Thursday 30 March 2006

Round 110: FIGHT!*

(* I'm just assuming it's been 110 seasons. You do the math, I can't be bothered)

Whisper it quietly but the new season starts in three days. For us anyway, there are six other games on involving teams that we don't give a monkey's about. Whisper it even more quietly but our entire season weighs on this very match. An extraordinary dramatic statement from somebody prone to extreme pessimism you may think but as far as I'm concerned it's valid.

There's no doubt teams can rebound from surprise round one losses to storm the season. Remember, if you dare, when we stitched up North in the first game of '97 and then proceeded to do fuck all for the rest of the year while they went to a Preliminary Final. This time, though, we are dealing with an entirely different beast altogether. We're talking about a club that has made a name for itself in the for it's spectacular Hindenberg style disasters in the last two seasons. We're talking about a team that only made the finals last year on the back of a lucky but deserved 1pt win in Geelong, a 3pt victory over Footscray which was wholly undeserved and a lacklustre 10pt win over the worst Essendon side in years. The rematch with Geelong was a whitewash, and even with apologies for the black death injury plague we suffered during the game there was no doubt they were the better team. It pains me to say it but despite having one of our best lists in the last decade we're not worthy of respect coming into this season.

And don't be delusional and think that Carlton can't beat us. Fevola and Whitnall might one of the handful of half decent players they have but remember that our defence has been absolutely shithouse at times in the last few years AND Jared Rivers is out injured. This leaves Nicholson, Carroll and Ferguson as our tall backs. I've no faith in Nicho unless he's playing against Matthew Richardson and even though I like his work Ferguson is no strength match for either of them. Carroll's performance against Matthew Lloyd in Round 22 would hint that he's maturing into a better player than I gave him credit for in the past but I remember him slaughtering Barry Hall in the last round of '03 and not doing anything for the next two years. A R22 specialist perhaps? Should have traded him to Richmond.

Also injured - McLean, Bizzell and Holland. Add that to the criminally underdone Bruce and Moloney and if I were the sort of corrupt bastard who bet against his own team I'd be getting right on the Blues under 20 points @ 6-1. Neitz showed nothing in the pre-season until the last game and I fail to see where it will get us to have a high scoring shootout of a match. If the midfield leaks and the defence collapses we are, quite simply, bollocksed.

Or maybe we'll win by 200? What do I know.

My 2006 Ladder, as dissected by the Demonblog Super Computer.

1. St. Kilda
2. West Coast
3. Geelong
4. Adelaide
5. Sydney
6. North Melbourne
7. Melbourne
8. Brisbane
9. Fremantle
10. Richmond
11. Port Adelaide
12. Essendon
13. Collingwood
14. Bulldogs (don't be fooled by their late season form. They're flops)
15. Hawthorn
16. Carlton

Premiers: West Coast
Brownlow: Not one of our players
Coleman: Neither
First player named for being a junkie: [DELETED FOR LEGAL REASONS]


Melbourne's Squad
N.Brown, N.Carroll, M.Whelan, A.Yze, R.Ferguson, D.Ward, B.Green, C.Bruce, B.Moloney, B.Pickett, B.Miller, A.Davey, P.Johnson, D.Neitz, R.Roberston, J.White, C.Sylvia, T.Johnstone, S.Motlop, A.Nicholson, C.Bartram, M.Jamar, J.McDonald, M.Bate, N.Jones

Make of that what you will. I'm not even getting into preferred lineups. Cross your fingers, hope for good luck and NEVER LISTEN TO WHAT AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE SAYS. EVER.

And buy a membership cheapskate.

Friday 17 March 2006

'Captain is alive' shock result.

Neitz LIVES!

Just when you thought he had been reduced to playing the starring role in cheap opening ceremonies the captain spanks North's first choice side and gives us some hope for the new season. See also a cameo from BP (Bargearse Pickett) and I've got 7% more hope for the upcoming year than I did yesterday. This indicates we will finish 6th instead of 8th before getting knocked out in the first week.

Melbourne skipper David Neitz has jagged five goals to help the Demons hold off a determined Kangaroos outfit by 22 points at Princes Park on Friday afternoon, in the final round of the 2006 NAB Challenge.

The Demons 19.7 (121) defeated the Kangaroos 15.9 (99) to finish their pre-season with three wins and one defeat, while the Roos enter the premiership season with just one victory - over last year's premiers Sydney in the opening round of the NAB Cup.

Although Melbourne led for the entire match, the Demons were seriously challenged by the Kangaroos in the third quarter. The red and blue led by eight goals mid-way through the quarter, but the Roos fought back to trail by less than two goals at the final change.

But the story of the match was the strong return to form from Neitz, who led strongly, marked well and had his kicking boots on against new Kangaroos' full-back Jonathan Hay.

The Melbourne skipper will enter the premiership season full of confidence, after an injury-marred 2005.

