Monday 19 June 2017

This machine kills finalists

It's taken three and a half years of slowly building from the bottom up, but at last people are finally starting to dislike us. For all the ridiculous claims that we might win a flag this year I won't believe anything of the sort until they hate us. For now it's more passing disgust than the sort of deep loathing you only get from dominating September, but that will do in the interim. One thing is for sure, the era of congratulatory text messages and heart-warming endings akin to a film where the kid with no arms wins a high school basketball game are over and there's starting to be genuine spite towards us. And thank god for that.

The idea that we're suddenly premiership contenders is a classic piece of Microwave Media from the same people who will be slaughtering us in a few weeks. It's good for a few clicks and one former [team name] legend [full name] believes the Dees can win the premiership" story in each major media outlet, but I don't think many Melbourne fans are joining in. More power to you if you're a believer, but I'd like to concentrate on first making the eight, then winning a final before we get too far ahead of ourselves.

Still, did you find yourself wondering what it would be like at least once today? How to avoid dying from a heart attack at the siren, then time your run from a non-ground level seat to the fence for the presentations and the chance to absolutely molest a player over the fence in celebration? I think after that I'd just go outside, sit down against a tree in Yarra Park and have a big old cry.

For now let's concentrate on the present, and what was arguably our best win since 2006. Mind you it didn't have much competition. Sydney 2010 was more shockingly brutal, and Essendon 2012 more likely to induce a heart attack, but this was the total package. It was four quarters of a perfectly set up side executing their plan so well that accomplished opposition flew the white flag - complete with an ad hoc pre-match psychological warfare operation on a par with the one that deceived Germany as to the location of the D-Day landings.

If that impressively violent Sydney win (and when Bruce McAvaney breathlessly screamed "The Dees are going to be something" he forget to add "a complete disaster for years to come") is the measuring stick then you must acknowledge that we're in an infinitely better place today. The list is younger, many of the players are unsociable bruisers, and other than the odd dickhead sending the media open letters to the coach we’re achieving a level of off-field stability not seen for god knows how many years. It doesn't automatically translate to success, or might flame out agonisingly short like St Kilda, but even if it doesn't work from here it will take some amazingly revisionist history to pretend the signs weren't there.

While beating the Bulldogs on their home ground was fantastic but feasible, the margin and the way we got to it blew my head off. It's not hard to be surprised when you're still so badly affected by a tragic win/loss record that you're still not at the point where you can go into every game believing we're a chance. Even after Sydney provided a handy blueprint on how to put them away it still seemed unlikely - at least to me - that we'd topple them. Because I'm still in the self-sabotaging phase of trying to find all the reasons why we won't follow through on our promise.

Me of little faith thought we'd either fail to execute Sydney's plan (even though we'd already done a successful cover version of somebody else's ploy a few weeks ago in cleaning up Rory Sloane), or that the Dogs would emerge through a banner reading PLAN B before stomping us from Doug Hawkins Wing to Chris Grant Pocket and back again. Instead I went in debating if a player could still qualify as a Kingsley after nearly being best on ground in a Grand Final, and watched us hold a side to 0.1 in a first quarter for the first time since 1994.

It was a welcome change from my recent record on Level 4 at Docklands. We might have won there three times since the end of 2015 none of them came while I was sitting upstairs. It's where I'd taken in most of the famous 22 straight losses, ever since Ben Holland kicked four and Jace Bode debuted. In the grand scheme of things it didn't mean anything, but blame the psychological trauma of the Mark Neeld era for introducing me to omens and mysticism.

After watching Watts' winner on Queen's Birthday about 97 times via a multitude of broadcasters we knew that beating strugglers wouldn't mean anything if we went to water here. There was also plenty on the line for the Dogs too given how significantly they'd shit the bed against Sydney. It was already a rare MFC vs Footscray game that had something to float the boat of neutrals, before your favourite irritant and mine Tomas Bugg proved yet again that form is temporary but niggle is forever when he tossed a pre-match comedy hand grenade into the mix.

