eighth, or whether I wanted the Pies to win and help clear the way for an improbable tilt at the top four.

Even now it doesn't seem right to believe we can finish eighth, let alone higher. If we win on Friday night I think I'll let myself go, but it doesn't matter what nervy bastards like me feel the facts speak for themselves - by the end of this week we'll be at least a game and healthy percentage inside the eight. If Gold Coast beat St Kilda (and those two are both so flaky anything could happen) we'll be two games and nine percent in, with potential contenders dropping away every week. Who knows how you're supposed to react to a situation like this, but I choose to tackle it with a wide-eyed expression of surprise.

Being in the eight despite our shithouse run with injuries was unusual enough, and sitting on the edge of the top four was a bit more outlandish but you could see how it happened, but even after a season littered with weird and wonderful results across the league I could not bring myself to believe we'd beat the Eagles in Perth. On any other ground in the world perhaps (and now that there's going to be a game in India as well as China it doesn't seem so ludicrous selling two to the NT does it?), but not at Subiaco.

This view was compounded when the Eagles went straight out of the centre and found Drew Petrie for a goal in the first 30 seconds. How appropriate that a North player would stitch us up at Subiaco, it was like our two last remaining hoodoos were mutating into one deadly flesh-eating superbug. He'd kick three more goals, and looked generally dangerous in the way that over the hill players only ever do against us (e.g. Brent Harvey kicking a career best six in game 412). But the goals didn't matter, Subiaco has been conquered at last, like the city of Adelaide, Docklands, Hawthorn and St Kilda before it. Petrie may as well go back to North next year, they are now the final home and away frontier. I'd still like to win by +100 again, but for now I'm still happy to take wins anywhere I can get them - and if that's from a ball thrown at a boot in hope with 20 seconds left then sign me up.

The best thing about this victory is that we didn't even play particularly well across the board. Of course there were some standouts, Jack Viney put in one of the mightiest performances in modern history to not only equal the all-time record for contested possessions in a game but to come back and lead from the front after stuffing his shoulder up in another fearsome attack on the ball. While he was crashing into everything in the first quarter I thought "there is no way he's coming out of this game unscathed" and so it was, but where many players would have been carted out with their shoulder dangling from its socket he grimaced for a bit and came back to play a vital role AND flatten a West Coast player at an opportune moment in the last quarter.

We all know what Viney is about now, but the other match-winner was one of those performances that have to be captured for posterity because it will never happen again. For the last few weeks before Gawn returned I'd been going on about how Tom McDonald should be the ruckman because Pedersen's a better forward, and was even open to Gawn playing the majority of the game at full-forward while Sizzle stayed in the middle this week. Next thing you know he's doing the best leads of anybody we've played up there for 10 years (though to be fair there were several years where nobody led at all), and kicking accurate set shots like he's an expert forward who's been at it all his life.

It's funny how every time he kicks a goal commentators throw in the anecdote about how he was originally drafted as a forward, but fail to mention he then went 59 consecutive games at the start of his career without kicking one. That's probably because we were scoring 5.6.36 most weeks, but I certainly didn't see a performance like this coming on that great pressure-free night at Docklands in Round 23, 2014 when he went forward for end-of-season laughs and booted two in a minute. History suggests it's unlikely to happen again, and people who have now got fantasies of playing him down there full time are getting ahead of themselves, but at least he can give Hogan, Weideman or any other young forwards lessons on how to effectively lead straight down the middle of the 50.

Ironically just as Gawn came back our midfield didn't do as well at clearances as it had the last few weeks, and leaked a shitload of scores from stoppages, but on a personal level he got back into the swing of things it as if he'd never gone away. Other than goals there were all the Maximum trademarks, including fancy taps, crucial marks around the ground, and pissfarting around with a commentator during both mid and post-match interviews.

After conceding the first goal in double quick time we had to hold on for a few minutes while they battered away at our 50. It wasn't so much the defence that saved us this time - other than Jetta who was sublime again, and must be in serious contention for an All-Australian spot now that the selectors have to watch our games - but the ineptitude of the Eagles in creating and converting chances. Meanwhile as the counter to Viney smashing around the ground collecting contested possessions at will some bloke nobody has ever heard of called 'Malcolm' was putting his hand up for provisional Kingsley status, and an ironically named 'Barass' was chopping off our attacks before they could get started.