Along with Neitz, live-wire forward Aaron Davey (four goals), Byron Pickett (three) and Paul Johnson (two) were also key players in Melbourne's attacking zone. Davey capped off a fine pre-season, finishing the pre-season with 10 goals.

Veteran Daniel Ward, playing his first official pre-season match, was among Melbourne's best, while ruckman Jeff White, hard-at-it running defender Matthew Whelan, the ever-reliable Nathan Brown and emerging youngster Col Sylvia also stood tall.

The only sour point for Melbourne was a leg injury to Clint Bizzell just minutes before the end of the match.

For the Kangaroos, key forward Nathan Thompson was also not to be outdone, also booting five goals - and was arguably his side's best - while Sav Rocca also bobbed up with two majors.

Brady Rawlings continued his excellent pre-season for the Roos, winning the ball about 30 times, while teammates Shannon Grant, Daniel Harris and Jess Sinclair were also prominent for the Roos.

Promoted rookie Josh Gibson continues to look a player - having been a terrific low-budget find - while youngster Jess Smith again showed his class at times. Unfortunately, though, he was taken from the field in the final term in the hands of trainers.

Melbourne went into the match without leaders Russell Robertson, Cameron Bruce and Brad Miller, while regulars Jared Rivers, Brock McLean, Ben Holland and Daniel Bell were also missing.

On the other hand, the Kangaroos were virtually at full strength with skipper Adam Simpson the only major omission.

Melbourne started the match in emphatic style. The Demons booted seven goals to two - including the opening five majors - to gain a 30-point lead at the first change.

Neitz (three goals) and Davey (two goals) shone during this period, while Thompson was the lone goalkicker for the Roos with two majors.

The Kangas fought back early in the second term with a hat-trick of goals, reducing the deficit to just 12 points. But when Davey jagged his third and Adem Yze kicked truly later in the quarter, the Demons took an 18-point lead into the main break.

Brown (15 disposals), Ward (14) and Bizzell (14) were the major ball-winners for the Demons in the first half, while B.Rawlings (16 possessions) led the way for the Kangaroos.

The match looked set to be over mid-way through the third term after Melbourne slammed five in a row, running away to a 48-point lead.

Neitz booted his fourth and Pickett added a couple and a thrashing dished out to the Kangaroos looked on the cards, until the Roos began a super revival.

The Kangas booted six goals to zip in less than 15 minutes to enter the final stanza trailing by just 10 points.

Although a fascinating final term loomed, Melbourne booted five goals to three in the final term to win comfortably.

Saturday 11 March 2006

No respect

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A colossal "fuck you" to whoever is in charge of the mobile phone version of the AFL website. Not only did they decide that tonight's NAB Cup semi-final was between Adelaide and Hawthorn rather than Adelaide and Melbourne, but they then gave the score of the home team to the away team (Hawthorn) thus fooling me briefly, without any access to a tv or radio, into believing we were pissing it in. It was only when the margin got slightly ridiculous that I sought clarification and found out we were the ones getting slaughtered. Even though according to their own website, which continued updating throughout, it was the home team Adelaide who were copping it.

Confused? I certainly was. When you're watching one sport, trying to avoid the scores of another and trying to get the correct scores of a third and they start pulling this shit on you it gets into "mental meltdown territory". I thought it was reasonable to assume that even if they had accidentally typed Hawthorn in instead of Melbourne that when Adelaide was the home team on the screen, and the home team in real life that whatever score the other team had was what the team who was playing them at that very minute had. Too much to ask perhaps? The worst thing was that when I opened their fixtures page to confirm that they had indeed lost the plot it insisted that the game was most certainly Adelaide vs Hawthorn. Cocks. Utter cocks.

I know Melbourne are shit, have been shit for many a year and will probably continue to be shit until the end of time but did nobody notice that the game they were updating didn't feature one of the teams whose score they were typing in? Morons.

P.S - So I guess Sylvia wins the medal. Unless I see another pre-season game this year or can find somewhere else to throw votes around.

Friday 3 March 2006

For The Tip

I hate the pre-season. No really, I loathe it. You play in a plastic cup with gimmick rules where the penalty for winning is getting to pay another $15 next week to watch half-hearted football. And the penalty for losing is a trip to Morwell to see half your team do their knees on a ground that until Friday 5pm was a primary school carpark. The football frenzy was on in Melbourne tonight as a grand total of 11000 people bothered to show up to Telstra Dome for Melbourne vs Brisbane. You'd think more people would be greatful to show up and hand over their cash to the AFL given the amount the league has forked out to us over the years, but it turned out nobody could be bothered. Even 11k was generous, I would have estimated it at about 7. They must have hired the same crowd counting people as the A-League.

You'll be pleased to know that I bought my membership before the match. You'll be frankly digusted to know that I lost the "membership pack" they gave me within ten minutes of entering the ground. Which is a shame because I quite fancied the pen. After fighting through the frenzied, one hundred deep crowds to get into the game I ran into the traditional pre-season gimmick of closing the top level and denying me my traditional "back row of the whole place" seat. Swine.