With speculation rife about who we'd use to try and recapture Sydney's success of stopping their run by tagging the buggery out of Double J Jeff Jarrett, Watts and Bugg teamed up for this novelty Instagram post. As payment for coming up with the 2018 membership campaign (unless it's superseded with 'jump on the bandwagon you glory hunting bastards, we've just won a flag') I'll take a version with my name on it signed by Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal themselves.
One media outlet hilariously asked if he 'revealed a tactical move', as if it was Shane Ellen tweeting that he'd be at full forward before the 1997 Grand Final. It was nothing more than good clean fun, with a high degree of difficulty considering he would have looked like a right dickhead if we'd lost. When Melksham went to JJ at the first bounce the gimmick post was an afterthought, then all the Bulldogs players started trying to biff Bugg anyway as if he'd been pictured washing his car with Ted Whitten’s jumper.

Let me preface this by saying I would allow the surgical extraction of at least one of my bollocks for the chance to do what the Dogs did last year, but if they fell for that provocation it is final proof that they were a good ordinary team who rode a great run to glory and will now return to obscurity. And I'm thrilled they did, because it involved $cully being rorted out of a 50 in the dying seconds of a thrilling prelim.

Maybe none of them saw it and they just wanted to punch Bugg for the sake of it? They wouldn't be the first team he's annoyed to the point of madness. Perhaps he delivered a delightfully ribald sledge that kicked things off independent of any social media activity. Either way, he might have lost the ability to accurately kick a set shot the moment I cursed him against North but has delivered novelties by the truck load since joining us. This had nothing on his award winning performance against Richmond last year, but was more welcome than the fancy post-goal handshake he did with Petracca against the Pies. He's not an automatic first 22 player, but I can't help love him. Opposition fans may disagree, and you're well within your rights. If I knew who any of your fringe players were I'd probably dislike some of them too.

Once the first round of light-hearted biff subsided we got a brutal scrap where everyone was desperately flinging themselves at the footy, and the pressure was causing all sorts of flubbed kicks and clangers. At first it looked like nobody was going to kick a goal. We were getting the ball forward often enough but weren't able to capitalise, and it was obvious very early that the Dogs attack was firing on zero cylinders.

They hadn't yet been tipped into full mental collapse and retreat, but I still knew we wanted it far more, and just needed to take enough opportunities to make sure the effort being expended to torment the Dogs wasn't going to waste. If we'd gone through all that and conceded three goals in three minutes I might have had a breakdown in Row X. My psychologist, cardiologist and parole officer need not have worried - eventually Garlett found Tyson with a pinpoint pass inside 50 and we were away, never to look back. We got an assist from Nathan Jones accidentally assassinating Lin Jong's ACL with a smother, and even at a score of 6-1 the game was already ours to lose.

For the second week in a row opposition fans turned purple in the face screaming about how badly they were being rolled by the umpires. This elicited significantly less sympathy than it did from the Pies, because a) Footscray got so many dodgy frees last year it became a meme, and b) it's hard to take people's claims of a rort seriously when their side is throwing the ball around like they're the British and Irish Lions. I look forward to our perceived recent good run coming back to haunt us next week when we're turned over good and proper in Perth and left howling about how unfair it is.

My highlight was the Dogs being rolled out of a goal when it was said to have hit the post, followed by vision so inconclusive the best they could do was hit pause just as the ball - represented here by a blurry yellow blob - was flying past the camera. Then in the second quarter Harmes kicked a goal that Bulldogs players were convinced they'd touched, and not only did it avoid on the spot scrutiny but the game started again before the video ref could launch a wildcat pre-bounce review. Everything is, at last and probably not for long, coming up Melbourne.

Absurdly we got to 35-2 in front before the Bulldogs kicked a goal, and it wasn't for want of trying on their behalf. They got the ball down there enough, it's just that they had no idea how to work it through our steel-trap defence. This is a rare feeling. I've seen a few Melbourne backlines that had no earthly idea what they were doing, and many others that battled bravely but were eventually overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. Rarely since we last played finals have I seen a defensive demolition job as comprehensive as this, especially against a finalist. It eventually took a bloke throwing ball at boot from a pack to get them on the board, because they sure as shit weren't going to craft an attractive one.

