Sunday, 5 July 2020

Standard 'post delayed' notification

For once I've got better things to do than write the report immediately after the game. In a season like this can you blame me? Post on Wednesday maybe. Or Thursday. Or never at all. 

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

Sunday, 28 June 2020

No repayment, no interest

As far as accurate predictions go, my suggestion that 3.1.COVID 19 wouldn't cause any more issues this season puts me into Lou Richards Kiss of Death territory. We didn't even make it to the next game before - once again - Essendon ruined everything.

But did they really? Nobody can work out how their player caught the big one because they're not entirely certain if he had it or not to begin with. There's no point waiting for the full story if you're a footy fan, so for a few hours we just assumed that either club or player had been tremendously negligent and that we should be handed the four points automatically.

Having no idea what Conor McKenna does in his spare time, I was comfortable waiting for more information before sending a four point invoice to AFL House. However, it would have been nice of somebody in our administration could have blown up just a little bit about the circumstances. Even if they didn't believe what they were saying I'd have loved a Bartlett, Pert or Mahoney to do a bit of flag flying about it being bullshit that a game was called off at such short notice. I wasn't looking for Jeff Kennett style stream-of-consciousness, open letters on the website that were possibly written in the middle of a stroke, just a bit of controlled jostling to let the fans know they were alive. Instead they sent an email soliciting donations. I guess we're even more firmly jammed on the AFL's tit than ever now so there's no chance of creating controversy.

Arguably Essendon should have been able to work out who McKenna had been in close contact with and DQed them (or as it turned out 'him', when they found a fringe scapegoat to put in quarantine) so the game could be played as scheduled, but alas no. A National Panasonic Cup style midweek fixture was quickly ruled out, leaving us with a date to play the Bombers at some unknown point in the future where Patient Zero (as in, he had zero Coronavirus) will inevitably have 42 touches and kick six out of defence.

In place of a game that meant as much as any of them can in this one-step-above-AFLX exhibition season, we played an intra-club game. Cue as many jokes about Melbourne being guaranteed victory as Essendon finally having a positive test. The only thing we learned from this was that Harley Bennell's maximum is currently two games in a row, forcing him to sit out this week to ensure his calf doesn't explode like a defective airbag.

Not that it mattered when he wasn't going to be picked anyway, but we assume the second week of Charlie Spargo's suspension for breaching the protocols was still served even though we didn't play a senior game. Given that he was allowed to play in the scratch match against Carlton, within the period where he might have caught the thing if he'd touched the wrong surface during his jailbreak I'm not sure they were taking the sanctions too seriously anyway.

Eventually we got to play Geelong, who lost to Carlton by about as much as we'd beaten them by, leaving nobody any the wiser about whether they're still any good. I struggled to get excited, save a brief flash of emotion when Nev got dropped, on one hand upset but on the other knowing that he's probably turned the wrong corner in the last 12 months. Other than that, the extra week off did wonders for my flagging interest in the league. While I've still technically 'watched' a few games since Carlton, none have made it out of the muted picture-in-picture box in the corner of my screen while I watched something I was legitimately interested in.

In retribution for stuffing us around for a week, the Melbourne Football Club set out to destroy football as a spectacle, standing back and letting the Cats chip the ball around for 78 minutes while standing in an orderly queue to be the man on the mark and watch it moved on to the next opponent. Not the first time it's happened, not even the first time it's happened to us, but you could hear executives desperately trying to trade next week's game in the same slot to Foxtel for any Gold Coast or Port game they could get their hands on.

That Geelong's festival of dinky kicking finally failed deep in the last quarter with the game on the line and gave us the chance to rip off an unlikely win should only be a concern for Chris Scott. It doesn't detract from the fact that we had no counter to the simplest tactic ever invented. Hopefully, lesser teams are inspired to try the same thing against us and it ends in tragedy. Knowing our luck Mr. Connection and Learnings will probably give it a go and we'll register a record number of turnovers.

I was about 40 minutes behind the live play due to my daughter's birthday party, and there were few rewards for the wait. I did everything right, pausing just before the bounce ready to go when I was free from social duties, only to be presented with a first quarter of such tedium that you may as well have been watching paint dry. Surely there isn't a neutral alive who sat through all of this unless they were paralysed or under heavy sedation. I've never been one for spectacle and whinging about the state of the game but this was so bad the AFL should have intervened at quarter time. They should have made Essendon rush to the ground so we could start playing them instead.

Mind you, the quality of play wouldn't have been as bad if we a) could create and hit targets within range of goal, or b) were in any way effective at stopping the opposition soaking up the limited time available by kicking to loose men. On the inside 50s, the bit that should be bagged up as evidence of what we've had to endure the last couple of years is when Jayden Hunt did as good a lead as you're ever going to get in modern footy and had the ball kicked to the turf a metre ahead of him. No wonder he proceeded to do bugger all for the next two quarters, I'd have given up after that too.

Geelong were not much better. The level of care and attention afforded to the game was demonstrated by somebody leaving a cone on the Southern Stand 50 metre line. If I was Christian Petracca or Clayton Oliver I'd be reading the small print on my cone-tract and trying to get to a club where my talents won't be spunked up against the wall. Seeing them in conversation before the last quarter reminded me of The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa are talking about what they're going to change their name to. Maybe go together and send for everyone else when you get there. I won't come, I'd rather sink with the Dees than win anywhere else, but some will be saved.

Equally well thought out were our attacking moves, with McSizzle completely off the boil and Fritsch butter-fingered when he did get near it. After keeping Carlton scoreless in the first quarter of our last start (and look how that nearly turned out?), and Essendon on 0.0 for a week, we went within uncomfortable range of our own score free opening term. The only upside to the day's generally terrible football was that Geelong's pissy chip kicks wasted so much of the shortened quarter that they only had time for one goal, a poor return considering our backline spent most of the first quarter playing like they'd just met.

Well, they only had one goal until Melksham gave away a pointless and stupid 50 that cost us a second late. The chances of 16 vs 16 next season were already increasing by the minute (and at this stage I've lost interest in arguing, do what you like with the rules - and why do you always have to remove players in twos, why couldn't you have 17 vs 17?) but it would have been a great opportunity to act like the game had only just started and pretend that rancid quarter never happened. Instead, ill-discipline gave away the first of multiple DemonTime goals, leaving us in a slightly deeper hole than we needed to be in. We are still patiently waiting for the Milkshake to turn up in 2020.

Otherwise, it was more of the usual - Gawn and Oliver by far our best, and the limpest looking forward line since season one of Roos. This week I need to waste some of my valuable (?) time and watch one of those 2018 games where we ruined teams to understand what the difference is. It can't just be as simple as not having Hogan or a Hogan-esque forward. For christ's sake we kicked 146, 159 and 146 in three consecutive weeks, something was going right. Then again, a month before that we got 48 and 56, so maybe everything being completely random as if being determined by a higher power with a spinning wheel is just the price of following Melbourne? We've already had 'lose a turn' twice this year, any chance of hitting JACKPOT at some point?

It felt like the margin should have been six goals but we were still alive. Not that I fancied our chances of taking advantage, I'm so used to being tormented by Geelong it's hard to fathom that we once (and once is all you'll get) toppled them in a final in front of 90,000 people. Between all the thumpings, the after the siren goal, and playing keepings off, it's no wonder we've beaten them once home and away (or in this case, just away) since the #fistedforever years began.

There's going to be a heavy focus on what an awful game this was and why it means we'll never be any good, but a quick word in support of Michael Hibberd. I wasn't sure I wanted him in the side but it was the best game he's played for ages. Also Kysaiah (never Kozzie) Pickett, who nearly did half a dozen awesome things but they all failed to come off by a slender margin. Nevermind, worth it just to get another game into him before he goes off his tits next year. We're losses to Sydney and Freo in the next three weeks away from a complete 'play the kids' system that should land Jackson an extended run too. If he wants practice clutching at kicks way too far above his head the seniors would be the best place to get it.

For all the shit I've hung on his disposal Brayshaw was also very good. All for naught but much appreciated nonetheless. It's a simplistic analysis but he looked like one of the few who knew what they were supposed to be doing, otherwise there was a lot of headless chicken panic that makes you wonder how we blundered into being so close at the end.

I'm sure it was dumb luck rather than a defined scoring end, but it was Geelong's turn to go without a goal in the second quarter. Fritsch got the first - Coleman campaign not going anywhere fast - and the best part of 16 minutes later Brayshaw added the second, leaving us with the game delicately poised at the break, and Channel 7's ratings going down like a light plane on fire.

This was more of an indictment on Geelong's premiership chances than ours. We don't have any, they have the safety of years of continued success to believe in. Good luck beating decent teams playing like this. As they say in the classics, you can't play Melbourne every week.

How did we respond to this opportunistic half time lead? Naturally by conceding a goal early in the third quarter because we didn't have anyone adequately guarding the line...

Geelong then kicked another two unanswered, while we tried gamely to impersonate a professional Australian rules football outfit. I was barely moved, there were a few abusive comments directed at the TV but I remained firmly planted on my arse the whole time. Standing up to watch used to be my thing, leading to great moments like leaping out of the room as if escaping assassination when Billy Stretch missed in Hobart (not even knowing the siren had already gone) and double fisting (so to speak) the ground and yelling "YES!" repeatedly when Sizzle kicked that miracle goal in Perth. I can't rule out getting aroused at some point before Round 17 if we blow another seven goal lead, but this was just going through the motions.

If I was one of the sensible people who walks out on TV games when things become too depressing those goals would have been my trigger point. Instead, I took advantage of the earlier party to load up a plate with cake and eat my limited feelings away. Had the same option been available in 2012 I'd probably weigh 200kg by now.

Petracca temporarily saved us with a piece of delightful crumb, before we conceded another classic Hello Melbourne goal. In a game where chances were very much at a premium, with 91 points the lowest scoring game aggregate since that Queen's Birthday when we kicked 3.10.28 and still only lost by five goals, it was a terrible one to concede.

