Tuesday 28 May 2013

Air Farce One

(image courtesy @thisdangerous)
Modern technology is magnificent. Think back to the last time we were any good (some of you now turning 18 were in primary school), the iPad hadn't been invented and mobile internet was about as useful as using a 14.4k modem to access a BBS in 1994. Now when you're in a hotel which has every Fox Sports channel except the one you actually want you can break out your own personal tiny screen and use mobile internet to almost seamlessly watch the whole thing without buffering or random drop-outs.

What a shame then that the best use I could find for such amazing modern technology was to watch us roll over and stick our legs up in the air like a dead cat, live and in colour. While it's a great advance it's still hardly seamless. When they go to a long shot you're suddenly enter the world of a radio commentator where it's hard to tell between similar looking players so you just guess who it is - for instance at a distance it's so choppy you can't tell between Nathan Jones and James Magner or Rohan Bail and some blades of grass.

Still, it more than did the job, which is certainly better than having to find a local pub to watch it in alongside a bunch of scumbags who couldn't care less and midway through the third quarter start singing along to Cold Chisel's greatest hits, but with a device in hand which not only gives you access to a world of knowledge and all the greatest works of literature ever written for free - as well as more easily accessible pornography than would seem necessary there's really no excuse to have spent two hours watching Melbourne play, even if most of what we put out is similar to the world of internet porn in that it should be classified and banned under the Obscene Broadcasting Act.

Given my circumstances, being away from home, I could have probably saved time and written this in advance - I even knew exactly how many scoring shots we were going to have on Wednesday night. It would have been cheating, but it was easy enough to guess that the time honoured-tradition of club goes west, club scores bugger all, club loses, club returns home in disgrace was going to be followed to the letter. Fulfilling non-existent expectations, it's what we do.

If there was any doubt it was going to turn out badly we should have known that death was imminent when Fox Footy spent the pre-game analysis trying to stop people from either turning over to the Adelaide/North game or going out for dinner by making a case that if A, B and C happened we'd be a chance. Unfortunately the options weren't A) Freo being struck down by a black death style plague of injuries, B) the match being cancelled due to a spot fixing scandal or C) poison gas wafting across the oval, killing all in its path, so no doubt TV sets everywhere were soon flicked over to Adelaide's comeback or remained firmly planted in the OFF position.

Just 124,000 bothered to tune in, and that figure must have been recorded at the first bounce because there's no chance it was in six figures come full-time. It was under all the NRL games this week, and confirms that if you don't have Foxtel you'd better get it by next year if you ever want to see us on TV again - BUT at least it was significantly higher than the laughable 58k for West Coast vs GWS, which is 5000 less than the total of VFL, SANFL and WAFL viewers on Saturday and is almost funny enough to make me forget how unpopular we are - until you realise it was shown live on Channel 7 in WA.

I'd like to think the viewing figures for our game were also not helped by the presence of patronising arseholes like Dwayne Russell on commentary, a man who by half time had decided that the umpires were going out of their way to rort decisions in our favour because they felt sorry for us. Which sounds a lot to me like a man suggesting to 124,000 people that three senior AFL officials are engaging in corrupt practices, so feel free to send all legal threats and subpoenas to Dwayne c/o Fox Footy in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne and let's see if we can't arrange some kind of settlement where he's forced to call games properly.

Knowing that we were going to get done over in a very uncomfortable place no matter what David King thought softened the blow, but even when you know we're going to get done then just a sad aura around the club. Look at Colin Garland in that 'feature' they ran before the game, one of the few players we've got who can hold his head high across the last two seasons was talking like a broken man. "I hope I'm here when we turn it around" etc.. I'd like to say he was visibly distressed but his expression didn't change once. You could tell he was hurting though. Do you think he's thrilled about having signed a relatively long-term deal last year? I expect he'll be joining the long queue to get out soon as we come to terms with the fact that 'one club players' are a dead thing to us. Except the ones we delist after a couple of years and can't get a game anywhere else.

So, another week and another fiasco but I can't even derive joy from getting angry about it any more. At least in days of old (e.g most of these) you could scream, kick inanimate objects and swear openly (possibly in front of children) and get on with your life - now you just sit there laughing at the absurdity of it all. When we were 70 points down at half-time I was even perversely hoping for it to hit three figures. Looking back now obviously I didn't want us to have lost by 120, but at the time it became so ridiculous that it was almost an out of body sporting experience - when I watch a neutral game and a side is 10 goals up at half-time I generally want to see if they can win by 140 points, and it was like in my mind Melbourne had been reduced to the role of 'generic team'.

They even wore white like a leftover default team in a bad videogame. Along with the coach, half the players, the CEO (done) and the logo can we please put the white jumper in the bin forever? Bring back the red one with the Demon on the front, or at least something like it. I think I've said it before but even the electric blue 70's/80's jumper would be preferable, and surely nobody can claim it's interfering with Freo's purple or Essendon's red?

Here's an exercise for you - take our list and put them into the following categories. You don't need any sort of analysis to know we're shit, but it shows how we've got such a top heavy bottom end that the very slight 'top' end (also known as the B-grade if we were a real club) can't hold it up:

Walk into a top four team 

Walk into a top eight team
Clark, Garland, Grimes, Howe, N. Jones, Sylvia

Walk into a non-finals team 
Dawes, Trengove, Watts

Depth player at a good side
Blease, Gawn, M. Jones, McDonald

Depth player elsewhere
McKenzie, Strauss

Simon Buckley/Chris Johnson style fill-in or rookie list at best.
Davey, Dunn, Evans, Jamar, Magner, Spencer, Tapscott, Terlich, Tynan

Too early to tell
Barry, Clisby, Kent, Stark, Toumpas, Viney

No chance of getting a game elsewhere
Bail, Byrnes, Couch, Davis, Fitzpatrick, Gillies, Jetta, Macdonald, Nicholson, Pedersen, Rodan, Sellar, Taggert

At least if we got wound up Fitzroy style whoever swallowed us would have a hard time deciding which eight players they took. Assuming the takeover team is fairly balanced and doesn't have any serious, gaping holes and also assuming that Sylvia and Watts can go for free due to contract expiry if I were coach X I'd be taking Clark, Frawley, Garland, Grimes, Howe, N. Jones, Trengove and Viney as my big eight - and plugging that lot into a club hasn't been burnt to the ground would probably get the best out of them.