I'm prepared to admit I went a bit early, but watching us struggle to get the ball past half-forward in the early minutes I thought there was no way to kick a winning score with McDonald, Bugg, Harmes and Melksham in the same attack. I had the most faith in Pedersen of any of the forwards, but he had an ordinary night until bursting into life when it mattered in the last quarter. To be fair we couldn't effectively get it inside 50 at Subiaco last year with Hogan, Watts and Dawes down there and scored 60, so we should be offering to carry the homebrand forward line off the plane at Tullamarine on our shoulders for scoring 99.

I don't know the last time I watched one of our games on Channel 7, so was completely unprepared for the Basil/'Darce' double act. It's one thing when you're half watching a neutral game and can at least mock them talking rubbish, but like having coverage of your team destroyed by that buffoon Brian Taylor (bad news interstate fans next Friday) everything is amplified when you're also watching with your heart in your mouth. At one point Cameron Pedersen was called Colin Garland, Bernie Vince was referred to as Dom Tyson (at least they were both playing), then in the immediate aftermath of a Tom McDonald goal he was called 'Tom Oliver' - spectacularly confusing him with the guy who played Lou Carpenter on Neighbours.

There was also mass confusion about our record at Subiaco. One stat had us only losing seven in a row there, which would be a charmed run compared to the reality. It wasn't just broadcasters who were confused, in a post-match interview Tom Bugg - now immortalised on a wall, where a few weeks ago he was on the verge of being put up against one - said we hadn't won in Perth for 17 years. At least he'd just played 120 minutes of footy and had enjoyed taking part in a heart-stopping victory so you couldn't hold a lack of vigorous fact checking against him. Likewise Gawn tried to claim it as our fifth win in a row, but what's wrong with thinking big?

The coverage could have been worse, Peter Bell provided the most enjoyable boundary riding since Leigh Colbert became an airline pilot after tiring of reporting to Tony Shaw, and against the odds I quite like Matthew Richardson as the third wheel. Basil might read Dwayne-esque tidbits off his 'fun facts' sheet, but it's better than goals being destroyed by Russell saying nonsensical things like "The shake! And the bake!"

This season early goals are just an invitation for the other side to come at you, and completely against the run of play we kicked the next three. When the first came from a suspect free to the returning Billy Stretch you wondered if umpiring luck might continue going our way so freely that we could come out of Subi on top and with people trying to get #freekickdemons up as a hashtag. It quickly balanced out, then went entirely in the other direction, much to the delight of Collingwood fans I'm sure. Then we won anyway, so stiff shit. Highlights included conceding a goal after Sam Frost was ankle-tapped, and another after Oscar McDonald delivered the perfect spoil because he was perceived not to be looking at the ball.

More justified was the needless 50/goal against Lewis, which was soft but came after him doing something unnecessary after a mark. I'm really struggling to be interested in him, I'm sure he's bringing leadership and assisting with preparation, and results would suggest we're doing reasonably well with him, but every week his stats fail to tally with the impact I'm seeing. I suppose it's an 'effective' handball even if it's to a guy under a ridiculous amount of pressure. Until Salem/Viney's injury trouble I was ready to made the bold call to put him on VFL360 for a week, but suppose we will just push on for now. Tyson is another one whose stats seem to flatter, I've thought he's been much better in recent weeks but wasn't surprised to see him ranked during the week as the second most flubtastic kicker in the league.

When Viney put the exclamation mark on one of the great grunt quarters with the third goal - coming after a neat Anal-Bullet finish on the run for the second - we had successfully defused everything thrown at us by the Eagles and were building a neat lead to take into quarter time. Then we conceded a goal straight out of the centre. Because that's just what we do. Not as much this year as previous, but there is little more frustrating than watching us toil to get one and then handing it straight back. Even worse when it came from Jetta giving away a free while trying to defend a much bigger man.