My glee at making life so difficult for them wasn't just about the way the backmen set up, or how players were running from 40 metres away to spoil or make a contest, but the brutal way we hunted them whenever they had the ball. It was the gang tackles, the smothers and the general all-round nastiness. Some sour opposition fans had the gall to talk about how many 'shit blokes' we had, as if that was a bad thing. I have been waiting years for this sort of angry, anti-social (but ultimately lovable) team to replace our cute, fluffy and not at all ruthless list of fancyboys. It's not just the low-level thuggery and pantomime villains like Bugg, but players made of iron like Viney or Oliver cannoning into packs with no real concern for their own physical well-being, or some goofball failing to do his homework on Petracca and trying to take him on in front of goal. Whisper it very gently, and remind me of this moment when I’ve got my head in the oven again in a few weeks but I really think we’re going to be ok.

For all the shit I've hung on the defensive structures this year, it was as comprehensive a smothering as I can remember. We've won by more and scored more freely, but this was a full-scale pillow to the face job. There's something to be said for playing against a toothless forward line featuring more one hit wonders than Stock, Aitken and Waterman, but that hasn't stopped us from conceding scores hand over fist in the past.

Michael Hibberd has been an incredible recruit, Sam Frost had a few dodgy disposals but has been mighty in the contest, and Oscar McDonald played the game of his short career. And unless you're an All-Australian selector you know all about how good Jetta is. I was happiest at McDonald's game, even after prefacing it by disclaimers of it being the most apology laden omission of all time, I got more complaints than the Tiger Airways customer feedback department last week for suggesting he might need to make way for heigh balance if Gawn or Spencer returned. Fortunately the theory that we'd be too top heavy with both of them in was never tested, and once again we got away without playing a recognised ruckman.

Finally somebody finally identified that Sizzle Sr in the middle and Pedersen forward was the winning combination, and while McDonald didn't win all that many hitouts he's an animal when the ball hits the ground and snuck forward for a pair of goals in as well. I have a deep fondness for The Spencil, and look forward to him becoming the all-time lowest games/years played life member at the end of 2018, but unless we're lining against one of the top ruckmen in the comp and are worried about endlessly perfect taps I'd almost prefer McDonald as our second ruck from here.

Meanwhile Pedersen was freed to go forward for the majority of the match and played what might have been the best game of his career. His rocky career with us started on debut, and has involved him going out of favour with multiple coaches several times but I will die screaming in a ditch to defend his overall contribution. I don't want to get into the idea of trades having winners and losers again (though how well did the Salem, Tyson, Hunt trifecta do yesterday?), but via several twists and turns we can confirm now that we did pretty well out of the McLean to Carlton trade.

Remember when we thought we'd robbed the Blues blind early in Gysberts' career while McLean was languishing in the VFL, only for him to return for three handy seasons at the end of his career while Gysberts was squashed flat under the weight of an epic Melbourning? Then once we'd squeezed every last drop of blood out of the kid (and he was so slight that there might not have been much in there to start with) we flogged him to North for a guy that used to work at Bunnings. It started badly, but we've ended up with a solid contributor out of it. Long live the man with footy's most NQR nickname.

Because I'm horribly scarred by a multitude of bad experiences I thought "here we go" when the Dogs got their first. It didn't matter how far we were in front, we'd started to ease up on the strangulation and had only kicked one for the quarter. That used to be a good quarter for us. Then Mitch Hannan crumbed one through a crowd to restore a near six goal lead and I was temporarily allowed to breathe again. It was such a momentous day out that Hannan even avoided being cut down by the MFC Media Curse. Maybe it missed because the story was only on the AFLPA website instead of a major newspaper, but where it would usually descend like a gas throughout the stadium and envelope anyone who'd just had the merest hint of publicity, he instead further pulled ahead of Dean Kent in the running for the job as a quick half-forward. Bad news for Ben Kennedy too, now well deep in the queue at Casey and waiting patiently for his call to progress.

