Saturday 27 March 2010

No mas, No mas...

... That's what Roberto Duran said halfway through the eighth round of his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard when he lost interest in life and quit the fight.

About ten minutes into the third quarter today I was thinking the same thing about season 2010.

Every year you like to think that things are going to get better, that you're a flag/finals/not-spoon contender (delete as applicable) and that no matter how the dubious pre-season form looked that come the first bounce of round one everything will be ok. "Sydney never win pre-season games!" we cry as if that has any bearing on our performance. We went into the MCG this afternoon saying "I'll take a six goal loss" but somewhere deep down wondered what would happen if we pulled off a R1 1997 style miracle upset. By 2.10pm the butterflies were in the stomach and you almost convinced yourself that we could win. Then we got thrashed.

Last year I came on after round one, told it like it was and got slaughtered by everybody for being too negative. Well kids, hold on because it's going to be a bumpy ride from here. There were positives, and we'll get to them somewhere in the middle of the discussion about fork-toaster interfaces, but BY JOVE there are some worrying signs as well.

Best on ground in the first half was clearly the guy who did the motorcycle jumping before the match. Didn't think it looked particuarly impressive when they were setting it up, but bloody hell what a nutcase when he got up there. Especially for a guy doing his first public trick since stacking it and busting half the bones in his body last year. Makes our injuries look pissweak in comparison. Thought I heard them say he was a Melbourne member too - which would probably explain why he was there in the first place - and that fact alone almost snuck him into the votes the way we were going.

You knew today wasn't going to be one to trouble the highlight reel when Spencer went to FF at the first bounce. Sure he booted a couple in that intra-club match a few weeks ago but let's be serious for a minute here. Did we really need another tall forward? Do they have that little confidence in Miller and Bate? (well, as it turns out..) I'd much rather have seen Maric down there, and in hindsight two of the moves I've called for over the last couple of years - Davey and Dunn into the forward line - were failures. But what did I ever know?

As it was Flash almost had the first goal, and just like that pre-season match against Essendon a few weeks ago we dominated the first couple of minutes without capitalising on it. Green also could have had one but his allegedly perfect set shot skills deserted him as they have pretty much every time since he got the reputation as a deadly set shot.

And then just like in the Essendon match when the opposition realised that they were playing against a pox side they fired up and put us to the sword. The problem this time was that we were getting it forward, but every time it went anywhere near our forward line the play would break down and Hawthorn would go forward and score. So far, so 2007-2009. Other first quarter bombs included Grimes in the middle, Miller killing Bate in a marking contest and the over-reliance on Strauss as a defensive playmaker.

We were ridiculously bad going inside fifty. I'd love to see stats on what the average quarter time score is for an AFL team in the last couple of years, because by my count that's the fifth time since Bailey took over that we haven't kicked a goal in the first quarter. Add to that TEN more games where we've only had one in the opening term. That is a damning, purely ridiculous stat. By way of comparison, and I'm not even sure it means anything, Daniher only had 7 scoreless first terms in 9.5 years.

The longer the quarter went on the worse we got. Eventually we weren't even getting inside 50 before they got it back out again. And after we'd struggled for what seemed like hours to get the ball out of the Hawks backline they'd get the thing and just score at will even with kids and first gamers. Thank christ they didn't have Franklin, Rioli, Batemen or any decent ruckmen or we'd have been slaughtered. After the first three minutes which we had dominated Hawthorn just smashed us from pillar to post for the next ten minutes. The only respite we had from them bitch slapping us was when Green was carried off after getting crunched. Thank christ he was alright because when he went down I was all ready for hari-kari if we had another top ten player go down with a serious injury.

The break enabled us to regroup and.. serve up pretty much the same slop as the last three years. We tried to flood them out of the game but in a classic piece of AFL coaching it was done without a goal on the board. No surprises that eventually our clueless gameplan ended in shambles. It's a fair mark of confidence to give a first gamer the kick-in duties against the best kick-in defenders in the competition, and to his credit Strauss got it right a couple of times but the worrying thing was when the person he kicked it to had no idea what to do next and went back to him. No surprises when it eventually went horribly wrong and ended in an Australia's Funniest Home Videos style goal. He's not ready yet, and could do with a couple of weeks back at Casey to hone his game. Then there was SCULLGOVE - more on them later.

