Sunday 28 August 2011

It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again

Well, we made it. I'm well aware that there's another game to be played, but let's be entirely serious nobody will have any interest whatsoever in the game against Port, so that was the defacto last game of the season. We've made the end of the year without being carted off to a mental hospital. We've gone from hope to disappointment three or four times, taken a detour through utter despair and somehow managed to get another win before the end of the year despite having the wonkiest imaginable run to the finish line.

It goes without saying that had we somehow contrived to lose today that there would have been absolute murder. Maybe not at the ground where interest in going embarassingly off chops is usually reserved for a handful of nutters (and to those people, we salute you) but in the media, on talkback radio and - god forbid - the internet it would have been slaughter. Imagine the nutters on the Facebook page, there would have been enough bizarre comments to keep you going until next season.

But thankfully by virtue of the fact that we were playing a team with an average age of 15, who featured a second game full back with absolutely no idea what he was doing, a rugby player who has half an idea and a full forward who was there as a favour to his brother we got over the line. This despite them fumbling and bumbling around for four quarters and giving us every opportunity to smash them. Somehow despite all this, and the fact that we would have smashed them three months ago with eight minutes left we were still a chance of throwing away a five goal lead at three quarter time.

In true MFC fashion it couldn't just be a simple, comfortable run away drought breaking win against the 16th best side in the competition. Like that guy in the Hawaiian Ironman who lost the ability to run and wobbled over the line like a jellyfish we couldn't have been any less convincing if we tried.

It was always going to be dangerous, they've got kids not only playing for a spot in the team but a spot on the list - and nobody expected them to win so they could afford to play fearlessly. We were suddenly thrust into the unfamiliar role of red hot favourites after two months of being belted by all and sundry with only a battling win against notorious slappers Port Adelaide to show for it. Disaster loomed. If the enthusiasm of 3/4 of their team playing on the MCG for the first time carried too long we were every chance of dropping our bundle and having a nervous breakdown.

Now here's where it gets truly tragic. Forget the result, the chance of being the worst Victorian team or the possibility of dropping back to the foot of the Laughing Stock League for the third time this season, I wasted $10 on one last crack at my five year odyssey to finally correctly bet on the first goalkicker in an MFC match. This was no time to start mucking around and having Tom McNamara at 250-1 so I plumped for the favourite for the first time ever. Jurrah @9's it was. Hey big spender.

Green did his bit to keep it interesting by kicking off with a captain's point before some Gold Coast idiot missed a sitter to keep it alive. Eventually after ten minutes of garbage that you'd be shattered to watch at a suburban game we went from one end to the other in 2010 Baileyball-esque swashbuckle fashion and Watts hit the Jurrahcane with a pass to leave him with a shot that he'd kick nine times out of 10. And of course this was the one he missed.

Another glorious failure, and so we enter the 2012 season with the closest I've ever got being an "Any Other Player" (Lynden Dunn pre-shambolic mo) at $3.20 in 2008 before they started ripping off idiots like me and putting all the players on the board. Remember when I said that I'd given up gambling? Of course that didn't happen because I've got no will power, but you'll be pleased to know it's contained to the footy only and I'm not spending nights playing obscure Asian games involving dice and dominoes in sleazy gambling dens.

Despite the fact that we were continuing the theme of the season in being bashed to death in centre clearances we still managed to kick the first three. So far so good but how many dropped marks did we have in the forward line in the first quarter? Made a mockery of my theory that as long as we could get the ball forward that we'd be right. Cue the Fev bandwagon exploding all over the shop. Probably didn't help that Howe was the sub and they lost their nerve on having Tapscott down there after ten minutes. At least ol' bucket hands Howe can be reliably expected to hold a mark over his head which is more than you can say for any of our other forwards today. May he never wear a silly green vest again.

I'll be the last person to refuse an invitation to climb aboard the Brad Green Caravan of Character Assassination, but no doubt he had an absolute mare of a first quarter and 28 minutes of the second. Before he kicked that goal at the end of the first half I was thinking "oh god, here we go again". Despite my irrational (at times) support it did look odd when he was trying to lead for Bartram's set shot despite being about 11 metres away. We all know Clint can't kick a set shot to save himself but I would have thought expecting him to squeeze a pass to the top of the square with that degree of accuracy was probably the lesser option. He missed of course, but at least he scored which is I'm sure more than we would have got if he'd tried a dinky little pass. No doubt the umpires would have called play-on anyway.

Ahh the umpires. It's late enough in the year that I can ignore my own principles and whinge about them. I wasn't aware that in addition to ripping off every second pick in the 2010 draft and being allowed an uncontracted player from each club that they were also entitled to a truckload of mystifying decisions during their first visit to the MCG. What about the one where the Suns guy jumped into the SME in the ruck contest and pushed him out of the way with the ball nowhere near either of them and still somehow managed to end up getting the free himself? Or any of the 57 baffling ruck infringements, 55 of them which went the other way. I'm surprised Jamar didn't belt one of the umpires a'la Phil Carmen by the end it was such a farce. It evened out a bit in the end but my god feel free to have half a crack at getting it right sometime. Realistically I don't even blame the umpires most of the time, the league keeps asking them to make interpretations based on rules that change every two weeks it's no wonder that they're inconsistent and we look down on them.

I did enjoy McNamara getting away with kicking Harley Bennell in the shins and dropping a fist on him a'la Macho Man Randy Savage in the last quarter. Made up for some of the rorts we were on the end of earlier, especially considering we were right on the verge of cocking it up when he did it. Best inadvertent attack on a sports ground since Zola Budd took Mary Decker out in the 1984 Olympics 3000m Steeplechase final.

After ten minutes of stalemate and another ten of our natural hackery not allowing us to capitalise on their youthful ineptitude we finally got away in the last few minutes. It really was almost the worst game you've ever seen in your life. The guys from the Chinese AFL International Cup side who were watching on must have fancied themselves to be the next Yao Ming and get drafted by us if that was the sort of competition they had - and I think they finished behind Vatican City and Ray's Tent City in that competition.

To be fair we weren't all that bad when we got our hands on the ball, other than the usual slop that we've been serving up for years, and they even appear to have devised the most likely looking system for kickouts that we've had in a decade. The problem was that when the ball went the other way they had players spread out everywhere, running around on their own. It was like we had 18 x Daniel Ward out there, running around 30m off their opponents trying to pick up cheap kicks. The only person who was going anywhere near an opponent was Bartram who was doing a half decent job on Ablett, but good luck stopping that guy without the aid of heavy sedatives or pepper spray.

Run out of the backline was good courtesy of the super impressive, and bloody quick, Blease plus Garland, Frawley and McDonald (good debut, more against real teams please) and for once we were getting it inside 50 more than the opposition but good luck finding a target in a one-on-one, and good luck not having it haemorrhage straight out the middle after every centre bounce. Get the second one right next year or don't even bother showing up for Round 1.

Until Green turned his opponent inside out and marked for his first goal to end a horror half - and springboard himself into a good performance in the end - it was starting to look potentially very, very ugly. For all their failings as a nursery club for talented children Gold Coast have been a good contested possession and good clearance side all year and they killed us on both fronts.

Needless to say there was more than a hint of nervousness amongst the assembled faithful - and the middle deck of the Ponsford was the most overwhelming MFC landslide I've ever seen apart from the guy behind me cheering Gary Ablett on for Supercoach purposes - but the most startling announcement came from my mum who stood up at half time, announced that she'd had enough of football and was leaving. Poor woman managed to make it through almost five years of garbage before finally snapping. That's one less member in 2012 then... "If I don't come next year they'll probably be good" she said as I went in the other direction to stuff my face with the Kaiser's Sausage at half. Interestingly the third quarter almost proved her right at the first available opportunity so maybe I won't try to convince her to come back.

Speaking of the greatest food outlet in footy history I spoke to the Kaiser himself (not, sadly, Franz Beckenbauer) and he said they "should" be there next season. I must admit that in the presence of the great man himself I became a bit of a sweating fanboy. To be in the presence of the greatest caterer in footy history was slightly overwhelming. It crossed my mind to try and steer him towards this page to try and set up a potential sponsorship deal. But when am I going to eat the freebies before 2012? If they could roll their van up outside the Casino at least I could go over the road for a Classic Hot Krainer special sometimes. If you're going to a finals game do youself a favour and lash out $7 for one, I can confidently predict that you will not be disappointed. Unless you're a vegetarian, then you'll get bugger all out of the experience.

Anyway, enough of the Kaiser. Until he Googles himself and we cut a deal anyway. Or we draft a player with a German name and he instantly acquires the nickname. The ok thing about today was that we had players who could have contributed more. Get Watts, Trengove and god forbid Morton into the game, find somebody for Jamar to direct his 39 hits at and play Howe from the first bounce and it's (on paper) instantly better. Still, that's the Melbourne Football Club experience for you - when it all clicks it's glorious, the other 97% of the time it's bloody awful but it always looks good on paper. If you hold it up to a mirror upside down and squint.

The third quarter was certainly worthy. Green got his second in a row and the Experience took the piss out of Bock to kick his second (though I had horrible visions of his dinky little kick crashing straight into the post) and GC couldn't get their hands on it. All of a sudden we were winning out of the middle, using it well and the advantage they had when they got the ball and had 17 spare players wasn't there. So basically as long as we don't let the other team get the ball we'll win. Not exactly the tactical basis to lay an assault at the finals on.

The only downside was Jurrah killing himself in a marking contest - but still taking the shot despite clearly having just stuffed his shoulder, which is the dictionary definition of hungry - but he's got plenty of time to get better. If there's any upside to it at least Howe will get to play four quarters next week and maybe, just maybe my triple threat ruck fiesta might get a run.

Possibly my favourite bit of the quarter, with apologies to Garland bombing a goal from 50m out, was Nifty Nev Jetta running at Harbrow, telling him to piss off and pushing straight through to kick a goal. He wasn't near our best today but I loved seeing him in the middle, I might have a Nev fetish but I'm dying to see him cement a spot in the team. Only 11 touches, but six tackles and things just seem to happen when he's around. Now that I've supported him he will now almost certainly either get traded or never play another good game again.

It looked like the natural order of the world had been restored when we went into the last quarter five goals in front but nothing comes simply to this club. Sad thing is that the side we were playing today, a corporate creation of the league pitched to unborn children and filthy turncoats who change teams in adulthood, will almost certainly win the flag before we will. Everyone will. Gold Coast, GWS, New Zealand, Fitzroy, Ray's Tent City.

No surprises either considering they've been given every advantage just on the off chance that a few thousand people in Queensland and a few Victorians who are trying to be wacky will support the game. Here's hoping that they shed a few players off the list when they're forced to return to normal numbers and that a few of the kids who fall off the back of the truck with AFL experience turn out to be good and that we may nab some decent ones. The other option is to hang around Collingwood on hard rubbish collection night and grab anything they put out on the nature strip as unwanted. The only problem there is that you'll either end up with a Nathan Djekerra who is no good without being surrounded by superstars or Simon Buckley who wasn't much chop to start with.

