Saturday 25 June 2011

Let them burn and we shall all clap our hands

Match of the round status, a thumping last start victory and 60,000 people watching on in the only game in Victoria of a Saturday. What could possibly go wrong? Especially considering that even during our darkest days we've either beaten Richmond or had to cheat so openly and disgracefully that we still almost won despite playing Matthew Warnock at full-forward.

As I said in last week's post, which in review was clearly written with the sort of half-Ararat that only a 15 goal win can cause, something felt right about this match-up. It's no knock on Richmond as a team, who if they can avoid self imploding and throwing it away like so many others in the last 30 years should turn out to be quite good, and not just for one season this time. What last week showed us is that when the defensive matchups don't hang our players out to dry, and when we've got a decent forward structure which features both lead and crumb we're not a bad side. Not worldbeaters by any stretch, but at least good enough to put forth a decent campaign around the lower reaches of the eight.

What we have seen in the last few weeks is that our biggest problem was getting it inside 50. Essendon let us get away with it because they were inept until the second half to shake Freo off before poleaxing them. Even the Collingwood game would have been a lot less ugly if we hadn't been thrashed out of the centre. The return of Jamar and the reunion of the Psychic Friends Connection with Moloney couldn't hurt on that front, and with the option of rotating the Russian and the Experience in front of goal we looked even more dangerous down there.

Admittedly for us a "dangerous" forward line is hardly a free-flowing attacking masterclass, but you can't ask for everything at once. It certainly looks better now than any time since 2006 but to take advantage of it you've got to get it in there to start with - and with that you have the makings of the Collingwood debacle.

What we have got is a backline that unless everything goes wrong for them (e.g Collingwood) are absolutely dynamite. Rivers has recovered from his Queen's Birthday nightmare to start doing what he does best again, there's nothing more that needs to be said about how much Garland adds to this team and be completely honest about it how much do you love James Frawley?

The fact that we took Chip one pick before Jack Riewoldt in the '06 draft means that if he hadn't turned into the killer defender that he has we'd forever have been subject to "why didn't we" wailing and gnashing of teeth by fans and media, so thank christ that's been avoided. Think how much you wanted to go around to the office of the Herald Sun and kick some tables over when they printed that ludicrous article in their paper about how we should have picked Hurley in front of Watts. If we were still waiting for Frawley to deliver on his promise while Riewoldt was running around winning Coleman Medals you could multiply that by a million.

Right now it's a spectacular win/win for both sides. I'm sure nobody would be complaining if the tables were turned and we'd picked Jack instead but my god could the Tigers have done with Frawley down back today. Problem is that if they'd picked him he'd probably have spent the first five years of his career being gobbed at by freaks who still held a grudge about his uncle's coaching.

Either way both sides can be confident they made the right decisions considering that the next five players picked after Frawley and Riewoldt were James Sellar (21 games), Daniel O'Keefe (delisted at the end of '09), Mitch Brown (four games this year), Shaun Hampson (meh) and Leroy Jetta (double meh). Sometimes the system works, and sometimes your recruiting manager is Craig Cameron.

Ironically it seems that after all that they're set to play on each other in every match between the two sides until the end of time. Riewoldt won the first meeting last year and Frawley towelled him up in the second so the stage was set for what was probably the most crucial battle of the game. Even though he's leading the Coleman Jack hasn't been anything like as dangerous he was last year. But despite that, him being played further up the ground more often and the rumours that he was playing with an injury, the demolition job the Frawley did on him played as big a part as any in our win. The only downer is that his injury at the start of the year, and slow start on return, will probably cost him a back-to-back All Australian spot when he could very well deserve it. How about some of those storming runs he made coming out of defence today? Superstar.

Having said all that you'd never have known we were on the way to a relatively comfortable win seven minutes into the first quarter. Eventually after missing four gettable shots they settled for a ten point play when Dustin Martin, the man who tattoed his own surname across his neck just in case he forgot it, stuffed up my return to the welcoming bosom of the TAB and denied Jamar his god given chance to kick the first goal.

I should have walked away and called Gambler's Helpline when I saw that they were onto the prospect of Russian starting forward and only offered 13-1, but it had taken me long enough to get to the front of the queue that I went through with it and wasted good money that could have been spent fattening up Morton on the finest from The Kaiser's Sausage (who I am still waiting to come on and give me free kransky for endorsing every week).

When Newman added another before we'd even been inside 50 it began to look like another disastrous afternoon of following up a quality performance with some sloppy garbage. At one point the guy in front of me even got overexcited and yelled out "BETTER THAN SCULLY!" when Martin got a touch. Talk to me in October and I'll decide whether or not I agree with that, but acting like a teenage girl (or an epic perve) at a Miley Cyrus concert proved significantly premature by quarter time when we had somehow come back and kicked seven goals.

How much more like the first time we played them last year could you ask for? That day they got the first two goals, dominated us for the first seven minutes yet somehow managed to concede eight goals by quarter time. And what a feature lineup of players you'll never hear from again were on the scoreboard in that quarter Troy Taylor, David Astbury, Matty Bate. Remember the 8th goal when Petterd did the flying dive into the Punt Road end pocket to knock it back in for Bate in the square? Who would have thought it could possibly go wrong for Bater from there? Now he's all but forgotten and almost no chance of a recall unless Jeremy Howe gets hurt.

This year it was dual Green goals which got us back into it. That's two weeks in a row where he's been played in the right spot and has had decent supply, thus allowing him to play like it's 2010 again instead of floundering around the middle of the ground trying to cover gaps that he's not suited to in 2011.

By the end of the quarter, with the bleating about the umpiring already reaching fever pitch, we'd turned the match on it's head by shutting their midfield down and tightening up on their wonky defenders. Ricky Petterd was already well on the way to his record breaking game for tackles inside forward 50 when he set up Howe's goal. Add the Jurrah and Trengove goals and with seconds left we were somehow, mystifyingly almost three goals in front.

But just when you thought it couldn't get any better Watts managed to rort a free out of the umpire by running straight into an opponent and claiming a shepherd before kicking our seventh goal despite the twat who operates the siren trying to stuff him up by blowing it twice during the run-up. Good, and indeed, grief. This was not expected, especially based on the slop served up in the first seven minutes but once we started to put pressure on them they - to quote that bloke out of Dad's Army - didn't like it up 'em and fell apart accordingly.

Pretty much everything from the ten minute mark onwards was an important psychological blow but it mattered not a dot if we didn't follow it up in the second quarter. One of the most frustrating things about us, now that we seem to be moving away from Bailey Quarters just when they were about to become a worldwide sensation (and I'm not declaring them completely eradicated a'la Smallpox just yet) is when we follow up one blistering, high scoring quarter with a shit one. Happened last week, happened in that Round 4 game last year when we followed up 8.1 with 0.6 in the second and more importantly happened in the North game which wound up with us losing comfortably.

After North I won't trust another first quarter lead for the rest of this year. You'd be foolish to trust any five goal first quarter lead these days, and even in the Freo match that was when the shock subsided and we briefly let them get back into it. So hands up who else thought "oh christ, here we go again?" when they dominated us in the opening minutes of the second and got the first two goals? It looked plenty like the first quarter, right down to us winding up out of nowhere and somehow outscoring them in the end.

It was only one goal more, including one to *swoon* the Experience, but it could have been even better. Both Jurrah and Jamar missed fairly gettable goals which would have blow the margin out, but with Hardwick content to waste Deledio on trying to quell Watts they were letting us pretty much do as we pleased. Vickery got a couple early and Riewoldt his only one for the day but we had goalkicking options out the wazoo and used them accordingly.

Incidentally speaking of Jamar his miss of the sitter, which was by my count his third from a similar spot this year, is a good opportunity to bring out my favourite #statmybitchup fact that until the start of this year he was the most accurate set shot of any player since 1987. Ridiculous. Mind you it's discredited slightly by the fact that his 3.4 this year has pushed him below massive names like Michael Murphy, Matthew Capuano and Barnaby French but still, it shows that he's a more reliable kick than he's letting on at the moment.

Still, even though it helps he's not there to kick goals. He's there to dominate the centre bounce, form a Psychic Connection with Moloney and be the target for kick-ins 99% of the time. The spectacular rise of the SME meant that Bailey could be comfortable leaving Stef in the starting bounce today and playing with Jamar forward, but when Richmond started getting on top he threw the Russian back into the middle and that old magic was recaptured. Apparently the PFC are still the #1 ruck/rove combination in the game despite Jamar having missed all those weeks. What does that say? Other than if you stop Moloney we're pretty much rooted.

Stef was good too, and let's be fair he's a much safer kick around the ground, but I can't help but swoon whenever I see a Jamar/Moloney tap cracker. If that was his first game after six weeks watch out in the next month as he gets fully back into it, and watch out for he and the Experience to do some damage on the scoreboard as well. There was even a moment where the SME monstered his opponent in front of goal and I almost passed out from excitement. He didn't mark it in the end, but even though I know he's a fierce competitor when the ball hits the deck I never thought I'd see him throw somebody out of the way with ease. Sure, Richmond's backline is the most intensely pox part of their team but still...

And how much better is Moloney when he's working in combination with Jamar? He's been just ok the last few weeks but it's no coincidence that today was his best game since they tore Adelaide to shreds together six weeks ago. Hard to split my love for our ruck division at the moment considering that Maximum proved such a cult figure during his brief cameo. I'd even give The Spencil a hug right now.

The only thing was concerning me at half time was the chances of us kicking another 12 goals, or near enough to, in the second half. If you took out the first seven minutes of the first two quarters we'd actually put together an entire first half of decent football and even in our best wins we barely managed to do that.

Five of the goals came directly from defensive howlers, and you can't rely on any team to hand you them on a platter for a full four quarters. Though it's not to say it was complete charity though, our forward pressure set a standard that's going to make us look pretty ordinary if they don't put the same kind of intensity into terrifying the very ordinary Footscray and Port over the next few weeks.

For all the tension, and Richmond's early domination, we had the first shot on goal from a crashing Watts pack mark - the sort which makes grown men weep with joy - and even though he missed the Experience got his second soon after and we were out to a 38 point lead. Unfortunately Jack then got sucked in to some handbags at 20 paces biffo in our backline and the umpire, clearly regretting the farce of a free he'd just paid to Stef that led to the goal, gave them the ball in the centre which they instantly converted.

From there we delivered one of the shitest attempts at putting a game away that you'll ever want to see. No doubt we were playing well around the ground but how many times could we have ended it before missed a hurried snap or a set shot? Thank god Tyrone Vickery declined an easy handball to Miller in the square and stuffed up his snap after thinking about it for 2 hours because if that had gone in we could have been in real trouble.

