Saturday 27 January 2018

Hard headed, solid fisted - 2018 season preview

The current high water mark of the Melbourne Football Club experience since 2007 is Tom McSizzle going Tom McHorizontal to win the game at Subiaco. His goal (go on, have another watch) seemingly shut the door on our cursed relationship with the ground, and left us outside the top four on percentage. Great things beckoned, David King famously asked why supporters were still so miserable, and from there we staggered gracelessly toward the finish line before falling face down centimetres short.

Our players turning up to the first quarter of the Collingwood game like they'd been drugged with ether will take some getting over. That we still had a chance of sneaking into the eight until West Coast delivered Subiaco's Revenge and tipped us out by the smallest ever margin is irrelevant, we held a return to the finals firmly in our grasp and 30 minutes of pressure-free madness fucked it up. Nobody's arrived for a potentially momentous occasion and left in tatters like that since Herman Rockefeller.

After that tremendous capitulation we should have been able to quietly recover and enjoy a rare moment of triumph in pinching Jake Lever from Adelaide. Then along came the Jack Watts saga. Talk about divisive, Melbourne fans haven't punched on like that since the Joe Gutnick vs Gabriel Szondy vote. At one point during the week Simon Goodwin nearly had to employ some of Gutnick's burly bodyguards just to duck out to the shops for a milkshake.

For the live reaction as the trade happened return to New Jack Watts City. Several months on I've reached the acceptance phase of the grieving process. For years I've desperately wanted him to stuff it up his critics elbow deep, and I suppose he's actually more likely to do that at Port than here. Now at least when he forms the premiership winning Four Horsemen faction with Jimmy Toumpas, Jack Trengove and Dom Barry I can scream "I told you so". Through the tears.

Now that Jack is resident in Adelaide and the sting has gone out of the controversy, you can
laugh at how badly the PR side of the trade was handled. From the reason mysteriously changing to salary cap pressure days after we'd been told he could stay if he wanted, to the ham-fisted attempts at character assassination where journos 'accidentally' happened upon stories (presumably while walking down Brunton Avenue) about his training intensity that nobody had bothered to report on previously it was a complete balls-up. The wisdom of giving him away for a spare parts pick was open for debate, our status as an organisation that can't go five minutes without looking like it's got no idea was never in doubt.

Once Watts and his allegedly underwhelming training routines were out the door you'd have thought everyone who was left would have been inspired to take to pre-season training like Milo of Croton. But no, perhaps with concerns about a repeat of Christian Salem dropping masonry on his head some players declined the opportunity to eat lightning and shit thunder on another military style camp, and managed to get it called off.

I don't blame the players for not fancying being forced into naked human pyramids like inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, but you can't take a one-size fits all approach to these things. Look at the greatest pre-season training documentary of all-time Full Metal Jacket. Private Joker got Basic Military Journalism, Private Pyle shot himself in the head. Horses for courses. Presumably the idea of these SWAT team camps is to build resilience so players can push through at the end of games when physically shot. Anyone who saw our putrid first quarters last year will know that the ends of games aren't our problems, it's having the players turn up at the first bounce. They should be sent to a camp with fluffy pillows and a nice duvet and shown how to wake up.

However minor the actual story was, before it arrived as a godsend for journalists and 'humourists' in the absence of any actual footy news, it's a shame it couldn't be worked out in the background without us looking like a vaudeville act again. First the bloke with the cheese, then Collingwood, then the "how to buy finals tickets" mailout, then Watts, now this. And there was more to come. Lucky we're currently not a complete rabble on-field or people would be trying to topple the board.
In the absence of empty threats of a coup it certainly gave fans something to do during summer, joining either the "Goodwin is insane, won't somebody stop this man" or "kill all the players and get some new ones who aren't SOFT" camps and slaughtering each other up and down the internet. It was such a December story that I couldn't be encouraged to go wild on either side. I don't expect we'll ever find out what really happened so I'm content to wait until coach and/or players either prove themselves or cock it up royally before reaching for the panic button.

I'm very conservative when it comes to turning on coaches, but there's no way Goodwin doesn't beat Neeld's record of three quarter time, Round 1, Season 2 before the red mist descends. Besides, the worst ending since No Country For Old Men aside he did just preside over more wins than losses for the first time since 2006.

After the training camp chaos we were free of scandals for a few week, until it was revealed that a player had been accused of sexual assault in Bali. And there's nothing amusing to be said about that so let's move right along shall we?

