Sunday, 21 July 2019

Standard 'post delayed' notification

No chance of a post until Monday evening at the earliest. Good thing that nobody gives a rat's tossbag about this season anymore.

Keep an eye on Twitter or Facebook for a link. In the meantime send any thoughts on the game via the usual channels and I'll incorporate/shamelessly steal them.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Same old story

When you're having a bad season there's nothing like the games where you might win but probably won't. As such, this contest was greeted with all the excitement of a trip to the dentist and ended equally as painfully.

In these circumstances advantage goes to the confirmed mid-table mediocrity. Anybody who's seen us start as favourite in similar circumstances would know this doesn't always translate to a win, but it was hard to picture a way we were going to win with a list full of battered players who are as desperate to wrap things up and get on with next year as the rest of us.

They could have caught the opposition unaware and made a pre-2020 statement by kicking a massive score, but given we were playing without a forward line I suppose it was a bit too much to ask for a win so massive it put the Fitzroy Bulldogs back on the agenda.

So in the end it was another defeat that means stuff all to our season. How very 2007-2009 and 2011-2015. I felt like three seasons of being close to - or god forbid once IN - the finals would give me an insatiable taste for being in the running but the overwhelming sense of being in limbo feels like a homecoming. Cast your mind back to Round 17, 2015, where we lost by kicking a sad six goals and were left on five wins with Carlton and Gold Coast immediately below us. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 2015 we ripped out a surprise, organisation lifting win against Collingwood the next week, picked up another win in the last round and were pretty happy with ourselves. This year we might get to seven if we're lucky, but it's a hell of a comedown from a pair of finals wins in front of 180,000 people.

When you're left fighting to win seven games and possibly avoid the bottom three you've got troubles, so even though Footscray has spent most of the time bobbing up and down doing nothing since winning a flag it felt right that they won here. What a long way down either of the wins over them last year, now we're just adrift and floating aimlessly to the end of the season. Too many injuries, too few inside 50s that hit forwards even when we had them and too much tossing off over contested footy at the expense of everything else.

I'd say you can't play Carlton every week, but by next Sunday night they'll have beaten Gold Coast and gone above us on the ladder so perhaps we should be happy to have played three winning quarters against them. That's not a great advertisement for the year, but you'd have to be emerging from a coma not to realise that this campaign has been shithouse from day 1 of pre-season training.

Compared to some years five wins is still a tally to be grateful about, but given that none have been by more than four goals and our total winning margin against the two (current) bottom teams is five points you can't help but get a bit grim. But you've got to play out the season, and the mark of a group nearly squashed flat with adversity is how they carry themselves to the line. Yesterday we lost due to having all the poise of a horny teenager about to get laid for the first time but at least we tried for four quarters. That's literally all that's left to cling on to.

I was never worried about a thrashing, the Dogs are hardly an attacking juggernaut and we'd finally got our Round 1 backline on the park in Round 17. My key concern was kicking the lowest Australian football score ever under a roof. To say we had no came in with no forward line would be an understatement. Not only was McDonald fully crocked for the season but Weideman lost his chance to be #1 when he went down hurt as well.

We've spent years trying to play without half-forwards but this was the full enchilada. Given how our scoring has been this year (now up to 73 per game. Which, if you're wondering, is still shit) with a full complement of talls to pick from there were two options - find an alternative avenue to goal or kick 2.6.24. I didn't foresee a third option, the emergence - temporary anyway - of a new tall forward.

If Preuss/Weid was an unlikely combination, the double take when I discovered Harrison Petty was down there nearly caused whiplash. In all the joy of getting Lever and Jetta back I didn't even notice he was still in the side. By the end we might have lost, and he was nowhere to be seen in the last quarter, but he might have just found a way to keep himself in the side without having to wait for defenders to get injured or suspended.

Good thing he unexpectedly dropped in and kicked three, because even those only helped us to a paltry nine goals. RIP after one week to my theory of Channel 7 getting all the adds they wanted if they pitted mid-table and lower sides against each other.

Sadly, at the other end of the spectrum Preuss had his #freerickypetterd moment a week later than expected and couldn't get near it in attack. I'm not laying the blame entirely on him, he was only supposed to be a pinch hitting forward not the leader of the pack.

Still thought he was good when he got a chance in the ruck, but given that Max isn't going anywhere it will have the people who recruited Preuss in the first place nervously adjusting their collars and thinking it might not work as well as expected. I say keep going, but like a Trump fan who is too far down the rabbit hole to admit their man is a bit rapey I've gone too hard on the Preuss for the 1s campaign to pull back now. Otherwise don't mess around, flip him to a team that could do with a #1 ruckman (Essendon?), recruit the Spencil as a backup and let's move on.

If there was anything to this game outside of getting close and accidentally discovering a prospective forward, it was the long awaited first meeting of our backline outside the rehab group. Lever and Jetta were rusty as fuck, Hibberd and Frost put on their usual high octane, high risk performances and Gawn may as well be counted amongst them for all his cameo appearances, but the main event was May and Salem. Now that's a combination to spark joy. I don't care about what Josh Kelly does with his life or that May got on the piss while in rehab, this is a combination for dedicating your life to with an almost religious fervour.

The defenders' reunion nearly ended as quickly as the Jetta-less one on Queen's Birthday. I've watched enough episodes of Air Crash Investigation to see a midair collision coming, and it didn't take long before Lever and Frost tried to do a cover version of the Tenerife Disaster by trying to intercept the same kick. They survived the impact, but at the cost of leaving a Dogs player to snap through an unguarded goal.

He let us off the hook by missing, the first of three wide open goals they flubbed from a similar spot in the first quarter. We were also favoured by a failed attempt to play on after marking directly in front of goal. This was a surprise, the article about their recent poor conversion should have set off a reverse media curse that ended with a final score of 16.1.

It was very charitable of them to keep us in it, even with the Kingsley Manor lights flicking on and off like they were calling for help. First we let in one of two goals to somebody called 'Roarke' who looks like a fringe Home and Away character and before yesterday had one goal since 2015, then Josh Schache joined in and Kent was karted off in an ambulance.

'Roarke' (surely not his birth name) was at the high end of the Dogs' silly haircut faction. At least his long blonde locks invoked memories of Warwick Capper, unlike the several of his teammates getting about with mullets. You couldn't be a Melbourne fan if you weren't into irony and self-deprecation but while it's one thing to have joke hair for the two hours a week you're on TV where's your dignity for the other 166? I didn't like Lynden Dunn's pissy moustache and I'm not crazy about whatever Oliver's doing with his barnet, but if any of our players ever appear with a mullet I'll write him off immediately. I'd rather somebody with neck tatts because you know they're in it for the long haul.

Things were much as expected, we weren't leaking goals at any great rate but were struggling mightily to kick them. Hunt took one good forward 50 mark and continued his good work from the Blues game, but otherwise we were always in full hit and hope territory.

We still dragged the margin back to one at quarter time courtesy of a pair of rarities. First a goal from a forward 50 stoppage without Gawn in the ruck, as Petty's (?) contest ended with Lewis (??) bustling through the pack and striking a lovely soccered goal. Then almost as strangely, Christian Petracca converted a set shot. As he lined up a graphic said he was 8.6 for the season and I instinctively yelled "LIES!" at the TV. But through it went, only for him to even the ledger by missing an easier one in the last quarter.

My favourite bit of the first quarter was the 10 minutes when Petracca was in everything. I was watching with another member of the faithful who pointed out there was no chance he'd play that way for four quarters. Even I wasn't mad enough to believe that, but would three quarters be too much to ask for? Apparently yes, as his stats look ok but his impact was reduced to next to nothing. I like Trucking and I like to Truck but one of our many off-season projects should be devising a way to keep him involved all day. Otherwise he's heading into Jack Watts territory, years of being serviceable but inconsistent before being traded to Port Adelaide.

Speaking of the 2014 AFL National Draft I'm increasingly suspect that they're going to turf Brayshaw at the end of the season. Show me the deal and I'll tell you if I'm for or against it, but if it addresses any of our other glaring deficiencies sign me up. They don't seem keen on playing him in the guts, so what's the point of having him there at all. Mind you, if he was going to be sold better to fatten his price with the same sort of bulk possessions that unexpectedly vaulted him to third in the Brownlow so maybe it's just the usual Melbourne style ruining of a promising career.

When Sam Lloyd kicked two to start the second quarter a call came through live from the ambulance letting us know that they'd just had to sedate Kent before he did a blanket induction on the entire Bulldogs list. We didn't look likely to kick another two goals for the day so it could have been a match-winning break, before another rare moment, the back-to-back first career goalkickers. First Petty, then Dunkley.

There was much made of Dunkley booting a goal over his brother's head, but fair to say the one with 39 disposals, 15 tackles and 3 future Brownlow votes took family honours. Our one shows promise (maybe not 39 disposals worth), but compared to playing Carlton this exposed how far back he's starting from. Again, when he got the ball he knew what to do with it but is well off the AFL pace. He's certainly worth another year of development, but for now looks exactly as you'd expect from a player plucked from nowhere six weeks ago. Like a pre-injury Weid, we may as well give him a run when there's nothing to lose.