Six goals down at quarter time and I presume had there been any Melbourne fans sitting anywhere near us we would have heard the deafening sound of deflating expectations. Nobody seriously expected to win, and only the most optimistic/deluded think we're anything other than a bottom four side, but if the coaching staff and club are going to keep bandying around the word "competitive" they'll want to make sure that the side actually is at some point. Preferably in the first term, not the last ten minutes when we're ten goals behind. In my wildest dreams I would never have expected us to be in front at the first change, but bloody hell within a couple of goals would have been nice. It's not to say they weren't trying hard, but.. Well who knows what they were doing. Enthusiasm can only take you so far.

I thought the backline, with the exception of Rivers, was pretty ordinary early on but as usual - broken record time - if the ball goes down there enough they will get scored heavily against. Joel Mac had a pox first half (but recovered late), and Frawley's kicking terrifies me. Would love to see Garland down there again at some point. Not sure about Bennell at the moment either - he veered wildly between promising and awful in the second half of last season and has provided much more of the latter so far this year.

Luckily Hawthorn lost the ability to kick straight early in the second quarter or we would have been completely smashed (more so..) Finally Petterd got the ball 30m out on a relatively good angle.. and botched the kick. We almost got the 7pt play, and goal of the year, when Hawthorn botched the kick-in and Davey smashed one out of the air but he missed and we stayed on zero. Every time this happens I sit there and say "you know what, one of these days we're not going to kick a goal at all", knowing full well that it's almost impossible not to get at least one eventually. We went close in that Adelaide game last season, and today it looked bloody likely for a while. ONE DAY IT WILL HAPPEN MARK MY WORDS, and that's the day when there will be ritual suicide on the ground after the second siren (please stay off the centre square).

The forward setup and delivery was so god damn awful today that I'm surprised we even got a mark inside 50. Bate and Miller were having a nightmare, Spencer isn't a forward's cornhole and Petterd couldn't get anywhere near it. Dunn was there but wasn't offering much. I'm hereby suspending the action faction I started to campaign for his future - it's mostly to do with the ridiculous porno mo he's sporting in his profile picture this year, I'm not sure I can see that on the big screen every week for a year. Besides, he's a tremendously entertaining figure at Casey where you can stand on the fence and hear him swear loudly.

What made it worse was that every single goal Hawthorn kicked caused the guy sitting in front of us to jump to his feet like a teenage girl at a Miley Cyrus concert. That's fine if you're young and impressionable but this guy was middle aged and balding. He was a pleasant enough guy, and eventually apologised profusely when he realised how fucking annoying he was but bloody hell how low is the bar when you're getting UAA for slamming home goals against the worst team in the world? Same goes for that Scottish clown who always calls SEN and was on at half time talking up how the Hawks were heading straight for the top four. Deserved to cop a boot fair up the kilt for that load of old bollocks. The Port fans at Football Park last year had the right idea, as they smashed us to pieces in the second quarter the people around me just clapped politely. They knew full well that they were getting charity goals against a naff side.

Eventually after what seemed like years, and probably actually was, Jamar went forward and instantly did what Spencer will never do in a thousand years - took a contested mark and converted the goal. Glorious. Have I told you recently how much I love the Russian? Feel free to go back and drag out old posts from 2003-2008 where I slaughter him for being terrible, there were a lot of them, but right now he's one of my favourite players. We looked better for a couple of minutes after the Jamar goal but surprise, surprise it all fell apart and Hawthorn got two goals to take a 56 point lead into half time. Shades of R1 2008 all over again. Like that day we kicked one goal in the first half but were 15 points closer. Today we'd at least kicked a point more, 1.5 then, 1.6 now. As that crackhead bloke from Matchbox 20 once said, "let's see how far we've come". The answer is obviously not very far.

Positives to half time? Not many. I was pretty happy with our intensity, but that's only going to get you so far. At some point you are going to need to actually kick something approaching a winning score, and we just - do - not - look - like - doing - that - at - any - time. And it's a pain in the arse because guys like Miller have been threatening to be dangerous for so long that we're just over it. How far away is Watts? Hopefully we can get him down there in a few weeks and start trying to build some sort of new forward line. I don't rate The SME as a magnificent forward, in fact at times he barely qualifies as an average one, but if Jamar is going to ruck 80/90% of the game I'd much rather have Martin in the forward line than Spencer. At least if the defence gets pounded you can switch Stef down there. Is it going to help? God I don't know, but we've got to have some options even if they're decidedly uninspiring.

