Monday, 28 May 2018

Alice Wonderland

Last week I risked domestic harmony by suggesting that on the fifth anniversary of my wedding weekend the only event that mattered was Melbourne vs Adelaide. I think I got away with it, and after every romantic scenario I'd planned from Friday night to Sunday morning failed to go as expected the most fitting way to end the weekend was a jaw-dropping unexpected surprise footy result. Who said romance was dead?

Five years of wedded bliss undamaged by a sleazy side relationship with the Dees also means it's the anniversary of the lowest ebb of the Neeld years. It was this weekend in 2013 where I was so embarrassed to be a Melbourne fan that the plan to exit the reception to a surprise rendition of the Grand Old Flag was shelved out of shame. The next day Freo beat us by 90, highlighted by that classic photo of Dunn, Garland and Sellar spoiling each other and the safe knowledge that the coach was about to be put out of his misery.

Telling footy fans that it will all turn around eventually is about the most patronising thing you can do, but fast forward five seasons from that Round 9, 2013 fiasco and we'd encourage somebody else's coach to go completely bonkers. At three quarter time the Crows were 80 points down and Don Pyke was skulking around the huddle, silently eyeballing players like he'd completely slipped his moorings. Yes, being touched up by the Dees will do that to you.

Finally we're making other people's lives hell. Usually the best we can do to a coach is make them slam a phone down, but when you can get that sort of reaction from a guy who had his players driven around in a bus blindfolded for 24 hours like they'd been kidnapped by militants you know you're into something good. The way he was feeling the Crows will be lucky if they weren't forced to hitchhike back to Adelaide with Bradley John Murdoch.

Adelaide's other key innovation in the last year - other than removing most of the remaining fun in football by allowing Richmond to win a flag - was a 'power stance' that somebody must have discovered in a Management Techniques For Wankers book. Our players also did one of those when they declined to go on a pre-season camp organised by the Reverend Jim Jones, and on this sample size it seems they were right to say no to paramilitary shit. On their trip to Waco, Texas the Crows were apparently "asked to complete emotionally upsetting questionnaires". After yesterday they will be retrieving their notes them from the archives and writing more on the back.

But enough about the off-field failings of other clubs, let's talk about The Entertainers. That's what we used to sarcastically call Melbourne sides that were lucky to kick five goals for the day. Now, in the lowest scoring season since 1968 we may be the only thing standing between fans of the other 17 clubs and a host of stupid, counter-productive rule changes. The case for the 'no to forced spectacle' should just be 'If Melbourne can score 140 three weeks in a row why can't everyone else?' The rest of the league hasn't done it once combined since Round 22 last year. What a time to be alive. Alternatively we're about to get screwed and after finally putting together what looks like an attacking juggernaut the game will be cracked open so everyone can kick 20 goals a week.

It goes without saying that the power and ferocity of this victory was a surprise. The most optimistic view I'd seen of any Melbourne fan was a 40 point win, and while I was ready to accept we were an excellent chance based on 14 good quarters in a row from half time of the Essendon game my chronic Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome cautioned me against getting too optimistic. After all, this was supposed to be the return to playing good teams after a month of warming up against the league's flotsam and jetsam. I assume the good team missed their flight, and the Crows had to go around the city paying backpackers to turn out for them.

Despite Dwayne Russell style hyperbole in the opening video narration which included us in "two of the strongest clubs in the country", the MFC Magic 8 Ball had all signs pointing to YES. When purported All-Australian Paul Seedsman injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced by somebody implausibly called Myles Poholke I could smell a Kingsley nomination miles off. My senses were tricking me, Hokey Poholke failed to have a touch for the first quarter and not many more in the other three.

