Sunday 31 July 2011

Saturday 30 July 2011

'In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.'

In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a real paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors; sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness

Football is a bloody stupid thing to get into. I didn't need to watch the second worst loss in 114 years of league football to realise that, but the angst from following a club either not quite good enough or going nowhere for my entire life has always been tempered with the fact that it could "always be worse". Now we are the worst. Not on the premiership ladder, but in the record books, and that's what will be remembered many years after who came 13th or 14th in any given year.

We mock St Kilda and Bulldogs fans for never winning anything ever, we laugh at Richmond for getting trounced then losing to Gold Coast, and remember Fitzroy as nothing more than punching bags for the rest of the competition. None of those teams have ever done what we did on Saturday. St Kilda and Sydney won eight wooden spoons between them in the 80s and 90s, and put in a lot of absolute stinkers but it was never this bad. We've won four wooden spoons in the last thirty years, and today's result was nine goals worse than any single performance of that entire timeframe. This is what rock bottom looks like and it's so ugly I could almost cry/smash the keyboard via furious mashing of buttons.

We've just dished up the most sickening, vile, embarrassing performance of the national league era and I was there. Never has a worse game been played since all 12 teams were based in Victoria. Retrospectively I'm glad I was there, because at least I saw it with my own eyes. One day many years down the track when we're hoisting a premiership cup (!?) we'll look back at Saturday 30 July 2011 and laugh heartily at what happened. I'll bet they said that in 1979, and right now we're as close to winning a flag as the day 12,000 people watched the Lions slaughter us at Waverley.

All week I attempted to justify to myself why it wasn't completely stupid to catch a train to Geelong and pay $20 to stand on a cold terrace watching us get spanked. When I woke up with a killer headache on Saturday morning the idea of chucking a sickie and watching the debacle on television started to appeal even more. But no, I hooked into the hardcore pain relief (and packed some for later, which proved handy) and pushed on. 11am train, a surprisingly amount of MFC fans onboard, and a one-way ticket to the greatest farce I've ever seen in my life.

I must have some sort of workplace reputation as the sort of idiot who would attend a game like this without hesitation, because all week people asked me if I was, not out of genuine interest but more like "are you REALLY going?". Well, why not. I was there in Round 3, 2008 when we came off the canvas with a terrible team to put in a creditable performance against the defending premier so why not? Who would have foreseen that just when you thought we'd never trouble record books for the wrong reasons again, that the epic beating we should have suffered in 2008 would finally arrive three and a half years later? I'm glad they also managed to fit this in during the second last game of my twenties so that I may start the new decade with a clean slate.

For every person who cocked an eyebrow in mock surprise and asked "Why?" (up to an including workmates, close friends, family and one significant other), I tried to come up with a different horseshit excuse. Sense of adventure! Belief in an encouraging performance! Something memorable might happen! The last one was right, but I was thinking more along the lines of a Goal of the Year contender, not the apocalypse.

I'm glad that I ran into someone from work both before the game and at the train station after because the first thing I'm going to do on Monday is ask him for a description of what my face looked like walking up the platform at South Geelong station at 5.05pm having capped off a huge day by missing the first train by 10 seconds. Things went even further into overdrive by having an argument with some goose who wouldn't shut up for two hours as I was watching a film I'd made a previous commitment to go. Don't know why it mattered, I couldn't concentrate anyway due to the horrible flashbacks from earlier. Antisocial rants against ill-manned scum are a story for another day - or for my own radio talkback show - for the sake of catharsis and history I need to write about what I saw at this game or I'll never come to terms with the feeling of sporting violation.

In a way, what happened should almost be comforting. I have looked into the void and seen true sporting evil, the likes of which will (presumably) never be seen again. The lowest moment that this club has ever had short of voting ourselves out of existence in '96. Surely it can never, ever be this bad again? We'll lose close ones and we'll get thrashed but surely you or I will never experience this again. I'll bet they said that in 1979 too.

Forget our players, forget the horror that you're going through, the saddest people today are Gary Baker, Ray Biffin, Michael Byrne, Cameron Clayton, Barry Denny, Anthony Dullard, Jim Durnan, Glenn Elliott, Robert Elliott, Laurie Fowler, Graham Gaunt, Peter Giles, Gerard Healy, Greg Hutchison, Tony Martyn, Phil Seaton, Steven Smith, Peter Thorne, Greg Wells, Don Whitford and Carl Ditterich - because today they went within a whisker of having the weight of the worst performance in league history lifted off their shoulders. In true Melbourne fashion two went on to win premierships and one a Brownlow after leaving, which as Tom Scully will probably be keen to tell you is the smartest thing you can do if lumped with the misfortune of playing for this club.

Remember the excitement when Port Adelaide played that stinking 2007 Grand Final and shed us of the record for the biggest loss? Maybe this was karma for the perverse pleasure we took in them losing by 20 goals that day? Maybe it's because of my abusive class warfare style behaviour towards their fans after we beat them by a point in 2005? Maybe karma is a load of old balls and it was just a shattered team broken into a million pieces, destroyed by a side who, to their credit, went on with it instead of doing what so many sides have done before and pulling up to a gentle 20 goal win.

What you saw was probably the closest any team will ever get to that magic 190 point margin ever again, and indeed they had one last inside fifty which might have seen them beat it. I'm confident in saying that there will never be anything like it ever again - it's the team equivalent of Dunstall's 17 against Richmond or Lockett's 16 straight against Fitzroy, the last go at a cherished league record that fell agonisingly short, and is unlikely to ever be seriously challenged again.

Must be nice to be where the Cats are at right now. Even the Geelong Advertiser, obviously bored of winning all the time, took time out for a rare feature on an opposition team when they put a picture of Frawley pumping iron on their back cover with a taunt for us to "have a crack". Good thing nobody will ever remember that. Especially for Chip who looked a right tit.

If you were a believer in omens you'd have turned around and walked out when you arrived to find Casey 70 points down at half time. Didn't really matter though, do you really care how they get on as long as none of our players blow a knee? The moment they signed Fev I lost any interest in how well they do as a club. Unfortunately, we've got neither the money nor the testicular fortitude to tell them to stick the alignment in their clacker and start our own reserves side so we'll have to put up with this for a couple of years yet.

One thing I'm sure of is that Fev himself won't be there much longer, and unless Kevin Sheedy finally gives in to senility and accidentally signs him for GWS while writing his shopping list, he won't be playing for any other AFL side. Apparently, he kicked a couple of goals in the first half, but by the time I turned up he was standing inside fifty on his own without a player within a hundred yards and the ball at the other end. His opponent was down there contributing to Geelong pouring on goals while Fev stood leaning against a goalpost or walking around in a 10sqm radius trying to look busy despite the fact that everyone in the ground knew he just couldn't be arsed chasing with his side a hundred points down.

They'd kick a goal, the forward line would set up, Geelong would win it out of the middle and the next thing there he was again standing around on his own. At one point I'm sure Maximum Gawn was even yelling at him to go and pick somebody up. He got dragged late in the quarter and walked, not even with the lightest of jogs or Olympic style fast walks, to the bench. Rumour has it that he declined/refused to return to the field in the last quarter, but I'd like to think that he was actually told to pack his bags and piss off up the highway. Somebody make my night by telling me you saw him filling his tank and buying softcore pornography at Little River services even before the seniors had started.

Sure he kicked ten against Frankston but they're a village team and Casey deserve beatings for signing him - but they knew as well as anyone that we need them too much to do anything about it. If we're really too poor to field Melbourne Reserves then can we call Frankston and sign them up instead? They're a standalone club who have been absolute junk for years so surely they'll jump at the chance to get some AFL players. We might even be able to rort them into changing their name to Frankston Demons or similar. You might lose access to Casey Fields, which is not exactly a fatal issue now that we've got AAMI Park, but it shouldn't be too hard to continue the community programs in the southeast suburbs simply by moving them across to a different train terminus. Let Casey sign all the broken down ex-AFL hacks they want and we'll concentrate on creating some more on our own terms.

One thing I'll say for the Scorpions is that at least they played Morton in the middle. He hardly set the world on fire (and who does in a result like that?) but at least he was more 'influential' - relatively speaking - on the contest than he has been in two months of combined matches floating around the back in the seniors. There were a couple of moments where he took on and beat an opponent in 2008 style, but there were also more than a handful of attempted tackles which Geelong players waltzed through with the greatest of ease. Baby steps. I'm not saying bring him straight back in next week and put him on J**d but at least it proved he could play on the ball without being snapped in two.

So, given that I didn't actually care how much they lost by there was a sick interest in seeing just how bad it could get. I've got a habit of walking in halfway through a lopsided sporting event, expecting to see something historic and being disappointed when the victims stem the bleeding. Turn on with Gold Coast fifteen goals in arrears at quarter time and they win the second, flick on a cricket match with the score 4/3 and somebody will make a plucky middle order hundred etc... Naturally, I expected the same thing to happen to the Scorpions. Maybe it would end at just over three figures, maybe under. Nuh, they were poleaxed and if right then you'd told me that they would turn out to be ten goals BETTER than our senior side I'd have killed us both.

So, my knack of not stopping historical results merely by watching hadn't worked for the Scorpions, but let's face it 130 points is almost an average margin over the life of the VFA/VFL. Seems like I spent my whole childhood watching the Sunday Scoreboard on Channel Nine news reporting on Camberwell losing by 250 points with the opening bars of The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and The Range playing in the background. Could never happen in the AFL could it? Not in this era anyway. Surely Richmond played as badly as any team possibly could when they lost by 150 in 2007? See also Fitzroy vs Richmond 1996, though they had a good excuse. Well, come quarter time, with the scores multiplied by four pointing towards a 240 point loss, the fact that I'd seen the same thing happen a million times (and only a couple of them to us) but nobody had ever seriously threatened THAT record was all I had to comfort me.