The momentum shift had started after the Watts free, so it was only appropriate that he made up for it by eventually getting our second for the quarter right on the siren. And what a goal too, anyone piece of Jack Magic to make you want to call the Herald Sun switchboard and yell "STICK THAT UP YOUR COLLECTIVE ARSES YOU PURVEYORS OF A RAG WHICH I WOULD NOT USE TO HOUSETRAIN A DOG" to the baffled and traumatised receptionist.

He couldn't have known there was about three seconds on the clock when he chased down Houli in front of goal after Newman had set him up with a rubbish handballs, but how about the hurried snap and evil look on his face when he slotted it just as the siren went? Everyone loves bagging private schoolkids (except Melbourne supporters because most of our fans were one at some point), and not without some justification, but the evil look tells me that he's not only becoming a top shelf forward but that he's also injected swagger into his game.

I once wanted to hire Wayne Carey as our coach (unaware that he was fighting imaginary bats at the time), that's how much I love swagger. Almost as much as I love crumb. So when Jack was doing his post match interview and mentioned that one of the three C's which the forward line are supposed to live by was CRUMB I almost jumped and down in celebration. He's right too, we've had plenty o'crumb the last few weeks (Collingwood debacle excluded) and that can't be a bad thing. It's just a shame that Demonblog's own Emo Maric isn't there to share in the spoils after his crumbtastic performance in junktime against North. Get well soon Emo.

Still, the margin might have been five goals and we might only have lost a couple of points off the lead after botching all those chances but it was by no means over. 17 points below the Chris Sullivan Line I realised that Sullivan had ended his career with Richmond. Omen nearly became reality when they got the first two of the quarter.

Down the other end Green had the chance for a steadier and put it out on the full and it was starting to look a lot like the Essendon game all over again. Luckily it turned out to have the same result. Sylvia's goal steadied the ship, and even though they got another one and could still have nicked it Trengove's third did them in and as the game limped to a conclusion we even got a piece of Jurrahcane piss taking magic when he sold the gigantic dummy around half of their backline and kicked his second.

One thing I learned today while watching Brad Miller going around was just how ludicrous it was when people threw hissy fits about us dumping him at the end of last year. Still, some were shattered when we traded Travis Johnstone and look how that turned out. No offence to Bradforth because he seems like a genuinely nice guy and I'm glad he's getting a game somewhere but his first half showed exactly why it was premature for anybody to lose sleep about us giving him the boot.

Ignoring his ruck cameos, where he was always going to get carved to shreds, he didn't do a great deal for the first three quarters other than setting up the Grigg goal which wouldn't have been a goal if our whole backline hadn't jumped from the same side of the square. Compare and contrast to having Jeremy Howe down there, Watts starting to run riot and the option to play either Jamar or the Experience out of the goalsquare and it tells me that right now Bradforth would be lining up alongside Bate, Dunn, Maric and Fev in a killer VFL forward line but that he'd be a mile off getting a game with us. Would be surprised if he was even at the Tigers next year, but we all know what he's got waiting for him at home so it's fair to say Bradforth is still the overall winner.

After being Milleresque all day I suddenly realised he was on the verge of playing the 30 minutes of his life in that last quarter and knobbing us. He set up two goals and even managed to break even with Jamar at centre bounces a couple of times. Thank god the rest of them couldn't go on with it because after losing to Bruce, McLean and Buckley this year the last thing we needed was for an ex-player to drag his side over the line in an inspirational cameo performance. Pencil in Cheney as BOG when we play Hawthorn again.

Meanwhile it's been great to see the hated (by me anyway) sub rule get a bit of a kicking over the last couple of days, even if much of it has been driven by the sooks from Windy Hill, but the bad news is that for the rest of this year at least we're going to have to deal with it. Given that can we agree that Morton just doesn't work in that role?

After a fortnight of decent, if unspectacular, performances he donned the traffic controller vest and proceeded to stink the joint up with two shockers from his first three kicks after replacing Macdonald. He recovered a bit as the game went on but if you're going to bring somebody into a close game they can't need time to get confidence. One of these days we're going to be involved in a real thriller and the Sad Panda is going to get crucified if he comes on and makes a costly cockup.

Not sure who else you'd have had as the sub from our team yesterday - I was more than happy with Bennell on field - but if you're not going to pick somebody who can make an impact coming off the bench then just don't pick them in the first place. It's a shit rule and the sooner we see the back of it (or at least extend it to 4+1 on the bench so it becomes the domain of fringe players as it deserves to be) the better.

For all our attempts to kick ourselves out of it and let them back in it was still a significant win. Richmond fans will tell you they were robbed by the umpires (and the guy who rang Triple M to say they would have won by 12 goals if it wasn't for the umps was a classic) but it wasn't the guys in green who caused Vickery to give Miller nothing. They were doing fine in rorting themselves out of the four points without having to worry about the umpires - who were pretty ordinary both ways - hurting them. Still, sook if it makes you feel better you won't get anything out of it other than a phone bill for thousands of dollars from calling every sports talkback program in the world to tell your story.

To be entirely honest I was bursting with pride inside, but had no desire to stand around and celebrate what should be the second step in a four match winning streak which sets us up for a legitimate crack at the finals. If we win next week I'll start celebrating. The downside of this lack of celebration was that I walked out of the ground, past the Kaiser's Sausage (P.S - I WILL MENTION YOU EVERY WEEK FOR ONE FREE CHEESE KRAINER AT EVERY MATCH) and onto the bridge towards Flinders Street to realise I was the only person in a sea of hundreds who wasn't a Richmond fan. If they'd decided to kill me right there nobody would have known. Thank god all the real top shelf freaks are locked in down the other end of the ground.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
I've got a feeling, having seen a few sets of votes that are completely different, that opinions might vary on the top five and which order they go in. If you violently disagree please send death threats on a postcard to the usual address.

I feel a bit sad that I couldn't somehow push Petterd up the rankings just for the defensive game he turned in today. Forget the fact that he cracked the record for I50 tackles, but have you ever seen a bigger contrast between somebody's performance with the ball and without it? His possessions heinous (33% and that includes handballs) but he was ferocious when he didn't have it. Never did I think anybody who botched two thirds of their touches would ever not only win a vote but that I'd feel he deserved more but that's how good it was. Wouldn't expect to see Dunn win a recall anytime soon if Ricky's going to play like that.

Also can I freely admit that I've got a rude mancrush on Jordie McKenzie? He didn't totally destroy Cotchin today, but he did enough to make sure he wasn't a factor. I'm surprised at him only having five tackles because he always seemed to be there when somebody was tackled - probably because he's forever lurking, ready to leap on some poor bastard when they're vulnerable. Even looked comfortable kicking it today which is a huge step up from last week.

So after tossing up between the top two for about half an hour I eventually settled on the Million Dollar Manchild. Long may he reign.

5 - Jack Watts
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - Jordie McKenzie
2 - James Frawley
1 - Ricky Petterd

Gigantic apologies to Martin, Jones, Green, Trengove and Garland. Slightly less to Scully, Jurrah, Sylvia, Gysberts and Nicholson. Most others at least good.

It's a tie at the top, but with Watts and the entire ruck division lurking closely behind. Elsewhere Frawley has finally put his nose in front in the Seecamp and you'd want to back him home from here.

23 - Colin Sylvia, Brent Moloney
17 - Jack Watts
16 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Stefan Martin
11 - Jordie McKenzie, James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Jared Rivers
9 - Joel Macdonald
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Jack Trengove, Rohan Bail
4 - Michael Evans, Brad Green, Tom Scully
3 - Ricky Petterd, Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta

Crowd Watch
Once again the Ponsford Stand, around me at least, remained the bastion of all that is good and right with the world and despite being almost entirely surrounded by Richmond fans there wasn't a single moment of tension. I think that for Tigers games they make anybody who turns up in a gypsy caravan sit in the Southern Stand so that's probably where all the best action was. They can have it, I'm too old to be involving myself in wild scenes.

The only time I felt that it was about to kick off was when Watts got the free for the shephard at the end of the first quarter and the guy across the aisle and one row back went off his nut. Out the corner of my eye I thought he was about to throw a can (!?) in my direction and flinched at it. No, I did not spend the game tripping on acid so god knows where that came from. Expect that it had something to do with being in shock from the last 15 minutes of the quarter.

Speaking of the first quarter, halfway through it I saw one of the most shameless breaches of footy etiquette of all time. Now, tell me if I'm living in Cloud Cuckoo Land but if you want to get to the middle of an aisle is it not accepted that you stop at the end, get the attention of the first person then wait for them and everyone else to stand up one by one as you walk in?

Not so this Richmond gent. Despite the fact that he was carrying a coffee in one hand and a tiny kiddy backpack over his other shoulder (which is always a stranger danger alert as far as I'm concerned) he bounded up the stairs to the row in front of me and plowed straight through them without warning and with the coffee precariously hanging over the row in front threatening to scorch them at any minute. He then pushed through the startled crowd, almost to the other side of the aisle without waiting for one person to move for him. Mannerless peasant. Needless to say he wasn't wearing red and/or blue.

Ridiculously the first Richmond fans to pull the pin and leave went halfway through the third quarter after Jurrah marked on the lead. Never mind that he hadn't converted the kick yet or that countless teams have lost games from five goals in front in the third quarter, the moment the ball hit his hands, they stood up, waved to their friends and were gone. Don't worry that he missed, they would have been halfway up platform 8 at Richmond Station by the time the Tiges made it interesting in the last term and in Pakenham by the final siren.

The real exodus began with Sylvia's goal, and gradually a world record number of women with bald spots and/or men wearing team merchandise clearly found at Savers drifted out. By the time Trengove goalled the numbers of our supporters to theirs in Q34 had almost evened up, and by the end there were about three empty rows around me. Something tells me that a large number of them came expecting a win and were moderately disappointed about it. Wah, and indeed wah. Though it's not like our lot aren't guilty of the same thing.

You know why I like Richmond? Because you can use all the jokes about their fans that you would for Collingwood if they weren't so good. I wonder what happened to the guy who sat there at this game singing the Tiges theme song with altered lyrics about putting Terry Wallace in the electric chair.

Koaching Korner
Without delving completely into #welovehird/#sackhird territory you'd have to think the market on Bailey staying or going has been thrown into disarray over the last fortnight. It could all still go tits up so don't buy stock in him yet but today was a big step forward. Which is terrible news for all of you who had a sneaky fiver on the bloke out of the Deep Heat ad taking over. All I can do to comfort you is reveal that in a desperate attempt to find a picture of the Team Deep Heat coach I went onto their website and discovered that their product promises you "special 3 way action". Which is probably the best offer you'll ever get out of this page.

