Sunday 27 May 2007

Beat me, hurt me.

I ask you. What else can go wrong this season? 0-9 for the first time since the dawn of man, and still playing insipid and confused football even though most of our Black Death style injury list are back on the park. The situation is so depressing that you might as well prop Sylvia Plath's corpse in the coaches box (no relation to Colin, sports fans) and send the boys out to run through a banner made of human skin while wearing Vichy French WW2 uniforms and listening the sounds of Lou Reed's Berlin album. And do you think Neale Daniher would willingly meet the devil at the crossroads a'la Robert Johnson and sell his soul for one win? We might not be winning anything this year but by christ you will at least learn something by reading this site.

To be honest I'm fucking shattered by today's result. The best you can do is put a brave face on it but I don't think any of us need to be told that there's nothing sweeter than stealing a game that you had no right to win with a blockbusting last quarter comeback. God knows it's happened to us enough times over the last few years. Speaking of recent history this is the third time we've lost to North Melbourne by a point in the last ten years (Rd12 1999 - 8 behinds in a row after we were 7 in front, Rd17 2000 - a Steven Pitt led forward line surprising fails to deliver victory). It's hardly a titantic rivalry to match Sydney/West Coast but it's fucking irritating nonetheless. At least they gave us a few years off before inflicting another shambles - if you'd told me in 1999 that a few years later we'd be without a win going into round ten I would have asked you the following questions,

a) You mean we're still around?
b) So Brent Grgic is our captain then?

Alas we are, and thank christ he's not - but could even Bell Post Hill's greatest footballer could have presided over something as depressingly shit as the first three quarters of today's game? To be embarassingly frnak it's probably worse that we got as close as we did without taking the points because now the media focus will be on our 'gallant fightback' and not the obscene performances of almost everyone involved. Everyone knows North fall apart like a house of cards in 4th quarters - even the two N.M fans I was with knew it was on the cards. So we played footy in the last quarter that looked more like the Melbourne of old. Wonderful, but until it comes against a team who are playing at better than 25% themselves you, and everyone involved, can stick it.

There were shenanigans even before the first bounce when the saviour Brock McLean was a late inclusion. He and Brown replaced Yze (! - really injured or just being forced out the door at a million miles an hour? You decide!) and Bate who was obviously nobbled by Daniher for his performances at CHF over the last few weeks outshining the golden boy Miller. Anyone expecting Brock to tear it up and destroy North single handedly gets an A+ for creativity, but the fact of the matter is that he's been out of the game for seven weeks and was never going to come back and walk straight back into a BOG. Having said that I think we all got a bit horny in our own special way when he ran off the bench halfway through the first quarter - and 20 something touches + a shitload of tackles showed just why he IS the messiah.

The first quarter was, err, agricultural to say the best. With North seemingly running around in first gear and waiting for us to make all the mistakes we duly saluted and cocked up on a thousand different occasions. For some reason somebody sitting a few rows from me screamed "SHUT UP!" halfway at the 20 minute mark when nothing was actually happening. The poor crunt must have been a Melbourne fan driven mad by the season of shame. Any way you slice it he may as well have walked out there but if he hadn't gone completely bonkers yet, what was to follow might have done him in for good. Neitz and Robertson - the Twin Towers of Power - put a goal each on the board in the first and we went to the first change seven points down. Fair enough I suppose - it's nice to be close at least.

The second quarter was notable not only as the second leg of what was shaping up to be an epic snoozefest, but for Melbourne attempting to crack the all-time world record for getting pinged holding the ball. No matter what you hear about umpiring rorts and the like there's no doubt that almost every single one of the frees we copped on the day was legit - why is that nobody can bring themselves to accept that we're actually ill-disciplined? It didn't help that the sideways, backwards, against the flow tactics adopted usually led to the man who got the ball being besieged by 10 players a fraction of a second after he got it. Then there was all the diving on it - this isn't (thank god) the Rugby Union World Cup, at least make some effort to get rid of it. The other notable factor of the quarter was Shannon Grant doing his usual running riot against us and racking up a handy four goals - lucky that was all they got because we would have been completely rooted otherwise.

And speaking of completely rooted that should have been the story of the 3rd quarter. We fell apart completely and had North been able to kick straight they would have been 10 goals up at the last change. The only encouraging sign to come out of the 27 odd minute of rubbish was Nathan Carroll's contested marking in the backline - the man gets slit up a treat on the lead but in a pack he takes a good grab. Thankfully along with their wayward kicking the Roos were also nice enough to refuse to kick to a lead and allow him to keep mopping up after the midfield had cracked like an egg and allowed the ball down there in the first place. I'm not sure where the papers were watching from to put McDonald in the best players but it must have been the bar because in my book he had an absolute shocker. You can forgive the man one bad game once in a while but anyone who considers him one of our outstanding players on the day needs to check into the same rehab joint as Ben Cousins and have a good lie down. 29 touches and ten tackles are lovely but when the kicks go nowhere it doesn't count for anything.

So come 3/4 time and it was all looking tragic. Or was it? The North fans were listing all the times they had been dicked in the last couple of years from a similar position, and the women who were sitting in front of us had that air of misguided optimism that only people who haven't spent years having their hearts ripped out and shoved in their face before they die can manage. North kicked the first of the last term and suddenly the "beat the traffic" crowd were on their feet and out the door. "Don't leave yet" said the North fans "we're still a chance of blowing this". But really we'd kicked 4 goals in three quarters and needed five unanswered to win it. Who would have thought?

