Friday 29 April 2011

Spaghetti Western

I've had time to sit down and think about what happened last night and to make sure that I'm not just getting caught up in the mass hysteria which followed that garbage performance. And what a great, well deserved mass hysteria it's been, I've seen nothing like it since that Friday night against Geelong in 2003 - and that's when there was about 27 people on the internet and if we were smart we'd have been off inventing Facebook or Twitter and making billions.

It's hardly surprising that we went west of Horsham and put in a terrible performance, other than the McRules NAB Cup games this season it's all we've been doing for years - even when we were good. Somehow though it's never been as disappointing as it was last night. Even when we almost got done by a hundred against Port and it was only late intervention by Juice Newton of all people that saved us it didn't seem so bad. Forget the Suns beating Port, it's meaningless in the context of what we saw last night and what our performance against them meant - for all the snickering by coaches, players, media etc.. about how the fans thought it was a poor performance despite winning by 90pts the follow up has proven beyond all doubt that it was most certainly the single worst 90pt win of all time.

I've tried to brainwash myself into supporting Bailey. When he got the job by virtue of a Powerpoint presentation that his son put together for him I said "at least it wasn't Sheedy", when he got slaughtered in his first two games I said "well, he was left with a shit team", when we won two spoons in a row I (reluctantly) said "well, you've got to rort the draft" and while we were up and down like a (royal) bride's nightie last year I thought it was all part of the plan.

I can't bring myself to really spaz out on him because I actually quite like the guy. When he speaks he says all the right things and he appears to have quite a sense of humour but after last night I'm convinced that he's never going to be a successful coach and that we might as well cut our losses soon and look elsewhere. Where elsewhere is anybody's guess, I'd love to see the look on Malthouse/Roos' face when you showed them what we pay coaches as opposed to Collingwood/Sydney and who knows if Todd Viney, Scott West et al are any better.

Thank god people are spazzing out though. I'm going to force it deep down inside me until next week and really go off my tits if we get done by Adelaide (not to mention North after that) but some aren't being so generous and rightly so. Even teams with 27 fans like North and the Bulldogs have fans flood talkback radio after performances like that, whereas we usually just go silently to our death without a whimper and continue to advance every theory from the Big Book 'o Footy Stereotypes about being cravat wearing ponces. It took Jim Stynes and Debt Demolition to get everyone on the same page the first time, now it's going to take this to get us going as one again. Everyone from the top down must know that it's not just losing that we're sick of (god knows we're used to it) but we're not going to put up with lame performances of the sort you'd shoot a horse for.

What's really starting to annoy me, even more than the baffling, wonky gameplan, rubbish selection, inability to grasp the concept of the sub rule and complete lack of interest from half the team is him coaching from the boundary. I'm not leading any sort of Malthouse for Melbourne campaign (though I wouldn't complain) but on the radio during the Brisbane game he almost fell off his chair laughing when they asked him if he'd ever considered doing it full time. "No, I'd rather see what's happening in the game" was his reply. Ever sat on the bottom deck of Docklands and tried to see what's happening on the other side of the ground without referring to the scoreboard? Where are the replay screens? Who is actually in the box watching all that stuff? It's a farce and it's like using the long putter in golf, a desperation move that wins nothing and makes you look a bit NQR.

It's great that he cheerleads like a Justin Bieber fan and pats players on the back as they come off the ground but what's that doing for the wider tactical side of things? Last night at half time there was a runner giving the team a pep talk while Bails got interviewed on Channel 10. Surely there's better things that you could be doing just before the half time break - maybe like working out why Nick Naitanui can stand five foot away from Dean Cox without anybody on him and get a tap straight from the first bounce. It's a good thing he can't kick to save himself because if he'd kicked that first goal I'd have kicked the TV in.

Two names that I don't want to hear thrown into the coaching mix - even temporarily - are G. Lyon and C. Connolly. The ex-Freo coach is yesterday's man and I'm not even sure what he does at the club now other than crack a few funnies at functions and give tours of the boundary line before matches. As for Lyon nobody can possibly take the idea seriously, don't get seduced by the positive start to the James Hird reign at Essendon - there is a gigantic difference between the two. Hird was champing at the bit to coach, Lyon would have to be dragged kicking and screaming away from the Footy Show desk, and if you've heard his radio advertisements you'll know that he's an inspiring orator on the same level as Frank Walker from National Tiles. We need somebody seasoned, perhaps with previous senior experience, not a sub-Billy Brownless TV buffoon. Great player, no coaching prospects.

Actually at the moment I don't care. If you really want to go ahead, hire Lyon and play stretcher vision on the big screen before games if you really want. Just as long as he's willing to coach in the box and implement some sort of modern tactics then at least that'll be something positive. Unbelievable that Bailey comes out in the press conference and says that the team are going to get flogged on the track this week. Yeah, that'll help. I hope I'm proven wrong and we come out and murder Adelaide but the only hope we've got is that they get thumped by St Kilda this week and lurch into a crisis mode of their own. Either way if we get done without an incredible effort on Sunday it's going to get ugly.

Symptomatic of the air of stupidity which hangs over this club at the moment was the substitution. It hurts me to even have to discuss this rule in a serious tone without heckling it, but that's how low we've gone today.

Now, I know Subiaco is a big ground and they probably wanted all the runners on the field to start the game (fat load of good that did...) so if you want to look it from that angle then ok we'll go with Dunn being sub instead of Bennell. So Gysberts was having a terrible game and could hardly get his hands on it - much like the rest of the midfield - and instead of replacing a Wonaeamirri or Morton who were having nightmares they take The Giz off for Dunn instead. With about two million less inside 50's we removed a midfielder and replaced him with a forward. How does that work? Not surprisingly Dunn did very little because the ball hardly ever went down there and instead we ended up with Wona in the midfield completely out of his depth. What about trying moving Giz around a bit, see if you can get him into the game - not just hand him the council worker vest and piss him off because he's having an ordinary match, if that was the criteria for going off they should have dragged the entire side.

Mind you by that point the game was completely stuffed anyway so who cares? May as well have taken Jamar off and played Dunn in the ruck for all the damage it would have done us. We threw it away in the first quarter like we do so often. It's either the first quarter or the third quarter that it goes horribly wrong - do we have issues with kicking to a certain end of the ground? More importantly what the hell do they say to the players before they run out on the ground, because that is - for Stat My Bitch Up fans - the 22nd time since Round 1, 2008 that we have kicked one or zero goals in the first quarter. Under Daniher they did it 39 times between 1998 and R10, 2007. One goal first quarters shall henceforth always be known as THE BAILEY QUARTER. Even after he's gone. It will be his third greatest contribution to the club behind the emergence of Jamar and rorting the draft to land Scullgove.

You can't blame the forward line - or what we play that passes for one - for last night. By the time the game was gone at quarter time we had sent the ball inside fifty three times. For once it made sense that Jack Watts was wandering around the half-back line because there was no way he was going to get his hands on it up front - and he was bloody good in the first quarter too. Dropped off a bit as it went on but his disposal was good, he's still taking big pack marks and throwing a few tackles around. Unfortunately other than Jamar battling in the ruck and around the ground, Garland holding up the backline and Bail being as about as good as it got there were precious few others showing anything. It did say everything you need to know about this side that shortly after Jack Darling took a mark inside 50 with an easy kick for goal that Watts got his first touch across half-back. That's why Darling looks like the next big thing, because they're playing him to his strengths not to try and fit him Tetris style into something he's not suited to.

Speaking of Darling I'm not going to join in the "why didn't we..." arguments yet because it's anybody's guess what Lucas Cook is going to turn out like but what does concern me is that we don't appear to have any players with the sort of FIGJAM mongrel arsehole about them that he's got. I'd kill for some of that or a Hayden Ballantyne who can get under the skin of the opposition. Instead we've spent five years drafting fancyboys and emos. We've got enough floppy fringed private schoolboys now, start to give us some Broadmeadows High thugs that the rest of the world will hate with a passion - and if they've been kicked out of school for indulging in sex romps or been punched the head in a nightclub then good luck to them. It's a bit rich for footy clubs to start being moral on sex romps now when their players have spent the last hundred years involving themselves in 12 on 1 stacks on scenarios with groupies. I for one would welcome a Josh Gibson style "more roots than any man in Australia" big hitter with the ladies. At least he'd be able to provide score assists to the rookies and make them feel at home in the club.

Moloney and Sylvia tried hard but last night showed that we (i.e me) got far too excited by their performances against slop teams like Brisbane and Gold Coast. Green has gone missing this year thanks to being given a role that nobody can understand, Davey is collapsing under tags and showing precious little interest in the game itself and Grimes has lost the plot with his kicking (how did he get 81% disposal efficiency?). Davey is playing on reputation alone at the moment, he's never been dropped to my knowledge but I don't think he's ever been closer. How about throwing him forward again (and actually getting the ball down there) so he can snap a few goals out of his arse and start to contribute again instead of moping around the midfield getting tagged to buggery every week?

