Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The longest month (part two)

(Relive the 'magic' of part one)

In honour of the longest month I did the longest post. For once it was thoughtfully split into two instead of being presented as one gigantic slab o' text. Instead enjoy the second mid sized slab.

Chapter Three - Return of the Tankquiry 

Thanks to Caroline Wilson for ruining my day. Not only did her article throw everything I wrote below about the draft into even more disarray than it was already in, but now apparently we're going down in spectacular fashion for dubious misdemeanors and suspicious behaviour.

That's what it looks like anyway, but don't pop the cyanide pill and end it all just yet because it's not over yet. It doesn't read well but there's no need to panic right now even though all sorts of investigators are involved - including a former 'tactical intelligence operative for the Victoria Police sexual crimes squad' if you don't mind - and the media are queuing up to beat up on an easy target.

We'll find out the 'true' story soon enough, so save kicking holes in your wall for now. There'll be plenty of time for fear, loathing, rage and hatred towards whoever you like - inside or outside the club - in the event of a future guilty verdict. Don't burn yourself out just yet.

The best case scenario is that the evidence of people who might very well have a grudge based on the fact that they were sacked or demoted isn't taken seriously and that nobody else was dumb enough to make or keep documentary evidence that they were on the shonk (If they were your honour). In that case how do you prove anything - idle waffle between coaches is one thing, but unless they can show that players were told not to kick goals (like, you know, Paul Roos did) then how can they prove anything beyond reasonable doubt?

Nevertheless let's brace for the worst. They're already in a bad mood because of the Adelaide/Tippett debacle, and Demetriou will be filthy if he's making to look stupid after coming out and saying no such thing as tanking existed so there's every possible chance that they'll try and roll two controversies into one to lessen the media impact and do us over at the same time they get the Crows.

I have no doubt that if we go down in any meaningful way (i.e - if we get offered a plea bargain for pick 88 I'm sure a confession would appear in seconds) that there will be all sorts of legal action and appeals both to the league and in the courts, which would further complicate the situation considering the draft is two weeks away it will presumably be a 'live' case in a court (normal or kangaroo) somewhere by then.

Even if, as the article says, we 'could' be hauled before the AFL Commission in the next couple of weeks could the draft even take place with an appeal on the table? What if they take pick four off us and then we win the case? Either way if it gets to that point it's not going to end well for us. Imagine we got an injunction on the entire draft? That would cause a spectacular amount of chaos, but just like beating the league in the courts you could see us getting the picks back and then being cut off from AFL assistance payments forever and forced to play five home games a year in East Timor.

Let's take a worst case scenario and say strip pick four off us this year, there's a brutal legal battle and we lose it. The club will go on regardless but things will get very nasty off-field and the chances of a boardroom challenge at the AGM rise from unlikely to almost certain. Either way anybody who was involved in an off-field capacity pre-Neeld would be nervously looking on Seek at the moment because the only way most of them are going to survive is if we get an absolutely 100% not guilty verdict - and the way it's looking there's fat chance of that happening.

Even though it would be remarkable for a professional competition to level draft penalties this season after they've just spent a whole month encouraging teams to exchange picks I'm not ruling anything out. We're not working with a democracy here, and if they want to hammer us (and presumably Adelaide) there's no moral obligation to take everyone out as well. Everyone knows everyone else did it, but unless we can somehow convince a court to take into account Travis Johnstone running riot in the Kruezer Cup then there's no obligation to investigate any of that if they don't want to. If the league wants to stitch us up (and if they've ever read this page they probably will just to annoy me) they will and there's precious little you or I can do about it.

What we can do is scream bloody murder if we go down based on half-hearted evidence and leave a trail of blood from here to Timbuktu. Ok, if they find secret audio recordings of Bailey, Schwab and Connolly talking tank in a supermarket carpark at 3.30am then I'll cop everything we're given but until then get stuffed, I'm not accepting anything and when the siren went in the Richmond game we were winning.

Start the defence now. Memorise this list and quote it long and loud. Everyone must know what a farce any penalty would be considering that half the other sides in the competition have done it - and none of them were in front at the final siren. At least you'll have a smug sense of moral superiority when we're starting with pick 124 in a few weeks.

Alternatively they could realise that bringing down any penalty now will throw this year's draft into disarray, do us over for the 2013 draft and we can fill in those boring summer months following a legal battle instead of, say, cricket. It'd make more sense considering that there's been so much turnover since 2009 that it doesn't matter whether the punishment comes now or in five years time it's no longer got any more than a tenuous connection to what happened that year except as an excuse to knife fans who have stuck by a club delivering pretty much nothing for six seasons firmly in the back.

