Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Protect and Survive

For all the respect I've got for AFLW, and the enjoyment I get from watching a version of the top flight game that hasn't been turned into a complete wankfest yet, my delayed viewing of the Sunday double-header was always going to start with the men. Watching in reverse led to the danger of the result being blown during the coverage of the Richmond game and the unprecedented scenario of me having to watch when I already knew the result. Fortunately the two competitions live in separate universes, and nobody thought to make reference to us either winning or losing two games on one day. As it turns out we went 1-1, and as I found out later it may as well have been 0-2.

I was comfortable that if the result of this game were somehow blown for me that it would have just been confirming what seemed like an obvious Melbourne win, but those 25 of us who saw the 2017 Blacktown International (?) Sportspark debacle at 5.05pm on a Friday night knew not to take anything for granted. The Giants were no good when they beat us then, and are not much better now. At quarter time the prospect of another shock defeat loomed large, before version three MFCW did what version one should have and won in a landslide. That cost us a spot in the Grand Final, this barely kept our hopes of a semi final berth afloat.

Like so many other games that have ended in grim struggle it started well, with a perfect chain of ball movement landing in the hands of Tegan Cunningham 30 metres directly in front. There was nothing more on-brand for us than her missing it. The best bit about the way it got to her was the umpire missing Karen Paxman's two-handed rugby style throw out of the middle. It was one of few touches Paxman got in the first half, before coming good at the end when we were kicking the GWS' brains in.

Cunningham found her range later for three goals, but her next miss was even more irritating. Players miss easy shots at every level, but in a low scoring competition there's potential to quickly knock the opposition out if you convert. Put an inferior team a couple of goals in the hole at quarter time and fat chance they'll recover. The Giants nearly made us pay full price for the miss, with the acceptable public face of the name C. Bernardi just falling short. We looked flat as a tack, even with Cunningham's second shot. Thank god she started kicking them or somebody was going to get hit again out of frustration.

If we couldn't have Max Gawn in the later game we could at least enjoy his female equivalent Lauren Pearce snaffling goals in a regional location. For once an administrative 50 went in our favour, and though her kick looked horrid off the boot it floated through for the opener. Because there's nothing more footy fans want than deafening music blaring out after goals, this provoked a volume 11 rendition of Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This. Like the guy who wouldn't stop yelling "Let's Go Giants, let's go!" it may have just been that the effects mic was right next to the speaker, or there was a secret government conspiracy to test torture techniques on the 1500 people who'd already braved scorching heat to watch at a ground with not even the slightest bit of visible shade.

The lead was lucky to survive for long, with one of GWS' Irish Experiment (either Cora the Explorer or The Other One) snapping from the top of the square with all the time in the world but missing. Both the Irishwomen were racking up touches at will around the ground in the biggest fix up from the Republic since Pearce Hanley and Niall McKeever helped ruin Round 1, 2012. For fans of the Kingsleys, that was also the day Claye Beams was nominated for a Rising Star before going on to do bugger all for the rest of his career. They bought their first goal locally, with Bernardi running onto her own handball in the square. The set off Roxette's The Look, which I assume was on because it's sung by a woman but is surely actually about something unsavoury.

That was it for first quarter goals, and at 1.2.8 apiece at the first change we didn't look much like a side who'd sunk the nearly unsinkable the week before playing a side with one win against the worst team in the history of AFLW. If we lost Blacktown was going to be labelled the female equivalent of Football Park, a valley of death from which no players emerged unscathed.

Unable to convert set shots, Cunningham instead opted for brute force and kicked the first after the break by holding her opponent at arms' length to kick off the ground. This didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the guy going nuts for the Giants into the microphone. He later wilted in the heat and switched to a one man Giants *clap clap clap* routine, before being overheard having a conversation about rugby league that forced the commentators to talk over him. I was hoping they'd shut up and let us concentrate on what he was saying in case he confessed to a murder.

Watching their full back being dismissed with the greatest of ease put a hole in the Giants' resolve, and they never looked like kicking another goal before Zanker took a strong mark and converted her set shot to extend the gap to 14. That was ultimately the match-winning break we'd spurned with misses in the first quarter. The pressure on the Giants had gone through the roof since quarter time, but despite picking up holding the ball frees up and down the ground we were still unable to throw the knockout punch. On the other hand, the quality of the opposition suggested they wouldn't get the ball inside 50 enough to trouble a 16 point lead.

The killer blow finally came from who else but Fightin' Tegan Cunningham, who ran through a defence in disarray to take the easiest chest mark in history and convert. Good thing too considering Guerin had just missed running into an open goal from her handball. This insulated us against all but the most outrageous comeback, and the only Giant who still believed was the guy screaming nonsense in the crowd.

Even though the game had concluded 18 hours before I was watching I could have still done with a live ladder. Percentage is barely important, but I'd still like to have known where we stood. It would have also confirmed that GWS and their one win were still a chance of making the finals out of the dud Conference B.

