Sunday 27 March 2011

It's a weird and wonderful world

Clearly sensing my epic distress and potential for going the big V.O.M for the M.F.C in the seconds before the first bounce my mother was kind enough to bust out some sort of mysterious calming lozenge. Not sure it was entirely legal, and it may have been imported into the country next to somebody's large intestine, but what a day for it. I will be bringing that stuff into the country by the container load for the rest of the season.

Perhaps it wasn't the gear that calmed me down, perhaps it was the startling array of gimmicks that were going on before the match. There was Nick McCallum standing in Lionel Richie's spot interviewing David Neitz and replaying the footage of him destroying Luke McCabe's career over and over against like it was September 11, there was that poon in his velvet jacket playing acid jazz versions of the theme song and then for some reason we raised a flag as if we'd won a premiership.

For those of you who are have just entered the Australian mainland after being detained at Christmas Island I can assure you that we didn't win a premiership last season, the year before that or any time since I was negative 17 years old. So why act like we had? Hoisting the club flag is all very well and good but it's a poor subsitute for actual success. Not for the first - or last - time I suffered immense MFC cultural cringe from the whole exercise.

I'll tell you what I did like from the pre-match shenanigans and that was the sight of Jim Stynes looking in rude health. He shocks me every time. Pretty soon everybody who is diagnosed with cancer will be drinking a frothy beaker of their own emissions and whacking a tube up the chocbox while being filmed because it doesn't appear to have done him anything but good. If Jim wants to hoist flags like he's on an old time ship then I'll stand back and let him do it. If he wants to come around to my house and eat the contents of my fridge he can do that as well. If he wants to have a crack at Ms. Demonblog then... well he is a great man.

Playing the Swans in the first game was a blessing and a curse. They're a good side - let's not forget they missed playing in a prelim by five points - but not so good that we were going to get pounded (or bored into submission if the Saints were involved). BUT we were always going to judge ourselves harshly against when we smashed them last year. Hard to know how to take that performance in retrospect, we lasted another week on top of the world before falling to pieces and they stormed into the finals.

It pays to treat that game as an anomaly and ignore the way we treated them with contempt, and if today is held in isolation with nothing to judge it against bar our wonky pre-season, then I'm as happy as one can possibly be coming out of a game where you didn't win.

There were still some major issues, the first being that somebody we'd ended up sitting in front of one of those people who shows up at a game on their own and decides to talk to the people sitting around them. Sadly nobody else was sitting around him so we copped the whole thing. "Look at how big Jesse White has gotten" he turned around and said before the opening bounce. "Oh yeah, huge" I replied despite absolutely zero idea/interest as to what White looks like or what number he is. To make it clear that I wasn't there for random chit chat with the public I proceeded to put headphones in. Didn't stop him but at least on the third or fourth time I had to take the 'phones out and ask him to repeat he got the idea that we weren't going to end the day as Facebook friends.

On-field there were issues as well. Early on it looked like nobody had any interest in getting within the same postcode as Adam Goodes, the likes of Davey/Moloney/Jones couldn't get near it and it was abundantly clear that our forward line structure was, and is, still flawed.

The poor Jurrahcane could barely get a decent kick towards him for the first half, Emo Maric was being all depressed and - frankly - not very good (in a performance befitting any player who has suddenly found me calling them my favourite) and Green was spending most of his time up the ground. It's no wonder that we had to rely on so many goals coming out of the midfield, but that's not an issue as long as you can keep it up - certainly doesn't hurt Collingwood to have a wide spread. If you can somehow conjure two goals out of Simon Buckley (3 in 21 games for us) then you're operating on a different plane to the rest of the competition.

We were getting killed out of the middle but I refuse point blank to accept that it was Jamar's fault. More like he was doing everything right and nobody else could get near it. Luckily Moloney clicked into gear and played in an incredible second half out of the centre, because early on it looked like we were going to walk meekly to our deaths.

Eventually Davey and Jones got themselves into it as well as the game went on thank christ, but neither of them was dominant and Flash somehow managed to get himself reported for some half arsed bump on a charge that will be rapidly withdrawn or thrown out by the MRP.

When we went two goals down at the start I began to sweat up a bit. The combination of Goodes doing as he liked and the domination of the Swans out of the centre rendered all the medicinal remedies in the world absolutely useless as visions of a heinous first round massacre where we kicked three goals started to flash before my eyes. After all we've cocked up the first game before - every year for the last five years in-fact.

Somehow we managed to hang with them until quarter time. Dunn snapped one of his arse/ridiculous facial growths for our first and 30 Seconds To Maric made his key contribution for the day by throwing a handball over the top to Green before Sylvia got himself into the game with a hefty roost from outside 50. Not more than a few minutes before Col, recipient of a classic media beat-up to start his year, had tried to do the unselfish thing and pass to Jurrah inside 50 but it wasn't the right option. When he won the free kick the next time directly in front he realised that he's thumped goals from exactly the same spot at the City End before and went back to bang one through from two steps inside the centre square.

From there on we just seemed to be just that little bit behind them and unlikely to roll back the deficit. Sure, we were absolutely fisted by the umpires in the first quarter but there was still a cavalcade of dumb decisions going inside 50 and Swans players running around on their own with nobody near them at the other.