Then there's Cale Morton who is sadly living up to everything I wrote here three weeks ago about him not having any real role in the side and wandering around looking bereft of confidence - even playing a good game against the Suns didn't help when put up against a half decent side. Seems like a top bloke, apparently teaches the kids in Cranbourne to read which must be a prick of a job but why even bother playing him at the moment? His job seems to be to wander aimlessly around a half-back flank and cock it up under the slightest pressure. Has there ever been a more disappointing trifecta of brothers than the Mortons? Even the Cockatoo-Collins family had one good brother.

There are bad, bad signs about this group. With the exception of the aforementioned good players and Moloney/Jones who at least had a crack in trying to fire their teammates up everyone just looked disinterested in getting amongst it. On the very rare occassions when we did get the ball inside the forward line it was either bombed with panic straight into the hands of an Eagles player or hit the deck and bounced out straight towards the West Coast forward line. The concept of forward pressure has been completely ignored and the concept of tackling downgraded to an appendix of the playbook. And how many times last night did an Eagles player just leap over the top of one of our guys to take an easy mark - sometimes they even walked around the front of them and took it.

All that's not to mention how we still for some reason decline the opportunity to ever kick to a leading player inside 50. Jurrah was cut out of the game last night through no fault of his own and I'm glad he started to go further upfield to get a kick because he was being given no hope of getting it otherwise. I think he might have had the only mark on the lead all night, and even that was at the 49m line.

I'm not even going to talk about the second half, most of it was watched through my hands or while punching out furious messages on Twitter. Some people want to blame the umpires, I'm not joining in. They made a few howlers but umpires don't cause Wona to boot the ball straight into the man on the mark, they don't cause Sylvia to fall flat on his face and they didn't cause us to have three inside 50's in the first quarter. I'm not even sure how we only lost by 54 - how much worse do you have to be to lose by a hundred?

Contiki Corner
Has the tactic of showing up three days before interstate games been discredited yet? The way we're going they might as well get in on a flight two hours before the game and catch Skybus to the ground.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Colin Garland
3 - Jack Watts
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Clint Bartram

Some apologies to Trengove, Sylvia, Rivers and Bail.

Major apologies to Mrs. Demonblog who had to put up with me on her last night before going on a three week business trip to Tanzania. I exercised restraint but did throw a shoe during the second quarter a'la that unwashed hippy at John Howard on Q&A.

14 - Brent Moloney
13 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
10 - Colin Sylvia
7 - Colin Garland (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Jack Watts, Nathan Jones
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Stefan Martin, Clint Bartram

Commentary Corner
I might be one of the few people who like Steven Quartermain, and I can cop Tim Lane with his anecdotes about Crackers Keenan at the Lake Oval in 1976 but nothing will make me cherish C10 being given the arse more than seeing Luke Darcy reduced to calling Canterbury Tactix netball matches again.

Bad enough his incredible whinging on ANZAC Day about a hand in the back when he was on the rules committee, bad enough him forgetting Jamar's name while pulling himself about Naitanui and bad enough telling the world that Frawley had returned from
"shoulder surgery", but when he asked who was going to come on and replace Le Cras that was it for me. Gee I don't know, maybe the guy who has been sitting there in a stupid green vest all night? I'd rather be locked in a room with Malcolm Blight and Matthew Lloyd wearing one of his horrid reflective European shirts for life than listen to this tit again next year.

What I did enjoy was Tim Lane called Tapscott a "cut of a lad". Sounded very inappropriate. Nice of them to also tip the cut of a lad into an appearance at the tribunal by replaying his dinky bump 72 times and having Darcy the moron say it was in the head when it was clearly not.

Crowd Watch
Do Perth crowds boo every opposition shot on goal no matter what? Even the Adelaide mutants can't be bothered going to that level.

My original plan was to go to Perth instead of Brisbane. Thank christ for having to change the date of my holidays, because if I'd been there last night I would have wandered off into the desert, sat down and waited patiently for death.

Bailey's Cartoon Connection
Even if you wouldn't spit on BigFooty this thread is gold.

This post from 30/03/2010 is still so apt...

(right click > view image, I cbf resizing it)

Next Week
Molotov Cocktails will be available outside Gate 1 at three-quarter time if it's not going well. And face painting.

Final Thoughts
Did they even bother replacing Moloney as Vice-Captain? Is Tom Scully hiding in the same secure bunker as Meesen? What's Todd Viney doing next Sunday? How much would you hate to be the woman who answers the phones at the club today?

I just looked up the stats in more detail and I'll tell you what's damning. Liam Jurrah had the equal most Inside 50's last night. Doesn't that say it all, 27 goals in eight games but so starved for supply he had to go up the ground to get it and still managed to make a contribution. What a champ. Long may he reign. Hopefully with teammates kicking it to him inside 50 and not the other way around.

Monday 18 April 2011

Advanced, Forthright, Insignificant

What a change two years make. At roughly this point in 2009 I sat in Adelaide airport, then on a plane when it started going on a bit, scratching out depressingly emo wailing about another in a long line of interstate disasters.

Two seasons older and wise, with the scene shifted from the rural frontier of South Australia to the positively Heathrow-esque in comparison Brisbane Airport (ever wondered why they call it Brisvegas when the supermarkets shut at 9pm? They're comparing it to Adelaide) there was no need to have Lifeline on speed dial, no need to start questioning whether there was something more important to do in life than watch football. In fact last night couldn't have been any less like the aftermath of that loss to Port when I nearly caused a scene at the check-in desk by falling to the floor and curling up in the foetal position.

For a start I hadn't spent the whole day slowly roasting in the sun inside a none more 70's concrete jungle of a stadium surrounded (and I use the term loosely because it was sparsely populated) by nutters in teal. There was no hint of a violent hangover mixing with the pounding sun on my stressed brow, and importantly no ride to the airport after the game in a taxi with a driver so corpulent that the edge of his guts threatened to spill over and engage the handbrake at any moment. Most importantly yesterday I hadn't cocked up my return flight booking so significantly that it meant spending four and a half of the longest hours of my life in a place with the same sort of exciting atmosphere as Serviceton Coles.

The big difference between the two evenings was a win. A big, spanking 15 goal (on the dot) demolition job of the sort I'd have carved my left leg off for that afternoon at Football Park. But times have changed since that fateful day. Our club is no longer scraping the bottom of the sporting barrel and the premature haste of the league to put their names in the history books has invented a club which even we - not out of the ugly duckling holding pen yet by any means - can canter away from for a big win despite seemingly never stepping out of second gear.

There's no arguing with a 90 point win. If you can apply "By any means necessary" to a pained, drawn out victory over one of the Queensland strugglers you've got to apply it to their (presumably) worse fellow travellers. Still, I don't think it's entirely uncharitable to say that it may very well have been the worst 90 point win of all time.

Before you hit Page Down to go to the comments and start hurling abuse (there's plenty of time for that later) I wouldn't give it up for the world but the quality of the opposition is in such serious question that the fact it took them doing a fatal tailspin in the last twenty minutes to get us there lands it firmly in the vs. Fitzroy (mid 90's) bracket of thumping victories.

Make no mistake we were up against the genesis of what will be a fierce side sooner rather than later - and how could you not with the sort of leg-up they're getting - but there's going to be a trail of blood from here to South East Queensland via Tweed Heads and the Northern Rivers before then. Playing kids by the thousand is fine but today firmly exposed their lack of big bodied players. I'm guessing they had a crack at Brad Miller and he told them that he'd much stay here his wife if it's all the same but even he would have added some sort of extra dimension to their forwards today. Somebody to kick at other than Dixon would have helped, despite all the times we let them link up and find a player on his own inside 50.

They aimed their loaded chequebook at every player out of contract player in the world and came out with financial mercenaries, headcases who were so desperate to get out of their clubs they'd have signed for the Brisbane Bears if offered and in Nathan Krakouer the player who must have the biggest gulf between salary and actual interest in playing the game in the history of the league. Throw in being forced to play 'marquee' rugby players and having to make the highest paid player captain almost against his own will and you almost feel sorry for Guy McKenna. You will when he suggests he's going to drop Harmeichal next week only to walk into his match committee meeting to find that it's Andrew Demetriou, Mike Fitzpatrick and Adrian Anderson sitting there telling him that the Harm is going absolutely nowhere if Guy wants to stay in a job. And now that he hates the sub rule Guy's ok by me.

So, if this has been a short term disaster - and let's be fair there's no way they don't win at least one game for the year - imagine what the West Sydney experience is going to be like with Sheeds in charge? At least Guy seems like a sane and rational human, Kev will probably swap their prized picks for Chris Heffernan, John Barnes and Scott Camporeale then explain away the inevitable failure with a raft of conspiracy theories and half baked ideas that even Jason Akermanis would have rejected for being too stupid.

Enough about the new teams. If they're not playing off in a Grand Final within five years the CEO and the rest of his match committee will commit hari kari and leave final instructions to disbane three Melbourne clubs and send all their good players north.