Personal Computing Corner - presented by Kaspersky Lab and
There's nothing more tragic, yet simultaneously hilarious, than supporters being rolled into posting impassioned defences of their club when somebody has a pot shot at it online.

Shamefully we've all been there, sometimes it might have even been justified, but if you didn't read this thread before the match then do yourself a favour and take it in now before somebody gets murdered and it's taken away as evidence.

There should be one thing written above all forums, and which users should be forced to print out and put above their computer before they're allowed to post, IT DOES NOT MAKE A SPOT OF DIFFERENCE IN REAL LIFE WHAT SOMEBODY WRITES ABOUT YOUR CLUB ON THE INTERNET. Popular legend has it that we're sexually aroused by snow and love nothing more than plowing down a mountain yelling PIP PIP old chap! This is unlikely to be true (though I've not been near snow since I spent a week hiding from it playing Galaga in a chalet during an 80's family holiday so what do I know?) but people are going to drag it out for the rest of time and that’s ok.

What do you do? You could smile knowingly, nod and admit that although it is a massive fiction that you'd rather be thought of as velvet jacket toting ski bunnies than heroin addicted armed robbers. Alternatively you could go out and try to round up some actual heroin addicted armed robbers to come along and cause a scene for the media, but what you should never, ever do – and take this from somebody who has been shamefully reading internet forums since the days when it took an hour just to see one boob come up on the net – is take it to heart and launch a furious, keyboard mashing defence of your club’s integrity/origin/supporter base. Because, and please look up above your monitor at the sign you have just printed out and stuck up, IT DOES NOT MAKE A SPOT OF DIFFERENCE IN REAL LIFE WHAT SOMEBODY WRITES ABOUT YOUR CLUB ON THE INTERNET.

Still, if you think it's going to get us somewhere by going into bat against 14-year-olds from Deer Park then go for your life.

Next Week
That was the hard one. The problem from here is not that we're playing Footscray (unconvincing, Ed Barlow starring) and Port (rancid song, hacks galore) but where the matches are being played.

Next Friday night against the Dogs we fully deserve to go in red hot favourites considering that they've served up two unconvincing wins against rubbish sides but I don't need to tell you how hideous we've been at Docklands during the Bailey era. The Dogs have gone from being shite to good and back again since we last won a game at that place. And what an afternoon it was too, with Ben Holland running riot and Jace Bode making his long awaited (!?) debut.

Since then we've lost a full ten in a row, but at least there were times during both our games there this year that we did look alright so against doctor's orders I'm getting sucked in and picking us. How long does it seem since that first Jamar-less quarter against North with Juice pretending he was John Coleman up front? More of that, less of the majority of the other 43 quarters (including pre-season matches) we've turned in there since 2008.

Then for pure financial reasons we play Port in Darwin where anything could happen.
Move it back to the MCG and we'd go in $1.10 favourites with a massacre on the cards, but put it in the humid conditions where they've already won this season and it's anything but a certainty.

At least we've got form there after last year's win. Who will ever forget Leigh Colbert conducting one of the finest post-match interviews of all time with an exhausted Jamar seated on the turf of TIO Stadium? More importantly who'll ever forget Miller kicking a career high five goals in his last great moment shortly before getting the arse.

Then it gets interesting. You can all but write off the game in Geelong (why am I going? Even worse, why am I considering catching a V-Line train there?) but if we can win against one of Carlton or Hawthorn then we're putting ourselves right in the mix. If we win both the lid will be torn off and hurled into the sky with such vigour that it will start orbiting the earth.

Of course we're operating in a different world to the likes of Carlton and Hawthorn. After what we've been through for the last few years just making the eight is treated like a major milestone. Small steps. Some subscribe to the theory that it's better to miss out than to just fall in, get thrashed and wind up with Matthew Knights being sacked acrimoniously. I spit on that theory and would dearly like to update this page at least once before the end of the year.

So, on Friday night can everyone just put their hatred of Etihad Stadium aside and show up? Apparently Joel Mac might miss, so pending any mystery injuries and with Casey having the bye this week I'll bring Tapscott in for him if fit. The shame for J.Mac is that after his best month of the season he might never get back in if Tappy plays like he did at the start of the year.

Was it worth it?
If you watched on TV you had to listen to Dwayne Russell. So it most certainly was.

Let's do it all again in Round 22.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Rollercoaster of Love

Victory. Don't it make you, as Paul Robinson off Neighbours reminded us way back in 1989, feel good?

I'm not going to come on here and lie about how I saw it coming. Some did and for that I applaud you, but maybe you don't suffer from the same chronic Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome (MSDS) as I do. Certainly when it came time to hurriedly do tips on Friday afternoon the Dockers were pencilled in without hesitation.

It's the MSDS that made me look beyond their ridiculously long injury list and the fact that they're as bad at the MCG as we are everywhere else other than the MCG. It's what made me think that somehow titans of the game like Clayton Hinkley and Ben Bucovaz would put in the same level of performance as the Pies did last week. It wasn't that we lost to the best team in the land last week, it was how we played and yada yada yada that's an argument to be had six days ago, let's talk about today instead and how wrong I - mercifully - was.

As promised early in the post about Monday's game I'm treating today's performance in complete isolation and not projecting anything forward about next week. Ok, maybe a little bit but there'll certainly be no going right over the top Darryl Eastlake style about it. The lid is not only firmly on, but I'm welding it up and throwing the whole pot down a copper mine in Mt Isa just to make sure there's no chance of getting overexcited about beating the brains out of an injury riddled team who spent the entire second half serving up utter filth that even we'd have been embarassed by at our lowest moments.

But next week is a problem to be solved on Saturday afternoon, for now let's talk about our biggest ever win against the Dockers. Hard to believe that we were four goals better today than that classic afternoon late in 2009 when it was pissing rain, nobody cared about us any more because we were filthy tankers and about 15 people showed up to see us thrash them. Since then Freo have turned out to actually be quite good, as long as they're not at the 'G anyway, before losing pretty much every quality player they've got to injury other than Pavlich.

There was some suggestion during the week that both Jamar and Sandilands were a chance of returning for a clash of the (not entirely fit) titans, and while we were robbed out of Russian vs Giraffe when neither of them made it at least it meant another week of Maximum Gawn Mania, a celebration of the next big thing in cult figures. If you could guarantee me that we'd still win by 15 goals I'd love to have seen Sandilands vs Gawn. Giraffe Jr. might have been thrashed but who wouldn't want to see the two most gigantic bastards in the competition jumping at each other?

Still, if you thought our tall men stocks were slightly wonky without Jamar how much must the Dockers hierachy have had to be held from jumping out the window when Kepler Bradley had to be withdrawn late? Ironically we've emerged from the Russian injury disaster with some credit thanks to the Stef Martin Experience thriving and Gawn being far better than he had any right to be based on the handful of VFL games he played before being promoted. Between them they comfortably looked after the all-star combination of Jonathan Griffin and Zac Clarke, and even though we did get beaten out of the middle for most of the first half it was anything but a disaster considering what we were doing around the ground.

Just think, if the Spencil hadn't done his knee and Juice his whatever we'd probably not have seen Maximum until later in the year, and then we'd have to have waited to have our suspicions about his cult figure status confirmed. His goal today was nearly my highlight of the whole thing, especially considering that farcical miss in the dying minutes against Essendon. Still say they should play this after every goal he kicks so we can sing along with MAXI! MAXIMUM! WHOA OH!

Gysberts going out late was a blow to us, but who could have forseen just how good Nicholson would be as a replacement? Finally given the chance to play a full four quarters instead of donning the council worker vest and riding an exercise bike for three quarters he was immense - especially considering that this time last year he was running around getting paid not a cracker in the amateurs. I see what they meant about explosive pace when he was drafted, the way he burnt off a cavalcade of nobodies and kicked that goal today was magic. It's suicidal to rate people on their first few games (you're talking to the guy who gave Kyle Cheney five votes on debut, but that was more due to the rest of the team being shite) but I'm putting him next to Maximum in my "Sure fire hits, absolutely no way they can turn out to be rubbish and make me look foolish" list. Tapscott would be there as well but I'm restricting it to players taken at pick 30 or under.

In retrospect the first quarter was great fun, but I have to admit to sitting there at the time being a depressed bastard wondering when it was all going to go horribly wrong. We weren't dominating out of the middle by any stretch, but with Scully going around getting touches at will (each one of them accompanied by this noise. At 100 touches he would have gotten an extra life), Freo botching chances up front and our backline returning to what they do best instead of being monstered by Donkey Kong style freaks we were by far the better team. "If we started winning this out of the centre we'd win by a 100" I said, unintentionally getting something perfectly right for once.

Now, like a handful of other people I was at the ground with no access to the television commentary but I will guarantee you every day of the week that there is no way whoever was calling the game for Fox would have been able to resist that old chestnut when Green smashed home the opener off the ground from close range. You just know that if Dwayne Russell (P.S - Best thread ever) had been there he'd have let rip with something like "THAT'S A GEM! HE SHORTS IT THROUGH THE GOALS JUST LIKE HE DID AT OLD TRAFFORD WHEN HE PLAYED FOR MANCHESTER UNITED! THAT COULD BE THE FIRESTARTER!" Sadly for me, but luckily for anybody who was watching on TV, he's doing the Port/Eagles game instead, where he will almost certainly suggest that "the firestarter" has just been kicked when Port snag a lucky one while 72 points behind. Still, at least if you're going to make cliched references to Green doing anything on the field not involving his hands at least today's effort would legitimately have been a goal in soccer unlike the one against Essendon which would have been more likely to decapitate somebody sitting in Row Z than trouble the keeper.

The question is did they also chance their arm on a soccer comment when Sylvia toe poked the second through? Slightly less risk to making comment about that spot of bother he had with his missus that time. Back to more savoury things I loved that goal because of the way he chased it right to the line before smashing it home after having jumped in the contest. Also because they played it in slo-mo on the scoreboard and even though the ball was clearly in play the Freo muppets around me started bleating about it.

It would have been easy to give up after jumping into the marking contest but he was rewarded for second effort. I'll bet everyone who spent the best part of five years posting "thank god we got McLean because Sylvia is going nowhere" rubbish is frantically denying they were involved now. Sadly nobody's going back through thousands of forum posts to make fun of them but I'm sitting here with years of posts that say exactly that. I WAS WRONG. My god was I wrong, and there's nothing better than being wrong when you thought somebody wasn't going to be much chop. Jamar + Sylvia = the greatest slow cooked duo ever.

In every aspect other than the clearances we were destroying them and our ball movement was pretty good going the other way. Was very happy to see Petterd playing more in the midfield after he dominated the VFL playing there last week, because how many times have you seen somebody playing in a different position in the seconds, dominating and then being recalled only to be put back exactly where they were before getting dropped in the first place?