On the upside the Stefan Martin Experience was playing out of his skin from one end to the other and Tapscott was enjoying the best R1 debut from a Demon since Kyle Cheney in '07, but I was just waiting for Jamar to fall apart from the grind of playing a lone hand in the centre. The SME only took a couple of centre bounces but he more than justified his spot in the starting 21 with end-to-end football that would be never be described as "slashing" a'la Brad Green but did exactly what it was supposed to do.

He didn't do much when he went forward (which was no use for those of us who had backed him @ 87-1 for the first goal) but that was ok because down back he was exactly the player who made me throw him number onto my jumper two years ago and cop two years of shit for it. He held marks, he threw his body around and he generally used the ball well. There was one time that he tried to kick across the ground and bounced it off his ankle but the sort of day he was having he got away with it. I've got my concerns that he can do it every week, but as far as a second big man there just in case it all goes wrong for the Russian he'll do me nicely at least until we work out whether Robert Campbell is ever going to play a match or Max Gawn and his gigantic metal teeth start causing damage.

Tapscott was exactly as I'd have wanted him to be based on what I'd seen of him in the pre-season. It's all well and good to be hitting perfect 50m passes out of the backline against Brisbane at Princes Park in front of 27 people but it doesn't mean you're going to be any good when it comes to the crunch. I once saw Isaac Weetra play a half decent match in Bendigo and we all know how that ended. But Tappy, owner of the biggest neck since James Frawley, was sublime. He took contested marks, he threw tackles, he hit targets and deep in the last quarter he flattened the irritating Rhys Shaw. Also please note that it was his gigantic roost into the goalsquare in the last quarter that ended up delivering the goal for Green which put us ahead. I'm in love.

The difference between Cheney getting maximum votes in his debut and Tappy's performance today was that the Brock Lesnar lookalike just racked up a million touches in a shit team because everyone he was playing with was utterly useless. Tapscott might not get maximum votes because he had many times better players around him today but his performance screamed star. Getting nominated for Rising Star in the first round is the hardest time of the year to get it because there are about 200 people debuting but he'd have to at least come under consideration. Shut the gate on the Jeff Hilton Rookie Of The Year award because he's probably won it already.

At half-time, as a future Melbourne draftee gave up interest in the Little League game and sat down in the forward pocket while the game went on around him, it seemed fairly clear to me that the key to us getting on top of them was to shut down Goodes and get some love in the forward line. Watts did a couple of nice things, but not a great deal else and Jurrah was still crying out for some decent service. We couldn't risk Jamar down there for more than a few minutes at a time and both Davey and Jetta were doing too much elsewhere to throw them down there.

We got one of the two, so I guess a draw is a fair enough result. Dunn and Jurrah added another couple between them but it was the midfield who kicked the goals to drag us back into it. The Swans skipped away early but Garland did an epic shutdown job on Goodes from half-way through the quarter to all but take him out of the match. When Moloney, all of a sudden the greatest clearance player ever born, walked through the half the Swans list both past and present to kick a long goal it looked like we were back into it but as would happen so many times for the day - and for the last decade - we ruined all the good work of battling to kick a goal by letting them go straight out of the centre and boot one at the other end.

When the margin blew out to the best part of four goals nearing the end of the quarter I was prepared for the worst. It took that magic run and goal from Bennell to drag us back into it - an early contender for Goal of the Year, which doesn't count for much right now - and give us some chance of nicking it in the last quarter.

Neither team had used their sub yet (and just writing that makes my skin crawl) and we pulled the trigger first by handing the Maric the red vest and razor blades and bringing Petterd on. They stuck with sitting Seaby on an exercise bike, just waiting to unleash a fresh ruckman on Jamar when he reached physical rock bottom. Unfortunately for John Longmire he obviously hasn't seen the video of Jamar against Port and Collingwood last year when he single handedly carried the entire side over the line (or at least onto the line in the case of the Pies draw) and nearly died of exhaustion at the final siren. He is made of iron a'la Ivan Drago.

And what an impact Petterd had. The only shame was that we had to wait for three full quarters to elapse before he got an opportunity. Maybe it's a good thing for somebody so injury prone as he is and might extend his career by years but it's shit for football but more on that later. Ricky set up Dunn's first goal of the quarter and then had a shot of his own. Good start but his miss was the start of a cavalcade of blown opportunities to win. Watts, Jurrah, Green, Bennell and Jamar all missed gettable chances but at least Green and Jurrah made up for it by getting it right later on. I can accept the Russian missing his kick, even though it was from about 20m out directly in front to put us in front, because the poor bastard was probably about to pass out from exhaustion.

Thank god then, as we always say, for Brad Green. I'm not convinced having him further up the field is the best use of his talents but he was in the right place at the right time to slam through a six pointer after Tapscott's long bomb to the square. Even better considering he'd been off during the quarter after dislocating his finger. Luckily for him his legs managed to get on the same side of the goalpost after he soccered it through, because he was in serious danger of dislocating his testicles at one point when he got boot to ball in mid-air.

We were in front for the first time all day but every single Melbourne fan knows that trying to defend a lead with five minutes to go is almost the most nerve-wracking disastrous thing we can be involved with. Look at the Bulldogs game on Friday night last year, look at Queen's Birthday, seek urgent psychological treatment. The Swans were always going to go forward and we were treated to them battering us inside 50 for the last three minutes of the game. Reminded me a bit of the Brisbane '08 match where the Lions spent the last minute camped out in front of our goal waiting to stooge us before we got away with it courtesy of Aussie Wonaeamirri legging it up the Members side wing.