Speaking of Fitzroy, if it's any consolation when I went back to this round in 1996 to see how we stacked up against their famous last-season at this point they were actually on top of us, and our 2013 percentage is 'only' 1.2% better than the '96 equivalent. That year we managed to turn 1-8 into 7-15, but that's probably because half the list started playing out of their skins thinking we were about to merge and put most of them out of a job - now the half of our list that we could do with firing up don't have to bother because they're all under contract for next year. You're right, this is no consolation.

This is why tossing off over the 'effort' shown last week was such a shambles on the same level as the standing applause for only being 10 points behind West Coast. I was sucked in too, and of course it was nice to see them do what they're paid to do and have a go for once but patting them on the head and cheering that we tried hard was always going to end in tragedy. The major problem was that any positive benefits from that performance were always going to be completely destroyed by one bad showing - and by playing three very good teams in a row after we had to get through the Freo game without being humiliated to stand any chance of not being rooted to the bottom of the Laughing Stock League. Shame they didn't do that against Gold Coast or Carlton AND Richmond to get a few credits in the bank before this beating.

Hooray we laid a few tackles and started a fight against a mid-table team, let the good times roll. Was that all we needed to see to look past lack of actual talent, structure or ability to get a kick? Obviously it was, and obviously our players were happy with everyone tickling their tummy and telling them how well they'd done that they decided to drop dead again when faced with a good club intent on strangling them. Unfortunately as hard as it is to understand when you're in the position we are there are quite a lot of good clubs in the competition, and a few more average ones. It takes a while to get down to our level, and you can't play the average ones every week.

Even Chris Dawes, who interrupted Neeld in last week's press conference to cut an impassioned promo about how coaches shouldn't have to teach effort gave up chasing in the last quarter. At least he's in for the long haul and showed signs of being able to contribute on the odd occasion where we did get a kick - however, he's no Mitch Clark for hoisting a side full of hacks onto his shoulders and carrying them to within 100 miles of respectability. Now we're getting bagged for not going out and getting a midfielder with our alleged shitloads of money at the end of 2012 (remember the 'warchest'? Another great MFC farce!) Easier said than done - and while I agree that Watts could have done a similar job you can only try and attract players who want to come to you. We did try and get midfielders, not guns but decent players, and they all told us to piss off. Fact of the matter is that everybody in the league saw what happened to Clark when he foolishly chose us over Freo, and now that Dawes has also fallen into the MFC black hole good luck getting any other decent high-priced recruits to turn up unless there's something undisclosed that's wrong with them.

Why would you want to play for us? A side that never even raises a yelp, a team that every week makes us pine for the Dean Bailey era a bit more even though we know deep down in our hearts that it was never going to work out. Nobody expects us to beat good sides (Essendon 2012 becoming more and more of an unexplained mystery every week), but to get close one day would be nice. When we lost to Collingwood by a point in 2010 I punched a seat so hard my hand was bleeding for hours, now I'd roll around on the floor in glee.

North Melbourne fans are about to throw themselves in front of a bus because they've lost four games by under a goal and choked in spectacular fashion on the weekend - we'd be in heaven if we could get that close four times in a season. How come every other side in the competition who has finished in the bottom two or three (except Gold Coast and GWS in their first years) has managed to come close to a win once or twice (or even pulled one off) but not been able to get it done due to being shit? We just get chopped up every week by almost club under the sun, and nothing ever changes. It has to stop at the door of the coach eventually - there are a lot of dud players on our list, but it doesn't stop other clubs from having a go every once in a while.

But why stop at getting close? We finally managed to get the heat taken off us for one week thanks to our 'improved effort' (piss off) against Richmond while Footscray lose to Gold Coast. At last somebody notices that they've been almost as rubbish as us over the last year (without as many 148 point losses), they got flogged by the media all week and respond by coming out and winning. Sure St Kilda are plummeting towards our end of the ladder at a million miles an hour, but do you think we'd have done that? Would we have even got close? Of course not, because unlike us Footscray are still holding their heads high and not crying about their lot in life.

It's also a plus side for the Bulldogs that they can usually avoid letting teams have the most kicks in the recorded history of AFL/VFL football against them, which probably helps in not being an absolute disgrace. Whether they'll drop further as their experienced players give up or not is yet to be seen but at least they didn't push them all out the door in some misguided belief that replacing them all with a bunch of 18-year-old kids would somehow help the situation. Either way they showed how a shit team should play in a backs against the wall situation, leaving us to once again look like a wreck that should be scuttled - and good luck to them for it. They deserve to be a game and percentage in front of us, and we deserve to be almost certain of finishing in the bottom two.

I accept the fact that Freo are a million times better than any of Footscray, Richmond or St Kilda - and could possibly win the flag while we're being relegated to the EDFL but it's still no excuse for going back into a gaping hole the moment the pressure's on. Why, yet again, can we run through the banner, go into a huddle where presumably everybody shouts "YEAH!" a lot, play five competitive minutes at the start of a game and then go into quarter time a million points behind? How has this escaped the attention of the media so far? Here's our first quarters broken down into five minute blocks... 