Unless something amazing happens next week the pre-season ended on a positive note for me, with the long awaited introduction of the disco blue clash jumper (last seen against Freo in '06 when Brad Green got a week for headbutting), but in tatters for Colin Sylvia. Given that in the last couple of years he's broken his neck falling off a balcony, then been caught climbing back up a balcony to perve on his ex-girlfriend I'd have greeted the news that he was working selling Renault cars as the premise for a sitcom anyway. Then he was pinched for stealing a customer's credit card details and using them to pay for a pair of legovers at the Daily Planet. That would be embarrassing enough, but some news articles referred to him as a "former Peel Thunder player", which was taking an amazing degree of piss.

To prove that an association with the Melbourne Football Club will bring anyone down, even Joel Macdonald's $100 million fortune was left hanging in the balance as the result of a stock market enquiry. You know you were a Melbourne player circa 2007-2016 when the picture of you at the top of an article shows us 95 points down. If he sorts out the issues and is confirmed to be worth a motza I hope he knows how fondly I remember the time he sprayed the bejesus out of Cale Morton for not contesting a mark in the square and comes on-board alongside BigFooty as our co-major sponsor.

The overarching question about MFC 2018 is whether the middle weeks of last year were a false alarm or a vision into the future. To be fair to the flash in the pan theory we did fall over the line against the Pies and Eagles (albeit in glorious fashion both times), and had to emerge from Stranglewank territory to beat the otherwise horrible Gold Coast. The only win of the four that was solid gold from bell-to-bell was the sadistic strangulation of the Bulldogs, and most of our other wins throughout the year featured 30 minutes of slurry somewhere in the mix.

Reducing our awful minutes from 120 to 30 is the stat that should prove we'll get better with another year experience and some luck with injuries. Whether it's enough to bust out of a crowded mid-table mediocrity division and make finals is to be decided. Over the last few seasons we've been slowly increasing the time it takes to completely die in the arse, to the point where I'm confident that this is the year we can be 10 goals down at quarter time of an elimination final.

We'll certainly have to work hard to find a more creative way of necking ourselves than 2017. I suspect in the final seconds of Round 23 we'll be defending a lead and a spot in the eight, when the delayed effect of Essendon's Mexican harness racing drugs kick in and Hibberd's leg tears off as he attempts to pass to Melksham, who will cop the full brunt of the limb in his face because his arms have stopped working.

Theoretically the season begins at Docklands next Friday (update: not the Friday I thought when first writing this) with the AFLX 'tournament', but in the spirit of Iran steadfastly refusing to acknowledge Israel exists despite 70 years of evidence to the contrary, we will not acknowledge it as a properly constituted match for reporting purposes. In fact the concept of plonking this hit-and-giggle NBA Jam bullshit in the pre-season has angered me to the point where I've had to mute the letters on Twitter because they cause my blood pressure to peak. Not only won't there be a post about it on here, but I'm not even going to risk being counted as a viewer even though I don't have a ratings box. In fact I'd rather spend Friday night having a romantic candlelit dinner with Tom $cully than be involved in any way.

Ask yourself what the end game of this rancid, drizzling garbage is. Either they think internationals are going to trample each other in the race to start playing it (and if you believe that's going to happen I've got a Nigerian cousin who'd like to conduct online business with you), or it's a gigantic fuck off Trojan Horse to pave the way for more artificial 'excitement' to be introduced to the main game The sport has been talked down to the point where people legitimately believe that it's no good anymore. Just like they did in 1864, 1881, 1886, 1911, 1928, 1933, 1945 and every year since they put all the games on TV and idiots were shocked to discover that not every top-level match is an artistic masterclass.

People adore chintzy shit, so it's no surprise to find that there are people absolutely fanging for it. I hope they have a dandy time watching fireworks shooting past the kid who ate a full watermelon in a Pokemon suit. The most outlandish defence of the format was comparing it to the BBL and asking why people who like that aren't speaking in tongues out of anticipation for this. I could care less for any of the T20 teams, but like limited overs cricket before it, the Big Bash features teams of 11 playing shots that are worth the same as any other format, with barely altered rules other than those that encourage - but not enforce - ruthlessly attacking play. The BBL is the pre-season comp with nine point goals, AFLX is like carting the Ashes squad down to Box Hill Indoor Sports Centre a week before the first test and telling them it's one hand one bounce off the side nets.