I honestly thought we were done for with the multiple bounces and throw-ins right in front of our goal. Our kick-ins had been ok all day (even if the second kick was often iffy) but you wouldn't stake your life on them clearing the ball effectively at any time. When the first point went through I instantly thought draw. We couldn't clear it after that and for some reason the Swans refused to force a point through to level the scores. They had so many opportunities, and knowing that they'd have 18 players waiting for us to cock-up the kickout it might have been a better option.

Eventually after what seemed like about two hours but was actually a minute they got the equalising point - and let me tell you while it was in mid-air there was no calming lozenge that could have kept my heartbeat down - and our last roll of the dice found Nifty Nev Jetta on the Southern Stand side wing with nobody in front of him. Discretion was the better part of valour and he ran down the clock for the draw.

I'll take it. Nobody likes hearing the MCG doing their 'hilarious' postmodern gag of playing No Second Prize after a tie but it could have been worse. We've got a decent platform to build on for the next few weeks and players to come back. Two points good, four points better, no points shithouse.

'Innovations' Central
So, now let's talk about these shithouse new rules.

I can at least see some benefit to the concussion rule. It seems heavy handed to just flat out ban people when they've passed every test known to man but at least you can argue it's for the welfare of the players. Forget the fact that men like Ron Barassi spent fifteen years getting punched in the head and have lived long, fruitful lives, forget the fact that the statistics that they pull out about NFL players having worse life expectancy than people who live in Swaziland and just go along with it to keep the medical fraternity happy.

I thought I heard somewhere that the doctors were the ones who wanted the new rule but it seems a bit of a slap in the face to them to suggest that they weren't looking after player welfare before. As they often do it was Hawthorn who stuffed it up for everybody by sending Jordan Lewis out there last year when he was wobbling around like a drunken sailor after being knocked out earlier in the game. That's the kind of situation where Uncle Andrew and his cast of idiots should be picking up the phone and asking questions of the club, not when Jarrad Waite suffers a pissy little bump that knocks him around for five minutes and leaves him unscathed and sitting on the bench doing nothing for the rest of the match.

And take your NFL examples and cram them. The whole point of that sport is for an offensive line of 300lb fat porkies to bump up against a defensive line of 350lb boombahs with the express goal of leaping on somebody and stopping them by any means necessary. Their whole sport is built on concussions - it's no wonder that some players end up with brains like Swiss cheese by the end of their career. That's not our game. Go and ring up the NRL and ask them to do scans on Martin Lang's head to see if a career of being the designated runner of the ball straight into the opposition has done him any wrong - they need rules on concussion more than we do.

But yes, you can at least say there's some sort of aspect of player's future welfare in it. So what about the football abortion that is the substitute rule? What exact purpose does - allegedly - putting the brakes on bench rotations via a sub serve? I can't believe we've actually been fed the line that they want to slow the game down to lessen the amount of injuries to players. Theory is that three interchange players mean less rotations therefore players are more tired and unable to cannon into each and cause injury.

To back this up a few reams of paper were waved about with some vague stats about injuries being on the rise. What pure and utter bollocks. If Demetriou/Anderson want to write their names in history they should either name something after themselves a'la politicians or do a Ross Oakley and kill a club (sorry, forget they already tried that once), not bring in poorly thought out 'innovations' based on the wonky interpretation of stats. Ask Jonathan Brown, Joel Selwood and Jason Porplyzia about how you don't have to wait until the last quarter to suffer a serious injury.

Ask Jay Schulz if there was less chance of him blowing his knee to the shithouse in the last quarter because he's not running as fast. While you're at it ask somebody what the purpose is of making the players who come off wear a garish red vest. It's not 1912, somebody is going to notice if a player who has officially been taken out of the game suddenly wanders back onto the field. Come to think of it there's no need for a vest for the starting sub either - are they suggesting that if Ricky Petterd had suddenly bounded off the bench fifteen minutes into the second quarter that we would have gotten away with it? It just makes no sense. Poor Jay doesn't know if he's going to be out for three weeks or the rest of the year but before anything else happens he has to strap a red vest on. Why? Was there some chance he might just run back out there? Surely Porplyzia had to try and pull one over his destroyed shoulder or risk the Crows copping a fine. It's bollocks.

Clubs won't cut down on interchanges just because they've got less players to choose from, they'll just move those three around more. And can we now expect that after three quarters of smashing each other to a pulp players are going to wilt in last quarters and cause games to limp to tedious, skill free conclusions? How exciting that's going to be, what a great advertisement for the game.

Just think about how many times you've seen a player knocked on his arse by a huge hit since they tightened the rules to demand mandatory execution of anybody who does a head high hit. How many times does it happen in the last quarter? Barely ever. The big hits and bumps are early or in the middle of a game, and how is that going to be affected by this rubbish rule?

The heavy handed, illogical interchange breach rules are one thing. The penalty outweighs the crime drastically in 99.9% of cases but it doesn't change the actual fabric of the game. This does and it's shithouse. Paul Roos is right in saying that we're the only game that is regressing to the rules of the past. When did you ever see a modern sport deliberately handicap itself so that its best aspects are downplayed? Not since the Marquis of Queensberry gloved the bare-knuckle boxers and they stopped having 100 round title fights has any major sport done so much to take the most attractive elements out of their game.

