Sunday, 5 May 2019

Not drowning, waving

Turn your drown upside down. We may still be as likely to make the AFL finals as the Ganmain Grong Grong Matong Lions but for once a period of turmoil ended in victory. Time to ignore all the issues that nearly tripped us up against a fellow finalist plummeting at rapid speed and party like it's 2018.

The last 10 days have had something for everyone, ending in a matchday sexperience at the final siren on Saturday. Since losing to Richmond we've had 2011-13 level boardroom leaks, an injury list expanding faster than Bruce McAvaney's pants at a horse race, next big thing Weid being banished to the VFL, and Christian Petracca having to be hauled out of a swimming pool 'distressed' after holding his breath too long during some bullshit sports science session.

It's not easy being Petracca. First he faced being picked by one of two teams that will never win a flag, then he did a knee in his first pre-season, came back to injure himself in a casual basketball shootaround, missed a game due to being bitten by a dog, and is now being held under water like a terror suspect at Guantanamo Bay. Somewhere Simon Goodwin was probably laughing like Ernst Stavro Blofeld over the irony of the players who told him where to stick his 2018 camp being denied oxygen. I liked it better when they rebelled against the plan instead of consenting to high performance waterboarding.

But after his own club turned tanking into submarining by trying to collect another number two pick on the insurance, and via the worst set shot since The Spencil dropped the ball in his run-up, Christian burst out of the water in the dying seconds like Godzilla attacking Tokyo with an immense hardball get and clearing kick to make the game absolutely safe. He battled otherwise, but instead of focusing on that they should just show him an endless loop of those last few seconds and inform him that he is now a man.

Whatever (we presume risk-assessed and safe) activities took place in the pool this week I wouldn't say our players emerged from the water as born against finalists, but it's nice to have a break from being reminded how badly this season has gone. Thankfully we're nowhere near back to the stage where every win is a major community event, it's just good to have your decision to leave the house rewarded.

Not that I travelled to the MCG with the slightest expectation. Hawthorn are entering one of those periodical dips they have before roaring back to life and winning flags, but the way we made scoring look difficult against Richmond I had zero faith in kicking a big enough total to beat a side who'd put up between 87 and 93 in five of six games. This didn't reckon on running into them in full wank-hand mode, clanging simple marks up and down the ground, spoiling each other and generally playing like they'd all just met in the car park.

Trying to draw conclusions from the warmup is dangerous, but when I saw at least three players spill simple kick-to-kick grabs I'll admit I did think "hello, what's happening here?". Usually when you get fooled like that they then do the exact opposite for four quarters, like the player who converts every set shot in practice then puts up 0.4 and two on the full. This time their pre-match form held true, and thank god for that because it was a great help.

It's remarkable, and an indictment on how bad Hawthorn were, that we were close enough to launch a comeback after half time. We might have had the opening goal, but whenever we didn't put the biscuit in the basket you saw (and this is why sitting in Row MM is so important) an orderly queue of Hawthorn players free of opponent and ready to safely transport the ball like it was inside an Armaguard truck. It was our good fortune that there was usually one failed link in the chain where somebody dropped a sitter and got us out of jail. Old Hawthorn would have been about six goals up by quarter time, but I've watched us lose to Old Hawthorn about a dozen times in the last 15 years and this was not Old Hawthorn.

Their inability to put us away looks even worse when you consider how many of our players had screamingly bad first quarters. Old Jones was in the same place as Old Hawthorn, Petracca was still scarred by his scientific dunking, Fritsch looked anything like the assured backman of last year, and Garlett was having an experience best described as 'weird'.

During his time with us (and remember, at the cost of next to nothing we've definitely had value from him), Garlett has been a generous giver of goals to others, but over the last two seasons it's like something fritzed in his head and he'd lost the ability to judge when to give the ball and when to have a shot. Early in the opening term he was very much entitled to a snap but instead gave an awkward handball that left us in a worse position, then a few minutes later appeared to spurn McDonald running towards the square on his own in favour of a low percentage goal of the week contender from the boundary line.