He didn't dominate by any means but 18 touches, eight marks and 1.1 will do me very nicely as an up the ground forward/midfielder. Interesting to hear an interview from Chris Connolly before the game (yes, he is still alive and employed for more than just cracking funnies at the AGM) where he said their specific reason for dropping him was to send him back to try and get him to play more in the centre. Fair enough if it works like it did today, especially considering he could go forward as a secondary target or switch to running off half-back if required.

Funny thing about the first quarter was how few inside 50's we had for our lead. Old Owl Eyes Mark Harvey must have been tearing his hair out at how easily we were scoring when we did finally get it in there as opposed to how terrible his own forwards were. Whoever they were.

We didn't even have to rely solely on forward targets to get the job done - which was handy considering The Jurrahcane was trying his hardest but getting absolutely nowhere. Even though we weren't going inside much, and the game was being played in a gigantic rolling scrum between the two 50's, we were doing the job when we got there and I can't have been the only one beaming with favourite player pride when the Experience kicked his first goal of the year (well, there's at least two of us sporting the number on our jumper. Then there's his parents..) but even in the wildest dreams of the SME Fan Club (inc. 2009, surprisingly not by me) we couldn't have imagined that he'd get three. Even Frawley was wandering forward to have shots. Admittedly it was an absolutely putrid set shot at a time where we were really threatening to put them away, but what did you expect from a guy who had two goals in 72 games, both of which came from gigantic hoofs on the run from outside 50? I certainly didn't expect him to actually end up kicking a goal from a gigantic hoof on the run from outside 50 but that's just the sort of day we ended up having.

The last thing I wanted was to concede the last goal of the quarter, because that's always the slippery slope to throwing away a big lead, so when Clancee Pearce kicked that goal (and who can ever hear his name without thinking about Chief Wiggum's wife saying "oh Clancy"? Oh, just me? Carry on) to finally get them on board just when we threatened to keep a team goalless in the first quarter for the first time since I listened to the game against Freo on my deathbed in Round 16, 2008 and we eventually lost by fifty points (#statmybitchup).

Hooray then for Thank God For Brad Green who bounced back from his horror outing against the Pies to boot his second for the quarter on the lead (yes! leads! and oh there was so much crumb as well!) and kill their momentum going into the second quarter. His much vaunted accuracy was in question again today (as most "much vaunted" things usually are) but as an unashamed Green sympathiser I was thrilled to see him bounce back today because he's the barometer for this side.

Don't know what we expected him to do last week with the ball going inside 50 so few times (apparently the third biggest difference between teams ever on record, which is absolutely ludicrous) but he showed today what he could do with decent service. Almost killed Scully in a marking contest too which we might very well have looked back on next year and smiled about if he'd connected.

What I loved most about the first quarter, apart from the crumb and kicking to leads, was McKenzie vs Pav. I'm sure without their top goalkicker Bradley out there (yes, Freo's top goalkicker is Kepler Bradley. Start applying purple ribbons to the premiership cup now) they'd love to have played him forward from the start, but clearly that's not the done thing in the land of purple this year considering how he's not even in their top five goalkickers so far.

Problem for the Dockers is they can't have both Forward Pav and Midfield Pav. If they did you could play 15 x Jay Van Berlo and get away with it. Today at the first bounce it was Midfield Pav, and Midfield Pav was absolutely destroyed by the tackling machine from regional Victoria in that first quarter.

Can I take a minute to tell you how much I love Jordie? I'll say it every week if I have to, but we missed out big time not having him in the first half of the year. There's nothing better than a guy who just goes out there, knows his limitations and gets the job done. Today he had two kicks and 26 handballs, and that's just fine with me. Speaking of records that's got to be some sort of one. He only laid three tackles today but it didn't matter because he was damaging enough with his handballs that most of the time Freo were chasing him and not the other way around.

If Jordie vs Pav was a matchup inside 50 you'd laugh at it even more than Rivers vs Cloke, but in the middle of the ground the no frills option absolutely slit the superstar up a treat. Pav is easily my favourite player from another club but it was a delight to see him get stitched by Jordie to such a degree that they had to throw him forward in the second quarter even if it almost got them back into the game.

The move could have gone badly for us, he's dominated us at this ground before. Remember his first half that day we came from a billion points down and THE CELEBRATOR famously celebrated? Still, with the defence playing exactly the way it should again - with Rivers and Macdonald jumping all over the top and Frawley/Garland taking the big contested marks he couldn't get near it and only managed one goal from ten kicks. The big four didn't get a massive amount of help from the rest of the defenders, although Morton was ok other than a couple of howlers. Bartram and Strauss were ordinary at best, and I'm not entirely convinced by Strauss yet.

Gutted for Garland at hurting his ankle again though. You could see his frustration when he did it too, knowing straight away that he was going to be back on the sidelines again. Apparently wasn't iced up or on crutches at the end of the match so that's a good sign but it wouldn't be the first time that he seemed to have a minor injury and wasn't seen again for a year. At least it means they won't be tempted to drop Macdonald anytime soon, he more than deserves his spot at the moment. I've got a feeling that the New Jurassic Pack of Frawley/Rivers/Garland is going to achieve Seecamp/Ingerson/Shanahan '98 levels of underrated awesome in the next couple of seasons.

The only Freo player who could do anything up front consistently was the alleyway specialist Michael Johnson but they did look dangerous in that second quarter. When Watts marked and kicked the first goal within the first 40 seconds even I thought we were a chance of running away with it, but of course the worst thing you can do is get excited about a thrashing early in the second quarter because it always ends up going the other way. When they dragged it back to 19 points with a much improved forward line, were still winning easily out of the centre and had started stopping us from going forward I thought "oh shit, we're in trouble here". One to Pav and two to the alleyway specialist and we started to look a little bit wonky.

No need to mention that one of Johnson's goals was an absolutely criminal free against Bartram who couldn't get anything to go his way. There were certainly a couple of terrifying moments throughout the term, the worst being Macdonald's handball to Morton who looked up to find that there wasn't a single MFC player within 50 metres, causing him to try and hit a target 1cm inside the boundary which he missed and gifted Johnson his second goal. Still, I didn't mind his game at all today - mainly due to him never once being involved in a goalsquare marking contest.

Thank god, once again, for Green who kicked his fourth and for Frawley's epic roost which took the margin back over five goals. They got one late but for all our wonkiness in the middle of the quarter we only lost six points off the lead and were left in a position where it would take an epic cockup for us to lose. Exactly that sort of position where you're convinced if you're behind that you're no chance of winning and that if you're in front you're convinced you're going to get done.

They showed in kicking three goals in a row during the quarter that they could get a run on, and were still well ahead in the Inside 50's. I'd like to think that was the most troubling stat of all to Bailey and Co, and to the credit of all involved it was well and truly rectified in the second half.

Freo had even more injuries during the game and had to use the sub (*spit*) halfway through the second quarter but even losing their best tagger who had kept Moloney quiet until then it was no excuse for the absolute garbage they served up from the moment the ball was bounced in the third quarter. Watts got the first of the quarter within a minute again on a kick from Howe - who was super impressive again - and this time we were away to the races instead of sitting back and letting them get three in a row. Also on the podium of my favourite moments of the day was The SME, officially the smartest man in the AFL, running into the square to get the handball over the top from Trengove and stab home his second and our third from 1m or less out at the Ponsford end.

'GOVE, the half of the dynamic duo whose signature we do have on a piece of paper, was involved again with the next goal but the story of it was Maximum's tackle which set it up. That was pretty much the game done and dusted, much to the consternation of the woman sitting behind me who had a placard about her love for Freo which she barely got to wave in the entire second half except for the time it smacked me in the back of the head, so what better way to put the cherry on top of it than the Experience racking up his career high third goal after scoring a 50 which took him to the goal line? More proof that he's the smartest man in the AFL, not only did he get a 99.5 TER score but he also faux played on just enough to roll McPharlin into running off the mark and then stopping to point it out to the umpire. He's a genius. And according to my mum also the best looking player in the team, so if footy doesn't work (which doesn't look much like happening right now) at least he's got the 60-year-old woman market sewn up. Watch out for player sponsors next year, it could be the Mercado Family (all two of us) paying up to hang out with the Experience.

In all seriousness it was well and truly over at three-quarter time, but Howe's miss at the end kept us below the Chris Sullivan Line so I wasn't going to unfurl any COP THAT YOU SWINE banners quite yet. Shame for Jeremy because he was bloody good all day even before his first shot at goal. He reminds me of a more mobile Brad Miller who can take a decent overhead, contested mark - and realistically that was the only thing that stuffed Brad up (until he kicks nine next week) and stopped him from being more successful over the years.

Throw Howe onto the list with Nicholson and Maximum, and the good news is that he's proved to be far more than the bloke who took a screamer of a mark which got a few thousands views on YouTube. He topped off his day with a couple of goals during the avalanche in the last quarter which was a nice bonus for all the hard work he did pushing up the ground during the game. With that ability at contested marking he MAY end up as a big target inside 50 one day. Unless I'm getting roped into making stupid comments again just on the basis of another win over some hacks which is highly likely.

Any suggestion that we were going to go back into our shell was dismissed within the first minute of the last quarter when Watts - the first minute specialist - kicked his third straight opening goal of a term. How gutted would you be if you'd bet on him for first goalkicker today and then watched him do it in every quarter other than the first? He was bloody good today, even when he wound up playing Baileyball on the half-back line he used it well. A couple of times he was beaten comfortably in marking contests but that was usually when the thing was kicked on top of his head instead of to advantage.

Three goals and nine contested possessions amongst 24 works for me, and I'm perfectly happy for him to take the Jamar road and only kick when he's inside 50 and having a shot. Today showed why the next time Bailey picks up the phone to call for Watts to be sent into the backline somebody needs to jump on top of him, wrest the phone away and impersonate voice to cancel the instruction. He hasn't deserved to be there a couple of times this year but I'm glad we keep persisting, and he might not perform to the same level next week but his improvement this year is through the roof. We want more.

What a lovely last quarter it was. Reminscent of the Adelaide massacre we ticked off winning the game early and then it was party time for all. The sort of day where anybody who runs off the ground gets wild applause from the fans - people would have even risen to applaud Isaac Weetra they were so happy. From Nicholson's turbo powered goal to Jurrah finally getting two after a dirty day and Howe being rewarded for his performance the score crept nervously towards the big triple figures. When Jones got his goal to put us within two straight kicks of that magic mark at the 21 minute mark it looked like we could do it.

