Saturday, 21 February 2009

New Season, Same Team

For the last two hours I've been trying to tell myself that the pre-season doesn't matter. That nothing today counts for anything during the home and away season. But fuck that I'm absolutely fuming. In the last decade I've seen us lose two first round pre-season games by more than a hundred points, and a semi-final by 1 point and I've never been more ropeable before Round One than I am right now.

I'm sick of this "it's only the pre-season" bullshit. From 2007 to today we have won ONE pre-season match - and look how well we've done during the season. This isn't some Paul Roos styled Sydney scam where you play Canadian rugby players and (allegedly) tell people not to kick goals in the last few minutes of a tight match. This is a sign of ineptitude. I wasn't the only one to try and convince myself that 2007 was some sort of abberation and that we'd bounce back - then we went out and fell apart like a house of cards in every pre-season game we played last year. Ok, there was the excuse of having about five fit players but anyone who saw the North Melbourne and Footscray games knew that on both occasions we showed glimpses of being a real club but ultimately couldn't get the job done and got embarassed.

So, to Launceston for a clash with a side carrying the same name as the reigning premiers. Without nine premiership players.

And our side. Well, you wouldn't pencil it in as the best 22 by a long way but it was hardly the sort of experimental lineup that you're used to seeing as this time of the year. Bail (named as a substitute under these bullshit NAB Cup rules), Spencer and Cheney were the only players without experience to take the field. Rivers, Robertson, Moloney etc.. and all the draftees except Bail were out but on the balance of things we were still lining up with a far more senior team than the Hawks.

Was looking forward to seeing Meesen and Zomer play but disappointing neither was named. ZOMGer's absence was especially irritating as not only did he kick 4 goals in the intra-club game last week, it is a genuine fact that our forward line is shithouse and desperately needs new blood to shake things up. If the idea was to have a win and rack up a few members and - god forbid - a major sponsor then I can see where they were going, but if the idea was simply to play as close to a best 22 as possible just because we could then somebody needs to give themselves an uppercut.

The game? Oh do we have to? It's just another chapter in the tale of thwarted ambition that we've been force fed for the last (insert your age here if you're under 45) years.

Spencer started in the ruck and did a good job early. For the first few minutes we were all over the Hawks and they almost looked shellshocked. Sylvia and Morton both missed opportunities early, but eventually Bate opened our account before Green finished off a passage of good play and slotted a goal from the boundary line. Down the other end Roughead was taking marks, getting cheap free kicks and slotting goals from ludicrous angles on the boundary line but was getting absolutely no support elsewhere. In between his first and third goals Bartram got his first and Bate his second to give us a handy twenty point lead approaching quarter time. Then the two late goals cut the margin to five. Still - we were winning a game at quarter time. There's something that doesn't happen too often..

In other notable first quarter moments Paul Johnson copped one of the worst reports of all-time. Not only did the Hawthorn player not actually get hit, the bump that he did have put on him wasn't even by Johnson. It's wonderful to see that the government are finding jobs for homeless drug addicts as AFL umpires. Would almost warm your heart if it wasn't so tragic. Ordinary performance all over the ground by the umpires today I thought. We got away with a few, and got stooged for a few as well.

The second quarter was a classic arm-wrestle (FIRST CLICHE OF THE SEASON!) with neither team scoring for the first ten minutes, until Roughead missed his easiest kick at goal of the day. Hawthorn briefly took the lead but when Bate got his third we were back in front at half-time. What do you say about a quarter like that? We got a lot of the ball and more often than not actually used it decently. McLean was all over it, and even though his disposal was a bit meh it was good to see him involved without breaking something. On the other hand Jones and McDonald were nowhere to be seen.

The third quarter was where it all started to come together and make you believe that we weren't the worst team since Fitzroy 1996. Suddenly Johnson was thrown into the forward line and looked more dangerous than anyone other than Bate had all year. He took two strong marks inside 50 for one goal and when Bate added his fourth, McLean his first and Bartram a 9pt goal we had opened a break of more than five goals going into the last break.

Now, what had impressed me the most to this point was the way that we'd kept the Hawks to five goals - and three of them had come from the boundary. We were denying them anything in front of goal and the likes of Frawley, Garland, Warnock etc.. were doing a handy job. More importantly Whelan, Petterd, Grimes and the running defenders were rebounding confidently. Even when they weren't racking up possessions they were doing positive things. Witness, for instance, Whelan throwing himself at his opponent's feet to force a turnover and a goal.

Having said all this wasn't it always destined to go wrong? Surely Clarkson and club came to and realised that they were being flogged by the worst team in the competition and that they had better fire up or risk looking completely shithouse.