0.00 - 4.59
2.0 to 4.6 (including 0.0 in the first four games of the year)

5.00 - 9.59
4.5 to 8.3

10.00 - 14.59
4.3 to 8.7

15.00 - 19.59
3.5 to 7.3

20.00 - 24.59

3.3 to 6.8

2.4 to 11.4

And there you have it - I knew we'd conceded less goals than average in the first five minutes across the season but I had no idea before compiling these stats that we'd been so bad in the last five minutes.

It happened again on Sunday, once more we looked like a proper AFL team in those first few minutes before exploding into shards all over Subiaco Oval. Ok Watts' goal came from a hurried MFC style hoof out of the pack which landed in his arms but at least the ball was down there, which is more than you can say for most of the first half. A half in which we had less inside 50's than 186 if that's possible. I'm sure we were all happy to see Watts go down there and kick that goal, but no surprises when we started to get dry humped he was straight back into defence - where he didn't do too bad a job, and can at least hit a target by foot more often than not but doesn't do much to hold back the tide of opposition sides going forward every 20 seconds. Whether or not he owes us anything after our own fans have treated him like shit for the last couple of years (and at times it has been mutual) is debatable but I have no doubt he's not going to sign up for a lifetime of this. Hopefully he goes to West Coast and unites with Nic Nat, Jack Darling, Cale Morton and Jamie Bennell in an alliance of people we should have drafted or totally wrecked.

Once the first five minutes of contractually obligated effort time ran out the training drill commenced. To have four players hit quarter time without having one single possession is absolutely criminal and all four of them should be dropped. Freo could afford to play like the Harlem Globetrotters all they wanted, because they had the ball protected like it was inside an Armaguard van. The avalanche that blew us away was savage and actually entertaining to watch - the only thing that ruined it was the few times our players got their hands on the ball. Then there were the kick-ins. My god the kick-ins. One day your grandchildren may see a day where an MFC player can return the ball into play without automatically involving themselves into a gigantic cock-up. If you already have grandchildren there's a chance that their kids might be the ones. Either way I'll be old and grey before that happens.

You'd like to think that after being humiliated in the first quarter that they might come out in the second and have something approaching a bash, but considering they all went into the huddle at quarter-time looking like their pet dog had just been run over (possibly by the Reality Bus) confidence wasn't high. This is not a group or a coach capable of turning bad times into average times.

Back to five minute blocks of quarters. It's been shown above that we're not all that bad in the first five minutes of a game before being shit gets too much for us - but what about second quarters? Can we hold the tide back for a few minutes before crumbling in the second term as well? No, of course we can't. It's not so bad (3.2 to 7.8) but usually any chance of a comeback is snuffed out pretty soon after the quarter starts, and at that point you might as well turn around and go home.

We're just a busted team. Where was the aggression this week? Where's Tapscott doing the big, mental eyes thing while jostling with somebody? He did apparently lay another one of his trademark big, legal bumps to the side but I obviously missed it because I'm not sure I saw him do anything all day. I don't expect him to be a martyr and go out to get fined for being in melees every week - and I'm also aware that nobody believes us when we try to pull the tough guy act, and that goes for you Lynden Dunn - but it'd be nice for somebody to show a bit of toughness. At least we won the tackle count - by six, despite having 165 less disposals. Somebody might get a positive out of that.

Also looking at the stats I know we never had the ball, but our entire team had three bounces between them. Luke McPharlin had four on his own. I suppose why bother running if you know nobody's going to be at the other end, but where's the adventure? Sometimes it looks like they're so intent on sticking to 'a plan' that it completely fails because they don't have licence to lash out and do something crazy. Who's fault is this, player or coach? Nobody runs or takes the game on, and we still have to endure players like Nicholson and Bail just because they're 'quick'. Then you take the 'quick' players like Nicholson, who was at his best last year when running and use him as a totally outmatched, fish out of water defender then wonder why he's not playing well. Why's he playing at all when James Strauss could have done exactly the same job but with decent kicking skills?

I suppose at some point we'll blame our putrid performance on the phone lines between coaches box and bench breaking down, forcing Neeld, Craig etc.. to 'coach' from the boundary line while some bloke relayed stats from above via a mobile phone. Save your mobile bill pal, the only stats that were even being counted during the second quarter were for Freo players - we went about four minutes into it without one of our players having a single possession. We are so shit it hurts, and no dodgy phone connection in the world can explain Freo players running around inside 50 with no man in sight to challenge them time, after time, after time. I don't know what the league average is but they had 24 marks inside 50 to our three. West Coast had 25 to four against GWS if there's any remaining doubt that we should be considered in the same bracket as that team full of kids, cast-offs and turncoats. They can't help getting better, we will finish last this year and next at this rate.

We won the third quarter but I refuse to take anything out of that other than the fact that Jeremy Howe is the only player we've got who is actually worth watching. Apologies to Nathan Jones who is industrious and hard-working but boring and traditional with the weight of the entire midfield on his back, while Howe does it all at either end of the ground. It seems such a waste to play him loose at the back rather than in the middle or up front where he can be damaging, but when there's no other damaging players around how's he supposed to do it all on his own?

Another encouraging sign was that Trengove was playing a little bit less like an 80-year-old man for once, but let's see if he can do it two weeks in a row. I still love the guy, and I have confidence that he can and will turn it around to 2010/11 standard but if there's something wrong with him then get it fixed - especially if we spend the rest of the year under a caretaker coach with nothing to lose.

There was arguably no benefit to winning the quarter other than the chance of Dwayne to throw in a few more patronising comments about us. Freo were practically doing training drills for the whole term so it's nothing more than a stat to throw in the 'quarters won' file to be used against us when we reach something stupid like 5-83 by Round 23.

