Saturday 28 May 2005

There's Only One Nathan Brown (who can still walk...)

Note - I feel really bad about the title of this post and some of the content which follows but to go back and edit it out would be pissweak. I wrote it, I'll wear it. If it's any consolation Melbourne have been utter wank ever since.

Ahh Telstra Dome. One night with yuppies makes a hard man humble. The tone of the place was set with the traditional pre-match motherhood statements on the scoreboard. Not only did they pioneer the "please be aware that footballs will be kicked at the crowd during the warmup" announcement they've now added a "Please don't swear for the sake of the kiddies" and "Please move up seats for the comfort of all patrons" as well. Farcical. They even had to tell some idiot that he'd left his lights on in the carpark. Don't tell them - laugh at them instead! Don't put it on the scoreboard until it says "Attention Car FGH 545 you now have a flat battery! Eat that!"

There was barely anyone in the ground when I got there. You could tell that 30000 tickets had been pre-sold because nobody showed up until ten minutes before the first bounce. Luckily, by showing up early, we managed to plant ourselves in a section almost entirely consisting of Melbourne fans. This was a bonus as it allowed us to turn up the gimmickery and shenanigans to 11 without the prospect of being beaten senseless but alas probably ruined the sort of report you're coming on here to read where I slander everyone involved with the Richmond football club and suggest they should be shut down. The only thing I will say about them is that it shits me up the wall when 75% of their fans only bother to light up for the "yellow and black" section of the theme. Just terrible. Sing it all or sit there and clap like a seal with your mouth shut.

I must admit that when the changes came up on the screen and David Neitz, second highest goalkicker in club history, had been replaced by S. Godfrey I became slightly concerned. Well, more than slightly actually. I was shitting it so badly that I didn't notice Greg Stafford was out for the Tigers. In retrospect that was probably the lucky break we needed to do the right thing and piss it in. We were always going to be stretched by their talls, and with one out it allowed us to shut them down up front (more about that later) and come out on top.

By walking past the TAB on the way to level three I got tempted by a first goalkicker bet. To be entirely honest I wanted to walk in there and whack $5 on somebody like Nathan Brown (our one) to show up and boot the first at long odds but Sportsbet rolled me by only putting up the obvious names and having the rest under "Any Other Player" @ 3.75. Shattered - so I went for the longest option on the board and took Brent Moloney @ 23-1. First goalkicker bets are the biggest waste of money in the world, but you never know when you'll get it right so it's worth having a crack once in a while. As it was all interest in that particular angle died about 90 seconds into the game when Aaron Davey waltzed in and opened the scoring. No big loss - at least it was one of our players that put me out of the game. Tickets were symbolically destroyed without tears as Ben Holland, of all people, suddenly ran riot and before long we were 32-0 in front and things were looking very attractive indeed. Of course it all started going backwards - in a scenario reminscent of St. Kilda the Friday night previous we suffered a reverse that lead to Richmond getting within a goal. It's starting to become a trend that every time Jeff White leaves the ground for his rest at the end of the quarter we start to leak goals at an alarmingly rate. Odd because he's not exactly having the season of his life, and I'm happy with Mark Jamar as a backup, but something to look at nonetheless.

Now at this point it's time to issue a public statement. This website has had it's fair share of moments where we've hammered Alistair Nicholson for his performances but last night he was superb. Taking a good record against Matthew Richardson into the game he dominated Richmond's dubious forward for the full four quarters and was ably assisted by Ryan Ferguson, Matthew Whelan and Clint Bizzell. Interesting to see that two weeks in a row we've employed two or three on one tactics on the opposition's most dangerous tall forward and have suffered no ill-effects yet. No idea how they'll deal with North next week in Canberra (!?). I'm more scared of their small forwards. So, well done to Nicho for two fine games in a row. Luke Williams, however, is still shite.

By halftime it was starting to look like one of those games where we'd go in front but fail to shake the opposition and not be able to stretch out and revel in victory until the last couple of minutes. The guy next to me was positively pulling himself over the fact that we'd kicked 13 goals in the first half and was talking up a big 25 goal massacre. Rubbish! Count how many games in the last five years that we've had 12/13/14 goals on the board at halftime and then subtract the amount of times we've kicked 25 goals. You'll probably be left with the first number. Not for the first time I was proved right - Every time we went in front they'd storm back into the game and give themselves some hope of pulling off a blockbusting comeback. The good news was that the man who really stabbed them in the back was the rapidly emerging Colin Sylvia who bombed two goals from 50m out to kill the game off as a contest. In reality the third quarter was complete slop, with neither team being able to take much out of it despite some of the most farcical umpiring decisions of the season. Had we not seen the Schapelle Corby trial just hours early it's fair to say that the Melbourne Football Club may have won the award for "Biggest injustice of the day". Marks that stayed in hand for 1 second at one end of the ground were paid, then Ben Holland not only controlled a mark but was also sexually abused in the contest and still couldn't come out of it with a kick. Then there was my pet hate of umpires paying free kicks but not being competent enough to give the correct signal. Andrew Krakouer laid a tackle for a clear holding the ball and somehow ended up coming out of it with a free for a push in the back. HOW? Only the umpiring fraternity know.

Come 3/4 time I was fairly confident that we'd smoked them. But with Melbourne you just never know. I did the calculations and realised that if we folded like a house of cards again and had the same sort of last quarter as last week we'd lose. Suddenly panic set in. For about two minutes until we put them away. It wasn't until Matthew Whelan executed the "smother heard around the world" on Nathan Brown and snapped him in two that I felt confident. In a controversial moment we ripped out the title of this post as a chant and I was told off by the guy sitting next to me. Nasty sentiments indeed but it was just too perfect not to say. When Adem Yze ripped his third "goal of the year" contender out for the night with a dinky little chip from the boundary line that landed perfectly in the square the balaclava went on and the unbridled passion metre was turned to maximum. Game over. In the end we won by 57, which is lucky because I was nearly tempted by the 7-1 on offer for a 60+ win before the game and would probably have been gutted if we'd made it. Unless, of course, we won by 200 or something. That would have been nice.

A particular highlight of the post match scenes was the big fence run in the Telstra Dome ramp and the giant delivery of the theme song to those outside. Lovely. Player of the Year award

5 - Travis Johnstone
4 - Adem Yze
3 - Brad Green
2 - Brock McLean
1 - Alastair Nicholson

Special mentions to Holland, Sylvia and Brown.


15 - Cameron Bruce
12 - Travis Johnstone
9 - Brock McLean
7 - Adem Yze, Brad Green
6 - Ryan Ferguson
5 - Brent Moloney, Jared Rivers
4 - Russell Robertson, Clint Bizzell
3 - Aaron Davey, James McDonald, Brad Miller
1 - Russell Robertson, Colin Sylvia, Alistair Nicholson

So.. next week. To the national capital where we'll either get tonked by the Kangaroos or pull off the greatest victory since Paul Keating knifed Bob Hawke and became PM. I won't be there but it's fair to say I was sorely tempted. I quite like Canberra - I want to go back to the Tuggeranong Hyperdome. Hopefully I'll be able to catch most of the game before work and fill out a half decent report.

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