Saturday, 8 September 2018

Weid The People

After years of hanging shit on the citizens of Adelaide and Perth, I finally understand the benefit of sitting in a stadium rammed to the bejesus belt with an overwhelming majority of people going for the same team. Geelong fans have seen enough glory in the time we've been shit that it's not surprising they'd fail to turn up in numbers to watch a side that's slipped from 2nd to 8th limp into - and eventually out of - the finals. This was good news for us, creating space for about 65,000 red and blue fanatics to deliver an insanely one-sided atmosphere.

Maybe all the Cats fans were still on the Ticketek website, waiting patiently to 'transact' with whatever MS-DOS system was being used to book finals tickets. The legitimate trauma I suffered trying to get one on Tuesday morning in competition with 450,000 other people may have brought on the illness that left me on my arse for the rest of the week. Regular readers will know there's nothing unusual about me being sick at Melbourne games, but this time it wasn't just sporting anxiety but also an immune system that had been carpet-bombed to the point of barely existing.

The sensible course of action would have been to focus on what really mattered and take multiple days off work to recuperate for the big game. For professional reasons that wasn't an option, so I just had to punch my way through, knowing that if I could survive until 7.50pm Friday night everything could be temporarily forgotten and any other consequences could be dealt with by medical professionals. Cue the week from hell, a nervous, sweaty wreck with a voice fading in and out, coughing like a TB patient in secret to avoid attracting unwanted attention. After 12 years aboard the SS Capsize nothing short of being in a coma was going to keep me from the MCG, and a doping campaign Lance Armstrong would have applauded got me to the line. The Dees took care of the rest. I'm cactus now, but who cares?

I thought we could win, but after the horror of our other two games against them this year wasn't convinced it would happen without a life or death struggle deep into the last quarter. The idea of being five goals up at quarter time was so fantastic that you'd have been carted off to the loony bin for suggesting it. From the start of the second term we swerved and wobbled but did almost everything right except convert chances that would have killed off the game by half time. Hair-raising noise at the end of the national anthem - and that we were playing a game where the anthem was required - notwithstanding I actually floated throughout the remainder of the game on an emotional cloud, suffering the usual background fear that we'd find a way to stuff things up but never once presented with an actual comeback to get realistically terrified about.

The phrase 'carnival atmosphere' has been applied to plenty of games over the years, but this was the ultimate. Melbourne fans outnumbering the opposition by the tens of thousands, a dream start and an eventual easy victory. It was a step down from beating North by 118 in the corresponding 1987 fixture, but that matters sod all now. We got the right result without a detour via cardiac arrest, the fairytale continues, and the most storied team and coach of the 21st century await as the next challenge.

Applying retrospective meaning to the way teams line up for an anthem is like debating whether they should have gone on a bonkers pre-season camp or not, but when our boys were all arm-in-arm and Cats players stood like individuals who'd met on the way to ground I desperately wanted it to mean something. I knew it probably didn't, but then we spent 120 minutes scaring the shit out of them with thumping tackles and I wondered if there might have been something in the theory after all.

I was on high alert for another fiasco against the Cats, but not as concerned by the prospect of a finals choke. The occasion was enormous, and the crowd massive but it's not like GWS suddenly going from playing in front of two men and a dog to 90,000 overnight. We've had 85k, 83k and 77k games over the last two seasons (and admittedly lost the lot before this) so big crowds are not alien. I was confident that once the game started we'd just crack in (and have a crack) and do what was required. Indeed we did, riding out a few minutes of the Cats looking likely at the start before turning on the afterburners and battering them in a rare fashion. Five goal quarter time leads in finals = this, the 1941 Grand Final, the 1948 Grand Final Replay, and the 1988 Preliminary Final.

The unexpected poster child for the first quarter avalanche was Sam Weideman, a player who I didn't want in the side a month ago but has now progressed to the level where you start to wonder how we fit him alongside Hogan and McDonald next year. If it was a good night for him it was a ripper for his agent, who would now have 10 clubs on the phone wondering if he's keen on 22 games next season instead of being stuck in the queue behind the other two and occasionally relegated to the frozen tundra of Casey Fields.