'Winning' one quarter might have meant something if they'd backed it up, but just like we can't put in two 'good' weeks of effort in a row we can't do it with quarters either. Commence another trouncing, interrupted only by my new mortal enemy Bail missing a goal on the run and the continually impressive Matt Jones throwing a piece of token resistance in midway through the term. Other than that it was all Freo, all the time. No point looking at our last quarter scores in the five minute blocks because the GWS game totally stuffs it up, but here's what we've conceded:

0.00 - 4.59

5.00 - 9.59

10.00 - 14.59

15.00 - 19.59

20.00 - 24.59


What does that all mean? God knows, I'm just getting autistic on stats to help me cope with bottling up my distress. Watch out Saturday June 22 when I'm back in town, I could let rip with the most volcanic eruption of my life.

Speaking of Matt Jones he has been so impressive for a guy who played semi-pro until his mid 20's. I was down on him when he first came to us for completely unfair reasons and now feel I have to apologise. In a club email where all the newly drafted players had a quote about being picked up everyone else was all "It's my dream, this is great, I can't wait" and his was basically "Thank god, I'm sick of crawling around under people's homes". I later realised (about the same time that he turned out to be a pretty good player) that he probably got stitched up by the person putting the email together, and that he did say all the obvious things as well as expressing a desire to never have to work as an electrician again.

Now he's one of our shining lights, and would win our Best First Year Player award by a million miles if we hadn't thrown 80 years of tradition out the window and changed it to Best Young Player last year. With respect to Jack Viney who is the only other chance of winning that award it would be nice if they went back to the original idea of rewarding the best new player no matter how old he is. I'd be happy to lend them the Hilton Medal rules which allow players who debuted in the final month of the season before to remain eligible and for them to name it the Rising Star award or something similarly original. Alternatively if that was a Neeld change I'd also be happy for them to revert it back, retrospectively award Magner the Best First Year trophy he was cheated out of last season and to go back to excluding anybody who played one game in the year before.

As for other highlights I'd be reaching. The other Jones, Garland, Howe and that's it. Others have shone bright briefly, see for instance Shannon Byrnes' two weeks of glory before losing the plot and Sylvia's occasional cameos when not hitting people or weighing up which club he'll be playing for next year, but those four are the only ones who have been good for a majority of the year.

There really is no end in sight to this situation. I can understand that they're peaky about sacking a coach and having to pay him out when we're already going to lose so much money this year, but the way it's going they could do a whole Foundation Heroes dinner asking for contributions to help pay him out. Even in the death throes of the Bailey era people weren't this vitriolic about a coach (possibly because the death throes lasted one afternoon instead of a year). The only thing I can liken it to is Richmond under Danny Frawley in his last season - and at least he took them to finals and won 40% of his matches before people started spitting at him and having fisticuffs with his family in the stands.

In comparison to Spud's positively luxurious record Neeld (5-26) is currently sitting at 16%, leaving him 9% short of Carl Ditterich as the worst MFC record of a coach who lasted into a second season - and only six men in VFL/AFL history who have ever coached an equal or more amount of games than him hold worse win/loss records, the last being Royce Hart who finished at Footscray in 1982 with an 8-45 record for 15.09%. If he lasts three more weeks and loses all three Neeld will drop below him as well, so he probably should try to get sacked by the bye just to stay above Royce.

He can talk about process and rebuilds all he likes, but that's the kind of record that will sink somebody no matter how good their intentions are. Luckily for him Kevin Murray went 0-34 at Fitzroy once, so at least there's one record he can't take. If he survives to the end of the year and wins at least one more game at least he'll be able to avoid 2nd last place as well. Something to look forward to! Except that at the moment there's no indication that we will win another game with him in charge - no matter who's ultimately to blame.

It's telling that Don McLardy hasn't been seen anywhere in the last couple of weeks, because the entire board are still secured in a bunker underneath the Southern Stand, doing the maths and seeing if there's a way to axe him without having to get Ken Judge to do the job for minimum wages (but he does bring 'gags') next year. They're not going to back him now, if they were going to resolve to stay the course until the end of the year and hope for a miracle they'd have come out after the Gold Coast game instead of going into hiding. Now it's a case of Peter Jackson being on the phone to Demetriou trying to convince him to waive the 500k fine so that we can afford to swing the axe and not have to rely on a bargain basement replacement or sell the Bentleigh Club off.

Either way I'm absolutely in favour of them hitting the reset button at the end of the year, and am not at all concerned if they do it now as long as it's not another big financial drain. It won't solve any more issues than sacking the CEO did but at least it'll hopefully give us a honeymoon period for a few weeks after the bye when we can try and right the ship a bit. Not sure who's going to convince Sylvia and Watts to stay without knowing what freak we're going to turn to next, but if the board aren't interested in publicly supporting him there only seems to be one option.

See you at We Want Choco (can we still call him that?) campaign headquarters. Corner of YOU WERE WRONG Street and Choke Yourself With A Tie Boulevard.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal votes

The top vote is a lock, second probably deserves one or two in normal circumstances, third is only in because there has to be five - and the other two should probably send a telegram respectfully declining, citing not being deserving of any recognition.

5 - Jeremy Howe
4 - Matt Jones
3 - Jack Trengove
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Dean Terlich

Apologies to Davey, Frawley, Magner, McKenzie and Watts only because they could have all undeservedly snuck in for one or two votes.

At least unlike most everything about the Melbourne Football Club the main award is competitive. By this point last year Jones was 10 points in front, and while he'll more than likely still win at least there are two legitimate contenders.

Gawn should be on probation for the Stynes on account of playing too much in the forward-line, but when his main opposition has one kick in a game then I'm happy to let him be for another couple of weeks.