When it turns out to be wildly popular I promise to be like that Japanese soldier who hung out on the island until 1974 because he refused to believe the war was over. And when the real sport - the one 18 teams are collectively paying players $224 million dollars to play - has 10 point goals, last touch out of bounds free kicks and firecrackers out the arse of goal umpires my conscience will be clear.

So, once that unpleasant stain on the game is over (temporarily at least), we can get to work on the core business of being at least .6% closer to playing finals than 2017. If there's anything to be said for the AFL's pre-season fixturing it's that they've generously cured me of my compulsion to attend practice games. We start in what looks like a Hobart public park, then go to Cranbourne on a Thursday night. There are areas of the state that I may have done a three hour round-trip to see a game in, the City of Casey is not one of them.

This means I'll go in to the season completely cold for the first time since 2002, and I'm surprisingly comfortable with that. At first I thought it was creeping middle aged lethargy after going so hard for so many years in a row, then I realised that it's really just a coping mechanism. The last two years have been free hits with horrible endings, now I'm so petrified of us not living up to expectation that I don't want the season proper to begin. I'll get back to you with an update on my pulse rate when I'm swearing like a wharfie in Row MM minutes into Round 1, but for now I can take it or leave it.

The Geelong game is important, and hopefully features Jack Viney tormenting the piss out of Gary Ablett again like their last Round 1 meeting, but a loss won't be the end of the world. Unlike the next two weeks - like Port 2013 we won't instantly know how bad a loss to Brisbane would be, but if we don't beat them AND North at their lowest ebb in years I will officially draw the shutters on my hopes and dreams for 2018 and sulk up the back until such time that we win enough games to get back in the finals conversation. And if that transpires you'd want to win a shitload of games mid-season, because our run home post-Freo in Darwin ($$$) includes Geelong, Adelaide and West Coast away + the Bulldogs, Sydney and GWS at home.

Buy, hold, sell

Rating MFC players in the Mid Table Mediocrity era is more volatile than investing in Bitcoin, and just as likely to leave people out on their arse broke. Last year we hit big with the sells, but ended up living under a bridge Herb Powell style on the buys. Remember - players are judged based on what their current price would be, so just because somebody's a sell it doesn't mean they're not expected to have a good season - just not one up to the high standard expected. And that's what you say when popular players are going to appear in there...

The information below should be used for entertainment purposes only, consult the Product Disclosure Statement before investing.

Harley Balic - Didn't even know who he was until October 2017, now I'm quietly confident that he'll be a handy player rather than the new Viv Michie.

Bayley Fritsch - Like Mitch Hannan before him (and possibly instead of him), a forward likely to walk straight in from the VFL and play like he doesn't know he's at a higher level. If not, at least he's familiar with where Casey Fields is.

Max Gawn- Injuries and uncertain form on return contribute to a price drop that should see people coming from everywhere to take advantage of. If he goes down clutching anything this year there will be investors leaping out of every high window in Australia.

Michael Hibberd - Fell away a bit in the last few weeks, but you forgave it because a) so did half his teammates, and b) they didn't have the excuse of coming back off a year out of the game and a pre-season injury. One of the key players when we were playing really well, and I expect him to get even better this season.

Neville Jetta - It's easy to forget that a few years ago he was supposedly one concussion from retirement. Maybe he decided life was too short and that's where his imperious defence displays have come from. Criminally excluded from All Australian calculations, and likely to harass every decent small forward in the competition again this year. Unlike the last two seasons here's hoping our defensive structures have matured to the point where he's not often left trying to take on multiple players twice his size.

Alex Neal-Bullen - A couple of years ago I said he reminded me of what Cale Morton might have been. I was talking about the occasional goals, and the racking up of possessions, what I didn't realise what that he could also be an excellent defensive player. 'Pressure acts' are the only thing more vague than one percenters, but he was leading the league in them at one point. Shouldn't go backwards this year.

Corey Maynard - It's foolish to pin all your hopes on one senior game where the rest of his teammates were so awful, but I highly rated his performance in that GWS game and want to see more. The exact opposite of the fancy outside midfielder we need, but you can never have too many bottom of the pack lunatics.

Oscar McDonald - Comfortable that he will further improve this year. Not a direct swap for his brother until he puts on bulk, but I'm hopeful that he will form part of a strong defensive combination.

Jake Melksham - Didn't offer anything in his original role in defence, but provided much joy when he went forward. It's a risky buy, but I'm convinced he can do even more damage this year.