Brad Green came back for the third term - because he's a gun - but it seems that he was the only person who bothered to show up because Hawthorn went absolutely coco bananas and by the ten minute mark we were 80 points behind. Bad things were about to happen. Open up any old Melbourne forum you like, your 'land, your 'ology, your Big Footy, and look at the threads on there. People are going off their nut. Imagine if Hawthorn had pressed on and beaten us by 120 points? The internet would have collapsed under the weight of distress. The thought is terrifying, especially for those of us who consider ourselves to be moderate in our internet spazzing out (says the guy writing about 20,000 words about the game). Would have been like the end of the world.

The thing was Hawthorn weren't actually that impressive. I certainly wouldn't be rushing to have money on them for the top four. Definately a finals side, especially with the players they have to return, but how many times did we give them the ball on a plate? They're not going to get that every week. And if there's any justice in the world we're not going to give it to teams every week either. Sadly as we all know there is no such thing as justice and we'll continue to be the most generous hosts in the competition for many weeks to come.

Late in the quarter fighter jets flew over the ground as part of the grand prix entertainment. Unfortunately just as it would have been welcomed they failed to open fire on the ground and bomb us all back into the stone age. My highlight of the quarter was McDonald getting away with the most obvious deliberate of all time. It was karmic payback for the criminally bad one he copped in the last 30 seconds of the match against Port in 2007. Lest we forget that being the decision that caused me to go spaz and kick a bin over - happy days. Unfortunately the difference was that day we were fighting for victory and today we were fighting to avoid being 250 points behinds. It's time for that song again - it might be close to the worst track ever recorded but it's apt for us.

We won the last quarter, but that was like starving for two weeks in the desert then being handed a tofu burger. Hawthorn not only put the cue in the rack, they put their feet up on the couch, lit a pipe and had a brandy. At least we took advantage of it, it could have been ugly otherwise. Finally the forward line started looking like something worthwhile of AFL football - Petterd showed that he has inherited Robbo's role of junk time specialist. Additionally Grimes and MacDonald were much better in the second half. Ridiculously had Ricky P kicked the goal on the final siren we'd have avoided being last on the ladder after round one. Providing nobody gets thrashed by ten goals or more in the next couple of days we lost by the same margin as Richmond and only kicked three points less. Cheers Clarko, you're a mate.

Miller got a couple of goals but he was generally awful. The two goals, and a dearth of other forward options, might be all that saves him. I can't remember if he's under contact next year or not but does anybody doubt that if Bailey randomly ends up in conversation with Guy McKenna at some point that he won't casually mention how young Brad is a native Queenslander. Hell, more matches like today and Deano will be trying to find Guy's number to call him and yell TAKE MY GOOD LOOKING BUT USELESS FORWARD PLEASE. Even my mother who has been running the "but he's so attractive" line since 2003 couldn't bring herself to defend him today, and had already walked out in disgust by the time he kicked his second goal.

Davey was pretty ordinary, but it's no surprise that he didn't go near it early on when he was up forward and we couldn't get the ball anywhere near the place. As much as I hate to say it, because it feels like a step backwards, I feel like he needs to go back and do what he did last year. We need some poise in that backline to go with the grunt - Rivers is a pretty good user but only by defender standards. If/when Bennell can do it then let him but sadly Davey is probably more use there than he is forward. Moloney was fairly anonymous (though I'm shocked to see he had 22 touches) and Jones didn't have a great game either.

Spencer, Bate and Miller were abysmal. The other two have form but Bate was astonishgly bad. I choose to believe it's got something to do with Miller the goose crashing into him during the first term. Absolutely nothing he did came off. We've got to keep playing him because he's too good to be running around at Casey, but he'll want to watch the tape of today a couple of times for educational purposes and then throw it into a fire. Ridiculously Spencer managed to rack up a kicking efficiency of 100% when his one decent effort all day - intercepting a kick and delivering inside 50 - came off perfectly. Other than that he was exhibiting spud-like qualities in ways that would make an Irishman blush.

Anyway, if you're feeling poorly about today just think about the guy who had 100 grand on Hawthorn at -59.5 at quarter time. When they were 80 points in front he must have been dusting off the champers and deciding what he was going to do with his extra 87k in the phone betting account. Sucked in you clown. People with more money than brains like that deserve everything they get.