Immediately after Hannan's goal footy's #1 agitator engaged in a spot of classic Buggery with the Bulldogs captain, then went down like a sack of spuds under the retaliation to get another kick. He finally converted a set shot, and of course it took until he'd nicked one in controversial fashion for him to be truly relaxed, and the Bulldogs were in significant trouble. We were 40 up with five minutes to go in the first half, and it was an appropriate time for 'Cape Grim' to be displayed as a sponsor around the fence. Conversely I was in Cape Horn.

Footy karma quickly paid us back for Bugg's acrobatic tumble as the Bulldogs went straight down the other end and cancelled the second goal out. This incited some more jostling which was about 25% as angry as that in the North game, but when they got another goal quickly after I thought we'd accidentally awakened their fighting spirit. After five weeks of complaining about giving up four goal leads before showing up to play how ironic would it have been to throw away a margin ? Ironically the only team we've crumbled against this year is Richmond, who are fast developing a North 2013 style reputation for falling to bits from winning positions. It all points to playing them in a final for the first time since World War II, somebody storming back from five goals down in the last quarter and me undergoing urgent defibrillation.

There was more than enough time for us to perform our special move of conceding another goal, so when we had the ball in the middle of the ground in the dying seconds I was comfortable running the clock down so they didn't get another chance. That defeatist attitude was exposed when Oliver found Watts wide on the boundary line for a set shot after the siren. Even with 15,000 peasants howling at him, and the person operating the siren hitting it a second time during his run-up he is having such a nerveless, calm time of things at the moment that he managed to 9-iron it into the far corner of the goal, just out of the despairing lunge of a Dogs player. This caused Jake Stringer - who had already belted Nifty Nev in the guts - to try and 'start' a fight with Jack Viney by grabbing the jumper and walking backwards until his teammates could arrive and stop him from having to actually take Viney on. Hitting him in the head would be the least productive sporting punch since Marc Rosset was forced to retire from the Hopman Cup after whacking the wall.

A 33 point margin wasn't enough to calm me. It was a nice start, but we shouldn't know more than anyone how quickly leads can be overhauled these days. Still, it was a relatively relaxed half time with not a single fingernail chewed. I even started to believe - at least for one afternoon - when Watts took a big grab in the square within the first couple of minutes to extend the lead back to nearly 40.

The Dogs didn't look any more likely to consistently break through our defence than they had in the first half, so even when Goldenballs Boyd bobbed up for one in the middle of the quarter it only made me moderately nervous. This was soon corrected when Salem trotted to 50 before thumping one over the top of the Bulldogs defence, and when Garlett confused the bejesus out of his opponent to mark in the clear and kick another we were as good as home. Or if you could convince yourself there was a way for the Bulldogs to start kicking goals, setting us up for a shocking turnaround. No need to worry, when Milkshake took a break from tormenting his opponent to throw in some crumb people were ready to storm the ground and mount him.

Of course, you can't go too long with a classic Melbourne debacle breaking out, and we soon gifted them a goal with a farcical defensive mix-up. The Bulldogs were struggling so badly to score we can consider it a charitable donation. It was only a minor setback, soon Bugg ramped up the comic effect of his pre-game shenanigans by kicking his second to cancel that one out. Even with Hunt and Jones both off injured it was going to take some kind of collapse for us to give up a lead from here. But as much as times have changed for the better for both teams since 2013 how could I forget that nearly disastrous night where we almost blew a massive lead against them in the last 15 minutes and I found a dead mouse under the seat in front? The two sides bore little resemblance to that night but the scars run deep.

With the margin hovering dangerously close to the Chris Sullivan Line (for clarification that's 46, so you need 47 to go over it. I have not yet determined if on the line is good enough to be comfortable) against a proper team for the first time in years I thought we might get one more and be left agonisingly close. Then as if to prove everything was flowing our way we managed to not only turn back a Bulldogs attack deep in Demon Time, but converted it into two goals of our own.

