Sunday 29 March 2009

One Is The Loneliest Number

So, it's welcome to another season. Before I start maybe we need a disclaimer for anyone who hasn't read Every Day Is Like Sunday (as it's not popularly known) before this year and doesn't understand what the hell is going on.

Point 1: Match analysis is not my strong point, or frankly something I'm even moderately interested in. By reading any post on this website you agree that you at least have a working knowledge of the game being described, and can fill in the gaps or alter any chronological errors yourself.

Point 2: I may tend to be ever so slightly negative once in a while. Send your leftover anti-depressants on a postcard to the usual address.

Point 3: Updates other than match reports are less frequent than a Melbourne train. Subscribe to the Demonblog Twitter feed for an update whenever a new post goes up.

So let's move on shall we?

You can find out all you need to know about today's game with one simple statistic. The 22 players who took the field today took the lowest number of contested marks since Champion Data began tracking the stat. One solitary contested mark, taken by a first gamer. You wouldn't take offence but given that 95% of our kicks are to contests it's a worry. In fact it's more than a worry it's what journalists refer to as a DAMNING STATISTIC. Hamish McIntosh alone took more. One of them just fell into his arms in a marking contest, but that was how it was for us today.

The annual golden era of pre-season optimism is over and starting from the final siren on Sunday we have entered the land of cold hearted reality. It's not a nice place. It's a place where we have to realise that 2007 and 2008 weren't flukes and that we really are a bottom two - at best side - at the moment. Things can change, and there's nothing to say there's not some miracle over the horizon ready to catapult us into the top eight but the way we played today is making a mockery of every one of us who said "I think we'll finish last but..." Don't worry about those who went onto Big Footy (or alternative internet forum) and boldly declared we were back in town and would be pushing for the 8. They're currently being cared for (e.g electric shock therapy/having to watch Scott Chisholm's greatest hits on repeat) in a psychiatric ward.

North were all over us from the first bounce. Having to face McIntosh with an under performing midfield beneath him wasn't the best scenario for Spencer to be facing on debut, but he just couldn't get to it. I lost count of the number of wild mid-air leaps he took that didn't go anywhere near it - I guess he was trying to take McIntosh out of it, because that was all he could do to avoid getting beaten to it every time. Given that our ruckman couldn't get first hands to it, it became increasingly difficult for our midfielders to get a hold of it and North burnt us in the clearances. Even with a bunch of secondary bounces we were more often than not left clutching at thin air as they cleared the ball from danger. I can't find the clearance stats anywhere at 11.50pm on a Sunday night but I'm guessing that they'd be as depressing to read as the contested mark stats.

When North got the first couple it looked ominous. Took us a good six or seven minutes to get anything happening in our forward line, and a wonky Jetta kick that hit the post (I think) opened the scoring. Sadly as this was his first kick he failed to enter this so-called "exclusive club" of players who have goaled with their first possession in AFL football. Some exclusivity it seems that everyone who isn't a defender is in it these days. Do they have meetings? Is Andrew Lamprill the Chief Executive? And can Nifty Nev start his own pressure group for people who have hit the post with their first kick? And why do I remember Lamprill kicking a goal in Round 2, 1992?

I'd had Bate to kick the first goal, and while it was destroy all tickets when North got the first couple he did get our first and looked very lively early on. Unfortunately he then proceeded to not go anywhere near it for the next three quarters. Didn't help that nobody could deliver a ball inside 50 without having gone halfway around the world first. Davey and Moloney added goals and suddenly we were in front. Say what? Didn't last of course. Though at least we broke even and managed a draw.

Jetta did eventually get a goal with his third kick in football (another exclusive club), and Petterd slotted an early contender for our goal of the season (who can we name that award after?) to keep us in front. Ricky was handy up front and kicked a couple of goals but he's not going to be anything other than a bit part player up there while we wait for the return of Robertson. One of those solid, performances that look good in a bad side but the likes of Geelong and Hawthorn would spit on.

North went into halftime seven points in front and while not looking exactly 'comfortable', they certainly should have been further in front. In fact for a second or two they might have had an even smaller lead. For one of the few times all day we got a sequence of play happening where it all went right and didn't once go backwards. 29 minutes into the quarter and I thought "this has got siren going off while we're deep in attack written all over it". Lo and behold the ball dropped into Green's arms half a second after the siren 50m out directly in front. He made a manly attempt of trying to pretend he'd marked it but was never going to get away with it.

