Sunday, 19 April 2009

Bring Your Quarter To The Slaughter

Jubilant scenes on Brunton Avenue, 4.59pm

I don't need to tell you this, but the weight lifted off the shoulders by realising that you're not going to go 0-22 is amazing. The fact that it came against a unit imploding like a condemned building is not entirely important right now. Neither is the fact that if we'd played another two minutes we'd probably have lost. Like a horse that bolts to a massive lead in the Melbourne Cup and almost dies in the last 100m before winning by a nose it's the result that counts.

It's sad that it's come to this, but before we go any further I have to point out one important stat. That was the first game we have won in the first month of a season since 2006. Even then we had to wait until Round 4. You remember, Rivers copping the worst 50m penalty of all time in the longest 4th quarter EVER and we eventually made the 8. Today the 50's were deserved, the quarter was short as and we certainly won't make the 8 but it was still satisfying.

Let's be quite honest, the first quarter was one of the biggest slopfests you would ever have seen in your life. We gave away the first goal before the first bounce after Warnock biffed Morton, but other than that - and a couple of early misses for the Tiges - the story of the quarter was that the players of Fitzroy 1996 would have been hanging their heads in shame at some of the mistakes. It was absolutely comical football. Not only was the ball being butchered by almost everybody with extreme prejudice but even when we did get it forward we managed to hit the post four times. In a row. After he and Moloney both rushed shots they should have snaffled, Miller got the first to give us the lead going into quarter time.

The obvious lowlight of the first quarter was Brad Green's injury. Crunched in a perfectly fair contest (read: the AFL will probably issue a 92 week suspension) he looked at first like he was dead, then seemed ok. The radio called it concussion, then it was scans at the Epworth, then he was going for surgery for a broken jaw and is out for 8 weeks. Fark. I know I said it's easier to understand an injury when it takes place during a game but did it have to be to one of the few people we have who actually knows what they're doing? It seemed that he and Moloney were the only ones who could hit a target early on and I thought that without him we were rooted. Not so.

Unfortunately due to watching Green being carried from the ground many may have missed one of the more amusing errors in recent times. The Richmond guy (who? As if I care) picks the ball up in the centre, turns around and drops a 20m handball right into the hands of Jamie Bennell who doesn't have a Richmond player in the same postcode. Welcome to every blooper reel for the next ten years whoever you are.

The second quarter was like masterpiece theatre compared to the first. The Tigers continued to pile on absolutely comical errors and we managed to drag ourselves back to normality on-route to an eight goal quarter. For all my angst about him I have to admit that Colin Sylvia played an unbelievable quarter. Two running goals from outside 50, clean disposal and chase like a madman. He was making a mockery of the D-Grade reserves style stuff that Richmond were serving up. Suddenly as he kicked his second we were 34 points up 13 minutes into the quarter, and we were either set for a memorable victory or a heartbreaking capitulation.

Then they invented some sort of forward line structure and threw Richardson down there to take a few marks and got a few in the middle. You thought "oh god, here we go" but late goals for Bate - pretty much his sole contribution - and a last minute snap from Miller about a second before the siren gave us back a handy advantage.

As usual I don't pretend to know anything about football but tell me they wouldn't have gone a lot better had Richardson been playing up front for the whole four quarters? We were doing whatever we liked before he went up there and provided some sort of a target. It's very cute having him rumble around the wings picking up touches and almost winning the Brownlow but that means fuck all if your key forwards are for the tip.

Incidentally it was our best second quarter against Richmond since 1993. A game I remember extremely vividly because;

a) It's the biggest win I've ever seen us have
b) Jakovich and Andy Lovell (!?) kicked 8 apiece
c) A bird shit on my hand in the bottom deck of the Ponsford during the 3/4 time break. Very traumatic for a 12-year-old.

Other than Green's injury things were looking pretty positive. Bate didn't get near it until he kicked his goal and the Tiges started to look a million times better when they got their forwards right, but 31 points is the biggest half time lead we've had since Round 10, 2006. In a game we only won by 13 points (he says for dramatic foreshadowing purposes).

Then, after what surely must have been the biggest spray of all time from the soon to be unemployed Wallace, the Tigers came out and... copped the first goal. Their skills were indisputably better than they had been in the first half, but when Davey snapped one after about eight minutes and we were 38 in front it looked like party freaking time. Alas something must have snapped in their collective brains as they suddenly realised the gravity of the situation and started having a massive crack. While Richo still looked like their only truly dangerous forward we started to miss tackles and butcher the ball going forward and they took advantage of it with a couple of goals.

The enigmatic Newton missed a sitter from 25m out on a slight angle and then backed up thirty seconds later by kicking a goal on the run from 50m out to keep our lead at just under five goals. He's an interesting one Newton - in a way he played a great game today but is it wrong to expect more? His kicking for goal is generally shite, but do you take that for the surprisingly decent defensive intensity and the two goal hauls? Could have some sort of a future if he, and Miller, were packed off to the Self Confidence boot-camp but in reality there's a sign on his car space saying "RESERVED FOR J WATTS". Does he go for Robbo? At what point does Jurrah push for his spot? I was relatively satisfied with his game today - other than that miss from right in front - but he's got to crank things up a bit if he wants to be there next year. At least if he gets the arse he can join another Melbourne delistee Nick Gill in forming the "Awkward Tall Forwards with Mixed Returns" coterie group.