I woke up this morning with that sort of feeling you only get when you go into a game as unbackable favourites. It's been a while. Didn't help much that despite losing Ablett with injury/disinterest and Campbell Brown through stupidity and malice there were still a queue of people from here to Bunbury lining up to say why they thought we were a chance of getting rolled. These things weigh heavily on me and ruin my sleep.

There's nothing shameful about losing your first game interstate against a new club, god knows we've done it enough over the years, but there is major shame attached to it if they're a bunch of raw kids, confirmed hacks and Michael Rischitelli who must be wondering if was really that important to stay in Queensland after falling out with Michael Voss and walking out on the Lions.

I didn't need pundits and washed up players to tell me that we were a chance of cocking it up. If any club was going to fail to take advantage of their en masse inexperience this early in the season it was always going to be bi-polar flaky freaks like us.

My nervousness started when the final teams were released and they'd left Petterd out. You'd have thought it would have been a perfectly good time to give him four quarters to cement his spot. After all he could very well have been up the other end today if he'd known that by pledging loyalty to us and signing a new contract we'd reward him making him wear the council worker vest and play in the VFL. Next thing he'll show up at Casey Fields to be told that his spot has been taken by Fev and can he please arrive at 9am for the reserves game. Then he will call everybody at our club bastards and walk out. Rightly so.

On the topic of luminous vests and doing nothing for three quarters, doesn't playing Watts as sub just stink of Bailey and co coaching to the media? Maybe after getting away without having to suspend Moloney over the non-scandal of the year the last thing they wanted was more articles about how wonderful Hurley is and how we should have somehow ignored all conventional wisdom and picked him at #1 instead. I'll stick with the one who has never bashed a taxi driver if it's all the same with you.

Perhaps instead of hiding Jack on the pine for 3/4 Bails might have sent him out with the specific instruction to go forward, dominate some kids and give the world a taste of his talents? What he didn't need to do was send him out in his vest to have a kick-to-kick session at half time on the boundary right next to the Little League game. Look out for that picture in the paper before long. Can't be anything like that for the confidence of a struggling kid.

Having him sitting down doing nothing (can we not afford an exercise bike?) was especially galling considering that for the first time this year we abandoned the slavish adherance to a Rotating Clump (© After Grog Blog) theory of attack and started hoofing it long to advantage in the square instead. We even kicked to leads inside 50 occasionally. As much as I enjoyed Jamar hauling in huge grabs over rakish Dickensian orphans and Nathan Bock - and believe me I did far more than any grown man should - it's hardly the wave of the future is it? Another missed opportunity, another chance to get my voice onto an SEN promo by ringing about and whinging about them playing him out of position.

Of course unless you were actually there, watching a dodgy YouTube quality internet stream or in a state where the game didn't conflict with Seven's obligation to run a second rate news service you weren't actually seeing any of this life. Which was a real downer for those who like to see endless shots of the sub sitting forlornely on the bench hoping one of his teammates does an ACL so he can get a game. In fact I can't believe it actually started 'on time' (say it with a straight face) and they didn't make you wait even longer for some pointless car race to finish before cutting out of the coverage halfway through the last quarter.

Seems like they actually went to the trouble of manipulating the coverage of the Freo game in Perth to make it fit in the with the news. The only plausible explanation is that they've heard Channel Nine are going to win the rights and they're tanking for the rest of the year. Sadly the unintended consequence of that is that they're so unpopular now that we'd gladly take the return of Eddie's 'bias free' calls of Collingwood games where it sounds as if his hands are strapped to the top of the desk so he can't start whacking it when they get a roll on. If we're lucky Nine might even take Dwayne Russell back so we don't feel so cheated at having to pay a monthly fee just to hear him spout sub-Cometti catchphrases.

The world is waiting for the AFL version of the old "Nobody Screws Soccer Like Seven" bumper stickers from a decade ago. If they get the rights again it will sell millions.

So kudos then to those of you who managed to go into a 60 minute media ban and watch it on Channel Scum. I'd never have managed it. The last time I watched a Melbourne game on delay was when we beat Adelaide on a Friday night in '05 and I didn't think much of it. I've been forced to listen to games through the notoriously wonky AFL website in even wonkier overseas internet cafes but I draw the line at rewarding network TV executives with Matthew Richardson in the 90's style ponytails by waiting patiently for the safety car to pull in at Barbagallo Raceway just so they can cut from the final siren to Jennifer Keyte.

What a day to have to wait in the dark for 60 minutes too. Just when we're threatening to either smash somebody or suffer the most humiliating defeat since THAT debacle against Sydney there you are wondering if V8 Supercars couldn't be improved if they just filled them with TV executives and drove them off Mt. Panorama instead. I guarantee you that when the Suns had their second shot on goal after kicking the first that more than one person took the Joe Gutnick 2000 Grand Final option of having a sneaky, illicit look at the live scores.

Alas instead of the beginning of the end of football as we knew it, and the start of my night in the lock-up, it was a mere blip on the radar. Like when the plane suddenly drops a bit and for two seconds you think you're going to die strewn across outback NSW (funny how being on a plane makes lazy flight related metaphors appear). Even I, probably in the top 5% most nervous and pessimistic fans alive, wasn't taking them seriously. "It's the first time they've ever had the lead" commentators were presumably screaming everywhere. Big deal, we're been in front of better sides than we are and have gone on to get absolutely tonked. The only problem it represented for me was how to tear up my gigantic Queensland TAB ticket which had Sylvia for first goal.

We were guilty more than once today of not taking them seriously. Davey getting done for holding the ball for that first goal and most of the third quarter were notable examples yet somehow quarter time rolled around and we'd kicked six goals and were 18 points in front. It didn't help that poor Harmeichal did a Jim Stynes and ran across the mark to gift Dunn a goal. Ridiculously it could have been even more if THE CELEBRATOR hadn't been beaten to a mark in an empty goalsquare by the siren.

It didn't make a great deal of sense because it seemed to me like the Suns held their own for large parts of the quarter and were having no trouble extracting the ball from our attacking 50 the moment it hit the ground (frontal pressure? Never heard of it) but they were getting murdered by the runners. Moloney was racking up possessions for fun (what scandal? Somebody ring up tomorrow and tell Eddie you saw Dane Swan taking a whizz on a bar and see if he airs it), usually as part of the Psychic Friends Connection with Jamar, and GC had no answers for the likes of Trengove and Bennell who would just run around their opponents with obscene ease.

When The Jurrahcane kicked the first goal of the second quarter after about 30 seconds, beating poor old Harm on the lead with the greatest of ease I started to believe that all the ingredients were there for him to kick a big bag and for us to win by more than a hundred. The reward for this hubris was that we went on to hit the post about two million times for the rest of the game. Still, five goals to one for the quarter and poor old, extremely rich in complete disproportion to his performances Harm got the biggest bronx cheer a crowd of 12,000 could possibly manage when he finally got a kick. Earlier they'd let him kick in - that didn't work. To his credit he actually set up a goal through the middle at one point in the third quarter but the way he's just going in this team tells me that Israel Folau won't even finish the season with GWS before he does an epic runner back to rugby league. If they are going to insist on playing him just for marketing value - despite him never having played for a Sydney club - can we please ask nicely to play GWS in Round 1 next year? 20 goals for Jurrah.

Strange quarter the third. Bailey came out and blamed the humidity which seemed a bit rich to me considering there didn't actually appear to be any but from where I was sitting - in a position that offered me about as much of a view of the ground as you'd get from coaching on the boundary line - it looked like after we got two goals on either side of the Harm assist (straight into the highlight reel before the next game) and hit the post a couple of times that millionaire football came out and everyone started trying to beat three opponents in every contest.

From when Danny Stanley kicked his goal of the year contender they smashed us for the next ten minutes and it was like you were watching us play somebody good. Like a less intense and frightening, but no less disturbing, version of the blitzkrieg we copped from Hawthorn a fortnight ago. It took that man Moloney (who I'm swooning over once again after years of neglect) to kick what - ridiculously - had become a steadier to put the brakes on their little run. Sadly Davey missing the set shot after the siren meant we lost the quarter by a point and now have to hear about it for the rest of the season. Come back in ten years time, this will be THE ONLY mention anywhere in the world of the fact that it was the first quarter they ever won because it's a rubbish stat that means nothing to anybody other than Guy McKenna as he tries to work out what the hell to do with his side before it's Round 21 and they've still only won one quarter.

Despite losing the quarter, and oh weren't you just heartbroken, we were all but home at three quarter time. The score was under the Chris Sullivan Line (46 points for all you new readers) but given the inexperience of the opposition and the fact that they'd run themselves into the ground I was willing to waive it and declare us home without having to get the margin over the CSL.

Finally Watts got 'activated' (early contender for the most annoying footy slang of the year) and surprise, surprise his first touch came on the half back-flank. Which he then proceeded to stuff up in royal fashion and gift them a goal. Refer to previous month of posts - what was he doing there in the first place? Eventually he went forward for what must have been the second time this year and set up THE CELEBRATOR with a dainty tap over the top to Davey. Later he threw a couple of cracking tackles inside the forward 50. This is why he should remain there. This is probably why he'll get dropped. Unfortunately he blotted a decent last quarter with the worst attempt at a bounce ever on the final siren but with any luck Channel 7 will have missed that while going to David Brown for the weekend weather.