So, neither side looked particuarly good in the first half. We couldn't win it out of the centre under any circumstances - though we looked a lot better with Johnson in the ruck than Spencer - and even when we did get it the ball would be butchered with extreme prejudice. With Bate, Miller and Johnson all MIA inside 50 we were never going to kick a winning score if it kept going as it was. North would craft goals and we'd fluke them, then give one straight back out of the middle. Frustrating, but what else were we supposed to expect? Excellence? Good luck with that.

When North got the first two of the third quarter I was ready to write the whole thing off as an experiment and go home. Petrie missed a gettable shot which would have shut the gate ten minutes into the quarter and we hit back with a double salvo through Petterd (the aforementioned GOTY contender) and Green. Miller had a shot to close the gap to a point, but refective of a day where nothing went right for him, he missed it and it went down the other end for a goal. Morton - who had his worst half ever for us in the first - goalled to drag the margin back but like every other game in the last decade we wasted our hard work by allowing them to kick an easy goal.

The amount of goals and scoring opportunities that came from turnovers was one thing. What really got to me was the amount of times that they'd have a loose man inside 50 who would be on the end of a short kick. Is it because we're so bad that this never seems to happen to us? Nobody ever allows Aaron Davey to wander to 40m out straight in front and have a pass dropped right in his hands.

So, still in it at 3/4 time but in the end the class difference reared it's ugly head and by ten minutes into the quarter we were out on our feet and taking serious punishment. Four goals to one in the last quarter and the North fans were going bananas like they'd beaten somebody half decent. Everybody loves a win, especially in round one but I'm of the opinion that when you beat a rubbish team that you shake hands and look towards the next opponent.

I put it down to the fact that the fans were keen to do some celebrating after having to sit through an astoundingly tedious cricket calendar and unbelievably plastic and contrived soccer season. Good luck to them, but unless they tune up a bit they'll be sitting with us at the top end of the draft come November.

Positives? Well, we're not last yet so unlike 2008 we're not going to spend all 22 weeks of the season (quite literally) rooted to the foot of the table awaiting relegation to the Diamond Valley League. Thanks to Richmond, and the fact that we've already got a lifetime achievement award, we're not the biggest laughing stock in the competition at the moment.

We weren't that bad, but North allowed us to look better than we were. You're not going to get the same courtesy from everybody - and we can expect some fearful hidings if we don't get it right in the midfield. The defence is still our best asset at the moment but there's only so much you can do if the ball is down there most of the game. Warnock has been a revelation, Cheney was excellent and while Rivers and Garland didn't have their best games today they are solid contributors. Once you tag Whelan in for Bennell and - I suppose - put Wheatley in somewhere it looks even better. Now to make it so they don't spend four quarters under siege.

Negatives? Well there were heaps, but most of them are either obvious or have already been mentioned. Morton was putrid in the first half but redeemed himself to a degree later and McLean was almost completely absent. Our forward line was completely impotent (new sponsor: nasal delivery technology from AMI) but that's as much to do as the failure to get clearances as anything else. Even when we do win the ball we wait so long to do anything with it that the opposition flood back and completely plug us up. Sounds painful and it usually is.

Injury Watch
A few niggles here and there, but nothing serious. For those of you who have taken the 1.01 on offer for Rivers or Moloney to be the first players to be seriously injured you're still in the mix. Either of them, both the unluckiest men this side of Mark Webber, could spontaneously combust at any moment.

Rookie O Rama

Cheney - BOG for us. Great debut.

Jetta - Extremely lively but might be forced out by the return of THE CELEBRATOR.

Bennell - Looked a bit out of his depth for now.

Spencer - Needs more time in the 2's. I'm not one to bury somebody for their debut (oh ok, Weetra - but that was it. Oh, and and Chisholm but that wasn't his first game ever) but he was pretty awful today. Will get better but frankly I'd prefer to see what Meesen can do right now so we can decide whether or not to persist with him. If the Meese comes in and plays a handful of shockers we can stash him at Casey, cut him loose at the end of the year and pretend the whole thing never happened. If we don't even bother playing him now what are we learning? Nothing.

Bag Johnson's performance all you want but he got twice as many hitouts in a quarter of the time in the middle. Spencer's disposal is currently reminscent of an even less capable Jamar - and you know when you start hanging for the return of MJ halfway through a game things must be going horribly wrong.

Crowd Watch
Seemed to me like there were heaps of North fans there, but that's probably because I believe the world begins and ends at the Ponsford Stand. The ones around us were going absolutely feral over the umpiring as well - more on that later. One especially exciting character was the gigantic fat and bald guy with no neck who spent the whole game turning red. Bless.