Does anybody have any confidence in the clowns who run this game? You could put NSW Labor in charge of the product they've got and it would make a fortune in broadcasting rights, what exactly is it that they do for their $2+ mil a year? I'd call on them to resign but nobody's giving up that sort of money to show up at work, put the feet up do a few speeches and tinker with the fabric of the sport every year.

And what are our brave friends in the media saying about this? Well if the pre-season previews in the newspapers and the commentary on Friday night's match are anything to go by they're hooking into a gigantic shit sandwich from the league and declaring it ice cream. "The sub has done its job" screamed McAvaney like the incredible sycophant that he is. As if any Channel 7 commentator is going to have the plums to come out and say something that the league have done is stupid when the broadcast rights are up for grabs - and there's no point expecting the print journos to do anything about it lest they get thrown off the gravy train and stop being invited to free lunches. When Dwayne "fucking" Russell almost blew an o-ring over Brent Macaffer coming on to kick a goal in the last quarter of the game on Saturday I almost kicked my television in.

Mark my words next thing they'll start mucking with the game to try and "encourage scoring". There's no doubt that St Kilda are playing football so boring that it would make fans of the early 1900's throw their hands up in the air and go off to die of cholera but we can't just alter the sport because we don't like the way it's being played. The Saints have, thank god, won fuck all and if there's any justice in the world their gameplan will be forgotten soon as they sink to the bottom of the ladder.

Now the Pies are the big thing and "frontal pressure" has achieved "moving forward" levels of ubiquity when people talk about footy but somebody's going to come up with a new way of playing the game before long and the sport will evolve. Funny that the Pies also kicked 25 goals the other day, we should dream that more people start playing like that.

And then our glorious CEO has the nerve to blame roadworks for terrible first round crowds. He's off his nut. Perhaps people don't want to pay good money to go out and watch the game stuffed around with? I'll be there no matter what but the idea of having highly trained, highly paid professional players sitting on the bench for the majority of a game doing nothing belongs in another sport. It's all well and good to say that the rules were in pre-1978 and nobody cared then, but back then players weren't professionals - they were boilermakers, plumbers and PE teachers who trained a couple of nights a week and showed up for a game on Saturday as a second career. It's not the same, we don't need it, do your duty and ring up talkback radio to hammer it and god forbid one day they might listen to the people and ditch it.

See, this is the kind of shit that people need to be organising rallies at Parliament House for. Forget climate change and Juliar let's piss off the sub rule. I'm going to ring up Alan Jones and tell him that there's an afternoon hanging around with burly footballers in it for him if he supports the cause.

*ahem* See you in the Supreme Court for Demetriou/Anderson/Russell vs Demonblog.

The only interest I had was the scoreboard being about five minutes behind on announcing the change but Petterd getting a polite round of applause despite the fact that he'd already been involved in two scoring plays by the time they said it.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Mark Jamar
1 - Luke Tapscott

Substantial apologies to Grimes, Trengove and Martin + lesser degrees of apology to Davey (second half), Dunn, Bennell and Jetta.

Votes in the rookie, defender and ruckman category by the end of Round 1? We're living in an enlightened era.

Crowd Watch
Where were the nutbags? Nowhere near me. Apart from old mate in front who liked a chat and then started bothering me to find out how much time there was left every ten seconds at the end there were no foul mouthed housewives or flat out nutbags. We are officially boring.

Stat My Bitch Up - presented by Demon Wiki, where footy stat nerd dreams come true.

That was the first MFC draw in the opening round since Round 1, 1921 against Essendon at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Third I've been at (+1 Essendon/Brisbane match) and my second against the Swans (after Round 7, 1992).

When the Petterd/Maric swap went down it was the first permanent substitution of MFC players since Peter Keays and Graham Osborne were replaced by Colin Graham and Peter Johnston at three-quarter time in Round 22, 1977. How was it for you? I'd rather go back to 1977 than go through that rubbish again. Peter Keays probably walked off the ground, got in his car and went to work in a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through, Ricky Petterd on the other hand is a full time professional footballer and was seen doing sprints on the MCG turf. What a fuck up. Breathe son, just breathe.

Back on more palatable matters Dean Bailey has now coached the equal second most draws in MFC history along with three other men. No coach has had more than one draw in his career since Norm Smith racked up the all-time record of five.

Next Week
Hawthorn at the MCG in the Sunday graveyard slot. They're coming off a loss but I'm sure they'll still go in favourites. Good to see that star recruit Cam Bruce helped them on their way last night by giving two goals directly to the Crows. Hopefully Clarko loses completely - even more so - under the pressure of Kennett trying to tip him out and plays Bruce, Cheney and Paul Johnson.

Frawley might be back which should help deal with Franklin. He can replace Macdonald - permanently if we're lucky - but the only other change I want to make is that unless a miracle occurs, the world comes to its senses and we piss off the sub rule is to start Petterd and play the Emo off the bench.

Final Thoughts
So how do they separate us and the Swans on the ladder? Are we higher because of alphabetical order? And is Match Ratio going to earn a call-up again this year to reflect the return of the bye?

Footy is back. I'm not as distressed as I thought I might be.