Before the match, Bailey was on the radio spruiking how important it was that we didn't get jumped by them like we usually do in Geelong. Then from the first bounce they did exactly that. And how. Last week we were five goals down before you could blink but there were at least faint signs of life under the rubble - this was satanic. There's no point even going through it, we were massacred in the middle, the defence was all at sea and the forwards did exactly what the forwards do when we play badly - wander the back flank.

Geelong's 31.6 in the reserves seems overly accurate, but they got at least ten in the second half from simple goalsquare tap-ins and the seniors were obviously taking notice. Not that they were missing many set-shots either, and had enough of them due to the fact that the ball would rocket out of the centre and straight into the loving arms of one of their forwards with an opponent, as per usual, trailing breathlessly and losing the will to live. We gave the first goal away courtesy of two dumb free kicks and it was all over from there. How all over nobody could have guessed. Kick your cat, divorce your wife and move to a shack in Nimbin to take up 'alternative living' over.

The worst thing is that the end story is going to be the massive margin and not the numerous cockups which laid the platform for it. Did the club know Moloney wasn't right before the game and played him anyway? If so both parties are dickheads, Brent as much as the coaching staff for going along with it - that's if it's even true and they're not just covering up something else. Tom McDonald was warming up with the senior side at half time of the Casey match, and as much as I'm thrilled for him that he didn't have to debut in the Abortion Clinic Cup surely he'd have offered better value than an allegedly half dead Moloney.

Even starting Davey as sub would at least cover for the fact that he's not at peak fitness - surely everybody knew that the game would be shot by three-quarter time anyway so who cares if he doesn't come on and star? Instead, Bate wore the vest. This is a guy who is fighting for his career (with us at least), who played a pretty good game last week, has a track record for taking a while to get into matches and already turned in one shithouse performance as sub this year. He's also hardly blessed with blistering pace so it's not like he's going to burst into the game at the start of the last quarter and light up the joint, even if the opposition have slowed to a crawl.

Then, when you've already banished one of your forwards to the bench, what makes you think that taking your leading goalkicker who is still a raw project player in many ways and putting him on a wing against Brownlow Medallist and renowned destroyer of men James Bartel is a sane and sensible idea? Then, when it's clear to everybody after a minute that it's not going to work you leave him there. This is what passes for tactical innovation at this club and that's why we're the proud owners of the worst performance in 30 years.

As far as I'm concerned it rates far worse than the Fitzroy game in 1979. Sure, due to being unborn for another two years I wasn't able to make it that day, but considering how the wider expanses of Waverley were more conducive to running a rubbish side into the ground this is so much worse. They weren't just kicking around us on Kardinia Park, they were running straight down the middle and taking the piss.

What a week to fall hook, line and sinker for an epic performance. At one end of town you've got Rodney Eade in the gun and his players respond by winding back a 50 point margin for a brave loss against a top four contender, while against the backdrop of the utterly ludicrous suggestion of offering Bailey a one year extension just because we can't get anybody else, his side turns in that sort of garbage performance. Whether or not it's the "coach killer" that the media, and quite a few fans, are dying for is anybody's guess but if that isn't I'm not sure what else could push them over the edge.

If I was him I'd forge Stynes' signature now and take whatever he can get, because one year is better than winding up coaching Xavier like Matthew Knights, but what an absolute unprofessional joke of an outfit we are if we even offer it. That sort of bush league shit would make me microwave my membership more than anything that happened today.

At the risk of being that guy I've totally lost faith in the Baileyball experiment now. The violent relationship has hurt me for the last time, I'm going to live at the football refuge. Don't know which experienced coach you're expecting to replace him with though - Malthouse and Roos are all but out, Clarkson will be, as much as I love psychos like Laidley and Mark Williams that's not going to happen, and for reasons discussed last week Neil Craig is required to hit a vigilance button every thirty seconds to confirm he is still in the state of South Australia. Surely there's no way they're going to go back to an untried coach now, even if it's got some merit as long as you pick the right man and not a cut-price "will work for food" option.

So, with all of the above either unavailable, unwilling or not to be considered we're left in this bizarre scenario where they were (at least until about 3.30pm Saturday) going to give him a one year extension with the clear message to the world that he was warming the seat just in case Malthouse fancied it after next season. What a magnificent, honourable way to run a club that would be. Then what's the pass mark for him to keep his job? If he makes the finals do we still show him the door for Mick's hostile takeover?

It's been four years, and even though we've arguably gone backwards this year, with more wins (perhaps) in a less even competition it's time to either back him or sack him. For all the ego-driven bluster by Eddie McGuire about Mick's contract surely if he was legitimately interested they wouldn't be such incredible arseholes to block a premiership coach - possibly two times - from going to a side that is absolutely no short term threat. I still don't see it happening, and as much I'd welcome an Eade, Roos, Williams or god forbid Laidley with welcome arms I doubt it's going to happen.

Malthouse or not, you either ditch Bailey now and go with somebody else (and if it's some sort of one year scam to warm the seat I'll spew) or you say "ok, we've got more holes than swiss cheese but we're going to give you two years to get this right", risking full Danny Frawley Phlegm Factor from the fans next year as well as the prospect of having to pay him out if we're really stuffed in twelve months. Maybe stack the second season with performance clauses which means he practically has to win the flag to keep his job, at least he'll collect a paycheck for a while longer.

Maric won't have to worry about the man who called him a cheat suddenly turning up as his senior coach, because by the time Mick has arrived to be the Allan Jeans-to-Richmond style failed messiah the emo will be back playing for Greenvale. What was an endearing hangdog expression suddenly annoys me more than Dunn's facial hair, and now that he's played two absolute shockers in a row and is sitting at about three good games out of 21 I'm not sure he's going anywhere. At least if we get rid of him he can devote himself to his real dream of running Melbourne's top goth club. He can take his sunny disposition and ability to put in good performances against shit teams from South Australia elsewhere and it will serve him well - as long as it's a competition with South Australian teams.

There was actually a period for about five minutes in the first quarter when we looked capable of not losing by 30 goals. Unfortunately due to having our leading goalkicker on the wing, another forward on the bench, Howe taking grabs on the other wing and Jack Watts at half-back most of the time there was scant chance of actually kicking a goal. So we didn't, and all of those of us who had forked over $21.75 (or more if you wanted a seat) to get in were treated with a SUPER BAILEYQUARTER while at the other end they kicked eight without raising so much as a sweat. The longest afternoon had begun.

Good thing I've saved my ticket, so if you want to do the honourable thing Melbourne (and I know you're reading) you'll refund my $21.75 and donate it directly to the Reach Foundation. I'll send you a copy if you need proof that I was there, as well as my psychologist bills. Sad thing was I could have got in free. Unfortunately, it was on a donated Geelong AFL Membership and I couldn't be bothered covering up my colours before I went in so I paid instead. Money well spent in these difficult economic times. What did I care if they busted me for using the membership? I could have just thrown it up in the air, done a runner and let the guy who lent it to me answer questions ("oh it must have been stolen, terrible crime around these parts, you don't expect that in Geelong" etc) from the authorities.

So you'd think that after an opening quarter where the coach's tactical gambits were exposed as shithouse, we would have been lucky to get one centre clearance, our alleged best player had not had a stat and even the players who were left in the right positions were bowel clenchingly awful that we'd at least see somebody have a go. We conceded 12 goals. Never before have I been witness to a worse quarter of football.

It was pure humiliation, with not an ounce of fight other than whatever Dunn did to make Chapman lose the plot. It's a sad state of affairs that the man with a twirly little mo which has been neither funny nor ironic since Round 1, 2010 is the closest we've got to a toughman. What also spoke volumes was how when half the Geelong side spent the next ten minutes belting buggery out of him for whatever he'd done, and it must have been good, none of his teammates jumped in to lend a hand, much less take one for the team and belt somebody. Nobody cares if you get suspended at this point of the year, just whack a bloke.

Chris Scott was so confident in his team's casual attitude to dismembering us that he even found time to abandon his coaching post to sit with Chappy and tell him not to do anything stupid like getting suspended. I suspect his instructions were exactly the same as the old bird behind me who at one point in the last quarter screeched "LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD!" as if nobody knew they were 180 points in front. The message is clear, if you're going to belt somebody when your side is on the way to a 30 goal loss make it count. Somewhere in the middle of all this controversy Dunn managed to kick our only goal of the half. He's been far from our worst over the last fortnight so it'd be a shame if he got rubbed out now, but at least he was having a crack. Now shave that ridiculous bumfluff off, you're bringing us all down.

You know you're in trouble when the Tomahawk starts looking like a world-beater and not a manchild in a girly bra. Throw in the fact that Cameron Mooney, all but shot of knee and entering the match with a season goal tally of zero, had five by half time and it was deservedly ugly. I can handle being slaughtered by Steve Johnson, but the other two are just an insult. The Stop Stevie J campaign was hardly helped in the second by the baffling decision to send Watts down there to play on him. He was, unsurprisingly, thrashed but suddenly like the new Brad Miller he's the first person to end up at the other end of the ground when something's going wrong. To paraphrase Dwayne Russell "THAT'S CRAZY STUPID!"

But who wasn't thrashed in the second quarter? Stats show that the possession count was 147-43, with none of those 43 to Moloney. He must really have been sick (and again, why was he playing if that was the case? Unless it came on at 2.11pm, in that case I apologise to all) because surely if somebody's being tagged to buggery and they're not hurt or ill you at least try to do something to break it - run him through the forward line etc.. instead of persisting with the same thing for the entire fruitless half. Bate replaced him and did pretty well considering, but with much of his contribution coming in the third quarter which we 'only' lost by four goals how much can you draw about his future from it?

Let none of this detract from Geelong's performance. For every murder there is a murderee, and while we played right into their hands with our lifeless squibby 'performance' you can't deny that they were absolutely slashing. A 19 goal lead at half time, the second largest in history, was no more than they deserved for the way they'd cut us up all over the ground. I'd like to say god help the Gold Coast when they play down there next week but everyone knows they'll put in a far more competitive and committed performance - and even if they lose by a hundred they'll be far more value for your money than we were.