I can't even be bothered going back to confirm my suspicions that it was Joel Smith, but with the ball loose in the forward pocket whoever it was clearly shovelled it out of the pack instead of pushing it over the line. And how did we celebrate getting away with a blatant throw that would have given them a shot from a tricky angle in the pocket? By conceding a mark at the top of the square for a certain goal. There was indeed a feeling in the air that you couldn't get anywhere:

That was bad enough, leaving us needing to pull back a three goal margin on a day where we'd kicked an average of one a quarter. It could have been worse if they'd got full value for catching L Plate defender Lockhart holding the ball in the dying seconds. Another DemonTime special was narrowly averted when the kick failed to make the distance, punched away by Max Gawn with a look on face like "why do I bother turning up?"

It meant we were still an outside chance. Despite playing like a busted arse for the last six quarters this would have left us 2-1 with a game in hand and you just never know do you? Well, if you follow Melbourne you probably do know. Even if we'd won here we'd probably have given it back against [insert shit side here] because we've been typecast as comedy figures. Expecting us to become realistic contenders is like nominating Blakey from On The Buses for an Oscar.

To be fair we weren't all that bad in the last quarter. They were down one player, a defender having blown his collarbone in a game of man vs manlier against McSizzle, but what of it? Imagine being the team that slaughtered themselves all summer to be as fit as a fiddle then saw 16 minutes of playing time slashed off every match. It was never going to be factor. What might have worked in our favour was old porcelain head Dangerfield being forced off by a collision with Hibberd at the first bounce. We only got five minutes of respite before he was back to torture us. Somewhere Jack Trengove caved his TV in, probably seriously injuring his foot.

When Hunt got an early goal via a nice finish from the boundary line you thought maybe we were a chance. At least until they carved us up from one end to the other, eventually finding old nemesis Tom Hawkins a mile free on the lead to restore the lead. At this point I thought all they needed to do was kick the ball from side to side for 10 minutes and we wouldn't get anywhere near close enough for long enough to mount a challenge.

After McDonald finally ran at the ball and marked overhead for the goal that cut the margin to single figures it was hello to the sort of good old fashioned footy fuckup that we'd have done 20 seconds in the first quarter if we'd tried to play sneaky. The kicking to-and-fro finally broke down, setting up Brayshaw to cut the margin to less than a goal with two minutes left. Still wasn't moved to rise, just shuffling forward a bit on the couch out of hope that we'd all get a good laugh at Geelong's expense for throwing away the unlosable game. Imagine the paper over the cracks if we'd won, I can just imagine press conferences and interviews featuring the word 'brave' in every other sentence when everyone in the world would have known how badly the Cats had stuffed it up.

It was not to be, but we did get some great chances to nick it. Given a leg up with a 50 that carried him out of defence, Salem didn't bother with the two men he had deep towards goal, instead kicking to the pocket, where our ratio of successful marks/goals is about 1/1,000,000. In his defence, our long kicks to the square are only slighly more likely to come off, and he must have known that if it went through for a point they'd just chip it around until time ran out. Which they did, but not before getting a decent scare.

Somehow everything came up Melbourne, temporarily anyway, and a desperate toe poke intended to get the ball as far away from goal as possible landed with Adam Tomlinson. It was written all over his face that he didn't think he could make the distance but like Salem, he would have been aware that kicking it short would have made him look as much of a goose as Viney neatly passing to a Carlton defender when that game was on the line.

I don't think any of us can hold it against him for missing from outside 50, but it should be noted that we've now had three narrow losses (I'm not sure you can call this 'heartbreaking') against the Cats in three seasons that have featured somebody trying to win the game late off their own boot. We've missed twice in regular time, they've beaten us with a kick after the siren from a defender. If I use that Hello Melbourne graphic too many times Channel 7's going to pursue me for royalties. Might be the only profit they make out of footy this year.

As unlikely as it would be that we'd win a game in these circumstances (which is what made Hunt vs Carlton last year so enjoyable), Tomlinson gave it a whole-hearted go. When the ball started to come back towards the goal I got a second wind and was ready to go full BT and fall to ground yelling "Can't believe it, can't believe it. CAN NOT BELIEVE IT." It would have been the most daring heist in this city since the Great Bookie Robbery. All's well that ends as you'd expect it to, with the ball hanging left for a point and the Cats never even remotely looking like committing a kick-in disaster.

Instead of breaking out into unnecessary celebration I just went "eh", turned the screen off and moved on with my life. Even this therapy sessions is just for the historical record, I don't need to get my anxiety out by mashing the keyboard because I don't have any. Believe me, I'd have taken the win gleefully but we got what we deserved.

As much as I'm trying to pretend this season is meaningless I'm more upset about how we lost than the actual losing. Surely the coach passed on some instruction about the chipping wankfest that wasn't followed - if not I'd be entirely off him right now. He's still not going anywhere, especially in a week where they've had to go for the old names on jumpers cash grab to try and alleviate a sliver of the deep financial shit this season will leave us in.

One of our many problems is we've splashed millions of dollars and some sweet draft picks to try and plug holes in the side but have never been able to buy leadership. I have much respect for everything Jones, Viney, Gawn etc.. have done under the crushing weight of being associated with this club but top of the administration to the bottom of the list there is nobody I'd be confident of in a crisis. Plenty of fine soldiers, nobody you'd trust to organise the evacuation of Dunkirk.

2020 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Angus Brayshaw
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Michael Hibberd
1 - Jack Viney

Apologies of varying sincerity to Petracca, Langdon, May and Pickett.

9 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
8 - Christian Petracca
6 - Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney
4 - Angus Brayshaw, Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
2 - Ed Langdon, Michael Hibberd, Christian Salem
1 - Kysaiah Pickett, Trent Rivers (JOINT LEADERS: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I lied about going back and finding a retrospective winner against West Coast. I think Pickett did a good one so I'll give it to him. Petracca gets the nomination again this week, but in three games have we kicked any really memorable goals? I don't think so. Somebody do something interesting before we all find something better to do.

If there was ever a game that BT's rambling stream of bollocks couldn't detract from this was it. On the plus side I don't mind Hamish McLachlan when he's not doing awkward interviews with primary school kids. Against the odds, not much to whinge about on this front.

Conference Corner
In English football, the conference is where you go when you're not good enough to be in the league anymore. For us it's where you learn nothing new about what went wrong, because a variation of the same tired shit is trotted out every week. I don't bother to watch the whole thing, so I'm just relying on how the MFC Twitterist chooses to paraphrase his answers but it was a smorgaboard for the snarky this afternoon.

Goodwin: Our squad hasn't played a lot together so we will continue with this group.

Which is shithouse news for Jetta and Jones, but probably the right way to go after two games of selection table slaughter.

Goodwin: This is what the season is going to be like. 

There are going to be a lot of tight games + the team's that can endure the longest will come out on top.

How about aspiring not be dragged into close games every week? You're still allowed to win a game by six goals when the quarters are four minutes shorter.

Goodwin: We had our chances inside 50 + we didn't execute our fundamentals well there.

We just weren't efficient enough.

Journalists - are you allowed to ask supplementary questions? If so next time he says this ask what was done about it when we had chances inside 50 and didn't execute our fundamentals well there 12 months ago. Can't blame en masse surgeries and injuries now.

Goodwin: For them to take 112 marks in the game is a lot.

It's too many.

We've got to defend better for longer.

See earlier comment about what we're doing to stop it. Also, I think our Twitterist is the same person that writes the 'folksy' Daniel Andrews press releases.

Goodwin: They came with a plan + they executed it.

I'm sure he said a lot more than this but the person on the buttons has obviously had enough and knows not to look at their mentions tonight anyway so they've just left this delicate lob to the net sitting there for people to hook into.

Virus Watch
Now that the bug is back and people are snatching every roll of TP they can find, this is a good time to point out that if it gets me I want my ashes kept in storage until crowds are allowed in Victoria again (about 2025 at this rate), then placed in Row MM of the Ponsford Stand and angrily booted across the aisle when we lose a thriller.

Meanwhile, I'm not into Matthew Bate-esque Corona conspiracies, but it's hard to trust the testing if they're adopting the Jayden Hunt method. I think somebody's pulling an rib on him by saying that finger length has anything to do with how far they jam the swab up your hooter.

Next Week
It's Sydney, one of the few teams with a forward line as hilariously malfunctioning as ours. Get Paul Roos back to coach both teams at the same time and see if you can engineer a nil-all draw. In a season where we've gone bonkers at the selection table every week, it seems stupid to try and play it conservatively but I want to give it one more week before teeing off and dropping everyone.

Even after that important late goal I was set on dropping McDonald, but what's the point if we're just going to play Weideman or Brown in the same role and keep punting it long to Fritsch? Fair enough if Forward Fritsch took contested grabs like Petracca but we need to put him into space more. Hopefully by picking another tall it helps spread things out a bit. Weideman, Brown, the ghost of Fred Fanning, anyone will do. Alternatively, sacrifice Truck to full forward and let him get amongst it. Just don't do the same rancid shit that ends with us kicking six goals, many of them after the game is shot.

I feel bad not lobbying for the return of Jetta or Jones, but I suppose without the VFL the only place for Lockhart to develop is in the 1s. I'd rather Hore but he's crocked, probably for the whole season, so I'll give Jay another go even if he looks way off it. On one hand, I'd like to play Jones across half-forward, on the other I know they don't really care for his contribution so what's the point? Good thing we only go interstate for a week, if they carted us off for six weeks like the Perth teams he'd probably just say thanks for your time, it's occasionally been a blast and retire on the spot.

IN: Weideman
OUT: Hunt (omit)
LUCKY: Lockhart, T. McDonald, Melksham, Rivers, Smith, vandenBerg
UNLUCKY: Bennell, Brown, Jetta, Jones

Brace for another thriller, Sydney is just the sort of bog average team that we're likely to go close to. Might win. Probably won't. The good news is there are only 17 rounds of this nonsense before we go back to being teased with respectability over summer again.

Apparently we're now going to play Richmond this week because the Queensland government won't let them into the state. Which is strange because the Melbourne Storm just went to the Sunshine Coast. Changes the same, chances of winning reduced, even against a wobbly Richmond side. That's the third time we've had a game rescheduled in five rounds, must be a record.

Next Year
Have they worked out how future traded picks are going to work yet? On one hand, it's great for North if we do really badly this year but on the other, they've got to make a decision on a potentially very high selection with a sliver of an Under 18s season to judge players on.