The fine line between stupid and clever meant that if it had bounced differently and not rolled into the post we'd have been feting his mystical skills, now he looked like a villain for not gifting a full forward who desperately needed a confidence boost. Though arguably, on watching the replay he may have been misled by McDonald pointing at goal after he gathered. That's what I'd claim in the review anyway.
It wasn't just this, he came good with a crucial tackle and goal assist in the last quarter but spent the first half going through the motions. His forward 50 tackle numbers have always been inconsistent, but from a peak of 4.09 per game in 2015 (when we were the third worst inside 50 team) he's barely getting near an opponent now. Even in his peak season for forward pressure the numbers were all over the shop from week to week, but if he's not kicking goals (notwithstanding what might have been our first 'out the back' goal of the year) or contributing defensively then why is he there? Is it just because there's no suitable alternative? I hope he bounces back but for now it's got all the hallmarks of a player approaching the end very quickly.

On the subject of players from other clubs, albeit ones who did a runner in the night rather than subject themselves to a fair trade, it was delightful to still hear $cully copping it all these years later. I don't know why you'd boo when you could use your words and call him a ******* ****** ******** but it's the sentiment that matters.

Hard to decide who was best on ground (and it certainly wasn't the $2 Million Turd, who hung around like an unflushable nugget after quarter time doing stuff all), between Hawks fans who counter-cheered him like he was a beloved club legend, or the opposition fans chiding us for maintaining the rage eight seasons and two clubs after he went to inspect the facilities. So I suppose if your partner walks out on you for another it's all forgiven once they've moved onto a third person? Congratulations Mother Teresa, have a Nobel Peace Prize.

To answer other frequently asked questions about the best feud in football:
  • You'd be mad not to recognise that the sport needs more personal issues. Until somebody else roots a teammate's wife this will have to do
  • No, we didn't rort the draft for him. We did for Trengove, who has since been chewed up and spat out by the AFL system but leaves a loved and respected figure with presumably still a few quid in the bank for his trouble.
  • Piss off if you wouldn't be equally sour in the same situation
  • Nobody's telling Adelaide fans not to go full Carnival of Hate against Lever. In fact I was keenly looking forward to that last year before he blew his knee. Fat chance 50,000 upset South Australians could put on the same carnival of epic comedy that we did in 2012.
Any other questions on the topic? I'm willing to front any Sky News People's Forum crowd of undecided fans and fight for the right to despise this bloke. His treasons would sit blushing on his face if he had more than one expression. More on him later I'm sure. Probably for the next five seasons, and for years to follow in retirement while he's buying an island in Tahiti and I'm still working like a schnook. Then again I can also live with myself knowing I didn't tell a dying man I would stay before bolting to a club that had 'secretly' employed my dad, so there is that.

Given how loose as a goose we looked whenever the Hawks got the ball, it's a credit to not only their self-destructive tendencies but our defenders that it took 15 minutes to concede a goal - and even that came from some bullshit administrative free kick for wafting past the protected area. Whatever else you reckon is wrong with footy, this answer to a question nobody asked is the number one example of what happens when you hire nitwits to sit around all day trying to dream up ways to turn a solid sport into a non-stop Harlem Globetrotters entertainment extravaganza.

We cancelled that 'make footy great again' free with a nifty close range snap from Hunt, before shutting up shop in the closing minutes of the first quarter like most games this year. Before this week we'd conceded 13.8 to 5.3 in first quarter time on. DemonTime™ traditionally comes in the last 90 seconds of a quarter, now we're working on extending it to a full 10 minutes. It was at least 2.3 to 0.0 here - and maybe 3.3 depending on when Gunston's first goal went through. He's never in a million years a Kingsley, but what a surprise that the guy who hadn't kicked one for a month would suddenly rediscover his touch against us.

Though they'd kicked two more real goals than the last three quarters against Richmond, our forward line still looked muted. McSizzle fired up after half time (much to the delight of some twat in the crowd who went off in mock surprise when he had a handball) but couldn't get near it at the start. The only impact he had, other than third degree burns from Garlett not giving him the handball, was leaving a defender on the ground in pain after clattering through him in a marking contest.