He didn't just take marks and kick goals, but further extended his career best disposal tally to 24. One game ago it was 17, two games ago 13 and he'd played part of three seasons never having more than seven kicks in a game. Last night he had 12, validating something I said earlier in the season about him having every element required to succeed if he started getting more of the ball. Now he's on a three game streak of career best performances and looms as a massive player for Hawthorn to be worried about next week. And hopefully somebody else for the two weeks after. Then take a break and gaze at the premiership medallion.

The first blow was struck by the most unlikely leading goalkicker in history, Tom McSizzle, and when he marked again not long after I was on high alert for the most unusual finals bag since Shane Ellen. He missed, and never looked likely to kick another goal after the first two minutes of the second quarter but it was a mighty start that well and truly set the tone. While he was taking commanding contested marks, on ground level Jack Viney didn't go anywhere near the weird forward/mid job he'd speculated on two weeks ago and instead concentrated on ripping the limbs from his opponents. His torment of Ablett was a welcome flashback to Round 1, 2015 when he took the piss out of Gaz to such a degree that it nearly constituted workplace harassment. There was no hint of ring rust there, he just walked back into the midfield like he'd never been away and we were significantly better for it.

Other than the spanking first quarter and eventual steadying, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Joel Selwood emotionally cracking under the weight of Harmes' tag and making a Rex Hunt of himself on a big stage. You expect Ablett to whinge to the umpires (who can forget the night Jordie McKenzie almost had him in tears?), but Selwood went off like a petulant child not used to losing. Probably because he isn't, having just played in his 70th defeat vs 201 wins. He can take his premiership medals to show and tell at Nathan Jones' house, and the 82-3-177 MFC Hall of Fame Legend elect can teach him something about humility. Selwood was also somewhat upset by the obvious result of ducking into tackles when Neville Jetta is around, e.g. that he will knock the piss out of you.
Everyone was at it, taking their opportunity to thump a hapless opponent. This was the shell of the previously very successful Geelong club, but most of them hadn't won any more flags than our lot and played like it. One bloke thought he was smart running past vandenBerg, only for AVB to stay in the chase and mow him down with a tackle immediately after. Later in the evening Weideman clocked Dangerfield with a clothesline from hell, and Frost did his bit for the psychological warfare campaign against the backdrop of Bruce McAvaney saying a phrase you'll likely never get out of your head:
It might have taken us five minutes to get the first goal, but after McDonald's miss they began flowing with ease. Gawn took full advantage of playing on a fourth gamer to get forward and mark right in front, and in an important psychological blow converted from basically the same spot where he'd missed six months ago. The avalanche was given an assist by some forward play by the Cats that should have been accompanied by circus music, a theme we'd enthusiastically get involved with during the second quarter.

For now it was pure battery, including Harmes taking a rest from abusing Selwood to work his arse off running forward into a marking position right in front of goal. This wasn't as much a tagging job as a clear one-on-one victory with a bit of anti-social behaviour thrown in. The Weid got his first, before marking in the square on the siren in front of an incredulous, Alice band wearing Geelong defender who was convinced he'd got a hand to it first. The ledger was evened later when Lewis spoiled a ball straight in the air and a Geelong player was given a mark.

Weideman converted, we were 31 points up and bloody hell what was going on here? This wasn't supposed to happen against good clubs, but were Geelong a good club on anything other than reputation? I guess we just found out whether it's better to come into the finals beating two top eight contenders or thrashing flotsam and jetsam by massive margins. That they've had as many ton plus wins in their last three starts as we have since 2004 doesn't mean much now.

It was certainly better than being five goals behind, but for obvious reasons the lid was being kept firmly pressed down for now. Maybe because I was in shock, but mostly due to the fresh memories of throwing away a not much smaller lead in the space of 25 minutes a few weeks ago. And in Round 1 we had kicked six in the opening quarter then only two in the second, so there was historical precedent for things tightening right up by half time. The difference was that day the Dangerfield-less Cats took advantage of our backline's disarray to kick 12 by the end of the second quarter. This time they were starved of chances.

If you're of a nervous disposition - and I certainly am - the second quarter simultaneously showed a side at the near peak of its powers and left us looking at our watch for the inevitable blockbusting comeback. Rarely has a side dominated so comprehensively for zero goal reward. After five minutes of going close Anal-Bullet missed a sitter that would have made it 41-2, part of a period of frenzied attack where we'd kick 1.10. Of course after his miss, the Cats went straight down the other end for the first goal. We wouldn't actually get a non-set shot goal until Jones' opened in the last quarter. That concerns me but I don't think it necessarily translates to next week, it's not like we didn't have the opportunities they were just wasted.