Sadly Freo then decided that they might actually try defending for the first time all half - they even kicked their second goal which was met by a mild smattering of boos from the hard to please Demon faithful who were dying to crack the ton. At least with Jurrah's second at the end we managed to wipe out the entire percentage we lost during last week's debacle - and added the extra 0.000000000000001% from winning by one point more. It's like Queen's Birthday never actually happened except that we've got a shitload of cash in the bank. Mind you we probably lost half of Monday's payday thanks to the rancid crowd who showed up today.

All in all a good day out and a fair re-enactment of the Adelaide game. As long as we don't continue the re-enactment theme and go five goals up in the first quarter next week before folding like a house of cards. For the third time this year the sporting defibrillator has been applied to our season and our fading finals heartbeat has been restarted. Any danger that this time we might take advantage of it instead of acting like somebody who gets a liver transplant and heads straight to the bar?

Even better news is that the victory has enhanced our push into the Chinese market. Yesterday the Dalai Lama was photographed giving it heave-ho in a Freo scarf, and today we do the job for our Chinese paymasters by smashing his new team. Cue an invite to tour again and to dine at an all-star glittering dinner with the Central Committee of the Communist Party and President Hu Jintao.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Stefan Martin
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Brad Green
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Tom Scully

Massive apologies to Nicholson and Howe who were next cabs off the rank and then Jones, Petterd, Moloney, Frawley, Macdonald, Sylvia and Gawn in no particular order. Not too many liabilities today - Jurrah did his best work in junktime and Bartram was pretty pox but you can't get 21+1 of magic in every win.

Jamar had better get back soon because The Experience is storming towards the biggest upset win of all time in the Stynes. Unfortunately Garland's injury will cost him ground in the thrilling Seecamp race while Tapscott still has a handy lead in the Hilton, but he's been lucky that Howe has missed out narrowly two weeks in a row.

As for the overall it could still go either way at the top and Jamar hasn't lost a heap of ground in the last month. Have a feeling (and there's no corruption involved if it actually happens) that Watts is going to storm home in the last few weeks.

23 - Colin Sylvia
19 - Brent Moloney
16 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Stefan Martin
12 - Jack Watts
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Jared Rivers (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - Joel Macdonald, James Frawley
8 - Jordie McKenzie
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Jack Trengove, Rohan Bail
4 - Michael Evans, Brad Green, Tom Scully
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones
2 - Ricky Petterd, Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta

Scull and Crossbones
I'm so aggravated by the Scully saga that I almost don't want to post about it, but how can you avoid it? As much as I want to hate him for leaving, which he undoubtedly will (/reverse psychology), the article in the paper yesterday about how he will end up the most well paid player on our list if he stays makes me wonder whether it's going to end up being worth it.

Before I start I'll freely admit that I had a nightmare involving this blog last night. No really, it's almost too sad to admit. I dreamt that after writing something sensible yet dismissive of Scully that it got quoted in the papers and when he left he blamed my quote, leading to wild scenes online and bricks flying through my window. Fat chance any journos care what I say luckily, but all I will say is that good luck if you're going to chuck a brick because I live on the 11th floor. And if you're coming on here to write abuse in the comments at least get amongst the ads as well, not all of us are going to be on a mil every year.

Now, there are some potentially sensational players on our list - Trengove, Watts, Gysberts just to start with and Frawley who has already proven himself and will be due a fat pay rise in a couple of years. By my count the following players come out of contract over the next couple few years (and this is an old list, so if there are any extensions that I've missed let me know). Bolded are the players who I am sure would command a decent pay increase based on how they're playing at the moment. Drafted players from last year not included (all end 2012?)

Fitzpatrick, Gawn, Green, Maric, Martin, Morton, Newton, Scully, Sylvia, Warnock, Wonaeamirri

Bail, Bartram, Bate, Bennell, Dunn, Garland, Jamar, Jetta, Jones, Jurrah, McKenzie, Moloney, Petterd, Rivers, Spencer, Strauss, Tapscott, Trengove.

Blease, Davey, Grimes, Gysberts, Watts

So, take that list and consider that Green, Morton, Bartram and Jones wouldn't be coming cheap already and could still enhance their value. Then there's the likes of Blease and Strauss who could go anywhere from here. By 2013 the only players I can see any chance of dropping off that list due to age are Green, Jamar and Davey. Even if we flog the likes of Dunn and Bate to other clubs and replace them with kids how the hell are we going to pay to keep this group together if we suddenly vault a kid who has played 30 games to the top of our payroll just because we've been pitched into a bidding war with the AFL's equivalent of a soccer team owned by dodgy Russians with more money than brains.

Tom Scully will be a star, and almost certainly a superstar but one killer midfielder does not a team make. Good luck finding replacements for Frawley and Watts (presuming he keeps improving at this rate) without having to go through the same process of drafting kids and waiting with fingers crossed to see whether they're going to be quality or not. If we throw $700k a year at Scully for four years as per this article the pressure on him to not only be the best player on our list but to shoot straight into the top echelon of AFL players will be huge. I don't expect that it will affect him, but for 3/4 of a mil every year he's going to not only have to be the ice man in justifying that salary he's going to be pointed at when a Trengove, Gysberts, Frawley etc.. are given derisory contract offers in a couple of years and tell us to get stuffed before joining Carlton and winning a flag.

So I want to hate him for leaving but on the other hand it seems a bit insane to go to the ends of the earth to keep him when midfielders, admittedly not in the same ballpark as him, are probably the easiest position on the ground in which to find a capable replacement. Right now we're like an average looking guy with no money spending every cent he's got trying to win a supermodel when the other option is an ugly millionare who can afford to set her up for life. And how often do you see a supermodel turning down top dollar to shack up with some bloke from Airport West? This is Jamie Packer and Mrs. Packer. He looks like Chip Frawley after being bitten by a poisonous toad. He is also worth six billion dollars. Enough said.

I just wish he'd admit it, put the hand up, get up and tell his teammates he's doing it for dollars, buy a harbourside mansion and stop teasing us without signing on the dotted line. Either that or start playing badly so it doesn't seem like such a big loss when he goes.

Couldn't decide whether or not I was into the 31 - Please Don't Go banner being hoisted in the cheersquad or not. One side of my brain says it's a cute token of our desparation to keep him. The other half says it's a needy token of our desparation to keep him. Just never lose sight of the fact that this isn't a decision based on anything other than enormous wads of cash - banners professing love don't buy Ferraris and five bedroom houses here.

Just hope we don't sell the farm to keep him and wind up regretting it when others are going out the door and he's suddenly one out in a sea of slop a'la J**d in his first couple of years at Carlton. As much as I want him to stay, and I will want to start referring to him as $****y if he goes that article really made me start to wonder if once we get over the blow to our ego and realise that he's going for dollars and not out of love whether we'll really be worse off. This isn't just about one player now, we just don't want to be mucked around and lied to. Sadly I think that while we're still a chance of sneaking into the eight then the football club is going to play him no matter what they know about dodgy backroom dealings.

Crowd Watch
What crowd there actually was. 19,000 is what you get when you remove Pies fans, holiday neutrals and once a year bandwagoners from the Queen's Birthday crowd. It's no great financial result, but geez don't you love being able to get food at half-time and go for a whizz without having to queue? I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had to go to games with 50,000 people every week. Especially if it was at Docklands, that would nearly turn me off from going to games once every match was on live. Thankfully we play at the decent ground and only have to go to that monstrosity once or twice a year.

Meanwhile do interstate fans get package deals for seats in the Ponsford Stand? Whenever we play West Coast they give the entire middle deck to 25 of them, and today it was full of every single Freo fan in the state of Victoria. It's probably because the cheer squad are in the same place but for the regulars it really inflates the impression that the place is full of them when there probably wasn't one other person heave-hoing anywhere else in the entire stadium.

The cheersquad hardly covered themselves in glory by busting out soccer chants with Freo in them instead of following convention and restricting themselves to (team name) *clap* *clap* *clap*. If you're going to lower your standards of living far enough to join a cheersquad you're not in a position to be trying to introduce new and exciting crowd participation angles. Despite this not once did they yell out HEAVE-HO! en masse which really would have made my day even before the massacre started.

I noticed a guy wearing a t-shirt that said BANNER TEAM, as opposed to the regulars who were just wearing CHEERSQUAD on theirs. What a terrible trend. Even worse than the guy I once saw with a St Kilda Cheer Squad Official bomber jacket. Sorry sir but being an official in a cheersquad is like being president of Burkina Faso for all the respect that normal people are going to give you. Imagine if you were sitting there and somebody told you off for not waving your pom poms with enough vigour? Normal people would snot them, but normal people wouldn't be waving pom poms. Surely nobody from our cheersquad reads this after seven years of questioning whether or not the people in them should be gassed.

Amongst the cavalcade of Freo fans around us, and their classic outrage when a mark wasn't paid in front of goal because it was touched off the boot which they didn't know because they were watching the replay of the mark and not listening to the radio, there was an odd Melbourne supporting character sitting behind me who would have absolutely erupted if we lost. I can't imagine the filth he was letting out last week, and even though I'm scared of describing people because they either read or somehow manage to find themselves being mentioned on here can I say that he was wearing a cracking combo of lime green sleeveless puffer jacket and yellow t-shirt. It was a fantastic look. If you were a member of Ned's Atomic Dustbin in 1988.

He was one of those guys who just yells players names out. Not just when they're frustratedly trying to will somebody to kick to a free player, but when they get a possession or more importantly do something wrong. His two favourites were Morton and Bartram but I couldn't tell whether or not he was for them or against them by the way his voice rose at the end of each voice for MorTONNNNN! or BarTRAM! He shut up in the second half, probably stunned into silence by us actually playing well for once.

Heave Ho
Freo would be so much more popular if they'd just introduce my version of their song with more heave ho and less of the rubbish verses. In related news I'm the only non-Dockers fan in the state of Victoria who likes the song in any form.

It's a little known fact that I cracked the sads at the Melbourne Hawks so badly that at the time I vowed that I'd become a Freo fan if it went through. Presumably it would have lasted two weeks before there was either a shameful crawl back to the side with what truly would have been the WORST THEME SONG EVER or I'd given up on football entirely. Either way there is absolutely no doubt in the world that if I were sitting here wearing purple, writing Dockerblog and yelling HEAVE HO! at random intervals that my favourite player would be Garrick Ibbotson just because he's got an absolutely ridiculous name. 2nd place to Tendai Mzungu, Ben Bucovaz on the podium.

Next Week
Massive, massive, massive, MASSIVE game against Richmond. Not just because either side is hanging on to the bottom of the eight by our fingernails, and not just because everyone will be holding their breath to see if we get ahead of ourselves again and turn in a stinker. It's most important because we've treated Richmond with contempt over the last few years when we were both in the bottom division of the league, so now that we're both promoted out of Club Slop - and that we've proven we can thrash other sides in our bracket - we've got to fire the first shot in what should be a quality rivalry over the next few years. And they're the only other Victorian team other than Essendon who we can beat, so don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

It's all about the midfield. Our forwards look ok against their injury riddled defence - especially if Howe keeps going and Watts plays there instead of the back pocket - and the New Jurassic Pack has got their opponents covered on paper (remember Frawley's demolition job on Riewoldt last year?), so even if Jamar doesn't come back - and sorry Maximum, we all pray he does - and as long as we can avoid getting killed out of the centre we should be ok. One thing I noticed today was that as long as we could get it to a secondary bounce we were ok. More of the same please.

Was it worth it?
Good god yes. Dum spiro spero as the Romans used to say - while I breath, I hope.

Monday 13 June 2011

One hit wonders

The Demonblog legal department called me at 5.05pm on Monday to inform me it had come to their attention that I'd been well and truly sucked in by the win against the Bombers, that despite their early form beating them is actually meaningless and that I would now need to post an apology for turning into an Essendon/Carlton fan overnight and swinging wildly from one viewpoint about the coach and club to another on the basis of flimsy, often falsified evidence.

So, raising my right hand I, Adam S Mercado* (*denotes fake name), being of fairly sound mind and body do solemnly, sincerly and truly declare and affirm that I will not, under any circumstances, get roped into believing that the Melbourne Football Club are 'back' or are 'finals contenders' on the evidence of one-off performances again until such time that they put together a decent run of performances and beat some teams that aren't utterly shite and/or from interstate.

Don't know why everyone was getting so excited about our chances in this match. You can understand supporters being roped in by one slashing third quarter amidst a month of slop but even respectable media types were talking up the prospect of an upset based on Collingwood's supposed injury/suspension crisis and the fact that we were one point worse than them over two starts last season.

To be fair the loss of Swan/Thomas/Jolly helped us, well it could hardly hurt, but it's not like our midfield is flying at the moment either so that was always unlikely to be the difference. In all the euphoria of the VE Day style celebrations at the end of last week it seemed to be forgotten that they'd actually smashed us out of the middle and it had been the backline which saved our bacon long enough to wear them down, kick away and almost cock it up again before the defence saved us a second time. If Essendon sans Jobe Watson can do it then the Pies sans half their premiership team are probably going to as well. Still, aren't we used to pundits saying outrageous things just to make themselves stand out from everybody else? Isn't that right Theo x?

Sure last year we had one unlucky loss and a draw. Meaningless in the context of 12 months down the track. The Petterd game gets nothing in retrospect because it's not the first time a good side have had a slow start to the season before getting it together and running away with the comp (Geelong anybody?), and even though in the end we could have won QB game with another ten seconds on the clock we were only there because the Pies were abysmal kicking for goal. They kept going wide, ended up having most of their shots from section Q32 in the Southern Stand and duly stuffed up their chance to win it easily. We had some mighty competitors that day (The Jamar/Moloney Connection anybody?) but it was a stalemate snatched from the jaws of defeat. One year on the Pies have lost two more matches and drawn a Grand Final, so what made anybody in their right mind think we were a chance of winning this?

Maybe if you'd offered me a six goal head start I'd have taken it (if I wasn't avoiding the TAB like the plague) but the $1.20 on the Pies head to head must have been the easiest money some people have ever made. Sucked in to the bookies who would have been taken to the cleaners by people throwing that into multis, good to see money going back to the punters where they will presumably give it back again by making irrational bets on teams called Torpedo Vladimir in the Russian Second Division.

Admittedly we didn't look all that bad for the first 20 minutes. Watts and Sylvia were on fire as a combo up front and other than Frawley who was having an early 'mare with his kicking the backline looked like it could cope with at least one of Cloke/Dawes long enough to at least keep us in the game into the second half again. Another third quarter blast was too unlikely to even consider but imagine how many times Bailey would have gotten to say 'competitive' On The Couch if we'd managed to stick with them until the last quarter? For the record he did say it seven times but I reckon he'd have multiplied that by ten if we hadn't gone tits up so quickly.

Problem was that before you could process the fact that we were not only playing well but actually winning we're suddenly about 20 inside 50's down, getting slaughtered out of the centre and any chance we had of hitting back was killed off by Green (and geez, aren't I glad I've spent the last fortnight defending his honour to the death before he pulled out an absolute stinker) missing a shot he would have eaten for breakfast a few years ago. Commentators must now be duty bound to point out alongside all the "did you know he tried out for...." anecdotes that he also used to be a frighteningly accurate kick. This year he's 15.13 and nothing near a certainty when it's a set shot. I'm keeping faith, mainly because he's the only player older than me on the list so when he retires the measure of "being old" that I came up with as a kid (when every single player on the list is younger than you) will finally apply and I'll have to go bald, buy a sportscar and start hanging around at Venue 28 Doncaster on a Saturday night. Long may Dustin Fletcher continue to play and make me feel sprightly.

You know you're in big trouble at a Melbourne game when the opposition start racking up behind after behind because eventually they'll get it right and we'll have copped a seven/eight/nine point play due to not being able to find a decent kick-out strategy. How many times yesterday were we forced into the big roost to the members/Olympic Stand side of the ground? And how many times did it come straight back again? When the best we could hope for was that it would spill out of bounds it became time to seriously reassess what the buggery we are doing with these kick-ins. The ridiculous disparity of inside 50's against us this year has got as much to do with the kick-ins as it does to getting beaten out of the centre.

The "play on to yourself then hoof it" tactic was fresh and new in the first half of last year when we had Jamar on the end of it, but even when he was in career best form in the second half of the season it stopped working because every other club knew exactly what we were up to. Now we're relying on it to get us out jail with players who don't offer a hundreth of what Jamar does in a contested mark and with a fourth gamer kicking it out most of the time, probably expecting that if he tries anything different and cocks it up he'll be back at Casey Fields next week.

Maybe with Collingwood's dominance out of the midfield the match couldn't have been salvaged no matter what we did, but my god could they have hung Rivers out to dry any more? He had the game of his life floating around the backline taking grabs last week, and surely everybody knows that's what he does best. So when he lined up against Cloke I started sweating a bit. Still, it might have worked. It didn't. I'm concerned whenever I see Warnock in our team but if there was any time to pick him this would have been it. He was pox against Carlton but horses for courses and all that shit. Would have been fair better suited to having Rivers jumping in from the side on the contests and taking grabs instead of suffering the media curse and playing like a man who had just had a double page spread in The Age.

It took five goals in a half of torment for Riv until the penny finally dropped and they moved Frawley onto Cloke. Even to a dunce like me who couldn't identify a tactical manouevre if it were explained in a series of illustrated diagrams it seemed obvious that the Collingwood masterplan was to clear everybody else out and give it to Cloke one-on-one with Rivers where he would monster him. Cue the entire second quarter. Even when he was trying to do the right thing he got stooged when The Experience killed him in the contest that gave Fassolo a goal with his first kick and allowed the commentators to unleash the second biggest cliche after Green spending ten minutes at Old Trafford.

Frawley was having his own issues, shanking kicks and being folded up like an accordian after his contest with Brown, but tell me he wouldn't have given us more in contests against Cloke than Rivers? Sure, maybe then you open up Dawes to run riot but at least try something different when it's not going well. Something that doesn't involve Watts and Morton being expected to play as tall defenders. Sure Morton was getting dragged back there etc.. etc.. etc.. and wasn't doing too badly when it wasn't contested but if you're expecting him to play as a semi-key defender you're having a laugh. Any danger they might try something different with him at some point? Have given up on him ever being sent forward but I'd like to see him thrown in the middle once the season is really dicked (2.45pm next Sunday) and if he gets his fragile sad panda bones snapped in a contest then at least he went down swinging and can stick two fingers up at the critics. I'll be over here waiting for him to wave them at me from an arm in a cast. On that cast I will write CALE - YOU ARE NOW A MAN and watch him win the Brownlow next year.

Once they eventually made the move Chip kept Cloke to one goal from a furious roost that no man could have stopped, and Dawes hardly went near it even when the rest of his team were queuing up to kick goals in the last quarter. Would love to have been a fly on the wall in the coaches box after the third or fourth goal on Rivers to see what the argument in favour of leaving him there was. The worst bit of it all for me was not only that they refused to make the change but that all of a sudden near the end of the second Watts was sent back as a loose man instead. That is not a solution, that's a confidence killer. Not surprisingly from there his game went to shit and he returned to Carlton level kicking efficiency. Would love to see a split between his first and last quarters because he seems to go missing in the second half of games a lot, usually after having been marooned in the backline while it gets machine gunned by the opposition.

The Cloke/Rivers fiasco had a hint of QB2003 about it. Remember Tarrant slaughtering Bizzell for the entire first half before Daniher finally made a change when the game was lost and Chris Lamb held him in the second. Big difference is that Frawley won't cop four goals from Ian Perrie in the first quarter next week, get delisted and end up pulling pints at the Bridge Hotel.

Nevertheless before Cloke really got going we involved ourselves in a cavalcade of shambles from one end of the ground to the other which ensured that there was no possible way we could kick a winning score. I don't blame Green for trying to shepherd Trengove's goal through but if the free wasn't 'there' I can see how the umpire got sucked in to it on the basis of the jostling in the square. Will always go against the player trying to take out the defender in that circumstances. Sylvia got his third not long afterwards and that was pretty much it for us. I'd be interested to see the quarter-by-quarter inside 50's because I reckon we went inside the most during the second but necked ourselves by stuffing it up so many times. Would have had even more if we could move it through the midfield without throwing 57 handballs to guys standing a metre away.

Even when we did finally sneak it inside 50 we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. Green dropped a chestmark and missed another shot that he should have kicked, Scully missed a set shot and Jurrah tried a half arsed banana to an open goal which didn't even deserve to score. Somewhere Dwayne Russell was champing at the bit, leaping off his chair dying to scream the words "THAT COULD BE THE FIRESTARTER!!?11!!!!!11!" but we never gave him the chance. At least you can be thankful for that.

It wasn't so much the loss, or even the margin, that got to me but the collective head drop as the match went on. If you're going to get thrashed going at it 100% then so be it but even if you take out all the times that the Pies went from one of the ground to the other untouched (and my god there were many) where was the tackling? Where were the contested possessions? Fine if you get the thing and then stuff it up, that's to be expected. Alternatively you could try and take on half the opposition side needlessly a'la Jones before being pinged but that's not advisable unless you want to give everybody the shits. But to go down limply without a fight is what people lose the plot - and in retrospect makes celebrating last week's ultimately meaningless victory like we were the next big thing look unbelievably stupid. Other than a few notable exemptions we caved in yesterday like that horrendous Round 22, 2008 game against Richmond. This wasn't Round 22. Thankfully it wasn't Richmond either or we'd all have jumped into the ocean.