Until we know more my only advice is to everyone involved DENY EVERYTHING. Even if the investigator starts hitting you with the Yellow Pages this is no time to crumble and stuff everything up.

Now after writing that there's no doubt in the world that tomorrow's hot exclusive will be audio tapes dug up personally by Caro from the carpark at Casey Fields - and at that point I'll give up, burn Demonblog Towers a'la New Jack City and merge for good with The Farce Blog.

Chapter Four - Despatches, despatches and despatches

I take it nobody was really floored when the news about the delistings came on Saturday morning, and even if you didn't see the bullet coming for some of them you've got to accept that when the ruthless cull that everyone had been calling for finally occurred there was every possible chance that somebody you liked, or at least could have lived with us keeping, was going to get caught in the crossfire.

The rookie list is shrinking by two from next season (unless you live the AFL's dream and either recruit somebody from the Belgian Congo or lure a professional croquet player), so that's probably what did Jai Sheahan in despite him looking half decent in some Casey games towards the end of the year. He goes along with Kelvin Lawrence, who started delisting season before the actual footy season had finished, and Chris From Camberwell favourite Leigh Williams who showed a bit in the VFL but was severely forced back down the pecking order by the arrival of Dawes and Pedersen.

This article seems to suggest that it's reducing to four, but on matters like this I'm prepared to take the league's official word. Unless they had an unpredictable change of heart and made something up on the spot like the video ref all over again. We had seven, so it's down to five now and with the almost certain Nicholson promotion that will let us pick two this year if we want the new maximum (badminton players from the Canary Islands aside), but maybe they'll just pick one and go with less than the maximum again. I'll freely put my hand up and say I've got no idea how they think when they recruit these guys, so watch this space and see how many they wheel in for pre-season training after the draft as an indication of how much interest there is.

As for the senior list there were three that were written large well before the axe came down. Bate, Cook and most unfortunately The Jurrahcance had been holed up in the Last Chance Hotel for about three months. They held out longer than expected but the MFC List Management SWAT team finally cleaned them up sometime before 12pm Saturday.

If those three were near $1.01 certainties the other two weren't any great surprise either. Everyone liked Ricky Petterd and wanted him to do well (or in my case whined when he didn't get a game) but when it came down to it he offered absolutely nothing this year, and other than a few random bursts of quality in the past he's paid for the price for not playing any role in particular and having a rotten year just when the Howitzer was being rolled into position. He kicked more than a goal a game, but so did Juice Newton and I didn't see a protest march down Bourke Street when he got the boot.

I was surprised by us dropping Bennell only because I thought we'd puss out rather than looking like heartless bastards for delisting a one legged man, but thank god for the new era of ruthlessness. Personally I'd rather we didn't but I could see a case for waiting out the Delisted Free Agent period and then picking him up again in the rookie draft if they have enough selections OR didn't like the kids on offer. Can't see it happening though, there's always more than one kid who misses the main draft that they'd have their eye on over somebody who will miss pre-season at a minimum. Mind you that's how we got Sheahan and look how that's turned out for him.

Out of that five the one that pains me the most is Jurrah, but it's a unique situation that we can't really manage so it's better not admit defeat for once. He doesn't want to be in Melbourne, and he might be doing time halfway through next year so we've got to remember the good times and move on. I know there's some wacky proposal by Port Adelaide to rookie list him just in case he gets off (presumably to kick 500, mostly against us) but you've got to wonder what would have happened if he'd gotten off at the committal hearing a few months ago. Even if he'd put in the request to go back to SA then we'd have at least got some trade action out of him instead of having to do a straight out delisting which leaves us with nada.

I wouldn't object to having him back in 2014 if he sorts out whatever he has to off-field and gets off the charges (or, morality be damned, does a short stint and comes out ok) but here's hoping that as much as we enjoyed his traction engine style foot and big leap that we don't need him anymore due to our sudden acquisition of tall forwards out the yin yang. Still, he would have been handy as a mid-sized forward because we still don't have a great deal of them - even less since Green quit and Cook/Petterd got the boot - and still even less small forwards despite the promise of cameo crumb from Davey, Byrnes and/or Rodan.