Also off the pace, and in this case further than a harness horse with a busted leg, was Mitch Hannan. We all love the 2018 Elimination Final and accept that he's had a difficult year with injury but he's offered little since returning and yesterday was the worst game of the lot. How do you play 78% of a match in modern football and only get three possessions? There's not much in the reserves as a replacement but time for a spell anyway. He's probably haunted by the vision of that bloody ball not rotating one more time against the Blues.

In comparison to crying out for more than the eight combined touches of Dunkley and Hannan, there were 35 from Jones and Neal-Bullen that we could have done with a lot less of. Jones has been prematurely written off in some circles but this is the second time in 2019 I've been moved to say that it's the worst game I can remember him playing. Still worth seeing if he can kick a goal, almost nobody else can.

As for Anal-Bullet, he can't get to the end of this season quickly enough. He has a bash but is just so tentative when he gets the ball. When it's bobbling about inside 50 and you don't have a teammate standing alone in the square nobody's going to hang you for having a shot. Except when your snaps have the power of a man that's had his thigh muscles removed. I can't decide who I'd want snapping for my life less between him and Charlie Spargo.

There were precious few positives, but when Petty got his second I was half tempted to ditch my commitments, sprint out the door and head straight for Docklands. After seeing Jamar and Blease kick five, the idea that I'd miss another unusual player doing it gave me more concern than the actual result. He pulled up after an impressive three. Can take a mark, can kick straight, give me more of that for the rest of the year.

Just when you dared to dream (about a opening a gap on 17th), we were dudded by one of those classic bullshit free kicks that is probably technically correct but makes you want to gouge your eyes out and take up audio description of another sport. As is his want against mortals, Gawn was clobbering every opponent who went near him, so instead of properly contesting a ruck dual one of them just jumped into his outstretched arm and got a free.

I understand that you're not allowed to just push a guy out of the way with a straight arm (though personally I reckon people would go wild if ruckmen could maul each other in the contest) but there's a big difference between that and putting your arm out straight and having the guy jump into it. Add that square up for Jeff White 2005 to the goal they got earlier from a 'play on' 20 metres forward of the ball after all our players had stopped and wonder why Dogs fans sooked so loudly about the umpiring that I started to wonder if Ross Oakley had been right. By the end both sets of fans thought they'd been horribly done by, but Footscray got to console themselves with a win.

Nobody reacts to bullshit frees like Maximum, and he responded with the immortal line "that's ruck craft, big boy" to a hapless whistleblower. Sorry Max, ruck craft doesn't create as many goals as frees in front of goal. Gawn could already be best on ground 22 times in a row and they wouldn't give him the Brownlow so belittling an umpire should completely kill off his chances. Suffice to say the rest of the afternoon was spent with ruckman straight arming each other, but the free was never paid again.

Until that happened we were - somehow - winning the quarter. It only left us still a point behind, which was a pretty good result considering we weren't playing at all well. God help us against the Eagles, Richmond, Collingwood and Bellerive Oval in the next six weeks. Or St Kilda and the Swans come to think of it. Why shouldn't they take their chance to sneak a cheap win by the end of the season as well?

Under the circumstances I was thrilled to get to half time on six goals. I could easily see our all new steel trap defence holding another side to 41 but didn't expect to get anywhere near that ourselves. The backline nearly saved us too, only conceding another four goals for the second half. Which is great, except when you kick 3.8 in response. They started it, opening the third quarter with seven behinds in a row before we wiped out all but one of them in an instant. An experienced defender was so concerned with Harrison Petty of all people he held onto him like somebody trying not to fall off a boat and gave away our seventh goal.

After 15 minutes of barely holding them out what do we do after kicking a goal? That's right, give it back about 30 seconds later. I hope Tom McDonald didn't kick something in anger at seeing that. I was certainly on my feet and had the leg poised before thinking better of it after the big boot near the end of the Gold Coast game crippled me for about three days. That was it for third quarter goals. Stiff shit Channel 7, take another zero off your broadcast rights offer.

We ended the quarter taking our turn to miss a bunch of shots, leaving us a goal behind at the last change. Deep down I didn't really care if we won, and now less than 24 hours later I'm not even moderately affected by the result, but at the time it meant something. As they're going to write on my gravestone 'it's the hope that kills you'. I didn't expect to win at the start, in the middle, or for most of the end, but give me a sniff of Grand Theft Four Points and I'm there with my full range of emotions.

If the 0-1 first goal is the Bailey Quarter, this was the Bayley Quarter, as Fritsch both started and ended it. When he got the first to level it up within a couple of minutes it looked like we might even be a chance. It would have been wrong to win but that's never worried me yet.

The beginning of the end was a Petracca set shot. Where was Mr. 9.6 when we could have struck a vital blow early in the last? His grab was a thing of beauty, his kick not so much, and *BOING!* the ball flew down the other end for a goal. I'm not blaming him for the quick transition, but if he's going to take massive grabs I'd rather him do it in the middle of the ground where we seem to lose every aerial contest. If we're not last in the AFL for contested marks outside the 50s I'd be astounded. I'm not even concerned if we take the marks (because as the Jeremy Howe era showed he world's greatest mark means squat if the following disposal is a turnover) but a contest that stops the other side from doing it would be nice.

After dropping into defence to save us all day the next goal came directly from Gawn confusing fantasy and reality and trying to screw a kick around his body from hard on the boundary line. He put it straight out on the full, and after his mates missed every easy shot under the sun Lachie Hunter did a full Hipwood job on us from the boundary. When another followed not long after I'm sure plenty of Melbourne fans stood up and left. They were right about where it was going but there was a bit of a tease to come first.

I like May as a defender so much that he'll probably end up taking a restraining order out on me, but I'm glad they recognised the game was shot and threw him forward instead of just merrily losing. Like Petracca he took a beautiful contested mark but also missed. Nevertheless, what a man. I wish we'd got the chance to wreck his career five years ago before Gold Coast could really put him away.

Ironically, after the opposition spent three quarters spurning simple chances our last chance of salvation disappeared via the same method. First Fritsch saved our bacon by finishing after everyone else had buggered around trying to get somebody else to kick the goal. Which was good.  Then he got a free for being held. Which was also good. Until from not far out on a more than kickable angle he ran around for the quick snap and missed. Which was all kinds of shit.

Sadly, even if he thought time was about to expire 23 minutes into the last quarter it still wouldn't be our worst clock management incident at Docklands Stadium.

This is where watching on TV is no good. They were halfway through a replay of the free then cut back to it flying through for a point, leaving about 0.5 of a second where your brain can't process what's happened and you know something bad has happened but not why. If you're in the ground you can see him running around and shout "nooooooooooooooo" as if it's going to stop him. If it went through we'd be lauding him for it, but he didn't so it was a dumb idea.

There was enough time left if we could get two quick goals, but after scoring at the rate of about one every 13 minutes until then it was going to take something unusual to happen. It did not, the Dogs casually played the remaining time out and remain on the fringes of the finals race, while we're back to scouring draft profiles. For now it's all about breathing deeply and dreaming of a revival next year. I am going to feel SO cheated 12 months down the line when we're still no good.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Steven May
4 - Christian Salem
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Harrison Petty
1 - Max Gawn

Apologies to Fritsch, Harmes, Hibberd, Lewis, Lockhart, Oliver and Petracca.

With 30 votes left to play for Maximum clamps that little bit tighter onto the cup. The line of elimination is slowly snaking up the table, ready to swallow everyone from Melksham to Petracca next week.

In the minors, Hore is holding on to the Hilton, but it's all over in the Seecamp. Salem might have given a point back to May but no matter how much work the defenders have to do until the end of the season I can't see him reeling in a further 19 votes. Congratulations to Christian for becoming the second man behind four-time winner James Frawley to capture the award twice.

39 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
32 - Clayton Oliver
28 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year),
17 - Jack Viney
14 - Jake Melksham
13 - Angus Brayshaw
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Nathan Jones, Christian Petracca
--- Abandon all hope ye below here ---
8 - Steven May
7 - Jayden Hunt
6 - Jay Lockhart
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Sam Frost, Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner
1 - Michael Hibberd

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Forget the four flags, it's Jordan Lewis' time to shine. For all the shit that's been hung on him in the last year of his career (and the second last, and parts of the third last) the goal he created in the first quarter was an A+ crumb from a forward stoppage. It was just the sort of thing we haven't done enough this year. Let's not get over-excited and give him a contract to play as a small forward but it was a welcome cameo. For the weekly prize he wins a Carpet Call voucher so he can get his syrup retouched before launching a full-time media career in 2020.

Marty Hore still leads overall. Which must be some consolation for having a broken collarbone.

The "yay we survived" banner from the Dogs was well received but they need to employ a poet to make sure the lines scan properly because it had less rhythm than a dirty limerick. What I did like was their cheersquad holding retro UP YOURS OAKLEY and NO MERGER signs. Unfortunately that's not the sort banners we're judging the competition on.

The only heartstrings ours tugged at were for people who enjoy kerning, ledding and proper rhyming couplets. Much love to Bulldogs fans everywhere for still having a club (which means bad luck Fitzroy supporters I suppose) but you're shit out of luck in this category.  Dees 15-1-0 for the season.

Sadly in a commentary box featuring Joel Selwood and Leigh Matthews, BT didn't duck into a king hit so an adult could take over. Instead we got to hear about a player called "Preust" all day. Is he any relation to Trengrove, Jarrah, McClean and Maloney?