At this stage of an already compromised season full of weird results my gut feeling is that it should be buyer beware, and stiff shit to the Roos if they inherit our pick two and use it on somebody in an iron lung. May as well, that's probably what we'd have done with it. Of course, they'll find some absolute gem that we'd never have picked in a million years because his dad didn't work as an international yacht broker.

Final Thoughts
Not sure I've ever been less affected by a thriller. Genuine chance to win against the odds and I was mostly unmoved that we didn't. I desperately want to get into this season, and my conduct at the end of the Carlton games shows that if provoked I can still go RIGHT OFF, but it just feels like a waste of time. Not giving up though, don't have anything better to do.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Two quarters good, four quarters bad

With Coronavirus reduced from all-encompassing destroyer of society to a mere annoyance, footy was allowed to return. This was a good, as much as I dislike shortened quarters and nonsense 'innovations' like fake crowd noise, the return of the Melbourne Football Club was much needed. Not because I thought it would bring me joy, but because there's a huge void in my life that can only be filled by the mixture of joy and dread that only the Dees can deliver.

Having said that, there was a stage deep in the last quarter where it looked like we'd blow a seven goal lead and I was ready to take up rugby union. As a Melbourne fan, you get used to being humiliated, but three months of pandemic related tension was about to blow up into one of the great tantrums. Who knows if it would have topped the sunglass stomping incident after that dropped Petterd mark, but there would certainly have been fireworks. I haven't seen my neighbour for weeks and he may be dead, but if anything's going to get his attention it will have been the volume at which I was anxiously howling at the screen.

The rah rah phase wouldn't have lasted, I haven't got it in me to quit on Melbourne, no matter how many times they've done it to me. I'd have got it out of my system by furiously mashing the keyboard, put the whole experience in the reverse spank bank to be sour about for years to come and looked forward to next week's response by midday Sunday. But in the heat of the moment all you want to do is yell forlornly at a screen that people who can't hear you are dickheads. This is the sort of psychological trauma that leads to grown men throwing haymakers at each other in the stands. I know I've got the bug, that's why I don't sit near people.

Even after all but writing off this season as a novelty to be never be spoken about again, losing here would have left me with scars. Part of the pain was the anticipation after the long break, part was the always provocative situation of having a win dangled in front of your eyes then snatched away, but it mostly came down to the fact that halfway through the second quarter we were as dominant as we have been for years and an hour later only avoided a laughable defeat by the narrowest of margins.

It's difficult to reconcile the difference between our performance across both parts of the game, but given they were on top in the last few minutes of the second quarter and after half time you could say Carlton were the better side overall. They didn't deserve to win, nobody does after going that far behind, but they should have.

I've seen us dead-set THIEVE some games over the years but this was one of the greats. Maybe the finest snatch of the 21st century to date. The last time we played Carlton was a contender, but then we had the excuse of losing our entire bench for the last quarter AND the glory of Jayden Hunt's winning goal. Even Gold Coast 2019 had the Marty Hore screamer to recommend it. This was Grand Theft Football on an industrial scale, theoretically saving our season but simultaneously helping you understand we're not going to beat enough good teams to make the eight.

From a position of almost total dominance, a switch flicked (whether it was ours OFF or theirs ON is up for debate) and the game turned on its head. I don't understand what happened, but hope there's enough assistant coaches left to make a ripping highlights package that educates players on the two phases of the game.

Knowing chuff all about football coaching or tactics I can tell you the problem was Carlton starting to get their hands on the ball. That's a simplistic view, and it's the job of coaches and players to expand on it and ask why we were so good at keeping it away from them early and so putrid at the end. It's true though, for the first 30 minutes (now, regrettably spread across two quarters) Gawn was tormenting the ruckman who has a name like a 1990s internet service provider, we were linking up well by hand and foot, and every time a Carlton player got the ball somebody jumped on him. Then they belatedly turned up 10 minutes into the second quarter and we went into panic mode.

David Teague would be bleeding tonight knowing his side - missing a ruckman and key forward - were obviously more than a match for us but were left in serious stranglewank territory by their poor start. Sounds familiar, based on our many and varied shit starts to games I think Goodwin usually has a better Plan B than Plan A. Today the original worked a treat, but when he went to his pile of printouts to find how to stop a team roaring back unchallenged with a forward line that has ceased to exist he was shit out of luck.

Despite the near-tragic circumstances of the finish, you've got to pay some credit for the start. For future generations who didn't see this game it's hard to explain our dominance. We've blown teams off the park once or twice, but it wasn't like that. The seven goals were reasonably well spread out, came from everyone but the tall forwards and never looked like it was going to turn into a 10 goal a quarter avalanche. It was just an atmosphere of pressure that didn't allow the Blues to do anything, while we calmly built what should have been a match-winning lead.

After years of trying to find a good full forward then trading him, I'm worried by our attack. I'd love to sit down with someone qualified to tell me what's wrong with Tom McSizzle, because in two games three months apart he's looked like somebody who's only going to stay in the side because there's nobody to replace him. He did some nice CHF stuff leading up the ground but was a non-factor inside 50 where we need him to have an impact.

At least in the Eagles game he got a couple of goals from limited opportunity, this time he didn't even get a shot away. For a long time I've clung to a theory that it's because we kick the ball on top of his head all the time, then I found this video of all his 2018 goals and there's overhead marks galore so that's out the window. So what is it then, the lack of a diversion like Hogan, other teams working out the way he plays, shouse delivery or something else?

I want him to be a killer target again so I'm switching to blaming the kicks inside 50 but it's getting harder to play down the fact that he's looking like the poster child for the big fluke of 2018. With ball in hand he did some good stuff, but that's no help without a marking forward to kick to. I love Forward Fritsch, but you're kidding yourself if you think we can thump it long to him inside 50. The answer is to Make Tom Sizzle Again.

Melksham has also been MIA this year, Luke Jackson is purely there for development purposes, and with Pickett in Coronavirus jail we not only lacked aerial options but ground threat as well. When Forward Fritsch got the opener within a minute I thought he was launching his wildcard Coleman campaign, then he kicked four points from close range for the rest of the day. Means he had five chances I suppose.

The undoubted star of the show from beginning to end was Petracca. I was worried he'd overplayed his hand with that ripping practice match against the Crows but this is two games now where the opposition knew what they were in for and still struggled to stop him. I'm desperate for it to continue because at the moment he's in top shelf, superstar form. His ability to be where the ball is, to power through traffic and to contribute to scores is game-winning stuff. Spoiler alert for the votes, but he Gawn and Oliver were so far in front of the rest of their teammates it wasn't funny. Handy trio to have if you can get the other 19 going.

After only getting a reprieve because of Pickett's cabin fever (and you hope some of the players busted for breaching lockdown rules were shagging), I thought Neal-Bullen was very good early. He set up Forward Fritsch's first and was in everything in attack. He's got the attributes to be a regular, and while I don't think a nine possession, two goal game will be the making of him it buys him another go.

As our score kept ticking skywards while Carlton's stayed on the tremendously satisfying 0.0, I had the classic Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome conflict between enjoying it for what it was and being terrified about throwing the game away from an unlosable position. I loved being five goals to quite literally nil up and wouldn't have given that away for anything, but it's cruel when you're almost certain that we won't play another quarter as good for the rest of the game.

It's hard to top keeping a side scoreless (first time we've done it in the opening quarter since 1994) but I was comfortable about them scoring eventually, as long as we scored more. Even running level for the rest of the game would have been a disappointment after that start (a lot like Gold Coast 2012 game where we were 40 up at quarter time and only won by 42. Also featuring a young H. Bennell running riot for the Suns), so you can imagine how well I took nearly losing.

The surprisingly mega lead even caused me physical pain, I've had a sore neck under control for the last week but the pressure of having to hold this rapidly extending lead must have caused the muscles to tense up because by the first change it felt like somebody had whacked me about the shoulders with a cricket bat. Oddly as the game slipped away so did the pain, replaced by language that turned the air blue. I am willing to wear wires during a game so that science may understand what sports do to me.

At this point I was cursing 16 minute quarters for robbing us of four more minutes of domination (at the end of the game when we were saved by the sawn-off clock it was thumbs up Gil, well rule changed), but the thumping took a short break at the end of the quarter. Part of that was when the game stopped for a Carlton player to be stretchered off, and if there's a scenario more likely to end badly for us than the opposition going one down on the bench I'm yet to discover it.

You got a hint of what was to come at the start of the second quarter, they finally put up scores but only via two attacks that should have ended in goals. The second one provoked a response that should have squashed their spirit flat. After nearly 10 minutes of finally getting a kick, with Marc Internet starting to break even with Gawn, we stormed from one end to the other, where Adam Tomlinson did what I assume is the best thing in his career, putting this dainty lob to the advantage of Hunt...
... for the owl fanatic's third goal in a row. Instead of giving the people what they wanted by a making an NBA Jam "He's on fire!" reference, Dwayne Russell suggested Carlton "need a safe word." Not often you get a BDSM reference on Fox Footy. I would argue a safe word only works when you're brutalised consensually, but I defer to his experience in the field.

Fortunately, the Blues didn't take that sage advice and end the session, because they only had to endure one more goal before everyone in a disco blue jumper said "that'll do us" and sat back comfortably to enjoy the show. It was a really shonky goal too, with Anal-Bullet toeing it through off the ground. Another chance for Carlton to drop their head and get depressed about the unfairness of it all instead of springing back to life like somebody revived from a drug overdose.

After not having much to do for the first half an hour, the rot started in our backline. As a long-term Steven May fanatic - even when he didn't play for us - I can say from a place of love and respect that he was ordinary. An ill-advised fly that was 50% spoil, 50% mark and 0% well thought out cost us the first goal and he had a couple of rancid kick-ins. I wouldn't fancy that job, because nobody remembers the good ones, just the howlers, but he must do better in all aspects next week.

Let Trent Rivers kick in, other than joining that packed club of players who have clanged with their first kick he was hitting targets wonderfully. This is not a good sign for Michael Hibberd.