Admittedly it would have been hard not to play well in the last quarter as we spent the last 25 minutes running rings around players who had stopped cold - or in Coad's case stopped and been forced back on only to blow up his hammy - and taking speculative pot shots at goal. Jamar went from the centre to full forward and was pulling down (barely) contested marks galore and even Rohan Bail finally managed to kick a goal in front of his friends and family at about the fifth attempt.

The result quickly went from one of the worst 70 point wins of all time, to probably the worst 80pt win of all time to almost certainly the worst 90 point win of all time. With a bit of luck at the end it might have been crowned the undoubted worst 100 point in the history of footy but sadly it wasn't to be. Still, I don't give a rat's who it's against I'll take 44 scoring shots any day of the week.

So fortunately no chance to hear the rebadged Port Power song again and even more fortunately the chance to actually enjoy some post match celebrations without having to cut away to the news.

I'll take it until we win an interstate game by more then this. Then we'll never speak of this day again.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

Hard to go past Moloney for the first half which helped set it all up. Went missing a bit in the third, but so did everyone and at least he kicked the shameful steadier. Didn't do a great deal in the last quarter but how could you when 95% of the team were lining up to get a kick against a bunch of witches hats.

Trengove was mighty today, I'll dying for the return of the SCULLGOVE partnership but he's doing just fine on his own at the moment and I've been super impressed with Bail so far this year. Despite only having nabbed one vote in the Jakovich so far I'm still going with the SME as the coveted Most Improved player in our side but Bail isn't far behind.

As for the other two you can basically pencil them in for votes, or at the least top shelf apologies, every week from now on. Stars.

5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Rohan Bail
2 - Colin Sylvia
1 - Mark Jamar

Gold Card apologies to Jurrah. Silver level apologies to nigh on everybody else.

14 - Brent Moloney
10 - Colin Sylvia
8 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year. Any objections to me declaring this one over right now?)
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Stefan Martin, Nathan Jones

Crowd Watch
What crowd? It's a good thing their next home game is against Brisbane because the tick over 12,000 who turned up today wouldn't be much cause for celebration after getting nearly 28k for the opener.

A big chunk of that 12k came at the last minute or after the first bounce too because when the teams ran out the place was an absolute ghost town. Numbers were boosted by a big turnout of our fans as well - including what looked like the only heavily populated bay in the ground diagonally opposite where we were sitting - and what appeared to be every schoolchild in the City of Brisbane area there on a free ticket. As we boarded a bus to the ground a child pointed at it and said "All the Gold Coast supporters are on that bus". I know what he meant but geez he almost nailed it perfectly.

We ended up sitting in a bizarre Platform 13 1/2 style section on ground level that wasn't quite in the general public area but wasn't in the members. It was literally where batsman come to the crease from when there's a cricket game on there and more than one person took advantage of the lax security to open said gate and just stroll onto the Gabba turf for a few seconds.

Next to us were a family of Collingwood fans, albeit with a kid half heartedly waving a Suns flag, behind a guy who admitted during a phone call that he didn't actually care who won and was there on a free ticket anyway and in front two Brisbane fans who clapped everything that both sides did politely. Passion was most certainly not in fashion in Bay 13 1/2.

I hope the Lions fans don't get sucked into some sort of State of Origin mentality and start supporting the Suns when they play other teams. Given that half the Gold Coast fans probably enjoyed three flags with the Lions and then pushed off to the new club when times started getting tough the default setting should, nay MUST, be pure, white hot hatred - not state against state comradeship. This should sort itself out naturally when the Lions lose to them in two weeks.

They were trying hard to get a bit of 'atmosphere' about the place. It certainly ticked off the second rule of sports marketing (first rule is never give away any free product that can be thrown), pretending that there was a huge crowd there and that their team wasn't rubbish. It's harder than it seems, I once had a two week stint at it and pulled the pin after realising that not only was nobody there and there wasn't really a way to conceal it but also that the people who did turn up couldn't have cared less about 'pre-match entertainment' if it was in Swahili. Credit then to their host who managed to do a servicable job of pretending the place was overflowing with punters without resorting to McCallum-esque hyperbole, shouting or the hoisting of flags.

Pity then the Suns players who had to go and do a meet and greet with the fans after copping the last eight goals of the game while they were out on their feet. Apart from one bloke who was inexplicably having the time of his life it was horribly forced and done only to keep happy the self important tossbags who had complained that the players didn't 'acknowledge' them after losing by 20 goals against Carlton. You shouldn't get a round of applause for ditching your original footy team and shacking up with the flavour of the month, you should get white feathers in the post from your original team. But this is the 21st century AFL where apparently the guys who have spent two hours risking having their limbs snapped in two for your enjoyment owe you something for coming to watch. Get out.

Also as you would have seen if you're reading the Demonblog Twitter, the Gabba have shunned the idea of installing an ATM in their ground and instead they have a counter where you can go and see a lady who will swipe your card in an EFTPOS machine and then give you the cash. Surely an ATM would be more cost effective?

Next Week
I'm going to Omeo and pretending footy does not exist.

The Week After
Welcome to the world of wacky timeslots as it's the Eagles in Perth on a Thursday night. How avante garde of the schedulers. Is there some sort of public holiday over that that at least half justifies this?

Either way, coming off the bye it should mean squat to us whether the game is played at 7pm on a Thursday or Tuesday lunchtime. It's a bit rough to have to travel interstate two games in a row when you're as pox a travelling team as we are but there shouldn't be too many complaints with the week off in between.

The only problem is that the Eagles of 2011 are a seem a far tougher proposition than the side which we, err, lost to last year. Our record in Perth is only marginally better than it is in Adelaide so I wouldn't be getting too excited even if we were playing them in prime wooden spoon form - and what a false spoon it was, who finishes last AND has a player kick 12 in a game other than St Kilda in the 80's?

At least it's a good mission to send our team on and gauge whether they're actually any realistic chance of making the eight or whether beating the two worst sides in the competition is as good as it gets for us. I'm most interested in the Jamar/Martin vs Cox/Naitanui dual. The Experience has played out of his skin so far this year but this is a challenge. The Irresistable Force and The Russian meet the Immovable Object and a guy with floppy comedy hair. Jamar will do the lion's share of trying to stick his knee through one/both of their ribcages but I'm doing to see how the SME goes against them.

We'll also be treated to the spectacle of Jack Darling doing as he pleases and the inevitable comparisons between him and our forward line Jack. The major difference between the two is that one of them got booted out of school for being an epic rooter and the other one plays for us. Stand by for your favourite Herald Sun journo to write an article questioning why we didn't draft Darling when he was an embyro.

There sadly the comparisons will end as Watts will undoubtedly be riding the fluro green slide into the VFL, where at least if we're lucky he might strike a coach with half an interest in playing him to his strengths and not in vague positions around the ground most usually the half-back flank. Drop him if you absolutely must - and I'll go to my grave defending him - but if Petterd isn't the replacement I'll ramraid the Megastore.

In another magic piece of fixturing gold by the peanuts who run these competitions Casey have also got the bye next week so whatever team changes they make for the West Coast will be based on the win over North Ballarat on Saturday. Dare I mention that one M. Newton kicked six for the Scorpions in his last start? It would really show the world what an up and coming, going places concern we were if we ditched a #1 pick and had Juice wandering the wide world of half back-flank instead.

Was it worth it?
For being at our all time biggest win outside of Melbourne (Geelong included) yes. For finally seeing a win at the Gabba at my third attempt yes. For making it home in one piece without having to spend the night sleeping in a car like my last trip to Brisbane yes.

Most importantly it was worth it for the sight of the forgotten man, and travelling emergency par excellence, Emo Maric trudging off the ground at the end of the game with his hands jammed firmly in his pockets, not a teammate in sight and the glum expression of a teenage who has just been caught smoking. Until Channel 7 can capture a moment like that they're completely useless to me.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Cute, fluffy and not even slightly ruthless

I'm a lifetime subscriber to the "by any means necessary" theory of football. History will show we beat the Lions by 11 points, the ladder shows we got four points and unless there's the biggest calamity on the face of the earth next Sunday we'll go into the bye week 2-1-1 and right in the mix. Let the good times roll eh? Cancel your September holidays? Maybe not. By Any Means Necessary is a great slogan for Malcolm X and t-shirts but it's what happens next that makes the difference.

I can't have been the only person who spent the quarter time break today on the verge of going absolutely off my nut. The metaphorical cat had not only been kicked it was being fitted with a series of explosive devices and within seconds of being hurled at the ground in the direction of the huddle. There was something seriously rotten happening out there, and in retrospect it reminds me of the Adelaide game last year where we were utter toilet for the first half before papering over the gaping cracks by running over the top of them in the end. I remember sending a string of angsty text messages that day about how awful our forward structure was - a year on and what's changed?