Kevin Bartlett Tribute Rules Kommittee Korner
I have to admit it but the rushed behind rule doesn't look too bad. It's not often that I'll put my hand up and admit that the AFL might have been right but it certainly made for a more interesting clash today. Of course it's absolutely no help whatsoever to our defenders who struggle to get a clean possession away under no pressure, let alone in a crowd, but it definately stopped us going for the cheap option every time.

Speaking of umpiring, can we get one thing straight here. This applies for all teams at all levels. Just because the free kick count is 'lopsided' does not mean there is a gigantic conspiracy against your team - especially when you're winning by five goals. Sometimes team are more disciplined than others. Sometimes teams have players who get caught holding the ball much more than others. Some have idiots who roost the ball out of bounds on the full with every kick. Looking at raw numbers and sometime determining bias is complete madness. But what do you expect from sports fans?

While we're on the subject everyone loves the good old fashioned bronx cheer after getting a free kick for the first time in twenty minutes but - and I'm sure this is written in the constitution somewhere - you are only entitled to do it ONCE. You do NOT bronx cheer every free kick you recieve for the next two quarters you retards. We're as guilty of this as anyone, it's just that we've got less people to do it.

Talkback Lunatics Division
Thanks to the clown who rang up SEN to tell them that "Melbourne members and supporters have, to a man, lost faith in Dean Bailey". Was I consulted on that? Talk for yourself or shut your mouth. I have my questions about things that go on with the club but I always think back to Alistair Clarkson's first season at Hawthorn when knee-jerk retards were calling for his head. Bailey was handed the biggest shit sandwich in history and expected to turn it into a four course gourmet meal. It's not going to happen overnight. If we're playing the same in Round 1 next year then I might start

A Talkback Lunatic Division spotters badge to anyone who heard the guy who always rings SEN up to talk about us and sounds like he's going to cry. Managed to ask Anthony Hudson et al about 102 questions in his 30 seconds on the air.

Koaches Korner
As per the last section I have a few questions regarding Bailey (Buckley as a clueless defender? Spencer hung out to dry in the ruck?) but I'm willing to accept that he's getting paid to do the job and is hardly likely to come here looking for tips so I'll let him get on with it.

However, on the other side of the coaching divide my love affair with the Junkyard Dog Laidley has ended. No reason, it just ran it's course. I hope we can be friends for the sake of the children.

2009 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

Difficult one this. Nobody really stood out, and of Moloney's 29 touches 20 of them were handballs so Cheney shades him for the 5 votes in the absence of any other massive performances on the strength of his high disposal efficiency and taking our one solitary contested mark. Congratulations to Cheney on jumping to an early lead in the Hilton and Jakovich, and Warnock who has continued his excellent late 2008 and pre-season 2009 form to lead the Seecamp.

5 - Kyle Cheney (LEADER: 2009 Allen Jakovich Medal, 2009 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and 2009 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - Matthew Warnock
2 - James McDonald
1 - Ricky Petterd

The Demonblog statiscal analysis department informs me that this is the first time a player has ever taken maximum votes on debut.

Apologies to Bartram (decent tag on Harvey, ordinary stats otherwise), Frawley, Green and Jones.

P.S - Did Bruce really get 22 touches? I only remember one. Refer to disclaimer #1.

I would like to announce that as much as I love Rivers I'm jumping on the rags-to-riches Warnock bandwagon and declaring him my new favourite player. This will not influence the votes throughout the year - if I couldn't manage to rig it so Phil Read won an award how can I do it for anyone else?

Supercoach Watch
Piss off. This is the only website in the world that won't be discussing it. Buy who you want, make Presti your captain and good luck to you. I support playing it, but I'm sick about hearing about it everywhere and seeing live updates halfway through a quarter. As if our players need any more bloody encouragement to overpossess the ball. God help us all when Wheatley comes back.

Next Season
First person to suggest throwing games to get picks 1 and 2 will be stabbed in the face.

Next Week
Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday. Presumably they'll be going nuts to avoid an 0-2 start and I expect that they'll flog us by at least the same margin as today BUT wouldn't it be hillarious if we somehow managed to get up? Don't hold your breath waiting for it.

And isn't playing our supposed traditional rivals (where tradition = nobody who matters having cared since 1959) in round two something of a let down? I'm happy to play them twice a year but even being the unsentimental cold hearted realist that I am looks forward to the Queen's Birthday game. Can't we play them at the end of the year instead? Think of all the fun we had when we almost beat them in 2007 - you know, when Ben Johnson hit Daniel Bell so hard that he dislodged the part of his brain which allowed Bell to play good football.

Are you still excited? You can't start a fire without a spark.