The main event was supposed to be the City of Adelaide vs Jake Lever, but with all the wacky motivational shit they're into the Crows forgot to engage in the most basic of all football traditions, trying to punch on with players who left in controversial circumstances. The Carnival of Mild Irritation stretched to one guy lightly jostling him, some half-hearted boos when it became obvious we were going to win, and Jever playing a dominant game in defence. Now he's got one over them it's should ensure some real oomph to the rematch in Round 19 - and it was telling that in the post-match interview he instantly knew what round we were playing them again - but after this debacle we'll know any players trying to get butch with him are faking it.

So once it became obvious that neither Adelaide fans nor players cared all that much about Jake ditching them we got on with wrecking the value of the draft pick traded to get him in. I settled in for a big afternoon yelling at my TV. There's something to be said for running around the living room and jumping up and down in front of my TV like I was on Aerobics Oz Style instead of packing on pounds eating ropey hotdogs in Row MM.

I was relatively calm at first, just hovering in a tight circle as Petracca took a smart handball over the top from Hogan to trot in for his first. He kicked the cover off it in a desperate attempt to kill an innocent cameraman, just failing to achieve enough elevation to smack the ball straight into the lens. The way he's been kicking for goal I was just happy that he converted from that range. As we were about to discover that's where all the fashionable types were getting their goals from. And I was soon possessed by the spirit, leaping and dancing all over the room like the truly demented.

Two years ago some dickhead wrote an article after Port had scored about 15 goals from the square in the corresponding game suggesting that it looked like we were heading in the right direction, but that it paid not to get too overconfident. Now the boot was on the other foot and it was merrily thumping through goals from point blank range after unlocking a defence in total disarray. This was winner's justice at it's best, casting off years of misery in a bloodthirsty orgy of blood and guts. It was appropriate that Adelaide had 'Hybrid' written on their back - they were half traffic cone, half splattered roadkill.

Melksham went against type by kicking a goal from a difficult spot, marking on the boundary and snapping it through around his body, before Neal-Bullen and Hannan started the fancy Hollywood shit at the five minute mark of the first quarter, exchanging dinky passes in a cavernous setting up ANB to waltz in unchallenged. Trot, waltz, walk, stroll - there aren't enough ways to describe the act of kicking through an unguarded goal to cover all the times we did it.

For the first and last time the Crows might have had an excuse for somebody ambling (there's a new one) into goal when Hannan got his reward for setting the previous one. A long kick fortuitously beat everyone and allowed him to run onto it into another goal to make Jeff (never Jeffy, not even in the state league) Garlett throw something at the television in anger at missing the riches on offer.

Adelaide had chances during the opening ambush, but their expensive and marginally effective forward line of Betts, Jenkins and 'the Tom Lynch you wouldn't have expected to kick 10 in a game' were usually left watching the ball go down the other end via unchallenged chains of disposal that looked as good as anything you've seen in recent years. After several weeks where it looked like our lot was the long bomb and the occasional crumb 'transition' has gone from a cliche to a lifestyle. The way we tore them apart coming out of defence was outrageous. It's trite to liken an actual game to a training drill, but at times this was as close as you could get. There was a destructive, 186-like ease (albeit with 50% of the damage done in a full game as Geelong did in a half) that was in contrast to our recent struggles to convert inside 50s.

The highlight of this first quarter machine-gunning was the way Max Gawn was conserving effort by loping casually around the forward line. Knowing he was going to have to ruck 95% of the game on a 28 degree day I don't hold it against him, it was legitimately fun watching him plod around like a giraffe on the plains of Africa with the game going full pelt around him. He dominated again and there were so many good players it didn't stand out.

The Crows finally got two in a row via that time-honoured trap of allowing Hogan to kick a goal which we then wasted immediately out of the centre. Then got another soon after and were rarely seen again. Fortunately wasted Hogan goals are so much rarer than they used to be. He either kicks so many that we can't blow them all, or is storming the middle at the subsequent bounce to help stop it getting out so easily.

My three most used words when watching a game are either "for fuck's sake" or "here we go", and in this case when they got another goal and added a point shortly after that to cut the margin to 18 it was the latter. Procession mode had been switched off, we were back to panic bombing into the forward line at every opportunity and I was becoming depressed at having being even remotely confident in a 31-0 lead in the first place.