Before the game I had a feeling that it would end up too close for comfort, and in the last quarter the premonition came true. Just when you thought we'd run away from them, and despite the fact that we kicked the sealer about three times in 30 minutes, the little bastards kept coming at us and with absolutely no ability to lock the ball in the middle of the ground it was only inexperienced bumbling that stopped them from running right over the top of us.

First Ablett did the Ponsford Takeaway when he pickpocketed Rivers to gave Nathan a charity goal. Not so bad. Then Howe comes on and kicks a goal and we seal it for the first time. Cue four in a row by the Suns, absolute hysteria from the kids and turncoats in their cheersquad and collectively tightened sphincters of the other 21,000 people in the ground.

I refused to let myself believe we could possibly cock it up from there, but when the fourth one went in I started clearing a space in my mental horrors wing for a spot alongside the Chris Sullivan Line game and Geelong. They went forward again when it was 17 points the difference, and thank god the umpiring rorts swung around and let McNamara get away with his unprecedented attack on Bennell 40m out as good as directly in front, because if that had gotten back to under two goals there could have been an utter tragedy on the cards.

Thank god then for Jeremy Howe, the man who must never be the substitute again, who booted the second sealer and Moloney who got the third. Talk about relief, the prospect of another low moment avoided and the knowledge that we don't have to leave the house to watch this crap again before next February/March. Some people might take an interest in the annual September exhibition series which other teams play in but I'll be turning my interest to the really important things like getting a new coach, flogging some players at trade week and ruining some more athletic young men's careers by drafting them.

I've never celebrated a win less, and the match did throw up as many questions as it did solutions but looking at it rationally a few hours after the fact I think as long as we beat Port next week then we've done as well as possible out of the fortnight and can go into the off-season conning ourselves that happiness is just around the corner.

What I loved today was Sam Blease and Tom McDonald playing fearlessly with five games total experience. Do it again against good teams and I'll get properly excited but when you compare them to a Cale Morton who just looks terrified every time he runs out on the field, it furthers my theory that the Sad Panda is a mentalist who needs to go onto Prozac. He did have ten touches at 90% efficiency today, but he did it all with a look on his face like he was on his way to get a lethal injection. Cheer up son, you're living the dream.

Blease is just so quick through the ground and uses it really well by foot. I love the way he takes people on and runs through the middle of the ground. Who knows where he fits into our Best 21+1 next year against Tapscott and Grimes but I'm thrilled with the start of his career. Took long enough to get him out there, but well worth the wait.

Also pleasantly surprised by Bennell's last fortnight. Yet again, do it against some good teams and we'll be off to the races but there's no doubt he can do a job storming out of the backline and through the middle of the ground. Probably hasn't helped him that he's been sub three times and has been thrown forward at times but at least he's done enough to show he might provide something of quality next season.

McNamara wasn't in the best, but I was thrilled to see him get another name. Also really happy to see him in the middle at times as well. He looked wonky in the first half but when he settled into the game and calmed his nerves he used the ball quite well by foot. Deserves another run at it next week. Never going to be a superstar but could be handy as a depth player in the future.

So, for those of us not going to the Adelaide Oval next Sunday that's the difficult part of season 2011 over. For those of you who are going feel free to throw a 600ml bottle of coke at the umpires for me.

Somehow I managed to achieve the dubious achivement of seeing every minute of every game in Victoria (+ one in Brisbane to really make a mockery of the year) this year. Didn't that sound like a good idea in February? Will go for it next year but there's no way that three years in a row I can somehow manage to avoid any absolutely critical engagements at the same time that there's a game on.

Sooner rather than later some bastard is going to get married or worse at 1.10 on a Sunday, and the worst thing is that it will almost certainly be somebody with a connection to the other half because most of my family stopped inviting me to things after I ditched the family reunion to go to a practice match at Princes Park.

For god's sake can you all please encourage your friends and family to have weddings, funerals and birthday parties outside of footy season? Some of us don't want to be the one huddled in a corner checking scores or in the car listening to the radio - we just don't want to be there at all.

Anyway, season nearly over. Have the penultimate votes. While we're on the topic I was at the loosest end ever on Friday and did something I've been meaning to do for about three years, going back through the old Demonblog reports to make sure that the end of season leaderboards tallied with the actual week by week votes. To nobody's surprise they didn't and this year was the only one that didn't have at least some minor error. 2005 was an absolute disgrace, clearly because I didn't expect Demonblog to live very long. The only major change that came out of it was that Ricky Petterd lost his half share of the 2007 Hilton Medal because I'd given him one vote too many. Poor guy. In case you care a full run down of the year by year votes are in a spreadsheet here. Stats nerds go off your nut. The rest of you shake your heads in dismay.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Sam Blease
4 - Colin Garland
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Brent Moloney
1 - Tom McDonald

Apologies to Green, Jamar, Frawley, Bartram, Trengove, Bennell and Howe (per capita).

So, we're a little clearer about the destination of some of the awards. Moloney draws to within striking distance of the big win, the Experience delivers one of the biggest upsets in history to capture his first Stynes medal, Garland stays within touch of Frawley in the Seecamp and Blease temporarily delays Jeremy Howe's Hilton Medal victory lap by ensuring he can at least tie for it if he scores maximum votes next week.

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

Crowd Watch
21,000? If that was 100% correct and unaltered I'll eat my "I saw Mark Jamar kick five goals" hat. Where were they keeping the other 6,000? Won't complain considering it probably saved us from paying a "shit crowd" fine but come on, save the rorts for Metricon Stadium where they'll believe anything.

No interest whatsoever from the people sitting around me. A worrying sign was the kid of 7 or 8 sitting in front of me in a Melbourne jumper who when the Suns theme song came on he started belting it out in full voice. Ours came on and he sit there looking disgruntled. There's a kid who has been railroaded into following us by the parents, doesn't enjoy losing and will almost certainly chuck us for the Suns if we don't start winning before they do. Hope the parents refuse to let him watch them on TV for being stupid.

Next Week
I wouldn't be surprised if Fox Sports decide to show International Cheese Rolling instead, but just in the case the game doesn't get cancelled my changes would be;

IN: Fitzpatrick, Bail
OUT: Jurrah (inj), Scully (out of courtesy to his future employers)

Of course we're still enjoying the Cloud Cuckoo Land fantasy that Scully is going to stay so maybe Morton instead? I'm happy to keep the Panda next year based on the fact that not signing a contract mid-season will see us get him at a rock bottom price if he doesn't walk out. Still, he needs therapy.

I see no need to bring back Davey based on the Richmond game, but I suppose they will just to keep the peace. Let's just hope he turns up to have a crack instead of getting sooky la la and belting somebody if it doesn't go well. I'll be filthy if they ditch any of Bennell, McNamara or Jetta to fit him in. Bennell has had his best two games of the year in the last two weeks, T.Mac deserves a second go and I'm gagging to see Jetta in the middle again.

Hopefully Port go even further off the rails after throwing away a near certain win against Essendon. Unfortunately for us if they'd won they'd have almost certainly avoided the spoon (unless Gold Coast beat Hawthorn anyway..) and might have totally given up and played every kid with a name like a porn star (Mitch Banner! Jarrod Redden!) on their list + Dean Brogan. Now they'll probably try and beat us. Here's hoping the South Australia curse ends at Football Park and doesn't extend to the Adelaide Oval.

Next year
Based on what I saw today I don't see how we possibly challenge the top eight next year, but consider that Sylvia, Davey, Bail, Grimes and Petterd will be back and that there's a lot of time for psychotherapy between now and next March and you never know what could happen. Don't cite West Coast as an example though, it's madness to try and compare us to where they were at.

What I want them to go out and get is a brute midfielder who can take the heat off Moloney (and to a lesser degree Jones, McKenzie, Trengove, Sylvia, Scully) but good luck finding one of those anywhere.

You've got to be realistic about how many players can be traded/delisted/walk out for big bucks in one year but I'm fairly certain we've seen the last of Warnock, Bate, Maric, Scully and Newton. I have no idea whether Campbell and McNamara automatically get a second year on the rookie list and then there's question marks over THE CELEBRATOR, Dunn, Morton and Sylvia (who we all hope is putting pen to paper as we speak).

That's ten players with AFL experience - five of whom are almost certain to be elsewhere next year - and the only reason I'm not throwing The Spencil in is that I know he's contracted next year. I wouldn't be surprised if we delisted Newton and Campbell, lost Scully to the V>Lines and traded Warnock/Bate/Maric for whatever we can get. Perhaps then THE CELEBRATOR and The Spencil get delisted and redrafted as rookies? As long as we don't neck ourselves and miss out on some decent players in the rookie draft just to clear two spaces on our senior list.

Green and the Stefan Martin Experience are also out of contract and haven't signed up yet. Who knows what happens if a new coach rocks up and Green gets the arse as captain? He might just tell us to piss off and walk out. Then there's the Experience who Richmond would be off their nut not to try and convince to join them for free. I don't want him to go, mainly because it will absolutely confirm that anyone who is my favourite player will never have a great career with this club, but with Jamar and Gawn signed, sealed and delivered we're never going to be able to fit all three of them in so something's going to have to give, if not this year then next year.

Is it too controversial to say that I'd rather try and rip Richmond off into paying over the odds for Jamar and keep the other two? I love The Russian but he's had one great season and two half decent seasons - the other two could be a ruck combo for years, he's got two or three years left in him and might never reach the same heights as last year ever again. Fitzpatrick and The Spencil as the backups. Wouldn't be a popular decision but I'd rather not lose Martin - who lets be fair has only had one good season in the ruck himself - and then have to find a replacement for Jamar in two years time.

Coaching Corner
Apparently Viney has done a Gillard and softened on his "I'll never put my hand up for the top job" pledge. No thanks. I want him there, and I want him to be a big part of whatever the new coaching team is but other than busting out a killer kick-in routine which worked once what's he done so far to make you think he's the man? Hopefully he was misquoted because I'd hate for him to go for it and not get it.

I think we're getting closer and closer to ending up with another untried coach, and subsequently killing the Demonblog/Farceblog cosponsored Choco Williams #chokeyourselfwithatie hashtag dream, which is fine as long as it's somebody who has worked under the best. If we're not going to get Malthouse, and Buckley doesn't want to pull the Victoria Park Screwjob on Eddie and walk out to join us and leave Mick in charge, then I'll take Neeld or Watters without argument.

Somebody give me a run down of who the other next big thing assistants are. Brenton Sanderson? Simon Goodwin? Who else. Whoever it is they'll have to bring a brand new lineup of assistants, because Scott West will go back to Footscray and if Royal/Mahoney are there next year we're collectively on drugs as a club.

Problem is that trade week is about two weeks after the Grand Final, so unless they either get an under the table assurance from Malthouse that he's found a clause in his contract to get out of Collingwood and coach elsewhere, we really have to have somebody in place by then don't we? Even the James Hird hatchet job on Matthew Knights was done by the end of September last season.