I still reserved the right to be nervous with a 23 point lead at half time. If there was any question about Viney blowing up from lack of match practice and if our players were struck by the tension of what happened at Kardinia Park we might have let them get back in it. No and no. For all my nervousness, if you'd given me that lead with the opposition held to two goals I'd have grabbed at it shamelessly. Hawkins was their only forward who looked even remotely dangerous, and I was confident that we had the rest of his anonymous comrades covered well enough that it wouldn't matter if he kicked a few. In the end he got two, his side got six and several television executives probably self-immolated at the lack of opportunities to run ads. Stiff shit. I know the dream is a hands off AFLX style wankfest where everyone kicks 25 goals but you can stuff that up your jumper, I'll have this sort of physical contest. Had we been the ones unmercifully hunted by a relentless opposition maybe I'd have been more in favour of 16 a side and squares that stretch from one end of the ground to the other.

We were lucky to get to the break just shy of four goals up, with some dingbat playing on from a free directly in front and hitting the post trying to roll the ball along the ground. Then again, we did end the quarter with Jones running inside 50 and missing so at the same time we were unlucky not to be back to five goals in front. Either way, Geelong had turned up 45 minutes late but were now here to play. Fortunately they'd left themselves in such a deep hole that it was impossible to climb out. Finals nerves had been dismissed as a myth, now it was stuffing up against Geelong nerves that were causing me concern. Still not that much concern though, I don't know whether all the medications and potions had a calming effect, but while sporting terror was burning away inside I outwardly kept a relaxed demeanour. It was partially because I didn't want to show any nerves, and partially because there was only so much energy to go around and it needed to be conserved for keeping me upright until the siren and getting home.

Speaking of people having a shocker out of their control, a word for the poor kid operating a food counter at half time with the world's faultiest EFTPOS machine. The biggest crowd of the year, in an area where any queue build up traffic jams the place to the point where nobody can move, and he's presiding over a machine that was taking five minutes to complete each transaction. He was under more pressure than a deep sea diver and did well to not crack up. Though at one stage he called a colleague in to have a look and may have used this as an excuse to try and escape, only for his mate to wave the white flag, say there was nothing he could do and walk off again, forcing the original bloke back to the contest.

After 10 minutes when he'd only worked through two other people and finalised my transaction (I'd have given up if I didn't desperately need steadying caffeine, and suspect some others 'gave up' with items in their pocket) I did my best to assure the kid that it wasn't his fault. He was already wearing a traumatised look that suggested he'll walk away and never work another shift at the MCG. Everyone at Demonblog.com wishes him well.

When we returned after half-time for Geelong to kick the first goal and cut the margin to 17 I knew how the 15-year-old EFTPOS disaster kid felt. At this point I steeled myself for the possibility that this was going to finish as a thrilling shitfight. Need not have been concerned, they never got any closer. Straight from the next centre bounce Harmes went forward - again with the player he was allegedly tagging nowhere to be seen - and Melksham took advantage of a defender falling on his arse to mark right in front and kick the 1 in 1.10.

That was it for goals for the rest of the quarter. Which was weird. The 17 minute major drought was assisted by Dangerfield missing from point blank range and Menzel hitting the post instead of passing to a player standing in the square. He couldn't believe it, and neither could I. The story of the game after quarter time was supposed to be Geelong striking back, but they necked themselves in such an amazing variety of ways there was never any real momentum behind the comeback.

See also Ablett twice having kicks smothered and trying to blame his teammates up field. Or Selwood's decision to grab Melksham by the neck and throw him to the ground 70 metres away from his teammate having a shot on goal. I didn't even know an emergency umpire could pay a free, so thank god it went in our favour or I'd be writing this from a picket line outside AFL HQ. Even more delightful that Ablett then had a big sook towards said off-field umpire. Bad luck mate, go back to the Suns.