Sunday 15 March 2009

How 'Bout That Drought

Guest review by Jane, Andy and Gabrielle who braved Hurricane Bertha to go to yesterday's game while I was being slaughtered in the weather on the other side of town

Casey Fields
The first quarter of this game was a bit of a blur, largely due to us being on the South Gippsland Highway at the time. Has anyone noticed how far away from anywhere not in Gippsland Casey Fields actually is?

Due to the weather (more on that later) we’d been hoping there’d be eight to twelve other people there, but apparently Dees fans (or bored Cranbourne residents) are a hardier bunch than they’ve been made out to be. The carpark was packed and they were directing cars to a field somewhere out in Berwick. For once, we wished we were real Melbourne fans – y’know, those Range Rover driving ones.
If Jim Stynes had a grand plan of diversifying the fan base when he put his weight behind the Casey move, he knew what he was doing. This was not your usual Melbourne crowd – of the 5000 plus people there, about three-quarters were Dees fans (weird in itself), and of those about three-quarters would punch you if you offered them a Chardonnay. Lucky we’d brought our own, as the Casey Fields bar sells only two drinks – beer, and beer.

Actual Football
Dear weather, thank you for raining all over our notes and giving us a legitimate excuse for having done such a crap job of recording what actually went on in the game [Nature's way of making sure there has never been a real match report on here - Editor].

Here’s what we managed to piece together out of the soggy blur we were left with:

First Quarter: got there about five minutes before the siren. Things were looking pretty even, Melbourne had kicked a goal and the Dogs were just ahead of us. Jetta went on to kick another (isn’t Jetta tops? If this correspondent had been in charge of the voting he’d have got at least one point, but this correspondent wasn’t, so he didn’t. But it’s ace to see a Melbourne player who puts in a second effort every single time. Nothing shits me more than players shrugging their shoulders and going ‘oh well, can’t do anything about that now’ when they mess up a tackle or a mark). At the end of the quarter it was Dees 2.1.13, Dogs 2.7.21.

Second Quarter: A good quarter for us. This is partly guesswork, but it looked like there were goals by Green, Newton, Davey and McLean. Brock’s was a cute little grubber from somewhere near the boundary line. Bennell (I’m told this guy really does exist) used the Sherrin well when he got his hands on it, Martin did some great tackling, spoiling etc., Warnock got in a bit of a scuffle with someone late in the second, but the umpires didn’t seem to care (was this the point where the guy behind us said ‘looks like the umpires are having a practice umpire too’?). Score at half time was Dees 7.3.45, Dogs 5.10.40. Dogs clearly not so good at the kicking.

Third quarter: So much for good quarters for us. The Dogs came out strong and kicked three goals (including one from a soft free for a ‘rushed’ behind: Garland, the alleged rusher, was involved in a marking contest when he ‘rushed’ it through…guess the AFL changed the rule again and forgot to tell anyone except the umpires). Things weren’t looking all that tops – we seemed to be having real trouble getting anyone forward to kick it to – but the Dees rallied towards the end, with Green kicking 2 and Jones 1, one of Green’s largely thanks to Morton. Score at three quarter time: Dees 63, Dogs 67.

Fourth quarter: Melbourne took the momentum they’d developed at the end of the third quarter and dropped it somewhere down the back of the sausage sizzle stand. The Dogs kicked a couple of quick ones right away, after which it started absolutely pissing down and we lost interest in anything much but keeping small portions of our skin dry. The entire game happened down the other end of the field, and with no big screen to turn to for all the far away action, it’s hard to give a good account of what went on. All we can tell you is the final score was Melbourne 10.3.63, Dogs 14.17.101, and Krispy Kreme was giving away free donuts. Apparently playing in a cyclone last week was not enough to prepare us for the Weather Wrath of Cranbourne.

Fashion Watch
Brock McLean no longer has a haircut. It seemed implausible he could get less comely, and yet, here we are.
The rain produced all kinds of fashion faux pas, like the chubby bloke wandering through the crowd whose white shirt had become transparent enough for us to see his nipple hair. We tried to see if Brad Miller’s white jersey had suffered the same fate, but thanks to the complete lack of action in Melbourne’s forward line in the fourth quarter, we were unsuccessful.

Dickhead Watch
It would have been nice if Colin Sylvia could have been bothered caring about football, as he would have been rather useful. He’s been doing pretty well at the whole marking caper, and by the fourth quarter that was something we really needed. Maybe we could trade him for someone good, or at least someone with a more interesting brand of misbehaviour, or even a case of beer.