It was appropriate that Tom McDonald kicked it. Never before has a player embraced my gimmicks so warmly, and on the same ground where he formed the lethal forward combination with Dean Kent in R23 2014 he steamed down the middle of the 50 on a golden lead then converted the set shot. He'd already played in the ruck and in defence, now he was kicking goals – banging through a set shot from 40 metres out after the siren was the icing on the cake of a Stefan Martin Experience-esque afternoon of total football.

Most of our side had never seen a 46+ point lead at three quarter time (not in their favour anyway), but appropriately enough on a day where the word 'Buggery' was trending across the Docklands precinct there was no Crossing The Line ceremony, we just got on with the job via a quick early scare.

The whole point of the line is that you're supposed to be confident when we lead by more than that, because it's now been 25 years since we've blown a game from a position of strength like that in the last quarter. But with Hunt, Watts, Jones and now Jetta under an injury cloud I still treated their first goal as a major concern. Whatever Jones had done to his hip it hadn't stopped him from delivering an epic spoil deep in the third quarter, charging down a Dogs player patiently waiting to mark the ball inside 50 and thumping it across the line. Imagine one day the league gets it wish, penalises players for the last touch out of bounds and we lose the joy of people violently thumping the ball across the line? I do not accept more marking contests as an acceptable substitution.

That goal was all the Dogs were good for though, and as time ran down without them kicking any more I was able to sit back and enjoy the magic. Like Pedersen standing his ground and taking a blockbuster contested mark against a hapless opponent, before showing what a good bloke he was by handing Hannan a freebie as he went past. By the time the ball landed in the square and took a novelty bounce back into McDonald's hand to stuff the ball through an open goal we were nearly 10 goals up and at last I was fully relaxed. The demolition job was complete, and we move onto the next phase of the Bloody Hell, What Just Happened There? national tour.

You'd think there would be no way anyone could be unhappy about what happened yesterday. Even I, who have been accused of excessive negativity from people up and down the credibility scale, allowed myself to be uproariously happy. So when I got in the car to hear advance notice of an upcoming Chris from Camberwell call (because Mark Fine understands that Chris has become such a cult figure that promoting in advance means people will contact everyone they know and tell them to tune in) I thought this had to be the moment where our tortured long distance relationship would pay off and I'd finally hear him unplug the helium, stick in the laughing gas and say something positive.

Instead, after 45 minutes on hold all he could muster was a passionate declaration that "of course" we wouldn’t play Gawn in Perth, and that it was obviously that Spencer would be picked. This came several hours after Goodwin had announced Gawn a certain starter, and even when Chris was interrupted with the audio of the coach saying just that he plowed on regardless as if Goodwin's comments were being played at a frequency too high for him to hear.

Then, in the wake of a near 10 goal win against the defending premier, on a ground where we have been traditionally pus, which left us out of the top four on percentage after missing two of our key talls for most of the season he cut a passionate promo about how much we’re missing Aaron vandenBerg. It was unnecessary misery, but very much on brand for him to be pining for fringe players as if they were Gary Ablett. I've no doubt many people feel the same way about me, but while Chris was an enjoyable novelty when we were shit it’s time to retire the gimmick now. Whoever is taking a massive belt from a balloon just before going on air and doing these novelty calls must pack it in.

2017 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Michael Hibberd
4 - Cameron Pedersen
3 - Oscar McDonald
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Clayton Oliver

Apologies to almost everyone - but specifically Hannan, Jetta, T. McDonald, Tyson and Watts