No doubt some of this - hopefully the bit about crumb - will be addressed via the various drafts, but as the list stands if you've got a fetish for mid-size forwards you'll be going home empty handed (in all senses of the word) with the Dees in 2013. Cook might have helped, but barring a remarkable turnaround at a new club he's heading straight towards a list of all-time great draft busts. Even Luke Molan can point to breaking his leg at ludicrous angles as to why never played a game, Cook's only got crippling MFC Player Depression (for other examples see Morton. C, and Maric. A) and his future Coleman Medal winning campaign to comfort him.

If I'm a bit glum about the end of the LJ era, and totally unmoved by Cook's demise then I'm firmly down the  middle with Bate. Ok, he was slow, he wasn't the best kick (but less kicks aside he still had a better DE% than any of Trengove, Sylvia or Howe) and was well past the point of justifying his relatively high draft position but I still think he still offered something.

At least he knew how to get the ball and where to go to get it - in less games this year he had more marks than Macdonald, Bail, Green, Magner, Sellar, Jones, Blease, McKenzie, Jamar and Moloney. What he also did was provide a big(ish) body in reserve just in case. Not to replace Moloney, but to give some insurance against Jones getting injured or losing form before Viney/Pick 4 are ready to carry a midfield. Bate is no Jones or Trengove, but he's at least in the same postcode as Magner and well ahead of Couch with the added benefit of having played 80-100 more games than either of them.

Notwithstanding the fact that we could have and should have taken pick 40 and ran when Footscray were offering it last year he could have filled a hole on our list. Obviously three years of not being an automatic first choice isn't going to enhance anybody's credentials for a new contract but while we've obviously learnt that you can't play kids everywhere and started flogging most of our draft picks in trades we're not exactly spoilt for choice on midfielders so it would have been nice to have a backup who wasn't 18 or straight out of the state leagues.

Unless of course he's on a promise elsewhere (first rumour says Hawthorn, which is odd) and we're doing the community thing by setting him free. Even if the good sides aren't keen and Footscray have subsequently realised that they're too stuffed to be topping up with mid 20's players I don't see why he wouldn't be a handy pick-up for one of the franchises while they're playing 80% of kids and expecting to get flogged anyway. He's not rake thin and can get a kick, that's good to be good enough for Crazy Sheeds and his half-hearted interest in short time success.

Anyway, not our problem now. As with all ex-MFC players (except $cully) we wish him well in the future. The good news is that if you want to support our old players you've got the choice of the entire league except for Essendon, Footscray, Freo, GWS (because Junior is gone and you wouldn't support the other one), Richmond (vale the Miller/Emo era), St Kilda and Sydney. Hopefully some of them pick up our scraps just to ensure some sort of tenuous MFC connection to the premiership next year.

Chapter Five - The search for a superstar

Back to the wide world of trades, and after four glorious years the SME era is over. The two time reigning Jim Stynes Medallist is taking off to Brisbane to form the New Psychic Friends Connection with Moloney and we're left with two shitbox picks and a hole in our heart as deep as a well.

But, as those 'side splitting' pictures featuring tilted deckchairs that everyone sends out after every pissweak natural disaster say WE WILL REBUILD. And the first step to recovery is to name a replacement to join the likes of Jakovich, Read, Shanahan and, err, Darren Kowal in the long - usually tragic - list of players that I've given support to over the years. And this is where, for the first time in sporting history you the viewing audience can play a part.

While recognising that there's something slightly sinister about grown men having favourite players and wearing numbered jumpers it's nevertheless time to pick one, and this time I don't want the blood on my hands if it all goes horribly wrong so I'm throwing the vote open to Demonblog readers, MFC fans in general and anyone within the football public who gives a toss. No preferences, no proportional representation, no modified D'Hondt or electoral college, just straight out first past the post where the winner - err - wins.

Luckily the Americans have come to the party with an Election Day on Wednesday 7 November our time. So on that day you'll have the chance to cast your ballot via a poll hosted on this page. At 12am on Thursday 8 November one man will become my favourite player elect, and at 12.05am he'll look at the fate of all the others who have held that honour and start planning for his career outside football.

The only house rules are that to ensure some value for my money you can't vote for anybody who will be over 28 by Round 1 (e.g Byrnes, Davey, Rodan). Otherwise go for your life. Run an electoral rort in favour of your chosen candidates, stuff the ballot box, whatever you like. When their career goes tits up it will be partly your fault for participating even if you didn't select the winner.