Finally I'd like to announce that due to his performance today I'm provisionally promoting Brad Green to my favourite player. I have manlove for The SME, but poor Brad must have woken up from his coma, looked at the scoreboard and wondered why the hell he didn't take the deal to join Collingwood. Then he came back, went 100%, never dropped his head and probably would have been our best player but for lack of time on ground. That's he's got my vote for our next captain. Legend.

Coaching Corner
I've got my concerns about the way we're going but I'm not going to go "spit at Spud Frawley over the fence" spaz yet. Having said that if we don't improve this year then the famous one year contract extension for Bailey is going to become a massive story. The stated reason for doing it was to avoid the "will they or won't they" media circus halfway through the season, but is it better or worse to have the media on your back than your own fans?

And make no mistake people are going to go off their chop this year if things don't at least seem to be coming good. You can argue all you like about rebuilding but people want to see some tangible improvement, it's not like 1979 where you can hide behind being poor and unable to recruit players. The system gifts you with one or more of the best 20 players in the country every year and you have to make something of that. We might have been unable to get big name players (mainly due to them being TURNCOAT BASTARDS), but we've got so many top twenty picks on our list now that people are going to want to see something soon. Guys like Jones aren't getting any better, and the likes of Dunn and Maric have gigantic question marks above them. Bailey and team can argue they didn't pick some of these guys, but bloody nora let's get serious and say that most of the players we had on the list when they took over haven't improved.

Now, here's a stat for you. Were we to finish last this season Dean Bailey would be the first coach in VFL/AFL history to ever coach three straight full wooden spoon seasons. University (and former Melbourne) coach Gerald Brosnan had three but a year off between the second and third, and Graham Gellie at St Kilda presided over three straight last place finishes in the 80's but only took control of the team in round 4 of the first one. That would make DB the first have a full pre-season with his players for three years and finish last in each of them. Wild. And this in the draft era? For now I'm choosing to drink the Stynes/Schwab KoolAid and believe that something big is going to happen, but I can see why people are starting to turn. Should be fun to see just how crazy the punters go throughout the year - and at what point I flip out and join them in burning effigies a'la Indian cricket fans.

Is anyone still reading this? You deserve a medal, how about a Player Of The Year that none of the players deserve?

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal VOTES OF SHAME
5 - James McDonald
4 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
3 - Jordie McKenzie
2 - Brad Green
1 - Jared Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)

Apologies to Grimes (second half), Petterd (last quarter), Trengove and Scully

I don't give a rats arse what the newspapers and/or AFL website say, I'm not giving anything to Bruce, Moloney or Davey.

McDonald had 21 touches, won five free tickets and laid ten tackles. His disposals weren't spectacular, but who's were? Mr 100% Spencer? Actually somebody else did deliver at 100%, and that was Jamar. For him to have 11 touches, get all over them right and take 3 contested marks says to me that he's continued his career best form of '09. Now the issue is for him to play more than a handful of games. I found it hard to split the two for the 5 votes but eventually went for seniority. Besides, if I gave my new love child maximum votes there might be a Tiger Woods-esque scandal.

I'm surprised to go on a couple of forums and see people listing them amongst their worst players. Makes no sense to me but that's democracy for you. Until I'm a celebrity and can order executions at will it'll have to be the way.

Jordie was encouraging despite his farcical name. Looked comfortable for a 4th gamer, laid 11 tackles, used the ball pretty well and even managed to kick his first goal. Sadly for him he misses out on being eligible for the Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year by one week (played in R17 last season).

As for Scullgove I can sense a future of being abused for not slotting them into the votes, but I just couldn't manage it. They were both super impressive but didn't use it well enough for mine to slip into the votes. It was a toss up for one between JR and JT and in the end my sick fascination with defenders won out. Suffice to say they will both be racking up votes by the MILLION in years/weeks to come.

Crowd Watch
There's two things I hate about Hawthorn. One is their fans who don't put a number on the jumper despite the fact that the farking things are MADE FOR IT. There's a big white square there, DO SOMETHING WITH IT. The next is putting the years of membership on the scarf - would make me even more unlikely to wear it if we did that. Now you can add another, on the back of their members hat it says "2010 LOYAL MEMBER". What the hell does that mean? Sure if we did one then half of the members would have be sent one that read 2010 Queen's Birthday Bandwagon Arsehole, but that's not the point. Shambles of a statement to put on a hat.