Well somehow it almost happened. They stopped, we started running and carrying the pill in a form actually befitting a modern AFL team and not the Diamond Valley Under 9's and it was on like King Kong. We were even on the recieving end of a couple of dodgy umpiring decisions. Quelle surprise!? It was certainly the first time this year that it's happened at a crucial time of the game. The Twin Towers bobbed up and belted a few goals and we were close. Then Nathan Jones smashed one from fifty and we were in front. WHAT!? THE!? FUDGE!? This wasn't supposed to happen. Luckily for us there was still plenty of time to cock it up and we duly saluted with the amusingly named Swallow throwing one on his boot from 50 that sailed in to put North in front by a point. Plenty of time to recover and pull of a famous victory you'd have thought - then we lost it out of the centre and while everyone was streaming forward to try and win it some North idiot ended up having it drop on his chest all alone inside 50.

At this point the frustration of being done over again after we were so close AGAIN did my head in and I flipped out again. Once more we agree that it's not big and clever but I think anyone who has a vested interest in the game has done their nut a few teams. Even though the shot failed to make the distance and therefore technically left us still in it this caused me to charge downstairs in the Ponsford Stand and kick the fuck out of a bin before having a dissection session that involved the word "cunt" being used on several occasions.

2007 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

5 - Bruce
4 - Bizzell (!?! You never thought you'd see that again!)
3 - Jones
2 - Carroll
1 - Neitz

James Frawley had a fairly ordinary debut. However I expect nothing from a first gamer so hopefully we'll see more of him, Garland and maybe even (if he doesn't also constitute a threat to Golden Boy Miller) Newton as the year of slops continues. Petterd is already a fixture, even though he's clearly still got a lot to learn, and it's fair to say that Jones has already broken through to Next Big Thing Territory.

The Golden Boy was shit. His attack on the football reminds me of my life - he wants to be good at something but he has absolutely no idea how to. This is the point where somebody (maybe even, shock horror, a coaching staff) takes them to one side and either teaches them or shoots them through the temple with a small handgun. At Melbourne we just let him roam around like a pre-decapitated free range chicken and hope for the best. Despite later winning the "Worst on Ground" from Triple M I didn't think Holland disgraced himself but he's got to be well aware that the moment the siren goes in R22 he may as well start looking for other work because he's going to get the arse. Maybe he can open a shop with his brother? Did what he had to today and I appreciate that but alongside Ward, Brown, Godfrey and even Bizzell despite his good performance you know that they're playing on borrowed time anyway so

It's time for ND to do the honorable thing and announce he's pulling the pin at the end of the season. Then the hunt for a new coach can begin with plenty of time to find the right person, and will allow them to dissect our games from here on with a critical eye to who will and will not be fed through the footballing mincer at the end of the year. But who am I kidding ND will be resigned, the same players will be retained and we'll be treated to the same slop again season after season. God help us all. I'm not suggesting he gets the axe now but the least he can do is say "look, that's it I'll step aside now let's get on with it" and try to wrench some sort of four quarter effort out of the side before Round 22.


16 - Bruce
15 - McDonald
10 - Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
10 - Green
9 - Johnstone
8 - Miller
8 - Davey
8 - Jones
7 - Sylvia
6 - Bate
6 - Neitz
5 - Yze
5 - Petterd (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
4 - Bizzell
3 - Godfrey
2 - Moloney
2 - Dunn
2 - Brown
2 - White
2 - Carroll
1 - Pickett
1 - Bell

Bruce is sitting on the biggest default lead ever. I don't think there's anyone worthy of lifting the AJ this year. If we knew where the great man himself lived I'd just send the award to him in the mail and let it go.

Crowd Watch
30k. Watch us thrive. I didn't win the $1000 they handed out as a bribe to our fans to show up - this is because I didn't jump around like a fuckwit whenever there were cameras in the area.

Next Week
Adelaide @ the MCG on Saturday (!) I'll be there slicing wrists (possibly not my own) with a ceremonial knife. God I hate sports.

Friday 25 May 2007

Rack up the lines, we're off to Subi

Demonblog contributor Peter M was on hand at Subiaco for last week's debacle. Here is his sorry tale - Supermercado

Everything started well. Our Perth mates had cooked a slap-up lunch of roast pork, we’d had a couple of beers watching the Swans pump Port, and I’d managed to get $5 down at $5.75 that the Eagles would lead by 1-12 points at half time. Good odds, and I figured there was nothing inherently disloyal about backing a half time margin, especially since I had the Dees to win for a fiver as well. I’d managed to forget the FatByron’s pissed text message debacle, and had even forgiven the Rev for dangling the carrot of McLean under our nose before cruelly snatching it away. This, I told myself, is going to be a good day.

Until we popped our tickets in the barcode reader and drew the dreaded red light. The Ticketmaster woman couldn’t explain, but we had to go to Gate 10. It sounded ominous. Where’s Gate 10? The other end of the ground. Now, I don’t know about you, but I get very antsy when I don’t see the first bounce. There’s just something that drives me mental being able to hear the noise and not being in the ground. The time I got stuck outside when we played North in an Elimination Final nearly killed me. By the time I got in half way through the second quarter, I was homicidal. And that was at the MCG. Add into that equation 40,000 Western Australians who think Daniel Kerr is a stand-up bloke and things were looking grim.