So when do we start interviewing? We wouldn't be the first team to snatch an assistant coach during the finals series (remember Bailey managing to miss Port's '07 Grand Final farce by being appointed our coach? Last good thing that ever happened to him) but if we leave it until Collingwood play in the Grand Final and find out we can't get Mick then it'll be a death race to try and get somebody in there before trade week. It's not like we're going into the week with no interest, we're players in it this time no matter how small fry the goods on offer are. Does Viney just show up and start wheeling and dealing in the hope that what he does will fit into a new coach's plans?

So unless there's been a secret nod/wink/handshake deal done somewhere that will deliver Malthouse to Melbourne under the "False Messiah" plan then give up and try to nick one of his assistants instead. See also Ross Lyon. No bloody danger Paul Roos sadly. I wouldn't neck myself if Eade walked through the door but I'd hardly be ripping party poppers and getting his name tattooed down my arm.

Whoever it is I hope they're ready to yell at people. Hopefully including journalists, fans and opposition players. If they could possibly do a bit of this too that would be great.

Moving Violations
Seems that by the time the accursed 2012 season starts I'll have shifted homes again, and so it's farewell to that casual walk along the Yarra from Southbank and the furious trudge home responding to abusive tweets from insane North supporters.

And so we put the Southbank season in the same basket as the Camberwell season (2007), the Richmond seasons (2008/09) and the Cheltenham season (2010) and let's agree that not only do I move houses too much but that it's time we fired up and started winning again. Absurdly the next move after that is already lined up, so the Lower Plenty season has one shot to get it right before the 2013 shift to St Kilda and what will be the eighth - and we hope final - home of Demonblog Towers.

Disclaimer: This constant shifting is not in any way due to legal reasons or due to having grassed on a major crime syndicate. It's just staggering mismanagement of my own life.

Was it worth it?
For the (potentially misguided) belief that Blease will be a star yes. For Tom McDonald, for Jeremy Howe and for Nifty Nev being played in the middle yes.

For creating encouraging thoughts about the future maybe not.

Also worth it because I saw somebody play wearing #55, which is by my count the highest number I've seen anyone wear in a game I've been at since the heyday of Ashley McIntosh rocking #53 for the Eagles and Jamie Elliot wore #54 for Fitzroy. Congratulations Nathan Ablett, you won a premiership to end the first phase of your career and gave me a statistical oddity to end the second.

Final Thoughts
Port can dodge the spoon if they win next week. Have your FARCE placards ready in front of the TV on Sunday. If you don't boot the screen in first.

What time does 2012 start?

Sunday 21 August 2011

Be strong, it's almost over

Welcome to Demonblog Playhouse Theatre. Tonight we present "An Evening At Deano's", the harrowing tale of an ex-coach watching his former team continuing to slide away into insignificance.

The image of Dean's house is provided by Donald McRonald from the BigFooty MS Paint thread. And now, our story begins.

INT - Stately Bailey Manor, evening

Dean Bailey is huddled in front of a fire, clutching a small transistor radio to his ear. The room is empty but for a milk crate which he sits on. He is holding an empty whisky glass.

The half time siren sounds with Melbourne 27 points behind. Bailey hurls the glass at the wall in disgust

END (he cheered up a bit in the second half but eventually had the last laugh)

So, now we can't even beat Richmond. How well is this year going? The three game winning streak gone. Baileyball's kryptonite like effect on the Tiges gone. The comedy value of their only win against us in three years being from us throwing the match gone. The knowledge that there was at least one Victorian side who we could be confident of beating... right out the window. In fact as the ladder stands right now we're the worst club in Victoria. There's a cause for celebration. The last two weeks should (SHOULD) lift us back over Richmond and/or Footscray but what a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in right now. If I don't finally get an AGM where somebody throws a chair it'll be heartbreaking.

But other than the usual background frustration at following a shit team through a shit season is there any point in getting upset about this loss? Not really. Thank god Sydney had already shut the gate on the sick, perverted fantasy that we could somehow Bradbury into the finals by beating St Kilda and by the first bounce the match was rendered utterly meaningless. I'd have almost gone the vom if the last few 'thrilling' minutes were spent with the people around me trying to do live ladder calculations to see if we could still make it.

The time it takes for you to get over losing a match is the most telling thing about the magnitude of the result. There are some games I'll never get over (The Chris Sullivan Line game, the 2000 GF, Geelong) and some that threaten to explode my keyboard via the furious punching of fat fingers hours after the final siren (most of the last four years) but tonight I was over it by the time I walked past the Kaiser's Sausage (*plug*) van and towards home. I'll admit during the last quarter I was cracking the shits in traditional fashion but the moment it was over I was more concerned about having to wake up and go to work on Monday morning than I was that we'd lost.

Remember a few weeks ago when we played Richmond the first time and it was being billed as an "elimination final"? Since that moment both teams have spent most of the time reclining, with head backwards and a pair of giant, sweaty plums being rested across the eyelids. "Sure we'll lose to Geelong" we said, "but it doesn't matter, because we'll win the last three and probably make the finals". It's been a long five weeks since then.

At least the Tiges had a win last week to give their fans some reason to edge back from the platform and not jump in front of the 4.32 limited express to Lilydale. We've managed to have the entire club explode, sack the coach, renew the contract of the nearly sacked CEO and play a grand total of one quarter of half decent footy in that time. Who doesn't think the Richmond coaching staff were pumping their players up all week with tales of how we think they're easybeats, and how we've been putting them in the same 'certain win' bracket as Gold Coast and Port? The punters weren't fooled and sent Richmond in as favourites.

In retrospect the last couple of weeks had a hint of 2010 about it - remember thinking that if we beat Hawthorn we'd roll over Port and North and storm into the finals? Then they didn't win any of them. At least this time we can be relatively sure that we'll win the last two. If not I hope responsible adults are put in charge of the knife draw in the hours after the Port game otherwise casualty wards are going to be full of people who have had a shot at themselves.

One thing you can say for these two teams is that at least you're going to get a half decent match most times. Ever since they destroyed us in the last game of 2008 there hasn't been a dud clash between them. Even when we beat them relatively comfortably last year at least there was a 13 goal first quarter to keep people entertained.

So, I look forward to another ten years of these matches being played as a battle of the alleged "Next Big Things" while both teams continue to slop around in the mid-card, threatening to be good at some indeterminate time in the future but never managing to string enough good footy together to make a proper challenge. They got us today, but their players will be doing the same thing ours are on Monday 5 September. Hopefully Fev tags along with the Dees to make it interesting. Hopefully he's not tagging along because he'll be playing with them.

At least tonight we managed to break new ground with an innovative move. Shame it was only to be the first club ever to start the captain as substitute. Cue the biggest walk of shame ever as the team ran through the banner and he slowed down deliberately to try and get somebody else to go through it first. I think Jack Trengove stamped his future captain status by just about dead-heating with Green. Have I ever told you how impressed I am at the font we use on our banner? All the other cheersquads seem to be like that annoying guy in the office who likes to use Algerian and Gaudy Stout on posters when a simple font will do.

The awkward question was whether Green would have to show up and toss the coin while wearing the council worker hi-vis clothing, but luckily for him he had the excuse of handing over the job to Davey on the occasion of his 150th game. Unluckily for Davey it was the closest that he got to being in the action for the first hour of the game.

The Worksafe Injury Report continued to be one of the biggest farces in footy as it announced that Scully and Bail were both out for another week. At the very moment Scully was warming up on the field. And would that be the same Bail who was one of the best on ground at Casey yesterday? Mind you Scully played like his knee was completely rooted so maybe Worksafe knew something we didn't? He was on and off for much of the first half having work done on it, so hopefully the papers are signed in Sydney and we can pocket the WorkCover style compo payments. Either way for god's sake pack him away now before he loses a zero off his contract offer. I'm thinking of his financial welfare here, if you're going to make a desperate grab for the cash you might as well do it properly. Not to mention if he hasn't signed and we've offered him something ridiculous he might take it.

Notwithstanding the fact that Richmond have jumped us in the past and we've come back to beat them comfortably I was concerned with them getting the jump on us today because we've not been this collectively mentally ill as a club since the glory days of 2007. Sure we've been shit but at least we've been shit with a clear head, ever since Geelong it's been depression central.

After playing four of the top five in the last month and getting blown away in the first quarter by all of them there was no telling what would have happened if rancid hacks like Richmond got the jump - we might have just walked off the ground and rung up Port to offer a merger with home games to be played in Halls Gap. So, considering that we were on the end of every shithouse umpiring decision under the sun in the first quarter, we were getting murdered out of the middle and half the side didn't have a touch it wasn't such a bad result to go in two goals behind.

The fifty that gave them their first goal was the start of an award winning run of shambles by the umpires. Bartram pinged for going within five kilometres of Dustin "shit neck, bad tattoo" Martin as he played on despite the fact that he was following his opponent. Baffling. But not quite as baffling as Miller spending the entire first quarter taking the piss out of us.

Congratulations to him on joining the "Fuck you MFC" club with Buckley, McLean, Bruce, Cheney and Jolly for ex-players who have beaten us this year (apologies to Paul Johnson and Scott Thompson for leaving them out) but before any Richmond fans who might have stumbled upon this post start getting excited about his performance I can tell you we've all seen it before. There's a strange phenomenon with Bradforth where he suddenly ramps it up at the end of the year and plays out of his skin before winning a new contract then turning in mediocre performances for the next year and a half before contract time rolls around again. He tried it last year by bagging 10 goals in a VFL game but we were finally wise to it. Somebody's probably hammering away a forum post right now saying we should have kept him. They're wrong.

When they got their third, the second courtesy of the umps, it was starting to look rude. Let us be blown up by Carlton and West Coast, but when we get thrashed by Richmond it's time to shut up shop. Thank god then for the combination of Trengove and Sylvia who dragged us back into it. Thank god too for Jordie McKenzie who continues to climb the Demonblog Top 40 Players chart every week. At least he cares. I might actually post the Top 40 (which does not, in fact, exist at the moment) as part of the end of season spectacular post.

Incidentally who else heard Brian Royal being interviewed on the radio before the game? Not only did he say "Trengrove" (and should therefore be sacked immediately) but when asked if we'd win he sidestepped the usual cliches and simply said that we would. A bold prediction. Also a crap one as it turned out. The interviewer asked if he'd (cliche time) throw his hat into the ring for senior coaching jobs at the end of the year. I'd suggest he'd be lucky to even have an assistant job considering some of the slop teams he's been involved with over the last few years. I don't give a rats what his coaching record is like, I'm just keen on a Stalinist purge against anybody employed by our club who says Trengrove. Remember his name, you'll be screaming it later etc...

There'll be a rush to blame the umpires for this result but don't forget that we rode the storm out in the first quarter and got ourselves back into it. Wasn't their fault we stuffed up an 8 point lead in the last quarter and kicked 3.6. Doesn't help to have two goals given away at the start of the game, and even though the two we got from frees were both legit (we would say that..) it still balanced out in the end. The game was ours to win, we cocked it up, we're mental cases.