Put the putrid umpiring to one side for a second, and I know that might be hard to do after Dunn was on the end of the THE WORST DECISION IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL which gifted them one of their five opening goals, and ask yourself what in the name of dutch buggery we were doing in that first quarter? I'd sit down and watch it again to work it out but it would make me gouge my eyes out with a fork. From the moment Jurrah missed his second shot on goal we were pure shite, unable to win anything significant out of the middle, bombing it into the forward line with precious little care, attention or attempt to find a lead. Down back Matthew Bate's talented twin brother Todd Banfield was doing what he wanted with the defenders all playing behind their opponents and getting carved. It was a recipe for disaster straight off of the new "100 YEARS OF ABYSMAL MFC DEBACLES" DVD.

The Lions, on the other hand, were playing out of their skins. It's no surprise either, we've seen it a billion times over the years both coming from and going against us. Remember being three goals up against Geelong in R3 2008 starting 30-1 underdogs after we'd been fingered in the crack for the first fortnight of the season? That's what happens when a superior side (and the difference in superiority that day outweighed today's by a factor of 10 MILLION) doesn't start at their best and the humiliated team which has been beaten from pillar to post in the media all week starts like a house on fire. The difference between a good team and a mediocre team is how long you let the upstarts stay in control before gunning them down - and more importantly whether they really put the foot on the throat once you're on top. We did one but not the other and it leaves us neatly slopping around at our natural place as the best of the teams who are nowhere near good enough to challenge for the premiership. I'm not going to turn yet but all the conditions are there for a massive mid-season turn a'la that horrific Friday night against the Cats in '03 if we don't sort out some of the problems in this side.

History is littered with insignificant wins like today. In fact have a hundred odd seasons worth of them. It's better than another draw - and that was well on the cards - and infinitely better than a loss but what's it leading towards? Did you see anything today that you can fast forward two years and see us contending for a flag? Moloney, Davey, Jamar and Green will either be just going or gone by then, Morton and Watts are going nowhere fast by the looks of it and having the likes of Frawley, Trengove, Tapscott, Jurrah et al going crackers isn't going to help if the famous "bottom six" of our best 22 (as we all hope it will be again by then) is as shit as Carlton's is now. Players come and go from nowhere and that's about all I'm pinning our future hopes of success on at the moment. Coaches come from places a bit more prominent than Parts Unknown but you can dream about a Malthouse or Paul Roos showing up next season - either of them would spit at the minimum wage we could offer.

But enough of the 2013 premiership season, back to today. Am I the only one who was absolutely flabbergasted that they went through that flag hoisting rubbish again? I've got a very small tolerance for that sort of stuff before cultural cringe kicks in at the best of times but was almost ok with it after Round 1 due to the presence of J. Stynes and the fact that it was a one off. Now they've decided that they're going to do it at every home game. Oh the shame, the horrible, gnawing shame tearing my soul apart. They even did it at the end of the game. I love the new logo and I'm a big fan of the way they're trying to bring historical, traditional angles back into the club by reintroducing old school style mascots (as much as one can be for the idea of mascots anyway) but this is the ugliest idea around. It might even be worse than the Hawthorn recovering junkies goalkicking competition.

Correct me if I'm wrong but the only other time we've ever raised flags in the centre of the MCG would have been after the 12 times we won a premiership. WE HAVE WON NOTHING NOW. WIN SOMETHING AND THEN RAISE THAT EVERY WEEK. Might have sounded like a magnificent idea in some "blue sky session" but it's embarassing to the people actually sitting in the stands. I never thought the idiot in the velvet jacket and his trumpet would last this long so don't expect it to go anywhere soon but when opposition fans point out the obvious then there is absolutely nothing you can say (although if it's a Port, Freo, Bulldogs, Gold Coast or St Kilda fan you might get away with mocking their lack of success) other than to agree that it is a stupid concept and that we are opening ourselves up to ridicule by doing it.

The fact that they also did it after the game was nearly lost in the euphoria (?) of us getting out of jail in epic fashion, but the sight of the marketing department running out onto the field with it and desperately to get the thing to raise and show some life with absolutely no breeze to speak of was so farcical the footage of it deserves to go into any future MFC Hall of Fame.

How overrated is the idea of pre-match entertainment anyway? You could almost pay them credit for trying something different unlike the other clubs who just play the same video packages over, and over, and over again but we do that as well. They must have had that ad with Barassi yelling (and thanks for helpfully labelling him RON BARASSI as if anybody in the crowd doesn't know who he is) about 25 times.

I'd quite happily sit there in dead silence or listening to Video Ezy ads a'la the early 90's but if we have to give in to marketing departments (and believe me I'm not going for the Bill Hicks anti-marketing dollar here, I work in one myself) how about going back to playing classic games - it's not like we haven't had a couple of corkers at the 'G against the Lions in recent times, or god forbid they could throw an old Fitzroy or Bears game on for something different. Another options would be to rustle up ten (minimum) highlights packages and play them randomly. Don't run them all the same week, throw a few in here, a few there and give the punters some actual footballing buzz rather than acid jazz trumpet and semaphore demonstrations.

The only man to come out of the first term with any credit - and by christ after that flag rubbish I'm surprised they didn't do a Jobe Watson style sitdown protest - was Gysberts. He's the Giz, and he's awesome. That kid is not going anywhere except straight into our starting lineup unless he gets hurt, and after four games is already showing up Morton as a potential massive waste of potential and a #4 draft pick. Get Champion Data on the phone and tell me how many hard-ball gets, contested possessions and clearances The Giz has had in four games compared to Morton in 51. Cale has had some stunning games (West Coast '08 anybody?) but even in other games where he's had 30+ touches he's hardly been damaging with most of them coming across half-back. Besides, what do possessions mean in this era anyway? Jamie Shanahan would have been getting 15 in today's game.

The next couple after him in the draft haven't exactly set the world alight, but right now the only thing that is keeping my faith alive is the fact that Sylvia has taken seven years to become a gun. Unfortunately he has a touch of the crunt about him that Cale most certainly does not.

Tell you where I thought he looked like he was about to do some damage - Round 9, 2009 against Geelong at Kardinia Park. We served up a steaming pile of the brown stuff that day, and I froze my tits off but with absolutely nobody else looking likely to do anything he went forward for three goals. They were all when the game was well and truly lost (from late in the third quarter onwards) but at least it proved he could kick them. Do you think he's been seen near a forward line since? Instead of racking up cheap touches as a loose man in the backline during the last couple of weeks of 2010 when our season was stuffed they could have tried something new and sent him forward, but conservatism always seems to win out under this regime.

No matter where he's at in the grand scheme of things Morton was horrid today. I felt bad for him at first because he was the sub (bah) but nothing he did once he shed the council worker's vest worked. Maybe he needs time to get into the game, maybe he's a bit too poncy to come into a match when the heat is on and look comfortable. Either way the Catch 22 is that he's surely not going to end up in the starting team on a showing like that. Grimes is doing what he did a couple of years ago ten times better, Morton has never shown any aptitude for getting into the centre bounce scramble and nobody's got any interest in giving him a run in the forward line so I'm going to suggest he's going to be spending time down as Casey with Fev until somebody gets hurt and allows him back in. Conversely they could take the chance of him cutting the children of the Gold Coast to shreds next week and play him on the field from the start - just the kind of arrogant, disrespectful manoeuvre that should see us suffer a shock loss.

Don't know why I'm so surprised that they're too scared to give him a decent run forward, after all Jack Watts is barely allowed to go inside 50 despite having been drafted ostensibly as a forward. Everyone wants a Riewoldt (Nick) style up-and-down the ground dominator but for god's sake is there any danger that they could play him down there for four quarters one day instead of making him looking stupid in the middle of the ground. He was lining up as a wingman at times today for god's sake. He's about as far from a Lance Franklin as I am but take note from Mad Old Clarko, Franklin ended up on a wing last night when the Hawks were taking the piss out of Richmond, not from the first bounce. When you're at Champion Data getting Morton's stats find me the amount of times Watts has entered the forward 50 this season.

Did Bailey drop something on the ground and miss that cracking pack mark he took against the Hawks last week? Ok he hasn't got the huge body yet which allow him to treat guys like Merrett with contempt in one-on-one contests but who does on our list? Not the Stefan Martin Experience (bless him, the most improved player on our list by a country mile), who is an acceptable second option but far more use around the ground. Not Jurrah who is a great mark and a great man but better flying from behind a pack or in from the side. Maybe Jamar, but we can't afford to have him down forward for very long when he's dominating in the middle.

The absurd lack of crumbers within the same postcode of contests in our forward 50 aside, what does Watts have to do to get a shot at playing out of the general region of FF and having people kick at him. Other than the fact that we only kick to players on the lead once or twice a game. There's plenty of time later to teach him to centre balls in the corridor without fucking it up if we really need to but bloody hell can we at least try and use him as offensive weapon first? He's being made to look stupid at the moment with what they've got him doing - people were cheering when he was subbed off for christ sake - but what he has brought to the table is good tackle and good chase. In the first quarter today when our forward pressure (as the kids say) was absolutely putrid and the ball was flying in and out of our forward 50 for no reward it could have done with somebody down there with a big(ish) body willing to chase and harass. Instead he was wandering around halfway to bloody Brunton Avenue tackling people on the half-back flank. It's shithouse. Write letters. Start Facebook groups. Ring SEN and try to get on amongst all the St Kilda fans slashing their wrists.

Also pressing my buttons today was the powderpuff reaction to Raines' hard tag on Davey. Everyone knows Flash goes to water when you go ultra-negative on him, and it's going to happen every week from now until the end of time unless The Giz, Trengove, Scully etc.. can take the heat off him. So while he was copping hell today where were the other players to step in and give Raines a slap? There was a bit of unconvincing push and shove but how about somebody shows some modicum of support for him? Every time Flash went off the ground Raines went with him, bumping him and generally being just the sort of ordinary human that we desperately need to introduce into our side, but only once did somebody run over and let him know that Davey had back-up. Credit to The Jurrahcane who ran from halfway down the ground to give him a bump and show his teammate some support. We have a lot of angry players, and one world class emo, but where are the legitimate enforcers?

It wasn't The 'Cane who started the revival, but he was certainly in the cockpit for it. We were only holding on courtesy of Nick Carter lookalike Jack Redden missing an absolute sitter just before the siren, but when Sylvia won it straight out of the middle and landed it on THE CELEBRATOR (I love writing that again) for the first goal after about ten seconds we were back into it - almost criminally given the lack of interest or structure in the first half. Of course they then went up the other end and kicked the next two goals to put us back in our place again. Then, cometh the hour cometh the cult figure - Jurrah got three more for the quarter including two epic bombs from outside 50 - on either side of The Giz adding to his great first half with a well taken set shot goal. All of a sudden it was half-time and we were not only back in it, it looked like we were going to run over the top and smash them. Quelle surprise as the French might say if they weren't busy suing the Lions for stealing their national anthem and using it as a theme song.

When Jurrah got his fifth seconds into the third quarter to put us in front (PB!) and Jamar started the quarter on six kicks it looked like records were going to tumble left, right and centre but as the rain came the game turned into even more of a horrendous slopfest than it was and we let the Lions in for two goals to steady their rapidly sinking the ship. The second in particular was putrid, The Russian - in his only non-goalkicking cock-up of the day - went up for a mark in the defensive goalsquare that he would usually snaffle with his eyes closed and dropped it for Luke Power to kick a goal. Just one of many times today that two or three players flew for the same mark in our backline and spoiled each other or messed it up - major issue that needs fixing. Otherwise defense was pretty good from quarter time onwards.

Thank god then for Jack Grimes who navigated through the storm to boot a rare goal and Sylvia who got one as well. By the time the sun started shining again and Bennell got his goal we were seemingly home. It certainly would have taken a series of ever expanding Fukushima style failures to see us throw away a 16 point lead against a side who had given their best but had hit the wall. Naturally what then followed was a quarter of us trying to give the game away on an ornate antique platter.

They got the first goal but that was no problem, because down the other end Aussie marked 20m out directly in front and was going to kick the goal to put them away. He missed. Played a good game for somebody who looked about 25% fit, certainly better than anything poor old Emo Maric offered up in the first fortnight of the season. Worth persisting with, works well with Jurrah and brings the pressure. Maybe if we'd lost I'd not have been as charitable... Then Trengove could have had one but got chased down and Green missed a shot that he would have eaten for breakfast last year - he spent more time up forward today and thank god for that but he's still had very little impact this year.

Two goals the difference with five minutes to play and I was so nervous about potential lawsuits coming out of this post that I started trying to reason with myself that two draws equalled a win so it was actually A GOOD THING. It's not, it's shithouse but you get like that in desperate situations. It was the sporting equivalent of the guy trapped under the rock cutting his own arm off. Lucky then that after they got the margin back to a goal AND cleared it from the centre we somehow ended up with it down the other end where Moloney roosted it towards the square and allowed Jurrah to shephard it through for the winner. The get out of jail card was well and truly slapped down on the table and we held on to win with the glorious sight of the Experience rampaging down the Southern Stand wing in the final seconds to cap it off.

After first half performances which landed somewhere dead in the middle of "ordinary" and "shithouse" Rivers and Jones played incredible second halves. I still think Jones is in the departure lounge to Casey when Scully is ready to come back but what a third quarter he played. Just like Moloney he kicks like he's got a wooden leg when he's trying to go to a target 40m away but in close he couldn't be beat. Then there was Rivers who was on fire in 2004 fashion with some cracking contested marks. Jamar and Moloney were good for four quarters and Jurrah for two and and a half, but those guys had everything to do with us getting on top and staying there. Kudos gentlemen, KUDOS.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
I struggled to split the top three in this. They've all got their claims to BOG status. Jamar almost got downgraded for his overnight loss of goalkicking accuracy (don't forget that until last week he was the most accurate kick on goal of any player with more than 50 scoring shots from 1987 onwards #statmybitchup) but look at the rest of his stats - 11 clearances and 19 of his 23 possessions contested. What a warrior. The only downside to the whole thing was that he didn't top his kicks PB and was stuck on seven throughout the last quarter. The spontaneous Soviet celebrations will have to wait at least one more week.

Moloney was bloody good again too. His kicking is still suspect but if you had a clearance machine with elite disposal skills you've probably got the Brownlow Medallist so I'll take one of a half out of the two thanks very much. Plenty of his kicks were wild hoofs from the centre but at least he was getting the hands on it to have a chance of hoofing it. I get nervous when he winds up kicking it anywhere near the defensive 50 but out of the centre he's a gem, and there's rarely been a greater day for the Psychic Friends Connection with Jamar. Long live the PFC.

5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - Liam Jurrah
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Nathan Jones

The greatest of apologies to Martin and Gysberts who deserved votes but are squeezed out by the rigid restrictions of the voting system. Second division apologies to Bail, Green, Frawley, Grimes, Wonaeamirri, Bennell and I'll stop there before half the side is named.

9 - Brent Moloney
8 - Colin Sylvia
7 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Rohan Bail, Jared Rivers
1 - Stefan Martin, Nathan Jones

Crowd Watch
Surprisingly quiet on the nutter front today, though some 'disturbed individual' did yell something at me along Southgate Promenade. No idea what, I had headphones in. I expect he was as big a Dees fan as the bloke who stands at Kew Junction dancing for the enjoyment of motorists.

Next Week
I went and watched the Gold Coast/Footscray game yesterday, more for historical purposes than any kind of advanced scouting for next week. Long story short we have everything that is required to beat them and beat them comfortably next week as long as we bring all the pressure that wasn't there in the first quarter today. They didn't look too bad when allowed to link up and run with the ball but when pressured marks were going down, kicks were flying everywhere, handballs were missing their targets. They're all 13-years-old, what was our excuse for the last four years?

They had absolutely no forward line and Lake ran off them effortlessly in a way that should having Frawley penciling in three Brownlow votes right now and despite the defence being one of their alleged strong points the Dogs cut them up on the lead going inside 50 time and time again. Shame we don't appear to ever kick to a leading player so it probably won't work as well for us. Imagine if we had a Barry Hall, he'd spend all his time on the half-back flank.

Campbell Brown getting himself rubbed out won't hurt, but we should have stomped them even if he was there. It's the first time they've played a non-rock solid finals contender so they'll surely fancy their chances of springing an upset at home. I'm not totally discounting the prospect either but that's more part of the traditional MFC defense mechanism of setting the standards remarkably low so that you're either not disappointed or are right. Last time we started such an overwhelming favourite? Probably only thing in the same ballpark would have been the second time we played wooden spoon bound Carlton in '06.. and lost. Well there's an omen for you.

Demonblog will be reporting live and exclusive from The Gabba along with the other 27 fans in attendance. The only other two times I've been to the Gabba I got on the E's with some random freak in a pub the first time before witnessing a financial transaction involving a lot of $50 notes and pillow case size bag of grass and then the next time I slept in a car like a bloody tramp after forgetting to book a hotel room so don't be concerned if you don't hear from me for a few days after the match. If we lose don't even bother coming back because I'll be in the custody of the Queensland cops doing the Andrew Krakouer handcuffs gesture.

Was it worth it?
A win is a win is a win.

Sunday 3 April 2011

National Shite Day

It's a good thing I now live 35 minutes walk from the MCG instead of five because at the final siren tonight I was ready to come on here and just unleash the biggest torrent of abuse at everything football related.

If you go back and look at some of the most darkest and disturbed posts of the last few years most of them came during 08/09 when I was home, trudging glumly down Punt Road and abusing people who asked "who won" out of cars, before the bile had a chance to settle. Also didn't help that we were a god awful slopfest over those two years, one that was lucky not to be throw out of the league for being a waste of space.