Still, we'd given them seven scoring shots to four but at least we had a lead. And given how adrift our forward structure looked who could possibly argue with three goals? What a wonderful era when we now expect more than one goal in a first quarter. Goodwin only has one Bailey Quarter™ in 13 games, Roos had six in his first 13. The tide is turning to the point where we can make goals out of nothing, a process not harmed by having so many more versatile players. A certain sacked senior coach said he had specific roles he wanted filled, and if you couldn't do that then bad luck - now you've got Hannan, Garlett, Petracca etc... successfully rotating through the midfield and a full-back kicking five. Needless to say if you have just emerged from a five year coma things have started to get better.

It still seemed more likely that the Eagles would kick the bulk of the goals. Between Petrie, Vardy, Darling (who was so bad that for once Lucas Cook was actually the better option) and McGovern (who has the head of a man who'd king hit you in a suburban nightclub, but I'm sure is actually quite nice. Unlike Toby Greene who looks harmless but actually does hit people at restaurants) I didn't trust us to keep them out long enough to create the sort of low scoring game that I thought would be our path to success. This seemed especially realistic when the Petrie, Darling, McGovern combination kicked the first goal of the quarter. We got one back through Bugg, before less than a minute later Frost collided with Tom McDonald, fell over and forget to even fake trying to handball. We lost the lead again, setting off a running storyline for the commentators who would breathlessly tell us how many times it had changed hands every couple of minutes. Ironically with the way the game ended I have no idea what the tally ended up at. After a good run it was not Frosty's best night, more than once he was running so fast he forgot how to kick and thumped it straight out on the full.

Goals to the once again impressive Hannan - who has basically killed off Dean Kent and Ben Kennedy - and the first of McDonald's famous haul extended the margin beyond a goal and I had to start accepting that whatever wacky methods we were using to score they were working. Leading at quarter time was nothing, we'd done that plenty of times in Perth since 2004, but to still be ahead even by a small margin at the half was a win. It's not like the Eagles were playing well, for a side renowned as flat-track bullies that smash everything in their path at home then fall to the ground in pieces on the road we were seeing far more of the latter. It was obvious they are nothing more than mid-table mediocrities, so we'd never get a better chance (or indeed another chance at all) to finally win in the west for the first time since Demonblog has existed.

There was a bit of handbags at 20 paces on the siren, with Oliver reacting to a light brush of the chin with a theatrical flounce to the ground that got his opponent reported. Fortunately it did connect no matter how lightly so he can't be accused of staging. To be fair we'd all be slaughtering an opposition player for doing the same thing, but there was heavy irony about a West Coast player getting in trouble because somebody else played up minor contact. This makes up for when Cyril Rioli flattened Oliver last year and got off because he's a fan favourite. Best on ground in the very minor biff was Christian Petracca, who was heard to demand a free from the umpire for it even though the indiscretion had happened about 30 seconds after the siren. I also enjoyed Oliver's mad-eyed attempts at jostling the guy who'd 'hit' him, which were clearly over compensation for feeling like a bit of a dick about going down so easily.

Were anybody else in the room to ask for my opinion I'd have still said we were a 25% chance at best of winning, even while we held a narrow lead. Players were falling on their arse every five seconds, so I could just see us getting deep into the last quarter and having somebody slip in the square to gift the Eagles victory. After seeing Essendon blow a game in spectacular fashion the night before anything seemed possible, but while the batshit crazy finish did happen it went in our favour. That was unexpected.

The lead didn't last long, courtesy of a third consecutive quarter where we quickly conceded the first goal. Just because I thought we'd lose doesn't mean I wasn't fully engaged, standing in the traditional watching at home pose too close to the TV while pacing around like a madman. Surprise forward success Melksham answered, and this is where the game really started to go off its nut for the first time. Gawn demonstrated that magic big-handed taps aren't always the best thing by hitting one straight into the hands of an Eagles player to wander into an open goal, before McDonald did his impression of that first night at Docklands and banged through two in a minute.

Suddenly we had nine points breathing space, but paid for it with Viney off the ground having his shoulder attended to. Oliver had started to shake his tagger after half time, but Viney's absence still coincided with the Eagles getting on top. Because Jack's body is made of tungsten he fought it out and returned but not until they'd done some damage. West Coast got another goal straight out of the middle to cancel Sizzle's second, and not only got on top for the first time since the opening quarter but were now making us pay on the scoreboard. The margin would have been out to more than 10 if a dinky rolling kick deep in Demon Time hadn't hit the post.