Had they got to quarter time just three goals behind after being dominated so comprehensively they might almost have been satisfied, before cocking it up spectacularly in the last 30 seconds. Some poor, unwitting bastard gathered in front of his own goal, failed to notice ANB stalking him like prey and was pinged for holding the ball. Bullet is so confident in his recent resurgence that he reacted with a wide grin, practically laughed in the face of his victim and lobbed through our seventh goal of the quarter.

Most of the scoring came from centimetres out, but our many and varied forward options were still causing the Crows untold drama. They had one defender who was doing his best impression of the days Frawley would desperately try to keep things from collapsing around him, but the rest of them were MIA. It was an irrepressible act. Tom McSizzle was intimidated by Tony Lockett turning up to see the man who replaced him as the greatest full forward in history but still got two, and in what passed for Tom's 'absence' the Wheel of Scoring spun back around to Hogan after a few weeks playing as a support act.

There was also good news for Tim Smith, who played by far his best game and wiped out the last of Adelaide's first quarter comeback goals within a minute of the second. His form was bad news for the People's Champion Cameron Pedersen, left running laps in a sports bra alongside Jayden Hunt outside the ground while the demolition job continued unchecked a few hundred metres away.

With a comfortable but in no way safe lead things went quiet for a bit. The Crows got a goal through some bloke who looked like he was up for a fight here but had earlier chickened out of a proper all-in stoush with Lever, and even though they conceded five goals to one for the term the bookends of the quarter were probably Adelaide's best period of the day. Shame about the middle. They lost the last term by less, but the game was shot to buggery by then. They even managed to hold us out for 10 minutes at one stage before normal service resumed. We scored so much that it even made my extended highlights dealer go on holiday mid-round. He is probably in the same RSI rest ward as the person who does the MFC All The Goals videos. Speaking of club employees, we understand that the receptionist has put in a complaint that since people stopped calling with abuse she hasn't got any work to do.

The chaos resumed with Brayshaw completing a rare (at least until this game) set-shot, then Fritsch finding Neal-Bullen with a smart pass inside 50 that would have had a stereotypical Italian chef kissing his fingers and screaming "MOLTO BENE!" He was left wearing the Anal-Bullet grin after converting a third and it was starting to look a lot like Christmas. They kept us at bay for the next few minutes, before a defender panicked and slapped a farcical tackle on Gawn without the ball, allowing Jones to play on and plow through another. In further signs that this was going to be a successful outing it was our second reverse DemonTime goal in a row.

Even at 48 points ahead I was still terrified that we'd suffer a record breaking reverse. After all we'd run a lot to grind them into dust, while most of the Adelaide players had spent the first hour standing in one place looking flummoxed. Comparing Alice Springs and Darwin is like when people assumed Jay Kennedy-Harris would be a cheeky crumber just because of the colour of his skin, but even in significantly less sweaty conditions than the topper top end I was still having nightmare flashbacks to nearly throwing it away against Port Adelaide in 2010.

In a blood curdling stat that I'm glad I didn't know about at the time, the biggest lead we've ever lost at half time is 45 in that Round 6, 1992 game against the Bombers. So statistically we were safe as houses, but there was still something nagging me about us collapsing in a heap. You may ask why I'm so hard to satisfy me, and as evidence I tender my supporting life from 1990 to the present. Everything pointed to a victory, albeit not by such a colossal final margin, but I still felt like somebody was standing on my chest and had to withdraw to another room at half time and have a bit of a lie down. This being reasonably good stuff can't be healthy for your heart.

I recovered just in time for the third quarter, missing what I expect was a half time show that doubled as an infomercial for Northern Territory tourism. Whatever we were being paid to play there, Channel 7 must have been getting double. The pre-game looked like an episode of Postcards with bonus footage of Brian Taylor on a camel, and the call was littered with Cash For Comment style casual asides about how wonderful the scenery was and how you'd be a mug for not booking your next holiday there. By the time we got the 19th mention of the big tree overlooking the oval it was more likely that our fans were trying to cancel trips in September than book more.