Now it starts getting interesting, Hibberd nearly drew level with the Hamburglar only for Oliver's work in confined spaces to pocket him one vote that maintained a narrow lead. They must now be the red hot favourites, and Hibberd's campaign to walk in and pocket the Seecamp in his first season is working a treat. In the minors Hannan is unlucky not to extend his lead in the Hilton, but with a settled side looking likely to keep rookies at bay from here he might have done enough. Surprisingly Pedersen now leads the Stynes, but now that he's down to 13.25 hitouts per game I don't like his chances of staying above the 10pg qualifying line once Gawn returns. Still, we are living in ridiculously interesting times.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
When I started this feature we kicked so few goals that it was easy to instantly identify which of the five you enjoyed most. Now we're scoring over 100 freely, have a percentage of 115.7 and I'm spoilt for choice. It was quantity over quality this week, so nobody's challenging The Hamburglar for overall supremacy. I'll opt for Watts' finish at the end of the second quarter, just for the surgical precision with which he landed it in the back corner despite the siren operator hitting the button like he was on Sale Of The Century.

Well done to the Dogs on realising they were sure losers in this contest and taking a week off writing corny 'jokes'. I think that's what happened anyway, because at least last year when they were potting us for being rich fops you could see where they were roughly aiming towards comedy. This involved an exorcism gag, which might have had something to do with the film but could have been made clearer with a graphic of a girl's head spinning 360 as she tells a priest to GAGF. Minus points for using Os that look suspiciously like zeroes.

On the other hand our banner had not one but two rhyming sides, both of which scanned perfectly and didn't feature couplets that landed with a clunking sound as if they'd been lobbed out of a fifth story window. Extra credit for including 'storming', which I think is a delightfully underappreciated word. Dees 11-1-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)

Coincidentally just as we've started winning at Docklands and it's become more convenient for me to get there than the MCG I've become increasing fond of the place. The only real issue, other than a death trap walk back to the station, is that there's only limited space in which to retreat to if you're trying to avoid people. Even as far back as you can get, there was still a kid sitting right in front. Unlike several of our games there last year I didn't have to self-exclude to a more remote spot to stop from blowing my top in front of impressionable youth, because even with 15,000 spare seats in the stadium about the only place you could go without anyone nearby was the restricted viewing area that replaces your vision of half the ground with a concrete block.

Happily we delivered such a comprehensive siren-to-siren performance that there was no need for tantrums. Even the moderately boisterous fellow travellers sitting next to me, who I thought were a $1.01 chance of yelling "fuck" into a child's ear were never provoked into offensive behaviour. If the future of sitting near people involves demoralising them to the point where they stay silent for four quarters then I might be tempted to come back to society.

On top of solid gold football we were also kept amused by a raft of 'matchday experience' innovations. Parading a dog around the ground is old hat now, so what I really enjoyed was the message 'all the music played today was selected by Western Bulldogs players' being flashed on the big screen 15 minutes into a quarter. When for obvious reasons no music was being played. It was an oddly generic message even when there was music on, at least whether they pick the songs or not our players have their names next to the tracks so they can be held accountable. It felt like the biggest lie since St Kilda piped in the noise of people singing a dirge version of their theme song.

The action went up a notch at half time, when we were treated to the welcome reintroduction of a Voice Of The G style video game challenge. It promised to be a wonderful flashback to the days where people didn't know how to play the driving games and crashed non-stop for five minutes. Except that nobody had thought to set it up so that the feed of the game could be seen on the big screen. Instead we got a side shot of two 12-year-olds holding controllers. Then neither of them could work out how to get the game started, and even after a waiting Nintendo staffer leapt in to try and help none of them could get the game going. Hell of a promo for the system. Match The Emoji was the worst thing we've ever done, but even that looked like Citizen Kane compared to this debacle. How could the MCG get a feed of people cluelessly playing the old AFL games to a nil-all draw on the big screen in 1999 but now not only we couldn't see it but the kids couldn't play it either.

The problem with this stuff is that it's tone deaf to the mood of the crowd and how the game is going. Did Russell Robertson still have to invite people to Run Like A Demon on the night we were being torn asunder by Essendon? Run Like A Demon Into Oncoming Traffic perhaps. This time they had a pre-scheduled three quarter time promotion showing a graphic of a man holding a bulldog on his head as if he was self-inflicting a canine teabag, then asked the crowd to mug for the camera. Naturally kids and weirdos went for it, but as the cameras scanned around 75% of Bulldogs fans were in shock.