21 - Nathan Jones
16 - Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
14 - Jeremy Howe
12 - Colin Sylvia
11 - Jack Viney
9 - Shannon Byrnes
6 - Michael Evans, Colin Garland (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Aaron Davey, Lynden Dunn, Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes, James Magner, Dean Terlich
3 - Jack Trengove
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar
1 - Mitch Clark, James Frawley, Jordie McKenzie, Luke Tapscott

Next Week
1x miracle required to avoid a tremendous savaging next Sunday afternoon. Hawthorn's average performance against Gold Coast has made absolutely certain of that, imagine the wall destroying mood Clarko will be in after going into half-time two goals behind them? Forget waffle about how they're improved etc etc, only bottom of the barrel clubs like us are allowed to comfort ourselves with rubbish like that. Not to mention the public dispute he's having with us denying that we ever offered him a contract to coach.

Also, think Franklin's not going to want to come out and stick two fingers up at fans who are so comfortable with being good that they can happily bronx cheer one of the modern icons of their club? Oh yes he will, any while we're more likely to cop six goals from four different players than 24 from one any loss under 80 would still be a win, and that's absolutely tragic.

Considering how few of ours turned up for the almost certain away loss to Richmond there's no telling if we'll even have a full four figures of the crowd against Hawthorn for a certain mauling. Were I in Victoria at the time I'd still turn up and sit there with my head in hands for the full quarter, but in my absence somebody else will have to take my spot manning the Bioceuticals Nutrition Suicide Booth for the next couple of weeks.

At least when there's 99% Hawthorn fans in attendance and we lose by 120 we can wait patiently for another busybody to write about how we should go about saving our club despite being a group of horrible individuals who deserve shooting (see also the subsequent apology, which at least shows that the fans aren't all rolling over and dying when pelted with rubbish). We open ourselves up to kickings by being a soft as butter team, and when the newspapers print front pages like this and it's confirmed we use it as part of our pre-match motivation only to still get thumped then we probably deserved every piss take around, just keep it to the team and don't touch the fans and I won't get offended. At the moment I would kill (metaphorically speaking anyway) to defend the people who are still sticking by us while we slowly die. Attack the players, the coach, whoever else you like - just lay off the people who are still stumping up hundreds of dollars a year and faithfully turning up to watch this crap.

For once I've got the luxury of the Casey report before deciding on my proposed changes for next week, and not for the first time this season I've got more people I want to get rid of than are worth bringing it. Makes it hard to convincingly swing the axe when there's nobody worthwhile bringing in but it's a pointless exercise anyway considering we never have the balls to do anything more than a half-swing.

IN: Fitzpatrick (reward for effort, even if he'll get no kicks because the ball will never get near him) , McDonald (another option down back so we can hopefully free Watts and Howe to go elsewhere) Macdonald (straight replacement for Dunn, about as likely to get a kick-in right), Rodan (if it doesn't work out this time then it would be nice if he put his hand up, admitted he's done and feigned a long term injury so Couch could have another go), Spencer (if he's contracted for next year we may as well get some games into him - can play second fiddle to Gawn while Fitz is a permanent forward and Jamar is getting a kick at Casey Fields), Strauss (why was he dropped in the first place?)
OUT: Bail (no thanks), Byrnes (has disappeared, give some time off and come back for another go), Dunn (not helping in defence, not much use elsewhere) Jamar (stop acting like it's 2007 again and get a kick), Jetta (I've jumped off, is never going to break through now), Nicholson (headless chicken mode activated), Tapscott (if not hitting people is not required then neither is he at the moment)

Lucky to survive the proposed massacre are Evans (has hit the wall), Gawn (can't get near it as a forward, but I want him playing first ruck), McKenzie (possessions are dandy, but impact relatively minimal) and Sellar (hasn't been all that bad, but with other defenders coming in the clock is ticking on his MFC career).

So, six in and seven out. In the event that we do go insane and make that many changes - which we won't because we never do - the other options are limited:
  • Blease looks like he was injured playing for Casey, but even if he wasn't Neeld hates his guts anyway so what's the point? Thanks for signing an extended contract last year, enjoy the VFL. 
  • Couch showed nowt at senior level last year, but like Magner I wish I could reward him for being consistently good in the 2's if we had a spot with which to elevate him. 
  • It'd be nice if they could give Davis a game at some point to confirm whether or not he's any chance of going on next year, but like Gillies it would almost be cruel to bring him in next week for almost certain slaughter by Franklin/Gunston/Hale/Roughead etc..
  • The Pedersen as a forward experiment has seemingly been shelved in the VFL, so I don't expect we pick him as anything but a defender - and unless Tom Mc isn't right I'd rather Sellar for at least one more week. Having said that there's no doubt that Pedo will be there next year (three year deal!) and Sellar probably won't, so if there's any interest in building for the future he might sneak in off the back of a BOG performance at Casey.
  • Taggert must be getting close too, and like Davis we've got to give him a game eventually. What is there to lose except the coach's job, and throwing a couple of kids to the wolves isn't going to cause any more damage to him than has already been inflicted.
  • Toumpas could get back in via fitness test, but no need to rush him if he's not entirely right.
Of the other senior players to play VFL this week it appears that Kent and Tynan did nothing out of the ordinary, Barry played his first good game and Clisby isn't eligible so while I rule nothing out when it comes to our baffling selection decisions you wouldn't think any of them would be seen this week - and they're probably secretly chuffed about it.

Bring in anybody you like, if this happens again we'll be bleeding from all orifices like victim of the dreaded Ebola virus on Sunday. I'll be watching it on a small screen in a hotel room again, so please support our mystery guest reporter in his post-match grief while I attempt to not piff a television out of the upstairs window like a member of The Who.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week

Thanks to everyone who submitted a special comment while I was out of action. Here are some of the belters - my best on ground goes to the guy with the amazingly bad parody theme song, with two uses of the word 'poo', neither of which work.