There were pros and cons to being covered by a major network. For one we couldn't draw Dwayne, but on the other hand there was one point where BT suggested that somebody having a shot aim at the mountain behind the goal so it's a mixed bag. At least he didn't ask it if it was Uluru like Brad Johnson last year. Meanwhile Bruce McAvaney restrained himself from too many breathless John Laws style plugs for the NT, but did refer to Neal-Bullen at various times as "Neal-Balwyn" and simply "Bullen". There was such a carnival atmosphere that I wish somebody had tampered with his notes and written Anal-Bullet on there.

My sense of impending doom was not helped by the goalscoring machine slowing down at the start of the third. If you took the fortuitous Jones one out at the end of the second we went a good 20 minutes without a goal, which was about three times fasted than the rate we'd get them at back in the day but felt disappointing now that we were off our face on scoring. This is your brain on goals:



The five goal-free minutes were spent talking us up like flag favourites, which inevitably led to a Crows goal and marginal nervous adjustment of collar. By the time we'd kicked the next six I'd gone from sweating out of nerves to quivering with ecstasy. The shellacking restarted when Smith barrelled down the middle of the 50 in McDonald-esque fashion and didn't let up for another 20 magical minutes.

Adelaide would occasionally get the ball forward, only for our defenders to take the piss out of them. Salem was the only one who had more than a handful of dodgy moments in defence, and the highlight was undoubtedly Lever's gleeful demolition of his former comrades. I can sense an Adelaide fan somewhere cracking sad about us celebrating him while treating $cully poorly, and let me reiterate that you're free to go off your nut in spectacular fashion at him. It's your right as a footy fan, just try to put a bit more vigour into it than your players.

In the rare moments when we weren't attacking, usually just after a goal, there was plenty on offer in the midfield. Early in his career I labelled Christian Petracca a master at working in confined spaces, but that's only because I hadn't been introduced to Clayton Oliver yet. He will never get the respect he deserves from outsiders who go purely on the vibe, because so much of what he does happens in the blink of an eye amidst heavy congestion. On the other hand, the ones who probably don't even watch the game and just go off the stats must need a lie down whenever his name appears. Those of us with a vested interest in hanging off every possession understand, outsiders can feel free to remain ignorant.

You would assume the people paid substantial sums to analyse opposition teams can also see how damaging he really is, but best of luck stopping it for long. And even if you do, could I introduce you to man for all seasons Nathan Jones, the resurgent Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney now entirely rust-free and a 208cm ruckman that plays at ground level like a rover? This quite literally unprecedented run - the first time we've ever won three games in a row by over 60 points - can't go forever, but for now I would like to condense the feeling into a liquid then bathe in it.

There was a period of forced calm when a child insisted on seeing how many items she could balance on my head without them falling off, a game that I very nearly ruined twice as we kicked more goals. I was sitting still, the lid was going into orbit. When they flashed up a free kick count of 20-8 several western district towns were dragged kilometres closer to the border by a million South Australians simultaneously sucking in air. I say win a few contested possessions and see if that helps you get more frees.

After years of stability the Chris Sullivan Line was bulldozed for the second consecutive week. Theoretically we'd already reached it at half time, but that left plenty of time for the other lot to mount a comeback if they were capable. *Arrested Development voice* they were not. A double to Petracca at the end, both from his favoured distance of 'not much at all' extended the margin to 80 (8-0, LXXX etc...) If this had happened in the 1500s everyone involved would have been burnt at the stake for witchcraft. It could have been at least one point more, with Hogan narrowly being caught playing on as the siren went then rightfully cracking the shits that nobody had told him to just kick it normally.

By this stage even I - after manually picking my jaw up off the floor - was prepared to admit that an 80 point three quarter time lead confirmed we'd win. In this changed world we (at least temporarily) live in I'd love to have piled on several more goals unanswered and won by over a hundred again, but it was fair enough to conserve energy in advance of next week. Then we won the quarter comfortably anyway.