There was no drama with May's one-on-one defending, but he didn't need to do ill-conceived Jeremy Howe impersonations. That was Joel Smith's job, who was kicking four goals as a forward the last time we saw him but has returned to his roots as somebody who jumps at inopportune times in defensive contests. I didn't think much of him as a backman, and if they're not going to give him a bash forward then I don't see a spot for him in the side. We might have cut a secret deal to stop Shaun from suing us.

Maybe May started roaming around looking to get involved because Carlton's forward line was lacking proper big men for him to grapple with? Strange then that we celebrated Nifty 150th game by continually playing him on somebody 20 centimetres taller and 15 kilograms heavier. Nev didn't exactly what you'd expect to him in the situation, put in a whole-hearted effort, with a combination of brave spoils and the taller bloke exploiting the height difference by casually reaching over him to mark.

I expected the occasion would be marked with the latest chapter in his long-running battle with Betts. They obviously thought there was no point given that Eddie has been recruited to play the same 'vibe merchant' role as Bez in the Happy Mondays, but we did our best to give him about five chances to complete the alleged 'fairytale' return during the last quarter. No club is more generous to young and old players alike. We're community builders. Also, spare me the fairytale return stories from players who went for a free agency payday elsewhere, if Frawley walks through the door next year I'll have him with full respect but I'm not going to roll around on the floor sucking up.

For fans of obscure statistics, the matchup of the day was Nathan Jones vs Kade Simpson, who are in a neck-and-neck backwards race towards Kevin Murray's record of 208 losses. Chunk didn't do much, which is a concern for people like me who want to get him to 300 games, but by narrowly avoiding defeat he gave Simpson a two-handed shove towards the abyss, opening the gap between them to 12.

The shortened season might save Jones, but Kade is kactus, now only one short of Murray's mark. Unless this spurs Carlton into winning the flag he will grab the record and shouldn't claw back too much ground on Jones by the end of 2020. There's still every possible chance they'll be first and second by the end of their careers, hopefully with Jones as the runner-up. Another good reason to build a Tribute to Loyalty statue of him outside the players' entrance at AAMI Park. That's one statue nobody will tear down and throw into a river, but if you're keen on that sort of thing may I suggest forming a posse with Steven Smith, Peter Giles and Neil McMullin and toppling the Leigh Matthews one outside the 'G.

If I could have one more bit of positivity before this report on a win (lest we forget) becomes really dark and depressing, I loved Harley Bennell. Like the Ox after his last comeback I'm waiting for him to break down at every turn, but for somebody who has played two games since 2015 he looked comfortable. I don't expect him to be dynamic straight away, but the guy had games where he kicked six and had 39 touches before turning 23. As long as he stays fit the zero we paid for him will turn out to be a ripper investment, and watching him play is one of the things I'm most looking forward to for the rest of the year. Now watch him blow the calf for the 26th time getting out of the car at home.

Anyway, so after keeping Carlton goalless for about 40 minutes we bled two in two minutes, and I'm sure you also loudly said an exasperated "here we go". Of course, I knew this was going to happen. Refer to my text message conversation with Carton supporter 'M' during the first quarter.

I'm not the kind of guy to say I told you so but...

Suddenly the side that could do no wrong in the first quarter couldn't get their hands on the ball, whie the Blues were moving around unmolested. They torched a shitload of chances, but we'd packed up so dramatically that the ball barely got across the halfway line for most of the third quarter. An inside 50 count that was about 12-0 in our favour was overturned and we were left trailing. Inside 50s are a bullshit stat on their own, but in the context of this game they were telling, it was repeat entry after repeat entry and we couldn't escape.

Things were starting to look ropey towards the end of the quarter before Petracca turned up with an absolute special. First he took a contested mark, which is more than you can say for about 20 other players not called Max Gawn, then spelunked through a narrow gap past two players and hit a guided-missile finish from 50. It was ace, and should have been all the encouragement required to refocus and come out after three quarter time breathing fire. Alas no. To his credit, Truck continued to have a bash right to the end.

Given that the excuse for the rock-bottom quality of Thursday night's game was player fatigue after the long layoff, I held out some hope that the fitness advantage we'd worked on all summer only for them to take 16 minutes from every game would still come in handy. Apparently not. Cue a goalless quarter as the Blues piled on pressure against stunned opposition who had no idea how to react.

After blowing countless opportunities they levelled scores with five minutes left, and I was mentally preparing to go absolutely magoo at the final siren. Absolute 'carted to the funny farm by men in white coats' stuff. All's well that narrowly ends well, but we still deserve scorn for the way we fell apart. They were the actions of a mid-table mediocrity, not a finals side. I hope there's a footy TV show left that can devote time to explaining what the hell happened. There was still time to win it, but we were hanging on so grimly it was hard to see a way that we could possibly score more than them for the rest of the game.

We did have chances to (seemingly) put it away. Fritsch missed twice from close range, though the second was ultimately the proverbial handy point, and with two minutes left Viney had his chance to all but kill them off. Who'd have thought that Alan Richardson's left-field suggestion that Jack is the best set shot kick we've got would have a chance to be validated so soon in a pressure situation?

Jack thanked Al for his support by failing to make the distance from 45 metres out, allowing the Blues to fling the ball back the other way unchallenged and stuff up two GOLDEN opportunities to hit targets inside 50 and at least force a draw. I have absolutely no idea how but we survived the last few seconds for our 23rd one point win in history. No sympathy for Carlton, they can burn like everyone else not called Melbourne but still should have won. I suggest we put the master tapes in the microwave and pretend this never happened.

To continue the theme of total unashamed shambles, the singing of the song was a farce too. If I were Gawn I'd have used the huddle after the siren to say bad luck first gamers we're not doing it after that finish. Maybe he did, because by the time he got to the rooms they'd sung it without him and about three other players. Surely they can't have been that eager in circumstances. The good news is that they realised their mistake and started again, which meant even more unnecessary singing. Big laughs all round. Just like the end of Passenger 57 when Wesley Snipes gets the girl and cracks a funny with no thought to his direct role in the death of an Atlantic International Airlines customer.

Anyway, like Sly Delvecchio engaging in witty banter with John Cutter just hours after one of his pilots was also shot dead - best not to dwell on what went wrong. As they say in the classics:

2020 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Christian Petracca
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Clayton Oliver
--- a significant distance ---
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Trent Rivers

The last two only got votes because somebody had to, but apologies nonetheless to Neal-Bullen, Langdon and Bennell.

8 - Christian Petracca
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Ed Langdon, Christiam Salem
1 - Kysaiah Pickett, Trent Rivers (JOINT LEADERS: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I was so flustered at the season being called off that I forgot to do a nomination out for Round 1. There must be an all the goals video, I'll review and get back to you next week.

This week there is only one option, with respect to the passage of play that ended in Hunt's goal via Tomlinson's gentle lob, Petracca's steadier at the end of the third quarter was pure individual brilliance. I loved it at the time, and even more on replay. Good enough to not be historically tainted by us not kicking another one for the rest of the game.

Wow okay CP5! 👀#AFLBluesDees

If we couldn't have Anthony Hudson, Mark Howard is an acceptable replacement. Dwayne, on the other hand, seemed to think Trent Rivers' first name was Ryan. After the safeword incident I desperately wanted Ryan Rivers to be some outrageous pornographer in the mold of the NSFW Aidan Riley but sadly a risky Google search didn't turn up anything more risque than a poker player. Christ knows where he got it from, but he said it twice. Might have gone for it again in the last quarter but by then I was so ready to have an aneurysm that I have no idea what any of them were saying.

Speaking of Foxtel, it's bullshit that they're also doing fake crowd noise. Helpfully the commentators kept telling us how the stadium was empty and how they could hear everything the players were saying because we were enjoying the relaxing sound of waves rolling across a beach.

Double bullshit that the broadcaster with the best chance of setting up a 'press red for natural noise' option didn't take it. Kayo had an 'exclusive' camera angle for an NRL game, how about an option where we can listen to the sounds of the game, audible obscenities and all. All you're doing is setting up a second feed that doesn't have the gimmick, can't cost you much if anything. If you like spectacle you're welcome to it, but the difference in quality between the tiny real crowd at the Showdown and the hairdryer.mp3 sound they're putting over games showed what a farce this idea is, we should be allowed to opt-out.

I don't object to the display of CGI banners, but rating which one was better would be like the sad men who shout encouragement at digital horses in the TAB. You can be fairly sure we'd have won.

Press Conference bingo
To be honest, I never watch these. Once there's a game where something scandalous happens I might tune in, but for generic slop what are you ever going to hear of interest? Journos don't ask the sort of in-depth nuffy questions that people like me want to hear, and now that Ross Lyon's gone, Clarko is about the only coach who might say something offbeat and scandalous.

Luckily we have the hard-working and generally subject to unfair levels of stupidity MFC social media team to translate. The winning results today are:
Learnings ✔️
One day we'll have learnings about the connection and the internet will melt down. Then we'll spend the next week kicking five metres wide of players inside 50 again.

Memorial Watch
Nice of them to highlight the late Tony Bull and Tony Anderson with black armbands, but as much as I don't want to be that person they forgot Graeme Watson, who passed away in April. I know you're reading Melbourne, the man later survived Tony Greig pitching a cricket ball into his head at full pelt, give him something.

As for the players taking a knee, it's not my place in my life to be even remotely offended. But if you were, please make sure to publicly tell the club how you're going to withdraw your membership so we can hang shit on you for being a sook. If you've followed us this long then surely nothing short of a merger with the Real IRA could make you pull out.

I'm not getting involved in politics at this stage of my life but take perverse pleasure at the idea that there are players who don't want to be involved but are wary of causing a Kramer/AIDS ribbon style ruckus. See also the Northern Irish soccer player who was accused of all but spitting in the face of every person ever to take up arms in defence of the British empire by declining a Remembrance Day poppy. Unless you're a card-carrying member of Pauline Hanson's One Nation you'd have to at least recognise the importance of the issue to your indigenous teammates. To paraphrase Alan Partridge, why not combine it with a stretch?

Next Week
Unless the freewheeling activities of Spargo and Pickett create the sort of cluster Cedar Meats would be proud of, it's Essendon at the 'G on Sunday afternoon. Eminently winnable if lessons were learned, but as far as students go we're like Dangerous Minds before Michelle Pfeiffer turns up. Been spending most our lives living in a clanger paradise.

