Sunday, 14 May 2006

Never go on holidays

(A special guest report by Johnny Knoxville. Not the real one - please don't sue - Supermercado)

All the Demonblogger asked for was a relaxing last quarter, and finally he got one. Unfortunately it was spent munching party pies and hundreds-and-thousands sangers on, if you can believe it, a moving train. (He's right. At least I had a relaxing last quarter following the scores on the AFL website - editor)

In hindsight, the omens had been good in the lead-up to Saturday’s clash between Melbourne and our twin headcase from across the Nullarbor, Freo:

* Freo’s five previous victories over hated foe West Coast had been followed by inglorious defeats,
* Lumbering ape Aaron Sandilands was out of commission following an assault by one of the hated foe,
* The Demon Blogger had tipped Freo, and
* David Neitz was back.

On the other hand, the omens had been bad:

* Jeff Farmer, responsible for a quiet seven goals in the same fixture last year, had somehow weaseled out of a week of his suspension in order to inflict more pain on us,

* Aaron Davey had appeared on the front of the Herald Sun sports section dressed, for some reason, as Fred Astaire, down to but not including his shoes (which appeared to be 2003 model Bata Scouts), thus ensuring he would not get a kick,

*Melbourne were $1.65 favourites, and

* David Neitz was back.

Certainly, the Freo fans were confident, or as confident as Freo fans ever are. At least, that was the impression I got from my Dockers-supporting mate when I met her at cavernous Swan Street tavern Holliava at 1pm. I pretty much had to lipread, though, because the management had decided our party of four — the only humans in the joint at 1pm — hadn’t quite partied enough the previous night and needed to cop a dose of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (no doubt the Demon Blogger would approve) at jackhammer-five-feet-away decibel levels.

To the G, and after a complex series of entrances and passouts designed to ensure none of our group actually had to pay to get in, we settled behind the goals at the city end — prime Docker territory. Armed with a pen, sober (ish) and, for the first time this season, clutching a Footy Record, I was taking my duties as Demonblog supersub seriously and was determined to document any and all purple buffoonery for your reading pleasure.

Sadly, the best I have to offer is the far-fetched sledge: "Robertson, you homosexual!" after Russell hit the post in the second quarter, and the bloke who appeared to have wandered in off the set of Starsky & Hutch, wearing a brown leather jacket over Freo heritage guernsey with aviator sunglasses and salt-n-pepper hair that looked to have required about an hour and a half to get it to the correct stage of touslement. ("He wouldn’t get away with that at a game in WA," one of the Dockers around us muttered darkly.)

Anyway, early doors it looked like Bad Omens would prevail over Good when the Wiz copped a handpass and slotted one through from five yards out, bringing up his 400th AFL goal, and good on him. A poll on this week suggested he might celebrate the milestone by holding his "Purple Jesus" pose for the remainder of the match, and maybe he did, because he was never seen again — although I note in the paper he did kick a second goal at some point.

Then Troy Cook, whose kicking seems to enjoy the same acclaim among Dockers fans as Simon Godfrey’s does among ours, dobbed one on the run from 50 and a bleak afternoon loomed.

In fact we were probably lucky they didn’t have a couple more by the time Davey, defying the time-honoured Silly Posed Herald Sun Photo Equals Dog Of A Game syndrome, picked it up on the wing, charged in and calmly hammered it home.

Next thing you know Yze crumbs one and, running headlong into the right-hand behind zone, has no option but to employ that previously unknown appendage of his, the right foot. Implausibly, he threads it and just implausibly the Demons are in front.

I’d like to say it was a procession from there on but in fact we were only a goal up at quarter time, and that was largely due to the newfound ability of our maligned "front runners" to go back and defend. We were down 9-2 in the clearances at this stage despite our predicted ruck dominance.

That third goal, by the way, went to none other than D Neitz, who managed to find himself three yards in front of his opponent with the ball dropping on to his chest. That did seem at the time the only way he was going to hold a mark. We need to hope he can remain injury-free for the rest of the year because every time he returns from a break it takes him four games to relearn the skill of catching. But hey, he straightens us up and, err, takes the best defender.

Anyway, in a familiar story we busted it open in the second quarter. Travvy sensational, Byron superb, Davey on fire, Yze dangerous, Cammo on Brownlow pace, Green good again, McLean a big key … very hard to find a bad player.

And how about that Lynden Dunn? The skills, the class, the vaguely toffish-sounding name … at last, a worthy successor to Roger Ellingworth in the 14 guernsey.

Davey to Whelan was good football, and the resultant Yze goal prompted the following rash exchange between Docker Chick and my usual boon companion at the football, The Rabbit, whose neo-Nazi crewcut and thick Glaswegian accent lend him the often useful air of lieutenant to Francis Begbie.

Docker Chick: "I’m not satisfied."

Rabbit: "You should be, though … you’re playing the 2006 premiers."

So well have I schooled The Rabbit in Melbourne supportage, however, that when the Dockers closed to 20 points early in the third his response was: "This will be a season-ending loss."

Or maybe it’s all those years supporting Scotland and Partick Thistle that give him that endearing pessimism.

It’s history now that, in something of a plot twist, we quashed the third-quarter revival (partly through the agency of the skipper and a second top mark in front by Jamar), led by 33 at the last break and were able to enjoy almost the entire last quarter, as the boys pulled out the party tricks — slotting them on the run from the fifth row, blokes hacking goals out of the air, you know the drill.

Only adding to the mirth were the increasingly hilarious updates from Telstra Dome, where Richmond was being exposed as, ah, Richmond.

We wished it would never end, Aurora Stadium-style, but sadly the siren was being operated by the Holliava people and was more than audible. For the second successive year I infiltrated the Dockers’ after-match function (tip for anyone wanting access to places you shouldn’t be allowed at the MCG: stride purposefully past the "coat" on duty while peering into the distance, pointing and yammering into your mobile).

Needless to say the atmosphere was more subdued this time around, and not wanting to add insult to injury on this occasion I refrained from commandeering the mike and telling them: "Party’s over — you can all fuck off back to WA now," as I had in 2005.

And so to the votes.

5 — David Neitz (Took the opposition’s best defender.)

Only joking.

5 — Aaron Davey (He is the key. Does it all.)

4 — Brock McLean (He’s the other key.)

3 — Travis Johnstone (Everything he did was good.)

2 — Byron Pickett (He’s the key as well.)

1 — James McDonald (Underrated player, so for once I’ll overrate him. 15 tackles, allegedly.)

Apologies to the rest of the team.

[What follows is me again - S. Mercado]

2006 Allen Jakovich Medal Leaderboard

25 - Cameron Bruce
14 - Byron Pickett
13 - Aaron Davey
10 - Brock McLean
7 - Colin Sylvia
7 - Jared Rivers (2006 Marcus Seecamp Medal leader)
7 - Travis Johnstone
4 - Nathan Carroll
4 - James McDonald
3 - David Neitz
2 - Brent Moloney
2 - Adem Yze
2 - Brad Miller
2 - Brad Green
1 - Daniel Ward
1 - Nathan Brown
1 - Jeff White

Next week: Hawthorn at the MCG. Friday night. The Hawks have lost the plot after early season heroics and we're on a four game winning streak after playing like the West Preston Lakeside for the first three and a half rounds of the year. Logic says we win. The history of the Melbourne Football Club says we lose. For once I'll fall on the side of logic, because I'll be distressed if we can't knock over the people who were 46-0 down against Brisbane ten minutes into the second quarter.

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