Speaking of merchandise there was a wild rumor, presented as fact, on the radio at half time that there were bins in the 'G full of our 2010 membership scarves. I can't believe it, especially given that surely nobody went to the effort of actually going to collect the scarf and expected that we would be any good. Still, I love a good conspiracy theory.

AM/FM Watch
Started listening to Triple M, but about five minutes in I realised why I could never take 3AW. Rex Hunt called the first five minutes like it was the last five minutes of a Grand Final. It was pretty painful. Surely the first few minutes of a call are a slow build and unless something truly interesting happens you keep a lid on it. Old Mr "The Girl's Happy" just went off like a porkchop from the first bounce and had absolutely zero chemistry with the rest of the team who conspicuously couldn't help talking about Brian Taylor.

At quarter time I pulled the pin and went to 3AW, but the reception in the ground was atrocious. It was like listening to the BBC World Service from the bottom of a tin mine in the Congo, the one highlight being the bizarre effect it put on Matthew Richardson's voice which made him sound like a boy who has just had his voice break. Remember when they said changing to 693 would make it easier to get reception?

Eventually settled on SEN. Anything that means not having to listen to the ABC. Whatever, it did the job. Except that they were convinced Bennell was Davey. Should have washed their mouths out.

Next Week
Collingwood at the MCG. They should smash us but for the love of Philthy please let us have learnt some lessons from today. Any danger Sylvia might be ready to go?

On a panic scale ranging from Robbie Flower (least worried) to Isaac Weetra (positively terrified) I'm ranking somewhere around Craig Ellis.

Final Thoughts
The Melbourne fan standing in front of me on the train had a hospital tag around his wrist. Fairly apt I would have thought.

Monday 22 March 2010

Demonblog's State of the Union...

(...and House of Appalling MS Paint work)
(... and the views contained within do not represent any sane individual much less the MFC)
(... and writing this has been such a painful experience that I can't be bothered proof reading it. Spelling mistakes and half complete sentences are very 2010)

My fellow footballing depressives, we stand just six days from the first game of our 110th season of VFL/AFL football. And where do we go from here? There have been worse times in our history since 1897 - missing three seasons during the First World War, suffering the premiership hangover from hell after 1964 or trading for Scott Chisholm but never in the modern era of AFL football have we ever been in this sort of position going into a season.

Last year Dean Bailey became the first Melbourne coach ever to be in charge of two wooden spoon sides. This year he is fighting to not only avoid extending his 'record' to three in a row, but to avoid joining a select (and depressingly bad) club of sides to have finished last on the ladder three years in a row. St Kilda did it for the first six seasons of VFL football, and backed up with another four in a row during the 1980's, University didn't win a game for their last three years amongst four straight spoons and North Melbourne bombed out in the 60's, finishing last in a row three times - but that was all in the era before the draft. You could excuse putrid football.

Sydney did it in the early 90's when they were at complete rock bottom on and off the field and commanded so little respect from other clubs they received players like Jayson Daniels as "compensation" for their performance. Back then the draft was so lightly regarded that the Swans didn't even pick until #5 after being last in 1992. Even then they picked Jason Spinks who played a grand total of... zero games. Fitzroy were on course for a hat-trick when they were given the arse to Brisbane, but the way they were going they were probably lucky just to have a team on the park long enough to get two spoons.

Yes, we may very well be the worst performed side of the modern era. The 2001 Fremantle Dockers who didn't win a game until Round 18 might have claims, but at least they won 8 and 9 games on either side of that year. Even the abysmal Carlton double spoon sides of the mid 2000's can blame being knocked out of the draft for all their woes. You and I know that having a club run by twats probably didn't help (and my god haven't we got past experience in the same thing) but who's going to care about that in a hundred years. And lest we forget that in that three win 2006 season they beat us twice. Good god how did we even last this long without toastering up?

And so that's the historical context into which we enter this season. A season we go into after spending all of 2009 being assured that things would start getting better this year. We went along - reluctantly in my case - with the 'management' of the side in the second half of last season. Looking back I can almost even laugh about the idea of Matthew Warnock (1 career goal) being thrown into the forward line against Richmond under some flimsy excuse about building a more flexible forward structure. The whole thing was grubby and sleazy but, as many people quite rightly pointed out, merely playing the AFL's rules for what they were. "If Carlton were allowed to do it, why shouldn't we?" people argued. Bleh. Whatever. We did it, we got away with it, let's move on.