Meanwhile special comments Selwood was probably responsible for boring several elderly members of the viewing audience to death. He might have been a good enough footy player to jump straight into the seniors but he could do with a season or two in the Reserves before graduating to special comments.

Next Week
Stranger, more remarkable things have happened in the history of human civilisation, but if we beat West Coast my jaw will permanently dislocate from dropping so hard. Wouldn't matter if the game was in Alice Springs, Perth, Melbourne or Timbuktu they're going to dismantle us in a fashion that will make the Prelim look like child's play (and given our plight this year any chance of a media ban on mentioning how spectacularly we shit the bed that day?)

I dipped in and out of the Casey game but there was very little of interest. A side very light on for Melbourne listed players with any experience wobbled along for three and a half quarters before launching a fruitless fightback. Double J James Jordon could get a start by the end of the year but no need to ruin his senior career from day 1 with a lamb to slaughter scenario against the Eagles. Otherwise, nothing came out of it that we haven't seen before. JKH and Corey Wagner get a go to reward VFL form, and will presumably then go straight back out again.

IN: Kennedy-Harris, C. Wagner
OUT: Neal-Bullen, Hannan (omit)
LUCKY: Dunkley
UNLUCKY: Baker, Jordon, J. Wagner, Weideman

Pick whoever you like, it's not going to help. As they say in the classics...

Final thoughts

Get this rubbish season over with.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Survivor Series

Unless you're Geelong or Kevin Rudd nobody thinks of 2007 fondly*. Especially when it comes to football. I recall it as the middle period of internet broadcast technology, where you still had to listen to lo-fi radio commentary through a website but still thought that was pretty bloody good compared to the days where you were shit out of luck anywhere beyond the Melbourne metropolitan area.

That was my lot last time there was a Melbourne/Carlton game I didn't see in person, listening to Ricky Petterd quite literally bust a lung on a computer barely running Windows 95 in a Thai internet cafe with headphones so unsanitary I was lucky not lose my hearing to an eardrum eating virus.

Since that day we've had a cavalcade of memories both good and bad. From their shameless tanking in the last round of '07, to winning by the ton for the first time in 15 years via Jamar's five, the pro-Viney headband extravaganza after 186, that Pedersen goal, losing to them while they were in crisis in 2015, seeing the Mighty Ducks Finish go up in smoke the next year and 2017's Lewis/Neal-Bullen clock management scam.

Now, 12 years later the internet has further enhanced our lives. Not only have services like Google News Archive, Trove, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube and *ahem* Demonwiki made life worth living, but live streaming technology saves you from a fate worse than death if you can't be at the game. What a wonderful world. I've spent a lot of time in the last week watching games from the early 1980s and realising how much better the field looked without a 50 metre arc, but imagine going back to before mass bandwidth internet. For me, that would be hell.

In Round 14, 2007 we won comfortably (apparently I had such contempt for the reading audience that there wasn't even a real report) so there was no need to get overly excited. In contrast, my actions yesterday would have had me banged up in the Bangkok Hilton. There was also blasphemy by the boatload, as the lord's name was taken in vain several dozen times.

I can't help it, watching Melbourne does uncomfortable things to me physically and mentally. It's my version of people's personalities changing when they get on the piss. It wasn't always like this. With the exception of saying mean things to an old man during Round 2, 1999, punching buggery out of a seat in 2000 and yelling "fuck you!" into the face of a lippy St Kilda fan in the 2006 finals, I was generally quite calm before 2007. It wasn't until 186 when I really flipped out.

In our eventual 2065 Australian Robot Football League premiership review this game will not rate the slightest mention. In isolation it was nothing more than a crisis-averting win where we slipped on a banana skin, did a full flip and landed unsteadily on our feet. But for those of us who saw it live it was a finish only slightly less bonkers than Gold Coast. After that game we ranked all the close wins since 1990, and this would have ranked very highly on the 'insane finish' scale. It wouldn't get past mid-table on the overall list because there was no real importance attached to the result, but if you still didn't nearly haemorrhage from every orifice when Hannan's shot stopped on the line check your pulse to make sure you're still alive.

Let's get the caveats and exemptions out of the way first. No they didn't have Charlie Curnow or Cripps (by the end all the crips were on our bench), and yes a ruthless team would have taken advantage of their bumbling, Three Stooges footy to be so far in front by three quarter time that we could have had zero last quarter rotations and won. Firstly, cry me a river about injuries, and b) it's well established we're about as ruthless as a chihuahua in 2019 so you'll just have to take it for what it was.

It's not like we were at full strength either, lacking the most colossal ruckman in the game. Luckily  we had a more than capable backup in the form of internet sensation Braydon Preuss. I don't know how close Gawn came to playing, but not picking Preuss in the first place felt like a hamfisted plot to fool Carlton into thinking he might. I'd have had them both in the original 22 then pulled Gawn for Kyle Dunkley at the last minute. Maybe they really contemplating running Max around all day on a dud ankle in a meaningless game without a proper backup to try and prove... something. I'd much rather it be a poor attempt at disinformation than a reckless scenario like that.

Unlike Juice Newton II, John Meesen, Free Ricky Petterd, and all the other players we've launched hurt feelings internet campaigns for in the past, Preuss' much awaited appearance was a raging success. He beat an accomplished ruckman in the middle and did all sorts of Gawnish stuff around the ground. Shame his chance had to come because of injury, but considering how well we're going this year it's understandable that a guy we specifically set out to trade for in the off-season can't get a game right?

It was ace. Problem is he'll never get to do it again once Maximum comes back. We all want Gawn to play until his 52, but imagine if Preuss realises he's never going to be #1, whacks in a trade request and ends up at a club where he can be THE man. Today seemed to demonstrate he can go four quarters easily, and that blowing up like the Hindenberg in pre-season had more to do with it being a 35 degree day than his own fitness concerns. He looked exhausted by the end, but at the same age Gawn was also finishing games like he was about to die.

In other news, because I watched with people who don't take this rubbish nearly as seriously as me, it was pointed out that his website profile photo looks like somebody wearing an old tyme comedy moustache. Now I'll never be able to gaze at his photo without thinking of him as old moustache lips.

The sad thing is that until McDonald was injured Preuss was probably going straight back out of the side anyway, because there is clearly no appetite at coaching level from playing his as a forward. I wouldn't be surprise if they give him the boot next week anyway and try a like-for-like surname swap by playing Oscar McDonald at full forward.

Even if sanity prevails when Max returns, Weid/Preuss is a pretty weird forward combination. I'm hoping that BP's brick shithouse physique creates contests that allow Weid to float in from the side and take grabs. They had better make the most of it, I can't imagine the coaches offering a second chance if they're not competitive. Weideman especially needs to get amongst it. I stand by my theory that you just have to play him for the rest of the year no matter what - especially without McDonald - but my resolve wobbled yesterday when he was generally naff.

To say this was an unusual game would be an understatement. We went in with half-decent form, but supporters everywhere (myself very much included) were terrified of the Caretaker Coach Effect carrying Carlton through another week. Usually replacements preside over a few weeks of vastly improved footy, and rope journos into speculating that they might get the job permanently before everyone else twigs about what they're doing and the team slides back into filth.

It's a bit more advanced when we do it. Both Greg Hutchison and Mark Riley started with wins but were back in the doldrums two weeks later, Todd Viney started with a big loss, then dragged us through the last five weeks without disgracing himself, and even Neil Craig had three solid weeks and a win as stand-in captain of Air Farce One before we resumed kicking four goals a game and damaging the AFL's brand.

This was week five for David Teague, so I had high hopes of the effect fizzing just in time to save us from dropping to 17th. They certainly came in on a high, winning last week in a finish that (finals implications aside) nearly equalled Tom McDonald at Subiaco for white-hot lunacy. Marc Murphy standing like Steven Seagal in a gunfight, ducking and weaving bullets before straightening up and shooting Freo between the eyes was nearly the best non-MFC thing I've seen since Mark Williams choked himself with a tie.

At first it looked like Carlton had run themselves to a standstill in Perth, but I had major issues trusting any sort of lead against the sort of Stranglewankin' team that has twice came back from five goals down to win, and once to fall agonisingly short in their last three games. Especially when we're notorious for doing everything right except putting the ball through the middle posts. The actual gulf in class between the sides meant nothing, I had The Fear.

We proved to be the superior footballing outfit in the opening minutes but since when has that ever meant anything to us? In summer, the women can't put a side away, and in winter the men often have the final punch ready before half time but fail to throw it. In addition to a raft of psychologists, we need a sick building syndrome consultant to check the AAMI Park air vents. Whatever toxic forces are at work they don't seem to affect Melbourne Storm players.

In their home game the Blues went out of their way to be as charitable as possible, turning the ball over at every opportunity and leaving acres of space for us to work in. That's not always a good thing, sometimes our players see excessive space and become unrealistic about their capabilities. Chief offender yesterday was Bayley Fritsch. Like a lower profile Travis Johnstone he's like a roulette wheel, there's a near 50% chance of his kicks being either awesome or absolutely dreadful. It was a little bit ahead of the ledger yesterday, but best of luck pulling that off against sides that can defend to even the barest AFL stand.

Speaking of dreadful kicks, have you ever seen us try to score a goal? The first quarter may have delivered four, but was also full of players saying "no you first", "no you first", "no I really do insist" and trying to get somebody else to have the shot. After five minutes of pressure where did everything other than kick goals, it took converted forward Liam Jones to give converted defender Tom McDonald a hectare of space and the first decent shot of the game. Which McSizzle proceeded to kick out on the full from close range.