I also liked the guy who said "Motivation is like vomit, it must come from within". Sounds like the sort of bizarre shit I'd write.

We are not alone
Read this, list all the ways that it could be relevant to us, give up on sports and get into ramming Japanese whaling ships aboard the Sea Shepherd instead.

Was it worth it?
At least none of our fans got done for racial abuse. Yet

Final Thoughts
See you on June 22. Stay tuned for our fabulous mystery guest reporters over the next two weeks, but bear in mind that there might be some delay with posting their work as I'll have to find a computer to upload it all. Which shouldn't be all that difficult considering I'll be in WA not St Kitts & Nevis, but you never know when I might finally decide that having a good time is preferable to paying attention to footy.

Having said that I'm too far gone in my Twitter addiction to stay off for long whilst still connected to an Australian mobile network, so should you wish we may continue the discussion of our shared abject sporting poverty on there until next month.

Note: Demonblog Towers will still be attended to in my absence (sadly not by the guest reporters), so don't even think about trying to nick in and steal my signed Phil Read card with no glass because I knocked it off a table at DB Towers IV.

P.S - If the plane crashes rest assured I will die cursing the name of $cully.

P.P.S - If it really does (and I think at some point I'm flying something with rubber band propellers so it's a good chance) I bequeath the archives of Demonblog to the National Museum of Sporting Depression, and all of Demonwiki to the Melbourne Football Club.

Monday 20 May 2013

An orderly retreat

Given the situation we're in it seems rude not to embrace a 34 point loss against a team inside the top eight (temporarily at least) like an old friend. Yes, losing by less than 10 goals is a major achievement for us at the moment but I'm not buying it until we see more of the same next week, and the week after that. I've been fooled by this team before, and I'm not getting roped in again until they can prove that it's more than a flash in the pan.

One relatively 'honourable' loss (and 'honourable' losses can get stuffed) to an at best fringe top eight side playing at about 75% does not instantly equal a revival, and while I don't think anybody thinks that this suddenly makes everything alright I don't think we should accept it unquestioningly as a great step forward either. There's nothing to celebrate in players doing what anybody getting paid to play sport professionally should be doing and put their heart and soul into it. It's one thing to be show up, tackle everything and be lively after pilloried by everyone to the point where even ex-Fitzroy people are complaining about being talked about in the same breath, but let's see what happens next week in Perth against a quality side who are going to slap a headlock on us 20 seconds in and squeeze until we turn purple. We might kick 5.5.35 and lose by 50 but if they show the same sort of fierce attack on the opposition again I'll accept that maybe we've gotten effort right and can move on to structure and skills.

Admittedly we're 50% more shithouse anywhere that's not on AEST, and insert some bollocks about Subiaco and wide open spaces here, but if they can't tackle, bump, scrag and pressure to the same level they're a lost cause. If we kick five goals but concede twenty after letting Freo waltz around unmolested for four quarters then they can cram it, I won't be getting sucked in by talk of effort again for the rest of the year, and I shudder to think what Hawthorn and Collingwood will do to us if we followed one step forward with five back like the Gold Coast game.

At least for the sake of stability this 'improved performance' will take the heat off the coach briefly. Not from many of the fans, and probably not some sections of the media we're not waking up Monday morning and checking to see if he's been abducted in the night, wrapped up in a Persian rug and thrown into Port Phillip Bay. Whether you like it or not (and to be entirely frank I was one bad performance away from going totally feral) he's bought himself some time based on the efforts of his players today. If they really are 'playing for him' they picked a good time to do it.

Yes, not for the first or last time I was completely wrong on here in last week's post, and the assumption that the board wouldn't be able to help themselves was countered by said board hiding out in a bunker like a bunch of mid-western American survivalists for the whole week. Which is fair enough too, we might have achieved types of rock bottom scraping last Sunday that would cause Clive Palmer to crack one through the covers, but I'm sure having just had a league appointed CEO announcing that we're about to drop 1.5mil for the year - including paying off the last CEO - probably ensured that we'd wait and at least see what happened in the next couple of games.

Dead man walking he may be, but I'm glad if we're heading off the cliff at a million miles an hour that we held our nerve and didn't just do what the media expected us to and shoot him. That's one explanation, the other is that we're too skint to pay him off and/or nobody has faith in any of the assistants to do a better job. Has a club ever rolled a complete outsider in as caretaker? If not we might be setting another record before the year is out.

Whether or not it's the right decision for the future congratulations to the board, the new CEO and all other relevant parties for holding their nerve in the face of unbelievable pressure to 'do something'. They weren't even stupid enough to be seen trudging grimly into a board meeting to "decide the coach's fate", which the media would absolutely love. But doing nothing is hardly a ringing endorsement is it? He's not backed, he's not sacked, then what is he? Still strapped into the chair waiting for somebody to pay the electricity bill so they can fry him alive? What an environment to work in.

What an environment full stop. It's gotten so bad that even the Herald Sun has reversed their position on us being filthy, match fixing cheats and started suggesting that we don't just need flavour of the century Paul Roos but deserve a priority pick too. Well yes please bring it on if you're offering, but it would be the biggest scandal ever if that happened. Rewarding us for the chronic mismanagement of our list would be like sending a multi-billion dollar bailout package to the Zimbabwean Stock Exchange. We've had draft picks out the yin yang, will get another high one this year (whether it's one or two is yet to be decided, either way there are some highly rated teenagers quaking in their boots right now) and get Hogan with a year's development at Casey into him. We should get absolutely nothing other than what's naturally coming to us.