SUBIACO CURIOSITY #1: They play “We Will Rock You” just before the opening bounce. The crowd stamp and clap along. It’s like an under 10s basketball tournament.

At Gate 10, the guy at the window took one look at our tickets and passed us upstairs. We needed to talk to Michelle. She’d sort us out. Michelle had a list of ticket numbers. Ours were on there. Where did you get these, she asked. From a mate in Sydney, we parroted. (A lie). How much? Twenty-five. (Another lie). Did we know that our tickets were originally bought by someone the Eagles suspect is a scalper? At this point we faced a crossroads. Did we tell the truth, revealing that we bought the tickets for double the face value from a stevedore called Wayne in the carpark of the Railway Hotel in North Fremantle? Sure, that was the right thing to do. But Michelle was holding our tickets. The bounce was minutes away. We could see the turf. “No,” we said. “We had absolutely no idea.” Michelle gave us a letter from the club urging us to do everything we could to stop scalpers. And we were in.

SUBIACO CURIOSITY #2: They advertise the Eagles. Madly. Scooters towing little Eagles billboards put-put around the ground at the quarter breaks. Ads on the screen constantly. Put on your advertising hat for a moment, and ask yourself that if you had a product to sell, would you advertise it to the only 40,000 people in the world who already own it? Ah, what do I know? They’d probably buy it again, if their maniacal response to the guy with a microphone yelling “WHO WANTS TO WIN THIS DVD PLAYER!?!?!” is anything to go by.

Our seats were behind the goals. In the “scalped” section, it appeared, since everyone around us brandished a copy of the aforementioned sternly-worded letter. The scalped section, and the West Coast cheer squad section. We were metres away from the fat bastard who shat himself in front of the entire nation when Michael O’Loughlin got all up in his grill on Qualifying Final night last year. A moustachioed accountant was going apeshit in the front row. A middle-aged mother of two was beating a drum to a sombre, sacrificial beat. This, I told myself, is going to be a long day.

It was. Bugger the footy. We all know we got pumped and were very lucky it wasn’t a debacle of Richmond-esque proportions. I briefly entertained the idea of an epic comeback early in the third. Memories of Todd Viney giving the finger (recently bitten by Chris Lewis) to an enraged Subi crowd after a famous win danced through my head. Could this be the day, I wondered?

We all know how that turned out.

SUBIACO CURIOSITY #3: When they win, they play “Eagle Rock”. Kill. Me. Now.

To the votes. Must we? I was deep in the pocket so didn’t really see much of what went on. I have shamelessly cobbled this from my fleeting impressions and the paper.

5 – Travis Johnstone
4 – James McDonald
3 – Brad Green
2 – Colin Sylvia
1 – Jeff White

Sunday 20 May 2007

Throwing yourself off tall buildings is fun

In the all-time league table of shit weekends this one should be in contention for the double chance. For the last two days I've been as sick as a dog with my head feeling like it's going to fall off. The first indication of this was when I, for no apparent reason and despite being embarrasingly sober, puked everywhere in a taxi on Friday night. And didn't that cost me? Then after two days of barely being able to move, with my neck and shoulders feeling as if they've been beaten with a baseball bat I get to drag myself off my deathbed and watch Melbourne play, and presumably be murdered by, the premiers in Perth. The only thing that could make it any worse - other than not being able to chuck a sickie tomorrow due to a work schedule that a WW2 POW would flinch at - would be if I was the victim of a violent home invasion sometime this evening.

Shall we see how this one goes? Well christ we may as well, I'm sure that even 15 minutes before the game starts we all know what's going to happen next. Even the Fox Sports program guide is mocking our chances of winning. Rightly so too may I add. Is it too defeatist to just ask for a big effort?

And duly the game opened with anything but. Had the Eagles been able to kick straight we would have been looking at an apocalypse of Richmond-esque proportions. The gap between the two sides was embarassing as for all the tagging and cheating in the world the Eagles midfield carved us to shreds. How many sides have had 3 inside 50's in one quarter recently. Even teams who score nothing in a quarter usually get it inside more, it just comes out more often. This was 30 minutes of pain and suffering. 5.8 to 1 straight with Sylvia dropping one in the goalsquare, Bate failing to make the distance from 50 and Nathan Carroll not travelling in the same time zone as his direct opponent all pointed to evil being afoot.

The second quarter was more of the same. Nobody was fooled by us kicking the first goal it continued to be an apocalpyse through the centre, and again only wonky kicking kept us within a respectable margin. James McDonald kicked one after the siren - after obviously marking it after the siren as well - to round the quarter off but as we went into half time more than 40 points down you had to wonder just how ugly this was going to get - especially when our midfield started to tire later on. You know it was a game exactly like this that Neale Balme got the sack after. Just saying. That night Leigh "Juice" Newton kicked two of our three goals, now he sits in a coaching box that must be inches away from shut down under the Trade Practices Act for false and misleading advertising.

So we came back in the third. Got to within four goals and then fell apart faster than Michael Jackson's proverbial and got belted.

Votes? Fuck must we?

5 - Johnstone
4 - Sylvia
3 - McDonald
2 - Green
1 - Petterd

Leaderboard? We don't need no god damn leaderboard.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Watching the Defectives

I don’t know what to say anymore. It’s getting to the point where I’m loathing going to games. I’m almost – shock horror – looking forward to summer when I can confidently ignore sports (watch cricket? Surely you jest?) and do something important with my life. Obviously you know by now that we managed to throw another one away today. After four quarters of running their hearts out the boys went so close but fell apart in the last couple of minutes and left us at a frankly ludicrous 0-7.