What he needs is space - compare his fifth best in the league marks inside 50 from last year (and many of them in dangerous positions) to 2019. It's a fact that until late last year his best work was done with Hogan in the side, but after Jesse was injured late Tom's numbers held up in a pressure cooker environment - until going tits up along with everyone else in Perth. I don't know if he's running to the wrong places, but go back to his first quarter against Port where he took two marks close to goal and was comfortable enough to dish a goal off to Melksham. At that stage I thought he was going to kick the ton, then for the following six weeks he's hardly had a clear run at it near goal. Still don't reckon he's 100% fit, but there were promising signs after half time.

Also, as far as barometer stats I'm also keen on contested marks. Unlike inside 50s and hitouts they have a direct impact on the game without relying on other factors to compliment them. Of course the value instantly falls if you convert a screamer into a turnover Jeremy Howe style, but until it comes back at a million miles an hour at least you've a) stopped your opponent in the contest from getting it, and b) moved the ball further away from your goal.

Some teams are going to have less than others because of the way they play, but for a side that is in love with the long bomb it's no coincidence that we've gone from third most last year to third last this time. Of the top players who contributed to a jump in the stat last year we've lost just over one per game from Hogan, 0.7 each from Gawn and Tom McDonald, 0.3 from Melksham, 0.4 from Fritsch and until today a full 0.7 from Sizzle Junior - who was our best post-Lever contested mark defender last year and only had his first of the year in his fifth start yesterday.

We were beaten 16-9 yesterday, but survived because the opposition looked after the ball like drunken sailors. We're not going to get away with that every week. This is why it's important to get Preuss going to create a contest, and the Weid up and running so he can prove an aerial threat. In his breakout five weeks at the end of 2018 Sam never had less than two contested grabs per game, this season he's had two, one and nil twice each - which is probably why he'll be lining up on the frozen tundra of Casey Fields today instead of the MCG. Still very keen on him long term (and even short term), they've just got to work on him getting him in the right spots to utilise his undoubted natural talents. When hiring our next forward coach, the assessment should include a 5000 word essay on how to best utilise him.

The last few minutes of the quarter were our worst period of the day, and given the siege we'd been under I would have been comfortable enough going in two goals behind. Then we had to watch in horror as Hawthorn spent the last 30 seconds working the ball around like a basketball team trying to take a shot with 0.1 seconds left, only to find Gunston again, well within range for a kick after the siren. It won't make a jot of difference by September when both teams are on their couch eating Pringles, but for the result on the day his hitting the post was massive. The big revival might have come after half time anyway, but I reckon if that had gone through we'd have returned for the second quarter completely deflated and struggled to reach five goals total.

After some low brow quarter time entertainment featuring fans spinning around a paint can when they probably wanted to drink the stuff, we treated our second life with appropriate respect. It may have been the worst quality quarter since about 1898 but it ended with us kicking two goals to one to trim the margin to less than 10. God only knows how considering the way we played, which just goes to show how off the boil Hawthorn are. It was a long way down from the heights of playing for a spot in the Preliminary Final seven months earlier.

The most important aspect of the second term wasn't the goals, but the way we tightened up and stopped behaving like traffic cones to be negotiated in a driving test. They had their moments on the break for the rest of the game, many of which fell apart due to somebody spoiling it all by doing something stupid like running into a teammate, but became far less terrifying viewing when we didn't have ball in hand.

There were still concerns, like a scoring opportunity created via a series of perfect handballs in the middle of the ground nearly collapsing due to excessive sharing in the forward line. This time Hunt turned down a simple snap to gift Garlett, who added another link the complicated chain by lobbing it over the top to the again creditable Billy Stretch for the finish. Almost immediately after Jeff had a potential career revival in his hands but flubbed a shot through an open goal. This was followed by Petracca's flat as a tack response to taking a mark inside 50, barely getting the ball above the man on the mark and watching it wobble through for a point like the ball was flat. Just a reminder that he kicked 26.6 in his second season, many of them set shots from outrageous positions.

That would have been a handy goal considering we'd just conceded one at the other end. It was the only one they got, coming from the sort of kick to the top of the square that would have generated about 30 goals if they'd kept doing it. This provoked some quality handbags at 20 paces arguing and pointing between Lewis and Melksham, as the Milkshake provided some constructive feedback about a contest shortly before and the bringer of leadership took offence. Four premierships or not, I know which one I'd be steaming in to support if it turned into a fight.