If you'd told me then he was going to equal his personal best of six in a game but not play again for the rest of the year I'd have only believed you about the latter. Next thing you know he's taken advantage of spectacularly inept defending to go into quarter time with three under his belt. It was quite the turnaround, but the poison mist of #fistedforever wasn't far away.

The third goal was the best, the sort of quick kick out of pack that we've been dying for this year, but it lacked the comic value of his second. We were pressing so hard that even Hibberd got forward for a point, only for the seven point play to come off courtesy of it being kicked in right down Tom's throat.

For now we not only kicked goals - even if it took a few tries - but immediately went back into attack after. For much of the quarter the Blues didn't look like getting anything, to the point where I was tempted to see who we last held scoreless in a first quarter but thought that was tempting fate a bit. Turned out to be St Kilda at Waverley in Round 10, 1994, and we haven't done it on the MCG since 1964.

Even allowing for Carlton's recent comebacks I couldn't foresee a way that we could (on the assumption that all our players ended the game upright) ease up enough to lose. Then we gave suckers an even break, let them get it out of their defensive 50, Marty Hore became the first domino to go down when he burst his collarbone and it was on. They got two of the last three goals, even the unbelievably maligned Levi Casboult was kicking accurately and we looked a lot more vulnerable at 30:00 than we had at 20:00.

Two goals to nil in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter restored some calm to my innards. We were still not playing like a finals team (which is lucky, because we won't be one), but seemed to be holding them at enough of a distance that their spirit would eventually break. In a way it did, but at the same time we were shedding healthy players at a rapid rate without setting up enough of a buffer to insure ourselves against a storming finish.

The slow-moving rot began when we executed our most famous move, wasting a Tom McDonald goal within 30 seconds, before ending the half peppering shots for no reward. The main culprit was Anal-Bullet, who had 0.3 and looked tremendously ropey around goal. He wasn't alone. Only making it to the break 25 points up despite undoubtedly being the better side seemed a prelude to disaster.

We were ahead in every aspect of the game. Lewis was tagging Murphy into the ground, Preuss was beating Kruezer, and the backline had their counterparts smothered. I still felt uneasy that we weren't double the margin in front, and that even one player short on the bench it was asking for them to have another go at us.

For the third time we started a quarter in an excessive hurry to get the game over with. McDonald got his fifth, and enjoyed the rare feeling of seeing it not only come back our way after but going through for consecutive goals. This is where the bitterness kicked in. At this point we still had 21 fit players and were cannoning towards a score over 100, then proceeded to spend the rest of the quarter handing goals back to the Blues almost immediately after getting them.

The sorry tale was:

  • 03:53 Hunt begat 05:12 Silvagni, which made me upset
  • 08:53 Weideman begat 10:01 Silvagni, which made me angry
  • 23:53 Petracca begat 25:42 Casboult, which caused me to rip my headphones out and hurl them as violently as you can when they're still connected to the computer
  • 27:19 McDonald begat 30:14 Setterfield, but at least we held out for a couple of minutes. To make up for lost time the Blues then replied to that goal by going out of the middle for another shot.

Amidst the carnage a new Kingsley emerged. Jack Silvagni has plenty of pedigree, but has so far done bugger all. After avoiding Dylan Buckley we've finally been caught by a father/son Blue. The man currently holding the worst win/loss record in the competition (9-44) went at it like he was almost anybody else in his family and will be taking his seat at the annual dinner alongside Klassic Kingsley Daryl Gilmore, who played one game for Carlton and kicked 3.1 against us.

I didn't like seeing a 38 point lead early in the quarter turn into 30 by the end of it, but even with the otherwise solid Harrison (still not Harry, even if he asks nicely) Petty also out for the rest of the game with a concussion it still looked like we'd be ok. With McDonald beating Liam Jones like he'd stolen something I was convinced for the first time all year that as long as we just kept pumping the ball forward there we couldn't help but score enough to win.

Then, just as I was kicking myself at not being there for McSizzle's tilt at a genuine bag they cut to him sitting on the bench and out of the game with a crocked knee. How very Melbourne, bouncing back from adversity towards the game of your life before disaster strikes. It gave me nightmare flashbacks to Mitch Clark suffering rapid onset disintegration of the foot in the Carnival of Hate when he looked like plundering the Giants for 14.

What a weird week to be Tom McDonald. From the high profile fiasco against Brisbane, to announcing he was going to be a dad, to kicking out on the full horrendously, then booting six and at least semi-doing his knee. It's never a good sign when player and coach alike have to go out of their way to say "it doesn't look like an ACL". Bit of a difference between ending your season and losing half of the next as well.

Luckily it's been confirmed as 'just' a season ending injury, so he's got plenty of time to get away from the pressure and get both head and body right before next year. Maybe when he comes back he'll kick six and won't look up to see half of them going back to the opposition a minute later? Between this and Queen's Birthday I don't reckon any player in league history has seen two sets of six squandered so rapidly.

Not only did McDonald's absence for the last quarter ruin his chance at personal glory, it also left us in all sorts for rotations. 10 years ago you'd have parked Petty in the forward line, faced him towards goal and hoped he'd kick through the middle of the eight posts he was seeing, but now we're concerned about player welfare. Probably a good thing, but RIP one of the great traditions of footy.

Carlton might not be very good at football, but can count to one. After three quarters where they couldn't hit the ocean by jumping off a pier they recognised we were down to one rotation and went us like a hungry man attacking a cheeseburger. On a weekend where I tempted fate by not only discovering footage of the Chris Sullivan Line game, but promoting it to the public this went close to being our biggest three quarter time fold since.

The injuries were a ready-made excuse but I still couldn't handle losing from that far in front under any circumstances. It was a good excuse, even if we tried to play down the impact when Freo lost to us in similar circumstances. Carlton fell agonisingly short of pulling off their comeback, but for teams that left themselves in a cavernous ditch before making a run on a wounded opposition their storm home was of a much higher quality than ours against Sydney in similar circumstances last year.

Scoring nine points in the last quarter is right up our alley, but in this case there was no expectation beyond defending the lead. I'd love to have crashed through the 100 point barrier and delivered the crushing victory that we've waited all season for but this was purely an exercise in running down the clock.

It always felt like we were one goal from winning, but to get to that point we had half an hour like a boxer trying to hold on against the ropes in the 12th round. We'd have been knocked out by a better team within the first 15. None was available but it still went uncomfortably close to disaster.

When Silkingsley's first was rapidly followed by another, then a behind right after that I was shitting bricks. Almost everyone looked like they were about to expire before we'd even scored and I can't fathom how we even got it forward to kick a couple of points midway through the quarter. Unable to take any of our half chances the lead slowly dripped away, before Frost did something a bit silly and put a player on his arse right in front of goal to give away a free.

It might have tainted what was otherwise a red hot rebound defending performance, but to be fair the kick inside 50 was marked anyway. The problem was that it gifted them a certain goal instead of making Casboult kick from the simple distance and angle that makes him break out in hives. I was ready to concede defeat when they rushed out of the middle and went forward again, before thank christ a wild snap took a favourable bounce and was rushed through. More on zany bounces shortly.

Frost did Frost things again by taking a great contested mark, then chipping one high to Oliver that he never had any chance of marking, but from that ball hitting the ground came the match-winning goal. Still don't know how he fits in with Lever, and it would be nice if they spent more than 90 seconds on field together so we can find out, but I'll take the rough with the smooth on Frost. One day he'll unload some putrid kick in defence that costs us a game, and at that point I choose to focus on the fact that he's now inadvertently beaten Hawthorn and accidentally won us this game.

If you can stand it, here's the entire 'last two minutes', which they helpfully stretch out to the last 2.25 minutes so we see all the action:
With my heart threatening to pop out like Alien, the decisive moment came when that beautiful man Clayton Oliver showed why he should consider kicking more by landing an nerve-free pinpoint pass on Hunt 40 metres out directly in front. On the occasion of The Hamburglar setting up the winning goal in a Carlton game, I hope this guy had a fantastic day at the footy.

It was appropriate that the turnover came from Kade Simpson, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Nathan Jones to become the losingist player in VFL/AFL history. It helped him snatch a break on Chunk, leaving him 14 ahead, and just six short of Kevin Murray's all-time mark. There's two Kev achievements neither man will top, winning a Brownlow and going 0-34 as a coach.

Watching Hunt's earlier set shots gave me a greater appreciation of a set shot technique where he removes the glove and dangles it over his Steven Icke before running in. If you meet him after a game don't shake his hand until he's taken the glove off. Now I could barely look at the screen.

First I removed my headphones so I didn't have to hear Dwayne gleefully call the miss, then took a big step back from the computer. I don't think I was lining up to take a running punt at the thing, it was more of a coping mechanism, to be as far away from more late game set shot heartbreak as possible. Hunt has been reasonably accurate this year, but has done enough shithouse shanks and slices that unlike the Weid I didn't think he'd kick it. Which ironically made me more calm as he was lining up. When I die I'd like to donate my brain to footy fan research.