At first I was greedily concerned about Pyke's 'menacing' actions spurring the Crows on to winning the last quarter, and in the early stages it looked like his theatrics were significantly more successful than the footballing shit he'd tried for three quarters. I'm so high on carnage now that I even started to get a touch distressed when they ate away at the margin by kicking the first two goals. It would have been disappointing - in a way - to come down from this trip and find we'd only (!?) won by 10 goals.

The final heave towards 91 began in suitably NQR fashion, with Melksham kicking the sort of goal that you usually only see conceded by us. He nicked in and soccered through the easiest major of his life after patiently waiting for an Adelaide player half fumbling the ball the ball while trying to pick it up and half thinking about rushing it to make up his mind. In a rare moment of charity towards fallen opposition, this was handed back immediately by Salem dropping the simplest of marks in defence. Junk time had started about 30 seconds into the third quarter, but this was the point where the City of Alice Springs waste disposal units should have started doing laps of the boundary.

The charity goal made it look like our ridiculous record of consecutive quarter wins was about top out at 17 but there is a streak of ruthlessness in this side that is reminiscent of 2011 when sides set out to be as cruel to each other as possible. Two more goals extended the margin beyond the three-quarter time level, and somehow the team that has made going from hot to cold unexpectedly iconic is within three quarters of the greatest run of consecutive quarter wins in the history of the competition. This is just the sort of bullshit, otherwise pointless record that I'm dying for us to capture but hope none of the players find out about.

It may have been the opening of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, but I was ready to have an Uncle Doug when Hogan took a huge grab with a knee in his opponent's back to kick a fifth. Here's hoping he was paying no mind to the sign hanging over the fence saying "Jesse Hogan come to Freo", complete with a dinky little cartoon anchor. I'm sure he'll be able to restrain himself from leaving this freewheeling excitement machine to go and play for the boring as batshit Dockers. Ross Lyon can offer sex chat, we can offer sexy football.

After walking 20 something goals in from point blank range, it was a nice touch for the last goal to come from a long distance set shot to Brayshaw, capping the best game of his career. He was floating so high above the clouds that he didn't even mind the siren going halfway through his run-up. Lovers of obscure statistical facts rejoiced as it pushed the margin beyond Gold Coast at the Gabba in 2011 to become our biggest ever win outside the Melbourne metropolitan area. It's weird that for all the torment we suffered at Football Park that we've now beaten the Crows twice in seven years by larger margins than any Adelaide team ever put on us at home.

Apologies if this disjointed, aimless post fails to capture the glee of violently stomping a well-qualified side appropriately, but I can't remember another win that has had such a negative effect on my sleep. After Carlton I went out like a light, satisfied that one significant monkey had been hurled from our back, but last night my patented 'mountain of blankets' technique for dealing with winter was wiped out in a bigger violent thrashing than the one suffered by the Crows. I kept waking up with them flying in every direction as if my mind needed to be constantly reminded that this was real and not one of those vivid dreams where you wake up thinking you're rich for the first 10 seconds.

The question of whether we can do this against good teams remains unanswered, because there wasn't one in opposition. Good list, good recent record, decent number of wins this year but a total white flag surrender job on this occasion. You can only beat who they put in front of you though, and even against a side only narrowly lacking Kyle Cheney this was a more significant statement than either of the last two thrashings. I don't yet know if this even translates into playing finals, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed until at least Wednesday.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Margin slightly lower than last week, but degree of difficulty in awarding votes significantly higher. Complaints on a postcard to the usual address.