So after a quarter less worthy of a final than the two that preceded it, we were left with a 23 point margin to defend. If that sounded familiar, it would be because that was exactly the final change gap in Round 18. That night we kicked the first goal and still lost, but I was exceedingly confident here that if we could get the opened again they weren't going to catch us. Partly because they'd kicked three goals in three quarters, and due to their attack other than Hawkins being cute, fluffy and completely insignificant.

Even before the first goal, the signs that we couldn't be beaten were everywhere. See for instance, Selwood's Master of Disaster evening continuing when he won a free, went to play on, slipped over and was pinched holding the ball by Viney. That directly set up an inside 50 where Petracca danced out of a pack, looped a wide handball to Nathan Jones and the skipper - who better? - kicked one of the most popular goals of his career. The highlights reveal that BT called him "an old campaigner", which is appropriate because that's how I refer to BT. Speaking of commentators who have no place calling anything other kick-to-kick in the park, a contentious decision in the first quarter apparently lead to Dwayne Russell threatening to give up calling. Who knew bad umpiring could actually be beneficial?

It was pretty much over with Jones' goal, but what happened earlier in the year meant nobody was allowing themselves to get overly excited. The omens were all there when Kardinia Park irritant Zac Tuohy got the reply to leave the margin in the low 20s again with plenty of time to play. If we were going to collapse now would have been a good time. They were certainly close enough to get a run on, and this is the point where I started mentally ticking off every stoppage as a few seconds wasted. Apart from a complete knock-out in the middle, we didn't dominate the overall stoppages as much as I'd have liked considering the inexperience opposition ruckman, but each one slightly reduced the time they'd have to launch the necessary comeback.

We ran off eight minutes without a score before the goal that won it, a quick kick forward by Melksham, Hannan's opponent slipping over in the contest, and a great run from the wing to almost the square. The closer he got, and the more obvious it was that he was considering other options rather than kicking it himself the more seized up my body became, until he mercifully slotted it where so many others wouldn't have. Finally I could sit back and relax.

MITCH HANNAN THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!#AFLFinals pic.twitter.com/XfzcwHfYO9
— AFL (@AFL) September 7, 2018

If all you've seen is the call with Taylor making up distances, treat yourself to the alternative of this proper call off the radio - complete with Garry Lyon almost popping his load in the background god bless.
That really was it, there was 10 minutes for them to kick five goals but it simply wasn't going to happen. The first exclamation point came from Weideman taking another contested mark at the top of the square (♪ Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near ♪), and playing on unnecessarily quickly. He could have wasted 30 seconds in the spirit of Milkshake against the Eagles, but must have sensed that the fans were fit to burst and wanted to gratify them ASAP. Not me, I looked heavenward in glorious relief when he grabbed it and missed the actual finish. Didn't detract from the celebrations though.

The margin was more than it had been at quarter time now, and though we then packed it away and let in a couple of late ones nobody was complaining because it was already a job well done. Things were going so well that as a kick went inside Geelong's forward 50 Oscar McDonald accidentally intercepted it with his head with back turned. It was far better than anything he'd been involved with in the last quarter in our previous meeting.

Alex Neal-Bullen, who had helped set the savage tone in the first quarter then missed the opportunity to nearly kill them off in the second, got the glory of hammering the final nail into Geelong's coffin. The highlight of the Bullet's goal was when he did the old 'grab at the bit where a club crest would be if we hadn't sold the space' move made popular several years ago by Brad Green, and instead indicated that he was keen on Zurich Finance. Good on him, it's about time people packed away lame cheese gags and went back to stereotyping us for being as rich as fuck.
The sound of the crowd at the siren was outrageous, I've never heard anything like it at a Melbourne game. In various ways we've been liberating ourselves of hoodoos and long term disappointments since Paul Roos turned up, but this was the full enchilada of fans unloading all their misery. Even if god forbid we win next week there won't be the same overwhelming crowd numbers. I hope for even greater days for the club and us as fans, but I seriously doubt there will ever be a night where we get such a huge partisan audience so wound up.

I'm sick of keeping the lid on, we know it's extremely unlikely that this season will end in a flag but like English soccer fans I'm ready, willing and able to go RIGHT OFF about football coming home before even making the final. I'm willing to let the veil of restraint slide right off and start looking beyond the Hawks to Collingwood/West Coast and most likely the Tigers afterwards. After running into juggernaut teams in 1988 and 2000 it's almost inevitable we run into Richmond at the peak of their powers this time isn't it?