Wasn't all that keen on Melksham playing on the ball, he did a good enough job but has easily been our most dangerous forward this season so it seems wasteful to take him away from a spot where he can both create and kick goals. It worked against this middle of the road team, I'd argue that when we play quality we'll get more value out of him in attack.

Somehow despite our peg legged kicking for goal and random turnovers, the margin was back to nine at half time. It didn't feel in any way sustainable, but perhaps I was applying historical bias and expecting classic Hawthorn to leap out of the shadows and club us over the head. Either that or Clarko cuts such an intimidating figure that you wait patiently for him to pass you, even while he's driving a Lada Samara with the doors falling off.

Turns out reports of our demise were premature (for this week anyway), as we launched a stinging third quarter that put us in an excellent position to nearly lose a thriller. Our revival after quarter time was helped by the sort of Plan B move fans are always fanging for, James Harmes going onto a previously rampant Jaegar O'Meara and not only squashing him but collecting his own possessions at will. If you're out to get the coach you'd ask why he didn't start on him, but let's be generous and focus on the way a mid-game move paid off like a faulty poker machine.

The first half of the third quarter was where Garlett pulled away from the scrapheap at the last minute, first setting up Jones with a perfectly sensible and rational handball, then getting on the end of a lovely long kick from Sizzle Sr to run into an open goal. Against all odds that put us in front, only to lose the lead straight back in 666 fashion, with a red hot centre clearance setting up the steadier.

This was our cue to run semi-riot, with McDonald taking the lead back via a weird, curving set shot, then Hunt putting on a wonderful forward lead straight up the guts for Melksham to kick to. Ever since he became a forward Owl Energy has flowed through him and he's become a new man. We liked the odd turbo dash off half back, but he has shown himself to be a natural forward. Synthesise this kick/mark combination into a drug and let's get munted.
When two Hawks clattered into each other and allowed Neal-Bullen to pick the scraps we were within range of putting them away. A couple of wasted chances later, including Jones winning another suspect at best high contact free then missing the kick, the Hawks went down the other end for the next (and as it turns out last) leg of the Get Jack Gunston Going Again tour. That helped reduce the margin to 14 at the last break, leaving us defending into what the radio boundary rider tried to talk up as a two goal breeze. I didn't buy it, and could see us going tits up without the weather being a factor.

After Melk missed an early chance to restore the three goal gap the fun began in earnest, with Harmes nicked for his second protected area free of the day. It cost us another goal but I refuse to blame him when he was nearly closer to Richmond Station than the guy with the ball. In these circumstances I usually say "correct interpretation of an awful rule", but in light of two unpaid 50s later in the quarter I'd invite the umpires involved to don the Arabian Goggles and see if that helps them see more clearly.

By the time Jarryd Roughead landed a long bomb to put the Hawks in front I was convinced we were heading towards a GWS 2012 style avalanche. After arriving with zero expectations, then nearly throwing myself down the Ponsford Stand stairs at quarter time, now I'd been teased with a victory and wasn't taking the idea of losing very well. My attitude was not helped by this scandalous call:
Come on Andre, just because we delisted you after one Wizard Cup game there's no need to take it out on us 13 years later. I can't even imagine what the justification was for not paying that. Did he think that it would have been such a stupid thing for the Hawks player to do that it couldn't possibly have been deliberate? Fine time to stop strictly imposing the rules, shortly after gifting them a goal because the airflow around some fictional protected area had been disrupted. Later after a free the ball was deliberately thrown to the wrong player and wouldn't you know it no sanction.

If we'd lost this the force of the anti-umpire meltdown would have been proportionally on the same level as Anzac Day, only with the fans sooking on the internet instead of waiting 15 minutes after the final siren to make noises like constipated cows. Hawthorn fans later went spare sooking about a missed free as if they've been traditionally hard done by. Wait until they find out one of the umpires used to be on our list, they'll be demanding a Royal Commission.

After that I was ready to march on AFL House, before Garlett mowed down some hapless bloke in the pocket and Hunt set up Lockhart to put as ahead again. His continued good form is bad news for Charleston Spargo, owner of the greatest win/loss record in modern MFC history. Charlie has done good things, and probably will again, but Jay being nearly four years older and having a history of battling for his opportunities through various senior grades probably puts him in good stead for competing at this level for longer. If he'd missed the kick (or botched the one at the end) I'd have been lobbying for him to be sent back to Launceston in a rubber dinghy.