Given that I only rated us a one in four chance of winning when we were ahead you can imagine how I felt about going into the last quarter eight points down. And when yet again Reverse Demon Time saw us concede a goal almost immediately courtesy of a player walking through shithouse attempts to tackle from half our team I finally gave up and sat down. But then we kicked two goals in a row and I was encouraged to rise again. This was immediately followed by two Eagles goals, one that barely crept in and one from McGovern taking one of his bucket handed marks in the middle of two defenders. I had no idea who he was until today, but give me that sort of marking over the spectacular grabs followed by turnovers any day.

We never reached -24 Stranglewank territory, but adjusted on the Duckworth Lewis Method for the amount of time left there was a bit of minor sexual fetishery in going three goals down late in the last. West Coast should have killed us off when Lewis Jetta - known best in these parts for the famous James Frawley chase in the 2010 Sydney spectacular - had a set shot near on directly in front after nailing Viney holding the ball. He did the right thing and casually kicked at it like he thought the game was already over and the minimum of effort was required, leaving the door open for us to have one desperate swing at a comeback which would prompt the locals to save on stadium demolition costs and tear the place apart.

After a slow day Pedersen took a massive contested mark and kicked the first, then set McDonald up for his fourth to get us back within a kick. Which at the time seemed like the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard in your life but would pale into insignificance compared to what happened next. Appropriately it was the five year anniversary of the day Jared Rivers kicked four against GWS (and some other activities took place), because it was the weirdest four goal performance since then. If he'd stopped there and we'd lost it would have gone down next to Rivers, Jamar vs Carlton and Blease vs St Kilda as touching anecdotes of mysterious MFC goalkicking performances. Instead it was destined to become an iconic haul thanks to a moment of magic.

Somewhere in here - and after what happened at the end I'm too shaken to know exactly when - Jack Viney massacred a West Coast player while going for the ball. Crucially that's what should save him, he didn't line the guy up and try to introduce hip to face. It's like when a player goes for a massive screamer and knees their opponent in the bonce, you don't suspend them for that do you? He might be out with injury anyway, but if he gets suspended for that there deserves to be a bigger enquiry than when he got off on appeal for clocking the Adelaide bloke a few years ago. Ironically that was a drought breaking win in a city where we'd done stuff all for years as well.

The resurgent Pedersen had a chance at a second goal - and a third goal involvement - in a row but missed with less than five minutes and by now I was back up and walking around with such heavy tension that I now have pain in my left foot as if it's heavily bruised. After that miss the game reached a stalemate, before we slowly worked it forward for a boundary throw-in with 40 seconds left.

Then something outrageously magic happened, an incident that people will be talking about for years to come. If you thought you watched Jack Watts on Queen's Birthday several hundred times you'd best chuck a sickie on Monday to relive this.

In the split second that it took between him gathering the ball and kicking it my brain ticked through a lot of scenarios, mainly the expectation that he was going to be slung around, the ball would fall loose and West Coast would trot away to victory from the resulting free kick. Then after he had fought for his life to bust the tackle, and nearly ended up horizontal a'la Jakovich vs North in '91 the ball somehow connected with his boot, with just enough on it to drop over the head of three West Coast defenders and through the goal.

It wasn't just McDonald's refusal to be tackled, we wouldn't have gotten to that point if it wasn't for Gawn smashing through Vardy at the boundary thrown in to send it straight to Oliver despite not getting first hands on it, and the Hamburglar's magic handball to Hibberd. Because my nerves were already so frayed I thought Hibberd's kick hard along the boundary was going out bounds, so when it curled back to the square and bounced loose the contents of my stomach were about to be violently expelled onto the TV.

Watching now I see Harmes standing on his own, and he probably would have walked into the open goal if McDonald had got the handball off, but the tackle pulled him in the opposite direction and set up the Hail Mary 'throw ball in air/throw boot at ball' move.

At this point I had no concern for my sleeping family or my reputation with the neighbours, I let out a howl that was 80% glee and 20% absolute terror at the idea of stuffing it up out of the centre again like that St Kilda game. This time there was no concern about shoddy timekeeping, Sizzle kept his celebrations brief before ordering everyone to settle down and get back into defence. He even combined a high five with pointing to go and defend. I cannot tell you how scared I was at this point. Honestly I have never full on burst into tears over footy, and hope not to for anything less than a grand final, but if we'd lost from there I might have gone big time.