Wild scenes even before the match when the news that Jared Rivers was out and would be replaced by Ben Holland caused me to launch a newspaper I was casually reading three rows in front of me out of shock. “There goes the game” said the guy sitting in front of me. Personally I thought it was already gone but there was no need to be cruel about it.

First things first I will say that the Bulldogs were completely mince today. Their spectacular ability to cock-up absolutely certainly goals was all that kept us in it for a long time. They were as full of run as predicted but targets were being missed all over the place and they didn’t seem to have any idea when they did get it. Sometimes they even turned around and belted it straight out of bounds – except if you were Nathan Eagleton and a conference of a field, boundary and goal umpire couldn’t decide whether a ball that landed a full half a metre outside the field of play was out on the full or not. Fair play to him the field umpire actually called it properly, but the clown running the boundary disagreed despite being 50m away, and when the goal umpire was called in everybody knew he’d roll over faster than a Russian car and admit he had no idea. Cue a throw in. Cue us almost copping a goal. Cue another brick chipped away in my interest in this sport.

Other than the Keystone Cops on the boundary the first quarter was excellent. The Dogs butchered their fair share of chances but Johnstone and Davey were running riot and we were more than a match for them. Everyone knew we wouldn’t go on with it and the comeback was always on but it was good to go into quarter time with a lead of more than a couple of points. Of course the Dogs duly saluted and kicked 6 goals to 1 in the second to put us back in our place. Roll on half-time, the loneliest time of them all, and a good half an hour to reflect on how far we have fallen.

Remember a few years ago when the Dogs wrested the Allen Jakovich Cup from us when they were a mile clear at the bottom of the ladder and hadn’t won for weeks? Now suddenly here we were clutching desperately to hope of a shock comeback while their fans sat there chewing nails and praying that they wouldn’t be the first side to lose to us. Of course in a traditionally Melbourne-esque manoeuvre we lost that game and didn’t win this one. The pleasure is all theirs I’m sure.

Dome Watch
Well for one thing it’s not a fucking dome, but I think we’ve covered this before so let’s move on. The treeswingers running the place have finally caved in under public pressure and removed the “no pass out” policy designed to force punters into paying for overpriced and shit food inside rather than dine at the variety of perfectly good fast-food joints just outside. Of course they never admitted that was the reason and talked up some shit about how it was to stop people getting bonced by rogue footballs kicked by 12-year-olds on the concourse outside at half-time. Nobody except the criminally naïve/intellectually disabled believed them then, and nobody believes them now.

Waverley Park might have been a crumbling wreck in the middle of nowhere with a car park that was harder to get out of than the Black Hole of Calcutta but at least it was honest. The Dome, for all of its scoreboard announcements about minding your behaviour for the kiddies, and Medallion Club’s where for $375 you can be a fat corporate crunt who takes other fat corporate crunts to golf courses and games they don’t actually care about, can burn to the ground tomorrow for all I care. The novelty of having lived next door and being able to get home before the theme song played a second time was enough to make me tolerate the place last season but now I practically have to be dragged there kicking and screaming.

Apparently post-game scenes were wild with the management closing one of the bars early and causing a riot with Dogs fans and security. Here’s hoping somebody sues the place for so much that Ian Collins is left washing car windows on Punt Road to pay it all off.

End Dome Watch

Suddenly after we’d sat there during half time contemplating how quickly we’d die if we jumped from the top of the non-domed roof Melbourne came out and ran riot for a few minutes, putting us right back in the mix. Footscray steadied as the quarter went on but there were signs goddamit. Consider the fact that with Rivers, Robertson, Whelan and Brock in the side we would have been at full-strength and you start to wonder what this season could have been like. It’s not a bad four players to have out but I think as we get better and finally win a couple of games it’ll become a national sport to ask just how far we could have gone in ’07.

With the right recruitment and luck we should be back in force next year – I certainly fancy our position more than I do Richmond’s – but is it going to be too late to do anything with Neitz, White and Yze? Despite his fiascos earlier in the year Yze showed he’s got some life left in him yet, and White played probably his best game all year but Neitz was ineffectual. He shows

Err, back to the game. 15 points down at ¾ time and kicking with the pissiest wind in history shouldn’t have given much confidence but surprisingly the mood was upbeat amongst the seven of us still left. You could see ND imploring them to one last huge effort and in some sort of sick fairy tale way I actually believed it. God help us all (and he can stick it if he’s not delivering us a flag) it almost came off. Straight out of the blocks in the last we were all over the Dogs who looked tired.

Somebody – god knows who – had a shot and jagged another one to put us right in the mix, but Neitz decided to have one of his once a year spaz outs at the wrong time, deck somebody and give away a free-kick out of the centre. The Dogs took it straight out of the centre and goalled. He was, rightfully, dragged and suddenly our forward line consisted of The Man With No Brain and The Other Man With No Brain as Holland and Miller were called upon to rescue us with their own unique brand of headless chicken football. Somehow despite the fact that between them they’ve played about 5 good games we managed to stay afloat and even kick a goal. When Neitz was finally called back into the mix he duly saluted by kicking a goal to put us back in front.