Monday 21 March 2011

Great reading material for the can

New issue in shops now (click for full size)


Saturday 12 March 2011

Pre-Season Update Corner

Having not seen a second of Friday's match, nor read anything more than a few snippets from reporters who were probably filing from the pub after fifteen bottles of red I'm not going to leap up and down on the panic button over our loss yet. In fact when the only contact you've got with a game is reading snatches of Twitter reports backwards at about 3am (nothing sinister was involved, let me assure you) then you might as well discount the whole thing as never having existed a'la the career of The Meese.

So, given that the media outlets can't even be bothered to provide five alleged best players I can only give four votes out for the PPPfPPP. Good thing it was already won.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
5 - Addam Maric
4 - Aaron Davey
3 - James Grimes
2 - Tom Scully
1 - Harry Crapper

Final Leaderboard
16 – Colin Sylvia (WINNER: PPPfPPP)
135 - Jack Grimes
11 - Addam Maric
8 - Mark Jamar
7 - Aaron Davey
6 - Neville Jetta
5 - Colin Garland
5 – Tom Scully
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
4 - Liam Jurrah
2 – James Strauss
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts
1 - Jack Trengove
1 - Luke Tapscott

So congratulations to Sylvia for winning the most meaningless award since the Michael Tuck Medal.

Still, how long ago does it does it feel since we assumed that we were the next big thing after winning in Adelaide? You'll have to wait another fortnight before discovering whether that meant anything at all, but the fact remains that we've not won a four quarter game of footy this year.

Not such a surprise in the pre-season, I don't have a full record of practice games over the last decade but I know from living it that our record is putrid.

It'll be interesting to see what happens if we get done against the Swans. Actually, scratch that I can tell you exactly what will happen and that's that there will be a meltdown of people trying to get him the sack. Assuming the result is respectable I won't be rushing to join them, but I still have recurring nightmares that Bailey is some Ali Dia style chancer who has no idea and has bluffed his way into the job. He certainly says all the right things, but he'll be saying them in a Centrelink interview if we turn out to be shite this year.

It's been a long time (well.. just over a month anyway) since my first speculative stab at betting markets, predicted ladders and a final 21 +1. The Demonblog Towers Commodore 64 has been busy processing the events of the last month (apart from last night which gave us nothing) and has come up with the following hastily cobbled together bollocks.

Demonblog's chosen 21+1
B: Tapscott, Warnock, Garland
HB: Grimes, Rivers, Bartram
C: Moloney, Scully, Trengove
HF: Sylvia, Green, Dunn
F: Maric, Jurrah, Petterd
Foll: Jamar, Jones, Davey
I/C: Watts, Bail, Jetta
Sub: Martin
EM: Macdonald, Gysberts, Spencer

IN: Maric, Jetta, Tapscott, Warnock, Bail
OUT: Frawley, Morton, McKenzie (inj), Macdonald (omit)

Some of these are a bit lucky. Warnock and Martin haven't shown squat during the pre-season but they're in out necessity. Maric and Jetta are the pre-season bolters and as far as I'm concerned we might as well play Tapscott now rather than Macdonald who has been pure toilet recently. This is wishful thinking anyway, Green has barely been near the forward line all pre-season and Bailey will probably play this starting 18 anyway;

B: Tapscott, Warnock, Garland, Grimes, Rivers, Bartram, Moloney, Scully, Trengove, Sylvia, Green, Dunn, Maric, Jurrah
F: Petterd
Foll: Jamar, Jones, Davey

Betting Markets
Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

Now it looks like Green is going to be played all over the place his odds have blown out, while the potential for a Jamar one-man show in the ruck has seen him fly into equal second favourite. Big movers (in the right) direction are Maric, Jetta, Garland, Tapscott and Cook with Jones, Rivers, Bate, Macdonald, McKenzie, Campbell and Gawn going the other way.

$3.50 - Colin Sylvia
$4 - Aaron Davey, Mark Jamar
$5 - Brad Green
$7 - Jack Grimes
$9 - Jack Trengove, Tom Scully, Liam Jurrah, Brent Moloney
$15 - Nathan Jones, James Frawley
$18 - Cale Morton, Ricky Petterd
$25 - Jared Rivers, Jack Watts, Lynden Dunn, Colin Garland
$35 - Jordan Gysberts, Addam Maric
$40 - Matthew Bate, Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
$50 - Jamie Bennell
$60 - Joel Macdonald, Rohan Bail
$70 - Matthew Warnock
$80 - Jordie McKenzie, Austin Wonaeamirri, Luke Tapscott, James Strauss
$90 - Stefan Martin
$100 - Jake Spencer, Sam Blease
$150 - Lucas Cook
$300 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Michael Newton, Robert Campbell
$500 - Max Gawn, Tom McNamara, Jeremy Howe
$750 - Troy Davis, Tom McDonald
$1000 - Kelvin Lawrence, Daniel Nicholson, Michael Evans, Cameron Johnston

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year
Given his earlier start to the year Grimes will probably get more votes than Frawley but he's every possible chance of being DQ'ed for playing too much in the midfield so beware. Martin and Bennell could also lose out on the multi-position rule.