But first let's chart how we got to where we are now in the first place. In 2006 we made the second week of the finals and were in the match against Fremantle until three-quarter time. We'd unleashed a slashing comeback to beat St Kilda a week before, and it seemed that it was only the interstate factor which stopped us from making a preliminary final against Sydney in Sydney, where we had an excellent recent record. Personally I'd back the 2004 side to smack the 2006 variety, but there is every possible chance we could have played in a Grand Final that year. Mightn't have been deserved, and we would probably have been rumbled by the Eagles in the big one but who's going to argue a Grand Final?

Not surprisingly we entered the 2007 season touted as Victoria's great hope to win back the flag after a lengthy period of interstate dominance. On paper we looked like contenders, but things were starting to become wonky. When the previously deadbeat Hawks ran over the top of us in the last quarter of our first Round NAB game not many eyebrows were raised, but in retrospect we should have seen that half of our last were on their last legs. '06 had been our last chance.

So while we were concentrating on emerging players like Jones and McLean, the likes of White/Bizzell/Neitz/Pickett/Brown etc.. etc.. were about to fall apart spectacuarly. We didn't win a game for the first nine weeks of the season, Daniher got the boot and only putrid Carlton and Richmond sides kept us off the bottom. Out went Daniher, and looking over the likes of Sheedy (thank christ) and Connolly we went for the untried but well credentialled Dean Bailey as coach. He then lost his first two games by an average of 99 points.

Now, I don't need to fill in Round 3 2008 to Round 22 2009 for you - especially because reading about it may cause you to throw yourself from an upstairs window. The positives are there but you have to scramble to find them - significantly the Stynes/Schwab administration seem to have gotten us back on track financially, and on-field we've unearthed a handful of exciting players (Grimes, Jurrah...) Other than that it's been misery, misery, misery and the promise of good things to come. Which is lovely in theory, but bloody hell none of us are getting any younger. Especially the kids we're relying on to jump aboard and be the supporters of the future. Can't see too many kiddies clambering to support as while we're scraping the bottom of the barrel and acting as laughing stock to half the country. If we're going to go for the "premierships by the draft" tactic (which is currently shooting at about 0% lifetime) can we get it right before all the 90-year-old fans die, aren't replaced and we're shipped off to play in Hong Kong?

ANYWAY, let's talk about season 2010 (at last). We were putrid against Freo, decidedly ordinary against Essendon, nearly beat Adelaide and competitive for a half against the Eagles. What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing come 2.10pm on Saturday. But what we've seen is that our skills and decision making are still generally rubbish. Certainly not good enough to, as much as some deluded people might want to believe, sneak into the finals. The only way we're making the eight the way we're playing at the moment is a Bradbury-esque entrance on the back of a Black Plague style injury toll in front of us. And that's not to say we're not getting better, but realistically who else is getting worse? Richmond? Well, being slightly better than them is hardly the recipe for September success.

My biggest cause for concern is where we're going to get goals from. Even before his injury the Jurrahcane was coming under massively increased pressure from opposition defenders. Brad Miller is Brad Miller, Robbo is gone, Jack Watts is about 13-years-old and Wonaeamirri has hamstrings that apparently snap like a rubber band. The King of Misery Maric should chip in for a few goals, but the way it's going Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate are going to be our spearheads. I like them both but GOOD GOD that does not equal a free scoring side. And neither does this farcical situation we always seem to find ourselves in when the entire team pushes up the ground then when we force a turnover there's no forwards anywhere near the forward 50. I can't explain that, but then again I'm not a coach so what do I know? It would seem necessary to have people in goal scoring position to score goals, but apparently not.

I'm more bullish about the midfield than is perhaps healthy. Morton was threatening an excellent season before he got hurt, but provided that Sylvia is back early in the season I think we've got a lot of improvement to come here. Trengove and Scully will be handy contributors straight off the bat, and if Moloney can stay fit again he'll be super important. Bruce, McDonald and Green (if he doesn't go forward) should be handy as well but we've got to ensure that we're not wasting our opportunities by kicking into a forward line that is hopelessly overmatched. Getting there in the first place without turning it over while chipping it around would help, as would getting the handballs right and not spending 30 seconds using it by hand, getting nowhere and then giving it up to the opposition.