We set up with everyone bar one on the defensive side of the bounce with 20 seconds left, and when Gawn won the tap straight into Oliver's path I started to believe, before Pedersen did some loopy attempt to pick the ball up which just shot it up in the air. Everyone jumped on it, and bless the umpire he let them battle for a good five seconds before calling for the bounce with seven seconds left. We were now at maximum cruelty level for defeat, while at the same time being in a position where you knew we'd win. Tell me that again when they flung straight out of the ball-up and into space running towards 50. The extra seconds that had been taken off the clock proved useful when the siren went as the ball dropped into attack. That it went to a three-on-one is no consolation, given that Petrie was the man in the middle and would probably have found some way to surprisingly finish us off.

At the siren I fell backwards to a hardwood floor with no consideration of potentially smacking the back of my head and ending up in hospital. I couldn't consider it, I was so happy my body just went limp and I fell from my position hovering over the television. It was ironic that the ball ended up in Lewis' hands at the end after I'd spent four quarters complaining about him, but at this point I intimately loved everyone involved and was considering ducking down to Hosier Lane to whack off under the Bugg mural.

The same people practically bursting hammies to get on camera when the ball went over the boundary were left howling their hearts out at the injustice of it all, before immediately storming the exits in a fashion that might have led to a deadly stampede. Fuck them, they've had enough joy against us over the years. This was our time at last.

2017 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Tom McDonald
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Bernie Vince

Major apologies to Hannan, Stretch and Oliver who might have snuck into a vote, but a vote of thanks to everyone else just for being involved.

It's on at the top now, Jones' 4-6 will knock him out of the running for his sixth Jakovich but the top three remain red hot chances. With nine to play there's at most 45 votes on offer, so I'm not ruling out anybody other than Colin Garland and Heritier Lumumba yet.

Oliver is still nine off the lowest total to win the award (29 for Cameron Bruce in 2008), and the 24 players to have pocketed votes so far is below the historical average of 27.75 per season. To prove that less is more, the record low is 24 in 2006 (finals) and the high was 30 in 2013 (the flaming pits of hell).

In the minors Hibberd remains a full game clear of Hunt for the Seecamp, and eight in front of quiet achiever Jetta. In the Hilton, Hannan has been unlucky not to get votes the last but it's hard to see where any other rookies are going to come from unless Joel Smith reappears late in the year. Meanwhile Pedersen is still above the qualification waterline for the Stynes, but bookies are so sure that both Gawn will overtake him and that he'll fall below the 10 HO per game qualification mark that they've paid out on Maximum.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
How could you go for anything else other than the winner? It's not just that he kicked it, but the way he got ball to boot while desperately fighting off a would-be tackler. Then when it hit the boot it just casually dropped over the top of the Eagles defenders and into the goal.

I'm almost ready to move it ahead of Oliver in Adelaide as the clubhouse leader for the year. Need to think more about it, but as much as I loved The Hamburglar kicking out of his arse from the pocket this is not just an award for the spectacular. After all Jack Watts won it last year for a game-winning set shot. I need a week to contemplate this once the emotion dies down.

So our lot crafted a well designed banner with lovely kerning and carted it from one side of this massive continent to another, while the home team produced something that looked like it was knocked up at the nearest primary school. The run through side had some vague social issues message about feeding people, which must have meant something to Western Australians because there was no indication of what the cause was or how you could contribute. Then the other side was nothing more than a hashtag. And down the middle there was a curtain that looked like one of the ones they have at the theatre. Dees 12-1-0 for the season.

Merchandise Central
From the same legend who created the I SAW MARK JAMAR KICK FIVE GOALS shirt:
Sunday morning updates
Well, later Sunday morning anyway. I've had about three hours sleep, and if it wasn't for the spirit of Jack Viney flowing through my veins I'd be absolute cactus. Addition items to consider:
  • What about Melksham's passionate rendition of the theme song? He was going at it so hard I'm surprised he didn't do Hibberd serious damage. It's not as unpopular opinion as it used to be, but I'm starting to fall for the Milkshake.
  • Who was so excited at winning that they got #godees tattooed on their arse?
I was also quite taken with this photo, where it looks like McDonald and Harmes are squaring off with strangers at 3am on King Street after a bucks night gone wrong. Possibly with Jeremy
McGovern on the other side. Harmes is the guy half-trying to calm his mate down, but also inflaming the situation by telling the other side he's rooted their mum.