This was then cancelled out by Nathan Eagleton being able to stroll to 50 with absolutely no pressure whatsoever and smack one home. Again we were behind by 5 and it started to look a bit ‘next goal’ wins. So when we actually kicked the next goal – through a strong Colin Sylvia mark and a wonky kick from 10m out straight in front – it looked as if the miracle at the Corporate Dome might take place after all. Of course it didn’t – Nathan Jones got tagged for a criminal “in the back” out of the centre, the ball ended up with Brad Johnson and he put the icing on the cake.

They then added a point to make sure we couldn’t actually win, and when Yze and Neitz combined for a comical rubbish kick inside 50/outmarking we were done for. By the end Jeff White had ran himself into the ground so comprehensively that he could barely leap for the ball in the centre. They may have looked tired at the start of the last but their petrol reserves clearly ran deeper than ours.

6pts of loss. Another 6 weeks of life off all our life expectancies due to the stress. What to do? Cry? Cut up? Look up Paul Hopgood in the White Pages, ring up and abuse him? Go emo and sit on the steps of Flinders Street? I don’t know anymore. I really don’t. It’s all so unjust – to be sitting just a few percentage points above the apocalypse that is Richmond is an insult when we’re clearly a better side. I guess we’ll find out if that’s really true when we play them in the 0-11 vs 0-11 derby in a few weeks time. Does anyone seriously believe that we’re on a par with the Collingwood side who had the same sick neck-and-neck backwards race with the Dockers a few years ago? Richmond may very well be as bad as the Freo side that won two games in the last few rounds to avoid total apocalypse but are we really on par with a Tony Shaw coached side which featured Cameron Venables? I say no.

Byron Watch
Dropped. Apparently because there wasn't a spot for him. If that’s not a red hot slap in the face given the situation we’re in I don’t know what is.

Coach Watch
Take the first lifeboat Neale – you deserve better and we desperately need change. I know he’s dedicated to the side he’s built but surely we have to admit at some point that we need a new broom to sweep some of the slops away. Having said this my money’s that he survives for at least another year – we will then make the finals, do nothing and put the “almost but not quite” cycle back into full gear. Said it before – will say it every week I want to see somebody up there who, like Dean Laidley, you’d believe was a serial killer if somebody told you. I want MENACE and plenty of it. Fuck I’ll have Ivan Milat in the box if that’s what it takes to win a fecking flag.


5 – Aaron Davey
4 – Travis Johnstone
3 – Colin Sylvia
2 - Jeff White
1 – Matthew Bate

Miller was absolutely toilet on the day. My point earlier in the season about he only looks good when we’re playing awfully has never been better proven than in the last two weeks. We’ve put on our best performances for the season and he’s been nowhere to be seen. When Dunn and Bate have stood up and grabbed games by the neck he’s trying to win marking contests from the unorthodox position of on the ground and behind.

I've praised him a couple of times this year, and he has played a couple of decent games, but he is no star CHF. If they weren’t going to sit down and school him in how to play the position in the off-season there was absolutely no reason to keep him. Seven weeks – and a pre-season - into the year and he still takes marks on the 50 and immediately looks for somebody to handball it to. More often than not these handballs go absolutely nowhere and leave us in a worse position. The one time he did have a shot from 50 – because everyone ran away from him – he didn’t even make the distance.

As I’ve said before as much as I like Daniher I want to see a new coach, and part of this comes down to ND’s obscene sense of loyalty to a player who will never amount to superstar status no matter how long you give him. Compare this to players like Lamb or Philthy who might not have been terrific but gave 110% every time they walked out to play – both left to have their careers rot playing in the reserves.

Holland was Holland. He appeared to have no idea but somehow racked up a game leading ten contested possessions.

2007 Allen Jakovich Medal Leaderboard

12 - McDonald
11 - Bruce
10 - Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Green
8 - Miller
8 - Davey
6 - Bate
5 - Neitz
5 - Yze
4 - Jones
4 - Johnstone
4 - Petterd (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
3 - Godfrey
3 - Sylvia
2 - Moloney
2 - Dunn
2 - Brown
2 - White
1 - Pickett
1 - Jones
1 - Bell

Crowd Watch
The MFC bandwagon empties even further. Hating the venue is no excuse, and Mother’s Day isn’t as much of one either. If you really want to torture your mum bring her along to watch Melbourne play – mine, as an eleven game member, would usually have missed today had it not been for me paying for her ticket. I’m sure the gesture was appreciated but next year it’ll be flowers and/or chocolates, not trauma and outbursts.

Next Week
West Coast. In Perth. Coming off a loss.

After a series of cracking games as a tagger – in which he’s annoyed two of the game’s top players so much they’ve belted him – Godfrey vs Judd should finally put him back in his place. Anyone who has been at the Crack House that is West Coast for as long as he has without being coerced into honking onto fat lines of gear is hardly going to be put off by the scraggiest man on earth, but should Godders find a way to make Mr. Clean give him a backhander he’ll truly go down in cult hero history. Pity it’ll come after Judd has had 72 possessions and kicked 8 goals in a 150 point win.

You know it used to be fashionable to make offhand comments about losing by 150 because it seemed so inconceivable. Thanks to Richmond for going out and ruining everything.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Melbourne vs Footscray - Allen Jakovich Cup Preview

(This preview simulcast on the Bulldogs Big Footy forum)

Hi sports fans, greetings from the wrong end of the ladder. Now we've all suffered it at some point or another, some of us more than others in the past couple of decades, but I think it's fair to say that there are few teams in 110+ years of VFL/AFL football who have walked into a season labelled as top four contenders and have ended up where we are at the moment. Yes, zero and six. Who would have thought it?