How about instead of trying to prop us up by throwing another kid into football's equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle they just agree to waive the $500k and call it even on the whole tanking/not tanking thing? We'll change our profit projection to simply minus one million, try to get picks 1, 2 or 3 plus 19, 20 or 21 right and attempt to introduce a structure to develop the other top picks who are left behind while those who have done their time clamber aboard the lifeboats and head to safety.

That's about as far as I'd like to go with league intervention now. They can have the CEO and they can waive the non-tanking tax but if they can't deliver Roos as coach then I'd rather not let them have any say in Plan B, because I have this horrible feeling that once they've spent months on their knees begging for Roos to take the poison chalice he'll get a restraining order on them, they'll turn to Experienced and Available Premiership Coach Option B and we'll end up having to put up with Sheedy as coach.

I suppose if it means they keep the cash flowing like the United States to a tinpot South American dictatorship then whatever, and if he somehow manages to pull back from the brink of senility to turn out as the best thing that has happened to us in 40 years I'll send him flowers and bake him a cake, but for now the idea fills me deeply with horror. Maybe things can't get any worse, but even if there's a "senior assistant" doing the real work behind the scenes a'la Leon Cameron while Sheeds makes bizarre public statements and stands on the sidelines yelling into thin air I can't stand having to hear all about how we'd never be in this situation in the first place if he'd been picked in 2007 and been able to bring back Chris Heffernan and Gary Moorcroft as co-captains. Having said that I've reached such a low point in my faith in this club that I'd almost go along with it just as some sort of death or glory last roll of the dice before we shut down.

For now Roos is the target, and while I'd suggest there's more chance of Checker Hughes agreeing to come back from the dead and take over, who knows Roos he's even got it in him to rebuild us from where we sit right now. Sydney might have been 'not very good' when he took over but they did have proven performers out the yin yang (as well as the admirably named Jared Sundqvist) so that was a fair base to build on. Having said that, on paper we've got a fair base too so maybe it's not a completely unattractive proposition, but I say no way he's got the balls to risk his legacy trying to turn this wreck around. Not sure how many times he'll have to say no before we take his word for it and move on, but if we go with Neeld until the last gasp of season 2013 there's going to be a point where Roos will eventually say "For the last time no, and get out of my house" and we'll have to decide whether to keep going with 'the plan' as written or switch to somebody who wasn't our first preference - and is most likely another assistant.

My coaching conspiracy highlight of the week was the guy who told me with a straight face that we should sack Neeld immediately and bring Dean Bailey back. Well that's fine, except that thanks to involving himself in our 2009 shenanigans he's suspended until Round 17, so that's hardly going to work. Though it would be so very Melbourne to do something wacky like that.

On the other hand the lowlight of my week was briefly landing on The Footy Show (I was flicking channels, honest guv'nor) on Thursday night just in time for a breathless promo proclaiming how Damien Barrett had 'big news' about our coaching job. "Oh yes" I thought "let's see if he's about to announce Scott Burns as coach again". Turns out (approximately 3.15 in) that he had 'sat down' with Neeld during the day (not clear as whose request) to 'go through his time at the club'. Why are we appeasing clowns like this? If you're going to appeal to bottom of the barrel journalists to stop being mean to us you might as well get Caro and Cam Schwab into the same room and invite them to hug it out. Did we give him a Powerpoint presentation about how Energy Watch and Liam Jurrah's late night shenanigans somehow contributed to us being shithouse now?

The suggestion that we were climbing into bed with this goose sent my blood pressure to astronomic levels, and I spent the rest of the segment being refrained from throwing a remote through the screen so I'm glad it's on their website to view in a non-homicidal mood. He clearly said Neeld 'didn't want to go on camera' and (allegedly) stated that he said that he was perfectly happy with the way things are going, he wouldn't change a thing, we're in exactly the position he expected when taking over and that the board know we're in the position he expected us to be. Surely that was taken out of context or something was left out, because unless the coach is completely delusional there must have been some sort of caveat or explanation added to what appears to the naked eye to be an insane assessment of where we're at - but we'll never know, because by doing all this and not being filmed saying it (even by our own people) he's left his words to be interpreted and reported by a journalist who absolutely thrives on the tension and drama of having a coach on death row. Mission accomplished.

Somebody tell me why we involved ourselves in this. If you're going to go out of your way to self-consciously try and defend yourself and your almost indefensible record at least don't leave how your message will be portrayed for a few hundred thousand viewers to the number one member of the Sheeds to Melbourne fan club.

My point is that if you want your story told sympathetically you pick who you tell it to. After the Round 1 debacle we 'opened up' to Mark Robinson in the Herald Sun and got as fair and balanced a two pages as you're possibly going to get under the circumstances before totally ruining any goodwill from that by rolling over and dying against Essendon. If you're going to play the dangerous game of trying to explain the inexplicable through the press you don't pick up the phone and talk to one of the key cheerleaders calling for you to be replaced, and if he calls you don't answer. You certainly don't give him an hour of explanation expecting it to be reported exactly as you meant it.

I'd be fuming if it turned out that he/we approached Barrett and not the other way around - it's like Julia Gillard calling Andrew Bolt to 'clear things up' and expecting him to be fair and balanced.

And where is this article? Was it published the next day? No. And at 2am on Monday morning it still hadn't. You can check for yourself when you read this if it's been uploaded yet. No doubt it hasn't, because the "everything's just fine, I know what I'm doing" story will have much more impact when we put in our next stinker. Right now Barrett is kicking things and cursing that we put in a 'respectable' performance today and that after a whole weekend talking about this mysterious interview on both Footy Shows and radio he won't be able to contribute to the general witch-hunt atmosphere by dropping the "is this man insane, they just lost by 120!" article tomorrow.