Then came The Centre Break. With Gawn off, Declan Keilty snatched the ball from the bounce and took off towards the forward 50 like a truck with failed brakes (he says looking out the window of his new office, at a downhill bend that will lead anybody who misses their turn straight into my lap). This ended with Harmes capping off his landslide best on ground win with a snap that should have sealed the game, and caused Dwayne Russell to make a noise like he was falling out of a tall building.

Because life wasn't meant to be easy we couldn't just kick away to a comfortable win, but instead had to concede the next one and be left to negotiate 150 seconds of terror. First Marty Hore saved our bacon by drilling Chad Wingard with a tackle (and surprisingly not being pinched for incidental fingernail contact to the back), then as Lockhart couldn't handle a spiralling, hit and hope kick to 40 the ball bounced out to a contest between Sam Frost and three Hawthorn players. Instead of that situation leading to the total disaster you'd expect, he gathered like a midfielder, ran around Turncoat Tom like the Road Runner burying Wank R. Coyote ankle deep in the MCG turf and landed a pass in Lockhart's arms with 90 seconds left.

The replay reveals a clear, whispers out of the corner of the mouth, conspiracy between Jay and the Milkshake to do something tricky, and lo the ex-Casey Demon did turn sideways and kick to a position on the boundary line where we were far less likely to register a score. As far as gaming the system went it had absolutely nothing on the ANB/Lewis shenanigans against Carlton in 2017, which came so late in the game as to entirely run down the clock. Had we been up by seven I'd have been in raptures at such a cynical manoeuvre, but one straight kick from disaster and years of the ball pinging off the Demon Trampoline for opposition scores and it felt like a one point loss in the making.

All's well that ends well but I'd much rather him have had a shot. I reckon we defend kick-ins a million times better than open play rebounds, and instead of guaranteeing at worst a draw (assuming he didn't Kernahan it out on the full) our risk of losing went through the roof. With further sideways or backwards dink unavailable, and next to zero chance of connecting with a Hunt-esque torp, Melksham just set it up to the top of the square where we've taken about one contested mark all season, only to see it effortlessly cut off without a serious contest and flung the other way.

I was no closer to a heart attack, but definitely in that catatonic state you only get while defending a narrow lead in the dying seconds. A psychological turmoil when you're so intensely invested in the finish that somebody could pop up from the seat in front calling your mother a whore and you'd just shoo them out of the way. It's a completely different feeling to chasing a winning goal, though both usually involved leaning forward, clutching furniture for support and swearing liberally.

Had I stayed in my original seat I'd have had a box seat view of our near death experience, but from the other end of the ground I missed both a mark slipping through Wingard's fingers and Frost blatantly chucking it off the deck. God knows how people who sit at ground level see anything, but even from one level up all I could make out was a melange of players grappling for the ball.

Against all odds the play went in our direction, to a contest on the boundary line where Truck ripped it away from an opponent and officially saved our bacon. Had his quick kick from the pack broken to the left and gone out of bounds I've no doubt he'd have been pinged for deliberate, but with precious few seconds left the ground gained would have insured us against anything but the luckiest long kick, mark and goal after the siren scenario. Unless we copped another 50 for one of our players failing to slow down to less than 10km/h while travelling in a north/north easterly direction on the starboard side of the closest player to the man on the mark on the first Saturday in May.

I knew we were safe, but had gone so deep into rigor sportis that I didn't even hear the siren. Only the jubilant scenes of the faithful around me (with the exception of a pair of grannies who didn't seem all that concerned) gave it away. There is no chance in hell we'll beat good teams playing like that, but for now I was satisfied just to topple Hawthorn in a home and away game for the second time in 13 years and make my first return trip to the All New Demonblog Towers as a winner.

Less pleased with our success was the 12th place getter in the 1997 best and fairest award, Alistair Clarkson. I suppose when you've coached more flags than we've won since 1959 you've got the green light to be as sour as you like, but it was still exciting when he suggested we'd be "dancing from rooftops" over this victory because they'd handed it to us. Anyone who takes serious offence is ignoring all their blunders that did just that, but what you should be more concerned about is the idea of "dancing off rooftops". I've considered leaping from heights many times while following the Dees, but never after a win.