The second free was probably luckier considering Morton only got it after declining the invitation to tackle the other Morton and then in true family tradition the Richmond one shat himself and handballed it straight out of bounds. Our one hit the pass straight onto Jurrah's chest and LJ got the first of what could be one of the worst three goal performances of the season in which he failed to leave the ground once. Maybe he's like the NRL player who is suffering from vertigo?

Equation for the first quarter was: Umpiring + natural ineptitude = disaster. Even though it was probably his best game of the season (in what is hardly a star studded field) our Morton perfectly demonstrated the way it was going when he won the ball in traffic and instead of giving it off quickly he hesitated long enough for somebody to get a hand on him and stuff it up. I'm convinced the poor guy needs to get on the pharmaceutical grade anti-depressant gear. He and Mitch should have started as subs and had a good together cry for three quarters with Jaryd hanging over the fence joining in. All in green vests.

He did lay a holding the ball tackle in the first quarter which was amazing and hit a few decent passes to free players but good luck finding a target under pressure. Hopefully he gets better over the next fortnight and stays for at least one more, injury free year. You'll get squat trading him now, so unless he cracks the sads (in a malicious non-sad panda way) and walks out it's better to wait and see what a new coach can do with him. After all how many experienced players can you get rid of in one year?

Even if they're not worldbeaters I've seen Bate, Warnock, Dunn, Maric, Morton, Bennell and Newton all written off in various places as if there's no way they'll be with us next year. All well and good but consider Scully going as well and how many kids are we replacing these guys with? For what's it worth I'd be saying farewell to Juice and shopping Bate/Maric/Warnock around but again what are you going to get for them? People are convinced that you can just package up three ordinary players and clubs will give you good picks. Maybe in video games, not in real life.

Considering the umpire giveaways, the shambolic structure and the fact that half the side were giving nothing 14 points wasn't all that bad a deficit. These two teams may never qualify for the finals again but at least they put on interesting first quarters.

We got the first two of the second quarter, with Sylvia running rampant and taking screamers up front, and the natural balance of things seemed to be restoring itself. Then the next thing you know bogan idol Jake f'ing King is bombing torps from 60m out, his horrible shanks are landing in the arms of teammates to goal and Brad f'ing Miller is having a Juice style half where he thinks he's John Coleman.

A moment please for Clint Bartram who is 'much maligned' (and rightly so) and still kicks like he has a prosthetic leg, but defensively towelled up Cotchin for the first three quarters. Not entirely convinced he'd be there if we were any good, and for god's sake don't let him have shots at goal ever but well done on today's performance.

The umpiring was so bad in the first half that Davey could afford to run past Mitch Morton and smack him the head with an elbow directly in front of the umpires without having a free paid against him. There was so much apathy going around that Richmond players couldn't even be bothered punching on with him about it. I know we've all wanted to belt a Morton brother but come on Aaron, you don't actually do it. Given that it happened right at the end of a half when he'd racked up one handball and had enjoyed 'banter' with somebody sitting behind the interchange it was a pissweak attempt to take out the frustration of not being able to get a kick.

Not that Viney et al tried to do anything different with him before he totally lost it. Whatever Brian Royal does other than make stupid statements and say Trengrove was there any danger he could have piped up? Of course not, positional moves and backup plans are not the done thing in these parts. Just keep plugging away hoping everything will be ok. At one point in the third quarter I thought Jared Rivers was going forward and almost declared it the birth of a new era. He didn't, it wasn't. FanFooty is convinced Joel Mac went forward in the third quarter but I didn't see it. Didn't last long if he did. The innovation alarm in the coaching box would have exploded with a move like that and Viney would have found himself out of a job.

Tagged to buggery and not handling it again, Davey could have done with a run in the forward line or across half back but it wasn't forthcoming. Still no excuse to clock somebody with a cheap elbow. Nobody cares that somebody misses a couple of end of season dead rubbers (and come on don't you think Petterd should have belted McGinnity and just taken the three weeks?) but if you're going to be back next year there's no need to be bringing in pesky carryover points. The tribunal will save us from having to drop him but I hope somebody sits Flash down and says "do you really want to be here? If not where do you want to be" and if that's somewhere else then send him there.

The club can lay off sending me scabby emails about me giving them money to pay extra to players if they're going hand out big money when the ones we've got now couldn't give a rats. Tell him to go away, think about what he wants to do and come back at the end of the year to decide if he's in or out. Certainly won't be remembering his 150th fondly, or the entire 2011 season for that matter. He improved marginally in the second half when they finally threw him across half-back but if he's not right physically or mentally he shouldn't have been there today in the first place. It's not like we're trying to run him into the ground a'la Scully so that he's ruined for somebody else, he should have at least another two years in him so if it meant writing off this year before his stray elbow they should have done it. Surely they weren't picking a team for today with the idea that we were still a chance of finals.

So, it's half time and we're going down the tube at a million miles an hour. Aren't you glad we had to wait until 6pm Sunday to get to that position? At least you got to enjoy your weekend before it was ruined by sports. But this is when it gets even more stereotypically Melbourne. All of a sudden they come out and it's sublime brilliance. Seven goals to one, Jamar running riot in the ruck, the Psychic Friends Connection reunited against the odds and Sylvia doing the sort of things that make you swoon and threaten to have money on him to win the Brownlow next year.

Then there was Jones. Now, I've had my issues with the 2007 Allen Jakovich Medal winner this year but if that wasn't the best quarter he has played in about three seasons then I'm not sure if I've been watching closely. You have to close your eyes and think "it's only Richmond, it's only Richmond" because he was brilliant, abnd like Moloney call me when he does it against a good side, but it was at least encouraging and that's about all we've got right now.

Even Green shed his vest and in replacing Howe came on to boot a goal with his first kick. Followed by some slightly over vigorous celebrating that the commentators suggested was a "message to somebody". Who? Viney? Bailey? Malthouse? Blinky Bill? I just think he gets excited when he actually lands one these days instead of kicking a captain's point.

Spare a thought for poor Jeremy Howe, the latest victim of the curse that says whoever is featured in a game day newspaper article will undoubtedly turn in an absolute shocker. It's happened more than once this year - Watts and Sylvia both got it and Dan Nicholson has never been the same since The Age wrote about him in glowing terms before the Footscray match. We could probably have done with him in the last quarter but if somebody down forward had to go for Green to come on then fair enough he was it. Just hope he plays the next two weeks because I harbour fantasies about an eight goal bonanza at some point in the next fortnight. Now watch them drop him for Juice.

Somehow we'd managed to get eight points in front at the last change. Not nearly enough, and unfortunate that we had to stop the third quarter because we were absolutely killing them. Sad then that it had to go backwards so quickly. Sylvia did his best to keep us in it, but we had multiple opportunities going forward and stuffed them up. Two goals at the end made it respectable but we missed our chances to put the game away, Richmond took them better and they got the four points.

Good luck to them. Enjoy that meaningless feeling and we'll see you for another couple of middle of the ladder pointless matches in 2012.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Brent Moloney
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Clint Bartram

Major apologies to McKenzie, Trengove, Frawley and Jamar. Lesser apologies to Rivers, Macdonald and Blease.

If Sylvia hadn't biffed somebody and been reported he'd be nearly home in this one. I suspect that if his record means he misses the last two games then Moloney will almost certainly score four or more votes against Gold Coast or Port. Mind you just when you think you've got the answers this club changes the questions so he'll probably get nil.

I should point out at this time that in the event of a tie there'll be no countback bollocks to separate them and they'll share the medal. The equation is fairly simple now, only those two, Martin, Watts and McKenzie can win it. All the other awards are still open but you'd have your money on the current leaders (Martin/Frawley/Howe) holding on from here.

I don't know what the rest of you are doing to get yourself through the rest of this year, but if I didn't have the stats bonanza that is the Jakovich Medal to keep me interested I'd probably just give up.

Note also that nobody has ever won the top award twice, which doesn't bode well for anybody's career. Here's hoping Sylvia is not accepting the award shortly before shaking hands with John Longmire and pulling on a Swans guernsey.

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

Crowd watch
With every single MFC fan I know refusing to go to a 4.40pm game I used my reserved seat for the second time, and isn't it great to sit somewhere where you get mobile phone coverage for two minutes once every half an hour? Sure I'm a Vodafone customer so I should be used to this sort of thing but it was telling that the moment you walked twenty metres the other way everything worked fine. If you're looking for me next year I'll be back in the Ponsford Stand wondering what possessed me to a buy a membership just because it offered a guaranteed Grand Final ticket if we make it. Talk about throwing good money after bad..

I'm pleased to report there were a few ferals going off their nut in the Redlegs section. We've seen from the MFC Facebook comments that our club has as many complete munter fans per capita as anybody else (tonight's special - why we should trade Watts because he's soft. My god, people put their real names to this stuff) but it's good to see some people doing their block in real life too.

Sadly nothing will ever beat the guy who called SEN after the game and broke into tears about how badly we're going. It was quite incredible. Sadly they cut him off for his own sake and pretend to be sympathetic (although there was somebody audibly pissing themselves laughing when he cracked up) instead of giving him ten minutes to really indulge in some primal scream therapy. God knows what he was like after the Geelong game if that's what a dead rubber thriller against Richmond does to him. I hope the club offer him counselling (get in line behind Maric, Morton, Davey et al) because he sounded as if he was about to crack up. Go wild, throw a phone, kick your dog, slap your kids, do whatever you have to do but for god's sake keep your dignity when you're calling talkback radio. Good thing it wasn't TV or he'd be entering the AFL Hall of Fame with this guy.

Everyone knows half the people calling SEN are doing gimmicks but if that was acting then I tip my hat to one of the great masterclasses of our time. Remarkable.

Back at the MCG I expect the person with the "That Was E-E-Easy" banner in the Richmond cheersquad hasn't heard the news that Clive Peeters has gone tits up and become Harvey Norman. He can't have put a radio on in the last week because all I've heard on the wireless is Gerry Harvey admitting his "big mistake" in buying them in the first place. Probably didn't help that one of Clive's staff knocked off $20m to fund their gambling habit but isn't this the same guy who is always whinging that it's the internet which is putting him out of business? Try not buying so many other companies you rich prick.

But before we leave socialism corner I didn't know whether or not to applaud or be horrified at the guy who stashed a pie in his pocket at half time and walked off without paying. The guy on the counter had no interest in stopping him, presumably because he's getting paid $5 an hour, and by the time the supervisor yelled with exasperation that they'd been swindled the bandit was well gone, presumably getting his money's worth by having red hot 'meat' running down his arm while he bit into a frozen centre.

Part of me applauds him for taking direct action against the ridiculous prices that they charge for goods that cost them next to nothing to buy and which are served by desperately underpaid 15-year-olds and/or grannies. The same part was having the usual guilt at being sucked into handing over $5 for a floppy hot dog in a rock hard crusty roll and wanted to applaud somebody for sticking it to the man. The other side says that first it's stealing a pie and next thing they're putting in the windows of JB Hi-Fi and helping themselves to an Xbox. The law and order side of my brain won out and I was hoping he'd be crashed tackled to the ground by the fuzz and capsicum sprayed, but just like Aaron Davey and the guy who let the pie thief walk straight past him police and security had no interest.