The distance also troubled me, but he hit it perfectly. It started right and flirted with cracking into the post before going through to muted, scared celebrations. From me anyway, Hunt was justified in enjoying his handiwork but the job was only half done. I always say a five point lead is a one point loss waiting to happen, but in this case it has never been more accurate. You had a half-dead side that couldn't stop conceding goals from the middle even when they were fit and I was supposed to believe we could hold out for 90 seconds? Not bloody likely.

Unusually, after a day of NQR centre bounces not being recalled, the umpire shat himself and threw the ball up. He'll probably blame the light rain, and if that's what contributed to us not just seeing it ping straight into Carlton's forward 50 then god bless the man. A lot happened in the next 100 seconds, including for the first time in god knows how long two time-consuming repeat stoppages.

On the third go Preuss lost the battle, but hitouts were shown once again to be a complete swizz by the ball dropping straight into Oliver's hands to go forward. This was good, the further away from Carlton's goal the better. Until Hannan was judged to have illegally contested a mark against two opponents where the ball only narrowly escaped his grasp. What exactly did he do wrong? The Carltonian at the front went flying forward, but he didn't push off him with hand or boot, and the ball only narrowly missed his hand so it's a bit harsh to say he jumped too early.

I was too close to a stroke to notice at the time, but check out Hannan's carefree attitude to throwing the ball back to his opponent. It was one of those where the bloke could have conned a 50 by half extending his arm and letting it fly over his head. See Jared Rivers at the SCG, Round 4, 2006.

I came to when they moved the ball towards the wing, sensibly trying to stretch out a tired team before launching a kick inside 50. At least that's what the first guy was thinking, before his teammate ignored a simple kick to a teammate 20 metres away, who had another on the 50...

... to aimlessly hoof it into a crowded middle of the ground. Carlton fans should hush up about umpiring and remain as bitter about this moment as we do over blowing that St Kilda game in 2015. From that it was back to a contest, and via tough contests from Jones and Viney, Lewis was able to give off to Preuss for a big, "get this ball as far away from me as possible, I'm knackered" hoof down the ground.

If the umpire thought it was too wet to bounce 20 seconds earlier he'd have been embarrassed seeing the way Preuss' kick went *BOING!* off the turf, over a waiting defender's head and straight into the hands of Mitch Hannan. Ironically, after only being in that situation because of a loopy bounce he was then stitched up by an even more obscure demonstration of the magic and mystery of the Australian Rules football.

The competition may be going down the shitter, but when you've got a sport that's so variable the ball could have taken an extra rotation and brought the house down, but instead stopped dead under the watchful eye of David Rodan you're onto a winner.

I'll cut Hannan slack in that he was probably rooted by this stage of the quarter (shout out to "we should reduce rotations so players get tired" wankers), but I think Mitch started to hear the Titanic music again and missed Brayshaw running into goal to his right. Easy for me to say, and after slaughtering various players for not taking the responsibility earlier in the game I don't hold it against him. One more turn of the ball and he'd be a hero. Also in his defence is that he didn't know how much time there was to go, and the game clock was well over 30 minutes so he might have made the safe decision not to handball and look like a peanut when the siren went.

The ball's handbrake stop left Brayshaw sprinting towards the line to try and make a contest. Considering his lung was probably about to do a Petterd he made good ground to get a boot somewhere near it. Going back to do frame-by-frame analysis after the game is pointless so I choose to believe he actually did force it through with his foot rather than it being rushed. Either way, it was a closer run thing than some of the tripe they review.

I hate video referees with a passion BUT if they have to exist this was a good time to get them involved. In the Saturday game between Gold Coast and Richmond there was a 30 seconds interlude while they tried to work out if the ball had bobbled 1mm out of a guy's grasp as he crossed the line, but here the game was in the balance and we just got back on with it immediately.

I'd like to think if they cut to Tom McDonald on the bench at that point (and why not, considering they almost missed the Brayshaw chase prematurely going to Hannan for a reaction shot) he'd have been doing the "I want a replay" gesture. Earlier he did that and the umpire actually fell for it, calling a review that he was never going to do off his own bat.

All's well that ends well, but the wasted time looking at close-ups from zero definition cameras, checking Snicko, and consulting the time of sunrise in Abu Dhabi would have give us time to set up behind the ball and make sure they couldn't dash from one end to the other. Instead a point was the almost the worst result. Sure, it meant we almost certainly couldn't lose but it also left Carlton dashing out of their backline, against a side approaching the finish line like this...

Brayshaw was sucking in so much wind from the chase that he nearly inhaled the Carlton cheersquad, so he wasn't going to put any pressure on the kick-in as it flung past him and up the Southern Stand wing. This was traumatic enough for me, I cannot imagine how I'd have gone from my normal seat, watching the ball coming towards me like a uncoupled train rolling down a hill.

I chucked the commentary again after the ball stopped, because if I heard Dwayne roll out of any of his set piece lines at that stage I'd have slandered and defamed him to the point where he'd own my house. Lucky, because 24 hours later when I hear him say "no time to review it" I want to punch on. You dickhead, how else is there going to be a review after a point?

Anyway, off the ball went down the wing, this time obviously kept away from the guy who thought booting it into the middle was a good idea the last time. They took full advantage of our fetish for players running off their opponent and leaving a free man behind them, setting up one last heave inside 50, where we were nearly on the end of the rudest draw of all time.

In a defence regularly under siege from the centre, Steven May had been so dependable that I wanted to reincarnate Cameron Clayton's 80s nickname and call him THE SAFE. But as he went to ground the not as good McGovern threw a desperation boot at the loose ball and thank the footballing gods it cracked into the near side post. This was all happening too fast for me without commentary and I almost shat myself as ball met boot.

We still had to negotiate seven seconds of a kick-in without doing something unbelievably stupid. I paced nervously as May went to put the ball back into play, trying to shout something about him playing on into the pocket and running around until time expired but was no longer capable of using the English language. It wasn't even a good idea, obviously just hoofing it a mile away from goal was the best way to get to the siren.

Thanks to a Carlton player doing the lightest, most pointless kick away of the ball ever May was given a 50 that took him up the ground and confirmed victory. I'd have understood if the guy had viciously launched at the ball in frustration and skittled half our cheersquad, but it was almost like he thought he'd want a new footy anyway and helpfully moved the old one of out the way. That'll teach him for being helpful.

Even with no realistic way for Carlton to kick a goal I was still pacing around nervously waiting for time to expire. Anything could still happen, most likely May taking half a step off his line, being called to play on without realising and somebody catching him holding the ball. Alas, by the time he was called to play on the siren was about to go, we lived to tell the tale, and with a solid piece of wood in front of me I opted for a reverse Roos, thumping it from a standing position then sitting down and trying to take in what I'd just seen.

It was the Reverse Stranglewank. The fifth time since that became a recognised statistic in 2014 that a 24+ lead has reduced to less than a goal (or worse) before winning. For those keeping score at home, the records are now:

Wank For: 7 wins, 10 losses
Wank Against: 5 wins, 4 losses
Total Wank: 1965-2019

Which means now the rarest result in these circumstances is us blowing a four goal lead and losing. This doesn't mean you should start being confident when we set up a lead. Never trust anyone wearing red and blue.

Carlton supporters blamed the umpires, especially this person, who is working harder than the Essendon fans who wanted to sue over Rampe climbing the post. Of course because we won they're all massive sooks. Unlike the West Coast game where we were 100% in the right and only pure incompetence by the officials cost us victory. Don't leave yourself in a situation where the umpires can be considered the difference in the first place. They got a couple of contentious ones, but so did we. We'd probably won easily anyway had it not been for the injuries, but give me four points (in either sense) and I will drape myself in them like velvet.

You'd be well within your rights not to celebrate a win like that, but it's not like we collapsed with 22 fit players, two defenders and an intact full forward. We weren't much chop before that either, but I'm still proud of the fightback from a disappointing position. They could have easily gone behind, thought "what's the point" and given up but battled it out like the fringe preliminary final team they are at heart. It was grim, it was gruesome, and it was grisly, but it was four points that kept one of our few underlings below us for a bit longer so...

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Tom McDonald
3 - James Harmes
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Sam Frost

Major apologies to Hunt and Viney. Other apologies to Fritsch, Jones, Lewis, May, Preuss, Salem and Petty until injured.

It is most assuredly on. Maximum's absence offered a gap for Oliver and he burrowed through to slash the gap to just over one best on ground. Harmes isn't going away either. The Seecamp race is all but over. With his nearest competition now crocked Salem is your provisional winner. Hore is also in trouble for the Hilton, now having to defend a five vote lead for as many weeks as he's out.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Match-winning goals always get a special boost, so Hunt obviously wins. Especially in light of the Weideman incident in Darwin. This requires apologies to Petracca twice. For his first goal, but also the one where he turned his defender on the boundary, ignored being tripped and still kicked it. If we did consolation prizes he'd get one. Instead, Jayden goes home with all the gold, and the weekly prize of a enduring adulation for kicking a clutch-as-all-buggery goal.

Hore still leads overall, because when he kicked his miracle goal I still had hope for the remainder of the season.

It's hard to beat our banners because they're so lovely, but please note the anti-curtain sentiment on this:
I don't know if a player has ever taken notice of what they're running into, but I appreciate that it's BREAK THROUGH and not 'gently pry open a curtain in case you hurt yourself'. That's the sort of sentiment that gets me going. On the other side, the Carlton cheersquad are too busy sooking over Jordan Lewis clocking somebody to put a picture of theirs up so stuff them, I'm not going out of my way just to judge what was probably a rotten effort anyway. Dees 14-1-0 for the season.