$4 - Jack Grimes, James Frawley
$8 - Colin Garland
$10 - Jared Rivers
$12 - Matthew Warnock
$15 - Joel Macdonald, Jamie Bennell
$35 - James Strauss
$40 - Stefan Martin, Tom McNamara
$1000 - NO ELIGIBLE PLAYER (No defenders get a vote)

Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year
Tapscott's pre-season form sees him strengthen his position as favourite, while Blease, Gawn and Fitzpatrick all lose ground for not having been seen. Still every chance that none of the players will get a vote and it will not be presented for only the second time in history.

$3.50 - Luke Tapscott
$8 - Lucas Cook
$15 - Sam Blease
$25 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$30 - Jeremy Howe
$40 - Max Gawn
$50 - Troy Davis, Tom McDonald
$100 - Kelvin Lawrence, Daniel Nicholson, Michael Evans, Cameron Johnston

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year (Formerly the Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal)
Only injury can stop Jamar, and even then there's no guarantee that whoever replaces him will crack it for a vote. As with the defenders award Stef Martin is a danger of being ruled ineligible.

2011 market
$1.15 - Mark Jamar
$18 - Jake Spencer
$30 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Max Gawn, Robert Campbell, Stefan Martin

Projected league ladder
I'm no longer confident that we're going to finish in the eight. Obviously more than happy to be proven wrong but I've tried optimism and I didn't much like it so being surprised will have to do.

1 - Collingwood
--- Daylight ---
2 - St Kilda
3 - Geelong
4 - Hawthorn
5 - Fremantle
6 - Footscray
--- making up the numbers ---
7 - Adelaide
8 - North Melbourne
9 - Sydney
10 - Carlton
11 - Melbourne
12 - Essendon
--- Treading water ---
13 - Port Adelaide
14 - Richmond
15 - West Coast
--- No chance ---
16 - Gold Coast
17 - Brisbane

See you in a fortnight for the depression session!

Saturday 5 March 2011

Let the good times roll

So how's the feelgood factor going for you? If we'd had 25% more of the first team out there and turned in that sort of performance there would be riots in the street, maybe there still should be. Either way it's proof that last week was no fluke.

But before you bite down fully on the cyanide pill take the following into consideration;

a) Missing from the team today were Bartram, Frawley, Trengove, Morton, McKenzie, Grimes, Green, Garland, Jurrah and Davey. Who knows/cares who the Lions had missing other than Brown but I guarantee you they don't stack up to that group.
b) We are toilet in practice matches at the best of times.

Considering who wasn't there and the way that players who won't be anywhere near the park in Round 1 were given so much responsibility it's hard to know what to take out of today. My heart says that the Lions are so rubbish that we should beat them even with a second string side, my head says it matters not a toss what happened.

The reality is somewhere smack bang in the middle. The Lions are still awful, and they did everything in their power to hand us victory today. They were torching easy shots on goal at every opportunity and their field kicking for the first three quarters was rancid, but they still beat us by five goals.

It all started so well too. When the ball went straight out of the centre and down the throat of the Experience (not literally, that would be hideous) I thought we were in for a good day. The free at the top of the square almost sparked a melee in the stands when two guys couldn't decide whether he'd miss it or not. Looked touched off the boot to me, but it got full points so who am I to complain? The guy who backed him to kick it (and no, it wasn't me) gave a half-hearted "I TOLD YOU SO!" when it went in. Thankfully nobody was required to jump in and remind them that punching your fellow spectator in the head should be kept for the regular season only because I certainly wasn't going to be the person to do it.

Coming off the back of that goal we battered them for the first ten minutes, and any half decent team would have put them away there and then but nearly every time it went inside 50 we were either grossly outnumbered, didn't have a player in the same area code as where the kick landed or the Lions cleared it without even the hint of defensive pressure. Luckily for us they were stuffing it up whenever they finally did manage to go forward, and when Jetta did some kind of kung-fu mid-air kick to put us two goals in front so much the better.

Nifty Nev played a blinder of a first quarter. He was bloody good all day, but not only did he kick the goal he hit a couple of the best Whelan-esque tackles you would want to see. Him and Emo Maric have been the big stories of the pre-season and both of them did the job again today. Maric got three goals, zero smiles and even managed to get involve in a dust-up with one of the Brisbane players after his opponent told him that 30 Seconds to Mars were rubbish.

Even when Brisbane hit back to take the lead in the first quarter we still had them under control, but it was telling that both the Dunn and Sylvia goals came from long bombs because as the day went on it started to look like that's the only way we'd ever kick goals. Down the other end, how was the Rivers deliberate in the first quarter? Serves him right for not even trying to disguise it I reckon.

The second quarter was when it all started going wrong. Everyone's favourite tactic of playing the entire forward line inside the defensive 50 and kicking to empty space/opposition players was brought in, and gee didn't it lift the crowd? There was a surprising amount of people there for such a meaningless game but you could tell that the moment we started playing Stef Martin one out against three opponents as our entire forward line with not even a hint of crumb around the place half the people there were tempted to gouge their eyes out rather than sit there and watch it. Those who braved the one food outlet in the whole place had the right idea, standing for 30 minutes in the dank corridors of Princes Park is much more entertaining than watching us play.

The passage of play that said it all about the excitement level that that tactic brings to our game was after we copped a goal and from the centre bounce Jamar did a perfect Psychic Friends Connection tap to Moloney who then did what anybody else would in that situation and hoofed it forward expecting a mark or a contest. Instead he found Martin getting jumped on by three defenders and when the ball hit the deck it went straight back in the other direction without one other red and blue jumper getting within 20m of it.