Christian Petracca - Take all my money and worldly assets and buy September 2018 Petracca futures.

Joel Smith - I really liked him in the pre-season last year, before his year was wrecked by that injury in Round 1. Came back later and didn't do much, but should be a handy option.


Oskar Baker - Looks like Danny Bonaduce. Plays like TBD. Here's hoping that unlike Danny he doesn't end up punching on with a prostitute.

Angus Brayshaw - When adding players to the list before coming back to justify my selections I accidentally called him 'Anus', which isn't a great start. It's the other end of the body that he's got trouble with, and while he showed a bit in that St Kilda game at the end of last year you'd be wary betting too big on him to achieve his potential when one more solid blow to the noggin may put him away.

Lachlan Filipovic - Rucks take long enough to develop without also having season ending injuries a month into their first year. With the Spencil no longer in the way there's a chance for him to develop in the Casey seniors now, but will need to see what else he can do if he's going to survive as a ruckman in this era.

Sam Frost - Surprisingly dumped at the end of last year after a solid but unspectacular season. With McDonald senior going forward there should be a position for him, but I'm not all that confident about his chances of taking on the massive forwards successfully.

Jeff Garlett - Was tempted to list him as a buy based on 42 goals last year, but given that's gone 40-29-42 in three years here, and is inconsistent at the best of times I don't dare. Will still provide his fair share of goals and highlights, but you just have to accept that it will be balanced by days where he goes missing - see for instance the two weeks of 0.0 vs North, then 5.4 against Gold Coast.

Mitch Hannan - Didn't look out of place last year, but will come under heavy pressure from Fritsch. A strong pre-season essential, shame it only goes for two games.

Jayden Hunt - Runs like the wind, roosts massive torps after the siren and is powered by the energy of owls. What's not to like? I'm sure he's going to be a key contributor next season, but just not convinced there will be a quantum leap forward justifying heavy investment.

Dion Johnstone - Made it all the way to the giddy heights of emergency last year, before we found out it was only because several players were suspended for getting on the piss.

Nathan Jones - It almost feels dirty not to have him as a 'buy', and turning 30 should not preclude anyone from being at their best (in fact, I was a complete knob for the first 29 years of my life) but I'm convinced that at some point he's going to start getting injured and begin to fade away. At which point I may have to be restrained from jumping the fence and trying to carry him off on my shoulders single-handedly.

Declan Keilty - No idea sorry.

Jake Lever - I expect him to be handy, but if there's anyone who can stuff up the glory of signing the hottest young talent on the market it's most assuredly us. Here's to him getting the Tom McSizzle treatment and having people act like he's murdered a cat at every turnover.

Tom McDonald - His burst of goals towards the end of the year were no fluke, the leading technique and surprisingly accurate set shot kicking were a revelation. But now that Watts has been disappeared and everyone knows it's coming there's a chance that the element of surprise will be lost. As long as Hogan stays upright and it's not all on his shoulders I think McSizzle can still do a fair amount of damage.

Clayton Oliver - Won the best and fairest, annoyed Western Australians and Carlton fans, and had about 4500 handballs. It's a good formline for the future, and he certainly avoided the second year fade-out I was concerned about at this time last year, but this year the pressure is really going to come for him. I think he's enough of a character to ride it out and continue dominating.

Cameron Pedersen - Had a momentous career revival in the last few rounds of 2017, and while history would suggest that it's not going to be sustained he seems to find a way to survive. Now that the Spencil is gone we need somebody like that.

Harrison Petty - Looks like he could be a handy defender, but football gods willing he'll get time at Casey to warm up to it instead of being thrown to the wolves before he's ready.

Christian Salem - Always seems to be on the verge of something exciting, but hasn't yet taken the next step. Confident that he can be a contributor for years to come but not sure if he's going to achieve superstar level.

Tim Smith - Looked ok in limited appearances last year, but feels a bit like the player you have around to fill a gap for a few years until something more interesting turns up.

Charlie Spargo - They must think highly of him if he's been given the number of David Neitz, Brian Dixon and Darren Cuthbertson. Unlike the last #9 he's likely to avoid having the captaincy thrust upon him at a frighteningly early age, but at least in this case he looks. For you see Charlie has one of those faces that makes it seem like he's 38, not 18. To prove his credentials to become a Melbourne player he did his shoulder last year.

Billy Stretch - Handy, but seemingly destined to life as a depth player.