UPDATE - I'm told their banner had a curtain that players ducked under (?), and featured a cheese gag. It's a step up from hackneyed snow gags, but still lame. Better to be red wine quaffing Stilton eaters than... well pretty much anything else really. May the rest of you continue to eat lukewarm sausage rolls from Aldi.

Every time I hear one of them call, a new leader emerges in the neck-and-neck backwards race between BT and Dwayne. I think Dwayne would be a nicer person in real life (though am willing to be convinced otherwise) but he's never done a completely unscripted one hit wonder like GEE GOD BOY WOW. In fact I don't think he's ever done anything unscripted, he's like a radio station where all the pre-scheduled classic hits are played by computer with no human intervention.

Taylor has the need to fill every second of the broadcast with total bollocks, but he wasn't the man who said "Dunkley took week off before mid-season draft so he didn't get injured, which you don't always see" as if the mid-season draft had been held at any time since 1993.

Whichever camp you fall in, let's just agree that it's offensive to see Jason Bennett at Arden Street - a ground where people let their dogs shit six days a week - while this travesty was taking place.

Next Week
Back to Fortress Shithole at last, the ground where we did our best work last year. Even on a ground where we play significantly better than the MCG we're not going to beat the Bulldogs playing like this. Our best hope is that they played themselves to a standstill beating Geelong and will turn up flatter than a plate of piss.

I won't be there again, and this is especially hurtful considering the game will be played a few hundred metres away. Fortunately I think I've mastered the art of watching at [redacted] so no major harm done. Still feels grubby not being there but it was about time I started living like an adult.

Thanks to our injury list (temporarily) becoming manageable Casey have had a bunch of AFL players come in and are winning accordingly. Good luck to their coach next week, he'll probably be over on the Casey Fields tennis courts trying to find fill-in players. I can't cop Lever going around on any more suburban grounds so he's back. Same with Jetta. He might have only played one VFL game but given that he's not expected to run all day it would hardly be on par with the ludicrous rush to bring Jones and Viney back for Round 1.

Assuming Lewis is rubbed out that's two defenders and one half defender/half midfielder departing, so I'm going to throw Josh Wagner in as the third inclusion. He's not Matthew Scarlett, but Oscar needs a few weeks out of the limelight so the other JW is it.

Dunkley survives because even if the pace was too much for him he knew where to go, so better to just play him now and get him used to AFL standard before next year.

I haven't even been to one token Casey game this season but understand purely off internet speculation that James Jordon is also doing well and might get a game by the end of the year. In case you're not already feeling over the hill he was born just under four months after the 2000 Grand Final.

IN: Gawn, Jetta, Lever, J. Wagner
OUT: Petty, McDonald, Hore (inj), Lewis (susp) [UPDATE - Lewis not only avoided suspension, but a fine, and even getting a mention in the report. Hope he sues the Carlton Cheersquad and ends up owning it]
LUCKY: Dunkley, Neal-Bullen, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Jordon, Maynard

I don't think we'll win but there's a chance. Best have a red hot go while we can, because after this we've got West Coast, St Kilda (who are rank but have made us look foolish twice in recent times), Richmond, Collingwood, Sydney and North in Hobart. Five wins is a rotten season, and six isn't much better, but seven somehow seems like eating a nicer tasting shit sandwich, so if we can get a minimum two out of the remaining games we can comfortably declare this a shithouse experience and get on with 2020.

If you're a draft pick wanker the good news is that we're no chance of climbing any higher than 15th. Of the sides tied on 6-9 above us, Hawthorn and Sydney are good enough to win consistently, while the Saints have reverted to type and will probably lose every game from here except the one against us. You'll miss this season when it's over. If you're immediately sent to Devil's Island when it ends.

Bradbury Plan 2019
Don't be foolish.

Final thoughts
As we know all the focus on 'improving' the quality of the game is driven by a desperation to keep Channel 7 happy in advance of broadcast negotiations. Turns out they only have themselves to blame. While good teams are keeping it tight enough to keep the total scores to levels not seen since Archduke Franz Ferdinand was alive, shit teams are blundering their way to scores well above the league average.

The solution is obvious, when choosing games for broadcast prioritise teams that play like they're drunk. Either the viewers are going to see a constant stream or ads or they'll die laughing while they wait. Channel 7, we're here for you.

Monday, 1 July 2019

What a terrible mess I've made of my life

This season has been one big return to traditional values, so it's comforting to arrive back at the point where going interstate means almost certain defeat. The problem is we're not much good at home either.

So, given that our season has looked like a corpse floating down the river for the last month, why did this loss frustrate me so much that by the final siren I had a blinding headache, an overwhelming urge to throw objects at the wall, and had upset my child by screaming "YOU DICKHEADS!" at maximum volume from another room?

It's because Brisbane did everything possible to keep us in the game for 2.5 quarters but we were too inept to take advantage. Lucky they kicked away at the end, because if we'd been unjustly allowed to stay in front before losing a thriller I'd have been 10x mor upset. Five years ago the rare glee of beating Carlton set off a headache that ended with an MRI to rule out brain tumours, this might have put me away for good. Imagine the first time we play a close final again. You'll have to imagine it, because it's sure not happening this year.

There's no science behind it, but I'm more worried than ever that things aren't going to turn out ok next year. If nothing else, we'll always have those two Friday nights in September to gush over while the world burns down around us. Why not pause this and watch Mitch Hannan or Gee God Boy Wow again? You'll have more fun than reading about Round 15, 2019.

As well as Brisbane's refusal to just get it over with in the first half, I was irritated by our much vaunted midfield (and you know anything called 'much vaunted' is about to have shit poured on it) being obliterated in the middle. Way to say thanks to the ruckman who's been the only one keeping the lights on for most of the season. Max tapped everything, Brisbane players said "I'll have that" and we were instantly put on the back foot. It was genuinely bad football, the likes of which we thought was out of our system.

24 hours later I've once again released that this result meant squat diddly in the grand scheme of things, but at the time it was infuriating seeing us bulldozed in the one area we were supposed to be untouchable. The opportunity to elevate our centre clearances to an artform made me shamefully cave in without argument to this 6-6-6 nonsense, and now this. Can you still blame an interrupted pre-season more than four months in? I don't think so. The bottom has dropped out of the whole operation and the coaches (surviving and new) will have to work hard to stuff it back in for 2020.

Brisbane walloped us at our own game and god bless. They remind me a lot like us last year, inconsistent as all buggery but playing fearlessly. May they drag it all the way to a prelim and then see everything they've worked for burn like buggery over summer too.

The worst thing about being obliterated in the middle was how it left us giving back crucial goals immediately after kicking them. This year we've made scoring look so difficult (now up to 71.2 points per game, still narrowly trailing 71.5 in 2015) that instantly handing six point back on a shiny, ornate platter 30 seconds later makes me want to punch on. By the third time it happened I was shaking like Angela Merkel and ready to start a war like Donald Trump.

That's the story of the game, but for anybody who can stand further detail here's the 'highlights' of four quarters of "get us to the end of Round 23 so we can wear costumes and drink ourselves into a coma" footy.

Like most of this season we kicked the first goal. Which is not going to help us much until scoring comes down to average of about 5.5 points per team. After much premature excitement about him being 'back', so much the better that the opening goal came via Tom McSizzle. It showed that when he can find some space inside 50 he's still dangerous, and when he took a strong contested mark and dropped a pass directly onto Petracca a few minutes later I was fanning myself with excitement. Later he dropped a simple mark of the top of the square, Brisbane went down the other end to kick a goal and everyone gave up on him again. Hello Melbourne.

My theory that he's feeling excessive pressure to perform was furthered by a pre-match interview where he basically straight out admitted it. Everything he needs to be a successful forward is there, he just needs some guru to hypnotise him into thinking it's 2018 again. It also can't have helped that Weideman and Smith offered nothing and Gawn was either absent or hobbling for the last three quarters.

Squeezed between the two Sizzle powered goals was a first to Brisbane via one of those bullshit ruck infringements where neither ruckman knows who's infringed. After watching Melbourne long enough you know 9/10 it was Gawn, but like a magician's trick you can't work out how. What alerted me to the fact that Brisbane would likely go on to beat us was how Zorko didn't stop, gently throw the ball back to the SME and wait for him to miss from the boundary line, he just dashed off and goalled from an obscure angle. If that happened to us we'd play on with an opponent standing in the way, panic handball to somebody a foot away, then watch the ball roll out of bounds.

The Lions seem to be on the way up after 10 years of disaster (10 years? pfft, amateurs), and while there should be an internal inquiry into how they let us stay close for so long there was a clear distinction between the sides. It wasn't in talent, but in dynamism. They were quicker and livlier, which has us on the back foot all day. The odd success with lightning handballs and quick corridor transitions can't hide the fact that they either usually broke down inside 50 or ended with the ball rocketing the other way untouched. There was also a disparity in four quarter players. We had plenty who contributed solidly for five minutes then disappeared again. I can understand they might be a bit jack of 2019 but it's a bit early to be desperately searching for the finish line.