Clarko goes into the Hall of Fame at the first available opportunity, but while I've had a grudging respect for Hawthorn since September 1996, stiff shit for recruiting players of dubious character. Now it's imperative that they never win anything again - preferably including any of those meaningless home and away match cups - so he whose real name shall not be said retires without a premiership and has to go to sleep every night (probably on a bed made of money) tormented by not getting that 50 at the end of the 2016 Preliminary Final.

Not that I'm bitter or anything...

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - James Harmes
4 - Christian Salem
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Jay Lockhart
1 - Jayden Hunt

Apologies to Oliver, Hibberd and Frost. Behind them is an enormous pack of players who were decent without excelling.

Leaderboard
The Hamburglar remains within one BOG of the lead, but now has to get through a defender and a ruckman to repeat as champion. History says that midfielders surge in voting later in the year, and if he keeps racking us possessions left, right and centre he's going to clean up in games where we don't have five good players so don't write him off yet.

In the minors it's double bad news for Marty Hore, as Salem extends his lead in the Seecamp and Last Minute Lockhart launches an unexpected bid for the Hilton. Otherwise, I'm about two weeks away from declaring Gawn the provisional winner of the Stynes. If the lead extends to 20 he's in. You'd like to think Preuss will pick up votes but is highly unlikely to reach what Maximum is on now, let alone score more. Watch this space.

17 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
12 - Clayton Oliver
12 - Jake Melksham
9 - Angus Brayshaw, James Harmes
6 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Nathan Jones, Billy Stretch, Jack Viney
3 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca
2 - Jay Lockhart
1 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd, Corey Wagner

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
A handful of decent contenders today, but difficult to look beyond Anal Bullet's contribution to the (relative) third quarter rampage. He got lucky from the Hawthorn players spoiling each other, and enjoyed the sort of bounce that was the difference between Garlett looking like a genius and a goose earlier, but I was taken by the way he kicked the ball like he was swinging a baseball bat at it. Apologies to Jones' step back into traffic in the same quarter.

Preuss from the boundary line at the SCG remains the gold standard for Melbourne goals in 2019, but for his efforts the Bullet wins an annual membership to the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Pool in Glen Iris - the venue where I came second in the 1992 bombing competition. Sure I was lucky to have received a perfect 10 in the 1m round when I slipped on the end of the board and did a full backflip, but it was a bit cruel to give me a VHS copy of Ghostbusters II as runner up when the winner got $1000 of free rentals from the local Video Ezy. If I find that video Bullet can have it too.


The only time Melbourne ever lost Banner Watch was against Hawthorn in 2014, when we went for a Chumbawamba reference that triggered repressed memories of how much I hated high school. Now, in a battle of the same opposition the Hawks have one-upped that as the greatest fiasco in the history of this segment.

'May The Fourth Be With You' jokes are comedy for the sort of people who go to the tennis and laugh at other fans yelling nonsense in a foreign accent, but in their attempts to get involved the Hawthorn cheersquad managed to completely bugger up the punchline...



... and ended up just doing a straight, out of context Star Wars reference, complete with Yoda clip art.

I can't rule out some sort of subtle inside joke or a barely discernible crack at Steven's injured groin, but let's face it they've just collectively humiliated themselves here.

Against this debacle we could have unravelled a roll of toilet paper, had players crash through that and still win comfortably but made sure of victory with a well put together and thoughtful BCNA Pink Lady design. Dees 6-1-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch
Hard to believe the purported crowd of 40,000. If it was Hawthorn's home game I'd say they got the GWS Crowd Manipulation Machine thrown in when they traded for $cully, but will just have to assume they were all up the back. Or in the case of Melbourne fans until the third quarter, in the bar sinking bulk piss.

At half time, when I thought Hawthorn were going to kick nine unanswered to open the third quarter, I decided to cross the ground (via the famous Ponsford to Olympic Cluedo hole) and get amongst the people in the Redlegs area. If we were going down I wanted to get a flavour of the community anguish. Fortunately, as the move coincided with our best quarter of the day there wasn't anyone pouring petrol on themselves or taking up signatures for an EGM.