Sam Weideman - Has all but fallen off the radar after last year, and with Tom McDonald going forward. Comfortable with giving him more development time, and hopeful but would be surprised if he became a regular this year.

Tomas Bugg - I suspect his shenanigans (even if the great punch was clearly a case of not expecting a man's head to be where his fist was going) aren't going to wash with the coach. It's a shame because class is temporary but niggle is forever. Too many other small/medium forwards to go around.

Jesse Hogan - On one hand you feel that there's nothing else that could possibly go wrong for him. On the other history has proven that there's no unfortunate scenario from the very very grim (well you know), to the moderately grim (being drafted by us) to the comic (being photographed having a quiet gasper). Still at a high price on potential, but I'm going to be conservative and hopefully take a big financial bath on this one.

Jay Kennedy-Harris - Entering the last year of contract and didn't show much in limited opportunities last year. Famously prompted some nervous nellie to cut up his membership and send it to SEN in protest.

Dean Kent - Looked promising for a while, but the opportunity to be a regular player has passed him.

Mitch King - It's not his fault I still have to check every time whether he's Max or Mitch. Either way it's curtains at the end of the year at this rate.

Jordan Lewis - Value peaked, should continue to be a contributor over the next couple of years but time to cash out.

Pat McKenna - Sometimes when a player turns up you just get the feeling that they're never going to play a senior game. Sorry Pat.

Dom Tyson - Floated high on a sea of turds early in his stay with us, but I just don't rate him as a full-time contributor in the Oliver era.

Aaron vandenBerg - Apparently we didn't value him as a midfielder after his first year, and now that we've actually got some forwards I can't see him getting much of a go.

Bernie Vince - I have no animosity towards Bernard, and respect what he's done with us to date but I'd be surprised if he made it to the end of the season without retiring.

Jack Viney - Calm down there. It's only because he's at such a high price that starting the season under an injury cloud makes me think about cashing out. Will be a weapon of mass destruction if fit.

Josh Wagner - Nah. Bit parts player only.

AFLW Corner
This is supposed to be the relaxing version of the Melbourne Football Club, the one that harks back to a purer time where players played on Saturday then went back to digging ditches on Monday. But I still couldn't help myself from getting nervy about it, I just can't help seeing a team called Melbourne playing a competitive game of Australian Rules Football and get overly invested in the result.

Last year the end result was a solid warm-up for the men, missing the finals on percentage. It also involved being screwed by Collingwood, who blew a lead against Adelaide in the last quarter to allow the Crows to finish second instead. This time I'm not remotely qualified to talk about our prospects, but my understanding is that we've recruited our arses off and should give the top two a mighty shake.

The emergence of Alyssa Mifsud aside, the forward line was where we fell apart too often last year. See for instance the one goal debacles against Brisbane and GWS. Massacring a semi-interested Freo in the final round was fun, but hardly a serious trial for the future. Then we landed the dangerous Bianca Jakobsson, #3 pick in the original AFLW draft, as part of a megatrade while giving up ex-#9 pick Deanna Berry. Admittedly Berry kicked one more goal than Jakobsson for the season, but all indications are that we've done well on the swap.

The draft was another chance to get key forwards, including the wonderfully named Eden Zanker and ex-WNBL player Tegan Cunningham. In our solitary practice match so far Cunningham kicked three, and I'm reasonably confident we can stomp a few teams this year. Next year they start introducing new teams and the whole competition will probably go arse up, so enjoy it while you can.

If you are an actual AFLW expert and would like to write a real MFC season preview contact me via demonblogger AT or on Twitter @demonblog and we'll do business.

Projected ladder
Pre-season predictions, the place to gently rearrange last year's top eight, pick somebody obvious to finish last and assume the Dees won't make the eight. Last year I thought we could do just enough to miss the finals, and didn't I nail that one?

1. Adelaide
2. Geelong
3. Sydney
4 .Essendon
5. Port
6. Richmond
7. GWS
8. Melbourne
9. Western Bulldogs
10. Hawthorn
11. St Kilda
12. West Coast
13. Collingwood
14. Brisbane
15. Carlton
16. Gold Coast
17. North Melbourne
18. Fremantle

Demonblog's Chosen 22

But what are the chances of them all making it to Round 1 unscathed? By our standard it's remarkable that nobody was hit by an ice cream truck before Australia Day. For illustrative purposes only - debate on what constitutes a winger vs a ruck rover will not be accepted.