Everything just seems like a struggle this year. I haven't sat down for that much of a TV game since I discovered the joy of hovering over the set yelling obscenities. At least there was a time that even when we were being flogged in every other element of the game you'd get a tough performance. This time it was landslide defeat in the middle, and a third quarter where the game was on the line and we registered one (ONE, eins, I, uno, 1, ένας, not bloody many) tackle. Print that stat out in A0 for the change room walls this week and summarily execute (in a sporting sense I think) anyone who doesn't set out to rip an opponent's arm out of its socket next week.

From Petracca's goal to about halfway through the third quarter the game was effectively Brisbane being far superior but comically torching goalscoring opportunities at an industrial rate. They had misses from right in front, easy marks dropped and players falling on their arse at the top of the square like it was a sports blooper tape. We had our own collection of classic cockups, many of them involving Angus Brayshaw disposals that wouldn't have hit the side of a barn.

With our midfield being tonked at every available stoppage it was clear that once the Lions stopped falling over and started aiming between the middle posts that we would be in all sorts. And in the end we were, but not until threatening to pull off the biggest heist since Oceans 11. There would be Brisbane fans leaping from windows across two states if they hadn't got their act together and blown us away in the end. Ironically it was all set up by one bloke kicking them from everywhere that his 21 mates couldn't.

I was happy enough to be level at half time, but it was already obvious that we couldn't defend the middle of the ground if our lives depended on it. Our first goal took 1.35 to be returned, and the last one of the opening quarter should have been sent back even quicker deep in DemonTime if it wasn't for a munty set shot. The first two of the second were return to sender in 1.37 (with another Brisbane behind 1.12 after that), and 2.00 and my blood pressure was already going up to Chernobyl levels.

The second quarter atmosphere wasn't helped by the loss of Gawn to what turned out to be a rolled ankle but at first looked like he was totally crocked. He returned (just like Joel Smith and Melksham, because they're both doing fantastically) and will probably only miss one week at the most but at the time I was ready to turn the gas on. Our midfield was so insignificant at stoppages that it didn't have any great effect on the way we played. The only person disadvantaged was Christian Salem, who lost his get out of jail kick-in target.

After a few weeks out injured or down on form, Salem was back to his best. He's the only Melbourne player you'd let field kick for your life and we are a much finer team for having him back there. He also clobbered a Brisbane player while trying to get the ball. Fortunately I've left writing this report long enough to know that the Match Review Officer came to the sensible decision that he was going for the ball, because if he got rubbed out there would have been chaos. The poor bloke on the other end was left looking like he'd been right hooked by Mike Tyson but there wasn't any malice or carelessness in it and Salem (or Salo, as the club have controversially nicknamed him) is free to get us out of all sorts of trouble next week.

The half ended with Oskar Baker smashing a divot in the Gabba turf with his face. To add insult to injury he gave away a free for the ludicrous leap. This and four other frees against left him 1-9 in his career, which is also where his win/loss record will be in a few weeks). The only positive was that it gave us a metaphor for the entire season:

0.01 seconds - Melbourne Football Club 2018
0.02 seconds - Melbourne Football Club 2019
For a quarter full of both teams attacking like they were on powerful hallucinogens it was relatively entertaining. If your success depends on selling ad revenue you'd despise it, but there was something endearing about two teams just blindly going forward with no care for the consequences. The only concern was knowing we couldn't convert a big enough score to win a shootout. We had two options, to clamp down on the Lions running circles around us, or let them carry on. Never let it be said that Melbourne hasn't done anything for the good of footy, because instead of turning it into a Ross Lyon style slopfest we tried to stay positive and were beaten accordingly.

Further anxiety was provided by internet that was approaching Botswana levels of connectivity. In the all time greatest first world problem I could have watched on TV but it felt like defeating the purpose of buying a house with a Megawall just to go back to doing it the old way. Unfortunately as half time was sent locating and installing an old Wi-Fi range extender I was able to suffer through the second half with no drop-outs or dips into No Definition quality. For those who are counting I'm now 0-4 in games watched on said Megawall.

Things were looking up at the start of the third quarter, we got the opening goal and it took us four minutes to concede it back. After that we didn't look much like scoring but with the Lions still falling over themselves to avoid kicking goals we were able to hold the lead. Stringing a couple of goals together would have been nice, but when people's champion May took a handball from Baker and Howitzered a goal from 50 I foolishly started to think that we might get away with it. That goal begat two for Brisbane and it would have probably been better if he'd missed. What sort of a way is that to run a footy club?

As Eric Hipwood (remember the name, it becomes relevant very soon) got the first less than two minutes later I may have yelled out a popular four letter Anglo Saxon term for fornication. When he added another 1.50 after that I denounced everyone as a dickhead and jumped up and down on two feet in a circle like a small child having a tantrum.

Arguably HipwoodMania might not have existed if McDonald hadn't dropped the simplest of marks right in front of goal. Given how mental our club is we're negligent if we don't take a sports psychologist everywhere we go, but if he wasn't there I hope he was on call to meet Tom at Tullamarine and make sure he doesn't go to pieces again.

Poor old Harrison (never Harry) Petty got whacked for being on the end of four match-winning goals by the end of the quarter but I'd like to stand up for him and say his job would have been made a whole lot easier if everyone else wasn't letting the ball rocket down there at the speed of light.

Other than those 15 minutes of madness, and one amazingly awful kick earlier in the game where he wrong footed himself and kicked to a Brisbane player in 20 metres of space, Petty was reasonably solid. He certainly takes a good mark, and if you're expecting perfection from a fifth game key defender you're insane. On the other hand, Hore had his worst game for us yet, costing at least two goals by doing zany things.

I don't hold Petty entirely responsible for the rampage, especially when Hipwood kicked two from the boundary line that made a mockery of his teammates earlier peg-legged efforts. In the grand scheme of things it was no more than we deserved and the ordeal will hopefully prove a learning experience for him. Premature adjudicators - many of the same people who wanted to shoot Oscar McSizzle - writing his career off based on those few minutes need to relax. Lever replaces him at the first available opportunity and he goes back to the VFL to develop further. No harm for the long term future from one brief rooting.

There's been a groundswell of support for Hipwood to be inducted into the Kingsleys but I'm not buying it. The man has kicked six and four twice each in his career so it's not exactly a surprise for him to nick a few off us. I know that Kent Kingsley himself probably wouldn't qualify under the current rules, but we can all agree that's more about the opportunity to call it the KKK than anything else. Your real Kingsleys are the likes of Lewis Johnston (six of 16 career goals in one game), Paul Stewart (average of 0.33 goals per game, kicked five against us), and one Klassic Kingsley I discovered during the week who kicked six against us in his third game and eight in his other 36. The Kommittee is unlikely to extend Hipwood an invitation.

Just when we looked dead and buried after Hipwood's third, Jack Viney turned up with what might have been a steadier. If Jack Viney wasn't then one of the midfielders who stood back and watched the Lions plow forward to cancel it out 85 seconds later. I was all tantrumed out by this point and just silently fumed. That was the death of us, and Hipwood's fourth from the boundary line after the siren (Super DemonTime) was the icing on a very stinky cake.

To the audible glee of Brian Taylor, who had earlier nearly blown the front of his strides at Gawn's injury, footage emerged of a ripping stoush between Steven May and Sam Frost after one of the Brisbane goals. The best thing was that it not only happened after the goal until Frost told him to piss off, but that May kept going him at three quarter time. I don't give a fat rat's clacker what anyone thinks, that's the sort of passion that is sorely lacking at this club. How many times have you wanted the players to police their teammates? He can never be captain until he stops hitting people, but throw that man into the leadership group ASAP. I'm sure Frost was over it by the time they got on the plane, and didn't spend the whole flight chucking peanuts at the back of May's head.

That excitement was our last, as we soon discovered it's harder to launch a last quarter comeback when the other side is only one down on the bench. When guess who kicked his fifth to open the last (1.26 from the centre bounce if you're keeping score of all the times our midfield bled like a gunshot victim) the more squeamish would not have been blamed for turning off. From there we just ebbed away as the Lions did what they liked.

We got away with a 33 point loss but it deserved 63. There was nothing honourable about it. Can't play Freo every week. Which is what I'm hoping Carlton are saying next Sunday night...

After getting a bit comfortable about beating an injury-wracked team we're now a game and 19% behind 15th. Forget the surprise run to the finals people were contemplating a few weeks back, we'll now be lucky to escape the bottom three. We certainly won't go upwards in a hurry, Hawthorn's not going to stay 15th for long, leaving us two games and percentage behind St Kilda. In one of the rudest betting markets of all time we're somehow considered 500-1 more likely to win the flag than the Saints. Like the people donating to Israel Folau, if you put your money on either outcome it's better that the bookies (or in the Folau case, the lawyers) get it because they're going to spend it more sensibly than you.

But forget looking up, have a look in the other direction. Carlton has just drawn level with us on points and play a shit side next week. Otherwise we're one game and not much percent in front of Gold Coast. The Suns are the worst round 3-23 team ever invented and it's hard to see them win twice more by the end of the year but if they get their act together (and let's not forget they've conceded 63 points less than us in the same number of games) we're going to be staring into the wooden spoon abyss.

If that happens I won't send a submission to give the draft pick back but oh god my dignity will be completely stripped. Even if it's a highly competitive spoon race where teams are winning five or six games coming last is a humiliation. To be fair it would make up for the two we morally should have had in 2012 and 2013, or the narrow miss in 2014. It might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us when we draft the next Chris J**d, but more likely we'll ruin the career of another promising youngster. I can't have that blood on my hands.