Now this is where it really went wrong in the fourth quarter. I've been a huge supporter of Bailey for the last couple of years but I can't for the life of me work out why after he was our sole decent target up front for three quarters (other than five minutes of Paul Johnson) that he [Note from years in the future - I'm assuming that it was Bate being referred to here but it would have been helpful if that had been made clear at the time] played the fourth quarter up the ground while Newton, Sylvia and to a lesser extent Miller embarassed themselves inside the forward 50.

At first I felt bad for Newton today. He was tackling hard, leading out and getting shithouse delivery. Then in the last he got his chance and absolutely botched it. My blood pressure is already too high without cataloging his crimes against humanity. If Meesen is supposedly the complete athlete but clueless on a football field can't we at least try and turn him into a forward instead? At least he's got athleticism going for him. Newton took Mark of the Year and has never done one decent thing since.

Then there's Sylvia. My god. All I will say is that if there's not a significant improvement on today's effort in the next few weeks then I wouldn't even bother picking him for Round One. It was all well and good dropping Yze and White last year when they weren't performing but at least they had a decade plus of runs on the board. Sylvia on the other hand has played a handful of good games in four years and simply does not deserve to play at the moment. Get your Cranbourne line timetable out and go down there and get some form then come and talk to me. Of course given that we have very little innovation or sense of adventure I'm sure this won't happen and instead we'll be treated to another season of mediocre performances before he's inevitably traded away for pick 30 and goes on to win a Premiership elsewhere.

Miller was alright for the first three quarters but completely cracked in the last. What we need is somebody who can take a mark and kick a goal. Pretty simple eh? Cross your fingers and everything else you've got that Watts is going to come on and be the man, and that Robertson can drag a couple more seasons out of his body because otherwise it's going to be a long, long year.

The fact of the matter is that we had multiple opportunities to seal the game in the last quarter and botched them all. We got what we deserved. Sure if Roughead didn't have his hand on Garland's back at the end them I'm not here - but that's neither here nor there given that we should never have been in that position anyway. If you expected a correct decision in the context of what they'd been dishing up throughout the rest of the game well then frankly you were on drugs.

If they'd bothered to send me my membership yet I would have at least pulled it out of my pocket and waved it around with a few empty threats about burning it, but as it was I picked up the item closest to me - a shoe - and lobbed that across the room instead. Then I went to a driving range and tried to smash my frustrations out, however my talents with a golf club closely mirror that of our forward line kicking under pressure and it was a complete bust.

Kommentary Korner
Dwayne Russell is a knob of the highest order. When you're commentating a Hawthorn game with Dunstall - who is ON their fucking board - and still come off as the caller with the least credibility then you've truly achieved. Here's to being able to watch Fox Sports games with the radio turned up and the mute button firmly pressed down for the rest of the year. Shame too because most of the other people involved in their coverage (Dunstall/Colbert etc..) are fine to listen to.

Fashion Week
Why did we wear the white jumper today? How does our regulation jumper clash in any concievable way with the gold and poo brown Hawthorn jersey? In fact doesn't introducing white into the mix cause MORE of a clash? It's not such a bad jersey but we should not wear it if we don't have to.

Unless of course somewhere the real jumpers are having a sponsors logo added to them... Hah, yeah right.

Votes and Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance leaderboard

5 - Green
4 - Bate
3 - Whelan
2 - McLean
1 - Frawley

Apologies to Davey, Morton, Bartram, Grimes, Spencer, Miller, Cheney, Garland and Johnson.

Round One Watch
If North are anywhere near as bad as they were last night, and we are anywhere near as good as we were in the third quarter today it could be interesting. One thing's for sure, if we go out and get flogged by them then we're rooted this season. And the first person to suggest 'tanking' to get the priority pick gets stabbed in the face. First things first, if last season was anything to go by we won't need to try to lose most of the games.

Next Week
God knows. One thing I can tell you for free is that it won't be Carlton at Telstra Dome Etihad Stadium on Sunday night. If the Herald Sun are to be believed it will the loser of Sydney vs Port at either Princes Park or Football Park. Presuming, as always, that the Swans will find new and innovative ways to avoid progressing in the pre-season cup, that will mean a clash next Saturday afternoon with them. See you there if you've honestly got nothing better to do.

If this is your first visit to Every Day Is Like Sunday and you're wondering where the actual matchday analysis is then you might want to turn around and back away now. For the rest of you, strap yourself in and call your doctor to see if there have been any new anti-depressants released since September 2008.

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