B: Jetta, O. McDonald, Hibberd
HB: Salem, Lever, Hunt
C: Tyson, Oliver, Jones
HF: Petracca, Hogan, Melksham
F: Garlett, T. McDonald, Hannan
Foll: Gawn, Viney, Lewis
INT: Brayshaw, Pedersen, Neal-Bullen, Maynard

First draft betting markets

Allen Jakovich Medal for Best Overall Player
$3 - Clayton Oliver
$5 - Christian Petracca
$7 - Jack Viney
$9 - Nathan Jones
$10 - Michael Hibberd
$15 - Max Gawn, Neville Jetta
$20 - Jesse Hogan, Jake Lever
$22 - Jayden Hunt, Tom McDonald
$25 - Jordan Lewis, Christian Salem
$30 - Jake Melksham, Jeff Garlett
$35 - Dom Tyson, Alex Neal-Bullen
$40 - Angus Brayshaw, Bernie Vince
$45 - Cameron Pedersen
$50 - Mitch Hannan, James Harmes
$60 - Oscar McDonald, Tomas Bugg
$70 - Sam Frost, Corey Maynard
$80 - Harley Balic
$100 - Billy Stretch
$110 - Dean Kent
$125 - Aaron vandenBerg, Sam Weideman
$160 - Joel Smith
$250 - Bayley Fritsch
$325 - Josh Wagner, Tim Smith
$350 - Jay Kennedy-Harris, Dion Johnstone,
$500 - Charlie Spargo
$650 - Oskar Baker
$750 - Declan Keilty, Harrison Petty
$900 - Mitch King, Pat McKenna
$1000 - Lachlan Filipovic

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year
$5 - Michael Hibberd
$7 - Neville Jetta
$10 - Jake Lever
$20 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Salem
$30 - Oscar McDonald, Bernie Vince
$35 - Tom McDonald
$45 - Sam Frost, Josh Wagner
$80 - James Harmes
$120 - Harrison Petty
$150 - Tomas Bugg, Jake Melksham
$400 - Cameron Pedersen
$500 - Pat McKenna

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal
Corey Maynard remains eligible due to debuting in the last four rounds of 2017.

$6 - Corey Maynard
$18 - Bayley Fritsch
$22 - Dion Johnstone, Charlie Spargo
$50 - Oskar Baker
$75 - Declan Keilty, Harrison Petty
$85 - Pat McKenna
$90 - Max King
$100 - Lachlan Filipovic

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year
$1.10 - Max Gawn
$15 - Cameron Pedersen
$25 - Tom McDonald
$80 - Declan Keilty
$125 - Max King
$150 - Lachlan Filipovic

... and the Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance will not be awarded due to a lack of real games to give votes for. Yes, intraclubs and the lukewarm NAB Cup three-ways were counted as proper matches but AFLX isn't.

Will it be worth it?
Probably not. After 2016's Mighty Ducks Miracle and 2017's Win By Any Margin You Bastards (not to mention all the fulfilment free years before that) both died at the hands of much worse teams it's only fair to assume that even if everything falls our way that we'll manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I would welcome being proven wrong, but I won't be. It's psychologically safer to assume the year will turn out to be another metaphorical kick to the grundle and act surprised if anything better happens.

This time I'm not going to get ridiculously emotionally invested in the idea of making it. If we a) don't beat both Brisbane and North in the first three weeks I'll be shutting up shop and watching the rest of the season in a funk, or b) if we're not at least two games clear inside the eight with a percentage of well over 100 after the Round 16 game against Freo in Perth I'll sit there watching through my fingers and expecting that for the second year in a row we'll slowly ebb away - until this time that rat $cully is the one to put us away in Round 23.

So, basically that leaves the period of the season where I'll be upbeat, invigorated and fully engaged as little as partway through Round 2 in scenario a), and about Round 10 in scenario b). There is a third option, where we merrily run through the year stomping the shit out of inferior teams, occasionally beating the top sides and comfortably qualify. Let's have that one.

Final thoughts
I'm genuinely scared of what's to come, because if we find a way to turn a promising reboot into complete filth again I may be forced to secede from Australia.

So, to everyone involved at the Melbourne Football Club. There is no physically crippled child in the hospital to win for (unless Sylvia's fallen off another balcony), rather an emotionally crippled fan who is almost at the mid-life-crisis stage and really, really, REALLY needs to see his team do something other than suck and/or blow. Avoid having blood on your hands, win early and win big.

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