But we always had 'the future' to look forward to. Everyone was about 13-years-old, there were draft picks to come and if we could just rort the draft enough we'd have two picks at the top end of the table to go on top of a #4 and #1 that we'd already racked up through sheer legitimate ineptitude.

Fast forward a few years and we're still waiting for "the future" to come to realisation. Imagine how many times Richmond fans have thought that they were seconds away from being the next big thing and ask yourself if you could cope with that happening to us.

We toughed it out against Sydney last week when they could have run away from us early, and if you listen to the footy media their win over Essendon today means that they've beaten the winner of the next 20 premierships so who knows what it actually meant. What I know is that on the day we were dragged over the line by Moloney and his 300 centre clearances plus the tiring Swans botched handling of the dreaded sub rule. More than once we were exposed for pace by Sydney but they stuffed it up and we nearly pinched it.

There were good signs out the yin-yang but the deficiences were there as well. It's no good hiding behind the "we're a young team" tag any more. Half the teams in the competition are 'young teams' but it doesn't seem to do too badly for them because the kids are surrounded by quality players who bring their A-Game every week and protect their inexperienced teammates. We've got Sylvia and Jamar consistently performing, another level of guys like Moloney and Davey flitting in and out and another entirely of 50+ game players who are either giving us nothing or can't even get a game (Matthew Bate - where are they now?).

I'd love to have Brad Green in the category of people who are there week in, week out - and last year only Jamar but challenge him as our most consistently good, but I have no idea what he's supposed to be doing this year. Seems to me like the poor bastard is having barely any impact on games whatever it is. Looks good when he goes forward once or twice a game, why can't we leave him there? We actually played with some sort of forward targets in the first half tonight and it worked - would there be any harm in having him down there most of the game? He's a good user of the ball but surely, SURELY we have other players we can use around the ball with confidence while he goes forward and kicks another 50 goals for the year?

Maybe not - for a team who have drafted midfielders galore for the best part of the last five years we sure don't look to have too much in reserve in the centre. Scully obviously wouldn't hurt, until he dicks us and goes off to the V>Line uniform team, and McKenzie would at least throw some grunt and tackling pressure in. Then there's Morton who is more chance of winning the Melbourne Cup aboard Phar Lap than he is of ever being an in-and-under player - which is fine as long as he can be a dangerous fancy outside player, and he's only shown brief flashes of that so far. A nation awaits.

We've seen some utter garbage over the last few years but the performance of today's midfield in the third quarter was something to behold. Your nominations in the comments please but I'd rate it the worst quarter we have played since the Friday night against Geelong when they were 53-0 up at quarter-time (and lest we ever forget the bizarre range of goalkickers from that night). Poor Jamar just had to keep contesting knowing that no matter what he did the Hawks would hoover the ball up off the deck and go forward unchallenged. Only Sylvia showed any resistance to the rampaging Hawthorn beast. Everyone else went missing, and while you can give some of them the benefit of the doubt of an off day there are others who are just nowhere near it at the moment.

But did we make any changes to our centre structure? If we did they must have been subtle because it looked to me like a case of concede a couple of points, finally cop a goal, have it go back to the centre and be tapped straight into the hands of a Hawks player who pumps it forward to repeat the process again. Amazing isn't it how often we are victims of the same thing over and over and over again in a game? It looked to me like the only thing we did to try and stem the rampant beast was for the entire team to stack the backline and try to keep them at bay - at about the six goal mark it should have been clear that this wasn't going to work. As usual there were multiple opposition players running around without anybody near them, but when we got the ball nobody could find a loose player unless they were going across the ground or backwards.

Let's rewind to the start though, because there's about 15 minutes when we were suddenly looked like world beaters and that deserves to be committed to writing lest we all - myself particuarly - forget it ever takes place in the midst of all the angst about how we played three-quarters of an hour of schoolyard footy.

Be entirely honest, you know that we were lucky to even be in the game after the first ten minutes, let alone within striking distance. Roughhead got his customary charity goal courtesy of the Federal "Children Who Survived Abortions" Act of 1989 and they cut us up for the first few minutes, missing just enough to keep it interesting. It wasn't looking good from the kick-ins either, they had us covered down field and had clearly done their maths on the amount of times Grimes/Tapscott/Davey kick to themselves before disposing of it because they were all over that little play. First the entire league works out we always kick it to Jamar near the boundary and now this?

Suddenly we kick three goals in a row, the Hawks are 1.8 and we're in front. Made absolutely no sense. My highlight of the goals was the Watts pack mark. It was a quality grab considering that Jones should never have kicked it at him in a million years considering he had three Hawks standing around him. Would be nice if we could see JW as a marking target inside 50 more rather than trying to do finesse things on the wing that he's not all that good at - but that's just crazy talk, who am I to tell trained football professionals what to do? It was about the only time he was allowed inside 50 all day anyway but what a mark.

The truth of the matter was that the Hawks were killing us everywhere but on the scoreboard, we grabbed the lead off them on the break but it was all misleading in the context of the game. It wasn't entirely unsustainable, after all we've had worse starts and gone onto win before (a long time before) so if you'd got the lead despite being beaten up all around the ground so much the better but it wasn't a true indication of where we were at in the first quarter.

Considering the way we'd played for the first ten minutes, and the fact that they'd had 10 scoring shots to four I was more than satisfied to go in a point behind. Who would have thought that we were going to see a quarter of absolutely liquid football.

The Hawks had their issues with injury during the quarter but it hardly explained the way we cut them up for the first twenty minutes. We were killing them out of the middle, Franklin was doing all his work 70m from goal instead of where he could actually do some damage, everyone forgot Bruce was even playing and by christ we were actually kicking to targets. When Jamar took that huge mark I nearly unfurled a banner that read "THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT". When Trengove (not sure how to take his game) snapped that goal and we were 27 points in front I was still in no way confident that we were going to win but at least it gave us the sort of buffer which should have meant we played until at least half the last quarter with a fighting chance of victory.

Problem was that for all the freewheeling excitement of our period of dominance the moment Bateman got that goal - with the worst kick I've seen go through since Nathan Carroll's helicopter at Telstra Dome - the game completely turned on its head. Like a switch had been flicked off we stopped running again and should have copped another goal straight after Bateman the goose hadn't kicked it out on the full from 20m out. Half-time came just at the right time for us - or so it seemed anyway - because all of a sudden after we'd played perfect, cavalier football which slashed them to ribbons for 20 minutes they were about to run right over the top of us. Plenty of time to regroup and come back for the third quarter eh? You'd have thought so.

Then there was Cyril Rioli biffing Nathan Jones. We've all thought about doing it but nobody ever has before. No matter what Bruce McAvaney might froth over him Cyril's always struck me as a bit of a wanker and today was no exception. Looked fairly tame from where I was, and when Jones went down at first I thought he'd thrown a big Hayden Ballantyne style fake to try and milk the free kick. Even having seen the replays it still looks a bit pissweak, he must have just caught Jones completely out of the blue and winded him. Give them both a week so they can think about what they've done.

Of course the grand revival had to start with Bruce of all people. I thought it was a bit uncharitable to boo him on one of the rare occasions that he got a touch in the first half, but a'la Shane Woewodin's first game against us he retrospectively justified it by acting like a tit when he kicked the goal. Nothing new for us, we've been watching him be responsible for opposition goals for three years what's the difference if he's wearing a poo brown jumper with an angry chicken on it?

Problem was that they were missing set shots galore and were completely unable to clear it. Eight/nine/ten point plays have never been so popular. Petterd got a steadier at the other end - and you know when you're kicking steadiers at the 10m mark of the third term you're in trouble - and he could have had another soon after but from the moment he missed onwards we were dead. Nifty Nev Jetta stuffed up a mark at the 50m mark and allowed them to goal and the avalanche was on.

Unfortunately for all their pre-season form neither Jetta or Maric have done anything earth shattering in the last fortnight. Jet was ok in the first half but what about a hint of some of those blockbuster tackles from the Lions practice match? Or is it just that Brisbane are so terrible they let him do it - and still beat us by five goals. Joyful. Keep that in mind next week when you're hurling pieces of brick at the team bus as it pulls out of the MCG under police guard.

Maric hasn't even had the luxury of a half decent quarter. Tonight I'm being even more emo than he usually is but there's no argument that he's bombed massively in the last two weeks. It didn't really make any sense for him to be sub but you could hardly give him the boot entirely after his form earlier in the year or risk him self immolating in the middle of Casey Fields. I suspect that with the way we completely fell apart and lost run in the third quarter that they'll go with a midfielder in the stupid bib next week. Gysberts if I get my way.

One thing I noticed with Maric, and it's got nothing to do with his surly demeanour for once, was that when the two sides came back after half-time he wasn't involved in the drills the rest of the team was doing and was kicking around with some runner/trainer instead. What sort of way is that to run a team? Conversely Jordan Lewis was right in the mix with his teammates - stupid bib and all - and why not? You're all teammates for god's sake, it's not like they're somehow separate from the rest of the group because they haven't been out there since the first bounce. Obviously wasn't his choice to do it, no matter how much of a boon it would be for his stereotype as a depressed teenage loner, but whoever decided that he shouldn't be involved with the rest of the group needs a slap.