That was from a centre bounce for god's sake. For most of the day that was the only time we had marking targets inside forward 50 so you can understand where Moloney was coming from. Must have been as big a surprise to him as anybody to see that his kick was completely wasted by the fact that Watts and Petterd were standing five metres in front of him.

Admittedly after Brisbane started getting on top we did start trying to kick to targets late in the quarter and both Maric and Watts got goals, but both were hefty bombs from outside 50 and the latter from a free. The actual attempts to spot a forward up front consisted of booting it high to a pack and hoping for the best which usually (i.e nearly always) didn't eventuate. Without Jurrah down there, and with Watts still getting into it, the only person even half likely to benefit from a tactic like that is Jamar - and what are you going to do without your only good fit ruckman for most of the game?

At the other end the Lions were picking targets easily, and whenever they stuffed the kick up - which was often - we were kind enough to provide another opportunity soon after. Apart from one moment of disaster in the first quarter when he kicked across goal and landed it straight on a Brisbane player for a goal Tapscott looked promising [UPDATE - It's since been suggested that this might have been Rivers. Whatever. They don't even look the same but I was sitting on ground level during the first quarter and therefore couldn't make out anything]. Promising and angry. His proper kicks going outside forward 50 were a thing of beauty. Thumping, violent roosts which more often than not hit a target. Strauss was alright in the first half too, but he was in the hands of trainers at one point and ended up getting subbed off in the second half.

The rest were pretty heinous though. Rivers couldn't get near an opponent and Joel Macdonald is in danger of winding up as the universal hate figure for our entire fanbase this year. He had another nightmare second half, conceding a goal with a terrible kick across field after having an hour to kick it to somebody (Dunn? I was too busy seeing my life flash before my eyes knowing he was going to stuff it up) and then a free-kick/50 combo in the last which cost us another one.

Warnock was only better in that he didn't concede as many howling turnovers or give away pointless free kicks but no matter how you slice it the fact is the world famous forward combination of Mitch Clark and Brent Staker were doing whatever they liked and it was only the fact that they're very ordinary at the best of times that saved us from a bigger beating. Had we given a decent combination the same latitude they'd have kicked 20 between them.

And ask yourself how they kept finding so much space inside 50 for these dinky little short chips and short passes. It feels like I've written the same thing so many times that it's almost equalled our botched kick-ins as a template feature of Demonblog. Whenever the ball crosses the centre-circle going the wrong way we seem to have the entire team behind it, but still when somebody takes a mark 50m out on a shite angle they're able to work it around to a better position or find somebody leading 30m out. Yet if they completely stuff it up, as Brisbane were want to do on so many occassions, one of our guys will pick the ball up, look forward, see nothing and just hit and hope that someone will run onto it.

I'm glad I wasn't the only person cracking the sads about it either. I sat in three different places during the day and every time there was one of these hit and hope slopfests going forward the people behind me collectively sighed. I'm not saying I want to go down swinging every week and play recklessly but the success/failure rate of the end-to-end Swashbuckle is about one in fifty. It worked once today when Maric got onto one in the last quarter, and as much as I like to see my new favourite player kick goals it was neatly balanced out about five minutes later when poor Rohan Bail had to hoof one forward where he found only Lions defenders. "What else was he supposed to do?" said the guy behind me. Absolutely correct. God help us if they start trying to dink it around in the midfield to give players the chance to run forward, that's got comedy bloopers written all over it.

By half time we were behind but I was still holding onto a sick, misguided belief that we were going to run over them. But who's running over anybody when you can't kick goals? Six in the first half is about three times what we usually manage but this was Brisbane, a team we actually finished above last year. We went through Kevin Rudd's entire term of office as Prime Minister without finishing above another team, it's something of a big deal to actually be better than them. Not to mention the fact that they were handing it to us on a plate, it was just that we weren't equipped to take it.

Shame then that Jamar got precious little support despite playing an absolutely mighty game in the centre with Brad Green-esque total football cameos at both ends of the field - often within the space of a minute. He was absolutely titanic (in the good sort of way before that ship ruined the word for everybody) but we were still getting thrashed out of the middle. I know they were experimenting with Bate on the wing (not so bad) and both Jetta and Bail in the middle at various times but it doesn't help that Moloney and Jones both still kick like Heather Mills-McCartney. Gysberts and Scully were ok without ever going ballistic, and Martin's ruck cameos were more than acceptable, but there's a lot that needs to be belted back into place - violently if necessary before the real games start.

We managed to stay within ten points of them for most of the quarter, but the problem was that every time we toiled to kick a goal they would go down the other end and do the same two minutes later with a distinct lack of toil. Watts, Petterd and Jamar (towering mark in the square, rare occassion that the big bomb actually worked - mainly because he has hands like plates) all got goals that dragged the margin back to ten but we could never get the next one and no surprises when the defensive shenanigans came that was the end of us and by three-quarter time it was 28 points.

The Spencil rucked much of the second half with Jamar up forward, down back and everywhere in-between. Was constantly getting beaten to the tap even when it looked like he had best position. If it's any consolation we'd just have stuffed it up anyway if he had managed to get first hands to it.

At least there was a bit of biff in the last quarter, especially when Bail decked the guy after he marked. Nothing really malicious, just failed to pull up in time after the mark and dropped him on his arse. Started a bit of a fracas though and I'm sure somebody will be donating money to the league this week for it.

