Monday 29 August 2005

Apply Some Pressure

So that's another season over. Roll on the trade period, draft, pre-season and 2006! What? Hold on. You're saying we actually made the finals? We lost seven games in a row, beat Geelong by a point after they had the chance to win it after the siren, did the Bulldogs via a contentious free kick after being a million points down with ten minutes to go and fell over the line against the worst Essendon side in two decades and we're still the 7th best team in the country? This league is rooted!

We've done everything possible in our power to avoid it, but we've fallen into the 8. Let's be entirely frank and open and here and say we don't deserve it - we've spent the last two months losing to the best teams in the competition, and falling over the line against some duds. The good news is that anything can happen now - and should we, by some amazing stroke of luck, win the thing I will walk away and pretend this post never happened. The good (!?) news for now is that we've become Richmond and are going ape over falling into the finals despite being nowhere near a premiership quality side.

Yesterday was painful. There were 50000 people there, and it sounded as if a quarter of them were supporting us. Unless there were a lot of Melbourne fans sitting there in complete respectful silence (which is our usual tactic) I'm sure that we were completely outnumbered. And why? Because apparently every single Essendon fan had shown up just because they wanted to see us get beaten and miss the 8. All day people are standing there in full Bombers kit yelling "go Doggies!" and marking out every time they kicked a goal. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I could almost understand us doing it in the same situation, because we've suffered 40 years of failure and misery. We're incredibly joyless people. But they've seen twenty years of success, premierships and being at the pinnacle of the game and suddenly they're reduced to showing up and cheering on another team to beat us. I thought it was just Big Footy that had a Melbourne Complex but it appears that now entire clubs are suffering it. Idiots. I knew there was a reason that I've started to hate their club in the last couple of years.

The game itself. Well, that's nothing to write home about. Most of our side looked completely disinterested in the first quarter, and after kicking the first goal from a free-kick (and there was more of that to come) we copped the next four and tensions started to rise. Come half time, despite kicking six goals to three in the second quarter, we were looking at one of the most shambolic pre-finals exits in history. Thankfully the defence were saving our asses on most occasions - with Carroll and Wheatley (especially) and Nicholson (having his best game for years against anyone other than Matthew Richardson) marking everything that came their way and spoiling wildly. Lucky thing too, because the forward line was doing nothing with the delivery from the midfield. The "kick it towards Robertson" ploy reminded me a lot of our old "kick everything to Neitz" tactic that always lead to him kicking a goal in the first five minutes and then nothing getting another touch for a half. Luckily everyone else was lively, especially Aaron Davey who couldn't kick straight to save himself but was all over the ball and chasing like a madman. Most of our goals came from free kicks, which pleased the local Essendon yokels no end. They were claiming conspiracy so stridently that you'd think that they were playing for their own finals spot, not to put Footscray in as part of some bizarre North/West Melbourne alliance.

By three-quarter time we were three goals up and if it wasn't looking over it was certainly going that way. It looked as if we'd finally shaken Essendon off, and even their mutant fans in the pissed bogan standing section under the giant Steven Kernahan poster in the bottom of the Southern Stand, had finally started to calm down and realise that they follow a side that is, for the moment, complete rubbish. We kicked the first of the last quarter and against any team it would be party time - but for those of us who remember being 42pts up against them in 1991, kicking the first of the last quarter and still losing by a point we will never settle for such a lead. It was quite a traumatic experience that has scarred me ever since. Next thing you knew Daniel Bell had broken his ankle, we were five points in front and some guy called Angus Monfries who I'd quite legitimately never heard of before was kicking for his third goal. He missed and we were holding on, clearly having run out of legs. Adem Yze was clearly not interested, he couldn't even be bothered chasing. If he's injured and is only playing to try and crack the consecutive games record then everyone involved in that idea should be lined up at the MCG and shot.

And then, just as I had to consult some guy standing in front of me to make sure that a draw put us in the 8, Robbo picked up the ball and hoofed it at goal. "FUCKING GO FOR A POINT" I screamed, for no apparent reason, as it looked as if the thing was going to sail out of bounds and leave us clinging to a lead like a shipwreck survivor on a raft, when suddenly it took the greatest bounce in VFL/AFL history and turned into a goal instead. Exciting times. Until the siren went and I realised that truly all we had "achieved" this season was to finish lower than last year, and fall into the finals where we will presumably be crushed like Chinese dissidents.

We finished the day with Suicide Celebration Sunday, as the elite of MFC support came together to debate the afternoon, watch the replay, and use our toaster to bake bread rather than drop it in the bathtub. Lovely.

But we won. And that's all that matters I suppose. First consecutive finals since 1990/91. To be entirely honest I was more excited at seeing Carroll and Nicholson killing it in the backline than any suggestion that we're going to take the finals by storm. Bring on '06 and let's get it RIGHT next time. Player of the Year votes

5 - Travis Johnstone
4 - Nathan Carroll
3 - Shannon Motlop
2 - Nathan Brown
1 - Paul Wheatley

Minus votes to the AFL for scheduling our first final on Saturday afternoon so I can't go. Feel free to write a review. I would chuck a sickie if I hadn't completely lost interest in this season last week. This is, I'm aware, almost sacrilegious but bad luck - I've have enough. If we win this, and I'm sure Geelong will be out to wreck us after what happened a couple of weeks back, we're going to get hammered anyway.

Player of the Year Leaderboard

Travis takes a near unassailable lead into the (potential) final round. Farcical scenario as I think Robertson has been our key player this season, and I'd give him the award in a minute. Thankfully for Travis the world's most undemocratic award is heading his way despite being second best.

38 - Travis Johnstone
33 - Russell Robertson
23 - Brad Green
21 - Brent Moloney
18 - Adem Yze
17 - Cameron Bruce
12 - Jeff White
10 - Colin Sylvia
9 - Brock McLean, Aaron Davey, Ryan Ferguson
8 - Nathan Brown
7 - Nathan Carroll
6 - Clint Bizzell, Shannon Motlop
5 - Jared Rivers, David Neitz, Daniel Bell
4 - Alistair Nicholson, Daniel Ward, Phil Read
3 - James McDonald, Brad Miller, Paul Wheatley
2 - Matthew Whelan, Guy Rigoni
1 - Ben Holland

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