All the times I've said "at least that's never happened to us" flashed before my eyes when the siren went for half time with the margin at a casual 114 points and my mobile going off like New Year's Eve with messages mostly reading some variety of "WTF!". There's not a great deal I remember about 1999 due to excessive consumption of prescription medication but I do recall listening to Brisbane rack up a 113 point half time lead against Fremantle. That was one of the few times I've ever thought our old friend the 190 point win was going to be bettered. They only won by 114 in the end so there was hope for us yet. Docker fanatics will be pleased to know that thanks to us they're now only the holders of the third worst half in history.

Even the record holders, the 1993 Sydney Swans who went to half time in a game against Brisbane behind 124-4 and were out to 161 points behind at the last change managed to lose by 'just' 162. That game should have extended the record margin so far that today was merely an outrageous shambles rather than an episode of Seconds From Disaster, yet somehow only one team has managed to really seriously push it. We deserve to spend the rest of the season rooted to the bottom of the Laughing Stock League (back for the first time in two years!) for it.

It's great when all you've got to hope for is that the other side will give up, start resting players and do with merely bashing you by 'just' 20 goals. It looked for a while like the swine were going to do just that, and after Bate kicked his goal, we were at least not complete and utter filth for the next few minutes. Just in the general vicinity. If somebody had messaged me to say that Dwayne had applied the FIRESTARTER tag to that goal I would have bricked the Fox Sports commentary box.

We even kicked two in a row at one point, which was just madness given the context of the game. But just when you thought that the slightest bit of respectability was going to be earned Geelong remembered that they were a thousand times better and booted the last four to extend the lead to nearly 150 at the last change. Heartbreaking. The dreadlocked hippy sitting in front me (why was she at a footy game not leading a picket line of the Israeli Embassy?) responded to my anguished wailings at half time (and invitations to our side to keep walking) by saying with exasperation "It's only the first half!" as if there was something stupid about being unhappy with the second worst first half ever. Needless to say she didn't offer a similar opinion on either football or the crisis in the Gaza Strip at three quarter time when it was four goals worse.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad that we didn't stack the backline with 18 players in the last quarter. Especially by the time Geelong had five goals to one and the score was creeping worryingly towards the magic mark. Not sure it would have helped the way they were carving through us like a hot knife into butter but if there's ever been a time for all out defence that was it, not before the first bounce against Carlton last (and probably next) time.

The final quarter was just horrifying. Statistically speaking it wasn't a patch on the second, but watching the score slowly tick upwards, first over 200, then higher, and the margin creep towards what might have become known as the Tom Hawkins Bra Line it was becoming psychologically damaging. I'm well aware that there are a trillion things worse going on in the world than some dinky football game, but all the kids in the Congo could piss off (or come and play on a half forward flank) as far as I was concerned for that half an hour. Only children are not usually known for their sense of perspective.

I'll admit that as horrified as I was at the end, watching with my head in my hands and arms shaking so badly I could barely hold my phone there was a part of me that wanted them to get that last goal and take the record. After all, it's not like we have been taking somebody else's record loss. It would have been harsh to steal the last thing Fitzroy has as a club, but no doubt Geelong deserved it. How many times does a team take the foot off the throat and enter self-preservation mode in that situation? They could have started dinking around the backline or allowing the ball to run out of bounds but they kept going to the end and were rewarded handsomely. When ran the ball out of bounds at 170 points down the umpire did us for deliberate. Thanks for that.

In the end they fell just short of 190. I was in some sort of shock but at the same time it was so awful you almost had to laugh. But I didn't. There wasn't much anger though, it was like when you've had so much to drink that your blood alcohol is 10 times over the limit but you feel sober again. That's what it was like with my stress level as I walked to the station, the blood pressure was probably 37.11 over 7.5 (that's deadly for those of you who aren't medically minded) but outwardly I felt calm. Clearly shock.This explains why I casually walked over the road and let the first train go even though I'd almost reached the door as it was ready to take off. At least that gave me 20 minutes to listen to a cavalcade of people called Adam (none of them me) ringing SEN and threatening to do various things to their memberships. Seconded, except I can't do anything to my membership because like a total moron I want to go next week.

One thing you can say for Bailey is that at least he treated the absolutely farcical question in the press conference about whether it was his worst loss ever with the contempt it deserved. Further proof, as if you needed it, that most journos are just like any drunkard on the terraces but with a warm, comfy seat at each game and their name at the top of an article. And yes, I would very much like them to offer me a job despite my criminal disinterest in correct spelling, punctuation or a snappy word count.

We might have at least made the margin 180 so the guy from the darts could announce it in a charismatic fashion.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
Not a solitary vote deserves to be handed out today, and please do not in any way take the following five numbers - often handed out in an arbitrary and random fashion based on some arcane judging method which I just came up with - as an endorsement that any of these players were actually good yesterday. It's just that they were the 22nd to 18th worst.

When looking at future 'all time' Jakovich Medal leaderboards feel free to subtract the following scores from each man's lifetime total.

5 - Jordie McKenzie
4 - Jeremy Howe
3 - Lynden Dunn
2 - Stefan Martin
1 - Matthew Bate

Apologies to nobody - the last three don't even deserve to be in there let alone anybody else.

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

Crowd Watch
I was offered a gigantic inflatable red finger on the way in, and had to politely decline three times in the face of an Amway strength sales pitch ("BUT YOU CAN WIN AN INTERSTATE TRIP" she screeched. Yes, to watch Geelong) before finally walking off on the girl still trying to thrust this inflatable piece of crap in my hand. The finger did however provide one of the few moments of entertainment all day when at South Geelong station one of our fans ignored the TAC safety message that it was intended to convey and instead pointed it earthwards while yelling "DOWN DOWN, PRICES ARE DOWN" at somebody walking down the road. So apt.

Moderate amusement was had in the first half with the group of MFC fans on the terrace ironically pretending we were good and acting the goat accordingly. Not surprisingly they were unheard of again from about halfway through the second quarter. Still, it helped the tension for a while.

It was so bad that at half time a woman actually walked up to me, put her hand on my shoulder and said "I'm so sorry". I was too stunned at the scores and the absurdity of getting personal sympathy for it that all I could offer in a return was a half-hearted nervous laugh. Seemed sincere too, rather than a case of "I'll bet you a case of Lemon Ruski [local drink of choice] that you won't go and tell some poor shellshocked bastard you're sorry". If it was sincere then I think I was gracious in accepting it, if not I hope she wrapped her car around a tree on the way home AND catches herpes from a footy player while recovering in hospital.

Next Week
Bailey might have presided over the longest suicide note in history today but I'm still not convinced he won't at least coach out the year. Believe what you want on the rumour mill, and between the time that this is posted and you read it something enormous might have happened, but I've got the feeling he'll be there next week - but it could get ugly if we're even half as bad again - and we hardly covered ourselves in glory against Carlton last time. If he goes on I've got no doubt that for all our fans who refuse to go next week in protest there will be some who will turn up specifically to go mental out at everyone.

So, assuming that DB is still coach I expect "Coaching Self-Preservation Mode" to kick-in and all the senior players to be recalled along with the debuting T.Mc Mk2 who we hope will be more successful than the first model and not spend the next two years playing for Casey. Davey and Bartram did very little in the second half but this is no time for a coach to thinking two weeks ahead.

IN: Davey, Bartram, Macdonald, McDonald.
OUT: Maric, Nicholson, Strauss, Gysberts (omit)

Funny thing is that I'm actually struggling for outs. The first two are solid gold certainties, Strauss goes just because of who I'm bringing back and Gysberts because he's been balls for weeks. There's a lot of older players who I'd like to give the boot to, but self-preservation mode doesn't lend itself to such grandiose moves when the replacements have just played in a 22 goal loss of their own.

I almost had to suspend Dunn to get Warnock in just because I ran out of kids to drop but we hardly need another tall defender against Carlton when it'll be Betts/Yarran etc.. who are running around taking the piss out of us. Mind you it seems silly not to drop any of Frawley/Garland/Rivers/Tapscott after a day when we conceded 37 goals. THIRTY FUCKING SEVEN GOALS. None of them was any good but Garland was probably worst by a nose.

I'd also love to find room for Gawn who was alongside Macdonald as the only half decent performers in the second half, but unless they're going to adopt my controversial Jamar at FF plan it's not going to happen.

Was it worth it?
You know, it almost was and if you're not a Melbourne fan you can have great fun in the office on Monday morning at our expense. Find your local Demons supporter (they'll be the one trying to shred their own face), walk up to them with all sincerity and say "I'm sorry you lost by 136 points on Saturday". They will be forced to admit it was actually 186 and you will piss yourself laughing. Please note - will not be responsible if you're stabbed to death for doing this - and if you work with me don't even think about if or I'll brain you with my chair.

Final Thoughts
Don't be the dickhead who rings the club up on Monday morning and yells at a receptionist.

Take one more look before you go;
Maintain the rage.

Sunday 24 July 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel (is the light of an oncoming train)

When I used to come on here and moan about our dinky kicking across the backline which often ended in tragedy, little did I know that a few years later Hawthorn would make a tactical artform out of it. The difference is that unlike any Melbourne team since 2006 - and even that's arguable - they're skilled enough to get away with it. Not to mention they're doing it deliberately when most of the time our '07-'09 kicks across the backline were done out of sheer terror.

These days we can generally switch a ball across the backline without completely stuffing it up, although there's moments of near disaster on a weekly basis, but other than that you could have pretty much sat home in the warmth and watched any one of 40 different matches that we've played against top eight sides in the last few years instead of paying any interest in today's game.

Surely nobody with a sub-Winehouse BAC expected us to win today (not to mention over the next fortnight), but with the slim chance of a blockbusting Spirit of '87 style run into September hanging on by a thread it would have been nice to see some sort of indication that we're a chance of at least being competitive against good sides in the near future. Forget watching the same game, I feel like I've been writing the same thing for most of the Bailey era.

Make no mistake, the dramatic finals tilt is well and truly over. Even if we do win one of the next three (HAH!) St Kilda, Freo, Sydney and Essendon have done pretty much everything to shut the door on us, North and the Bulldogs. It would be undeserved anyway, I wouldn't say no to somehow finding our way in by default even if it did mean a thrashing but it shouldn't happen and won't happen. If we do somehow contrive to beat Carlton and West Coast (unless it's due to mass food poisoning or a plane accidentally diverting to Mauritius) and then roll the shit sides in the last three weeks then I'll see you there pretending I was never concerned but there's as much chance of winning top prize on the pokies as there is of that happening.

What it means is that the difference between Richmond style resignation to our fate/misplaced optimism for 2012 and the MCG being in flames with Bailey running down Bridge Road with a lynch mob behind him is the last three weeks of the season. Not many people will be there for the Round 24 game in Adelaide, but if we somehow manage to lose that I encourage you to attack not the beautiful Adelaide Oval (unless it's as part of the reconstruction) but to get in your car and drive 3hrs to Westlakes and do us all a favour by torching Football Park instead. The rest of us will like the Thai redshirt protestors who invaded the airport in Bangkok and shut it down for two weeks.

I didn't for a second attempt to convince myself that beating Port in unconvincing fashion meant anything for this week, but I'm well aware that at some point well into the future we are going to win a match against a good team in a meaningful way so why not today? It has to happen eventually.

Does it grate on everybody else as much as it does me that all the other sides who have been consistently shit over the last few years have had at least one upset win against a Victorian side? Us, we've got the Sydney game last year and precious little else. Every game we lose against a local team, and every game we lose at Etihad Stadium pushes the 21st century story of the MFC one step closer to tragic comedy. That we will almost certainly end this season having four year (at least) losing streaks against seven of nine other Victorian clubs is a sick joke. One day we'll look back on this era and laugh heartily but nobody's laughing at the moment.

The Hawks didn't even have to resort to their sideways, backwards, chippy dinky kicking today. It wasn't required because they could be fairly certain that as long as they got the thing forward quick enough they'd find a backline full of red/blue in complete disarray. No point messing about 'setting it up' in the backline when you can just boot it in there and usually find a spare man. Even if he's on a rubbish angle never mind because he'll inevitably have a teammate either standing on his own inside 50 or one running at him on the lead with his opponent trailing breathlessly behind.

In the spirit of writing things for the 50th time in the last few years, can somebody (Champion Data? Surely you're reading) tell me the difference between the amount of short kicks from a standing position to a mark inside 50 between us and our opponents since - and let's pick a random date here - Round 1, 2008? I'm not talking about wild snaps, missed shots, kicks on the run and panicked boot-meets-ball moments, it's when they take a mark 50m out on the boundary line and find somebody on his own 30 metres out directly in front. If we tried to pass from that position the ball would be down the other end and through the goals within 30 seconds.

The most unsavoury thing about the first quarter was that by the time Hawthorn were five goals in front they'd had six inside 50's. We'd had about ten. The difference was that even though we were beating them in the middle and the forwards were putting on good pressure when it did get down there the quality of the kicks going forward were absolute toilet and gave nobody any chance. With Jurrah out, Green up the ground, Bate useless overhead, Watts already turning in a shocker and neither Jamar or the Stefan Martin Experience allowed anywhere near the goalsquare early on it didn't look like anybody was likely to kick a goal for us.

No such problems at the other end, and how good was their first? Breust's tap down to Rioli was the best thing of that ilk I've seen at that end of the ground since Petterd's flying Wayne Harmes style tap back to Bate against Richmond last year. Hawthorn probably do it every week, we've never done it since. How much would you slice your jatz (or lady jatz) off to have a Cyril Rioli in our side right now? He reminds me of an even better version of classic era 2004-06 Aaron Davey before we drained the creativity and joy of life out him by sticking him at half-back flank instead of finding somebody else who could kick accurately and could free him up to stay where he could do the most damage.

Before you knew it we were 30 points down, staring at a Super Baileyquarter (zero goals) and looking like we were going to suffer yet another heinous belting against a good side. Just when we were all but stuffed Dunn got that wonky free 55m out, and despite having to wait five hours for Gysberts and A. Random to go off under the blood rule AND despite having the jauntiest run up in footy history AND a moustache that hasn't been funny/ironic since R1 last year he sank it. There was a breath of life in us yet. Heroic comeback! Not quite.

We finally got some reward for having played pretty well all things considered with the next two for three in a row, but in true MFC fashion our desperate attempts to drag ourselves back into the match were followed soon after by standing back, allowing Burgoyne to wander through the middle swatting away would-be tacklers in Frawley vs Port fashion before dropping it right on top of Franklin.

Chip recovered to be ok against him until the trash cans came on the field for junk time in the last quarter, but he was rubbish in the first. Not that it mattered, because even if Franklin was likely to kick 20 who else were we going to put on him? Surely they're never going to butcher Rivers by putting him one-on-one with a big bastard ever again after the Travis Cloke debacle? It worries me that Warnock seems to be on the way out because if Frawley gets hurt again we'll have nobody who can play on the monsters. Good thing there's not many of them going around, but if we suddenly get the rest of the side right and then see the defence destroyed with one injury you can queue up behind me on the edge of the cliff.

I liked Dunn and Petterd in the first quarter and despite recent abusive comments about Lynden's 'offensive to minorities' facial hair and suggestion that his flying kneedrop in the North game was the beginning of the end I'm all for keeping him - as long as he shaves that bloody growth off. Just doesn't seem to me like we could fit both in week in, week out but, as people are always willing to point out in the comments, what do I know.

Given the choice between the two with apologies to Das Tash I'm taking Petterd every time. Ever since he came back from Casey with license to play in the midfield he's been good. How much did you love the smother at the end of the first quarter? It helped that the Hawthorn bloke took Riewoldt in the Grand Final time to kick it but it was still a cracker of a dive coming from nowhere. Saving a goal that would have taken us back to pretty much the same place we were at when they were five goals to zip in front was good enough, but can you imagine any of our other forwards doing that? I know that in the Baileyball era most of them spend half their lives wandering around the backline but still..

Any danger they might attempt a similar plan with Morton and try to tweak his role? Unless they've totally given up on him staying next season they've got to try something different. Would help if Casey ever played in that farce of a competition rather than having the bye every second week. What exactly I'm not sure, because the horse has bolted on playing him up front but that's what Bailey et al are getting paid for. I still reckon they should throw him at the drop of the ball for the first bounce and if he gets torn asunder by six opposition players then at least he'll have died a hero's death.

The Petterd sprawl kept us within striking distance. Considering the big difference in the first quarter was that Hawthorn were ruthless going inside 50 while we were just hoofing it in that general direction and hoping for the best it should have followed that if we stopped them getting it out of the middle and easily into the forward line that we'd at least be able to stay in touch long enough to keep it interesting. So then they decided to start smashing us out of the centre as well. Which was unfortunate.

The first goal said it all, a shit kick floated inside 50 but David Hale and his ridiculous synthetic hair were a mile clear of any sort of defender and it just landed in his arms. Then after luckily marking it his kick was shithouse yet still went through and that was the Petterd save completely wasted. When he had another shot from the exact same spot a few seconds later it was nearly time to break out the toaster/fork combination and look for an AC power socket but thankfully that time justice was served and his rubbish kick missed.

All that did was hold back the tide for a few minutes. Even though we were on the end of a few dubious decisions which had the people who voluntarily wear brown bleating like idiots they were just too good and we were a complete shambles going inside 50. It took Sylvia's All Valley Karate Tournament style attempt to kick Kyle Cheney's face off which cleared the way for Howe's second to get us on the board.

Sylvia was lucky not to get pinged for a free due to the Cobra Kai style karate kick, but that was the least of the Hawk fans worries that quarter - how about the near riot when they got pinged for the deliberate? And the multiple times they did the "oh we finally got a free" bronx cheers? When they were five goals in front. The moaning gits were as bad as the people who have nervous breakdowns about not getting a free when their side are 80 points in front 30 minutes into the last quarter.

When Bate kicked that goal late in the quarter to at least keep us in touch I was confident enough to go out for something to eat, but by the time I was down one small flight of stairs, picking a floppy chemical hot dog out of the famed Delaware North bain marie the TV was showing the Hawks going straight out of the middle and scoring. WHY DOES THAT ALWAYS HAPPEN? I was tempted to throw the hot dog across the walkway like a rock solid, expensive hand grenade but it's not worth wasting $5 to make a political statement when you've already had one Kaiser's Sausage (PLUG! GIVE ME FREEBIES!) before the game. Any wonder why I'm such a porky? Apparently stress keeps you thin, but you wouldn't know this year given that we've had about 15 straight matches that have been thrashings one way or the other. Could the Round 1 draw have been any less of an indication of what we'd go through for the rest of the year?

We weren't terrible in the first ten minutes of the third quarter, and when Green ripped off Sylvia by marking his kick as it was going through to boot his second of the quarter we were just hanging on. I distinctly remember the same sort of thing happening the other way in Round 2 shortly before Hawthorn put us to the sword with extreme prejudice. Shame then instead of us turning the tables more of the same debacles which afflicted us in the third quarter of that game were just around the corner.

At least this time we managed to get our hands on the ball, and sadly in the case of Luke Tapscott on his opponent. He must have thought he was well in the clear to throw Michael Osborne to the ground 100m behind play with the ball travelling into our forward line but unfortunately for him there's a little something in this era called the "non controlling umpire" and he was looking straight at them. We should have had a free in the contest in front of our goal, then when Martin quite rightly asked the umpire what the buggery was going on they added a 50 to it as well and we ended up on the wrong side of a two goal turnaround. Game well and truly over. Then to really take the piss Sylvia did that horrific kick coming out of defence (not half as good as the one on Cheney) and gifted them the easiest goal ever. Game even more over. They weren't quite at the Chris Sullivan line but if you saw us winning from 3/4 time you were probably also seeing dragons flying on rainbows over your head - because you are a drug addict who should be sectioned from the community.

Last quarter was full of junk but at least there was nothing as farcical in it as Nicholson's attempt at a shepherd to 'protect' Stef Martin during the third. That's where I almost walked out. You could argue that it was the Experience's fault for taking him on and expecting Nicholson to block for him, but if Nicho had put on even the slightest touch of pressure he'd have slowed Bailey down long enough for the Experience to be off to the races. As it was he almost got away with it despite Bailey running around Nicholson like a witches hat and giving chase. It was rubbish. He's fallen victim to the 'story in the papers' curse in a massive way.

Not saying he won't be good but I don't think he's a walk up start in our best 22 at the moment. Still, I'd rather him than Strauss or Bennell - both of whom fill me with dread every time they go near it.

Not sure if I was the last Melbourne fan in the ground when the siren went but there was very little excitement in the junktastic goals we got late. Petterd was rewarded for a good game and Howe got his third, but we were frighteningly devoid of four quarter players - as we seem to be in every single loss we have had in years. Everyone went missing for at least one quarter with the possible exception of the Experience who at least battled on and thumped a few kicks out of the middle.

Just your average depressing day at the footy then. I've given up having kittens about Bailey and the coaching panel. No point kicking the cat based on a loss to three top four sides and fifth, I'll save it for the very real chance that Richmond learn from their mistakes of a few weeks ago and turn us over at 4.40pm on Sunday 21 August. That's when I'll chuck a sickie and sit here thrasing away at the keyboard for a week, wailing about how terrible everything is and how we're going to end up playing against Fitzroy in the amateurs.

Still not convinced that they're going to give him the boot anyway. Tell me who I can have instead (and be realistic, no Mick Malthouse because it's simply not going to happen) and I'll tell you if I'm interested. Who's the next big thing in assistant coaching these days? Is Brian Royal firming up at the prospect of finally fulfiling his NBT status from a decade ago? You wouldn't have thought so, but given the amount of money we're probably going to offer he could almost find himself on the shortlist.

As far as current coaches go Clarkson and Ratten will be off the agenda by the time the season ends, and Neil Craig is so South Australian he'll explode if he doesn't enter the state at least once a week, so find me a 'safe' option that isn't some old mate who wants to work for minimum wage and can apply through an ad in the papers a'la Bailey '07? I've got a Dean Laidley fetish which has been boiling for years but I can just see half of our fans having an aneurysm if he even applied. Personally I'd be having a stroke.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
There's not much that deserved here. I promise that this isn't some kind of scam to get The Experience into medal calculations but at least he had a crack for four quarters which is more than you can say for most. The fact that Green comes second despite two of his goals being steals from other players shows what a farce the votes are this week.

5 - Stefan Martin
4 - Brad Green
3 - Jeremy Howe
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Jared Rivers

Varying degrees of apology to Jones, Petterd, Dunn, Moloney and Frawley.

As for contenders I'm closing this off under Jamar unless somebody storms home. The Seecamp remains close while Howe is now contending for the Hilton.

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

Crowd Watch
39,000 and I reckon 30k of them were Hawthorn fans. Incredible disinterest from our supporters on a day where they were likely to get rained on and watch us lose at the same time. It's another huge win for the Big Book O'Footy Stereotypes.

I can see where people who stayed at home were coming from, don't know why I bother myself sometimes. Am holding on desperately so that when the good comes I can say I was there in the bad and actually mean it. While wearing a Meesen Magic cape swirled around my neck.

Other than when they were bleating at umpires the Hawthorn fans where I were honestly looked as if they couldn't be bothered. Remember that feeling? I think it was the game where their members got in free so at least they weren't paying for it but they could have shown the slightest interest. Even when the rest of the stadium was oohing and ahhing over the antics of Cyril, and rightly so too, the ones around me were just dull. The guy in front of me didn't applaud once all day. Is that what happens to you when you've seen premierships? Well worth it I reckon.

If Richmond broke the world record for the most balding women in one stadium a few weeks ago, surely the Hawthorn fans in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand today cracked the Guinness Book for the most people with mis-shapen heads. It was like a Crash Test Dummy convention. Gigantic fiveheads as far as the eye could see but at least they were civil. I have a feeling that we few insane types who go to Geelong next week won't get off so lightly.

Next Week
If people are going to ditch on an MCG home game imagine how few opposition fans are going to turn up to Kardinia Park in the future when every game is live on TV? No issue for the Cats, they'll continue to pocket their $600k a game based on the locals alone. What a wonderful world.

As appealing as it sounds to have the opportunity to drive/catch a train for more than an hour and pay $20 to get in despite having an alleged home and away membership THEN freeze your tits off standing on an exposed East German constructed terrace surrounded by toothless simpletons watching a match you know you're going to get thrashed in I think I can live my life without doing that every couple of years.

All that plus toilets that are practically slop troughs and I don't think I'll be wasting time and money on going there from next year. Sadly that's all in the future and I'm committed to being there next week where I will go Hercules like through all of the above trials before realising the futility of it all halfway through the third quarter and walking out to listen to the rest on the radio.

Players who I'm not particularly interested in seeing next week include Bennell, Maric, Strauss, Nicholson and Bate (see also Morton, Cale) but undoubtedly there's going to be some survivors who don't deserve it. It seems like Casey have the VFL bye every second week so we won't even get an indication of who's worth coming in. Does it matter? We're going to get humped.

May as well throw a few surprises in the mix so how about picking Gawn to play in the ruck and sticking Jamar in the forward line all day. I know Essendon discredited the three ruckman theory with their hamfisted application of it earlier in the year but if we're going to only get scraps of inside 50's while getting thrashed we'd might as well try something different. At least it would take the heat off the fact that everyone has finally realised that the Psychic Friends Connection are a killer ruck/rover combo after two years of them combining from the middle ten times a game. Please note I do not in any way support this if it leads to Jack Watts spending most of the day standing on Manbreasts Hawkins in the backline.

I've got an irrational disinterest in Strauss so we'll get rid of him as well (do you think I could coach?), and even though Nicholson has been ok considering where he's come from it's time for him to go back in the interests of rotation. As for Bennell I just can't get interested in him, he just seems to wander around getting a few touches here and there and not actually contributing anything even when he plays four quarters.

Maric did his usual trick of following up a good game with an absolute shocker but for god's sake can we at least give him one more week before dumping him again? Fine if they don't want him then give him the My Chemical Romance vest permanently and drop him but if they've got any interest in keeping him next year - and his trade value can't be sky high after a handful of decent performances over four years - they might as well play him. Somebody has to at least pretend they're into crumbing even if he didn't go near it once today.

Bate wasn't bad but I get the feeling he's just treading water until the end of the year. He's just not getting any better or more damaging, what's the point? May as well keep playing him for a few more weeks at least just out of courtesy but I'd be open mouth shock surprised if he's on our list next year. Shame because I'm quite fond of him in a non-creepy middle aged man way but with Watts (shit game today notwithstanding), Howe, Cook, Jurrah, Dunn, Petterd etc.. all in the mix I don't see how he possibly plays regularly for us next year. This is where he goes to another club, looks good by association (Cheney! Buckley! Not McLean!) and wins a flag.

IN (from): Gawn, Jurrah, Davey, Bartram, Macdonald (is he still alive?), Blease, Jetta
OUT: Strauss, Nicholson, Bennell

Next Year
The draft is all well and good, and if you're lucky you get players who can walk in and play from Round 1, but for god's sake can we go out and find some mature aged rookies who can either crumb goals or are big bodied and can scare some opposition midfields with their mere presence? Unless we're going to take ourselves out of the rookie draft by dropping senior list players onto it (The Spencil? THE CELEBRATOR?), that would make me a Morton-esque sad panda.

We've been getting bullied for years, and for all the guys like Moloney, Sylvia and Jones who you'd think would be able to give it back nobody ever does - is there any wonder that nobody takes us seriously? Any wonder that when it comes to tough, contested footy games we get murdered every time.

Not every match can be a free flowing, festival of swashbuckling end-to-end football and it's not. That's why every couple of months we go to a match - usually against an interstate side down on their luck - and are wowed by the amazing slaughter that comes when a bunch of nobodies that have never been heard of on the eastern seaboard let you run riot.

Unfortunately we're living in a glory era for Victorian teams topping the ladder, and unless we get somebody hard bodied into the midfield or god forbid find the mythical monster full forward we're just going to continue to have the piss taken out of us. Year after year, month after month.

Scull and Crossbones
Sick of the saga, have almost lost interest in keeping him. Doesn't deserve what he'd be getting paid, and if we're still frontloading contracts just to get to 92% of the salary cap I'd say that indicates we should be trying to offer ridiculous money to some proven out-of-contract players rather than a kid who will almost certainly be bloody good but could also be thwarted by a dodgy knee. Take the compo and run, the deal is getting too good to say no to.

No, he never accepted the treasure chest. You can take your prized possessions and love songs back. His loss, now his Ferrari will have an empty boot.

Final Thoughts
I'm starting to understand what it feels like to be a Richmond fan.

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Thriller in (conditions resembling) Manilla.

You didn't have to be a clinical sufferer of Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome to have your reservations about what was going to happen on Saturday night.

When you've spent five years being utter toilet going into a match as the favourite is tense enough, but what about when you're playing a side who just hours before have gone rock bottom last in the league? You don't need to be a Richmond fan stuck halfway under the 5.32 express to Upper Ferntree Gully to know what it's like having success torn from your hands and replaced with a steaming great turd - we've gone through it about five times already this year.

Still, this was Port. Remember them, they used to be good. Ironically just when they replaced their vile playing strip with something quite nice they went from being a side who played half decent football to one reeking of rancid garbage. A team so horrible to watch that they're alleged to have 36,000 members yet have to cover half the seats in the stadium with advertising tarps to make a buck. Their last home game got just under 17,000 people. We've all been there and it's not pretty. At least nobody has to listen to that Broadway song and dance theme song. The good news is that come Round 24 if you make the trip to the Adelaide Oval you'll get to listen to the Power Funk Squad, which sounds great if your idea of fun is watching 16-year-old girls prancing about (in which case you may be an AFL footballer or Gary Glitter).

Yes, this was Port. So what if we were tonked by the Dogs a fortnight ago just when we thought the corner had been turned, so what if we were coming off the bye - something which has mysteriously butchered half of the league this season. Everything else (where everything = Port being a shit team who should be relegated to the SANFL to play against themselves) pointed to a victory which would keep the feint heartbeat of our finals aspirations alive.

Unless of course it was being played at either Football Park or in abnormal conditions which would dramatically close the gap in quality between the two sides. For let there be no doubt with the exemption of Gold Coast who have an excuse, we're further in front of Port right now than we have been of any side since Essendon at the end of 2006. In '06, '07 and '10 we lost to the eventual wooden spooner (twice in the case of '06 for god's sake) and in the other two years we won it ourselves, so you can see just why a debacle wasn't completely off the agenda.

We didn't need to play inside a sauna to cock it up against Carlton x2, Richmond and West Coast so you'll forgive me for sweating up a bit myself at the prospect of playing a contender for the worst team in the competition in a city where the conditions are so oppressive that players are rotated off the ground and straight into the sort of room usually used to preserve meat.

Sitting in the loungeroom of our visiting Brisbane correspondant @amul82, I discovered what would become the number one prop of the evening a Nintendo Wii gun which, when it wasn't being jammed into toasters for photo opportunities, was waved around my head in angst or aimed at the screen whenever something went wrong.

During the last quarter I forgot I was even doing it such was the stroke-inducing angst that they were putting me through. When Stef Martin banged through the sealer I realised that I was sitting there like an idiot waving a plastic gun around like Tony Montana. It stopped me from throwing something across somebody else's loungeroom.

Thankfully despite all the ingredients for a shambles being on hand we managed to get it right in the end. We are not Richmond and generally save our humiliations for when we play good sides. Mind you for a match where we were never less than two goals in front at any time after the five minute mark of the first quarter it was all a bit too close for comfort.

From the first bounce it was obvious to everybody that we were the better side by a million miles. Or if you wish the distance between Darwin and Yuendumu, which you wouldn't know was almost the same distance as between Melbourne and Brisbane for the amount of effort the commentators spent trying to talk up how the Jurrahcane was playing "at home".

One thing you could say for Jurrah's "home ground advantage", other than the fact that he'd once kicked 7 in a local game there, was that at least you could be sure he'd be unconcerned by having his plum region sweat up like the insides of a greenhouse. Who knew about the rest of them though, and as we were reminded every 20 seconds Port had spent the last month running their players through intense sessions in Bikram Yoga style hot rooms to prepare them for the top end conditions. Must have been a big help for the other three games in the last month when they were playing in freezing winter conditions. Did that one come from Dean Laidley across Skype shortly before he did the (poolparty) logo and went off to do something more fulfilling than be involved with Port.

At least for all of Laidley's internet based assistant coaching methods he wasn't insane enough to try and take the senior coaching job. Poor Matthew Primus. He's sitting there in the coaches box, next to Matthew Bishop of all people, wondering if he's going to go down in history alongside Peter Rohde (coincidentally now working as the Football Operations Manager of... Port Adelaide) as the most unfortunate caretaker coach of the last 15 years, and not only does he look like he's about to jump out the window with depression but then he's got Tim Lane trying to convince us all that he's some sort of dangerous freak who's about to commit murder.

The evidence for this claim - pushed for the entire first half before they once showed Bailey, Scott West and else somebody who was obscured by a partition - was that he was shown once in the first quarter banging the phone off his hand with the barest of force. Given the position that he's found himself in, coaching a skint club with players like Mitch Banner (who?), Cameron O'Shea (WHO!?) and Ben Jacobs (surely they're taking the piss?) you'd forgive him if he stopped coaching and started kicking holes in the dinky little room that they had him in. But who'd notice if he stopped? And who'd pay the cost for repairs when Port go bust and offer their creditors five cents in the dollar. At least the stadium is sponsored by an insurance company.

Now, we all know Channel Ten are tanking even more furiously than the Melbourne Football Club circa 2009 but how many times did you think about furiously ramming your boot through the TV set? My highlight was Tim Lane, still smarting from Carlton's loss, suggesting Port were "morally in front" about 30 seconds before we kicked five in a row. Ridiculous statements about moral victories belong on rank amateur blogs like this, not by people who do this stuff for a living.

Almost as helpful was longtime Demonblog nemesis, and author of the worst article ever written, Luke Darcy declaring us all but home shortly before Port started storming home. I'd have thought that as a commentator you'd have reviewed what happened last year and would realise that Port put in a blistering comeback in identical conditions and were every possible chance of doing the same again. Apparently not. Would have thought that would actually have kept people watching instead of turning over to the golf. Apparently not.

I suppose it's rude to complain about the commentators when realistically we should have been watching Fox Sports and listening to Dwayno gurgling about firestarters, shortings and the breaking out of hundreds and thousands. In the North vs Bulldogs game on Sunday he prematurely screamed that a shot on goal late on game was "THE KILL SHOT!" before it missed, and instead of packing away his latest attempt at a shithouse cliche he awkwardly did it again when North really did deliver "THE KILL SHOT!1!!!!" a minute later. Next to him Darcy is practically Richie Benaud.

Sad for Channel 10 that they'll have to go back to showing repeats of The Spy Who Loved Me ad nauseum on Saturday nights next season and that they're going out being forced to show minority interest matches like this, but you can't say from their performance that they didn't deserve it. Surely even before the start of the season when West Coast were projected to be garbage again and everyone had come to terms with St Kilda being as boring as batshit they'd have thought that a game between Melbourne (8th best supported side in Victoria) vs Port Adelaide (stop! stop! stop! top! top! top! At least one of the two..) wouldn't draw much of a TV audience at 8.30 Saturday.

Either way I don't know what it rated but if it was less than a double episode of Cops they got what they deserved. At least unlike Port, Cops has a classic theme song.

You'd not expect much about the match itself on here would you? Google any of tedious, lacklustre or insignificant and you'll get a full replay of last night which you can go right ahead and ignore. Name A Game might sell a copy to Mitch Banner's mum or the Emo Maric Fan Club might buy a copy to watch on the steps of Flinders Street Station but realistically it was that awful combination of a rubbish team dragging a mid-range side down to their level with the added bonus of half the players dying in the arse from the weather halfway through.

I could tell it was going to be a good night for me at least when Petterd and Maric got the first two goals. With the exception of the Stefan Martin Experience, who I think everyone else is on board with now, and Green who is admittedly up and down like the proverbial I've not been as worried more about anything this year than my thinly disguised love for Ricky and the Emo ending with them both out of the side and going nowhere. It happened a few weeks ago and watching them both cut it up for Casey I almost had to join the Morton family anti-depressant discount theme to cope.

When Maric was named I expected him to be the sub but obviously they thought he might do self harm if forced to don the green vest again this year and he started. Thank god for that too because he was great. Both of them can crumb, both can push up into the midfield, both will probably put in a shocker next week, get dropped and walk out at the end of next year. Let's hope they give Maric a decent run this time, he was stiff to get dropped after the Carlton game considering in the three matches before he'd had 31 touches, three goals and two goals. He plays one ordinary game, Mick Malthouse calls him a cheat and suddenly we don't see him for two months. Rubbish. If you dropped every one of our players who put in a shocker you'd have to turn over half the side some weeks.

Meanwhile look what I found on Google images, proof that in 2008 he was absolutely thrilled with life. This is what our club will do to a young man, don't let Scully see it.

Howe was sub, and on that note I've been made aware of a new trend where gentleman who are batting massively above their average are being referred to as a "Jeremy". Not because our man couldn't walk into any garbage suburban nightclub and clean up with the birds, but because it's a corruption of "how(e) did he get her?" I'm getting behind it, especially because in the various times during the match when I lost interest in what was happening on-field we switched to picking out Jeremy's in the crowd instead. There were hundreds, which was impressive considering how few people were there.

Despite Jurrah getting overly excited at playing in front of his "home" audience (#statmybitchup distance fact - he was as far away from home as Seattle is from Los Angeles) and hitting the post trying to do a dinky rolling kick into an open goalsquare we were all over them. Four goals to nil, and with Port's delivery inside 50 absolutely putrid I was nearly reaching for the record books to find the last time we kept an opposition side scoreless in the first quarter (Round 10, 1994 apparently) when Gysberts turned it over going forward and Port got one on the rebound.

For all our domination early it was Comeback Week all around the league, and based on what happened in the final term last year the last thing we needed to do was run ourselves into the ground dominating them for 15 minutes without making it count. Thank god then for Port's rank goalkicking and their habit of missing sitters. At the other end Petterd was snapping them out of his arse, Jones was hitting set shots from 50 and Nicholson was booting them on the run from outside 50. Finally a game where things go our way, any danger this might happen against one of the eight Victorian teams we've never beaten in the Baileyball era.

When Jurrah got the first of the second quarter it probably looked to the casual observer that it was as good as over. We knew better. He could have had another one 30 seconds later and even though he missed we were running all over them. The way we were running out the backline unchallenged, often accompanied by Chip Frawley storming through a nest of Port forwards, swatting them out of the way with minimum effort, and going through the midfield with no teal clad future SANFL superstars within the same area code we'd have won by 150 if Lance Franklin had been down there. If Jack Riewoldt was sitting in Cairns Airport watching it on TV he'd have screamed obscenities at his teammates and ask why they couldn't give him that sort of service against the league's easybeats.

We didn't have the tools to really smash them up front, but they didn't have much quality anywhere. If Jurrah had nearly ended it, Green might have made it even uglier and given us a buffer that would have guarded against the inevitable humidity induced fadeout. Then came the runner debacle. Was that the first time you've ever seen us give away a runner free? I'm sure we've never had an interchange infringement, and I can't remember us ever having a runner stuff up before either. We've certainly never had one where the runner was lagged out by the captain. Poor Brad, he just saw somebody in fluro sprint past him and automatically assumed it couldn't possibly be one of ours. Surely the umpire would have noticed anyway, but Brad's captain's accusation didn't help his cause.

They could have made us pay from there if they were any good. Reminded me of so many times over the last few years, especially in the dark times, where we were in the same situation - hanging on and looking half decent but not good enough to make it count. Not like they weren't getting it forward either but more rubbish kicking for goal cost them. They finally got it right and put together two in a row and we might have been in even more trouble if Jurrah hadn't used his local knowledge (London to Budapest, Johannesburg to Lusaka, you get the idea) to take a huge grab just before half time. He provided further insulation against a fiasco by casually steering it through in traditional Jurrahcane fashion.

The backline was holding up well enough but apart from Frawley and Rivers it was more luck than skill based on the rubbish their opposition were serving up. Garland had an ordinary night, Strauss was good in 'defensive' situations but still scares the shit out of me when he's disposing of it and Morton.. well he was Mortonish.

I'll admit when he flew through for the holding ball in the middle of the ground early in the game I thought that the corner might have been turned, but just like the Carlton game his piece of quality pressure at the start of the game was followed with 3.5 quarters where he looked lost and confused. I feel sorry for the guy but surely the time has come where it's clear that he's not about to burst back onto the scene with vengeance. Who knows if he's going to be there next year, and I hope with a full preseason and a truckload of Prozac and KFC Dinner Box meals stuffed down his gullet he will be, but he's offering next to nothing at the moment and as there's clearly no interest in trying him in a different role then there's really no point playing him.

I'll tell you this, if he's in the team in Geelong and ends up going forward and kicking goals at Kardinia Park again then the next week he's a a flank fluffing handballs I'll go around to the coaches box and brick it. Having the second worst win/loss record of any player in the comp can't be easy (and if you need proof ask the only person in front of him, M. Warnock of Cranbourne) but surely it's time to turn the corner with everybody else. If you see him in the streets give him a big hug for me.

Given the conditions the third quarter was probably about as good as we were ever going to get. While Channel 10 continued to try and convince us that Primus was going straight out of the ground and into the outback to abduct backpackers the Emo got the first to generally wild celebrations (don't be stupid, the celebrations were all mine) then Port kicked themselves out of it for a second time. They did get two in a row to keep it within reason, but when Emo Fever reached its crescendo with his third goal the floodgates were open and we were out to 45 points (nearly #chrissullivanline territory) before they got the last one of the quarter.

Still, 39 points. At the MCG you'd probably allow yourself to get excited over that sort of lead, but in Darwin? Bugger that. Last year it was 32 points and that ended with Colin Sylvia taking centre bounces and an exhausted Jamar conversing with Leigh Colbert in seated position after the final siren. Don't forget, as we were reminded every five seconds whenever they weren't linking Primus to September 11, Port had spent the last month in a hot room. Rumor has it Port are already onto their third final notice for the electricity bill so that won't help.

The prospect of a soul/property/plastic gun destroying comeback wouldn't have been an issue if Petterd had kicked the first, but he'd been so good elsewhere I was willing to forgive. How much did you love the blind turn picking the ball up on half-back flank in the 2nd quarter? He's never going to win Brownlows but he's the kind of guy who will be an absolute star in a good side. Now to produce the good side for him to star in.

Then as predicted Port made it interesting, very interesting and then far too interesting for my liking when Cassisi kicked their third in a row despite me shamefully, and pointlessly, yelling "CHEWY ON YOUR UNBORN CHILD" at the TV screen during his run-in. Two more and it was officially more interesting than a chicken dinner with Stephen Hawking.

Still, even though there was more than enough time for them to run over the top of us with ease the only time I was properly concerned was when they cut to the coaches box for the 50th time and Bailey was sitting there doing disco finger motions at Scott West. I don't know if he was describing a piece of tactical genius or bragging about cleaning up at the Chevron but whatever it was worked because just seconds later we were down the other end with the Experience running into an open goal to seal it. And what a path it took to get there, poor old Hamish Hartlett managing to kick out on the full with the ball only travelling about 3 metres off his boot.

Stef was mighty in the last quarter. Even as one of three people in the world with his number on their jumper I didn't think he was capable of some of the shit he's pulled off this year. In all senses of the word he's a guru and long may he reign. I'm not legally allowed to suggest that when your Census form arrives on August 9 that you should write your religion as THE STEFAN MARTIN EXPERIENCE but it would be appropriate. We have come a long, long way from last year's corresponding fixture where The Spencil was a late withdrawal and Jamar was run into the ground with only failed cameos from the triple towers of Dunn/Sylvia/Miller to give him any help.

That was pretty much it for Port. They didn't fire another shot after the SME ripped their hearts out. Primus didn't knife anybody in the spine with an icepick, Bailey and West never decided which nightclub in Darwin they were going out to after and the Channel 10 commentary team showed such distain for having to be in Darwin that they were nearly cheering for the lights to go out again.

All's well that ends well, we got the four points and instead of jamming a fork into the toaster I did the sensible thing and made toast instead. We still had bits of rock solid, charred bread left over to hurl at the TV when Andy Maher and Matthew Lloyd came on for the 5th Quarter.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Ricky Petterd
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Stefan Martin
2 - James Frawley
1 - Addam Maric

Apologies to Trengove, Green, Moloney, Jones, McKenzie and Jurrah.

Sylvia retakes the lead and opens up a handy gap, but all the action is in the land of the giants where in the biggest upset since Richmond's last shock loss to an expansion team the 30-1 pre-season shot Stefan Martin Experience has nudged in front of Jamar in the Stynes Medal count. Rumour has it the same guy who dropped a mil on Geelong is down another mil if the Russian doesn't get up.

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

Scull and Crossbones
Tagged to buggery again, subbed at 3/4 time with a back injury (insert quotation marks if you're doing conspiracy theories) and then apparently unseen when the song was being sung. I missed the last one because ceremonial toast was being prepared but we'll put the tinfoil hat theories to one side (for once) and just assume that his injury meant that forming a circle and belting out a tune wasn't an option. Never a dull moment when this kid is involved.

For those of you who joined in the Tom's Treasure Chest frenzy during the week and held out hope that Velocity Sports passing the link onto him meant that he'd come out, grab the TIO Stadium house mic and announce that he was so moved at the offer of a karate kid style headband found in a charity bin in the Solomon Islands that he'd agreed to stay on a five year contract I am sad to report that we haven't yet heard back from him or his management.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of the entire campaign was this specially written love song which is destined to storm the Aria Top 40 at any minute.

Anyway, despite the best efforts of the MFC internet community we're no closer to knowing if he's off to pocket a fortune or staying to pocket a slightly smaller fortune. What we know now is that deserved or not we get a pair of first round picks if he goes. Given how we'll get bugger all out of the draft next year, presumably won't be finishing in the lower rungs of the ladder afterwards and have stuffed up enough late first round picks to fill Manuka Oval you'd rather keep Tom for his third year with a full pre-season under his belt, but if he's that keen on going north and beating Richmond then life will go on. Maybe the prospect of playing for a side that sells its home games to Canberra and not a Swedish sauna will appeal? In all fairness I'd probably be bitter if I stayed for $300k less a year and then got told I had to go and spend half my night running around in 70% humidity and the other half gingerly riding an exercise bike in a hastily assembled cool room.

Tom, if you're reading just scroll back up and have a look at the Allen Jakovich Medal leaderboard. If you personally accept the Treasure Chest you'll get a free 20 votes which will put you within striking distance of the most prestigious prize in football. Have you noticed how all the MFC awards are named after great ex-players? Trophies named after legends of the game in West Sydney include... err... anybody... May as well call it the Andrew Demetriou Medal, nobody will ever do as much for them as he has.

Crowd Watch
Very ordinary turnout, but what do you expect from the provinces when you keep sending unpopular teams there? If you really want to pack the joint out send Collingwood there. Of course that's never going to happen.

Corporate Corner
The selling of games is a necessary evil but is there any chance we might start flogging them somewhere with a climate that doesn't resemble Bangkok? All the good spots in Australia are taken, but could we make a buck out of New Zealand? What could lift their shattered national spirits more than a visit from the Experience?

Surely you'd get more than the 7500 that showed up Saturday night if you could find a ground to play on without making it some sort of farce with 40m lines and fences directly on top of the boundary line. We are 1-0 in Wellington....

Next Week
OUT: Morton, Strauss (omit), Scully (inj?)
IN: God knows. Would have thought Blease was a natural but was apparently very ordinary during the Fev show at Casey. Bartram and Dunn must be pressing, though I'm not sure what Dunn can do with Petterd and Maric in front of him. Davey and Macdonald would have to be a chance if fit. Either way there's nothing surer than if Morton plays he's either delivered a "play me or I leave" ultimatums or has incriminating photos of somebody.

I reckon there's some danger of Bate for Howe as well. Not exactly thrilled by the prospect but I won't start a picket line outside the MCG if it happens, Bater deserves another chance before the end of the year and better he gets it next week than at Geelong when all 22 are going to look like spew.

Psychic Psentral
I've been on the Bailey Ladders Ladder Predictor and the bad news is that if everything goes as expected it's the Bailey Ladder that predicts Bailey might be in trouble.

I've got us losing the next four, winning the last three and finishing 11th, a game out of 8th. Switching the result of the West Coast game gets us in as long as we have decent sized victories over both Gold Coast and Port. Pointless exercise really, because how often do all the results go as expected? What it tells me is that if we've got any interest in playing finals we're either going to have to crack the everyone but Richmond/Essendon hoodoo or the Etihad Stadium hoodoo.

Still, I stand by my prediction that whether you, me or the rest of the internet nutbags and the media like it or not Stynes won't sack Bailey if it's a lineball decision. If we miss by half a game, percentage or similar they're going to err on the side of caution instead of pressing reset and hoping that [insert name here] is going to come in and have instant success.

Ask me again when we get exposed multiple times in the next four weeks and/or lose to Port in R24 but I'm not entirely concerned if he goes on again next year. Issue is do you sign somebody for two years knowing that it'll get ugly if we don't make the 8 next year or do you sign him for one year and send the message that we don't really have any confidence but we couldn't get anybody else.

The North game will come back to haunt us. Injury crisis or not we had the boot on their throat in that game and didn't put them away. I can brainwash myself into believing that we ran into St Kilda and Footscray just as they were coming back into form, but there were no such excuses against North. Losing Bail and Garland didn't help, but we played a shite last three quarters when we should have already had the game won. It's not like we were even close to winning any of the other games that we've lost this year (notwithstanding Jurrah's junk time rampage against St Kilda) and if anything should have lost to Sydney so the North game could very well be the difference in the final equation.

I'm expending a lot of psychic energy working out ways to sneak into the eight where we will presumably get belted in the first round (possibly in Perth) but as long as we don't get thrashed next week I'll keep dreaming until at least the Richmond game. If Hawthorn murder us next week and we lose any important players to injury in being thrashed by Geelong and Carlton how can we possibly hope to win three of the last four to even be half a chance? Just close your eyes and pretend there's a way.

Roll on 2012 when we can afford to get really snippy/start microwaving memberships if things go wrong.

Was it worth it?
In that I didn't have to run around for two hours in 70% humidity and got to eat celebratory toast at the final siren, yes.

Final thoughts
The next month concerns me.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

An open letter to Tom Scully

Dear Tom, I speak on behalf of 37,000 Melbourne members and thousands of people who don't want to see you ruin your life, no matter what the money on offer is, by moving to Sydney and playing for a team in a jumper even a 1980s  V/Line employee wouldn't be seen dead in.

As you are no doubt awarem the Greater Western Sydney Giants, a team whose contribution to the sport of Australian Rules Football currently stands at exactly nothing, have made a bid for your services which amounts to approximately one million (presumably Australian, check the contract just in case) dollars per year. 

We believe that although our beloved Melbourne Football Club has made a substantial counter offer you still stand to score an extra $2 mil over five years by joining the Giants. Notwithstanding the fact that they have a rubbish American influenced nickname and will almost certainly have the worst theme song in the competition, it has become apparent that shady J**d style deals will be needed to make up the difference between the two offers. 

I took the liberty of asking a number of MFC fans and concerned citizens who already hate GWS before they've even played a real game what they would contribute to an under the table package, to keep you at the Dees. Adrian Anderson and Andrew Demetriou have said no third party deals will be allowed, but we believe that even they won't be able to deny you when you get a look at the swag on offer below. 

On acceptance of this deal and the signing of a new contract with our football club the individuals and businesses named below will contribute the following items to a treasure chest that you may collect at your discretion: 

Demonblog - 20 free votes over five years in the Allen Jakovich Medal to be cashed in at your discretion, a Beware Rhino t-shirt (size tbc), one weekend for two in the historic Northern Victorian town of Omeo, my signed and framed Phil Read trading card (sorry, the glass is busted) and a 1998 MFC jumper with half a number one on the back. 

@thefarceblog - A shiny new $2 coin + a 1994 team poster mounted on a board and signed after the team's visit to Hanging Rock Winery + a 2002 Footy Record signed by Luke Molan.

@givemethecure - A discount on buying his car + 10% AT LEAST off at his dad's sports shop + Tom's pick of used novels from his personal collection. 

@Jizzlobberz - A 1987 Semi Final Football Record - Melbourne vs Sydney /w Sean Wight on the cover + an ultra rare Melbourne 2000 Premiers cap which survived being destroyed at half time. 

@Portsidenews - One free Intralot ticket at Portside News on Bay Street, Port Melbourne (note - this could actually make up the full difference between the two offers) 

@amul82 - Free fish and chips at the Plenty General Store, 119 Yan Yean Road, Plenty. 

@maesy5 - A "10th coffee free" loyalty card with two coffees already ticked off. 

@benno_76 - A VHS copy of the C'mon Demons music video featuring Ricky Jackson climbing out of a locker. 

@thomasmperry - A karate kid style early 90's bandana found in a charity donation bin in the Solomon Islands. [We would also like to ask you to wear this during a game a'la MFC greats Ditterich/Viney/Schwarz]

@emdowell - A plastic encased playing card of David Schwarz.

@hibbyhibbert - A vintage Coca-Cola yo-yo. 
@deesie22 - Landscaping of your yard courtesy of the boys at JScapes (offer only valid if the address is in Melbourne) + a signed, framed poster of Brock McLean. 

@philmcgil - $50 straight out + further garden landscaping and labour work. 

@jamethmurphy - A photo of the 1999 team signed by Peter "Whopper" Walsh. 

@bmcgeorge - A signed copy of Garry Lyon's "Demon Within" + an unopened copy of "Hotter Than Hell 1998" featuring Todd Viney's live updates from inside his kitchen + a set of original WEG Premiership posters (because never forget, we've won premierships) 

@melbournefooty - For comparative purposes, a copy of Melbourne FC Since 1858 - An Illustrated History and a blank page to represent the history of GWS. 

Demonwiki - $50, one edition of the Football Record from 1956 and a round of golf with Darren Kowal. 

@gnaight - The chance to personally fire the MFC trumpet player. 

@bentyers - A 2005 membership scarf and a cap signed by Andy Lovell. 

@pickle2401 - A bumbag with the slogan "Demons, that's my team!" signed by Rod Grinter. 

@doddas - An expensive quantity of felafel and bananas 

@roydevers - A sherrin football signed by Rod Grinter and Allen Jakovich + a cap signed by Shaun Smith. 

@harcourt666 - A copy of Dan Harrington's "Harrington on Hold 'Em" poker book (Volume 1: Strategic Play) 

@dalev34 - A 1994 playing jumper with a badly stitched on #5 signed by David Schwarz. 

@mikesarg - An unopened bottle of Shane Woewodin 2000 Brownlow Medal Commemorative Port. 

@cjpelican - A collection of $1 and $2 notes. 

@frakturedbliss - 1 x 1984 Melbourne Little League Premiership Medallion. 

@deeeShow - 1 x "Ron Barassi teaches you Australian Rules" book and a badge featuring Nigel Kol.

@hardtack52 - 1 x vintage LP copy of "Footy Favourites", featuring Robbie Flower singing Macho Man. 

@jake_hatt - 1 x 2005 edition of Sydway featuring the streets of Western Sydney ablaze + a set of unused flashing demon horns signed by runner up in the 2004 B&F - Nathan Brown 

@jesse_hogan - 1 x slightly tattered poster of Brent Grgic from The Demon magazine 

@alexcmssargeant - 6 x signed MFC jumpers - 2 x Stef Martin and 1 x Brad Green, Jeff White, Adem Yze and Luke Tapscott. 

@darren_spence - A counter meal at the Burvale with Rod Grinter and Wayne "Moose" Henwood  

@biggestred47 - This personalised MFC tackle bag (his name is Jack)  

@weeping_wall - A Cam Bruce playing card and a badge to commemorate Jim Stynes' 244th consecutive game. 

@mattjfitzgerald - 1 x signed Meeniyan-Dumbalk United '1972 Finalist' football. Even better, they're called the Demons

@JRRivett - A delicious recipe for panfried Brussels sprouts in butter. 

 @richhuges - An incredible love song  

Also offered from non-Twitter users: 

A football signed by 1975 West Perth premiership player Laurie Heal - son of the 1941 MFC premiership superstar + a pair of lucky jocks + a star to be bought and named after you. 

So there you have it Tom. Lloyds of London conservatively estimate the above cash and prizes to be worth at least $1.25m so the gap really isn't that much when you think about it. I expect you won't be that keen on the fried food and the booze but that's ok, because it means you'll never have to buy anybody a christmas present ever again. 

We're also waiting on SEN to respond to our call for donations of Premium Watershed Wines, a free win on the Run Home name game, one of Andy Maher's Daryl Somers-esque jumpers and a chicken dinner with the Gladiators of Sport. Please consider all of these when you're weighing up the above offer. 

Remember when everyone talked up the special nature of the number 31 jumper handed to you by the great Ron Barassi at the end of 2009 (please ignore the fact that it was also worn by Donald Cockatoo-Collins and Peter Garratt)? There's more than a hint of irony in the fact that Barass went on to leave us for fame and fortune elsewhere, but that's ok because he also played in six flags. Sure there might have been a few jumper burnings and posters torn from walls at the time, but everyone has forgiven him based on what he gave us before he left for greener pastures. 

Instead, let's look instead at the esteem that one Robert Flower is held in by Melbourne fans. Many times throughout his career he could have walked out on the then penniless, broken down club to make massive money elsewhere but he stayed and is rightly considered to be one of - if not the - most respected and beloved figure ever to pull on a red and blue jumper despite not playing a final until his 270th game. Tom, you will play many finals before your 270th game wherever you go, but only one set of fans will properly appreciate it. 

I know this isn't the 1980s and there's a lot more money in football than ever before, but consider just what $3m means. It's entirely possible that even if you take the 'low' offer that Melbourne are putting up you'll still get paid more in the space of a few weeks than Robbie did in his entire 272 game career, and you won't find him lamenting that he didn't take huge money from Doctor Geoffrey Edlsten. Surely $3m has got to be good enough for anybody, so sign on the dotted line, pocket the prize pack above AND a contract offer that still means you'll earn more than more of the people who are listed will (unfortunately) in their entire lives. 

Become an instant legend of this 150+ year old club instead of a big fish in a disinterested pond where nobody gives a toss. The papers will be waiting here whenever you're ready...