Taken in it's entirety the day was purely garbage, the only consolation being that an enormous cyclone didn't tear through the ground and kill us all. For all the positives and excuses I'm still going into next week and Round One expecting the worst this year. At least if we are anyway decent it will be surprise.

2011 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Addam Maric
2 - Colin Sylvia
1 - Luke Tapscott

Apologies to anybody who actually paid to watch this stuff. Next time we play at Princes Park just wave any old card at the people on the gate, they don't actually seem to care. Try your Blockbuster Video card and see how you get on.

Assuming we're only playing one more of these garbage games then Sylvia wins without it going to preferences. Otherwise he might cop the big Al Gore and have victory stolen out of his hands.

16 – Colin Sylvia (WINNER: PPPfPPP)
10 - Jack Grimes
8 - Mark Jamar
6 - Addam Maric
6 - Neville Jetta
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
4 - Liam Jurrah
3 – Tom Scully
3 - Aaron Davey
2 – James Strauss
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts
1 - Jack Trengove
1 - Luke Tapscott

Fit In Or Frig Off Corner (incorporating Expansion Talk, Travel Central and Breakdown City, Arizona)
It's a tribute to the way the AFL have made an epic balls-up of the expansion process that yesterday Scully all but said he'd be staying around next year and it's hard to believe him. "I haven’t spoken to them", "I want to be a one club player", "I love the club" etc.. is wonderful but how about your signature please?

Like him from the X Files I want to believe, and I'm trying very hard to, but I still say we get jerked around like morons for the rest of the season before he takes the golden briefcase anyway. I won’t be holding his impending departure against him during the year or rigging the votes so he gets less than Juice Newton, but if he winds up wearing that horrible uniform next year then he'll enter the J**d Hall of Shame in my book. On the other hand if he re-signs, then I never doubted him for a second and will be furiously burning old posts to cover up the evidence.

Speaking of GC and GWS I'm dying to see just what sort of crowds these heartless franchises (and that’s exactly what they are) attract. Just wait until Gold Coast win the flag in four years and the victory parade down Cavill Avenue has 27 people throwing red and yellow streamers at Gary Ablett’s bald bonce. The least they could do is hold it during schoolies so at least the heaving 18-year-olds can be counted in the official attendance. Either way there’s no chance that even if the two sides have bigger combined trading losses than Barings Bank that the league are going to let them go to the wall. Every cent they’ve got will be thrown towards keeping them afloat, and if Demetriou has to take a slice out of his $2m salary to help them live well... No that's going too far.

It's ironic that the Bears started playing on the Gold Coast and nobody cared, now the Gold Coast are starting in Brisbane and achieving an almost equal level of disinterest. Sure, Queensland has plenty more to worry about right now than some footy side with one guy they’ve heard of, several cast-off hacks and a bunch of kids but let's see what happens when people actually have to turn up. I'll be at their second "home" game at the Gabba on April 27, so let's see what sort of turnout they get then. The first game has got curiosity value written all over it, but if they don't beat the Blues or – god forbid – get flogged it'll be interesting to see how many of their 'rabid' fans show up. There actually seemed to be a few people cheering them on in Perth last week, but that might have just been bitter Freo fans who just hate the Eagles.

During the week I got a slightly dubious email asking if I wanted to write about AFL venues for some American website. There was money involved but it's probably coming through a bank account in Kosovo so I'm going to have to politely decline, but just in case they are legit and are still reading here's my personal top five Princes Park/Optus Oval/MC Labor Park/whatever it's called this week moments;

1) My mum refusing to take me there for any reason as a kid. It was the MCG and Waverley or nothing, and even Waverley got the boot when you started having to pay an extra $5 on top of your train ticket to get the bus from Glen Waverley station.

2) Finally going there in 1999 when we played the Dogs and having some Footscray bogan threaten to belt me for reasons which I'm not still sure about. Suffice to say that for once it wasn’t actually my fault.

3) The epic comeback in the last quarter there during 2003 after which the season went completely tits up.

4) Almost throwing a ten goal lead away in the last quarter of the last premiership match at the joint while sitting in the outer as one of about 23 Melbourne fans in the stadium.

5) Finding a washing machine at the foot of a staircase when Casey played the Northern Bullants, then missing Mitch Robinson punching Rohan Bail in the head 50m off the ball because I was inspecting the "disabled seating" which featured actual seats, up a step and with a clearance of 10cm before the barrier. I was overjoyed to discover today that the washing machine was still there.

Today would rank somewhere between the time Myke Pike kicked a goal against us on the day that I ditched a family reunion to watch a practice match and the time that we had our work christmas party there (!?) and it was 40 degrees.

Next week
Is there any point trying to read the whims of the league when it comes to these novelty games? This game went from the Gold Coast to Melbourne to 1pm to 12pm in the space of about twenty minutes so don’t believe the first answer you’re given for next week.

Apparently it's either Hawthorn in Tasmania or Fremantle somewhere in WA depending on the result of the Semi Final tonight. Presumably it'll be the latter unless Collingwood completely lose interest in their game or are banned because Andrew Krakouer has been voted off Conviction Kitchen. Either way thank god it's interstate. Let somebody else watch this trash next week.

Final thoughts
Was it worth it? Well it was free at least.