Everything from here is a bonus. If we lose next week it will burn like buggery, but overall no harm done to the long term plan. Maybe that Carlton fan who chastised me for cheering on other teams falling in front of us had a point? And speaking of irritating Carlton identities, have we had a ruling from Chris J**d on whether the level of celebration was appropriate for an elimination final?

And now a special feature, the first ever recorded evidence of me singing the song. Which is not a surprise considering I've steadfastly refused to indulge in it for years. This seemed like a good time. Enjoy the bit where the exertion becomes too much and a lung is nearly hacked onto the MCG seating. There's video footage too but you're not getting that.



With many of the already meagre collection of Cats fans having ducked off early, the atmosphere of unbridled enthusiasm outside the ground was akin to the scenes when Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad. If we win next week let's do this to serial MFC player assassinator Leigh Matthews. And his statue too.



My car was parked at Spencer Street so I didn't know what to with myself. I just walked back across the city listening to the faithful going off their chops, and in the non-perviest way ever looking at all the kids who'd either bravely taken up supporting us in the heat of the #fistedforever era or are so young that they think a solid, competitive (that one's for you Dean Bailey) side is just how it is. I guess it's the modern difference between the kids like me who came in post-'88 and the older generation who'd fought their way through some part of the 1965-1986 slurry. They'll never appreciate what it took to get here, and I hope this time we don't back up with another decade of disgrace that stretches from their mid-20s to mid-30s and gives them a taste of what they missed.

The effect of this result on the supporter base was still on my mind when I missed a freeway works detour turn-off, then the next opportunity to get back on track 11km later. Enjoying the all-MFC, all-the time content on the SEN overnight show I just kept driving generally north in the hope that I'd eventually see a sign directing me where to turn right and head home. Eventually somewhere outside of Diggers Rest I thought things were getting perilously close to regional Victoria and stopped for directions, only to be directed back down the countriest of roads in a mystery fog that would rise and lift every few hundred metres.

As my petrol gauge hovered on two bars I thought this would be an appropriately farceshambles way to end the night of the brand new high watermark of Melbourne supporting, but narrowly survived to tell my tale. All it did was give me an extra 45 minutes to listen to a fantastically biased radio host talk Dees, Dees and nothing but Dees while sour Geelong fans complained via text message. Dry your eyes on a flag dickheads, this is our time.

In a happy reverse of my trip back from Kardinia Park, it was only when I got home at about 1am that I remembered how sick I'd been all week. Like the time a headbutt from a child that later turned out to be a broken nose temporarily disappeared while we pounded Richmond, the glory of the opening quarter, the tension of the comeback, the relief of the win, and the epic journey through Christ only knows where masked the symptoms.

At about 03:00 when I forced myself to go to bed Finals Fever really struck with a vengeance. With no more need to keep it together I suddenly turned freezing cold and began shaking like an ice addict. The remedy was the largest pile of blankets known to man, a heater on full blast and more clothes than an arctic explorer - with the unintended side consequence of eventually overheating and having insane bloody dreams for the next three hours, before waking up early to think further about the Melbourne Football Club. Today has been hell, but I'd do everything other than the mystery rural detour all over again.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Sam Weideman
4 - James Harmes
3 - Tom McDonald
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Neville Jetta

Apologies to plenty but especially Viney, O. McDonald, Frost, Hibberd, Brayshaw, Lewis, Neal-Bullen and Gawn.

Leaderboard
Maximum could still grab this with a couple of BOGs on the way through the Grand Final, but the problem is stopping Oliver from polling. You can't do it, he is operating on another planet to everyone else. In the minors, congratulations to Fritsch for officially winning the Hilton.

In the Seecamp,  Jetta pulls to within striking range of Salem but this morning I received a protest from a concerned reader that Bayley Fritsch should be eligible due to time played in defence. He's got a point, but the problem is there's no actual measurement to decide what qualifies somebody as a defender. I'm going to have to ponder this, but if anyone has hard statistical evidence for either the prosecution or defence please table it via the usual channels.