There was, however, a lone Hawthorn fan sitting with his Melbourne supporting friends and making a poon of himself. So, not only do you pay a premium to sit in front of corporate boxes full of paralytic drunks yelling stupid shit (with the occasional C-bomb going back the other way a'la Queen's Birthday 2017) but anyone can ruin the all-MFC atmosphere by bringing a mate. I'm into the club extracting extra money by selling guest passes, but the rule should be no opposition colours and keep your voice down or you're at. Mind you, with the interest shown by the attendant as I walked in the entire Hawthorn Cheer Squad could have walked through without attracting attention.

Infiltrators are almost as much of a turnoff for that area as the idea of having to sit next to the same people every week in the Tridents. I'll keep paying extra for the guaranteed Grand Final ticket just in case it ever becomes relevant (well, last year I got to pay a non-refundable $5 fee towards Ticketek upgrading from a Commodore 64), but the best place for me is clearly somewhere around Ponsford Stand Q32, rows AA to MM.

Further confirmation that the last people you want to sit near at the footy are footy fans comes from this incident. Won't be the first time our membership counter has gone backwards, but it's an original reason. You don't know the full context of anything where the video comes in halfway, but I'd say this bloke has made a Rex Hunt of himself and will be enjoying a holiday from attending games. For about three weeks until he realises that there's fat chance of policing a ban and you can just show up in a hat.

Next Week
Gold Coast away, much improved from when we mercilessly tore them to bits at the end of last year. Like last season they've done all their best work early (albeit with three wins by a total of 10 points) and are now losing, but I dare say they're not going to lose 15 of their last 16 this time around. Or knowing our luck they will, starting by knocking us off then being thrashed for the next four months.

I missed the half of their game in Perth where they were shite and tuned in for a second half comeback that in classic MFC fashion was brave but failed because they'd left themselves with too much to do, and as such am concerned about another post-win let down against meh opposition like the St Kilda game. I'd like to think we'd win, but christ only knows which version of Melbourne will turn up.

They're the lowest scoring side in the competition, which should work in our favour, even if we'll be second worst at the end of the weekend. I live in hope that Preuss will come back to provide big time forward 50 contest and zany goals, and that McSizzle can carry on his much improved second half from yesterday and take a few hundred grabs.

My changes are pending Casey's game against Footscray, but given we've only got 10 listed players involved there's not much to choose from. Apparently Viney might be right, but haven't we learnt our lesson on rushing him back? If he needs another week for the love of all that is holy let him have it. The contentious 'contested possession = success' theory came off this afternoon, but after two down weeks I'm backing Harmes to repeat. My dreams of a Corey Maynard return have been dashed by his addition to our Civil War style injury list, out for what is currently listed as 3-4 weeks with a hip. Given our record with injuries in and around the mid-section this season it will be a miracle if he returns to Casey that quickly, let alone the seniors.

That leaves the only players in the VFL with senior experience as Petty (and then only just), Spargo, Weideman, Sparrow and Corey Wagner. There's no call for a tall defender, so barring a surprise debut from one of the others (Jordon, Baker, Chandler, Bedford) or a return by Tim Smith (who would be unlucky to miss, but Preuss comes first) the only possible changes would come from the other four. I note both vandenBerg and Kolodjashnij (crazy names, crazy guys) are both now displayed on the injury report as 'TBC', which is a polite way of saying 'rooted'.

We love one game stints so I wouldn't be surprised if Weideman had half a game and was recalled, but would say more likely one of the other three for Garlett. Having said that, winning covers everything up, so I'm going to give Jeff (still not Jeffy no matter how much you want it) another go. This is the last chance though, our season is all but through, people who aren't going to be there next year may need to shuffle off and give what few kids we have a go.

On that note, I have zero interest in Lewis playing for us again but am not convinced there's a replacement that doesn't leave us equal to or worse off. If Jetta was around I'd tell Lewis thanks for your service, and please feel free to stick around and help Casey win a flag, but for now he might just have to stay. It's nothing personal, but nobody has been shot like this since the original JFK.

We're hardly original recipe GWS and needing to play Brogan, Cornes, Power and Saint Junior McDonald to teach kids what to do, but until we get other defenders back, or your James Jordons of the world bang the door down we may just have to carry on and hope that whatever off-the-ball and training ground shit he's doing outweighs him being nearly baked on both sides in an on-field capacity.