If the season just limps to its conclusion without us being thrashed again I suppose there's some consolation in only being truly thrashed once. Not much though, I'm still thoroughly humiliated and am considering applying for a restraining order so nobody can talk to me about footy in real life. On the internet fine, but if it means having to listen to somebody give their theory on where it all went wrong I'll be displaying this classic:
2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Christian Salem
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Steven May
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - James Harmes

Apologies to Fritsch, Lockhart and Viney

There's 40 left to play for, so no matter what happens next week the line of elimination is coming. In addition to everyone on zero, Corey Wagner (who has been dropped twice after getting votes) and Hibberd will also be in all sorts unless they score.

Importantly for Oliver, he's thinned the gap at the top to just over two BOGs. He's been way down on last year so it would actually be criminal for him to overtake Gawn now, but that's how the system works sports fans. In the minors, I'm about a week from making Salem the provisional Seecamp winner, and Hore is still holding on in the Hilton but Lockhart looms dangerously.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Another week where I was in such a state of psychological distress that it's hard to remember who did what. For this segment I've had to watch highlights so I hope you appreciate what I do for you. Respect to Petracca kicking two set shots, but the award comes down to two players making the most of horrible passes.

Hannan gets a commendation for creating something from a McSizzle shitekick, but our winner is Fritsch, who rescued Frost from looking foolish by goalling from this tremendous slice. You will not see a better piece of hoovering this weekend outside the toilets of the TV Week Logie Awards.
Bayley wins a free 15 minute counselling and personal improvement session with Steven May over a pint. Hore still leads overall.

Despite containing a blooper and a shit hot goal Fritsch didn't qualify as part of the AFL's 'highlights' package. We are, as ever, indebted to the service of @laceoutofficial.

Nobody wants an All The Goals video this year (sorry Haymes Paints), but the idea that the league wouldn't include them all is perverse. I doubt randoms are stumbling upon videos and thinking "oh god no, 10 minutes is too long for me" then closing the browser never to consider watching Australian rules again. These packages should be so comprehensive that people can watch them in 20 years' time and know exactly what happened, not what some galoot video editor deems worthy.

Even with home ground advantage Brisbane's effort was very poor. I did like their gimmick of making players run through the gap in a chain-link fence before they got to the banner, but after that they were confronted with a real turd. Forget the hokey Mt. Buller gag, this think looked like it was in the final stage of a terminal illness. Letters were threatening to peel off and it felt like one gust of wind would have destroyed it.

Also, there was a sizeable gap between 'Dee' and 'S' that indicated the original inclusion of an apostrophe. Either somebody pointed out at the last minute that they didn't need one or it just fell off due to awful construction. One of the saddest efforts seen yet this season.

Ours was another design masterpiece. Minus points for the tedious, almost-skiing level reference to taming lions, but I'll never grow tired of having the straightest lines and best kerning in the country. Another triumph, albeit against something that looked like it was picked up second hand at an op shop. Dees 13-1-0 for the season.

I'm sure Jason Bennett was just happy to be doing an AFL game, but imagine calling next to a prime buffoon like BT and knowing he's getting paid several times more. I fear that Bennett will be called into the CEO's office one day and told he's being promoted to a full time AFL caller but the payoff is that he has to reduce the actual footy talk in favour of 50% more blokey bullshit. Of course he'll do it, and what a sad day that will be.

Next Week
At first I thought we were playing the Bulldogs, fresh from slogging through the ocean against Port. That had some appeal. Instead it's the nightmare scenario of possibly losing to Carlton. If you think beating Freo hid some of our troubles under a bulging rug then wait and see what happens if this goes tits up.

Carlton has form for rolling us out of nowhere too. Forget last season, there's no point comparing 2019 Melbourne to them, we're much more like the ordinary but not entirely dreadful 2015 and 2016 teams that suffered upset late season losses to the Blues when they were out on their arse. Even in 2017 we barely got over the line when red-hot favourites. This has got danger game written across it in 1000 point font.

You'd say here's to them over-celebrating after their bananas win over the Dockers and turning up not ready to play next week, but the number of times they've done the Demon style Stranglewank this year I won't trust any lead until:

a) we hit three quarter time across the Chris Sullivan Line;
b) there are more goals to get than minutes left; or,
c) the final siren.

Even without Cripps and C. Curnow I'd still brace yourself for the defeat that might leave us 17th and swing the gates of hell open for everyone involved.

I assume Lever for Petty is an automatic change as long as Jake doesn't develop some flesh eating virus in his knee before Sunday. Otherwise VFL reports don't suggest much in reserve. Kennedy-Harris has been best on ground on the seconds two weeks in a row, so even while I don't think he's got a massive step up in him I'm rewarding form.

JFK can replace Brayshaw, who went up like the Challenger shuttle after a couple of good weeks. It's about time we made a statement and axed a big name. They don't seem that keen on playing him in the middle anyway so may as well give somebody else a go. I'd still like another look at Maynard before he's inevitably axed at the end of the year so could handle him getting a run instead (or as well as, does it really matter anymore?).

With Gawn under a cloud I will dead set punch on if we don't pick Preuss. Not just for the competent ruckwork, but because he will provide a decent contest when we panic bomb the ball 20 metres out from goal. Obviously they think his role in knocking Sydney's best intercept defender out of the game was more pox coaching on Longmire's behalf rather than Preuss himself doing anything good but there has literally never been a better time to have another go now that Maximum could do without playing 99% of the game in the ruck.

Preuss comes in for, Tim Smith who I'm comfortable with and would keep him as a depth player, but when he a) tried that shithouse short pass from 40 metres out, and b) failed to jump for a marking contest the red pen was mentally slashed through his name for the rest of the year. McSizzle doesn't survive by much, but adds a lot more up the ground even if he's not kicking goals. Even if Gawn can't play I'm still offering Smith a spell.

I didn't think Baker or Weideman were much chop but there's nothing to be gained from dumping either of them. As long as he doesn't totally drop his bundle and stand leaning on the goalpost for four quarters The Weid in particular should be gifted games for the rest of the year just for development purposes. Baker is in a similar position but plays a position where we should be able to find a replacement if needed without a three year development period. Could have had a swing at Gaff last year but nooooooo it's all about contested ball so why would we want somebody like that?

At some point Lewis has got to come back for the old farewell game but it's tempting fate to do it next week. Let's just play this one sensibly, give him a spin under the roof against the Dogs then wish him well in his future endeavours.

IN: Kennedy-Harris, Lever, Preuss
OUT: Brayshaw, Petty, Smith (omit)
LUCKY: Baker, McDonald, Neal-Bullen, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Lewis, Maynard

I hope to win, but won't be all that surprised if we don't. We're at the point where people are going to start punting home losses so we get [alleged next big thing] in the draft. You can bash that up your ginger, there will be enough unwanted losses in the next few weeks, let's go all out to get a cheap one here.

Alas while I will be watching this potential abortion of a contest it won't be from the ground. So, if you're the sort of person who reads this far and it's your lifelong dream to be the guest reporter then get in touch via any of the usual channels. The only rule (other than following the standard format) is that you've got to get it to me by 6pm Monday night. Otherwise I'll be providing a reduced service report.

Last year
I'm increasingly concerned that the entire 2018 finals experience was part of a cruel Truman Show style experiment set up specifically to fuck with me and that you're all in on the plot.

Final thoughts
I've never been a quality of the game fetishist (because what is a 'good' game?), but by christ this season is proving a chore. Nothing will stop me watching Melbourne, but my interest in the rest of the competition has hit rock bottom.

Everything about the competition just has a relentless negativity around it, and after years of the AFL treating fans like idiots for being interested in a product they themselves considered 'broken', people have started to take notice. Then the media starts throwing fuel on the fire because controversy creates clicks, the vicious spiral sucks more people in, we're left with an endless stream of misery about how awful every aspect of the competition is, and I'm reduced to watching quarters of games instead of three full matches a week.

There has never been a popular competition boss yet in my lifetime. But Ross Oakley, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Demetriou (who I came to like after he wrote us a big fat cheque) rode the self-propulsion of the competition to the point where it became a multi-billion dollar industry. Now the AFL has flown too close to the sun and the bloke in charge is left holding a bomb that's going to wreck the joint if the next TV rights deal doesn't live up to expectations. So they get roped into a cycle of trying to maximise the price by mercilessly violating the game, people get more upset, scores keep dropping, they keep tinkering, scores keep going down and they'll get so desperate that the Channel 7 CEO will probably demand a 49% stake in the competition just to put in a bid.

They're lucky that live sports are about all that's keeping the major networks from falling to community TV levels. They might get away with a big price if they can keep Channel 9 and 10 interested enough to create competition but it's not the slam dunk it was last time around.

I stand by the outrageous claim that I'd be perfectly happy if the whole competition went back to being part-time. As long as there's a Melbourne Football Club in the top flight why should it bother me if the full forward works five days a week as a roof tiler? The problem is there's no gentle slide back to this. If the TV money dries up clubs die and having undergone two bailouts in just over 10 years (once self-driven, one by the league) we would not be immune.

All that's left to do is sit here in my specially constructed siege mentality bunker and hope we pinch a flag before the whole enterprise falls to bits. Get (football) rich or die trying.