Obviously the one to watch in the middle this year is Grimes. The kid has superstar qualities, but I remember saying that about McLean a few years ago and he never really came on. This should be different. There's a reason you're still hearing bitter recriminations about Woewodin but nobody seems to care about trading TJ.

I'm ultra-concerned about the ruck department. Last year Jamar became the first person ever to play seven games in his seventh season that were better than anything in the first six. Problem was that he was injured the rest of the time. Johnson is next in line, but who knows which skitz version of him you're going to get? "Jaws" Gawn is off the table due to injury, Meesen has gone back to not existing, Spencer is uninspiring and The Stefan Martin Experience a fill-in. Winning the ruck contests is not the be all and end all if the midfield aren't going to get the ball anyway, but we need some serious luck in this department if we're going to improve significantly - especially against the best teams in the league.

The backline is serviceable. Hopefully Garland is right to go (unless he's used as a wildcard forward option), and Rivers stays fit again. Frawley should improve markedly again, MacDonald will provide run and I'm fairly confident in the ability of Warnock to hold firm in the face of repeated entries inside 50. These guys are crucial because if we're not going to be a high scoring side - and at the moment nothing points towards us being anything like one - we're going to need to defend grimly to avoid being thrashed by some of the big hitters. These guys have done a mighty job over the last couple of years, now it's time to get some help from the middle.

But for all the improvement I still don't think we're going to be that much better overall. I just have this horrible feeling that we're going to overuse the ball and get murdered when we finally do manage to get inside 50. For mine the end of season ladder looks something like this (brace for impact);

1 - Geelong
2 - Footscray
3 - St Kilda
4 - Collingwood
5 - Adelaide
6 - Brisbane
7 - Hawthorn
8 - Sydney
9 - West Coast
10 - Essendon
11 - Carlton
12 - Port Adelaide
13 - North Melbourne
14 - Fremantle
15 - Richmond
16 - Oh fuck it

You have no idea how much I want that to be wrong. I can't manage to see us above 12th even in my wildest, sick footballing fantasies but there's no doubt to me that we could roll most of those sides immediately above us if we're lucky (how could we be any unluckier?). Then there's the wildcard unexpected team plunging down the ladder (see 2007). Here's to Carlton filling that spot. The problem is that I can see Port and Freo surviving on their home ground advantage, North's young players being more damaging than ours with a year or two under their belt and Richmond.. Christ, I don't know why I think they'll finish higher than we will. Maybe it's just an attempt to find some positive out of finishing 15th above them? Please hold your abusive emails and abduction of my pets until the end of the year.

Now, what happens if we do finish last? What if we turn for round 12 with a record of 1-11, 2-10 or 3-9? Are we going to have to go through the same bullshit as last year? You would have thought this would have been a perfect time for the AFL to pull - or at least refine - their priority pick rules. More than one team has had it and we couldn't possibly sit down and argue with them that we should be eligible for it again this year, especially when the draft has been otherwise rigged to buggery to give Gold Coast every opportunity to build a winning side straight off the bat. But for some inexplicable reason they haven't made any changes. It's such a stupid idea that I almost can't believe it myself. Tellingly I can't find the article to link to - maybe I imagined it all? From what I can work out Gold Coast get the first three picks no matter what, and if we are THAT bad we'd get P4 and P6 for finishing last.

At the risk of being controversial I don't want us to get an extra pick if we finish last this season, even if we win 0 games we don't deserve one. We've got two #1 picks and a 2, 3 and 4 on our list now (albeit two of them starting the year injured) and we've got to live or die on our picks. Enough of this scraping the bottom of the barrel charity bullshit. Call me when Carlton or St Kilda win something with the picks they got for being completely rubbish. We should be ashamed to be so terrible, not punting it home like masochistic freaks. Once was enough, never again. Especially not for pick fucking four.

And now, the updated markets for our awards.

Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
Previous Winners
2005 - Travis Johnstone
2006 - Brock McLean
2007 - Nathan Jones
2008 - Cameron Bruce
2009 - Aaron Davey

$3.50 - Davey
$4 - Moloney, Green
$5 - Jones
$8 - Sylvia
$15 - Bate, Frawley, Grimes
$20 - Petterd, McDonald, Rivers, Trengove
$25 - Jamar, Miller, Scully, Warnock
$35 - Bennell, Martin, Morton
$50 - Cheney, Jetta, MacDonald, Wonaeamirri
$65 - Garland
$80 - Maric, Jurrah
$85 - Watts, Bartram, Dunn, McNamara, Strauss
$125 - Gysberts, Blease, Johnson, McKenzie
$250 - Bail, Newton, Spencer
$500 - Bell, Fitzpatrick, Gawn
$1001 - Tapscott, Healey, Hughes, Meesen

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

Previous Winners (Most votes for a defender in the overall tally. Must play the vast majority of games in the backline to qualify.)
2005 - Nathan Caroll/Ryan Ferguson
2006 - Jared Rivers
2007 - Paul Wheatley
2008 - Matthew Whelan
2009 - James Frawley

$3.50 - Frawley
$5 - Rivers
$13 - MacDonald, Warnock
$16 - Bennell, Cheney
$30 - MacNamara, Bail
$50 - Dunn, Petterd, Martin (all unlikely to qualify)
$15 - Any other player

Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie Of The Year
Previous Winners (Highest player in the overall tally to play their first game that season OR to have played only in the last three rounds of the preceding season.)

2005 - No players eligible
2006 - Matthew Bate
2007 - Ricky Petterd/Michael Newton
2008 - Cale Morton
2009 - Jack Grimes

$3.50 - Jack Trengove
$5 - Tom Scully
$12 - James Strauss
$18 - Sam Blease, Jordan Gysberts, Rohan Bail, Tom McNamara
$25 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$50 - Danny Hughes, Rhys Healey
$100 - Luke Tapscott, Max Gawn

Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman Of The Year

Previous Winners
2005 - Jeff White
2006 - Jeff White (2)
2007 - Jeff White (3)
2008 - Paul Johnson
2009 - Mark Jamar

$1.50 - Mark Jamar
$7 - Paul Johnson
$7 - Jake Spencer, Stefan Martin (who may not qualify)
$50 - John Meesen, Max Gawn
$30 - Any other player

Top Goalkicker

$7 - Petterd
$9 - Miller
$12 - Bate
$17 - Davey, Green, Jurrah
$25 - Sylvia, Bruce, Maric
$30 - Martin, Moloney, Watts
$40 - Wonaeamirri, Jamar
$65 - Johnson, Newton
$100 - Hughes
$25 - Any other player

PhotobucketThe Tombstone Award for First Long Term InjuryPhotobucket

Winner: $2 - Any played not listed (Morton)

My advice for Season 2009? Dial zero, zero, and when I say so dial zero again.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Another day, another debacle

In a grand twist of fate the DemonsHQ Twitter feed listed five best players for today's match. I missed it due to work and it sounds like that was a wise decision - unfortunately the same thing isn't going to work over the next six months, because it's going to be a LONG half a year.

So, thanks to the club the votes and final Plate positions are as follows;

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - James McDonald
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Brad Green
1 - Brent Moloney

Final Leaderboard
10 - Green
8 - Petterd, Jones
6 - Trengove, McDonald
5 - MacDonald, Bruce, Grimes, Scully
4 - Jurrah, Rivers
3 - Sylvia
2 - Frawley, Bennell, Maric
1 - Moloney

Do we play another practice match next week? Who knows. Whenever we've played the last one if I haven't killed myself look ouy for the Demonblog STATE OF THE UNION address.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Paul Prymke Plate updates

Given that our own website doesn't bother to put up a report of yesterday's game I've been forced to copy the votes from a Fox Sports article. Buggered if I know if these even moderately resemble what happened because I didn't follow the game. Direct your complaints to Fox Sports.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
5 - Tom Scully
4 - Ricky Petterd
3 - Jack Trengove
2 - Addam Maric
1 - James McDonald

8 - Petterd, Green
6 - Trengove
5 - MacDonald, Grimes, Jones, Scully
4 - Jurrah, Rivers
3 - Sylvia
2 - Frawley, Bennell, Maric, McDonald

I won't be at Casey for the Eagles game next Saturday because I'm a money hungry whore who agreed to work instead. I refuse to work on the weekends during the home and away season (and by extension in the last few years, September) so unfortunately the NAB Challenge comes second to cold, hard, rock solid CASH. Please let me know if you want to write the report - otherwise we'll end up in a farcical situation like this where the votes of some bullshit wire reporter go down in history as the gospel truth. Email - or Twitter me (Twat me?) @demonblog.