5 - Angus Brayshaw
4 - Jesse Hogan
3 - Jake Lever
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Jack Viney

Apologies to pretty much everyone else, but in no particular order to Fritsch, Gawn, Hibberd, Jetta, Jones, Lewis, O. McDonald, Melksham, Neal-Bullen, Smith and Vince

Leaderboard
It's on in spectacular fashion at the top, with Hogan and Oliver making a move on Gawn and putting a serious dent in Jones' hopes of a 6th title. As Lever and Viney join the list, perhaps the only hope of the players outside the top three is that we may (NB: MAY - I am not calling anything until it is mathematically confirmed) have extra games for them to poll in this year.

24 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Clayton Oliver
21 - Jesse Hogan
14 - Nathan Jones
11 - Jake Melksham
7 - Angus Brayshaw
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Christian Petracca
4 - Bayley Fritsch (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Tom McDonald
3 - James Harmes, Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Michael Hibberd
1 - Neville Jetta, Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem, Jack Viney

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
On National Tap In Day it was hard to find too many spectacular finishes, and certainly nothing to trouble Tyson's goal under the roof for the clubhouse lead. I'm going to award the first joint nomination since half the team got a nod for setting up Salem vs Essendon in 2014. It goes to the first goal of the day, finished by Christian Petracca but set up via a delightful ground level gather and Clayton Oliver-esque lighting handball by Hogan. He won't be named in the final leaderboard, but credit also to Smith for a strong mark and quick dish to Hannan to create it. Apologies to Melksham and Brayshaw, who kicked the only half difficult set shots of the day.

For the weekly prize Hogan and Petracca win a trip to Hand Gestures and Novelty Celebrations Fantasy Camp to learn how to do all sorts of American shit after kicking goals. Your camp leader and bus driver will be Mr Don Pyke of Bloomington, Illinois. BYO blindfold and deep emotional scars.


This segment is about as biased as when Daisy Pearce interviewed the NT Demons fans at half time and said "thanks for cheering us on", but let this be an instructive lesson on why our banners are so good in comparison to other sides:
a) No curtain
b) Bold, confident font
c) Perfect kerning and ledding
d) The last line could have brought the whole thing undone, but preparation and proper planning has ensured that the words fit in by the narrowest possible margin.

In opposition, Adelaide fell for the common trap of a sad, weedy font. This sat above a barely concealed curtain held together by the slightest of materials so players could feel good about ripping it apart. The indigenous flags were well done, but the letters above were stretched even further out of place than their defenders. Dees win via a solid knockout. We're good, but last week I had us at 10 to zip when we'd only played nine games. So, for the second round in succession the Dees win and are 10-0 for the year.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Administration Chat)
It probably helped to play the Crows rather than Gold Coast, but it was easily the best crowd we've had at Traeger Park. According to the commentary - and they had clearly been well briefed on everything the NT has to offer - the capacity is only 7000, which would make a crowd of 6989 super impressive. Everything else online suggests that you can get 10k in there, either by hiding people behind the counter in the forward pocket Subway or double counting the guys hanging around out the back having a ciggy.

I enjoyed hearing the indigenous language version of our theme song at the start. The degree of difficulty may have been a bit high for the players to sing that one at the end, but it was a nice touch for what you could hear with BT blathering over the top. If Adelaide had one I didn't hear it being played, just that shitbox version of their tune that relegates them from being "the Mighty Adelaide Crows" to simply "known as the Adelaide Crows". What they were actually known as today is unprintable in a family publication.

All in all it was our most successful sold home game ever, at least until we play a team coming off a longer break next week and everyone falls in a heap during the final quarter. Best thing to do is to get about 80 points in front at the last change again and build a wall Donald Trump would get excited over.

Winning makes you think strange things, but I'm wondering if we couldn't find a way to keep this fixture, chuck the Darwin game and still make 75% of what we're getting now. Tossing them entirely isn't feasible, especially as we're getting rid of pokies and are supposedly going to pay two CEOs (one of who may be Big Al Nicholson, presumably with Chris Lamb as deputy) during the world's greatest bald head's transition period but that could be an interim solution.