The first quarter was fairly pedestrian. Long term readers should know by now that this is the last place you want to be for actual match reportage, so in short Sylvia ran riot and Byron "He used to be a dirty thug, but now that we've signed him he's a gun" Pickett has the biggest ass I've seen since Sir Mix A Lott's "Baby Got Back". I don't understand the logic behind putting him in the forward line, but as it's been conclusively proven in the last year my analysis talent is non-existant so I'll defer to the judgement of the coaching staff for now. Despite outplaying the Lions all over the park we somehow found ourselves two points down at the first break. Courtesy mainly of a rare 3pt rushed behind penalty after Whelan slapped the ball at the line and then stood back and watched it roll over. Fair call too, if they're going to implement the gimmick rules they should at least have the balls to enforce them. The only people who go homicidally mad about decisions in the pre-season are usually complete morons anyway, so who cares what they think. Right sports fans?

By half time we were two goals up and Sylvia was still cutting sick. Throwing tackles everywhere, chasing, bumping and harassing. Davey was also killing it and Robertson was coming into the game as well. The captain was absolutely nowhere to be seen and I do worry about his contribution this season, I think he's really starting to lose the plot. We definately looked better with the more mobile Robbo at FF, and when Miller started to dominate across CHF it started to tip in our favour. Midway through the third we were 5 goals up and my "never bet your own team, except this time" 25-42 bet was looking very much in the mix. Then young lion Mitchell Clark (not to be confused with the Michael Clark who played 1 game for us in 2001 for 1 goal and was never seen again) decided to tear the increasingly lost Nicholson to shreds and within a few minutes we had surrendered the lead. Sanity prevailed and the man we will NEVER EVER REFER TO AS JACK (apart from this time) was given the arse and replaced with the increasingly capable Nathan Carroll. The tide stemmed from then on and Sylvia got back into it, goals from Robertson and Davey giving us a 9pt lead. Then, with absolutely nobody expecting it, the siren went and we won. How exciting. Why do they play the song for the pre-season cup? Why does anyone sing it? WHY DO THE PLAYERS SING IT? If my left-wing support group gets it's way the players will be banned from doing one line of it in the regular season. The only time you'll see people linking arms and belting it out will be in the finals.

The Lions were without half their squad but consider what's going to happen when we add Bruce/McLean/Moloney/Bell/Yze (if he can be bothered and is not half crippled) and Bizzell back into the squad. This is a top team. In Sylvia, Bargearse Pickett, Neitz, Miller, Moloney, Read and McLean they've finally assembled a lineup of hardmen. No more will we need to rely on the plastic gangster faction of Green and Bruce to try and intimidate people. In an ideal world the Psychopath Group will do all the murderous rage stuff, leaving the ultra-talented but ultimately soft core to clean up and kick us towards victory. It's the perfect scenario. You might read that as a critiscm but I think it's perfectly valid, you have to admit that some players might be as skillful as anyone else going around but they'll never be hardmen. Thus you bring some world class thugs in as well to complement them.

Votes - in the abridged "Sean Charles Flash In The Pan Pre-Season Medal"

5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Russell Robertson
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Chris Johnson
1 - Brad Green

Hard luck to everyone who played well when I completely forgot to watch last weeks game. Sylvia must now be the overwhelming favourite to take this coveted trophy, and go into the regular season as a raging hot Jakovich Medal favourite.

Apologies to Whelan, Miller and Johnstone. I'm sure they'll be shattered to miss out. Bartram was good too, especially in throwing tackles around. There is also no doubt that Rex Hunt will refer to Matthew Bate as "Master" and cause thousands of red hot Aussie bogans to piss themselves laughing. You heard it here first.

No apologies to Pickett and his sweet hockey body or Nicholson for being the highest paid witches hat in the country.

Adoption Watch: Demonblog's own Paul Wheatley had 9 touches, didn't do much of interest but didn't do much wrong either. I think people were expecting him to rock up and start smashing 9pt goals in with ease. Idiots.

Next Friday night: Melbourne vs Hawthorn OR Adelaide. Where I have no idea, but I'm praying it's not Hawthorn because as we all know - and it's a phenomenon we've all participated in before - people who follow rotten clubs treat the pre-season competition like it's actually meaningful. This is the first time we've given it the contempt it deserves in year and we're into the semi's. I'm for that angle. Against Adelaide (providing it's here) gives us a smaller crowd and less "OMG WE MUST WIN THIS. IT'S IMPERATIVE FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR CLUB" angst.

Meanwhile according to the book on the front of the Football Record (which I sure as hell didn't pay for) we're going to finish 12th this year. Apparently Essendon will finish above us for no better reason than the fact that they signed Chris Heffernan. AH + HA + HA. Fuck the Football Record and fuck the AFL. Let's get this pre-season trash over with and start the real season.