It feels rude to try and drop Hunt, and it won't happen in real life, but as much as his three goals were appreciated he was basically anonymous for the rest of the game. Melksham has done bugger all twice now but has runs on the board and Neal-Bullen was a better four quarter performer, so to get Pickett back in curtains for Jayden. He's welcome to return at the earliest opportunity but it's a team balance thing. Also forward, Weideman's got to get a go at some point, and if McSizzle continues to be nowhere near it inside 50 then it might happen sooner rather than later. Not next week though.

As for Smith, if he's not a forward I'm not interested. We already have Lever leaping merrily into the sky, we don't need somebody doing a not-as-good version of the same thing. For years I've moaned that the problem with Oscar McDonald is that not damaging enough but after he had a good game in Round 1 I'm open to just having him back there being boring. In eight days I'll be trying to trade him to Narre Warren.

And whither popular ethnic midfielder Aaron vandenBerg? He was playing intra-club games, so both his feet must be working. I'm not sure where he really fits in but I'd probably have him over Brayshaw if fit.

IN: Pickett, O. McDonald
OUT: Smith, Hunt (omit)
LUCKY: T. McDonald, Melksham
UNLUCKY: Bedford, Brown, Weideman

Administrative announcements
After three months where people were fanging for old games (though, to be fair, interest dipped dramatically after about two weeks), I finally got motivated to upload more games to my YouTube channel just as real footy came back. Just the kind of perverse marketing strategy that has made me what I am today. Amongst the new additions there are topical games where we went a mile up before nearly losing, and a thrilling win over Carlton.

Also, if you missed the final leg of the crisis special trilogy, I've got a real life, proper publisher and all book coming out next year. It's about the 1964 season and Grand Final, so if you or anyone you know has memories, pictures, or anything to contribute from that season please get in touch via the usual channels (demonblogger at gmail dot com, @demonblog or Facebook). It'll be out around the start of next season but I've got until November to finish the first draft so give me everything you've got via the usual channels.

Final Thoughts
The win was pure filth but it gives us life. We've now played one top four and one bottom four team, and what we do against the nine in the middle will make all the difference. On the strength of this performance it's not going to end well but this club has a habit of waiting until you think you've got the answers then changing the questions, so who knows what will happen next.

I do know we've got good players who demonstrated their ability to play swashbuckling footy on the big stage two years ago. Now 24 games of plodding, mid-table at best football later we've gone 6-18, and arguably all of them have had an element of luck. There have been the odd signs of life, but rarely against good sides and never across four quarters.

I'm not getting into coach sacking talk, especially after a win, and in the era were assistants are being handed their possessions in a cardboard box the man with a contract extension to the end of 2022 isn't going anywhere. Even if we waste the end of Jones, Jetta and Hibberd's careers there's life in the list (mind you Gawn, May and Melksham aren't that far behind), and he's got time to execute a Hardwick-esque recovery. Can't see us being anything better than a mid-table mediocrity at this rate but you never know.

Enough misery for now. Imagine how bleak the mood would have been if we'd lost? Return to your homes and places of business and we'll reconvene next Sunday afternoon in the forlorn hope that the plan will come together and end in a steamrolling victory. Nobody will be more surprised than me.

Other than that, everything was good.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Hey Nineteen - Season restart special

Now the prospect of civilisation being wiped from the face of the planet has been temporarily halted we can get back to doing normal things. Bad news for those who have turned 'working from home' into a rorting masterclass, great for people like me whose lives are validated by whinging about footy.

I'd almost come to the point where I could do with footy, but can guarantee that by 4.36pm on Saturday June 16 I'll be pacing around the room like a mental case and hurling foul invective at the TV. It's what the Melbourne Football Club does to me. On the occasion of the game returning (unless somebody catches the big one in a rogue root with a groupie), I thought it was only right to round out the crisis trilogy update. The first two were hardly the original Godfathers but I can assure you this one will be as good as Godfather III.

The most important development after confirmation the season would continue was the release of the first four weeks of the rebooted fixture. Had to sit through a week of drip-fed updates to find out that the AFL's fixturist has gifted us a golden opportunity to either set our season up or implode it like a condemned building.

After everything that's happened between 2017 and Round 1, 2020 I genuinely have no idea where this side is at, so while I assume we're better than Carlton I'm not taking it for granted. The good news is that either we win and get a much-needed infusion of hope or lose to a side that's been rubbish for years and get the chance to blow up deluxe. Just to confirm, if it's the latter we're not going to pay the coach out - we can barely afford to pay staff at the moment, they're not going to take half the list to Cash Converters to fund a termination.

With only 15 games left after that you can all but shut the door if we lose, but the full month will tell you what you need to know. There are two games to follow that we should be winning if we're in any way serious about this season. It's hard to get excited about a sawn-off mini year played under altered conditions but I've not reached a level of sporting zen that allows me to write it off and start again in 2021. If hell freezes over and we somehow turn this debacle into a flag (hah) it will still count. Unlikely as that is I need them to lift my fragile spirits by having the best possible ping. I think even our best only gets us to the fringe of the eight if we're lucky but that will reluctantly do.

A 0-2 start wouldn't be mathematically fatal, but it would leave us in a far deeper hole than at the same stage of a regular length campaign. Let's break the habit of a lifetime, try to be positive and believe that we'll beat the Blues by somewhere between the 5 and 109 point margins of our last two meetings. Then, if we've squared the ledger we have a great opportunity to set ourselves up over the next three games. What are the odds any team called Melbourne will take it?

I care not that Essendon made the eight last year or won in Round 1, they are a mid-table mediocrity that we should take care of if we're anything close to a finals side. But as John Worsfold begins his coaching exit lap we fondly remember handing him his first win as Bombers coach by going to pieces against their B-Side. Which brings up giving James Hird his last victory, a week after they lost by 110 points. History has no bearing on what will happen here, but in my supporting lifetime Essendon sit neck-and-neck with North for most bizarre results (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 148, 9, 10, 11) so I wouldn't be surprised by any sort of wacky result or contentious finish. Don't kick your TV in, you're going to need it for the rest of the year.

Also, this happened once...

... which was a grand old wheeze at the time, but backfired a bit when Hardwick beat us in a Grand Final the next year, won another at Port in 2004 and two flags as a coach, equalling our premiership tally from 1957 onwards.

After that it's a rare MCG game against the Cats. This will no doubt justify sending us back to Kardinia Park with fans next year. Locations shouldn't make any difference, one glorious Friday night aside we've been as bad against them at home as away for nearly 20 years.

This would be the least likely win of the four but it's not completely off the agenda. As bad as we were last year I have faith that our list can beat anyone anywhere, the problem is getting them to perform on the same day. Compare to the years where you would leave the house knowing full well that short of the opposition being blown apart by rogue landmines Mutant League Football style that we couldn't win.

Speaking of that Sega Megadrive classic, did you know it featured an early look at the Neeld philosophy of man management?

It's difficult to comprehend that by the time we play the Cats it will be five years and one week since that breakthrough win against them. After the briefest of flourishes, which still took another three years, we're back in the same place (or worse), while they've done so well to keep the predicted death spiral at bay that they've only missed the finals once in a decade and went within 20 points of a Grand Final last year. I can't even imagine ever having that level of comfort as a supporter. By now I'd be crippled by fear on a weekly basis waiting for it to collapse around us.

Finally, in the much delayed Round 5 it's Sydney at the SCG. A ground where we were shizen for years before breaking through for a win last year. Even that took a Stranglewank near-death comeback. Forget them easily dealing with us at the end of the season, by then we were in total freefall and desperately looking for the finish line. Like Geelong they've been an almost constant fixture in the eight for years. We've been patiently waiting for them to return to an early 1990s state of disarray but it never happens.

You'd like to think we could go 3-1 but at this stage of my life I can't bring myself to be optimistic. I'll say we come out of it 2-3 and in some level of difficulty but not dead. The problem is winning enough of the remaining 11 games. With West Coast out of the way that leaves us to play Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood, Footscray, Freo, Gold Coast, GWS, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Richmond and St. Kilda. There's an equal mix of good, bad and ordinary sides in that group but we're going to need to beat at least seven of them to stand a chance.

It's probably unfair to compare this 17 round season to any other year at the same stage but recent records of eighth-placed teams after that round suggest you need to be 9-8 and have a decent percentage (2015 - 9 wins, 2016 - 10, 2017 - 9, 2018 - 9, 2019 - 9). Have I told you how much I hate the short season? I know it's unavoidable this year, but when it comes to future years restrain yourself from whacking off over the NFL and...

In a sport that doesn't involve non-stop traumatic brain injury there's no reason to compact the regular season into four months. Even the Yanks don't want it, they're going from 16 to 17 games and would play more if it wouldn't reduced the life expectancy of players to below 30.

There's no scientific reason why 22 games works but it's just long enough to allow the season to ebb and flow but short enough that it doesn't over-expose the game with so many matches that none of them mean anything. The evidence is fairly strongly in favour, with record crowds and ratings despite the competition being talked down as if it's worse than rugby union. Spare me the fake trauma about people giving at the end of the year when their teams are shit, that nearly 24,000 people went to our last home game of 2019 should be considered a triumph of the human spirit.

'Fairness' is the only upside to 17 games - and you can imagine the sort of nonsense the AFL would do to stay in the papers for an extra five weeks every year - but even that doesn't impress me. It's only fair to the point where half the league plays and extra home or away game every year and Collingwood never travel to Hobart. It might be as fair as you're ever going to get but it's still compromised to the point where there's next to no value in it.

If we assume you can never balance interstate travel perfectly, the next fairest option would be a 34 game season, which is deadset laughable. Have a lie down if you think that's ever going to happen. You could execute seven sides and go back to the 1970-1986 model of playing 11 other teams twice, but even then teams were unwillingly shunted to Waverley for home games so it lacked something too. The only time it's ever been really even was the 1908-1915 period when University was in the competition and everyone played nine opponents twice on the proper grounds. I'm sure the fairness was a tremendous comfort to them at the time.

