Sunday 3 April 2005

Getting away with it

Games where we're expected to win comfortably scare me. You can't possibly celebrate anything other than a blockbusting win, and the prospect of a humilating loss and people whinging at you for the next week about how "you" wrecked their tipping is ever present. It was against this backdrop of potential disaster that we entered the Corporate Dome for Saturday's game against Footscray.

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While I must say my attitude towards the Dome has softened in recent times (though I still flip everytime I see the Medallion Club ads) there were absolutely farcical scenes before the first bounce when, for reasons unknown to me as I was listening to something else at the time, Bob The Builder appeared on the boundary line and started acting the goat with the kids. His theme song even got a run, and whilst it might be better than the Port or West Coast themes it was still a bizarre thing to see before the bounce of a league game. First they take away the reserves, and now this.

Then, to add more fuel to the fire of my my poorly recieved "Ban The Cheer Squad" campaign our lot pulled this out,

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For those of you who can't read the writing on it due to shithouse camera quality it says,

Passion, Skill, Deesire
Setting The Dome
On Fire

There should be an AFL official who gets to turn back banners if there's nothing interesting written on them. That message ranked neatly alongside "CHEER SQUAD DISCO. MAY 2nd" for motivational content. That said it may very well have had the same effect as piping the music from the Karate Kid into the dressing room pre-match as, after conceding (or "conceDEEING" as the cheer squad would probably have it) the first goal of the game we then kicked the next six to go into quarter time with a potentially match winning lead. Put the feet up then, sit back and watch the game unfold. And indeed it did, with the first eight minutes of the second quarter proving a training drill as the newly Robertson focused forward line ran riot whilst the captain sat on the bench. When the margin hit 9+ goals two thoughts entered my mind and desperately battled for supremacy,

The Angel: "Yeees. 100pt win. Cameron Bruce to kick nine. This will be great!"
The Devil: "Oh Jesus if we lose it from here I'm going to die. This could be one of the greatest comebacks ever"

For once the optimistic view won out. As we pressed forward again I pulled the phone out ready to make a "are you watching this?" phone call before thinking better of it. "Better wait for a few more goals to go in", I thought to myself. Then we gave away one of those useless free kicks because of bullshit macho posturing and the Bulldogs put their second on the board. There were more ironic cheers from our fans than celebratory ones from the Footscray ones. Which was nice because until then the crowd had gone nothing more than mild for anything we did.

Then I looked up and late addition Alistair Nicholson was in the ruck, turning back the clock to 1997. He couldn't play in the ruck then and he hasn't gotten any better since. The Bulldogs kicked another. And then another. We went goal for goal for the rest of the quarter and things were starting to get tense in the Jeff Hilton section (back row of the top deck of the Dome). For once half-time couldn't come fast enough.

Despite the fact that we were clearly the better side I was worried. Had they cracked the secret formula? Were we set for one of the biggest outrages in history? It started to look like it in the early minutes of the third quarter. We looked dead on our feet, which is NOT what I want to see in the third quarter against a side who had come from the clouds to win the week before. Sure they'd done it against Collingwood, which is like coming from behind to beat Montmorency, but it still proved they could do it. Luckily as the quarter wore on we started to assert our dominance again. God knows what happened, the ending was too tense for me to remember any details this many hours later. The result was a five goal to three quarter that saw us 33 points in front at the final break.

It's important at this point to say that I felt lucky to have been that far in front. The number of goalscoring opportunities that Footscray screwed up was amazing. Their three-quarter time score of 10.15 didn't take into account out the full, playing on and screwing it up, not making the distance and giving away pointless free kicks inside fifty. With a little more finesse they could very well have been within striking distance at this point, and the way we were rapidly falling apart faster than Michael Jackson's face that would have been disastrous. And then they totally ignored the fact that they were supposed to be dead and buried and came at us like a f'ing freight train anyway. My pattern of thought at each margin went something like this,

26pts: "If we get the next one we'll be right"
21pts: "Now we're in serious trouble"
15pts: "Oh shit we're fucked"

It was during this last one that I began pounding the living crap out of the seat in front of me. Blame the bruises on my right hand for the lateness of this report if you like, it's a better excuse than just being slack. Memories of that fateful day against Essendon in 1991 came flooding back to me again, and then I realised that I was sitting in exactly the same seat that I was in when we lost to North by a point in 2000 and I punched the seat so viciously that my hand pissed blood. As a precaution against destruction by unbridled passion and tantrum I stored everything I had with me safely under the seat next to me. It must be something to do with the lack of oxygen at that altitude, as I don't recall every violently assaulting any other inanimate object during a game in years.

I turned to the kid standing next to me and offered him friendly advice, I said "Mate, change teams now. Don't bother with this one. It will bring you nothing but heartache. It's not too late to pick another one". He just looked blankly. Poor kid, reminded me of myself at that age - I was just trying to help him out of a lifetime of heartbreak. He even started mimicking some of my unbridled passion antics, bashing the seat in front of him with his scarf and turning around and kicking the chair he had been sitting on immediately after I did likewise. Smart kid, he'll go far even if I was encouraging him to switch codes. The people sitting next to me became crucial just seconds later as a Bulldog (god knows who) picked up a loose ball inside fifty and snapped over his shoulder. I was off - just turning around and getting ready to throw a massive tantrum when I heard the kid's dad or whoever he was go "It's a point! It's a point!" Thank Christ for that, we would have been finished if the margin had gone below ten.

A couple of minutes later Cameron Bruce kicked the sealer and I went wild, jumping around like a mong and running over the kid and demanding that he threw the big high five. If that kid reads this in ten years time I'd like to apologise for ruining your life.

We then added another and it was in the bag. I sat back, relaxed and ruminated about how heartbreaking it would have been to throw such a colossal lead away. I would have pledged never to come back, and then gone next Friday night. Siren, and no throat shedding UBP rendition of the theme song - it just wasn't the day for it, I wanted to get the hell out of that place ASAP.

Make no mistake about it, Footscray aren't bad. I doubt their ability to make the eight but they're certainly better than bottom four quality. We on the other hand will not get away with such a lapse against Geelong next Friday night. For the sake of bandwagon jumping potential members we can't afford to get crushed on a high rating televised game.

Housekeeping matters... Player of the Year. 
Where I hand out votes on a whim, with no care for what real judges of the game are saying. Winner at the end of the season gets elected Pope of the Catholic Church.

5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - Brad Green
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Brock McLean
1 - Russell Robertson

Credit to Adem Yze, Jared Rivers, Travis Johnstone and Clint Bizzell. Symbolic negative points to David Neitz and Alistair Nicholson.


8 - Cameron Bruce
5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Ryan Ferguson, Brad Green
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Adem Yze, Brock McLean
1 - Jared Rivers, Russell Robertson

Next game - Friday Night. Melbourne vs Geelong - Melbourne Cricket Ground at 7.40pm. BE THERE. The Premiership Liberation Front and I will be in the back of the bottom deck of the Ponsford. Look for the balaclava.

P.S - I did not leave posting this until Sunday just to get the website name angle over. Just so you know... Anyone who can fill in the blanks of the game please feel free to do so.

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