We're also pleased to announce a new award for the best player in finals. I want to call it the Nathan Jones Medal, and like the AFLW award already being named after Daisy Pearce in the middle of her career may just do that by the end of the series. Given that I inexplicably didn't go the '05 final there will be no retrospective winner for that year, but we're pleased to award Brock McLean the '06 title for his dual four vote performances.

62 - Clayton Oliver (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
--- Three more finals needed ---
51 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
--- Abandon all hope ye beyond here ---
31 - James Harmes
29 - Jesse Hogan
23 - Angus Brayshaw
21 - Tom McDonald
16 - Bayley Fritsch (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Jake Melksham
10 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - Christian Petracca
8 - Jordan Lewis, Jack Viney
7 - Neville Jetta
6 - Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman (LEADER: As Yet Unnamed Medal for Best Finals Player)
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Dom Tyson
2 - Sam Frost
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Who else but Mitch Hannan, with his cover version of the Jack Watts running goal to the same end last year. That was obviously a more aesthetically pleasing goal with a higher direct impact on the game, but this was a sealer in a final in front of 90,000 people. Holy moly. Sure beats playing for Gisborne. Or nearly driving there like I did at about 1am.

He got an assist from his opponent falling over, but after contemplating mid-run whether to pass then noticing that the Geelong defender had expertly positioned himself to stop the dinky chip to the square he finished perfectly from a reasonably acute angle on a night where every other bastard was spraying it. It's great that we found a way to make Fritsch even effective than first expected so both could fit in the same team. He's had his down times during 2018, but this goes up there with Adem Yze against St Kilda in '06 for great sealers (albeit without me yelling obscenities into the face of an opposition supporter immediately after).

This throws another spanner in the works of the clubhouse leader. Now that we're not picking from a handful of goals in big losses it's difficult to separate importance and spectacle. Spargo in Geelong had the funkiest moves, Kent in Perth was the most ice-cold, and this provoked the wildest public reaction. They've all got claims (though I suspect if it goes to a public vote Spargo's got no chance), and I'm going to further ruminate on it in the hope that even more magic will unfold next week. Might package this and the Fritsch dilemma up into one vote.


I was too nervous to focus on what the Geelong banner actually said, but it looked to have been designed by primary school children. Their cheersquad must be as bored with finals as the fans and players. Ours was a thing of beauty, I loved the way it acknowledged that making the finals was one hurdle. One school of thought would be that you don't treat making the eight as a big deal once you've done it. I frantically disagree. The first phase of the new journey looked alright, I'm keen on getting three more in by the end of the season. That's 23-0 for the year. The perfect season just got perfecter (?).

Crowd Watch (incorporating Match Experience Watch)
I should have known a weird night was in store when on entering the ground Catman and I clattered elbows going through the security scan side by side. That brush with nuffy royalty was about as close as I got to any Kardinia Park style insanity with Cats fans, because section Q30 in front of the Ponsford scoreboard featured no more than 10 of them, who all sat respectfully quiet from about the 10 minute mark of the first quarter. More concerning was the Demon loyalist who reacted to Mitch Duncan 'drawing' a free kick by shouting 'MITCH DUCKIN!", and after getting no reaction said it again in such a desperate grab for attention that I wanted to put my arm around him and provide reassurance that everything was going to be alright. Like the rest of us he was left mouth agape and unable to form full sentences by quarter time and we never heard from him again.

Since 2006 I've only been to two neutral finals - and none after 2012 - so have no idea how they work but wasn't it a bit weird that it got treated as an MFC home game? Is it the prerogative of the club finishing higher to carry on like they would in Round 6? Tonight when Russell Robertson was interviewing the Demon Army and going ape for the 'mons this seemed like a good idea but won't be as warmly received next week when the team with toilet colours hold the reigns. The only obvious changes were the substitution of the much-maligned Hogan's Highball for a much more interesting long kicking contest (which apparently happens every Friday night, explaining why we'd never seen it before). At the end of the game they should have reintroduced Match the Emoji, shown πŸ’©πŸ’©πŸ’© and asked fans if they recognises the performances of Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood.

Meanwhile, in a week where Fox Footy coincidentally rolled out Mark Neeld to try and play down his role in the implosion years (to be fair he's nowhere near 100% responsible, and should we win a flag any time soon I may even hand out pardons to everyone involved) I was more interested in seeing our ex-players go off their tit, most notably this from The Wizard:
Who are these people interrupting him going troppo to take photos? The selfie should be abolished, it's taken a gifted performance artist out of the moment while he was doing his best work.