So, if fit (and by god why would you be at this club?) the novelty goal kicking ruckman returns and Keilty goes out with apologies. He is welcome to have another crack later in the year, and if it doesn't work out we'll always have that storming centre clearance to remember him by.

IN: Preuss
OUT: Keilty (omit)
LUCKY: Garlett, Lewis
UNLUCKY: Keilty, Weideman, anyone who is fit

Mid-Season Draft Watch
The full list of nominations are out, and on May 27 our options include Ben Kennedy, The Spencil or Jimmy bloody Toumpas. Obviously for my own personal gratification I want the Spencil back to cover for Gawn and Preuss and cause a constitutional crisis over his eligibility for life membership but it's just not going to happen. Clubs could do worse if they just need a backup big man to park in the 2s, he was just starting to get going nine years later when Gawn temporarily made playing a second ruckman pointless.

It's not like you have to pick ex-players, but he familiar names are the ones your eyes go to first. Not sure Mitch White has done anything at Casey to suggest an improved AFL career second time around, Ben Kennedy was ok but not going to add anything spectacular, it's too soon for Dion Johnstone, and you know what I'd almost be down for a surprise Toumpas return. We did our best to wreck him once, why not buy him on loan for 12 weeks and see if we can't complete the job?

I wouldn't know what 95% of the other nominees are all about, but I do note Queen's Birthday intercept mark world record holder Adam Oxley on the list. Should May's grundle keep dissolving at warp speed we could get him in on the 'played well once against us' rule. Otherwise we need players who are a realistic chance of slotting into the seniors within a few weeks.

Unless it's absolutely necessary I'm wary of defenders, because it feels like they need more time to develop a (Simon Goodwin cliche alert) connection with their teammates. We're not exactly going to find an immediate replacement for Lewis in this collection of state league players and cast offs are we? This article suggests key position players are in more demand than smalls, but we're more likely to find some Austin Wonaeamirri style instinct forward (coincidentally yesterday was the 11 year anniversary of that comeback) who we can get a few good weeks out of before coaching all the natural flair out of his game and ensuring that he has zero joy of the game left by the start of next season.

Pending further carnage by the end of Round 10 or an early retirement we've got at least one pick due to the maiming of Aaron Nietschke, he who kicked off the black death injury plague. It's impossible to find the full rules of this draft, but surely we don't get to replace Category B rookie Guy Walker (crocked shoulder) with a regular player now, when the whole point of getting him for nix was that he hadn't played footy for years.

If all else fails dip into the draft silly names candidates like 'Honest' Abe Ankers, Sunny Brazier, Rory Buggle, Declan Hardisty, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Quintin Montanaro, Nathan Mullenger-McHugh, Jydon Neagle, Cody Ninyette, Haiden Schloithe, Brede Seccull, Edyn Sibbald, Adam Swierzbiolek (I don't want to declare a name silly just because it's ethnic but that would be tremendous), Brynn Teakle, Matthew Uebergang or Dillon Viojo-Rainbow. Shame Freddie Clutterbuck isn't still on the scene.

Was it worth it?
Yes, very much so. At quarter time you'd have got a significantly different answer, and had Wingard held that mark and Buckenaraed us then I might have had to be fished out of the Yarra before writing this, but under the circumstances of what actually happened I was thrilled to be there. Took six weeks but that's the always tricky 'win attended in person' bingo square ticked off.

Final Thoughts
After a few seconds of reflection after the siren I was out of the there. It was a ballsy win, and they should be commended for pulling it off, but after getting sucked in by scenes of jubilation in the rooms after the Sydney game I'm not going to take things over the top until we back up next week.

Happy for Goodwin to enjoy a Dean Bailey-esque outpouring of emotion on the bench, but as a long distance observer I still don't trust we can keep it together enough to stay even the longest shot of making the eight. By this time in seven days we could be a game and significant percentage out of the eight, if the playing group and the coaches can't harness that to knock over a wobbling Gold Coast then we never deserved a third chance to start with.

12 hours later the other love of my sporting life AFC Wimbledon escaped the drop by the skin of their teeth. It was a good day:


1 comment: