Monday 26 May 2008

Someday This War's Gonna End

I'm not used to writing reports on honourable losses. Usually there's some sort of angle that I can hide behind to at least come up with a catchy headline. This week I've got nothing. From the Rejected Headlines Department, I had "Pork A Hawk" all ready to go if we'd gotten up, but that one's gone in the vault for future years now. Many years in the future by the looks of it.

Yes, Hawthorn. Remember them? It shouldn't be hard to, they only beat us to the bejesus belt in round one. For some reason they get to play us again eight rounds later whereas they don't meet Geelong until Round 17. That being the same round in which we play North Melbourne who we already met in round 4. How does that work? How does anything work in this brave era of the AFL and their determination to expand both the league and the rule book to a completely unworkable size? I suspect that the AFL Commission use similar methods to solve both issues - each involving a blindfolded Andrew Demetriou flinging darts at a board.

Speaking of Hawthorn, it dawned on me yesterday - about a year too late - that we were the first to see them in their current resurgent glory. It was the first round of the 2007 NAB Cup at the worst stadium outside of sub-Saharan Africa (and while you're on Farcebook don't forget to become a fan of Demonblog.. for no particular reason) and we were red hot favourites to tonk a Hawthorn side which had done nothing for about five years. We had made the finals three years in a row and some were even talking us up as Victoria's best chance of winning a flag. We were shite. Actually the most disturbing thing about that game is the fact that I gave Chris Johnson BOG honors. Just how badly WERE we doing?

Fast forward through 2007 (yes, for god's sake please do) and into 2008. That game wasn't just a mere blip on the radar, it turned out that the two sides were going in drastically opposite directions. Some has-been politician is trying to ship us interstate and they're being talked about as the next big thing. Such is life.

So, the second half against Freo, and the first quarter against Adelaide last week showed signs that we had come a very, VERY long way since Round One this year - if not fallen a long way from the 2006 finals. The last three quarters at Football Park, on the other hand, showed that we were still chest high in a pile of footballing shite. If you were a betting man you'd guess that against the unbeaten Hawthorn, with two of the best forwards in the competition and more than a handful of useful cameo performers, that you were going to get the MFC side from Round 1 or 2 who refused to put any pressure on and turned the ball over at every opportunity en route to depressingly large beatings.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Neitz lap of honor pre-match. With the highlights on the big screen and the great man going around in the car it was all rather emotional. I must admit that it didn't get me 'in there' like the aftermath of Daniher's last game - this one had a little bit more dignity in it's leadup - but it still felt horrible to watch him go around for the last time. Other than the odd match or moment of brilliance I barely remember anything that happened before the 1997 season, so both Daniher and Neitz were defining characters in my decade of slow descent into madness following this club. It's just a shame that more people didn't show up to see it, but more on that later. Credit to the Hawthorn crowd for standing up to applaud his career - he's never going to make an AFL Hall of Fame but in the massively contradictory world of the Melbourne Football Club he joins the likes of Lyon, Stynes and Flower as absolute legends who never won a Premiership. Steven Armstrong and Trent Ormond-Allen have though if that's any comfort. Then he took the boys aside in a huddle before the match and addressed them for a minute or two. I'd love to know what he said, but it was obvious how much respect he commands amongst that group by how fired up they were right from the first bounce. A true legend, and hopefully somebody who is going to stay around the club well into the future.

With the skipper retired, Rivers injured (*sob*), Carroll supposedly out hurt rather than having been dropped, and White a late withdrawal due to a back complaint we were always going to be outgunned in the talls department. Garland, Warnock and Frawley battled hard against Adelaide last week for little reward so what were they supposed to do against the freaks up front for the Hawks? Well, believe it or not we were quite good.

Not quite good in the sense of last week's firing of a couple of shots and then going down like a Russian apartment block, but actually good and competitive. Even when they weren't cheap shotting superstars behind the play our midfielders were running riot like men possessed. Obviously the video of Collingwood's performance on Friday night had been given a massive run over the weekend, because the likes of Jones, McLean and the world's angriest man looked like they were on drugs (as opposed to the Hawthorn forward line who.. [Snip! - Legal]). Robertson slotted the first goal from a difficult angle, and then missed one that was relatively easy - which said it all about our season.

Not surprisingly Jamar and Johnson were butchered in the ruck all day, but when the ball hit the deck we were nothing short of sublime. Special mention has to go to the quality moment just after the first bounce when Moloney (the angriest man alive) knocked Franklin over and then just as he got up Jones did him in as well. We copped a free-kick but it was worth it just to make a point and listen to the twats in poo-brown behind me lose the plot. The pressure was magnificent and rattled the Hawks early. We quickly surrended a three goal lead, then goals for Wonaeamirri (who we shall, henceforth, refer to only as THE CELEBRATOR!), Robertson put us in front in what was easily our best first quarter of the season. When Holland (quoth my own mother "I didn't even know he still played for us") marked THE CELEBRATOR's shot on the line and goaled in the early stages of the second it was time to start wondering where exactly this match was going.

For the best part of the first half we not only owned the centre of the ground but controlled the backline too. Garland, Frawley and Warnock (the Jurassic Pack III? - see also Seecamp/Ingerson/Shanahan and Rivers/Carroll/Whelan) punched a mile above their weight against an infinitely better forward line, while McDonald did a decent job on Rioli and Brad Green played the loose man in defence role perfectly. We were still a bit sloppy around the ground, as you'd expect from the bottom team in the competition, but Hawthorn were equally bad. With a fit and firing forward line we might have put up a decent score by half time, as it was we were left with Robertson and Holland as the talls with various other players chipping in occasionally. That's not going to win you matches. Paul Johnson chipped in for a goal from a 50m penalty (or was it a downfield free?) that put us 13pts up 17m into the second quarter and (relatively speaking) flying.

The two absolute standouts of the first half were Brock McLean - who had 20 by the break as well as a bunch of tackles - and Matthew Bate who was so far removed from the man we saw in the first half of the Fremantle match that I'm suggesting a Fine Cotton scandal-esque switching of players midway through the season. Miller was good again as a lead up CHF (maybe, 99 games later he's cracked it..), Davey chased hard and Bruce got a lot of it even though I'd not sure he was THAT effective when he did. Simon Buckley also got a shitload of it but doesn't impress me at all - maybe it's worth giving Yze his last shot at Bucks' expense? Afterall Queen's Birthday is coming up and we may as well give both he and Holland one last chance to dominate the Pies before they retire.

As the second quarter drew to a close Hawthorn started to assert their natural dominance. Luckily for us they missed four gettable chances at goal and kept us in front at half time. A big "sucked in" to all the people who tried to win the cheap money by having a Hawthorn/Hawthorn half-time/full-time double. May you have also backed Geelong, Footscray, Chelsea and the Australian Test Side you greedy bastards.

Away Crowd Watch
I have long held a theory that Hawthorn has the most mad supporters. I've rarely ever seen violence or particuarly bad behaviour at one of their games, but the numbers of eye-rolling, tell-tale lobotomy scar, talk to themselves for four quarters freaks that they pull is amazing. Yesterday the guy behind me got so aroused every time Franklin went near the ball I was worried that he was going to start involuntarily tapping me on the shoulder. Fair play too, I'd go nuts if we had the new Allen Jakovich playing for us as well, but for god's sake try to retain some dignity. They may as well be sponsored by Mount Franklin for the amount of grown men in the stands who crack an Ararat when he gets a touch.

Just like they used to (still do?) have "dry" areas, they should have "shut the fuck up" areas where the odd comment is allowed but anyone who sits there and does their own Continuous Call commentary of the game is thrown out headfirst. This also goes for people who rabbit on like they're having an actual conversation with the players. Knowing that we were never going to hold onto the lead yesterday it was amusing to hear the knob behind us panicking and starting to carry on imaginary conversations with the entire Hawthorn squad.

Now, I don't think anyone expected us to win from 9pts in front at half time. I know I didn't. You don't have to be the world's most negative and depressed football supporter like I am to see that even though we were playing well that they were capable of lifting their game so far above ours it wasn't funny. It seemed to me that our containment of their forwards was akin to holding back an exploding volcano with an umbrella - brave but ultimately useless. When Franklin kicked the first of the quarter and Roughead had a shot a couple of minutes later it looked as if we were about to be barrelled by the lava a'la the citizens of Pompeii.

Once again, though, we fought back to put them on the ropes. The Celebrator got another one before Dutchy Mania ran riot and the big man went right through his bag of tricks and not only kicked one from the boundary line but also achieved the signficantly more difficult task of nailing one from 20m out directly in front. That was the point where I started to wonder if this was going to be the Miracle on Brunton Avenue. How about no? After being held goalless for the best part of three quarters Mark Williams and Cyril Rioli decided to bob up and kick a goal each to put the Hawks back in front before we got stitched up by one of those moments that you just have to throw your hands up in the air and ask "what are we supposed to do?" about. Franklin marks 50m on the boundary line and slots one without even raising a sweat. He's an f'ing freak, it's no wonder that 10,000 people rub themselves when his picture comes up on the scoreboard.

So, to three quarter time and we're finally behind. Now they put us to the sword and run away with it right? Wrong again. Jones and Davey both goaled to put us back in front at the 6 minute mark. After being quiet during the third Brock is amping it up again and starting to cause damage. Unfortunately on the other side of the equation Chance Bateman was going absolutely nuts and carving us to shreds. Clint Bartram did a masterful job on McLeod last week but he just couldn't handle Bateman in the second half and on his way to racking up 28 touches Chance pretty much torched any hope we had of getting up.

However, at this moment we were still in it. Tim Clarke kicked a goal and Cam Bruce replied a couple of minutes later to put us back in front. Unfortunately that's where it all ended. Rioli got another one and Davey missed a very gettable shot before being stitched up for an in-the back decision that was either "unfortunate" or "the worst one since Scott Chisholm got done in the square against Hawthorn in '99" (Get the DVD off Name A Game, we win by a point) depending on your point of view. A couple of brave Hawthorn fans suggested that it was a 100% correct decision, but unfortunately as they were wearing the biggest blinkers ever at the time they fell over the edge of the Olympic Stand after the final siren and died. I like to console myself by believing that he would have missed the kick anyway, but it would have put us back within a goal and made things interesting.

As it was we'd lost Robertson with a corky and Holland had dislocated his shoulder so our forward line, already stretched to unnatural limits, was a complete shambles. Davey was pretty much playing full-forward and while he battled his arse off we weren't going to be able to come back if they got a couple of quick goals. And guess what they did? Arse. Two more to the surprisingly (!?) restrained Mark Williams and we were toast.

The guard of honor by both teams at the end of the game for Neita was a nice touch. Much respect to the Hawks for indulging us.

And now for something completely different - here's some angst..

Home Crowd Watch
What home crowd? Where was everybody. We were only farewelling one of our greatest ever players at a home game - what else did people need to get to the ground? Yet we would have been lucky to have 15,000 of the 40k crowd. It was an absolute disgrace. It's no wonder that when peanuts like Jeff Kennett say stupid things about clubs moving that a good deal of people think it's not such a bad idea.

Richmond have been total wank for 20 years, but do you think that there would be a seat in the house if Richo pulled the pin tomorrow? That club is the model for loyalty in supporters as far as I'm concerned. Yes, a great deal of them are seriously mentally unbalanced and that probably explains why they cling so dearly to a lost cause but could you imagine where we'd be if we'd played finals a handful of times in two decades? My god we've had two bad seasons in a row and suddenly everybody has walked away.

Then in a fortnight suddenly everyone will remember that they're massive Melbourne fans just in time for Queen's Birthday. Does it really take a public holiday to get people to come out? Do we have 25,000 supporters who are all working on Sunday and can't possibly make it? Bollocks we do, it's just that a lot of people who claim to support us are as weak as buggery.

And you know what really annoys the shit out of me about this. One day we're going to make a Grand Final again. God knows when, but it'll happen. On that day when we're all thrown to the wolves trying to get hold of the handful of tickets that the AFL deigns to hand out to the 'little people', you and I probably won't get in. We'll be forced to sit at home and watch what could be our greatest moment ever on television while the ground is full of corporates and sham fans who never sat through the bad times. Doesn't it make you sick?

A friend of mine who is an Essendon fan never tires of telling me that at the 2000 Grand Final he sat next to one person who left at half time because they were 'bored', and saw another one a couple of rows in front of him read a book for four quarters. I mean for god's sake they gave 4 tickets to the GF to one of our fans yesterday - what good are they going to be? Are you not almost morally bound to wait until Grand Final week and give those tickets to supporters of one of the competing clubs? The whole setup makes me sick.

What's the solution? What about weighing the chance of winning a 'random' ballot on how many games somebody has attended? If you've used your membership at every home game in the previous two seasons then you're not assured of a ticket but you're a much higher percentage of getting one than the twat who bought a membership in Round 10 of the second year because you were 9-1.

Coaches Box Watch
I always liked Bailey, and slowly I'm starting to believe that I'm not going to be embarassed for sticking my neck out in support of him right from the start.

On the other side I'm a big fan of Alistair Clarkson, not only because he played for us for about five seconds and not just because the sight of obvious retards calling for him to be shot ten minutes into his coaching career and now fawning over him has been one of the most scandalous transitions this decade. Sure, I think his reaction to the Mark Williams "choke-gate" incident was a little over the top, but I just like the man. Walking out to shake hands with his ex-teammate Neita just before the bounce was a very classy move. Of course nobody could possibly take Dean Laidley's place in my heart, but he's up there.

2008 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

5 - Brock McLean
4 - Matthew Bate
3 - Brad Green
2 - Austin Wonaeamirri
1 - Brent Moloney

A thousand apologies for Frawley, Garland and Warnock who worked well as a unit but ultimately didn't do enough to squeeze into the votes. Please note that this does not constitute anti-defender bias because as we all know I have a massive man crush on Jared Rivers and have previously sported Jamie Shanahan's number on the back of my jumper. Green, on the other hand, almost got himself killed ten times backing back into the pack and if he's not made the next captain I will have a breakdown.

Other apologies to Davey, Holland, Miller, Bruce, McDonald and Valenti.

No apologies to Buckley. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it doesn't matter if you get it 1000 times if you do nothing with it. Then there's his wild attempts to run around people that NOBODY HAS EVER FALLEN FOR. Gah.


15 - Brad Green
14 - Nathan Jones
14 - Brock McLean
13 - Cameron Bruce
10 - Austin Wonaeamirri (Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
9 - Aaron Davey
9 - Cale Morton
8 - James McDonald
6 - Paul Johnson
6 - Jared Rivers (Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Brad Miller
5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Clint Bartram
4 - Matthew Bate
3 - Nathan Carroll
3 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Jeff White
2 - Russell Robertson
1 - Mark Jamar
1 - Shane Valenti

Next Week
St. Kilda at Telstra Dome. If we play like we did Sunday, and they follow on from their vomitous performance against Brisbane, you'd think we were a chance. However this is Melbourne and we are as likely to lose the plot and get trashed as we are to win. I'll be in Singapore listening to it on the AFL website - what the fark am I doing going overseas during footy season? Your guess is as good as mine.

Selection? Well they're talking like Robbo might miss. It seems they say that every second week and he still turns up so I wouldn't put too much currency in it, but I have a radical far-left solution in case he doesn't show. If Rivers is fit we should show some respect to the no-name defence by keeping them down there and picking JR to play forward. In the spirit of Neita going from the backline to kick 631 goals, we may as well give it a crack. If we start getting dominated switch him with Garland to shore it up a bit down back. Many commentators on this site have called for it and now Dean Bailey - because I know you're reading *cough* - you have the chance to make it come true.

Lynden Dunn perhaps? He's got a bit of form up there. I always thought Ryan Ferguson might have gone alright as a forward, though that's purely academic now. Leigh Newton? Sean Charles? Mark Bradly? There's an idea - why don't we have a game between two sides of ex-MFC players from the last ten years? You know I'd be front row central to see Matthew Collins run through Hayden Lamaro.

Laughing Stock Watch

Here's one ladder where we're actually getting better. Would kill for a game against Essendon this week just to either prove our rebirth or condemn us to death once and for all.

14. Melbourne (Last week - 15)
15. Essendon (14)
16. Fremantle (16)

Afterthought Corner
Imagine if you could get paid to write nearly 4000 words of ill-informed under-researched bollocks every week? I should apply for a job with the Herald-Sun.Someday This War's Gonna End

Monday 19 May 2008

Normal Service Has Been Resumed: Melbourne Football Club Apologises For Any Inconvenience

Welcome back to earth. How was the last fortnight for you? Top of the world with happy memories of Wonaeamania running riot at the MCG and Mark Harvey looking shattered I'll bet. It was fun not being the biggest basketcases in football for a couple of weeks at least but now we're firmly back in town. Or perhaps you're reading this because you're one of the lost and lonely teenybopper set who post with names like ILUVROBBO24 and only bother to watch games when we're winning. In that case welcome back, piss off and I hope you get hit by a train.

In fact, even though we might have been spared from the title of 'laughing stock' by Freo's third Mark Williams-esque choke in a row, I don't think the result yesterday was beyond any doubt. I knew we were going to lose to Adelaide, you knew we were going to lose. There are people stuck under apartment buildings in China who knew we were going to lose to Adelaide. We don't win at Football Park in a good year, how are we going to do it in the middle of our worst run in a decade? Wipe the second half of the Freo game out and we have been vomit inducing so far this season. Adelaide, on the other hand, are a finely tuned machine led by a ruthless dictator and with 40,000 screaming lunatics united behind them.

I watched the game at the Club Hotel in Warragul. We were on the way to Sale to watch my greyhound Chickem Assassin make it's debut (a fighting 4th), and stopped along the way to find a pub to watch the game in. For the first five minutes of the first quarter the commentary was replaced with a My Chemical Romance song until we found somebody to switch the audio over, which was fairly apt because watching footy over the last couple of years has turned me massively emo.

I'd tipped us to lose by 50. Seemed like a fair margin at the time given the vast gulf in quality between the two sides. Did we really beat them last year? Nobody saw that coming. Then, just as we entered Drouin (Where? Why in god's name would you live in the country?) it was announced that Jared Rivers was a late omission, replaced by Paul Johnson and I immediately changed my estimated loss to a hundred points. Obviously Carroll had played in Sandy's 150pt win over Tasmania the day before so he was unable to be recalled, leaving us with a backline consisting of Warnock (6 games), Garland (6 games) and Frawley (13 games) to take on the likes of Burton, Porplyzia, Goodwin and Tippett. Game, set and match right there. Throw in their steel trap defence and our rusty as buggery forward line and it was a recipe for disaster.

Having said that we put in one of our better first quarters all season. With four goals it was certainly the highest scoring. Players were running and taking their opponents on and it looked for a moment like everything might be ok after all. Then the ball went inside their 50 and it all went horribly wrong. Given the vast gulf between their experience and their opponent's talent they tried hard but were just outgunned. It seemed every time the ball went down there the Crows would score with ease - there was no way we were going to match them without kicking a massive score, and the chances of that happening are remote at the best of times let alone against one of the better sides in the comp at their home ground. Two goals in the last minute gave the Crows eight for the quarter and effectively ended the contest.

The second quarter was all about waste. After being at least competitive, if nothing special, in the first we reverted to the horrific under 9's style of the first seven and a half weeks of the season. Not many were above criticism in this part of the match, however Davey, Morton and Wonaeamirri can't be faulted for their efforts. Shane Valenti looked comfortable in his first match, and while he made a few rookie mistakes you can tell that he's going to get better and be a handy player. The future isn't exactly bright, but I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. On the defensive side of the game while our backline continued to crumble Bartram was doing a sensational tagging job on McLeod, taking him right out of the game. Shame the rest of them were running riot then.

Further highlights are few and far between. To be honest I was too busy eating a chicken parma to do anything more than look up and try not to swear too loudly. How tragic was Jeff White getting called to play on and then being nailed by the tackle from behind for holding the ball? That's a cert to be alongside Phil Carmen headbutting the umpire on every footy bloopers tape from now until the end of time. Said it all about our season really.

By halftime we were stuffed, and then in the third quarter if the Crows could kick straight we would really have been stuffed. Apparently Kevin "this man makes the rules" Bartlett was on the radio telling everyone how we were a chance because of our comeback against Freo. There's nothing like taking one game out of 2100 and basing an entire theory on it.

Speaking of the rules everyone would have seen what a complete brothel the new interchange rule was. To recap you now need to fill in a slip, post it to the AFL c/o PO Box 2342 in your capital city, wait three weeks for a response, write a 2000 word essay on the influence of Marxist-Leninist thinking on Australian Politics and watch the entire first series of Birds Of A Feather twice before you can make any interchanges. The AFL are selling it as a response to the fiasco in the Sydney/North game a few weeks back, but there's no doubt in my mind that they're using that as a trojan horse to try and cut the number of interchanges down without openly putting rules in place to stop it.

How often have you ever seen a game influenced by too many players being on the field? Very rarely - and so to combat something that has happened once or twice in twenty years we now have a system more complicated than nuclear physics. Players already have enough to think about trying to playing the game without having to worry about their changes being submitted in a reply paid envelope to AFL House. Next week you basically gift an opposition side a goal if you don't get this fiasco of a system right. For once I'm down with the angry talkback caller crowd - this is a shambles that the league will refuse to admit is going to be a massive flop (hands in the back rule anyone?) until they're basically forced into it. Can't wait for the Grand Final to be decided on this - not that we'll be involved - and their headquarters to get firebombed.

Err, enough terrorism - back to the game if we must. We kicked the first three goals of the last quarter to put some respectability into proceedings. Then copped about a hundred in a row and got pumped. Dix.

Ruck Watch
Jamar backed up what was probably his best game ever last week with what may have been his worst. 16 taps which went straight down the throat of an opponent and 1 handball with five free kicks against. With Johnson marooned down back as part of the slops squad he played as the second ruckman all day to little effect. Had better play like his life depends on it in the next few weeks to make sure we don't finish last, or when Naitanui walks throught the door at the end of the year he'll pass the big #40 going the other way.

2008 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

5 - Aaron Davey
4 - Clint Bartram
3 - Cale Morton
2 - Austin Wonaeamirri
1 - Shane Valenti

Apologies to Green, Miller, Moloney, Bruce, Garland (!?), Bell, McDonald, White, Bate, Jones, Buckley.


This could be the most exciting feature of our season. With any of 5 or 6 capable of winning this year's Jako. Previous winners Jones and McLean are well in the mix, and perennial contenders McDonald, Bruce and Green are mixing it up as well.

In the battle for the minor prizes Morton and Wonaeamirri seem to be fighting neck and neck for the chance to join Matthew Bate and Ricky Petterd/Juice Newton for Rookie of the Year honors. With Wheatley seemingly out of luck, Carroll out of favour, Whelan out full stop and Rivers unable to stay on the field for more than ten minutes at a time without hurting himself the Defender of the Year is wide open.

Due to my overseas absence the votes for the Collingwood, Richmond, St. Kilda and Sydney games will be determined by either guest reporters or the results of the Big Footy board voting if the games aren't on TV over there. Queen's Birthday shouldn't be an issue but I don't hold out much hope for the rest of them. I will be listening to the games through the AFL website (why the fark did I take a four week holiday during footy season?) so I might even chip in with votes off the radio if I can.

14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Cameron Bruce
12 - Brad Green
9 - Brock McLean
9 - Aaron Davey
9 - Cale Morton (Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
8 - James McDonald
8 - Austin Wonaeamirri
6 - Paul Johnson
6 - Jared Rivers (Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Brad Miller
4 - Brent Moloney
4 - Clint Bartram
3 - Nathan Carroll
3 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Jeff White
2 - Russell Robertson
1 - Mark Jamar
1 - Shane Valenti

Draft Watch
I don't want to lose. I certainly don't want to finish last. If you can't get good enough players to build a team with top five picks then you're either not trying, or you have our recruiting staff from the past ten years. Like it or not we're not good enough to win more than one or two games for the rest of the year, and that means you're looking at this guy. Note that he was born in Penrith, imagine what's going to happen if we draft him and he turns out to be a gun - the AFL will move heaven and earth to try and get him to the new West Sydney team whenever it starts. Are you ready to be shafted? Whatever, I'm used to it.

Next Week
Hawthorn. Remember them? It's hard not to, we only played them about fifteen minutes ago. I've heard that they've got a handy player up front, could cause some problems for us. Some problems? How about he'll kick 19 in the first quarter and then sit on a deckchair in the goalsquare drinking Pina Coladas and popping ******* ***** [That's quite enough - Legal Department] for the rest of the match?

The Week After
We'll be getting spanked by the Saints. I'll be in Singapore, presumably getting spanked by a tranny. Given the way our season's going I reckon I'm probably still better off.

If you want to do guest reports for any of the St. Kilda, Collingwood, Richmond or Sydney games please either email me (supermercado AT demonblog DOT com) or PM me on Big Footy so I can give you the login/password.

Farewell Neita

Even though we all knew it was coming I'm still stunned that the era of Neitz is over. He now joins the likes of Tingay, Lyon and Lovett in not getting to play a 'farewell' game.

Everyone's got about a thousand memories (most of them of him murdering Luke McCabe) but the two days that will stand out in my memory are when he kicked 9 against Richmond, and especially the 8 against St. Kilda when he just ran riot like a 21 year old.

Celebrate the great man via a choppy as fuck YouTube clip

Most of all we'll remember him as a supreme leader. My money's on Cam Bruce getting the job, but he'll have some massive shoes to fill.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Adelaide's Finest

So, you thought the AFL Grand Final did it badly? Never thought you'd see anything which would top the abortion they served up in 1999 when a "spaceship" crashed into the MCG and a fake Russian cosmonaut with the worst accent ever got out of it to do a tired catchphrase.

We present the 1990 SANFL Grand Final halftime show. Fast forward to 1.45 for chicken suits, the Birdy dance and the most unenthusiastic and out of time child performers ever.

Then at about 4.45 the tone changes entirely and the marching band starts playing porn music as a cavalcade of scantily clad tarts enter the arena.

Then the crowd does the wave. Anyone who does that at a football match (of any code) should be garotted. All the time while this is going on the marching band are playing "Hey Big Spender" and the woman in the chicken suit attempts a bit of sexy dancing. Then some ten year old kid does - HELLO FEDERAL POLICE? ARE YOU WATCHING?

Then, sensibly, Nine's Wide World of Sports goes to an ad and we're spared. I'm surprised the AFL didn't see this, ring up the Adelaide Crows and tell them that they weren't allowed to join the competition. Actually I'm even more surprised that they didn't steal these ideas for their own Grand Final 'spectaculars'

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Match Preview: Melbourne vs Adelaide

Preview the Adelaide vs Melbourne game they said. Ok, I replied. You may as well write a full match report on Lions vs Christians for all the good it's going to do us.

If you'd been locked in Guantanomo Bay for the last few years and were released just in time to turn the TV on for the second half of the Melbourne vs Fremantle match two weeks ago (has it really been so long? Thanks Novelty "Everyone vs Victoria" game!) you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Melbourne was the greatest team ever to have taken the field. Or that Freo were the worst. Ignore for a second the fact that we were about a thousand points down at half time after serving up some of the most putrid football seen since, well us the week before actually, and concentrate for a minute instead on the improbable comeback. Even better, just watch it I almost threw up at the final siren. There has never been anything like it (if you choose to ignore the 1950's like I do) and there's precious little chance anyone is going to forget it.

Now, reality. We were absymal in the first two quarters. At half time we'd kicked three goals. Consider this, in the first seven rounds we have kicked 11.16 in first quarters TOTAL. In the last quarter of this game we put on 9.2. What changed? What went right for once? I'd like to think that it was all down to our much maligned (and that's being generous) game plan of handballing in circles for four quarters finally finding some purpose and run, giving us the opportunity to finally put some pressure on an opposition team and get some decent delivery to our forwards and that's definately part of it. But let's not overlook the fact that Freo are like a Hollywood starlet who has lost her looks, gone flaky and now wanders Sunset Boulevard offering blowjobs to German tourists. Our comeback was not so much premeditated murder as assisted suicide. They wanted to lose, we did our best to help them.

It was glorious, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and think that it's the start of a great revival. We looked better, and one day we might look back and go "ahh, that's where it all started" but the renaissance is very much in it's infancy. Mark Harvey had probably never even heard of Austin Wonaeamirri before the young lad tore his purple heart out in the Punt Road end goalsquare, but Neil Craig is hardly likely to offer him the same courtesy. For the first time in his promising career Austin is going to be under heavy scrutiny, and one of the stories of the day from our perspective will be how he copes with it. The most important thing is that his emergence frees up Davey to go into the middle of the ground whilst still retaining some pressure inside the attacking 50.

There were 20,000 people at the MCG that day (hey, it's 19,000 more than will watch the game on the Gold Coast this weekend). In the future all 21,000 Melbourne fans will claim they saw it. Such is the stuff of legend, and to be frank I'm still not quite over it yet. Wonderful eh? Loves conquers all? Well, briefly but let's not get too excited yet. Had the third quarter not happened there's everybody possible chance this this preview would be darker than Leonard Cohen doing Sylvia Plath covers down a tin mine. Hell, had Freo not completely dropped their bundle in the last few minutes when we amazingly gave them a sniff, we might be talking up heroic failure and an impending 0-8 record.

Our major downfall this season, as you would have seen if you'd watched even five minutes of one of our matches, has been a lack of ball skills. Fairly crucical for an AFL footballer you'd think, but apparently not down at Demonland. Despite a few pastings the backline has battled gamefully in the face of relentless pressure. Obviously if the ball goes down there enough you're going to cop a beating. Stopping the opposition from getting it first hasn't been the problem, it's what we do with it once it hits the deck. Cue an endless comedy montage of handballs to the wrong person, mid-punches of the ball when there's no opposition players within ten metres, comical kick-ins and balls sliced so far over the fence that they're in danger of smashing windows in the car park. I'm far more concerned about Burton, Porplyzia et al doing us damage than I was of a Freo side that consists of Pav and not much else (Chris Tarrant? You're having a laugh! Hold on, what do you mean we now employ the man who did that trade?)

[b]Adelaide vs Melbourne fun facts[/b]
Matthew Collins had the best tatt in AFL history and Peter Vardy was the reason I was so good at AFL 2004 on the Playstation. And that's about it...

The forwards have similarly been handicapped by abysmal delivery inside the attacking part of the ground. Despite being slaughtered by pretty much everyone for being past it and 'not trying' Russell Robertson remains a dangerous option up-front when actually given the chance to get the ball. When it's hacked from the pack at a million miles an hour in sheer panic (I'm looking at you Brent Moloney) to a 3 on 1 with no crumbers you wouldn't expect anyone to kick goals. At last he got some decent service last week and, along with Brad Miller playing his most commanding game ever at CHF, the forward line looked a lot better. However, ask yourself exactly what Freo's defence was doing to stop them. Not freaking much. Compare that to the likes of Rutten and Bock and it's a completely different story. Possibly in the horror genre. For mine we can't kick a winning score. Matthew Bate (the Ranga, for those of you who have come in late) will be a million times better for the run last game. In his first half of the season he was, frankly, unwatchable. Five touches and six clangers in one of the most Supercoach-unfriendly performances in living memory. He was, however, integral to the wild comeback. I'd expect him to chip in for a couple of goals here and there over the weeks. Brad Green has also been handy for a few this season as well as playing a vital role in our midfield. In fact he's probably shown more leadership this year than anyone in our played-voted leadership group - what does that say about us?

[b]Random Trivia Corner[/b]
I went to school with somebody who decided he was an Adelaide fan in 1991. Then suddenly after you won two flags he declared himself a Hawthorn fan. I suggested he should be thrown over a cliff. The next time they beat you in a final find him and hit him repeatedly in the head with a tire iron if you see fit.

Then there's the midfield. You may as well have Jekyll and Hyde on opposing wings considering what we've seen this season. There's a reason why the handful of people at the G erupted when we got a centre clearance the other week - it had been a quarter and a half in the making. Guess what? It lead to a goal. Bugger me sideways there's a novelty. Our ruck division have battled manfully, but like everyone else have been coming up with bugger all reward. Paul Johnson (or to you Adelaide fans "Who?") was in career best form before he busted his hand, and even had some questioning whether he was about to leapfrog Jeff White for the top job. White himself has been solid if unspectacular, and despite being a magnificent servent of the club for the last decade must be starting to see the writing on the wall and pumping his fist in glee that Jolly and Simmonds both walked out all those years ago. Mark Jamar (hey, there's a big South Australian footy name. Let's make a deal!) did a good job last week negating the human giraffe that is Aaron Sandilands, but he'll have to string together more than one performance to get any love from our fans. We also traded for some bloke called John Meesen who, as far as I can work out, is a purely fictional character (

On the end of the occasional tap to advantage have been a midfield which, on paper, are pretty good. James McDonald tenacious as always, Nathan Jones ruthlessly throwing himself at everything, Brock McLean punching German backpackers in the face but it hasn't always come together like it should. Turnovers have been the order of the day, and for every piece of outright Jones magic he seems to turn the bloody thing over twice more. McLean gets a lot of it but there's precious little sign of the smarts and silky skills that has us hailing him as a future captain, Brownlow Medallist and Pope at the start of last year. Green and Davey have chipped in with effective cameos, but you can't expect them to carry the side. Moloney is... Well, I want to say misunderstood but even I'm not sure anymore. Ill-disciplined is probably a better way of putting it. Then there's Colin Sylvia - he's such an interesting character that Grant Thomas went on radio and said that he'd heard a hot tip that he wanted a trade back to Adelaide. Which is strange because Sylv is from Mildura.

Compare and contrast to the experience and poise in the Adelaide midfield. If we're to have any chance of getting up we need to at least break even here. The most bitter pill of all will be getting stitched up by Scott Thompson. Nobody here has any problem with him going home - which says it all about how passive we are, we should be throwing full slabs at him - but it says it all about being in a one or two team town as opposed to the crowded Melbourne market. When ST wanted to go home you only had to roll one team for his signature, when Chris J**d decided to come back (and there's a man I would throw a slab at) he decided he couldn't possibly sign for the team he supported as a kid because we didn't have any facilities and Dick Pratt gave wicked head. It's not unfair, it's reality - but it's painful.

No matter what happens you've rolled us in the comic name stakes by naming somebody called Jarrhan Jacky. How's anybody supposed to top that without Rochford Devenish-Meares ( coming back from the grave to line up on a flank?

So, form says we're going to get porked. How about history? Apparently since 1991 we have won just five games at Football Park. Notable highlights amongst the 18 losses include,

* Getting tipped over by Port by 89 points last year.

* Racking up a grand total of 46 against the Crows in 2005. But hey, Shannon Motlop kicked three and you don't see THAT too often. Or indeed anywhere else ever.

2004? Flogged by both local sides. IN A GOOD YEAR.
2003? Lost both games. You may as well rename the place The Bermuda Triangle as far as we're concerned. Remember Ian Perrie kicking four in the first quarter? Chris Lamb sure does - he never played another game.
2002? Guess what happened? And I'll ask you not to mention the finals either.

Yes, you have to go right back Round 2, 2001 for the last time we won a game at Football Park. Sure, that was the wild match which featured Andrew Leoncelli kicking a goal with two seconds left to win after we'd surrendered a four goal 3/4 time lead with a few seconds left. It was Darren Jolly's debut - he's done well for himself since despite not getting a touch. In fact even if you take into account our remarkable knack for trading or delisting future premiership players (Bishop? Armstrong? Ormond-Allen?) he's the only person who stepped out for us that night that has ever lifted a Premiership. I know, I'm as shocked as anyone that Ben Beams and Steven Pitt never achieved the ultimate honor.

Some may also remember Neale Balme getting the arse after we kicked 3.9 against your beloved friends the Power in 1997 ( Leigh "Juice" Newton with two goals on the night. Look out for him having a kick during the warmup in his new role as a member of staff. Don't bother looking for his namesake Michael "Juice" Newton, because he's kicked on from taking Mark of the Year to doing nothing in the 2's.

As you can see even in a year where we're competitive you can almost bet your house on us not getting within five goals over there. In Melbourne it's a different story. Then we're competitive. God help us all we even beat you at the MCG last season. Before that we were robbed out of at least a draw on the Gold Coast by 'questionable' goal umpiring. Cross into the Central Time Zone, however, and suddenly we're beaten to a pulp. Why is it so? Does this mean we'd still lose if the game was held in Broken Hill? And how would you feel to be a Melbourne fan in Adelaide who only gets to see two games a season and knows we'll get flogged in both of them? Personally I'd move.

[b]Coaches Corner[/b]
Dean Bailey returns to Adelaide at 1-6, but he's still stoked that he doesn't have to put on his resume that he was in the coaches box when Port lost the Grand Final by twenty goals.

Neil Craig has a gleam in his eye like a headmaster who particuarly enjoys beating students with lengths of wood. I like that in a coach, and I wish the man well, but nobody can ever take Dean Laidley's place in my heart as the AFL coach most likely to be found with bodies under his floorboards. Why do you think I lobbied so hard for us to sign the Junkyard Dog after we sacked Daniher?

Anyway... If you want to know the real story about why the Crows will win handily this week you just had to watch the Gimmick Challenge Cup on Saturday night. Adelaide had half of their defence down there AND Burton up front. We had... Paul Wheatley sitting in his loungeroom. Jeff White was in the original squad but that said more about the rubbish ruck stocks of the Big V rather than anything we've done this year. I'd make a case for Jared Rivers, but that's because he's my favourite player. And guess what? He's a South Australian! At what point does he get frustrated at being the defensive lynchpin of the footballing equivalent of the boat from Gilligan's Island and demand a trade back to Adelaide to join Scott Thompson in the latest installment of the "sucked in hard" club of former MFC players to win Premierships elsewhere.

Someday I'll be invited to write the match preview for a game that I think we're going to win. This isn't the week. Crows by 50 - and this time there will be no comeback.

Monday 5 May 2008

Enough said

Sunday 4 May 2008

I Feel Love

In the famous words of Rex Hunt "You have floored me. Absolutely floored me" The man who was alleged to have run down city alleyways with no strides on and payed for his rooting in coins might not have been talking about football that day but he may as well have been.

I've seen something today that I'm not sure actually happened yet. Like a soldier who ends up behind enemy lines, sees half his unit butchered and somehow guns his way out to glory I'm still not sure what the long term effects of this feeling I'm having will be, but for now it feels great to be alive. Like Rambo killing 500 people single handedly what Melbourne did today is something that nobody would believe in real life. Except it was real life, so screw you it's in the books and it happened.

If you didn't go to today's game you missed something special. Are interstate or overseas, permanently crippled, or had to work then you have an excuse. If you simply didn't show up because you didn't expect us to win then give yourself an uppercut, because the second half of today's game was one of the most special I have ever seen. It was like the fall of communism - after being oppressed for so long the people finally saw hope, and just when you expected it to be crushed by tanks the oppressors stepped aside and let them experience freedom. Of course, I would have preferred the Romanian model where we seized power violently and killed a few people along the way rather than doing it peacefully, but when you're living in a repressive dictatorship you take freedom wherever you can get it.

(Demonblog - the only website that gives you the Cold War footballing analogies that you need to get you through your work day)

As previously discussed I've written every single word that there is to describe a loss in the last couple of years, so let's almost completely ignore the first half. We were awful. Absolutely mince. Matthew Bate played one of the worst halves that I've ever seen, Pavlich did what he does best - stitching us up inside 50 - and Chris Tarrant of all people was murdering us. When you're being rumbled by the most overrated player of all time you may as well pull the pin and move the club to Orbost. We simply couldn't put a score on the board. The defence did reasonably well as usual given that the ball was down there every 30 seconds, with Jared Rivers - officially my favourite player - all over the place spoiling, hassling and doing all the stuff that you would never know about if you just looked at the stats. Moloney was shite, and Brock was getting plenty of the ball without actually doing anything with it.

We turned for half-time 51 points behind, and with all of three goals on the board. Everyone knows what was suppoeed to happen from there - another hundred point loss and nervous breakdowns all over the place. Then, something miraculous happened. Take this stat into account, you will hear and read it everywhere in the next few days, in over 110 years of VFL/AFL football only one team had ever come back from that far behind at half time to win. So, history and form were against us. That's what made that third quarter so much more amazing.

Suddenly, Freo stopped winning everything out of the centre. Mark Jamar played one of his best games ever in shutting down the Freo ruck department which, led by freaking giraffe Aaron Sandilands, had dominated the first half and almost carried the Dockers to a win over Geelong last week. Goals from Green, who had been kept quiet in the first half but played a great second, and Miller who had what must have been the best game of his career dragged us to within 40 points. Exactly what we'd seen every other week of the season - a bit of work in junk time when it didn't matter. Then Robbo kicked one before Aaron Davey put his annual contender in for goal of the year by selling more dummies in a 30 second period than ANY PLAYER EVER before goalling from 50 and we started to believe that maybe, just maybe something was going to happen.

Moloney and Bate, who had been putrid early came out all guns blazing and with the likes of Wheatley finally backing themselves to have a kick or take time to throw a handball around things were starting to look up. It's amazing how confidence was suddenly injected back into the players and the fans simultaneously. The announced crowd of 19.5k seemed to be suffering from the same sort of creative accounting that is usually only seen in the A-League, but with the majority of Freo fans below us in the Ponsford Stand the place was rocking when we started to climb back into it. The pressure of a weight simultaneously lifting off 15,000 people at the same time was infectious, and when Davey goalled again it was ON LIKE DONKEY KONG. With a quarter and a bit to play we were running riot over the Dockers. They had stopped. Then, just to take the piss Pavlich bobbed up after not being seen for the rest of the quarter to kick two in a row and blow the margin back out to five goals at the last change. We were still a chance but I honestly though that sank us. In retrospect it was probably better to cop them just before 3/4 time rather than after it because it meant that their momentum was stopped by the final change rather than gaining ground in the first few minutes of the 4th.

So, how about a third quarter comeback? Well, 32 points wouldn't have been our best ever but it would have to go close. In recent history only our wins at Optus Oval in 2003 and THAT final in 2000 have even produced comebacks of more than 20 points in the last quarter. That's in 2161 games since 1896. TWO FREAKING THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED GAMES PLUS. Are you starting to realise how unlikely this was?

Then, the last quarter starts and we erupt like I have rarely seen a Melbourne team before. This shit was like if they'd dropped the atomic bomb on Krakatoa. First Moloney made amends for some of his crimes early on, then Wonaeamirri - the biggest cult figure since early period Davey - got one. Miller added another, amongst some more great work around the ground and Robbo finally applied his 4th quarter heroics to a real situation rather than junk time to put us within ten points. Then down the other end douchebag Farmer (more on him later) benefited from Garland's wildly shite attempting at a spoil to steady the ship and give them back a double figures margin.

Enter the Robbo and Wona show. Robbo snaps one from the pocket to cancel out the Farmer goal, and then Wona adds two in a minute to put us in front and debut some of the most exciting goal celebrations seen in recent years. Seriously, he could get a government grant to do a tour of the flying, spinning frog dance move that he was pulling off today. He had four - he is a gun in the making. Still, it could have gone horribly wrong. How many times does a team drag itself back out of horror to stick it's nose in front and then get rolled anyway? Well, given that we had NEVER BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE (if I forgot to mention that...) I guess we weren't going to find out. Davey marked in the square and put us 8 points in front, but worrying there was still 6 minutes left. Plenty of time for us to shit it and give the game away. Green had a chance to win it and depending on who you asked either had the ball touched on the line or got jibbed out of a goal by an umpire who was on crack and couldn't see it cross the line. We weren't out of the woods yet, and suddenly Freo charged. Douchebag and Mundy both kicked points before Bruce had another chance to nail it and missed. 32 minutes in, the ball lands in Pavlich's arms down the other end and with more than enough time to get it out of the centre again things start to look grim. Thankfully with an unguarded goal square and time rapidly running out he hurried it and missed. Then we needed to get our kick-ins right for almost the first time in a decade. We turned it over once more for douche to add another point, and Daniel Bell was forced to kick out with just 1 second left. Game, set, match and some pretty wild scenes.

Actually I felt more like spewing than celebrating, but it was such a weight off that it wasn't funny. We will not be the first team in 40 years to not win a game, we are a chance of winning more than Fitzroy did in 1996. My mum did her bit for the family record of heart attacks by not being able to move post match due to massive back spasms. We're like that. Before she met me (!) she'd never been to a game and loosely claimed to be a Collingwood fan due to some family bullshit. Now she's losing the plot and having spasms over close results - I feel somewhat guilty.

Meanwhile, in a special Demonblog message to Jeff Farmer I'd simply like to say. COP THAT YOU PRICK. I was looking straight at your lips when you said "look at the scoreboard to one of our guys during that last quarter". Well, for your benefit lets take another look at that scoreboard now. If you're waiting for the replay, look away now...


Didn't quite get that? Put off by the chaos on the ground? Let's have a closer look.


Read my lips Jeff. If they hadn't been showing the 2000 Prelim on the big screen pre-match (which, may I say, is a great innovation and I would like to send a list of requests for them to show next) that featured you running riot and kicking 8 then it would have been even sweeter to watch you crash and burn.

2008 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

For the first time in so long it was a struggle to hand out votes. Under the Big Footy "vote for as many people as you want" system, I also had Davey, Green and McLean in as well. Davey was very stiff, Green played a great second half and McLean got a lot of the ball even if I'm not convinced he did as much with it as he could.

5 - Miller
4 - Rivers
3 - Wonaeamirri
2 - Robertson
1 - Jamar

Apologies to Bate (second half only), Carroll, Davey, Green, McLean, Warnock, Wheatley, White


14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Cameron Bruce
12 - Brad Green
9 - Brock McLean
8 - James McDonald
6 - Paul Johnson
6 - Cale Morton (Co-Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
6 - Austin Wonaeamirri (Co-Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
6 - Jared Rivers (Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Brad Miller
4 - Brent Moloney
4 - Aaron Davey
3 - Nathan Carroll
3 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Jeff White
2 - Russell Robertson
1 - Mark Jamar

Next Week
Nothing. Enjoy an extra week of being on a one match winning streak.

The Next Week
Adelaide away. Any danger of two in a row? I wouldn't hold your breath, you can be sure that Neil Craig and the other boffins at the Crows coaching institute will be doing exactly what I did and concentrating on the second half. They'll be as interested in where the Dockers went wrong as Mark Harvey will be. On paper they thump us, but after today who the fark knows what is supposed to happen anymore?

Weekend Watch
Last night - AFC Wimbledon win their promotion playoff 2-1 after being a goal down until the 83rd minute. Today Melbourne smash records to come back for a win. To quote Rex again.. "HOW GOOD IS THIS!"