Elsewhere this week
Abhorrent as it is to my nature I am the biggest Collingwood fan ever tonight. We can beat Hawthorn and I will be stupid enough to go to my death in Perth if the fixture sends us in that direction. Let's stay in Victoria so I don't end up hitch-hiking back across the Nullabor in misery with Bradley John Murdoch. However, if we don't beat the Hawks I retrospectively hope the Eagles won by 199.
Next week
Before concerning myself with red-eye flights and hit and run missions across the continent we've got to beat Hawthorn for the second time in 17 starts. It's back to the 'G next Friday night, the only way we can get a local game in the marquee timeslot this season. They humped us unmercifully after quarter time in Round 4, but that's a lifetime ago now. It might just be the weight of expectation, but I'm astounded that we're red hot favourites. There's no way they will be as bad as they were against a much better side on Thursday night, but we very much can beat them if there's the same sort of wild-eyed insane tackling and we don't kick 1.10 over two quarters.

In our first final against them since 1990, get ready for the usual cavalcade of MFC/HFC highlights. Leigh Matthews killing somebody, Jim Stynes running over the mark, the Merger Match, Don Scott gloriously ripping a shit Hawk off a Melbourne jumper, Jordan Lewis winning flags, Yze and Bruce as assistant coaches and perhaps even Clarko reminiscing about how his 41 game stint with us in 96/97 got him where he is today. Let's also have that dreadful merger theme song that should have been enough to convince anyone who wasn't just a stooge for the board to vote no.

I genuinely don't know what to do with the changes. I think Tyson's recent good form was bulldozed by the return of Viney, and still have serious doubts about playing them both. Also as much as I like Spargo for the future I'm not convinced by him in a game of this magnitude. But do I want two changes from a winning side? Probably not. It's a shame Garlett isn't booting the door down, because we could do with a bit of crumb but I'm too scared to risk him. So if we assume the defence and tall forwards go in unchanged that leaves us with Bugg, Garlett and Kennedy-Harris to choose from.

I'm concerned Bugg hasn't played since the last time Hawthorn wrecked us, don't trust Garlett to bring four quarters of the required pressure and not sure Kennedy-Harris is going to offer all that much more than Tyson. I was tempted by JFK for Tyson, but against my better judgement will stick with this lineup and hope that they find a way to utilise Tyson and Spargo effectively.

IN/OUT: No change
LUCKY: Spargo, Tyson
UNLUCKY: Bugg, Garlett, Kennedy-Harris and everyone else at Casey still upright.

Was it worth it?
God almighty yes. No matter happens next week the memories of tonight will live forever. Later defeats never sullied the reputation of Adelaide/St Kilda '98, Carlton/North '00 or St Kilda '06 (though North '02 was entirely forgettable). This was the night we lined up a third top eight team in a row, unloaded a first quarter of rare excitement on them in front of a massive crowd, then answered when half-heartedly challenged to only drop a couple of points for the rest of the game. Everyone involved reached manhood.

Final Thoughts
The Herald Sun is a dead-set rag of a paper that should only be used for lining the bottom of a budgie cage, but if I can crop out Collingwood and some nonsense about super funds I'm prepared to wear the Melbourne Storm run-in to look at this forever. I don't know how many statues feature the player in this post, but I think we might have found the final design.
Like when Ric Flair had to win every match or retire, my life as a 100% lunatic supporter lives on for another week. The Nature Boy's bid for immortality failed, but I'm aiming higher. The Bradbury Plan is dead, but a Mighty Ducks finish is back on the agenda.

1 comment:

  1. I watched replays of Hannan’s sealer several times to re-live that feeling of victory assured. It was only on the umpteenth viewing did I notice a Geelong defender (not Hannan’s opponent) sprinting the length of the field and almost catch him.
    A top shelf performance from Sir Neville. I loved the way he beat Dangerfield in one-on-one contests TWICE! Lewis played a very steady hand too when the heat was on.
    Throw in WCE 1994 to the list of juggernauts we’ve run into. Brilliant MFC wins against Carlton and Footscray were rewarded with a one way ticket to Perth for the prelim.

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