So how do Footscray win this week? Showing up would be a good start. With the worst injury toll since the Black Death swept across Europe in the 15th century currently affecting us Melbourne have been lucky enough to have their best 22 on the field for all of a quarter this season before it started to wrong. First there was McLean, then Neitz, then Robertson, Whelan, Rivers, Green, Jones, Wheatley, Bate, Brown and god knows who else - and anyone who thinks Cameron Bruce was playing at 100% even before he hurt himself on the weekend has completely lost the plot. Basically all that's standing between us and Fitzroy 1996 is a 3/4 fit Bruce, the ever reliable James McDonald, a shockingly capable leadership cameo role from Brad Green, a much improved Brad Miller and the return of Jared Rivers. After having his best season yet last year full-back Nathan Carroll has opened the year in nightmare form, and without the likes of Rivers and Whelan (the Jurassic Pack) there to help mop up the damage he looks completely lost. He clawed back some lost ground against Warren Tredrea last week, but claiming the scalp of a half fit Port skipper counts for little if he goes out to get smashed every week. He should cope better against the smaller Dog forwards, and with Daniel Bell having come into his own this year there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the much suffering fans of the Demon backline. Again, light at the tunnel doesn’t do anything for our prospects of scoring four premiership points. In fact the way we’re going might be a freight train coming the other way and about to clean us up.

If you haven't followed Melbourne's list carefully the alteration of defensive responsibilities means that Alistair Nicholson is no longer employed as our key defensive stopper and you will not be treated to the remarkable scene of him attempting to play as a modern ruckman as you were in the corresponding fixture two years ago, which is a shame for both the footballing public and the makers of Australia's Funniest Home Videos. Even Byron Pickett, a man who you can be assured of going at it 100% no matter how fat or unfit he is had part of his ear ripped off on Sunday. All that we're lacking is for somebody to do their back getting out of a car or fall out of a tree a'la Keith Richards.

Speaking of ruckmen, it has been a most troublesome division for us so far this year. Anyone can see that while he still puts a serviceable performance in every time Jeff White is not the player he used to be, and having let Troy Simmonds and Darren Jolly both leave over the years rather than play second fiddle to him during his prime we're left with the situation where both Mark Jamar and Paul Johnson aren't good enough yet (or at all depending on who you ask) to make the role their own. With Jamar rightfully sent to Sandringham last week Johnson was much improved and will obviously retain his position but despite a fine performance against Port it’s clear White is rapidly slipping down the pecking order of AFL ruckmen, and with no obvious replacement what do we do? Trade for one? Draft one? That's precious little comfort this week when, with our midfield also out of sorts and bleeding clearances at a rapid rate, you can comfortably expect the Bulldog ruck division to notch up a victory. However having said that our attack on the ball over the last three weeks has been absolutely ferocious, so even if they haven't got the skills to carry off a victory you can be sure that there will at least be fight. Sadly fight can only get you so far and when it comes down to skills we’re clearly second best in this one.

The Positives

Well there are so many great things to be said about our season so far (!?) that it'll be hard to fit them all in but I'm willing to have a crack.

For one thing the boys have fought very hard this year to avoid being humiliated. Despite being outmanned and outgunned for most of the season they have not yet descended to 1997-esque levels of despair and started to suffer 15 goal defeats. At times it has looked very hairy but there's just enough left in the tank to make sure it doesn't end up as another humiliation in the long line of tragedy we've suffered over the last forty years. See for instance Tom Hawkins' four goals in the first half in round three - somehow kept goalless in the second half and spared us the humiliation of belting through ten in his second game. See also Pavlich a week later who should have had 15 in a 200 point win the way it was going through the second half. Thankfully serious damage control was exercised and we managed to hold him to a respectable half-a-dozen. The heart is there even if the bodies aren't - witness for instance the wild eyed intensity Byron Pickett brought back into the team early on against Freo. Sure he was out of gas about 11 minutes into the first quarter but those first ten were an absolute cracker - as the season gets longer he will get better, and his presence seems to inspire Aaron Davey to bigger and better things as well. Come the end of this year we may surprise a few teams and win a few games - just not this week.

In fact on Sunday against Port Adelaide the defence held up surprisingly well, and with Godfrey tagging Burgoyne to within an inch of his life it was really only poor kicking for goal - and David Neitz running a fingernail down Darryl Wakelin's back - which kept us from opening our account for season 2007. With some suggestion that Whelan, Green and Brock "The Saviour" McLean will all be returning for this one we would almost be back to full strength, and with Matthew Bate, Brad Miller (excluding the Port game), Lynden Dunn and Ricky Petterd all proving handy additions the squad is starting to look as it should. It’s not playing like it but for a club that hasn’t won anything in 40+ years we don’t do anything in big steps.

Perceived wisdom is that teams don't win the week after they come back from Perth, and despite the Dogs pushing a team that is head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the league to within three goals, we will be hanging any chance of getting up on this well worn footy cliche. And surely the umpiring can't be as bad as last week can it? One of these days we've got to be the team who are on the positive end of a day of ludicrous umpiring. Which country town will the umpire who paid a deliberate against James McDonald with 45 seconds remaining as we were 5pts down on Sunday after watching Port casually run it over the line all game be appearing in this week? And will they reintroduce the penalties for holding/dropping/throwing the ball that were mysteriously absent from the game last week?