Injury Watch
Nothing. That’s right, no one was injured, not even Rivers.
[Err, not quite. But at least it doesn't seem all that serious. - Editor]

The good, the bad, the 2009 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre Season Performance Votes

It’s been a long time since Melbourne took home a medal for consistently good kicking-in, but all that may be about to change (depending on whether anyone gets around to inventing such a medal). Garland messed one up, but other than that we were really pretty good.

Our tall forwards did not much at all. Juice got a goal (perhaps. Our notes are inconclusive on this matter), but other than that hardly touched it, and neither did Bate, Meesen (who had a brief stint up front) or Miller (whose tan was, by the way, out of control).

Jetta, as we might have mentioned earlier, really looks like he loves playing football and is a treat to watch. One-third of us think Davey should be taking home some kind of commemorative gift for consistently running his arse off during the pre-season, though another third of us think he’s bulked up too much and it’s slowing him down.

5 – Cameron Bruce
4 – Aaron Davey
3 – Stefan Martin
2 – Brad Green
1 – Brock McLean

Final Leaderboard
10 – Bruce
7 – Warnock
6 – Green, McLean
4 – Bate, Grimes, Newton

Finally, for those who are downhearted by our return to poor form, please take solace in the fact that Collingwood were thrashed by 12 goals the previous night.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Mystery Match Mania

The true Regional Challenge game (i.e nothing played in Parkville or Cranbourne) is one of the great mysteries of the footballing world. You just have to take their word for it that it happened. Usually there will be no photos, scant details from anyone who was actually there and a match report clearly thrown together in five minutes by a cadet reporter who had nothing else on that night.

Not surprisingly I didn't bother going to Cairns to watch the game last night. Neither, by the looks of this, did the Herald Sun. Bendigo was my limit for meaningless practice matches, but by the looks of their website The Age don't even bother reporting that the match happened. Even the Cairns Post - who were presumably actually there - give scant details.

We should just be happy that we won and that nobody suffered life threatening injuries in shithouse conditions. But no, some of us are SICK FREAKS who want to know everything. "Maybe the AFL website will have something" I hear you say. Afterall they are the keepers of this great game and friend to fan and club alike aren't they? Well, it seems that twelve hours later even they couldn't give a monkeys about what happened. See also our own website - strings pulled by the league and no mention whatsoever.

UPDATE - Turns out there is a story on the AFL website. It's just buried under 72 other stories. Sure it pays scant regard to the fact that we won by 6 goals but at least it gives us something.

Melbourne 2.1 6.3 10.3 11.7 (73)
Brisbane Lions 2.3 2.5 4.7 4.12 (36)

Melbourne: Newton 3, Petterd, Dunn 2, Jetta, Moloney, Bruce, Jones.
Brisbane Lions: Clark, Brown, Hooper, Dalziell.

Melbourne: Newton, Warnock, Dunn.
Brisbane Lions: Johnstone, Adcock, Dalziell.

Melbourne: Nil.
Brisbane Lions: J Brennan (quad).

Umpires: H Kennedy J Mollison B Ryan.

Crowd: 4,000 approx. at Cazaly Stadium.

Good to see that they suffered our ailment of having one end of the ground where they were completely unable to kick goals from. By all accounts we scrapped it out in wet conditions and there were good signs all over the place. If you've got three hours and want to try and cut through all the bullshit surrounding it this Demonology thread has the best update work you're likely to get for a game like this.

2009 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre Season Performance Votes

I've pieced these together from all available sources. Suffice to say I don't believe the papers when they give the top goalkicker on the ground all the votes even if he had a decent game. So...

5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - Michael Newton
3 - Brock McLean
2 - Matthew Warnock
1 - Lynden Dunn


Does this have any credibility anymore? Lucky it's the most Mickey Mouse award in our collection.

7 - Warnock
5 - Green, Bruce, McLean
4 - Bate, Grimes, Newton
3 - Whelan, Sylvia
2 - Martin
1 - Frawley, Petterd, Dunn

Yes, Warnock is on the verge of winning an award - and Newton is also a chance. This, more so than the earthquake, is a sign of the pending apocalypse.

Next Week
Footscray at Casey Fields. Now, I've made a terrible mistake and booked myself into something I can't get out of next Saturday so I'll need a guest reporter for this game. Either email me (supermercado AT demonblog DOT com), PM me on Big Footy or @ me on Twitter if you're interested. First come first served.

God help me if my family find out that I'm not going to this game after I blew off a family reunion last week by claiming that it was more important to go and watch John Meesen at Optus Oval.

Round One Watch
Am I the only one starting to get sick fantasies about knocking over North in Round One?