The backline went to shit a bit in the end but it's no bloody wonder when the poor bastards were forced to defend for 45 minutes straight. Luke Tapscott is magic and I don't begrudge him an OOF and a botched kick across the goalmouth because he'd been under siege with barely a break for almost an hour - in his second game. Never dropped his head, never stopped going hard for it or gave up. Could be the next Jared Rivers - looked good for a season, looked ok for a season, looked shite for a season, was injured the rest of the time - for all I know but at the moment he's got such an ironfisted grip on the Rookie Of The Year award that it would take Jeremy Howe or Lucas Cook having a second half of the year worthy of the great Jakovich himself to pinch it.

Same goes for Grimes in a more Gysberts-style school drama captain and all around good guy way. When you're called upon to defend a million inside 50's (and I'd love to say how many but the ever informative AFL website is currently showing not a single player stat - because it's shit) then you're going to cock things up and they're going to kick goals. Best look further upfield and ask your teammates why they're letting it come down there every fifteen seconds. At times it actually was every fifteen seconds.

Frawley was rustier than a Latvian submarine early on but that's no knock on him, after all he hadn't played a single game this year before tonight. Not even a cheap intraclub where he got to stitch up some rookie list hack. Considering where he was coming from he got a lot better as the game went on and should be absolutely firing in a few weeks time. Garland was good as well but in a case of the fickle finger of fate jamming itself deep into our eyeball and poking around he's done something indeterminate to his knee and is either out for a week or a year depending on who you listen to. Isn't life wonderful? I'll be shattered if it's the latter because he was one of the big success stories of last season - and if we're going to cop 75 inside 50's to 35 again (thank god for Twitter, providing the stats where THE LEAGUE ITSELF CANNOT BE BOTHERED) I'd much rather have him down there than Macdonald, Warnock or McNamara. Even the Stefan Martin Experience has proven himself too valuable around the ground to go back permanently - and I never thought I'd write that.

The last quarter was just junk time from start to end. Everyone was stuffed, our sub was adding nothing to the run and Hawthorn lost interest. Always seems to happen when they play us for some reason. We did a handful of nice things - including actually kicking a goal or two - but the sting was well and truly out of it. The only interest left was whether anybody in the backline would collapse from the weight of having carried their teammates for so long. Just to recap we suffered 75 inside 50's and neither Franklin nor #2 member of the Chernobyl Child Society (#1 ticketholder is Mitch Robinson) Roughhead kicked a bag. Just stop and think about that for a second if you're intending on bagging our defenders for their job today.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Luke Tapscott
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Jack Grimes
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Stefan Martin

Apologies in no rational order to Bartram, Davey, Garland, Green and Jamar.

8 - Colin Sylvia
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year and Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Brent Moloney
3 - Jack Grimes
3 - Colin Garland
2 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Stefan Martin

Crowd Watch
Very bizarre activities in the top deck of the Ponsford tonight. A couple of old men with old tyme transistors radios held to the ear at right angles (don't their arms get sore?) showing complete ignorance of the invention of headphones thirty years ago, some underdressed norgs-out women who must have died of hypothermia later in the game and a kid who I conceded must have been somewhat special because he was wearing a lumberjack flannel shirt, a case of teenage bumfluff so severe it made Dunn look normal and at half time was spotted donning one of those comedy wigs with the tassels.

But the most baffling performance of the evening came from the young couple sitting next to us. They spent the whole first half canoodling to the point where I wanted to yell "I think he's gonna pork her" a'la National Lampoon's European Vacation. Young love and all that, good on them but then it gets properly sinister. It's not quite going along the same path as that famous video of the couple shagging in the Sydney Football Stadium but it's not far from.

Bored shitless during the break I casually glance towards them over the top of my comrade Adam 2 and the young lass has her phone out openly and proudly scrolling through clearly homemade shots of herself in the buff. Being the gentleman I am I looked away immediately and instead engaged 2.0 to turn around have a look. He confirmed that she was indeed scrolling through shots of herself with the baps out in some suburban livingroom. Incredible. Would have been great to be the guy sitting behind her, he would have been having the time of his life. One of the stranger things I've ever seen at a game I must admit, and was roughly the only good thing to occur from the 20 minute mark of the second quarter onwards.

Also worth noting is the shambolic Hawthorn pre-match "entertainment". Was it the game that ruined our finals hopes last year (which is laughable considering what followed) where there was a goalkicking competition consisting entirely of recovering drug addicts? Maybe it was Richmond. Either way it was bizarre to see microphones shoved into people's faces asking them what they'd (allegedly) gone cold turkey on shortly before they tried to drill one from 30m out on an angle to win cash and prizes (and gee, I wonder how long it took for that cash to be exchanged for goods somewhere out the back of Grey Street?).

Today's thrilling offering featured a bunch of members lined up to try and win some indeterminate prize by picking random keys off a table and trying to open a box. As far as dynamic and exciting competitions went it was below "local mayor spins wheel at school fete" level. About four people in somebody's key opened the box and the other six contestants were told to piss off.

Then in what must be the most cringeworthy thing since we raised the non-premiership flag to the acid jazz stylings of old mate in his velvet jacket last week the Hawks players ran out with #1's on their training jackets to "represent the fans" (buckets of vomit nearly followed that announcement) and then proceeded to tear them off and run to the fence to hand them out to the fans. Sadly for the cavalcade of kids - and god damn it I hope they were all kids - who ran from everywhere to get to the fence as if the Black Thunder had shown up and was giving out bottles of Pepsi Max and copies of New Weekly the very nature of the gimmick was that there were only 21 to give out (amusingly the sub couldn't take his off because he had his council worker vest on over it) and so they all did death defying runs down the steps of the bottom deck only to end up empty handed.

Wouldn't you be shattered not to get your hands on a genuinely sweat stained item from David Hale? Yes, you'd just be gutted. Even worse if you got it and it had bits of synthetic hair all over it. Watch out for about 15 of them to be offered on Ebay tomorrow.

The final insult was when the scoreboard tried to get a HAW! THORN! chant going with a pre-recorded video only to be greeted with absolute silence by their devoted fans. If it's a choice between velvet jacket hitting bum notes in the Superman theme or this kind of crack induced marketing garbage then I'll never bag the trumpeteer again.

Do people really need to be entertained? We really haven't come very far since the Hyde Street Primary School brass band used to patrol the boundary line at half-time at the Western Oval or the time an elephant randomly showed up at Arden Street.

Kampaign Korner
Yesterday I realised that nobody other than Jobe Watson, Mick Malthouse and myself cares about the sub rule when I rang up SEN to go bananas about it and was followed by two other callers who vigorously disagreed (i.e nigh on abused) me for being against it. Fancy trying to start a people's rebellion and finding out the people aren't actually interested - now I know how Tony Abbott feels.

So, the #no2subrally is cancelled. I give up. Let's just roll over, swallow the lies and take it up the keister from the league while we wait for their next brainwave built on manipulated statistics. I pledge not to go on about it anymore lest I end up being the football equivalent of Andrew Bolt and Climate Change - a zealous nutbag hectoring people about something they don't actually care about.

Just remember, will you be the person who says "When they came to take the fourth interchange player I didn't cry out, when they came to bring in the 9 point goal I didn't cry out" etc.. etc..?

Casey Corner
They won with Gysberts, Evans and Wonaeamirri prominent in the midfield - and in Wona's case surprise surprise that they can't just enjoy a good thing and leave him forward - but the most terrifying thing was Juice booting five. We've not heard the last of him yet I fear.

I'm not going to swing the axe yet in this week's game of Fantasy Selection Committee. Garland goes out with his injury and is, I suppose, replaced by Macdonald. Maric takes his March Champion award back to the VFL to try and get a kick before having another crack at it and I'll bring Gysberts in start as sub (grrr, no wait I'm taking it seriously now like a good little sycophant) and give us some life in the midfield coming off the bench.

Jones and Jetta survive but go into final warning territory. Knowing my luck they'll probably name The Spencil again and this time it won't be a carefully constructed, early April's Fool gag like it was last Thursday night.

Next Week
Surely there's no possible way that we can lose to Brisbane. It's possible but it just could not happen. There's no way they could put a spurt like the Hawks did in their wildest dreams at the moment, but I'll tell you what if we do something contrive to lose I'll come on here and go absolutely troppo. The post might have to go through the Demonblog legal department for the all clear to make sure I don't get sued.

It's a blessing and a curse for Bailey and Co to be playing the Queensland comedy clubs over the next fortnight because in all seriousness we should end up 2-1-1 and be right back in the mix, hopefully with some structure and confidence about the place, but if we don't there's going to be rioting in the streets and effigies being burnt.

I'm bulk buying petrol and unused effigies from Indian cricket fans just in case.

Final thoughts
"Don't take it to heart" said a patronising opposition supporter on Twitter tonight, completely missing the point of my antics on here for the last six years and two weeks. Sound advice, unlikely to ever be followed.