Does the joy of winning a flag really wash away that quickly? Let's ask the 73-year-old who rang the radio this afternoon to say she was so disgusted that she walked out halfway through the last quarter. You wait quite literally all your adult life for a flag and 12 competitive games later you're trampling people to get out because we've thrashed you. Get a grip you ungrateful bastards. These are the sort of people who win the lottery and bankrupt themselves within two years. Footscray should be the perfect case study of how to act after the drought is broken, and I promise that if we ever win one and are on the verge of missing the eight and are 45 points down at three quarter time against a traditionally shit team less than a year later I will still be sitting there with a beaming smile, mentally replaying the entire Grand Final.

Next week
It's off to Perth for the ultimate umpiring correction, and if we're going to have one last desperate attempt at slaying the Subiaco beast before the lights go out there at least we're showing up in what passes for us as red hot form.

Gawn's impending return makes it complicated, as do potential injuries to Jones, Watts and Jetta. Not to mention Oscar making himself absolutely undroppable for any reason this time. What I will say is that while Gawn might have been anointed as a sure starter, Goodwin didn’t say where. It might be too early for trick plays, but could he go forward alongside Pedersen (especially if Watts misses) while McDonald continues to play in the middle? Maximum gets his plus sized hand back in relieving for 10 minutes at a time, he's there as an option if we’re being massacred in the middle, and suddenly the Eagles defence has to death with an added sense of death from above terror while he's leaping all over them.

Given the trifecta of six day breaks (6-6-6 eh?) I'm going to suggest Jones is respectfully given a week to relax before coming back a week later to stitch his brother up the next Friday night, but that Watts, Hunt and Jetta will play. There's no science to any of that, it's just a guess. Considering how worried I was about height balance last week this change makes no sense, but the side effect of getting better is that it's harder to decide who doesn't play. I wasn't crazy about Anal Bullet's game, and really want Stretch back in the side soon, but prepared to give ANB another week for his contribution to the overall package.

IN: Gawn
OUT: Jones (inj)
LUCKY: Neal-Bullen
UNLUCKY: Kennedy (destined to be forever unlucky), Trengove (unfortunately I think we're done here), Spencer (on track to become the lowest games/years played ratio life member of any club ever)

Was it worth it?
Very much so, even considering a train ride home where the guy opposite was shovelling foul smelling food into his gob for 40 minutes while his mum watched highlights of Jeremy Howe's biggest Collingwood marks out loud on a mobile phone while gushing about how great he is. Luckily she didn't try and involve me in the conversation, or I'd have had to be a killjoy and remind her that the biggest screamer of all time is only worth as much as a chest mark on the half-back flank if the following possession is sprayed like an out of control garden hose.

Final thoughts
Funny how your attitude towards players improves when things are going well, when we were eviscerated by Sydney in 2012 I said this.

That was only about 50% sour grapes at being a horrible side, there were genuinely a dozen players on the list that I didn't trust to do the hard work required to get us back to respectability. Also at that point I was battling against the tide to try and remain positive on the coach, a philosophy which lasted under about half time of Round 1 2013 when I started to wish for global thermonuclear war to break out before the final siren. But enough of the miserable past, back to visualising a glorious future where we win so much that people begin to despise us, and our eventual collapse is celebrated like the fall of the Berlin Wall. No matter what happens for the rest of the year keep your eyes on the real prize - the 2018/19/20/21/22 five-peat.


  1. Stat My Bitch Up courtesy of the Dee Tales podcast:
    Weeks in the 8, 2007-16: 6
    Weeks in the 8, 2017: 7

  2. Sorry, we will win the flag, I have had The Gush since Petracca's goal, pretty soon I will weigh 20 kilos which is no more than 2 or three squirrels.

  3. Your throwback to 2013 lead me to channel my inner masochist and read a few Neeld-era posts (added benefit of not get ahead of myself this year). That was great fun, I'd actually forgotten that we delisted Jetta end of 2013, madness.


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