Finally may I just say that after having gone to the Collingwood/Brisbane game Saturday night on a freebie and sat in the Pies members reserves that there are some small mercies in not following a wildly popular, premiership side. The bloke sitting behind us, my god feel free to not say everything that comes into your head and sing songs about players on your own. Also feel free not to start touching me during the game and telling me to fire up when I clearly have NO INTEREST. Congratulations to @amul82 who annoyed him by responding to the question of "Where do you think Mick will be next year?" by saying "Melbourne". It was like sitting in front of the SEN Gladiators of Sport. My worst nightmare.

There was also one guy in a dress and one guy in the most 1991 LA Kings jacket you've ever seen in your life. Like a Sydney fan pining for the return of Lockett you just know that if you sidled up to old mate in his puffy jacket with gigantic stars across the shoulders that made him look like Bret The Hitman Hart the only hockey player he'd know would be Gretzsky. I have no problems with men in dresses, I have massive issues with 1991 sports clothing.

And how the attempt by the Pies to get everyone to respect each other in the wake of the Milne debacle by asking members of the crowd to hug each other in order to win Pies merchandise. In the second round they asked for people to kiss for the cause (!?) and in the only entertaining moment all night the winners were a mixed couple and when the Brisbane guy was handed a black and white scarf he piffed it on the ground. All that money and that's the sort of "fan for hire" James Sherry fronted entertainment they put on? Makes me think Nick McCallum and the trumpeteer are actually cutting edge.

Next Week
IN: Jetta, Bail, Dunn (am I banned from having Tom McNamara as well?)
OUT: Sylvia (susp), Davey (susp), Scully (inj/not committed to the cause).

Somebody else will either get mysteriously dropped (Dunn) or will step into a pothole outside Casey Fields and do their knee a'la every other mystery injury we've had in the last few years. Morton has to play out the season and Bennell needs to be rewarded for playing a half decent game so I'm going to hold on to both of them. No chance Bennell avoids being sub two weeks in a row though.

Lucky there's a high probability of victory (a certainty? Good god no) or there would be 25 people here. Sadly, even if there are I'll be one of them. Something tells me that whatever ends up on here next Sunday night it won't be my entry for the Pulitzer Prize because I am so over this season it's painful.

Was it worth it?
At least we had a fighting loss for once. Shame it was against an equally retarded team.

Final Thoughts
I care not how much he's on and off like a tap, if we lose Sylvia I will end up in a padded cell. Luckily things are looking good on that front.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Shaky minus ladder

Starved for inspiration for a post title to describe another loss, in another boring game, in what is turning out to an absolute drag of a year I turned to Random Phrase Generator and the above was the first thing that came out. How apt. In a way. I pressed it a second time just in case it really was reading my mind and came out with "OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE ALWAYS SO SHIT?" but instead I got "paperback lacking glance" and stuck with the original.

Today had a big old touch of the 2009's about it (pre tankfest). Everyone knew we were going to lose to a good side so as long as we didn't get absolutely thrashed it couldn't really turn out too badly. How sad it is to find ourselves back in exactly the same place two years later. Next thing people will be suggesting we up sticks in the last two games and lose to Gold Coast and Port just to get first round draft pick 72 instead of 74. Even the 90's aren't fashionable again yet, so how come '09 is suddenly so popular? Next thing The Spencil will be dropping the ball on his run-in, Jamar will kick five and we'll draft somebody who does a runner for massive wads of cash two years later.

The blind belief of some people that we're a chance to win every game is admirable but there's a time and a place where you've got to throw your hands up in the air and say "no, we're shit and we just have to admit it". If you're ever depressed (as a Melbourne fan? Never!) and need a laugh just read the comments threads on one of the MFC Facebook posts. I've got no idea how to link to an individual post but if you can find the one about today's game it's absolutely hilarious. The first 50 posts are of ridiculous bravado about how we'll win and pack the joint, then the next 150 are of nervous breakdowns about how shit we are interspersed with obscene comments about the Morton family. And that's the stuff they haven't deleted - imagine being the moderator on that group, it's the online equivalent of being the receptionist who has to take calls from nutters every Monday morning.

The only surprise from today's thread, which seems to be treated like a live chat room by most people, is that only one person suggested we recruit Fev. Usually that's 80% of what's on there. I don't know why I ever read it to be honest but there's a touch of the masochistic looking at comments on the Herald Sun website about it. You know it's going to be full of nutbaggery but you just have to look and get a bit outraged.

Fev fever isn't entirely confined to excitable Facebook fans though, there's a fair bit of it flowing through the general community. Thank god there's more chance of us getting Darren Cuthbertson and Shaun Smith (who has only just retired from country footy at 42) back so I won't take offence. It's telling that most of the time when somebody suggests it they open with a "call me crazy BUT" or "this is only my opinion BUT". When the list of "buts" and conditions are as long as your arm what's the point unless you're recruiting an absolute star? What did Ben Cousins honestly do for Richmond other than sell a bit of merch and give everyone at Tigerland the chance to pat themselves on the back and pretend they were good blokes for giving him another chance. Also turned the place into a media circus for two years and delivered bugger all on the field.

How many years has Fev got left in him anyway? Do we really need another 'good' forward when we've already got about five of them. Tell me we can recruit Franklin or Jack Riewoldt and I'll slice off a plum to get the deal done but this is just too ludicrous to even consider.

It's not Jamie Shanahan coming straight out of a Grand Final side to shore up a defence which has spent two years under siege. It's taking a massive risk on somebody who even if he doesn't get himself into any shenanigans off-field is no leader, defensively suspect and has been out of the big time for the best part of two years. No thanks. Not to mention that we'd look like the filthiest hypocrites on the face of the planet after carpeting Casey for signing him because it would "ruin the development of our players" only to then take him ourselves. I'd rather keep Juice for another year, and knowing the charmed run he's had over the last few years that will probably happen.

Get the midfield right first. Win some clearances against good teams and stop our defence from having to defend 75 inside 50's weekly then talk to me about going out and getting a 29-year-old ex-superstar forward. Can't believe I'm dedicating so much space to even discussing the idea but it seems people are convinced that he's the answer to all our problems and that's more baffling than Baileyball.

A forward line featuring some combination of Watts, Jurrah, Howe, Petterd, Dunn, Green and Sylvia has a lot to like about it as long as we can feed them properly and not have the ball breaking down 50 times a game before they get the chance to do something with it. Throw in some CRUMB and we're really talking but you can have anybody you like down there and it's not going to help a jot if kicks are getting cut off across half-back or wild handballs are going straight up in the air and landing in the hands of somebody with an opponent riding them like Phar Lap. Feed the forwards, let them know it's Christmas time.

Speaking of forwards is it too early to declare a love for Jeremy Howe which is approaching rude levels? It could all go backwards, and it usually does, but he's been great so far. Should have had four today had he not botched the absolute sitter for the last one but his work around the ground is great and he's got bucket hands which will hold pretty much everything. If we go out and sign some guy who used to be good five years ago and stuff up his development I'll kick buggery out of something. Nobody will ever approach the same category of illicit love as Jack Trengove got after signing a contract extension this week (TAKE NOTE SCULLY. ACTUALLY WAIT, DON'T BECAUSE I'D PREFER THE COMPO) but he's in the same category.

Even happier with Jeremy was @amul82, who not only saw the Pies win a Grand Final in his lifetime but also showed up today just to boost the attendances, got in free and then had twenty on JH for the first goal at 21-1 just because he'd seen a world class Jeremy* (* new readers will be baffled) walk past him on the way to the TAB. Some people have all the luck.

I was happy too considering it took ten minutes for the first goal to go in AND it was us who got it. Problem was they booted the next seven. Welcome to an action 'flashing (R) in the corner a'la World Cup Mexico 86' repeat of last week, in which we played decent, intense football against a top four contender for the first half of the quarter before dropping off and getting smashed after having botched numerous chances to put a decent score up. Even Garland was down there having shots, which was interesting. Shots which put pay to any suggestion that he's the next big thing for our forward line.

"He was drafted as a forward!" they cry, "Don't piss him about like Brad Miller" I reply. Kicked ten in a club game the year before he was drafted. Not with shots like the one he took today I'll bet. Is a worthy defender, just leave him there. The only one I'd even consider trying to throw forward for gimmick value would be Rivers, and even then there's no need for it at the moment because as previously discussed (18 times before today) if we GET THE BALL TO OUR FORWARDS THEY ARE ACTUALLY NOT ALL THAT BAD.

From then on just assume near total domination by the Eagles for the rest of the quarter and complete mental disintegration on our behalf. Fan favourite Morton did his bit to win back the love of the community by totally stuffing up an attempt to roll a fancy shot through the goals when a good old fashioned drop punt would have probably done the job. Unfortunately even though he was given every opportunity to play on the wing and in the middle of the ground he just wasn't good enough again. Snapped a nice goal at the end but the damage was done.

May as well keep playing him considering the season is stuffed but he's going nowhere. Still, what are you going to do. Trade him? All well and good but what are you going to get. It's one thing to cite him as a number four draft pick and suggest that we'd get something half decent but who's going to give you anything for a player who hasn't fired a shot for two years? Especially when you could get him for free in the pre-season draft. I don't want to have to lose him, but where's he going if he stays? Even when he had clean possessions today they didn't hit the target, and that's the biggest issue. I don't expect him to smash through packs, win hard ball and extract it like he's J**d but if you're going to be an 'outside' player then at least hit 30m passes with accuracy. Nobody's falling for one of our mutton dressed as lamb trading coups after the Johnstone/McLean trades. Look forward to him winning a flag for the Pies next year.

Amongst 22 players who can't kick most of the time there's also Jordie McKenzie. But the difference between the two is that while Jordie is ordinary by foot at the best of times his heart is about ten times bigger. He's the one we're expecting to dive into packs, put on tackles, tag people to buggery and extract the ball from the middle by hand. Probably gets paid a damn sight less than Morton too. Given that we all know there's one thing he's not all that good at it seemed odd how many times he was used as the playmaker coming out of the backline today. No bloody wonder we spent most of the first half turning the ball over if he's the guy we're expecting to set the play up. It's clear that his first instinct is to handball every time, so don't expect him to be banging 50m passes to a target. He knows his limitations, now everybody else feel free to join in and play to them.

We were utter balls for most of the first half, and our defenders made their fair share of mistakes with everyone else, but I did like Frawley and Macdonald coming out of the backline. At least they were (wild footy cliche alert) taking the game on. Problem was that they either ran around an opponent and looked up to see nobody or they'd get it to somebody in time for the next kick to end in tragedy. Garland was good too, and although it seems Rivers has become a whipping boy for some people I didn't mind his game either. Don't forget the sort of attack we were against today. Kennedy, Lynch, Le Cras, Naitanui, Nicoski. It's hardly a sloppy lineup. Given that we were killed out of the middle in the first half they did as well as could be expected.

Meanwhile I was surprised at Green as a late withdrawal, and coming in the same week that there was allegedly a meeting during the week featuring 'heated discussions' (aka: doors slammed, kettles swung around the head via an electrical flex and crockery smashed) I expect that a full range of conspiracy theories about his 'soreness' will be all over the net by the time I've finished writing this. Could be that he was legitimately sore, could be that he ended the meeting turning blue in a Todd Viney headlock. Either way you can be sure that footy's greatest muckrakers are currently coming up with some fantastic bullshit to explain it. Hutchy, Caro, Barrett - this is your time to shine.

Suffice to say that when we were seven goals down at half time and looking like we were about to be on the end of another thrashing the mood amongst the Melbourne fans in my section was subdued. There were clearly more than a few people who were wondering why they'd bothered to turn up at that hole of a ground and watch yet another week of stinky garbage football. Dunn tried to start a fight to keep himself amused but nobody was taking somebody with a tiddly little moustache like that seriously and it died out pretty quickly. I'll admit to becoming frustrated at another pissy, unconvincing show of aggression and abusing all and sundry. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody saw/heard it considering it seemed to be "run into people you know" day.

I wish somebody would realise that the perfect time to take out all your frustrations by biffing somebody in the scone is starting to run out. Nobody cares if you get a three game ban now, it's hardly #freetrengove time where we think that we're actually good. Now if anybody does it and gets any more than two weeks they'll have to serve it next year and it's a waste. Sad. Not much chance any of our lot could do damage with a punch anyway. You can show all the Enter Sandman backed hype videos you like of players boxing before the game and I'll still refuse to accept that any of them are going to win in a stand-up fight. And while we're on the subject of novelty music at sports can I repeat my suggestion that the darts music gets played at the end of every quarter? The crowd would go wild. Especially if, a'la the darts they were handed blank placards and could write foul and offensive statements about Stephen Milne on them.

If you're going to play pop music garbage anyway at least play something the crowd (or at least just me) can get into. Atmosphere sorted.

At least we made of a fight of it in the third. When they kicked the first goal of the third it was starting to look very, very ugly but from there we weren't at all bad. Howe's goal from 50 nearly caused me to bar up and despite Nicoski (he's got Mark Harvey eyes) kicking a goal by thumping it straight into thinly veiled carpark roof turf and having it fly through, which says it all about that stadium, Dunn, Watts and Sylvia all kicked goals and we were one goal from behind back in it.

Unfortunately after doing precious little all the day the current leader of the Allen Jakovich Medal could have given to Dunn for another one straight after his first but went for the solo and cocked it up. Bartram missed another one running straight into an open goal 40m out and they went straight from one end to another - as they did so many times today - and kicked a goal which pretty much snuffed out any hope of a ludicrous comeback.

We were at least winning consistently out of the middle during the third quarter. Jamar and The Experience were hardly dominant at any time during the day but they put the brakes on the Cox/NicNat show long enough for Moloney/Scully/etc to start getting their hands on it. West Coast were rattled but too bloody late, we'd already let them get a million points in front so fat lot of good it did. When Trengove kicked that (future) captain's goal after the 3/4 time siren we were still a million to one to win but if it had been the other way around I've been absolutely shitting it.

Have I ever told you how much I love Trengove? Apparently his sister won the City To Surf this morning so there's clearly some unreal genes going around in that family. Who didn't swoon when they read about his extending his contract even when he didn't need to? I know we've killed Brock McLean and condemned Jack Grimes to a lifetime of serious injuries by previous anointing them as the next captain and we're far too conservative to do anything crazy like give a kid the top job but how much would you love to fast forward to the point where he's ready to take it over? I love Grimes and hope he's in the leadership group for many years to come but he needs to concentrate on getting his body right before being considered for anything.

I'm backing a Moloney/Trengove ticket but can you really ditch a captain and keep him on the list? Easier said than done. He might be into it but I can't see a ten year player willingly put his hand up and admitting "I am a rubbish captain". I'm not sure I even think he is. Many people seem to but maybe it's just what he's got to work with? The new coach provides the cover for a change so it'll be interesting to see if they do something radical (and for god's sake say either say NO to co-captains or name 46 of them) or continue 100+ years of MFC tradition and opt for the steady as she goes approach. I think I'm just dying for us to do something bold. Knowing my luck when it comes it'll probably involve relocating to Albury/Wodonga.

Bartram could have upgraded the contest from barely interesting to semi-exciting when he missed another shot at the start of the quarter. God knows how he's kicked 16 goals in his 93 game career but I'm not surprised that six of them were in 2006. He was alright following Kerr around today but skills are deplorable for a sixth year player. Will almost certainly be back next year because he's contracted to the end of 2012 but seems to be treading water massively. He was once fifth in the Rising Star you know. Then you look that year's award up, see they voted for Danyle Pearce over Marc Murphy and realise that the judging panel were at best misguided and at worse on the piss. Andrew Raines was second? I remember absolutely nothing of '06 that wasn't MFC related but that just shows the Rising Star is about as faulty a judge of future potential as the draft.

The Eagles missed three in a row, then Petterd kicked OOF and time was rapidly running out for a shock victory. They boot two of the last three, we lose by almost 50 points and nobody actually cares that much. Expectations have been squashed so flat that half a century seems like a step in the right direction. This club is in a bad way and what I hate about it even more than my own selfish reasons is that Jim Stynes has taken another turn for the worst and is absolutely battling for his life having to watch this. I wasn't expecting us to rampage to the flag in his honour but what a kick in the guts for the guy to watch this trash. At least he's not busting out of hospital to watch it now. Don't even bother with this stuff Jim, just forget football exists for a few months - they're not worthy of your fighting spirit.

Did anything else happen? Chances are if it was on the other end of the ground I wouldn't know. That's the magic of sitting on Level 1 at Docklands. People actually pay more for that you know. Utter madness.

Tell you who I did like and that was Sam Blease. He's quick, he's a good kick and for a second game player who wasn't scared to grab the ball and run with it. Absolutely must play the last three games of this year. If I wait until 4.40pm next Sunday to find out that he's wearing a green vest and sitting in the dugout for three quarters I will not be held responsible for my actions.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - James Frawley
4 - Joel McDonald
3 - Jeremy Howe
2 - Brent Moloney
1 - Sam Blease

Apologies to Petterd, Jones, Garland, Watts, Dunn, Rivers, Jones and Trengove.

So, with three games to go we're no nearer to deciding on the overall winner out of the top five, but the Experience is all but home for the biggest upset in history in the Stynes (though given that we paid out on Jamar earlier in the year it's almost guaranteed to go backwards.. and surely the Russian will absolutely feast on Gold Coast and Port). Lucky he didn't get votes playing in the backline today or there might have been a steward's enquiry as to his eligibility.

Frawley and Macdonald have cleared out in the Seecamp, with Rivers and Garland needing at least multiple 5's or 4's in the next three weeks to stand any chance. And with apologies to Tapscott I think Howe should win the Hilton from here in canter given that he's achieved next big thing status. Previous NBT's include Jones, Dunn, Bate and .. oh fuck I am so sorry that I've done this to you Jeremy.

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

Crowd Watch
It was looking a bit grim at 12.50 when there were only about 7,000 people in the ground, but my panic that we'd pocket the record for the lowest attendance at Docklands to go in our anti-trophy cabinet with the Geelong debacle didn't take into account that even when there's a handful of people at Corporate Stadium it still takes ages to do anything easy like, say, buy a ticket. As I learnt when foolishly trying to get into one of the other lowest drawing games in the ground's history (Port vs North) you have to get the attention of the woman in the ticket booth first and once she's finished having her conversation with the person in the next booth you might actually get a ticket.

Luckily the crowd 'streamed' in just in time for us to only pocket the 11th lowest. Never fear, we've still got second place locked up. And there's a phrase you're not likely to hear again for a few more years (unless it involves the biggest losses).

You don't need me to tell you what a horrible, soulless, shell of a place it is, but it's even worse when there's nobody there. Usually that's a bonus because you can at least get food, take a whizz, get the hell out of there etc.. quicker than usual but at least when we play an interstate team in front of a garbage crowd at the MCG there's some semblance of atmosphere. Even the Eagles fans couldn't be bothered getting excited when they were running away with it today, and we didn't give a peep until the run in the third quarter gave us some misguided hope of a blockbusting comeback. Nobody cared. Massive end of season slop game.

Speaking of food did anybody else notice the heavy push that they were giving to "Cobs"? No? Well it's entirely likely that I'm the only person who pays attention to this sort of thing. Just when you think the place couldn't embrace any more wanky causes they start trying to encourage you to eat boom foods like corn at the footy. Why? God knows. Suffice to say I don't think you should buy corn futures based solely on the future of Cobs because if the success of the Healthier Foods (i.e only half as deadly) stand is anything to go by the whole enterprise will be shuttered up and in the hands of liquidators by lunchtime Wednesday.

Footy fans do not want corn, they want some mushy indeterminate meat inside a rapidly disolving pastry which will almost certainly explode in their lap, burning them in sensitive areas yet simultaneously being cold by the time it gets to their mouth. For some reason they will pay $5 for this privilege. Nobody's paying for corn. It's like Woolworths Safeway featuring Smith Street hipsters talking about cake in their ads. You can try and be down with the kids all you like but you're still a footy stadium/supermarket. At least they were selling hot dogs again... How I hate myself for giving that place a cent. What a dirty hypocrite.

Truth be told it wasn't too bad where we sat on the wing but the problem when they lie about "improving the atmosphere" by forcing 90% of the crowd onto the bottom level you actually end up losing the one thing that you've got going for you by following a shit team, the option to not have to sit with everyone else if you don't want to. Suddenly it's like you are at the MCG amongst 75,000 people and you've got idiots clambering over you every 20 seconds to get beers and drunken yokels standing at the back screaming random comments. Give me the top deck of Docklands any day.

I know they shut it to save money, and because it will look even worse on TV when 15,000 are spread across three levels instead of two, but I reserve the right to be greedy and totally ignore the financial reasons. We're going to be handing over a substantial amount of cash for today anyway, why not just hire a few Romanian orphans to come in at 3/4 time with brooms and clean the top deck on the cheap?

And did we really need to wheel out the trumpet? The prospect of the jazz odyssey version of our theme song not being played for once was the only thing that being at Docklands had going for it. Imagine if they hadn't ditched the farcical flag raising ceremony after two weeks? I'd have been on the field in London fashion, snapping the flagpole in two by piffing the trumpet through it.

The only thing I did enjoy was the woman they had in the hype video at the start who screamed a lot but managed to get a reference to Docklands as "this desert of a place" past the censors at the start. Watch us cop a fine for that on top of the shit crowd payout.

Also Dwayne Russell walked right past me outside the ground. For those of you who watched on TV I apologise wholeheartedly for not trying to delay him by saving his cat had died ("HORRENDOUS LUCK FOR TIGGER!") or that his car had been set alight in the underground parking lot ("THAT COULD NEED THE FIREFIGHTER!"). Or even just crash tackled him to the ground and defended myself to the police as a sufferer of Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome. If people can smash shop windows and steal Playstations while claiming social exclusion surely you could take out your most hated commentator and blame Cale Morton.

Radio Watch + Koaching Korner
Enjoyed Mick Malthouse picking apart everything that was terrible about us on SEN. Clearly his co-commentators had been instructed that he'd walk out if they even jokingly made any comments about him coaching us next year because there were about fifty times that he'd highlight some old bollocks that we'd done and there'd be an awkward silence for a second as somebody caught themselves before saying "So, what are you going to do about that next year?" or ask him if he has Sylvia in his best 22.

He'd be insane to spend what should be his retirement years trying to fashion this team into anything half decent, but god knows if he got to a Grand Final with a team featuring Carl Steinfort, Rupert Betheras and Steve McKee AND almost won then come on down. He can clearly identify where we're shit but let's see what he does about it.

Failing that I'll have Mark Williams just because he's an unhinged nutcase and it will pave the way for #chokeyourselfwithatie to become the next big thing in Twitter hashtags.

Next Week
Good timing for Richmond to snap a six game losing streak with a win over half decent (albeit fading rapidly) opposition today. Should set them up nicely to twat us at graveyard o'clock next Sunday. We were one grade above them the last time we played, and while they might not have gone anywhere since we've been steaming backwards at a million miles an hour so it's a perfect match. Poor Bradforth J Miller, left alone in the queue with Paul Johnson and Scott Thompson as McLean, Buckley, Bruce, Cheney and Jolly all take their turns giving us a kicking. It's his turn next week - one last chance to kick ten. And you know very well that he saves his best work for the end of the season when it's contract renewal time. Be afraid.

If you blindly cheat the ladder predictor (press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A then start on the opening screen) we can still make the eight but come on don't be silly. Here's what Viney should be saying if any journo is mental enough to ask him about the possibility.

As for in's and out's I'm not going to throw Davey and Morton to the 2011 scrapheap yet but they've got to show something soon or there'll be no point playing them. Davey has got a lot more credit in the bank than the anorexic Maric style emo, and he was pretty good when he did get it today but the problem was that he didn't get it enough. If he needs time to get away and get his head right then give it to him, otherwise he's just got to keep playing and hopefully will finish the year on a high.

There's also not many players who I'm dying to see come out of the twos. Gawn goes
without saying, and given Richmond's putrid defence we might as well pick all three of them next week. Why not throw Robert Campbell in there as well and have a ruckman foursome? After all we did pay $15k to upgrade him off the rookie list for some strange reason. May as well really take the piss and add Jack Fitzpatrick as well. Thrown in the The Spencil rolling about in a wheelchair if you want, just play the Gawn/Jamar/SME trio of terror because eventually we're going to have to pick two of them to go with.

Green/Jurrah are a given (or are they?) and Jetta deserves another go before the end of the year but who else is there? Jamie Bennell has been played time after time and contributes nothing. Bate was one of the best this week but is clearly not wanted in our senior side based on being the sub twice in a row and coming on for the most of the game just to be underwhelming last week. Tom McDonald maybe but Maric is gone, Davis and Lawrence are probably not going to be ready this year and Tom McNamara is a mystery to everyone.

T-Mac was amongst the best on ground for the Scorpions the other day but we can't even play him due to being on the rookie list can we? Makes it even more baffling to me why we upgraded Campbell. The chances of him being legitimately required are 100-1 because it would take dual ruckman injury/suspension debacles within the next fortnight for him to play even one game. McNamara, on the other hand, is a 21-year-old kid who hasn't played a senior game for nearly two years but has shown some decent (if not world beating) form for Casey. He's either got a future or he hasn't and surely one or more of the three slop sides would have been the right opposition for him to play against for us to at least get an idea? Obviously not.

Sucked in if you donated $15k at the Foundation Heroes dinner only to turn on your computer the next day and find out that your hard earned has been used to promote somebody who probably won't play a game. Is it some sort of rort where we've had somebody ask about trading for him but we can't do it if he's a rookie? Surely not. Nobody, not even Richmond, could be that desperate. And what's pick 100 going to do for us anyway? PASS on all fronts. I'd rather keep $15k in the pocket or give T-Mac/Lawrence the chance to play in a meaningless end of season match. Just the usual baffling move that you've come to know and love from this club. Would be nice if somebody came out and explained these things but as we all know now they're too busy behind doors trying to knife each other in the back to have any time for football matters.

Oh, and if you're looking for Lucas Cook he's in the Casey 2's. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Was it worth it?
The worst thing was having to hear the Eagles theme song with its killer synth drums a'la the theme from Eastenders.

Final thoughts
The tradition continues. Drape a green jacket across Etihad Stadium and put a red vest on our season.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Bloodsport for all

Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them
Be savage again.

Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You'll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,

But you'll walk like a man

Were I any of Todd Viney, Chris Connolly, Garry Lyon or whoever the hell is running our football department these days I'd have written those words out on gigantic placards and stuck them on the wall in the changerooms before the match. It's not too cerebral for your average footballer and surely the point of it is easy to understand no matter how many concussions you've had.

In fact it's so sports bogan friendly that I, as a sports bogan, only heard it in an NFL Films production (track 27). Still, they should make kids read that in school (if it weren't that the command to "be savage" would probably lead to the little dears murdering each other) because everything said within is absolutely 100% correct even though it was written more than a hundred years ago.

After the week we've had, and the well justified kickings from the entire football community over what a complete shambles we've become, the least we could ask from our players was the touch of savagery that has sadly been lacking for many, many years. At least they delivered a sniff of it for the first 25 minutes, but if you were able to walk into the TAB and put a complicated multi on all the aspects that would make up a game of AFL football you'd have been able to put your house on what was going to happen today - albeit at $1.05 it was so obvious.

Your TAB ticket might have looked like this;

LEG 1: Team suffering a week from hell comes out breathing fire
LEG 2: but doesn't last the first quarter before running out of puff
LEG 3: leading to the opposition taking control in dominant fashion c/o superstars
LEG 4: and only missing out on delivering a triple figure beating because they start self-preservation two minutes into the last quarter.

Total payout for a $10 stake - $10.50

That's the only ticket more tragic than the one that was sitting on the steps next to me during the first quarter which read - FIRST GOALKICKER: MITCH ROBINSON. "Oh yes" I thought, "somebody has dropped their winning ticket, I'll do a casual move to pocket this while everyone's distracted and at least I'll get something out of today". Then just as I was about to completely shed my dignity in even worse fashion than the people who wear those oversized OPSM glasses another casual look revealed that the ticket was actually for last week. Even theft and fraud aren't working for me at the moment.

It was two years ago (not quite) to the day when a late season debacle against the Blues with the tank in top gear caused me to totally abandon any pretence of a 'match review' and instead just post a giant picture of Jamar and some votes. Feels a lot like that should be happening again tonight. Except two years ago if you'd told us we'd have only progressed a few tentative steps beyond that glorious day when the Russian booted five I'd have taken action to ensure I never watched footy again.

Two years ago we knew we were rock bottom last and horrible but some of us (guilty as charged) had a childlike belief that things could only get better - to the point where we'd undoubtedly be legitimate finals challengers by the end of 2011. Now here we are, shed of one coach, about to be shed of one top draft pick, owning just a handful of decent victories and with more players on our list going nowhere or backwards than forward. I was doing enthusiasm at the start of the year, and against all odds I was doing it before the Bulldogs game (via numerous ups and downs) but since then we've been served up a giantic, smelly slop bucket full of the Ebola virus. Never again I say, for the fourth time this season.

Ironically we only played one really bad quarter today, which is three better than last week, but it was almost equally as hard to find good players. Nobody was as bad, but there was hardly a standout amongst them. There was all the oomph you'd expect in the first few minutes, but when we had gilt edges chances we stuffed them up and at the other end Carlton were absolutely ruthless. At various times we were even making Brock McLean look good for the first time since the 2006 Elimination Final. In the tradition of making ridiculous comments on the internet may I be the first to say "mature aged recruit?" because you know somebody is doing exactly the same thing as you read this.

No need to watch the game if you missed it, just slap the DVD marked "GENERIC MFC GAME" on and enjoy the sporting magic unfolding before your very eyes. The only difference is that this time we almost broke even on the inside 50's today, for what that was worth.

I was comfortable with a MAXIMUM/EXPERIENCE tag-team combination in the ruck if Jamar really is injured, but sadly they were absolutely massacred. That's not always the be all and end of all it - after all how many times have we dominated the taps and been thrashed? - but when you can barely win a single centre clearance all day (and certainly none when the game is slipping away) you're going to be in a fair bit of trouble when the rucks aren't firing. Then there was Stef's negligent homicide on Tapscott later in the day. Not a red letter day for our young rucks.

For so long our defenders have been the only thing between us copping the sort of pasting that we got last week but it's almost like they're shellshocked now from having to defend so grimly for so many years. They all have their moments but they're not the steel trap combination that at least stopped us from getting belted against good teams every other week last year. Joel Mac and Garland were amongst the better players today (and at least J.Mac takes people on and plays-on WITHOUT there being an opposition player 1cm behind him - please take notes Nathan Jones) but that's based mainly on the fact that there weren't many of them. SPOILER ALERT - With a couple of major exceptions the midfielders and forwards are hardly going to feature prominently in the votes.

One forward who will feature deservedly is Jack Watts, and not only will he go bloody close to winning the Allen Jakovich Medal on here I'd like to have a sneaky bet on him at odds for the B&F as well, because he's put in some decent performances in abysmal sides this year. Unfortunately I missed his pisstake of a blind turn around nobody which left McLean standing there wondering what the hell was going on because I was too busy trying to work out who had injured themselves at the other end of the ground, but watching it online later it's retrospectively the only highlight of the day. This means that there were absolutely none in the two plus hours I was sitting there watching it. This season is really starting to grate on me.

Were I smart I'd go nowhere near Etihad Stadium next Sunday, and would even refuse to look out of my window from which I can see the ground (no, I do not live in the Remand Centre). I am not. See you there.

As for Strauss the less said about his injury the better. I saw it once and that's more than enough for me. I might not have wanted him in the team this week but the poor bastard has absolutely destroyed himself and that's shocking for any player. I wouldn't even wish that on J**d (though maybe Milne could do with a dose). The MCG were polite enough to only play it once, enough for everyone to realise just what a rude injury it was, but the same rules clearly don't apply to the rest of the media outlets. Just look at the vulture scum pretending they're horrified about seeing it, and wincing with fake angst and concern for the kid while they play it for the tenth time.

Funnily enough just a few minutes later he'd done the first thing that really impressed me since he came into the side, hitting Watts with a perfect 40m pass going inside 50, and now he's unlikely to be seen again until at least this time next year if not 2013. Imagine if it had happened to Scully? Kevin Sheedy would have topped himself. It's not to say he won't come back and play good footy but what a cruel thing to happen to somebody that young who is just establishing himself. Best wishes to him from everyone (all one of us) at Demonblog. It's times like this that you realise just how lucky we've been with really serious injuries - there's season enders like Grimes and his foot and then there's shockers like this and we've been pretty lucky to avoid them over the years.

The hat-trick of misses from Watts, Dunn and Green which started from that Strauss kick to the Million Dollar Manchild all but did us in, as if we weren't going to get turned over anyway. Get out the Big Book O'Footy Stereotypes, flick past BULLER, MT and all the humorous gags about us yelling PIP PIP off the ski-lift and go straight to K for "kicked themselves out of it", where commentators firmly believe that a side who are completely outmatched and who are clearly going to lose actually cost themselves the game by not taking their opportunities. It certainly wouldn't have hurt, but look at Essendon/Collingwood last week if you want to see what usually happens when a rubbish side bounds out to a shock lead against a substantially better team.

Fact was Carlton were always the better team by a million miles, and even if we had kicked those goals and taken a 20 point lead there was always going to be a time where they'd turn it on and bang us unmercifully like the low self esteem, confidence free, gang of emos that we are.

We were still hanging on, just there (even though we were winning for much of the quarter) when Strauss had his mishap and after Howe got his goal that was their cue to turn it up and treat us with contempt. From Tapscott bombing one into the square at the 32 minute mark we suddenly managed to concede another three goals - the worst of which saw them deliver the sort of kick-in that would cause grown men to weep if we did it and go down the other end in about 20 seconds flat to kick a goal.

All wasn't completely lost at quarter time, but it was pretty soon after. Enter C. J**d, the man who will only get his name back on this site when [$omeone else] does a runner to GWS for megabucks and loses theirs. He'd been good but not great in the first quarter but decided to turn on an absolute clinic in the second. He wasn't alone either, they barely had one player who didn't cut us to shreds. It was utterly ugly, but at least I'd seen worse in the previous seven days.

Eight goals to nil by the end of it and all of a sudden Watts is roving the backline and it seems like nothing has changed from if not last week (nothing could be worse) then a fortnight ago against Hawthorn. Funny to think that after that game we (i.e me) thought that we were still a red hot chance of playing the finals if things went our way in the last three games. Enough of that talk, we're rubbish and it's time to admit it instead of holding onto the

The one thing that was missed in the furious backtracking by the media who tried to get rid of him after Bailey's classy exit was that the fact we are (probably) going to win more games this year than in 2010 is an horrifically overrated stat. Winning games last year meant something because there were only one or two rubbish teams, and even they had their moments (Brisbane over Collingwood anyone? WCE beating us? Maybe the second one not so impressive) whereas this year you've got Gold Coast, Port and Brisbane who are absolute solid gold certainties for four points.

Despite the far more even competitive league last year (how many 120pt+ wins?) we went into the last weeks with an outside chance at playing finals then as well - and I'd argue that we were far better equipped to play in September then and have gone backwards this season. We stuffed up those three games but at least we were in the third last one against Hawthorn right until the last few minutes, this year they'd have pummelled us.

Injury hasn't helped but there's also obviously intensive mental issues both on and off the field. For instance how many times this year could we have rushed a point but hestitated before finally coughing up a goal. Somebody sit these kids down and say this is what you can do, this is what you can't do and if we get rorted by the umpires on a 50/50 one then so be it. Instead you get mass panic whenever the ball goes down there, almost inevitable disaster and the farce of the one time somebody did try and rush one through they handballed it straight to a Carlton player who would have waltzed in unchallenged if J**d hadn't already (amazingly) been pinged for a throw.

It pains me to admit that the Melbourne supporting junior and latterday turncoat is an amazing player. You don't need to come on here to find that out, but if that's what we're eventually going to miss out on with Scully then I hope the compensation picks we get deliver because what we desperately need now is a natural leader in the middle, with the grunt to get the job done week in, week out no matter whether or not the rest of the side are pulling their weight.

"Moloney's missing Jamar" said somebody around me, and if that's what we're relying on for success in the midfield then no wonder we're so necked. We all enjoyed the Psychic Friends Connection when it was at it's peak, but surely everyone knew that after they combined to thrash the pants off the Crows earlier in the year that opposition teams would twig on it and make sure that they couldn't combine at every single centre bounce. They did, we have no plan B, Jamar has been ordinary since he came back and Moloney just gets slaughtered against good sides - and it's not all his fault, if we could get somebody else in there to give him a hand it would help. Funny that considering we've spent years drafting midfielders, but welcome to the wonderful world of the MFC.

From the third quarter onwards it was procession football, and only their disinterest in hurting themselves before the important end of the year stopped us from another farce and Todd Viney from joining the Dean Bailey Horror Coaching Debuts coterie group. The only moments of note in the second quarter were Green giving away a free and subsequently a goal by jostling with some oaf at the other end of the ground.

It's all well and good that people are whinging about Green being no good as a captain, but please tell me who you're going to replace him with. My first instinct would be Moloney but he's hardly your man if you want somebody who is going to perform week in, week out. Second choice would be Trengove but having already buried McLean and to a lesser extent Grimes by annointing them as future captains I'm wary about doing it a third time.

Either way I wouldn't be surprised if the new coach has a full Gillard style leadership spill when he (or she, why not be innovative if you're going to be shit anyway?) takes over. Let Brad get back to doing what he does best and go for a long term option instead. If he cracks the sads and throws the toys out of the pram over getting dumped then the door is that way. I love Brad (in a mostly heterosexual manner) and defend him to the death most of the time but even I'm starting to think we could with somebody else in the job. Will we have a new captain by R1, 2012? Depends on who gets the coaching job I'd say - if it's a first timer he'll probably leave it the same, if it's a bit of a psycho like Williams/Laidley/Malthouse he'll probably slash and burn. Either way, leadership groups are still the biggest wank in football.

All in all another great day at the footy. Can't for the life of me understand why there were about 500 MFC fans there. Roll on 2012/13/14/whenever.

2011 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
In a slight improvement over last week the top two at least deserve their votes. The next three barely squeeze in but they deserve it more than the four in the apologies. Who would have thought that it would be actually be harder to give out votes in 2011 than it was for most of 08/09?

5 - Jack Watts
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Lynden Dunn
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Joel Macdonald

Apologies to Gysberts, Jones, Moloney and Howe in no particular order.

Grandstand finish in prospect between five men who have never won the least coveted award in AFL footy, but does anybody deserve it right now? You know you're in trouble when the guy leading by three votes is getting dropped.

At least if there's any justice in the world the season will end with (at least) two straight wins and whoever does break free from that group to take the medal will have to do it by playing well in a win instead of scoring votes for being the least shit in a demoralising shambles.

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

Crowd Watch
Did Carlton win the award for the worst banner ever today? Can somebody please explain what this means.
What I think it means is that they had a competition via Facebook to come up with a poor rhyme for their banner and that was the winner, but I'm not entirely sure because they're a cheersquad and anything can happen when you get people like that together.

If that is the case then their cheer squad are the biggest tightarses ever because then they turned it around so that the competition winner was facing the other way and the players instead ran through a banner advertising Telechoices. Very inspirational. Obviously they didn't need actual motivation to beat us. And further proof, as if you needed it, that Carlton will whore any aspect of their club out for cash. I reckon we'd be the same if anybody was interested in spending money on us. Can't see Outback Jacks having the sort of funding to do that sort of thing, and now that Hankook are walking away from being on the front of the jumper (because the logo isn't in the right place? Weirdos) all we've got is the promise of some mystery company turning up and being a lucrative new sponsor. Cue running through a "BP - WE CARE" banner next year with crepe paper sea creatures covered in West Texas crude oil.

Apart from that I was surrounded by exactly the sort of quality you'd expect at a Carlton game. A small child behind me who was so angry, bitter and twisted that he either had Tourette's or is a victim of abuse, a woman who amusingly had exactly the same voice and range of comedy comments as the abused child and a lone maniac who sat there screaming random comments all day and was still doing "we are getting robbed by the umpires" ironic boos for free kicks well into the last quarter when they were a million points in front.

Then there was the peanut directly in front of me who was delivering some of the worst attempts at comedy in history. At one point when Zach Tuohy (who appears to be better than half our list, hopefully only because he's surrounded by class) ran around somebody with ease he yelled out "THE IRISHMAN! SELLS HIM THE POTATO!" to the genuine amusement of the tossbags he was with. Forget that it made absolutely no sense and that it's practically a racist comment, apparently it was absolutely the funniest thing in history if you're the sort of cockhead who leaps on his friend and starts giving him a noogie at 3/4 time (and presumably a reacharound at the final siren).

Then, as if that wasn't bad enough he sits there and says "Geez, I didn't know whether that line was going to come off.. but it DELIVERED!" and high fived somebody. He didn't look like Dwayne Russell but he had all the characteristics. Odds on he's an ordinary human in his daily life, and double odds on he'll somehow end up reading this and will post some garbage comeback. As long as it's better than his 'classic' sledge of the umpires in the third quarter which consisted of "HEY UMPIRE! FUCK YOU!" we'll all be fine. A tip, if you are going to write in with foul abuse at least make it innovative because if it involves patches on leather jackets or ski resorts you will be doing more damage to yourself than me.

Next Week
I shudder to think what the crowd is going to be like against the Eagles. When they came out before the start of the year and spoke about how our draw was "a great football draw, but a bad business one" I don't think they expected that the two would come together in one apocalyptic battle of disinterest early one Sunday afternoon.

Is the crowd required for a break-even at Docklands 25k? Because we'll be lucky to get 25 full stop the way we're going considering the natural hatred for the place by our fans even when we were good. It's a shame they're shutting the top deck because I'd like to have an entire wing to myself.

Changes? Who cares. Jamar aside it's not like we've got scores of quality players banging the door down to get a game. Sylvia and Jurrah will no doubt come straight back now that they've had the smack on the wrist but other than those three there's not a great deal in reserve. Obviously Strauss is out, they've clearly got no interest in Bate (and for the second time this year he came on as sub and didn't do much) and Tapscott has already been knocked into next week so he might be in trouble too.

Any more injuries and our training sessions are going to start looking like this;

After that..
West Coast murder us, we're no certainty of beating Richmond the way we're playing at the moment, Gold Coast should (SHOULD) provide the platform for a "We Are The World" style win where we pretend that we're not shit and hopefully Port are still last going into the final game and prefer to have the first pick after GWS (Selection 54?) instead of the pride of not finishing last on the ladder.

What a sad, sad way this year is petering out. Having our last three games against garbage teams is starting to look a lot less appealing now than it did a few weeks ago.

Break out the phantom drafts and outrageous invented trade rumours because this year is absolutely finished no matter what sort of rorts you can invent via creative use of the (RIP Dean) Bailey Ladder's Ladder Predictor. God forbid the Eagles bus drives off the Tullamarine Freeway on the way to the ground and we somehow win next week then we'll revist this but at the moment there's as much chance of us beating them in that match as there is of me being asked to provide a motivational speech to the players before it.

Was it worth it?
Murray Wrensted. 1988 Elimination Final. Thanks for nothing you clown.

Final thoughts
If I were Mick Malthouse I'd rather mop the toilets at the Westpac Centre than go out of my way to get the job of coaching this lot next year. See also Clarkson, Al. The only hope we've got of landing a prominent coach is if Eade gets the arse at Footscray.