It's a nice, utopian concept but ultimately meaningless. Play as many games as you like, good teams will still be good, shit teams will still be shit. I will sell the perceived fairness benefits in a heartbeat for stories like Richmond winning their last nine to make the eight, or Port going from two games inside the eight in Round 17 to finishing a game and significant percentage out. I might be in the minority but that's the sort of stuff that fires my interest, not the 13th placed team having the chance to win a 'wildcard' as if we owe them anything other than scorn for being so low on the ladder. Channel 7 now own the game and will do whatever they like, but let's not fall over ourselves catering for spectacle lovers and allied tradespeople.

The constant moaning is like the Itchy & Scratchy nerds in The Simpsons. "They've given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? If anything you own them." In this case 'them' is the sport of Australian rules football. I respect that it might not be everything you want it to be (it's not everything I want it to be), but ask that you respect the rest of us by not going to extremes to fix terminal problems that don't exist.

You're not guaranteed bell-to-bell excitement in every match, so how 'bad' does it have to get before you turn off? Maybe give it a go. Forget an extra five weeks a year, if you switch off you'll have a full 52 to do things that make you happy. If enough people follow something radical will probably be done, and sporting conservatives like me will have fewer grounds to oppose it.

The usual whinging continues.
There was a period mid-lockdown where I was ready to consciously uncouple myself from the AFL. I'm here for the Dees until the last dog dies but when it looked like shortened quarters might be here to stay (and why are we still doing it this year now teams aren't playing three games a week?) that was doing to be it for me. If I lived 20 minutes further away from the city grounds I wouldn't cart myself there every week, and likewise I'm not doing it if the games are shortened.

There are obvious benefits to watching on TV every week, but the idea of downgrading my membership to match my reduced commitment made me feel so guilty that I just wanted to pretend footy didn't exist.

Unfortunately, when people realise you're a footy fan they think you're down for a chat about every aspect of the game from Jake Aarts to Cameron Zurhaar. As one of the few people working from work during this worldwide schemozzle, people were looking for non-Corona topics and went for the easy option of footy mingling. After nearly 40 years of operating on my own deranged part of the spectrum I struggle with small talk at the best of times, and while sports are usually a safe subject to muddle through personal contact, it was difficult to slap on an air hostess smile and feign interest when somebody was blathering on about Richmond.

Fans of other teams, I hope that you all have a nice time but I do not give the fattest rats' clacker about anyone on your list who hasn't previously played for Melbourne. Give me Lynden Dunn comeback content until it bleeds from my ears, keep Joel Selwood mopping the floor with his wife to yourself.

As much as I loathe the idea of shortened games, what really put me over the edge was the idea that we'd cave in to the media loudmouths and sort of people who watch nine games a week and act like they've been forced to do it at gunpoint. I'm prepared to sell out on almost any off-field issue including night Grand Finals and rolling fixtures, but lopping 16 minutes of play from every game was the last straw. Like Lisa Simpson, it's the answer to a question nobody asked.

Until vested interests like McGuire and Hutchison started pushing the idea how many people thought the game was too long? You might turn off during last quarter junk time or wonder what you're doing with your life midway through a 1.10 Sunday slopfest between interstate sides but was it really causing you issues? Not bloody likely. Then a few famous heads throw hand grenades and people start to wonder if there is an issue. We change prime ministers based on opinion polls generated from a handful of people but can't use record attendance and ratings to justify the idea that both footy goers and TV viewers are ok with the game. Maybe they're not overjoyed but few are at the stage of wanting to apply dynamite to the foundations.

If Eddie worked for Channel 7 and said "I don't think you can actually ask people to spend four hours at the football these days" you'd think he was just trying to pump up the ratings, but as the president of a well-supported club he may actually believe that this would lead to more live attendance. This is the same sort of optimism that had internationals going gaga for AFLX. At that stage I was ready to give everything non-MFC related away, but was heartened by the almost universally negative response to the idea.

Saving 20 minutes per game may suit you (but really, if you're watching nine games a week do you deserve to save any time? Seems to me you're struggling to fill your weekend) but have some respect for the game itself. Like the reduced season, removing the opportunity for ebb and flow is a recipe for things to become very dull, very quickly. If people didn't hit 6s in T20s do you think people would care? What's the footy equivalent, Luke Darcy's nine point torpedo?

If we have to save 16 minutes I'd hack and slash at the length of the quarter breaks but I accept that this would be shithouse for fans who like to eat pies and sink bulk piss. At the very least we could look at small changes like not waiting for ruckman to run to a ball up and nominate before getting on with it. Just chuck it up straight away wherever it is, let every bastard jump at the same time and get on with it. Surely third man up reduced congestion by putting more people in the air and less on the ground, waiting to pounce on the first person to grab the ball? At least try this stuff before ripping away at the game itself.

We'll see how the rest of this season goes with four minutes less per quarter. About the best compliment anyone's given is that you "didn't notice" it wasn't there. Not that it had any positive benefit, just no negative. Not to one round of games anyway, but spread it across a full season (of 22 games plus finals thanks) and we will miss things. Nobody's going to kick 100 goals ever again but they'll be lucky to get 70, barely anyone will win a game by the ton again, and if your side is four goals down at three quarter time you may as well go home. Imagine how much dinky side-to-side kicking there's going to be when a side only has to protect a last quarter lead for 16 minutes?

Four minutes doesn't sound like much but I was ready to blow up deluxe if it was introduced permanently. Imagine when all the other levers they pull to enhance scoring - as if that's the only mark of quality in this sport - finally work but teams have 16 minutes less to kick goals. They'll still struggle to get to triple figures and perception will be that nothing has changed. We'll end up back in the same place and they'll have to keep ramping up the excitement level until the AFL looks like The Running Man. With your guest commentator Captain Freedom:

Outside of general Collingwood mockery I have no personal animosity towards McGuire, but his ideas on footy are almost as poorly thought out as his Adam Goodes gag. This is the man who wanted the winner of the pre-season cup a bye to the finals, which is where we should have stopped listening to his ideas about competition structure forever. But he's run a successful club so any kooky idea gets a serious airing. I wish I was famous so I could demand the return of the deliberately rushed behind. Why does somebody's success in the 'industry' (*spit*) make their ideas more valid? Malcolm Blight kicked a shitload of goals and coached two flags but he also wanted to put sandpaper on the ball so players could "pick it up easier". Enough said.

Thank Gil the idea has been put to bed. Temporarily anyway. Like the Night Grand Final you can be sure the idea has been kicked down the road for a couple of years. Once Channel 7 find a way to foist 16 more minutes of those dreadful Samsung ads on a captive audience the hand up the league's jacksie will activate and spurious evidence will be used to justify the change. Tellingly, McLachlan didn't say anything like "the negatives of this idea outweigh the positives, we'll work with broadcasters to make watching games more attractive", he just said they weren't considering it "next year." Start by getting some commentary teams that don't talk four quarters of BOLLOCKS.

Contrary to the expectations of people who are paid to watch nine games a week and 'influencers' who are about to put their head in the oven out of despair at the quality of the game I reckon it's still pretty good. Obviously, I would prefer it to be 1991 all over again but anyone who thinks they can recapture the spirit of a past season under modern conditions is living in a fantasy world or conflicted by self-interest.

If you've got any sort of profile your focus should be on getting through this year with as little damage to clubs and the competition as possible and delivering a 2021 that will leave supporters needing to have the smile on their face sandblasted off. Instead they've cracked a Corona Boner that could have your eye out.

Beware of anyone that says "opportunity" or talks to you like you're a moron for having stuck with the game this long. These are the ChangeMakers and ThoughtLeaders who pushed for rule changes to enhance scoring that ended in it going down even further. So why not change the game again, like the people who contributed to an unprecedented 7.5 million attendance to games last year can't be trusted to make their own decisions and need spectacle rammed down their throat like footy Fois Gras.

It's not just administrators who have free reign to fill the 24-hour footy news cycle with ill-conceived ideas. People who are good at footy can also say literally anything and have it reported like they're on the verge of a great scientific breakthrough. Scott Pendlebury's opinion was already irrelevant to me the moment he seriously suggested a 34 game season (at the same time half the players on his list are wondering if they'll have a job next year), but the bit where he seriously suggested a best of three Grand Final series made me actively dislike him.

While a nitwit friendly "everyone gets a prize" wildcard series is sadly inevitable, the idea that anyone thinks that (Steve) hocking a giant loogie into the face of the game's greatest event would be an improvement is so offensive it made me want to filter out everything a footy player ever says again. Even the Melbourne ones, I don't want to have to turn on them as well if they agree.

The violent tuggery over everything American is selective. NBA fanatics want to extend the season and have multiple game playoffs, NFL viewers want to shorten it and have a Lady Gaga concert at half time of a night Grand Final. You can't have it both ways and I struggle to find a problem with the current setup. Here's an American concept for you - if it ain't broke don't fix it.

This goes equally for the game itself. With respect to the people who have and will lose jobs, maybe reduced lists and the decimation of assistant coaching ranks will have unexpected benefits for scoring and open-play, keeping both spectacle creationists and evolutionists happy, and giving Channel 7 the chance to organically play more ads. Maybe not, but can we seal off the rulebook and game structure for a couple of years and find out? There's a lot of changes from recent years that I don't like but can live with. Then we can have some certainty and a proper, evidence based debate at the end.

For now the white knights who are desperate to save the AFL from the best position (pre-Corona) it's ever been in can't even come up with a clear position on what's wrong. Nor can they tell you where they want to get to and how, it's all just piecemeal ideas presented like everyone else was stupid for not thinking about them first. Don't just give me buzzwords like "congestion", tell me exactly what you're trying to achieve. It's like the night I was stuck at work with three 9/11 truthers, all who were convinced something was wrong but had ideas that contradicted each other. Get back to me with a unified manifesto and I'll give it a fair hearing. Until then I reserve the right to hang shit on any suggested change to the game. Unless I come up with one, then it's a genius idea that should be introduced immediately.

Unexpected outbreak of pragmatism corner
Who knows what sort of razzle dazzle wankfest the AFL will be in five years time, but one thing we know is that for the rest of 2020, Channel 7 will be piping in fake noise like an episode of Family Ties to try and take your mind off the fact that nobody's there. Having nothing but the authentic sounds of the game and the inauthentic enthusiasm of commentators is a problem for some people. I sympathise with them, but there's also a point where you just have to decide to take the year off and come back fanging to go in 2021. You won't miss much, certainly not the comic moment when the camera zooms out to reveal 100,000 empty seats making noise.

When this idea was first floated I expected it to sound like the main event of Wrestlemania III, so was pleasantly surprised to hear an example so inoffensive that it's not worth punching on about. I don't know why they needed to consult with Hollywood types to come up with something barely above Sheffield Shield levels of enthusiasm but at least this is one 'innovation' guaranteed to be gone next year. I wouldn't choose it but I can live with it.

I was hoping that Foxtel would refuse to join in so we could enjoy the relaxing sound of Dwayne Russell going off like he's in a burning building five minutes into the first quarter, but given they used it on their NRL coverage it looks like no such luck. At the very least they should use one of their few natural advantages over normal TV to allow people to turn the fake orgasm noises off.

The NRL's hairdryer.mp3 was such an irrelevant sound that it took me about 20 minutes to realise it was fake noise and not just the background hum from support staff and bench players. This was a good thing, and at first it didn't annoy me. Didn't see the point, or how it would enhance anyone's enjoyment of the broadcast but nothing worth starting a picket line over.

But the longer the game went on the more annoying it got. If like me, you haven't had a good night's sleep in about 20 years you'll be familiar with the use of noise machines and apps to try and create and create relaxing noise. The problem is that it's never properly random and you either hear or think you're hearing the same bits over and over again, creating a counter-productive distraction. By the 80 minute mark - a game length that encourages barely anyone to turn up even under normal circumstances - it was starting to give me the shits.

Still, it didn't have a drastic impact on my experience so if it keeps broadcasters happy and other people from self-harming then I'll wear it. Things can always get more ridiculous, novelty cardboard cutouts look silly enough, but the Americans are thinking about digitising fans in the seats. Don't give Channel 7 access to this technology, they'll create holograph Essendon fans to do their block when a free goes against them.

Also, I didn't mind Alistair Clarkson's suggestion of adding two subs for this year only if the VFL isn't played. I say this as a fan of a club that drafted a project player with pick three, but what a waste of a year's development if the kids can't play any games. They can train until the cows come home but it's not the same. This would give us the chance to give players who are ready to play four quarters every week a taste of the big time, even if it's just for a quarter.

I hated the original sub rule because it took a player off the interchange, this I can get behind because a) it adds rather than subtracts and b) it's temporary. I'm sure Clarko will disappoint me with some kooky concept eventually but for now I'm backing behind the man who punches holes in walls and yells at junior coaches. Spectacle fanatics - note the difference between this temporary change intended to benefit players and plain old dicking around with the game in the hope of the 1989 Grand Final breaking out.

Rattling the tin
Back to the familiar club business of being poor. For once we've got an excuse, but after years of debt demolition the fan-free season is going to rip an even bigger hole in our finances than the disastrous 2019 season. Fortunately for us, especially now that we've sold the pokies and reduced our Northern Territory cash grab... err.... commitment to one game a season, the AFL has a fund specifically designed to keep skint clubs from going under. Which is nice of them. (update - perhaps not) This is money we'll have to pay back eventually but at a better rate than what the banks would do to us, and with less chance of them foreclosing on us Nauru style if we can't pay up.

We're in a better position than a couple of clubs - St. Kilda especially - but as expected the fan-free season is going to rip a massive hole in our finances. Not to mention the reduced opportunities for sponsorship when proper businesses are cutting costs as well. We should get a hand sanitiser company on board, one that you can drink Donald Trump style to cleanse your soul after another distressing performance.

Barnet Watch
A couple of our players have NQR haircuts. What sane and reasonable person cares?

Random House
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, and after the runaway success of my first book (lest we forget, temporarily the #1 'American Football' book on Amazon) I'm pleased to say a real publisher is looking after the next one. My original pitch for an MFC Disaster Years 1965-1987 retrospective became an in-depth look at season 1964.

Forget having to stick to a rigid word count, the hardest part was having to write about a successful Melbourne Football Club. Speaking to a lot of players who played in an era of guaranteed success probably didn't help my mood about being back on Struggle Street in 2020.

For obvious reasons it will lack the self-loathing and full body misery of the original but I think it's going to come out well. I've just got to get back into the State Library and MCC Library for a little bit more research and it will be done, but I've got until November to submit it to the publisher, so if you or somebody you know saw the '64 season and wants to contribute memories please get in touch via demonblogger AT

The actual playing of Australian rules football
In two weeks we'll have a named squad and our first game back will be imminent. The lack of injury updates on the website suggests that nobody has burst a tendon in their Playstation controller hand or dropped a jar of salad dressing on their foot.

If you take our last list and go forward 10 weeks that should mean the only players unavailable (last minute training mishaps notwithstanding) will be popular ethnic duo vandenBerg and Kolodjashnij. Don't fancy seeing either of them again at this rate, though AVB should have one more foot explosion in him before he gives it away. I don't know the status of Hibberd after his recent personal tragedy so I'm factoring him in for now but wouldn't object if he CBF engaging in something so frivolous as football.

Jones and Salem are obvious ins, but I don't see any point swinging the axe otherwise. After the Goodwin speciality of being jumped in the first quarter we weren't that bad against a top team in Perth. Some tidier kicking into the 50 and we should clean this lot up.

IN: Jones, Salem
OUT: O. McDonald, Spargo (omit)
LUCKY: Brown
UNLUCKY: Jackson, Weideman + Oscar, who played his best game in a long time

And the Clarko Plan is adopted I'll have Jackson and Rivers in the green vests thanks. Because they have to wear a vest, otherwise they might sneak on without anyone noticing. They should take advantage of the world situation by wearing masks and performing illegal substitutions like The Killer Bees.

Final thoughts
I didn't think I would be ready to go but I am. Give me all the Melbourne games you can find and I'll pick and choose from the others as we go.

Friday, 17 April 2020

While you were isolating - April crisis update

One month ago the AFL said "piss off pandemic" and boldly decided to go on (albeit in a reduced, broadcast deal fulfilling way). Slightly less than a month ago they slammed the brakes on in a way that suggested shock at getting away with playing the first nine games.

And here we are, with the competition in limbo and a lengthy trail of blood from all the people who have had to be thrown under the bus to keep it alive.

The league didn't have much of an alternative once interstate travel became nearly impossible, but I'm surprised they didn't try to ram through a hastily rearranged Round 2 of local derbies and all-Victorian games to get another nine matches towards completing this already sawn-off 17 game season.

Even if they'd held Crisis Round, they'd have still had to find a time and place for another 135 matches, not to mention a final sseries that won't be able to use the MCG after early October. This should be easy enough to do (relatively speaking) if restrictions are eased by the end of May, otherwise an NRL Island style logistical nightmare will be required to keep broadcast cheques coming. We know the playing of sports is of stuff all importance right now, but this is important for the future of clubs, the more money they extract from Seven, Foxtel etc... now, the less reliance on borrowing later.

People have an automatic bias against housing NRL players together because one of them will probably shit on the hotel carpet, but unlike most sports fans I'm not entirely against the idea. For one I'm acutely aware of the need for the broadcast money, two because it's not me who's being locked in there, and thirdly because I'm high on the novelty value of premiership games being played at NQR venues.

It just might work, especially if the NRL somehow pull it off without players escaping by boat to shag a 17-year-old. The issue with playing in biodome isn't just having to take every fit player you've got to Gilligan's Island (and we're got two more teams and five more players in every matchday squad compared to rugby league), it's convincing support staff and everyone required to transmit the broadcast feed of the games to go as well.

There's no chance this is going to happen in any state where you have to isolate for 14 days on arrival, so while it wouldn't be fair on interstate clubs, why don't they just revive the VFL and do it in Victoria? Can't see a government that is rightly or wrongly mad for restritions allowing it while everything else is shut, but it means you've got 12 teams that already have accomodation and training venues. If you're really made for keeping teams spaced out you could park them in regional towns that have facilities to hold them and grounds that have proven acceptable for TV broadcasts.

Of course, there are now significantly less staff to worry about, assistant coaches, analysts and general tinkerers were the first victims of the Austerity Football League. Many of the assistants will be back eventually, a few analysts will survive, but the tinkerers are fucked. If we get anything positive out of this fiasco hopefully players no longer being coached to within an inch of their life does more for the natural improvement of scoring and 'spectacle' than a decade of jack off rules changes.

Whenever the game returns it will be without crowds, possibly until the end of the year. This doesn't concern me in the slightest, but some people are so nervous at the absence of fans braying like wounded farm animals they've come up with a solution. And what a solution it is. Serious consideration is being given to an idea originally floated by the Lord Mayor of Spectacletown Matt Thompson where some plonker DJ will spin fake crowd noise to provide 'atmosphere'.

AFL 2020 is going to be a throwaway season anyway (what's different Melbourne fans?), so part of me hopes they do this. It will be so humiliating for the sport that it'll give us something to talk about for the next 30 years. Even professional wrestling, a concept that is basically useless without the reaction of live fans, didn't stoop to this level.

For a few days the spirits of the nation were lifted by some American bloke's love of the game, and while his interest was halted in time to stop him declaring the game is no longer as good as it used to be, this will get us back on every sports show in the world. This time with people rolling on the floor, tears pouring from their eyes over footage of 100,000 empty seats making the sound of Frenzy.mp3.

What's next, video game style virtual crowds? Are you that hard up for spectacle? Maybe you just don't want to watch footy anymore, that's fine, we all feel that way sometime. Just take the year off and come back in 2021. There's even talk that this fake noise will be pumped into grounds so players can hear it. Good luck with that, I once stood in the forward pocket of the Ponsford Stand with nobody in the stands and could barely hear the PA system.

By the time this is over the AFL will be saying "yes sir, three bags full sir" to Channel 7 like never before, but this is Fox Footy's chance to take a principled stand and refuse to participate in rampant stupidity. They think there's wide community interest in Dwayne Russell so they can't be entirely trusted, but surely they won't lay the sound of birds chirping over 13:10 Sunday games that wouldn't have had anybody at them under normal circumstances. Dignity, always dignity.

Random thoughts on everything else:

Finance Corner (featuring trading while insolvent)

Against all odds the hero of this near-death experience has been the much-maligned Docklands Stadium. Fortunately I was ahead of the curve and changed my opinion of the place two years ago, because it's just become the ground that saved the AFL. Three years ago they paid $200 million to buy it, now it's being used as security for a $500 million competition saving loan that will prop up 10 clubs.

Contrast this to the NRL, who own bugger all and have only been able to cobble together $250 million to stay alive on god knows what sort of crushing terms, and you'll be out on your balcony doing a round of applause for dear old Fortress Shithole at 8 o'clock every night.

Ironically the ground that ripped piss out of us for a decade is our saviour, the AFL loan should ensure the short term survival of all 18 clubs. Even the ones more pointless and financially stricken than us. The game is going to be on shaky ground over the next couple of years, the last thing the AFL needs is bad publicity for trying to bump off clubs.

For once I choose to think that they'll do the right thing rather than timebomb assistance packages to leave a couple of Victorian teams on the bones of their arse in a few years. What's the point in killing classic teams now, broadcasters will want as many games as possible, nobody's going to spend money to expand the competition, and Tasmania will probably be off the agenda (sorry Hutchy).

While they are doing their bit to keep everyone afloat (for now), for everyone who says there was no way the AFL could have protected a broadcast rights agreement that generated more than half their revenue, may I introduce you to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. They bought insurance that covered pandemics after a SARS outbreak 20 years ago, and will offset the losses of not playing this year's tournament with a $226 million payout. Have they ever considered running a footy competition as well?

The Ideas Shower (guest star: Blue Sky Sessions)
With nothing serious to report on, footy media has been reduced to anyone who's ever played or coached the game being able to float every zany theory non-5G related theory under the sun.

Malcolm Blight has ideas to save the game. Wasn't aware that it required saving pre-Coronavirus but he's obviously got a lot of spare time on his hands at the moment and has decided to be its saviour. Like his stint on Channel 10 again he's just saying whatever comes into his mind at the time, probably unaware that there's somebody on the other end of the phone.

His four point plan - last touch out of bounds, 20 metre kicks for a mark, play on if you kick backwards, less rotations - are a significant step back from when he last tried the save the game two years ago by reducing the number of players on field and making the ball more sticky. These are the people you've got to watch out for, if somebody's got a deep held belief that they're consistent about then I'll argue it with them, but thought bubble dickheads who change their tune every five minutes can safely be ignored.

Not content with being remembered as a multiple premiership winning coach, Mick Malthouse is also trying hard to stay involved in 2020. He thinks that the results of Round 1 should be wiped because of the long gap to the next game. So now we're going to have a 16 game season? May as well just decide the flag with a Lightning Premiership. If you held it at Waverley the locals could watch from their balcony.

Not surprisingly, this half-baked suggestion was received like a turd in the punchbowl. Even though it would mean having a loss wiped from our record I find it laughable, we sent 22 players out who weren't good enough and lost, stiff shit to us, try to do better next time. Kane Cornes saw his job as Clickbait Captain of the Sports Entertainment Network under threat and came out swinging at Mick's wacky idea. He's probably just upset that Malthouse said it first.

Speaking of the Hutchy empire, nobody would ordinarily give the fattest rats' clacker what he thought but as he's done well enough for himself to own a TV show so we were able to enjoy his big idea. He must have thought the talkback airwaves needed a rev up so suggested including a hastily constructed Tasmanian team in this year's comp - the one that nobody knows where or went it will be played. This strategy backfired when he presented an idea so loopy it couldn't even be seriously debated, living and dying in one segment of Footy Classified that should be submitted for a Logie.

In HutchyLand, the team's list would have be partially staffed by a short term loan of two Tasmanians from each team (Kade Kolodjashnij, come on down) and presumably a couple of out of work lumberjacks. This is the sort of person that qualifies as a powerbroker these days, and the reason why in two years we'll be playing 15 minute quarters with 16 players in zones.

If you thought that was bad, the follow-up show (another Hutchy production) featured Liam Pickering and [?] feigning righteous indignation about the ratings in a video game. Your Andrew Bolts of the world are skilled at pretending they deeply believe something when they're just doing it for clicks, Pickering's acting was so wooden you could have made a table from it. I haven't seen filler content like that since Fishcam.

The next frontier for filling time is arguing about the draft. With the disruption to junior competitions I'm sure the minimum eligible age is going to be increased this year, and will be left like that forever. The AFL has wanted to do this for years, now they've got a convenient reason. Matthew Bate sees a one world government, I see Steve Hocking as the face of turning footy into a wankfest.

Luke Beveridge wants the minimum age to be 19, Damien Hardwick hates the youth of Australia to such a degree that he wants it to be 20. I want to vom. These people obviously know more about what happens at clubs than some poon on the internet but is this not an unnecessarily harsh penalty on kids who can cope with the pressure? They're making it sound like being drafted to an AFL list is the worst thing that can happen to you - maybe have a look at how you're running your business before shafting talented kids?

It's noble to let kids finish Year 12 and give them time in the real world, but for every one that flames out after being drafted surely there's more that benefit from entering an environment of structure and discipline? What are they all supposed to do during the extra year, get a three year uni degree? Can't see too much enthusiasm about working towards an AFL career from 14-years-old, getting within touching distance of your dream, then having to go and work at the McDriveThrough and do your knee playing for free on the weekend.

The same people crank it over American sports like kids in the college system don't have the same instant pressure to perform, as you can see from this picture of a friends and family 4.40 Sunday style crowd watching the University of Michigan:

If the mental health of Australian youth is so important, what about limiting the number of 18-year-olds a club can draft and putting restrictions on what they can do for their first year on the list. Say they can only play a certain number of games, train a certain number of times a week etc... etc... For mine this is still an overreaction, but better than screwing talented kids out of a year of development and payment just in case something goes wrong.

It's the sliding rule all over again, a few people had their leg snapped so we try to legislate accidents out of a sport where you can legally knee somebody in the base of the skull while taking a mark, leading to unnecessary confusion and disruption. At least the draft age would presumably be a hard and fast rule (wait for the academy exemptions) that you can't police to within an inch of its life one week, then forget about after Round 23.

Next we get to punch on over how this year's draft is handled. In theory, a 17 game season should provide the fairest draft order known to man, but considering teams are going to be playing three games in one week in Swan Hill then not again for two months there's a decent argument that the system is too compromised to go on like normal.

I only partially say this out of self-interest, but I'd dish out picks based on this year's ladder order with all the future pick trades pushed to 2021. Still leaves us at risk of handing the Roos a primo pick then, but also gives them better security that they'll pick a player who has been properly scouted. They gave up a player in a real draft to get one the next time around, you can't expect them to use it on a blindfold pick of somebody who's missed a year of development.

No doubt somebody will suggest using last year's draft order again, which could go either way for us - future trades and concessions aren't included and we get pick 2 (hooray), or they are and North gets pick 2 without having to wait for us to collapse on field first (boo). North's CEO would rip a tendon rushing to sign on if they offered the latter.

This year
If the season goes past early October, the MCG is out due to the T20 World Cup. I hope they make Perth's dreams of hosting a Grand Final true but nobody is allowed to go. Based on Round 1 you could play it in a Wuhan wet market and have players drinking bat soup from the cup, we won't be involved.

Writing everything off based on one away loss to a top team is risky, but while I think we could still make the eight I'm confident that we can't win the flag. I'm still confident that we can beat teams 5th to 18th but are nowhere near top sides.

In theory we've already got one out of the way (no thanks to Mick Malthouse), so there should still be plenty of opportunities over the next 16 games to take advantage of lesser teams but 30 years of following Melbourne has left me naturally pessimistic so I'll wait to be convinced. Feels like a good time for a team that went all out to drill fitness into its players over summer to get screwed by the league unexpectedly shutting up shop for several months.

Give me a date for a Melbourne game and I'll get excited, but whisper it quietly I'm not even missing footy that much. Bad luck to my family having to spend more time with me on weekends, but maybe I don't need it as much as I thought. It's not quite like your team folding, it's easier to take because everyone's in the same boat and you don't have to see the game playing as normal without the side you cared about. The worst thing has been the effect on workplace mingling, I'm down to weather, Coronavirus or hiding in the toilet half the day.

It won't come as a shock but what I really miss is the statistical side of the game. This is consistent with my interest in most other sports, 'm keen to know what's going on and how but can take or leave the contest itself. Satisfying my desire for simulated scores, realistic looking goalkickers, and a clock ticking down in real time has been Squiggle's Virtually AFL season.

Last week I was checking in on the end of our 'game' against St Kilda like it was real, and actually let out a yelp of celebration when Tom McDonald kicked a goal on the siren to win by a point, before catching myself and realising that this was a bit of a silly way to act. Only out loud, internally it's right up my alley. If only there was a proper AFL simulation game like Out of the Park Baseball where we could play it (and historical seasons) out ourselves. I could probably do without for the rest of the year if that was on offer.

Meanwhile, everyone's doing flashback games and replays, and I'm no exception. On Saturday we're doing watch parties of old MFC games on Facebook. I can't promise every game will be a solid gold classic, but unlike what the AFL and Channel 7 serve up I guaran-damn-tee you that Melbourne is going to win. I'm also continuing to smash away on Demonwiki, where we've reached an enthusiasts only level of new information.

Next year
Who knows in what form or health, but I'm 100% confident there will be a Melbourne Football Club for the 2021 AFL season. I'm just concerned that they'll be playing some bullshit form of the game that doesn't interest me. It's almost certain that they'll keep the shortened quarters, which is the tip over the edge I need to stop going to every game.

Probably lucky I had a year to get used to the idea of not going to games almost every week, because as much as I love being at a game, if there's 20 minutes less of actual play every week I can't see the justification in travelling an hour when I could just watch on TV. Maybe that's what they want, until it backfires on the atmosphere wankers and they have to get the DJ back in to sweeten the crowd noise because people are losing interest.

I want to keep paying for the membership with a reserved seat that I don't even use now and a Grand Final ticket guarantee that has done nothing for me in a decade other than cost me another $5 in 2018 but I won't if I'm not going. Will support the club until one of us is in a box, but I can't be slinging money around like a drunk sailor if I don't respect the sport itself.

On that cheerful note, I haven't got a clever outro so see you for another update in mid-May, or when something major happens.