The last quarter was what you would officially describe as "nerve shattering". Only one down on the bench, but you'd think we'd had no rotation since the 2nd quarter as everyone stopped dead. They butchered their chances early on, but even with Warnock and Johnson double-teaming Richardson you just had the feeling that he was going to sink us. However, before that could happen Ricky Petterd basically saved the game with a heroic passage of play that should be on all sorts of highlight tapes. He threw himself backwards into an absolute meat mincer of a marking contest, hit the deck and still managed to lay a huge tackle on the Richmond bloke for holding the ball. Duly converted and a little bit of breathing room.

Ricky was good today. I still dispute the idea that he's the answer to small forwardry, but overall he's been quite good down there this year - and his kicking for goal is much better than expected. Interested to see what happens when Robertson comes back though.

In the end it turned out to be absolutely crucical as we really did stop dead after that. Deledio showed up and goaled after doing precisely nothing all day and Richo managed to get one on target to cut the gap back to 16 with about six minutes left. Cue arseholes the size of manhole covers in the stands - forget the distraught Richmond fans I think throwing it away from there would have caused me to neck myself. Richo botched another one (thanks son) and both Jetta and Newton had chances to ice the game but missed. 26 minute mark and the margin is cut to nine with a goal. There were only thirty seconds left (fuck countdown clocks, take a radio if you really want to know how long there is left) but when they went forward and Morton snapped at goal you just visualised somebody giving a free kick away out of the centre + 50 and having us lose the game. Happily he missed and even though the umpire chose not to pay the biggest dropping the ball IN HISTORY against Frawley in the dying seconds it wouldn't have mattered as we had it locked up.

Siren and wild scenes, tempered by the fact that we know we beat nothing, and a massive weight off our shoulders.

Crowd Watch
Strangely subdued performance by the Richmond fans in the top of the Olympic Stand. The wild comeback probably saved them from a bit of blood in the streets treatment on the day, but there's no telling what random animal waste is going to end up on the doorstep of Punt Road tomorrow morning.

The only person of interest was the guy sitting a row over from me who had obviously hit his frustration limit and spent four quarters abusing Richmond and calling for Wallace to be executed. A particular highlight was the tuneless rendition of their theme song with "Tigerland" replaced with the words "Gold Coast". Not sure exactly what it all meant but I could kind of feel where he was coming from. He was only about 30 so it's not like he can take any pride in Premierships won when he was 2 years old.

Other than that it was a look of shell shock all round. Poor bastards.

2009 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

So hard this one. Throw a blanket over most of the teamsheet, put it in a blender for three minutes, serve cold andcome out with this...

5 - McLean
4 - Miller
3 - Sylvia
2 - Petterd
1 - Bruce

Could have gone anywhere really. In fact on Big Footy I used my 12 votes on 12 different players. So, enormous apologies to (in order);

Davey, Dunn, Meesen, Newton, Moloney, Johnson, Frawley, Bartram, Bennell, Warnock, Rivers, Morton, Martin.

It's cruel, but it's good in the weeks where it's hard to even fill five spots. Which, let's be honest, happens far more often than weeks where there's too many to fit.

Pretty much everyone except Green, Bate and Jetta were major contributors. I was impressed at times by Nifty Nev - especially his spin out of traffic - but another 53% efficiency tells me he needs to develop more. At least he was responsible for our solitary front-and-centre crumbed goal of the year.


With Green gone, and Cheney having dropped out of favor after a fast start the field is well open for the Jakovich and Seecamp. For those of you who give a rats the winning scores in the past have been;

2008 - 29
2007 - 34
2006 - 47
2005 - 38

2008 - 14
2007 - 16
2006 - 19
2005 - 10

2008 - 17
2007 - 5
2006 - 10
2005 - n/a

No votes yet for the Strawbs O'Dwyer for ruckman. Johnson won with 13 last year, but nobody has come close to polling until the Meese today.

9 - Aaron Davey
8 - Brad Green
5 - Kyle Cheney (LEADER: 2009 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and LEADER: 2009 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Nathan Jones, Brock McLean
4 - Matthew Warnock, Brent Moloney, Stefan Martin, Brad Miller
3 - Ricky Petterd, Colin Sylvia, Cameron Bruce
2 - James McDonald
1 - Matthew Bate

Kasey Korner
Lost by 4pts to Port Melbourne in a random night game. Unfortunately I couldn't go, but by all accounts Robertson continued to get better. Still don't understand why Maric isn't playing seniors for us, and Jurrah continued his development.

More importantly in the 2's the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah Watts made his debut. Allegedly solid and kicked a goal. Straight to the VFL 1's I say. It's pearls before swine having him play against thinly veiled suburban hacks in the reserves.

Next Week
Adelaide at the MCG in the absolutely bizarre timeslot of 4.40pm. Say f'ing what? No problems for me as I live next door to the ground and - frankly - have nothing better to do with my life but it's not exactly family or country supporter friendly. When is anything other than a Perth game scheduled in that timeslot? Another big handout from the twats at the AFL.

As for the game itself you'd think that even having just been bitchslapped by Geelong at home that they'd be too good for us, but we've got a good record against them at the MCG. I'm not going to put my house on a win but I would expect us to continue our good work from this week in preparation for the Geelong game.

Here's a visual representation of what that game will look like;

Cue our new forward line;

Final Thoughts
It's not the journey, it's the destination.

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