Note: all results are provisional until approximately 11.20am on Tuesday 11 December when the Rookie Draft will finalise our playing list for 2013. I agree to be bound by the votes of the community except in the unlikely event of us drafting somebody with an outright ludicrous name like Freddie Clutterbuck, Alroy Gilligan or:

Chapter Six - Draft

(NB: This was written before Chapter Three and all assumes best case scenario at the show trial)

Now that the last drips have been wrung out of the 2012 season (at least the ones that the wider community may care about) we can concentrate on the draft, and what a thrilling night that promises to be for us. You know the draft, that basket in which we poured near on every single one of our eggs into only to emerge with a handful of shattered shells and footballing dreams.

One day history might show Team Neeld has gone too far in the other direction, but at least we're not balancing our future on banking a thousand picks and getting them all right Flogged off pick 12 last year has been a winner so far, and we'll see in a couple of years if pick three for Hogan/Barry and half of Dawes was equally as good. If it all goes right we get three good players for the price of one, but even if they don't all deliver the goods at least we'd have to be desperately unlucky for all of them to be shit. At least we used pick 20 to try and bring in an experienced player rather than packing it away to use on another toss of the coin kid.

Instead we get pick four (don't be subconsciously biased on the basis of the quick burn and slow fizz of the Morton experiment), Viney Jr as a confirmed bargain, a couple of spins of the draft roulette wheel and a rookie upgrade or two. I believe, without reference to the rulebook - which might be like the rules of professional wrestling and not actually exist - that the inevitable rookie upgrade of Daniel Nicholson counts will count as our last pick, so that means there's going to be a lot of time for putting the kettle on between pick four and 49.

Presumably they're going to subject the 50 of us who bother to watch the draft to their ludicrous count back from ten gimmick again - even though GWS hold the first three and have no fans to care - so instead of skipping through the top two who everyone will know a month before (but some idiot from the Giants will still come out and announce they "don't know which one they'll pick first". Which would be offensive if we hadn't done exactly the same thing with Trengove and some shitbag) and seeing who we're left with at pick four we'll go through the teeth clenching spectacle of picks 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 being paraded on stage like they're on sale in a Bangkok nightclub before we ruin some poor kid's career and then try and work out if we got a good deal or not five minutes later when GWS make their 'first' pick. Which is actually their third pick. Is there anybody in the world who thinks this is a good idea and is not employed by the AFL?

Our picks are 4, 27 (Viney) 49, 53, 70, 73, 74 and 88. So chances are we'll use up to 53, promote Nicholson with 70 and pass on the rest. If they really wanted to cut enough space on the list they could also promote Magner if they think he'd provide more value on the senior list than somebody else and want to clear another space on the rookie list.

To be honest I'm not entirely sure that a second rookie upgrade is even legal, but if Terry Wallace can rebrand himself as "The List Manager" and pretend that he know what he's on about then so can I.

Suffice to say they would want to deliver on pick four this time. You can be sure whoever it is that he's going to be a midfielder, but if the fate of Morton/Gysberts is anything to go by then he won't have a big floppy haircut. Safe in the knowledge that anybody pretending they know what they're doing can probably get at least the top four right I turned to the Big Footy Phantom Drafts board and pulled the following names out for special attention on the night.- Grundy (ruckman, but Jamar can't go on forever), O'Rourke (is his first name really spelt Jonothan? I don't think I can support that), Wines and Toumpas so if it's not one of those you can take it up with Big Footy.

When it comes down to it I don't give a monkeys as long as they can play. It's all well and good to spend hours trying to decide who'll be left by pick four and who they should take but the fact of the matter is that anyone we draft will either come down with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Ricketts and the whole exercise will end in a massive outbreak of terminal Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome.

Part Seven - Waiting for the great leap forward
Training will obviously take place very soon, but once we've got the full list confirmed come midday 11 December then we can really concentrate on getting through the summer and into the pre-season proper.

From there all sorts of time honoured traditions will be followed. The modern day John Meesen will train the house down, we'll have a mass outpouring of grief over somebody doing their knee in training, everyone who said they were going to roll up to the AGM and lose the plot will squib it (unless the Tankquiry rolls us, then it will be a massacre), a surprise win against a good team playing their thirds in the NAB Cup will cause an outbreak of moistness among the entire supporter base then the expected massive win against Port in Round 1 will be derailed by The Jurrahcane doing a run in and kicking eight goals as any pre-season togetherness and comradeship will disolve into furious online brawls about who we should sack first.

Pending a total implosion of the club and civil war based on the aforementioned enquiry I'm looking forward to it.

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