A diversion, if I can, before delving into the thousands of reasons we won’t win on the weekend. I would have liked to have watched your game against the Eagles to dissect the performance a bit more and be able to make qualified judgements about your style and how it will affect us on Sunday, but due to the fact that the game is run like an absolute brothel these days and the rules change every twenty-five seconds I can’t bring myself to sit down and watch an entire four quarters unless it involves Melbourne or has Richmond losing by 150. This is our side of the story, I will leave those of you who are in the know to fill in the gaps from a Bulldogs perspective.

And now, on with the footballing emo…

The Negatives

Over the last couple of years our record at the Corporate Dome has been abysmal. But frankly this year our record everywhere is going to be absymal so who's to say that the ground is going to make any difference whatsoever to our performance.

Much of the beauty of our performance against Port was actually (shock horror) manning up on players as the ball was kicked to them, thus causing marks to be dropped and turnovers. A fundamental tactic of league football you say? Well obviously you've not watched Melbourne play in the last few years. It was refreshing to see it but there's no doubt that the Bulldogs play a brand of football which is not only quicker than Port but also far more likely to carve our midfield and defence into a million pieces. Alas our boys are not the smartest out there, and for all their increased intensity they are not Rhodes Scholars when it comes to matchups and options. Port sold more dummies than Mothercare over the four quarters of Sunday's game and every single time they were taken hook, line and sinker - in fact it was yet another one of these that allowed Motlop to kick the winning goal. All indications are that the Dogs will run Melbourne off their feet. Hopefully your lack of a true superstar full-forward (no offence to Johnson, but he's no Hall/Pavlich/Lloyd) will allow Nathan Carroll a better performance than he has produced in the last few weeks.

Prediction: Footscray to take the Allen Jakovich Cup by 25pts. Mass suicides amongst the 175 remaining Melbourne fans who haven't jumped off the bandwagon already. 0-7? I never thought I'd see it. Somebody hold me.

Monday 7 May 2007

The Spanish Inquisition

First things first a statement of priorities. I can no longer watch AFL football. If the game does not involve Melbourne I will not sit there and watch it for more than a few minutes at a time. Maybe I'll listen to it on the radio, or drift in and out every few minutes but the prospect of sitting there for four quarters is no longer a viable one. Once upon a time, before I could have been expected to have anything better to do, I used to catch every game I could on TV and go to a few non-Melbourne related games a year but now it even seems like a chore to watch us play. This isn't just because we're losing, but more due to the abysmal quality of the game and baffling rules that three High Court Judges couldn't work out let alone umpires trying to adjudicate at a million miles an hour with 20,000 ferals screaming at them.

We are left watching a game where the contested possession is treated with reverence. A game where players can blatantly turn around a run a ball out of bounds despite a perfectly good "deliberate" rule, but can't run a fingernail down somebody's back in a marking contest. The whole thing has turned into some massive scientific wankfest that you can't understand or analyse without the help of the Kray Supercomputer. How many serving AFL umpires are on the rules committee? Absolutely none. So who's there to tell KB and his cast of idiots that the changes they make to the game are impossible to police?

Give me a Melbourne premiership - just one - and let me walk away from this game that I used to love forever before it turns to complete shit in front of my eyes. This is a competition where the entire second half of seasons is spent with supporters WANTING their teams to lose so they can score choice draft picks. Where's the committee to sit down Andrew Demetriou and point out that a draft lottery is the way to go? How come we can spend a million years analysing whether or not to pay a free for breathing on somebody but nobody has noticed that the current draft system is totally counterproductive to effort and actually turns people (stupid people, but people nonetheless) against their own team.

Yes, under the current interpretation of the rules David Neitz gave away a free-kick today and Aaron Davey's winning goal shouldn't have counted, but fuck me what a ridiculous interpretation that is. God help us all if a Grand Final is decided on that abortion of a rule one day - then I'll bet you'll see people marching in the street and totalling AFL House like Fitzroy fans did when they got ripped off in Adelaide once. But when it's just 0-5 0-6 Melbourne with our 10,000 fans who haven't jumped off you'll never hear about it again.

So, I had my biggest outburst ever today. 16 and a bit seasons of following VFL/AFL football and it took this long to have a real vein popping, "Security to Sector 7" loss of plot. Queens Birthday 2004 was significant, and one in Geelong about 5 years ago went close but this was

And what set it off? After an entire day of Port casually running the ball out of bounds or handballing it to the line, plus an array of holding/dropping/throwing the ball decisions unpaid, James McDonald botches a handball with a minute to play and the margin five points, it rolls out of bounds and for reasons which still escape me to this minute he is pinged for deliberate. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT FUCKING MIND IS GOING TO HIT THE BOUNDARY WHEN THEY'RE 5 POINTS DOWN AND WINLESS 28 MINUTES INTO THE LAST QUARTER?

I'm not usually one for going spastic at umpires as I do understand that it's a hard job - with no help from the monkeys who run the game and their rubbish committees - but what in your right mind would make you think that was 'more' deliberate than any of the ones that had preceded it? How can you expect them to interpret any of the other rules when they can't even get a black and white decision like that right?