If we played one AFLW and one AFL game in Alice, and Channel 7 remained committed to broadcasting an infomercial for Territory tourism in a decent timeslot wouldn't that be a better promotional opportunity for their government than a lightly viewed Saturday night Foxtel game featuring players resting in a meat locker? Let the puppet clubs like Gold Coast and GWS play the Sweatbox Challenge, and let us cut out one interstate trip.

If it's all or nothing then we can't afford not to do both, but from both a footballing and promotional standpoint I'd rather throw everything into a one-off promotional extravaganza. Interestingly, it has been suggested that as we only have a contract with the MCG for nine home games a year any leftovers would likely be played at Docklands. The obvious thought is just to renegotiate, but after Collingwood and Hawthorn played home games there this week it's clear that's where any extra games are going. On-field this is no longer a bad thing for us, and off-field the new management ensures that it's not the financial graveyard it once was. With the right opposition to compensate for our fans who'd refuse to go there for a Grand Final it could pay off. Over to you Nicho.

Next week
Now that it feels like we could beat anyone up to and including the US Army, the most old school Melbourne thing to do would be to turn back into pumpkins against lower mid-table mediocrities that have scored nearly 40 points a week less so far. The massacres have to stop somewhere, and as much as I'd love to give Fortress Shithole an early look at a team of invincible superheroes I'd be happy just to get through this with the points intact and consolidate our position in the four (!).

It's a bad time to be in the VFL, good luck getting in ahead of any of the players who have run riot over the last three weeks. Tyson had plenty of the ball for Casey against Port Melbourne, but even if they did come at a high degree of accuracy you couldn't get near our midfield on their current form. Balic might get a run at some point if he keeps kicking goals, but Garlett doesn't seem to be having much impact against semi-pros so I'll comfortably stick with Mitch Hannan.

The mid-season restings and face saving minor injuries will come, but for now I'm satisfied to keep a winning combination together. The only alteration I can see is Spargo being rotated out for a rest, possibly leading to a surprise Balic debut or the return of Garlett.

IN: Nil
OUT: Nil
LUCKY: Nil
UNLUCKY: Balic (first time listed), Bugg, Pedersen, Tyson

The All New Bradbury Plan
With the Crows plunging from finals certainties to the brink of elimination, the 6-10 group where all the action was anyway has turned into a 3-10 group. My rolling ladder prediction scenarios is remaining super-conservative, and now has us 7th a game and shitloads of percentage clear of North in 9th. I have more faith in Sydney, Adelaide and Port than the rest of the teams in that bracket, so may need to create a Division 3 and 3A after next week.

Can win every week - will clearly be above us - Richmond and West Coast
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - Nil
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other - Adelaide () Collingwood, Geelong, GWS, Hawthorn, North MelbournePort Adelaide and Sydney
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win - Essendon (), and Fremantle
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Footscray () and Gold Coast
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton and St Kilda

Your how to vote card for Fat Chance Round is:

Carlton d. Sydney (fat chance)
Port d. Hawthorn (50/50 - I'd usually go for the lower placed team but at the moment can see more benefit in keeping the Hawks down than creating more confusion in the race. There are positives if it goes the other way though, so make your own call on this)
Gold Coast d. Geelong (fat chance)
Richmond d. Essendon (apologies to those of you running a top two Bradbury Plan but the Bombers have done fantastic work for us in the last two weeks, time to cut off their comeback before it becomes a problem)
St Kilda d. West Coast (fat chance)
Brisbane d. North (fat chance)
Adelaide d. GWS (again, if you're working a top four plan you may want this the other way but I'd prefer to kill the Giants off ASAP)

Final thoughts
It could very well end in massive disappointment next Saturday, but even when this run does come to a halt the last three weeks are the sort of "remember when..." stuff you'll be talking about in a decade when we've run out of juice after five flags in a row and crashed back to the bottom of the ladder. If nothing else this quite remarkable ride has set us up very nicely for the second half of the year. We're now dead on where I realistically wanted us to be at this stage (with this win replacing the Hawthorn debacle) and with a monster percentage that effectively acts as an extra four points....

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