What it really needs is a Photoshop of The Hamburglar wandering in and copping it on the jaw.

Simon Buckley and Schuster
I pledged to stop plugging the book, having flogged a copy to practically everyone with even the remotest interest BUT for a variety of arcane reasons I need to do a bulk order of hard copies from Amazon - so if you want one with some sort of novelty scrawl on the inside I'll do you the "thanks for reading this far" price of $40 including postage. Email me by COB Friday to get in the mix.

Next week
It's rare enough for us to have a Friday night game, much less against an interstate team. Brings back nervous memories of Tony Modra running riot in 1999. A few weeks ago when the Swans were folding like a card table you'd have noted this one down as a sure thing, but all of a sudden they're back in the eight and stealing games in remarkable fashion. On the MCG I still think we're a reasonable chance, but reserve the right to be terrified about Franklin. This year has got a bit of 1998 about it, and if you've seen Hotter Than Hell as many times as me you'll remember the win under lights against the Swans at the 'G that sealed a top four berth - that night Lockett kicked his 100th for the season but was otherwise thumped by Jamie Shanahan.

As for changes I'll take the injury report at face value and accept Watts was only out for a week. It's becoming increasingly hard to know what to do with changes, how do you fit McDonald into the forward line with Watts and Pedersen? And how long do we push our luck on all of Bugg, Melksham and Harmes up front? For that reason I have to chuck Harmes with apologies, because I do quite like him.

Elsewhere JFK gets a go as reward for ripping the seconds apart the last few weeks. I seriously doubt it will translate to an AFL midfield, but the least you can do is try. If Viney doesn't play Harmes can come back in. And at last BenKen makes his long awaited return in place of Garlett - though at the same time if Jeff (not even Jeffy if we win a flag) goes out maybe that solves our issue of which of the makeshift forwards to drop?

IN: Watts, Kennedy-Harris, Kennedy
OUT: Garlett, Salem (inj), Harmes (omit)
LUCKY: Lewis
UNLUCKY: Weideman based on his VFL performance, but no need for him at the moment so let him stay there and waffle a few more teams

Final thoughts
This is the team. It's not perfect, but how many teams are? There is no turning back now, at the very least this group is going to get us into a finals series in the near future, and after that who knows what happens. I am feeling a level of tension, dread and excitement that is completely alien to me - I just know that I'm dying to play out this season and see where we end up. Then I suppose it's off to my local BASS outlet to book finals tickets.


  1. FWIW Garlett seems to have been injured last night. Perhaps an opportunity for Ben Kennedy to come back?

  2. The boys flew back Sunday morning on Virgin, because they weren't allowed on the Qantas red-eye. Virgin being the preferred AFL CARRIER... In the middle of consecutive six-day breaks?! More Sydney-loving work from the AFL...?

  3. I must say, they all looked refreshed. No sign of a limp with Jeff as he wrangled his kid on his hip, and Salem was walking ok, but I'm tipping he misses. Max was just cool, TV cameras pointed his way. He's back, baby.

  4. Wouldn't it have been better to recover properly at the ground, back to the hotel to the spa party hosted by none other than Hootabell Hunt. Who no doubt collected some epicly quirky photos for Insta niggle which will DEFINITELY NOT DIRECTLY TARGET ANY SPECIFIC PLAYERS in what can only admiringly be judged as one of the most sensible social shutdowns of all time.

    All this talk of a flag is 100% premature (by 1 season).

    I am now regretting moving to Northern NSW 6 years ago. Forced to watch awful ultra corporate GW$ smackdowns of the hopeless Lions instead of one of the greatest games of the modern epoch.

  5. It has to be done this year ye pessimists, our opponents are sore afraid of us.

  6. The next six weeks will tell the tale.

    We should win the last three vs Saints/Lions/Pies all @ home.


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