That's the problem with my abusive on-again/off-again relationship with Bailey. It's one thing to go off your nut when you beat Essendon, and I loved it when he started attacking inanimate objects and acting like he'd won Tattslotto, but put that up against the blind insistence on continuing with a matchup even though it was going horribly wrong and we're back to where we were before last week. But I'm still for the wild scenes after that match with no regrets. Who could have forseen that they'd turn up and get bullied from the first bounce? Well, most people I suppose, we're overflowing with workmanlike players but are well short on anybody who could be reliably asked to throw their weight around in front of a 75,000 crowd.

But wait, who did the Pies have in the midfield to do that? Pendlebury was well held by McKenzie early but even at his best he's hardly a fearsome character, striking terror in the hearts of men is he? In fact once Sylvia started playing through the middle more you'd almost say we would have had the advantage in that department and we botched it miserably.

The cycle we're in this year is utterly farcical, firing up for a week at a time based on media scrutiny, running around like world beaters thumping their chests/pointing at badges then turning in absolute garbage a few days later. I reiterate that this isn't based on the fact that we lost in the 1-88 points bracket yesterday. A win was never on the cards, it's that off-field we haven't developed a reliable tactic to clear the ball from defence and on-field the quality of pressure goes from being an "open heart surgeon" to "librarian" on a weekly basis. It's not to say that nobody would care if we were losing games after leaving a trail of blood from here to Timbuktu on a weekly basis, but it would make it easier to accept.

Even Brisbane, ruined for years to come by Michael Voss and his Ken Bruce has gone mad style player trading, managed to rack up a number of fighting losses at the start of the year. Sure they also lost to the Suns, have been flogged for the last fortnight and I wouldn't swap our position with theirs under any circumstances but at least they can point to their collection of hacks + kids and say that they've had a dip in defeat. So far this year we've been beaten by 45, 54, 41, 20, 47 and 88. Just the casual 49 point average loss then. When we're bad, we're rancid. When we're good we're just a week away from being rancid.

In the grand scheme of things the third quarter wasn't too bad. It will certainly look that way in the future when losers like me peruse the stats and go "oh look, they only lost the quarter by three points" but good god have you ever seen a backline so repeatedly under siege as ours were in the first 15 minutes? A non-MFC 2007-2011 one anyway. Did we even have a single inside 50 in all that time? I'm not sure we even went past halfway for about ten minutes at one point. Credit to Frawley and Macdonald (and to a lesser degree Strauss, Morton and Rivers) who kept them at bay all that time when it could have gotten really, really ugly even before we inevitably fell victim to one of the Pies renowned blistering last quarters.

Just when I was trying to find our last scoreless quarter (R19, 2008 in case you care) Howe got a charity 50 just to get us on the board. I really liked his game. He had bugger all chance of getting a kick up front the way we were going an dwent and hunted his own ball. It was a bit like Jurrah against West Coast, and we all hope that Jeremy won't suffer the same loss of interest that the Jurrahcane has in the last month. Ironically he was the other goalkicker for the quarter but it doesn't cover the fact that he was very, very ordinary again - even when the ball did go near him. Still reckon there's something not quite right there.

Given the siege that the backline was under for most of the third quarter it was hard to believe that we were only 40 odd points down at the end of it. There was never any question of nicking it but considering the Pies blistering record in final terms this season it would have made all the difference to have put up a decent fight. Even if we'd been done by ten goals after copping five in the last five minutes you could argue that fitness had something to do with it and gnash your teeth about how the Pies go to Arizona for pre-season while our players take a V-Line coach to Manangatang, but there was no such luck.

Scully and Sylvia combined for the first and the guy in front of me comforted himself by getting a little bit too excited at the prospect of a remarkable comeback but from then on it was all Pie, all the time with nary a fingernail raised in defence.

Reminded me of the Gold Coast game. Both times the underdog started well, slowly went under in the second, did a lot better than expected in the third and then got what they deserved in the last. Speaking of the Suns rumor has it that they raised a flag in celebration of... something.. on Saturday night. Good to see that we've made a buck subcontracting our stupid marketing ideas to somebody else, now sell them the fireworks from last Friday. Bit rude of them to pre-raise the flag they're going to win in five years though. Apparently the crowd went absolutely mild, so at least we've got that in common with them.

So, another great day out for the family then. The way this is going our crowds won't be able to utter the new MCG slogan of "meet you at the footy" without putting "I'd rather go on a road trip with the Milat family than..." before it. I'll meet you at Odyssey House if we keep on going this way for much longer.

One thing that will make me absolutely vom, even more than reading that worst of phrases "will he be in our next premiership team?", is if I pick up a paper or go online and see somebody citing Simon Buckley looking half decent in a team full of champions as a reason we should have kept him. Never a big fan myself but good luck to the guy, if we have to cop a Pies flag I hope he plays in it BUT at the moment he's like a midget hanging around with the Hells Angels. Looks like much more of a threat than he is because he can let Shaw/O'Brien/Maxwell etc.. do all the hard work and then stick the boots into the prone corpse. No thanks. I'm not entirely convinced by Strauss yet but I'd rather we completely exhausted all other avenues before panicking about whether or not we've missed the boat on Buckley.

Didn't mind Morton when he was doing what I expected him to do, mopping up around the half back flank causing very little damage with his touches. Even when dragged back deep in defence he did a couple of nice things but his whole day was destroyed by his dual failures to go up in the marking contest and also showing no interest in smothering. You might get away with some of that against shit teams and look alright but it'll fail miserably against anybody halfway decent. Good week to have ended contract negotiations as if any of us would be truly shattered if he walked right now. Still, it's got disaster written all over it if he goes to any half decent club. If Simon Buckley can look serviceable in that side imagine what Morton would do? Then again he could go to GWS and get murdered along with the rest of the 52kg bantamweight division.

Either way it's no good getting overjoyed about him going so that they can't have Scully. They could easily take Scully gratis then use the first pick in the PSD on any other uncontracted player they can get their hands on. Even though he's going nowhere with us if you were Senile Sheeds and the Puppetmaster Mark Williams you'd probably fancy him on a free at his age based on what he showed early on. Do we have to rig the Best and Fairest to make sure that we get decent compensation just based on him being a number four pick. Yes, he was a number four pick.

Losing Scully on the other hand would blow a gigantic hole in us. We might get out of it ok in the end but you just don't know, and off the back of his two games so far this year it's going to be a big hole to fill. Let the Visy style rorts begin. Give him a job kicking tyres at Hankook and installing Kaspersky software. Just do something. Unless, of course, they know that he's already signed. Then tell him to piss off.

So if he did walk, and could you really blame him for that price (A: Yes, because we're not rational people we're footy fans), it might be karma for us rorting the draft in the first place but that was our luck that they had such a shit system and we had people who were ready to cynically exploit it instead of listening to filthy hippies like me who have a sick belief in playing to win despite the fact that nobody else did it and that the league was poised to practically pre-hand premierships to two teams who will have 30,000 fans between them.

Everyone who thinks they know somebody or is trying to big note themselves will tell you he's officially gone. Everybody seems to 'know somebody' or they've heard something from their uncle who heard something at the Dapto dogs. Bullshit. Easy to pretend you're an oracle when there's only two options on the table and you're going for the red hot favourite - that's why the people who are saying he'll stay are only talking hunches while everybody else has a 'source' who apparently knows everything. Best one I saw was that theory - backed up by sources of course - that Scully and Bastinac's parents had signed agreements on each other's behalf that their kids would go to GWS next year. Fuck me if that isn't the worst theory you've ever heard in your life bar none, but people will go for anything at the moment. Kevin Sheedy gets up a lunch and claims he's signed two midfielders and everybody jizzes themselves that it's a sign of something. It's a sign of nothing more than a has been talking out of his ring piece.

Thing is though if Scully does go, and based on nothing else other than my own gut feeling I fully expect him to, everyone who has talked out of their arse about it for the last six months will claim that they were completely right and that they're footy geniuses. Rubbish. You're like a goalkeeper in a penalty shootout who jumped in the right direction. The worst offender of all is David Schwarz going on TV and blathering on about his sources and how he's 98% sure that the deal is done. I give Garry Lyon a lot of shit for being partially responsible for the comedy abortion that is the Footy Show but at least to his credit he doesn't come out with zingers like that to try and get himself into the papers. It's one thing to be an ex-player who is so wrapped up in his old club that he defends them even when it's stupid to (*cough* Lloyd *cough*) but it's another to unnecessarily stick the boots in like that just to get some cheap press for a show that nobody is watching.

Problem with this situation is that even after two games where he has proved himself a cut above most of the players on our list despite barely having a kick all year I find it hard to get too excited about anything he does. Certainly won't be sitting there with my arms folded if he wins us the game next week, and I won't rort him out of votes out of spite at him pissing us all around like this but to me he's basically a player on loan at the moment.

Imagine this scenario. It's Round 22 and we're presumably getting thumped sideways by Port because a) it's at Football Park and b) the velvet jacket trumpeter will be caretaker coach. Deep in the last quarter Scully turns to pick up a ball and goes down having blown his knee to pieces. Exclude yourself from this question if you fancy yourself as a Dalai Lama style figure and believe in peace and goodwill for all but are you a) shattered because our best young prospect will miss the entire next season or b) secretly thrilled that GWS have probably signed him up anyway and will get absolutely nothing out of him for a year? If they hadn't yet signed him but were intending to do they then pull the pin on the deal and leave us with him shafted out of millions and sitting on the sidelines for a year? Welcome to conspiracy corner.

Tweet Like A Demon
Unfollowing the lot of them. As much as I love Twitter I've got high standards for having to actually want to read what people are posting and the truth of the matter is that not only that they'll trot out the same old cliches this week but that none of them have written a single interesting thing since the Trengove debacle. Don't give a shit how much they love the Mavs, playing golf, beating each other at FIFA or drinking cafe lattes - if one of them moderately drifts into saying something interesting every man and their dog will retweet it anyway. Until then enjoy hearing about somebody eating a parma.

Talkback Corner
Worst thing about today is that it's open season for every goose on the planet to have their say about us playing Queen's Birthday. Forums, Herald Sun comments, SEN - you know, where all the stars congregate and North fans desperately try to make somebody believe that their club is worth taking notice of.

We were awful yesterday, some of it unavoidable, much of it self inflicted but what we end up with now is all the whinging pricks who support other teams going on about how we should lose Queen's Birthday because of it. It's not ANZAC day, we're not destroying the legacy of the troops by playing badly. It's an ordinary game that just happens to take place on a public holiday.

Were it the sort of game where they started handing out the Prince Albert Medal for BOG then maybe we'd be doing some sort of disservice to the community but as it is.. What's the harm? Kick us out and replace us with Richmond? Like they don't get enough. Boldly experiment with Footscray playing the Pies in front of 40,000 people? Get to shite.

Surely nobody can complain about the match on the basis of quality, otherwise the Pies would have been relegated from it after the second time Yze murdered them. But we'd already have been shunted into playing Freo after losing in '03. It doesn't work like that. The moment you start manipulating big games to suit the expected result is when you end up with an entire league of 'blockbuster' games the calibre of Footscray vs Adelaide this Friday night and are obliged to then start playing GWS/GC classics on ANZAC Day when they're dominating the league.

This is one thing I'm not concerned about the league stuffing up. Sadly at the moment the taunting that it is 'our grand final' is right, and we went along with the GF theme by getting trashed. Doesn't mean it'll happen again next year so get your hand off our fixtures vultures.

Law and Order: Football Investigations Unit
I know the league hate Trengove with a passion for making them look stupid when they suspended him before Dangerfield kicked six the next week but this is two weeks in a row he's been fined for running into an umpire. Scully can afford it, Trengove cannot. Leave him alone and start handing out the fines to the guy with the suspiciously bulging bank account.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Joel Macdonald
3 - Tom Scully
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - James Frawley

Apologies to Watts (first quarter only), Moloney, Howe and barely anybody else. Howe probably next cab off the rank on the votes but really only Sylvia deserved what he got and the next two were probably worth two and one only. Democracy doesn't work.

Good to see Macdonald storming into contention for the Seecamp just weeks after I wrote him off forever. Who said there's bias at play here? Or that I know what I'm on about. The only thing he let me down on today was that he didn't turn around after that Leigh Brown mark, grab Morton by the bonce and shake him vigorously while screaming the words "FOR GOD'S SAKE FIRE UP MAN" straight into his face. He looks the type. Happy to admit I was well out of order on him but where does he fit in when Garland comes back?

So I guess Green isn't going to repeat as winner then?

23 - Colin Sylvia
19 - Brent Moloney
16 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Jared Rivers (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - Stefan Martin, Joel Macdonald, James Frawley
8 - Jack Watts
7 - Colin Garland
6 - Luke Tapscott (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Jordie McKenzie
5 - Jack Trengove, Rohan Bail
4 - Michael Evans
3 - Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah, Nathan Jones, Tom Scully
2 - Ricky Petterd, Clint Bartram, Neville Jetta
1 - Brad Green

2012 MFC coach: the betting market
D. Bailey - 2.75 (Only because I'm convinced Stynes will go into bat for him with positive thinking/crystals/enemas etc.. until he can't possibly defend him anymore. Cue the wildest of wild scenes next season with people burning shit in the stands.)
T. Viney - 5.25
Any other result - 10
M. Malthouse - 18
P. Roos - 20
The guy from the Deep Heat ad - 70 (in from 100-1 last week)

Crowd Watch
Ditched by all and sundry, family and otherwise, I moved to my reserved seat area for the first time all year in the second half just to get away from the filth. Was sure that the guy in front of me said something about Jurrah and jail when he missed that snap, which would be ironic coming from a Pies fan.

Despite my loyalty to the Ponsford I could almost get used to Southern Stand, Level 2, section N1 if it wasn't for the fact my money not only entitles me to 17 games and a guaranteed Grand Final ticket if we make it that I'll never have to use but also the right to be seated a metre from corporate boxes full of drunken arseholes who have no interest in the game itself and instead enjoy themselves by shouting out the worst attempts at comedy since that bloke said "Hey Cameron Bruce, you're loose" against the Bulldogs in '06. At one point when Jones did something stupid one of the clowns yelled out "that's why they bashed your dad". Great society we've got going here.

Was interested to hear something claiming on the radio this morning (SEN, where else) that somebody was tossed out of the Redlegs section for wearing Pies colours and that it's expressly forbidden to don opposition scarves/jumpers etc... in there. If that's true they must have missed the guy two rows in front of me who was sitting there in full black and white outfit. When I went in there the security guard showed so little interest in the card I showed him that it might as well have been a Blockbuster Video membership so I'm not sure they're taking it that seriously. Please advise if you can confirm or deny this. Seems a bit over the top to me. Justified if you're making a tit of yourself but when there's some guy on free booze screaming abuse from behind you for four quarters I'm not sure it's more offensive to wear another team's colours.

In other news surely nobody is still sucked in by the buskers who wait for the result outside the ground, slap on a scarf and start belting out the winning team's song. The only instrumentalist in Melbourne who isn't out there is the tossbag trumpeter. They would have made an absolute fortune if we'd won yesterday and the 20,000 once a year fans who don't realise that it's an elaborate scam (probably controlled by the Russian mafia) and give generously. I'm not advocating that you punch them in the face for their cynical attempts at making money but give your money to somebody who deserves it. Like The Kaiser's Sausage, who I will keep posting about until they recognise it and give me an endorsement deal. Best sausage ever.

In related news who decided that bagpipes weren't the worst instrument ever invented? There were two, TWO people making the noises of cats being murdered before you even reached the top of the bridge. Walking from Fed Square to the G is like wandering through ye olde Scotland before they all ditched music and took up knife crime. I swear I saw more street theatre between Southbank and the MCG yesterday than you would in four years of being at university.

Radio corner
It's shamefully lowbrow but I listen to Triple M at the games. No issue other than the fact that I wouldn't pish on the rest of their station if it was on fire BUT could they possibly ditch the 2000 promos about how allegedly hilarious Mick Molloy? His "I'm a fat chain smoking pisshead" act was midly amusing when he was being carried by Tony Martin 20 years ago, but now it's responsible for a trail of destruction and axed programs - both TV and radio - a mile long.

Almost worthy of changing and listening to a non-gimmick coverage but the problem is that you're always running the risk of hitting a Dwayne Russell, Mark Maclure or Matthew Lloyd elsewhere.

Incidentally speaking of commentators I will be entering this competition, and you will be helping me stack it so I can win and call a quarter of the R22 game against Port on SEN. All bets are off if I'm in the chair with KB when Scully does his knee.

Midweek Magic
During the week I picked up a cheap and nasty DVD called Footy's Funniest Moments. So cheap in fact it was free. Against the odds, and despite being hosted by a clearly irritated Sam Kekovich who looked like he'd been dragged out of bed to do 10 minutes of links to camera, it delivered the goods. For the price paid anyway.

The masterstroke, though I'm sure it was nothing but a cost saving measure, was to just show old Plays Of The Month clips from the 80's and 90's which they'd clearly bought in a job lot from Seven. What should have been an absolute disaster instead delivered some of the best highlights you've not seen since 1992. Contained within, shortly after a shot of Warwick Capper baring his arse on the SCG, was Sydney's Jason Love snapping a miracle goal at the SCG in the early 90's - at which point the greatest banner in the history of AFL football was hoisted behind the goals.


Other trends shown which are now sadly missing included animals running on the field, fans having a BBQ in the outer at the Western Oval, ground invasions by the dozen - often with the perpetrator ending the chase by scurrying over a fence a'la Cops and legging it to safety (wait, that's back in vogue) - and that old chestnut of the past, punters leaping the fence to join in doing the goal umpire's signal. My favourite was when the Geelong mascot stole the Hawthorn mascot's head and some absolute gutter filth leapt the fence to punch on with the triumphant mascot.

Next week
Hopefully we cop a week of media scrutiny/beatings because it seems that's the only way that we could possibly get up enough to beat the Dockers. Did you know that of their ten wins at the MCG we've been on the wrong end of four of them? And if they hadn't imploded in spectacular, magical fashion on that day in 2008 then it would be right on half.

They've not won there since 2007, choked royally on their last visit and are battling an injury crisis which makes us look positively soft so tell me they're not going to be giving it 110% - especially as top four slips away and they're suddenly back in a position where they might not even make the eight.

Apparently Jamar is set to come back - though I hope we're not just rushing him out of panic - so Maximum will go back to the 2's with a 50/50 strike rate from his first two games. Wouldn't be surprised if they swapped Evans and Nicholson around just to try and give them games without having to play too many rookies and Jetta will go with his shoulder injury.

As for the ins Collingwood Reserves were dispatched ruthlessly on Saturday but the gulf in class between their real side and that side is enormous, except when half of them are in the seniors tormenting us, so how much can you read into Petterd dominating the midfield for BOG, Dunn kicking five and both Maric! At The Disco and Bate looking ok in patches. What I did like was Garland getting through the game without snapping in two, though where he fits in now that Macdonald is back and playing good football is a mystery to me. Maybe in for Strauss?

Warnock looked good against his less/not at all fancied opponents but he's missed the boat if he couldn't get a game against Cloke and Dawes. Certainly won't be required to take on any dual towers of terror against our next few opponents, though surely Miller will be the third time lucky ex-player to rip us a new one this season. McLean and Buckley haven't managed it (though at least both were part of a larger ripping) so surely he's going to kick 10.

So, if Warnock doesn't fit, Maric is in counselling with the Morton family and both Dunn/Bate have had their cards marked how about this:

IN: Jamar, Garland, Nicholson, Petterd
OUT: Jetta (inj), Evans, Strauss, Gawn (omit)

No malice in the outs, just keeping it fresh.

The next month
The good news is that we could very well beat Freo, Richmond and Footscray going into the bye then Port after it. The bad news is that if we don't win at least three of them any hope of sneaking into the eight will be dead and if it's two or less then the media circus will well and truly be back on.

Imagine if we lost the lot? People might be able to avert their eyes from a debacle against the Dockers but nobody will take losing to Richmond no matter how much better they are this year. Remember Daniher winning two in a row in '07, accepting plaudits for putting us back on the right track and then being invited to reapply for his own job when we went out and lost to the Tiges a few days later? That could be the absolute killer for Bailey so he'd want to make sure that not only do the players get up this week but that even if they don't win they at least put in a half decent performance in losing - because after those four it's Hawthorn, Geelong and Carlton - and we're more chance of winning the Eurovision Song Contest than beating any of them this year.

Deano, at least we'll always have the dugout punching. Which is not half as filthy as it sounds.

Was it worth it?
In that we made a fortune off the gate and didn't have to come back from Sydney on a bus afterwards it was a roaring success. Apparently some sort of sporting contest was also played on the day.

Final thoughts
Dearly wishing I hadn't set myself the challenge of watching every game this year to the end no matter what. Would love to have kicked a seat and stormed out on about nine occassions yesterday. Still, like the weather it doesn't matter what the forecast is for next week anything could happen so there's no need to smash the panic button into pieces by punching it vigorously. Yet.