Further misery might have been lumped on the locals if the ball sat better for ex-dairy farmer Shelley Scott running into an open goal, but halfway through the quarter the Giants still only had one goal and looked unlikely to even reach 33 points let alone keep us from scoring again. Scott continued to have trouble with the surface, flubbing a bounce running into an open goal.

In the interest of equalisation we did everything possible to get GWS back into the game, after the failed bounce we gave them a chance via two defenders running into each other, then gifted them their second goal from a kick-in disaster. The spirit of Dwayne Russell floated to Blacktown and took on female form when it was said that the umpire was 'sick of going for the behind flag'. Which last time I checked is the same flag used to help signify a goal. Then Leigh Montagna, who is a reasonable second division caller, suggested a Giants player was "finged". I think he meant pinged, but unsure where the F came from.

That goal cut the margin to 16, leaving us to withstand two minutes of pressure before the end of the quarter. It should have been cut to 10, with a shot after the siren assisted by gratuitously unpunished improvement of the angle during the run-in. It fell just short, meaning that we just needed one goal in the last quarter to make sure of victory. Male or female, no Melbourne side is ever immune from a goalless quarter. Recognising we needed a hand, Gay (either Maddison, Maddy or Maddi depending on who you believe) got a freebie from an umpire 50 metres away and kicked the god honest sealer.

It eventually turned into the runaway, crushing win you want against rubbish opposition, but the most pleasing part of it was that there was no major contribution from O'Dea and Paxman only ran riot in the last quarter. Goes to show there's plenty of improvement to be had over the next couple of weeks, and potentially beyond. The safe win was made even safer by Cunningham adding another from distance, and Paxman tapped one in from the line after all the Giants had given up.

The last goal came from a downfield free, with further misery heaped on GWS as it was turned into a 50. Through it went, we went home happy and the season lived. At least the players and people who watched live got to enjoy the feeling of the season being alive for a couple of hours. I checked the scores from other games immediately after the siren, discovered Adelaide had beaten North and ll this effort was wasted.

Banner Watch
Just the usual curtained, iSelect effort from us. On the other side GWS made the frankly defamatory suggestion that 'Winners are grinners. Let's put away the Demons and sinners'. I suspect they were just reaching for a rhyme rather than accusing our players of doing anything outrageous. Either that or popular Sydney religious nutbag Fred Nile had commandeered the cheersquad. Fred would have smashed the screen with his walking stick when the new occasion of 'Mardi Gras Boxing Day' was referenced during the call.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Maddison Gay
4 - Tegan Cunningham
3 - Bianca Jakobsson
2 - Kate Hore
1 - Karen Paxman

Leaderboard
17 - Lauren Pearce
14 - Karen Paxman
9 - Elise O'Dea
7 - Lily Mithen
6 - Tegan Cunningham
5 - Maddison Gay
4 - Harriet Cordner, Aleisha Newman
3 - Bianca Jakobsson
2 - Tyla Hanks, Kate Hore, Eden Zanker

Ms. Bradbury Plan
The North loss has all but put us away. We'd be 70% clear at the top of Conference B(ullshit), but instead sit fourth of five in Group A and it may come down to beating the Crows at Casey in the last round.

Nevertheless, your Ms. Plan for next week:

Geelong d. Fremantle (unlikely, but not impossible)
GWS d. Adelaide (zero chance)
Collingwood d. North (less than zero chance)

If all three of the above fail it sets up a last round where we'd need to topple the Crows, then for North to beat Freo immediately after.

Next Week
The last placed Bulldogs at Docklands, who are finished for this season based on the Conference they've fallen into. Based on that we should beat them, but nothing is certain. At least if we lose it will remove the misery of another last round exit.

Final Thoughts
If the Fremantle or North Melbourne losses taught us anything, this is a team that gets up for the big matches. Well there are two coming up so time to go full barrel and actually win a couple of close ones.

1 comment:

  1. A successful tilt at making the finals is not unlikely as it seems. If we beat the Doggies, and hoping that the difference between our and Adelaide's percentage doesn't change too much after next week's games, if we can then beat the Crows in the final round by around two or more goals we are almost a certainty to finish top two. A two goal win over Adelaide will put us past them based on current percentages, which means we only need to get past either Freo or the Kangas, and given they are playing each other, we'll do that to whoever loses (given we have a decent percentage break over them both, assuming neither gains too much this coming week, and even if they do the last round loss should largely wipe those gains out). And this is all based on the worst case scenario for us next week with all three finals rivals winning. If any stumble then our task is made easier.

    I can see one classic Dee disaster in all this, which would be in keeping with the proud traditions of the club. We beat the Doggies, and beat the Crows by enough to pass them on percentage, but some Freo or Kanga player hits the post from a set shot ten metres out directly in front with seconds to play, leveling the scores, causing the only draw of the season, keeping them both half a game clear of us, and consigning us to third.

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