When that happened I just had a massive brain explosion and stormed out of the ground letting rip one of the biggest hails of abuse ever from the middle deck of the Ponsford Stand right down to the bottom. It's not big or clever but at that moment I never wanted to watch football again - it all seemed so futile. To be entirely honest I just wanted to sit down somewhere and cry in frustration at it all. I know we could be worse off - witness Footscray's premiership drought or Richmond's abysmal record during my lifetime - but sometimes I think it's almost worse to have it dangled in front of your face and ripped away than to never have it at all. As covered in previous posts all I want is one flag and then after a week of reflection and celebrations I can happily do the sensible thing and put my head in the oven. Memo to Melbourne - if you're playing just to keep me alive don't bother I'm not really that interested in living.

I was toying with buying an AFL Membership next year but fuck them they're not getting a cent out of me. The game is being strangled to death by these cunts and frankly they can stick it in their arse. The only way I could be any more disillusioned with the game would be if I were a North fan and I was sitting there watching the league openly trying to stab my team in the back. Morons one and all. Frankly I'm too shattered by the whole series of events to even competently re-dissect the game. In fact I can't even remember most of it save a non-stop series of decisions that weren't paid - it's a cliché of the highest order but it was the ones they didn't pay not the ones they did. Of course none of this will rate more than the smallest mention in the media.

'Twas an arm wrestle early on. Luckily for us Port couldn't kick straight to save themselves or we would have been out of it early - ironically enough if we'd been able to kick straight we probably would have won. We rarely ever got in front again, and if we did it was only by a couple of points, but we were in it and the boys fought like animals against obviously superior opposition. They were still prone to doing the sort of stupid things that make you wonder how anyone expected them to run top four but there was heart in it.

Too much farking heart at certain times if Byron Pickett was anything to go by – he somehow had half of his ear ripped off and yet still backed up for the second half. Great stuff. Ironic that he should cop the Evander Holyfield treatment on the same day of the first boxing match that people have cared about since the day Mike Tyson chowed down on Evander’s ear. Equally ironic that much like Oscar De La Hoya we fought our heart out against a tougher opponent and lost in a close one.

The only difference between the two was that Oscar didn't have to contend with a serious of rules that nobody understands and didn't have a referee who wouldn't have called a foul if his opponent had produced a sledgehammer and bashed him in the cods with it.

Matthew Bate played a sensational game at CHF and kicked a couple of goals but missed a couple of set shots. You certainly wouldn't have the man kick a set shot for your life but it good to see him take the sort of marks above his head that Miller flat out refuses to. After such a promising start to the season Brad might have shot himself in the foot with his awful performance today – he barely got a touch and was unsighted as Bate marked everything that came near him. Having said that I don’t trust anyone who is a better kick for goal on the run than they are from a set shot as a key position player.

Will be interesting to see how that one pans out for the rest of the year. Sylvia was hard at it but if you had been in a coma for the last five years and woke up to be asked what number he’d been selected in the draft you certainly wouldn’t say #3. I await his inevitable move to another team where he then turns it all around, goes nuts and wins a flag (see Pike, Ormond-Allen, Bishop, Jolly, Armstrong and probably Scott Thompson). Also needs to learn to kick for goal if he’s going to play anywhere near the forward line.

Rivers was a tower of strength in the backline and is increasingly our most important player. We desperately need Whelan down there with him and we can start to have some confidence that at least our defence is doing what it should. Daniel Bell also had a great game down back on the day. Add them to Warnock who easily played his best game yet, and even chipped in with a goal after a neat sidestep, and things are starting to look up. We officially bestow Warnock with the “BETTER THAN BEN HOLLAND” award for 2007. Nathan Brown started on fire and while he slowed down as the day went on he still played an important role – there’s life in the old dog yet.

Neitz provided a target that we’d been lacking for the last few weeks, and while he only kicked two and missed a couple more his presence appeared to lift the rest of the side. What are we going to do when he goes? I have no idea either. Panic? Too late.


5 - Jared Rivers
4 - Matthew Bate
3 - Simon Godfrey
2 - Nathan Brown
1 – Daniel Bell

Apologies to


12 - McDonald
11 - Bruce
10 - Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Green
8 - Miller
5 - Neitz
5 - Yze
5 - Bate
4 - Jones
4 - Petterd (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
3 - Davey
3 - Godfrey
2 - Moloney
2 - Dunn
2 - Brown
1 - Pickett
1 - Jones
1 - Bell

Apologies to Bruce, Carroll, Davey, Dunn, Johnstone, Jones, McDonald, Petterd, Warnock, White and Yze.

Crowd Watch
Another spanking 16k. I'm quite serious in saying that if you weren't at the Freo or Port game and suddenly show up for Queens Birthday because it's a "big" game then I hate you intensely. Of course I'm aware that the internet fans are probably the last ones left and people reading this are almost certainly either going or have an excellent reason for not going. It's the sort of idiots who suddenly appear during winning runs or the finals and gave us a reputation for having clown fans in the first place that will all pile back on when we start winning again (2010?). For those of you hanging in there I salute you. It's not easy being slop but at least we have our footballing integrity.

Next Week: Footscray at the Corporate Dome on Sunday. I'm supposed to be writing a preview for the Bulldogs Big Footy forum - god knows that's going to turn out darker than Charles Manson at a Cure concert.

P.S - You know there would be a book in these reports if we somehow turned around and won the flag. But we won't, so my career as an author remains stalled. Besides all the bits about ******* ******* being a kiddy fiddler probably wouldn't make it through the legal department anyway. Fuck it - I'll be back next week.