Don't worry, it's still there ready to come out just when it can make Neeld, and the club, look as bad as possible and that serves him (and us as a whole) right for participating. If he was trying to calm the frayed nerves of the fans (perhaps by extension the board) and win respect in the football community by getting chummy with the media then I'm not sure it worked. Forgive the formatting of the following, either the 'embed code' on Twitter or Blogger is an arsehole

etc.. etc.. And don't come to me claiming you've been taken out of context either. What did you expect from that [SNIP - legal department]? Whether or not it comes back to bite us in the arse or whether one 'positive' performance has killed it for now it's another cock up which we'll be lucky to get out of without looking like an even more shambolic organisation than always. Maybe we're lucky that (at least this week) there's no more shambolic that we can look without making our players raise money towards the 1.5m debt by doing a Year Of The Dogs style Elephant.

Of course being the archaic waste of space TFS is they didn't even bother to touch on, or even mention, the interview Moloney had done on AFL 360 earlier in the night where he'd rolled a hand grenade straight into The Coach's Office by throwing one of the worst kept secrets in footy out into the open by admitting neither of them liked each other. If it was mentioned it certainly wasn't in the few minutes I was watching where it seemed the most pressing footy issue was how Billy Brownless was about to be dipped into an ice bath for.. some reason.

There's definitely a story to be told about their relationship, both sides of which will hopefully come out in their full glory before we're old and grey. What exactly caused Neeld to nearly trade him straight away when simultaneously holding fire on a list full of plodders? Did this lead to the alleged total disinterest by Beamer in following 'the program' and subsequent trouble through last season? Surely this will all be covered in a tell-all book where Neeld tips the bucket on everyone once he gets the boot. It might only sell 50 copies but I'd be first in the queue to buy it. In fact Mark I'll write it with you, let's put together a manuscript so explosive that it can't even be published until several people die.

So for a quiet week there was quite a lot going on. Easy to forget there was a footy game at the end of it, except that the whole week was spent dreading how badly molested we'd be and how much we'd have to hear from every Richmond fan alive about how badly we'd overplayed yanking it furiously at beating them in 2010/11 when we were, improbably in retrospect, their superiors. You win Richmond, even if you don't make the finals you still beat us to respectability and you deserve that.

Fancy a team stacking their side with top draft picks who actually perform, what a novelty. Not stunting the development of every kid who comes through the door and bringing in credible players from other clubs. It's hard to watch teams fly past us a million miles an hour but we've only got ourselves to blame. Remember Dunn kicking five against them in 2010? Petterd having 14 tackles in 2011 and Watts being one of the best on ground? I do. Now Dunn's playing anywhere but forward, Petterd is at Richmond and Watts is.. god knows where. Other good players from those games include Jurrah, Green and Moloney, these were truly glorious days. We even nearly beat them three weeks after 186, with confidence completely buggered and Green as the sub. Now we're mince and the idea of losing by six goals is worth holding a street parade for.

The one thing we had going for us this year is that this Richmond side never, ever thrash teams. You think we don't, and at the moment we certainly don't, but their biggest win under Hardwick has 'only' been 70 points. Even we've won three games by more than that since he took over and we're completely shithouse. One of them was even against a proper team, albeit not under this coach. It didn't mean that this wasn't a good time for them to start though, and if we played like we did against pretty much anybody this year other than GWS or Brisbane they'd have stormed through that mark and kept going in triple digit territory.

I might have been left unconvinced at the end of four quarters, but compared to what we've been dished up for the last few weeks the first quarter was positively glorious. Firstly we weren't five goals behind at any point, secondly we kicked more than one goal and thirdly we managed to avoid conceding plenty. Not that it was all our doing, when Richmond had their first rebound from our 50 and there was a player running a mile free of his opponent 12 seconds in I thought "oh god, here we go", but they stuffed that up and continued to have an admirable commitment to rubbish kicking on goal.

That combined with us actually managing to stick tackles and put pressure on ball carriers allowed us to hold them back long enough to set up what passed for some decent attacks of our own. Strange that tackles which wouldn't stick last week because Gold Coast 'had stronger bodies' (who didn't want to punch on when that was floated as a theory?) did against Richmond, who are a much bigger and stronger team. Funny what happens when the pressure comes and effort follows closely behind.

Sadly effort only gets you so far in the end, adding some skill would be nice too. Tapscott, Terlich and Jetta are the ultimate expression of a side which occasionally shows effort and enthusiasm but lacks the skills to match. They're all putting in, and can generally be relied upon to provide a decent defensive contest but when given the chance to launch an attack they kill us far too often by making shite decisions or poorly executing basic skills. Tappy shouldn't be a forward, and he misses too many targets by foot but gets a pass mark purely for being an angry bastard, Terlich was far better today than he has been recently in not delivering too many absolute howlers (though I was disappointed at his lack of interest in joining in the half-time melee, unlike Tyrone Vickery who waded in like he was entering the Royal Rumble) but Jetta is just not there after 40 games. He has his moments but not enough to consistently impact the game. He was worth another go this year but would be amazingly lucky to survive into 2014.

Still, in our current situation you'd take effort first and hope that skill comes later. Ironically it was lack of effort which got us our first goal when Dunn blatantly didn't bother trying to catch a ball thrown back at him after a free-kick and won a 50. Good, it's about time that we got into the sort of dubious antics that other clubs have mastered. After he did that I was all ready to demand he gets a new contract to continue working on being our version of the King/Milne/Ballantyne style monster heel that everyone hates - but then he spent most of the second quarter involving himself in comedy capers kicking out of the backline and I became noticeably less enthusiastic about watching him for years to come. Also his technique for standing the mark is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life, he goes limp, sways from side to side and waves the arm left to right a bit as if he's been in a nightclub for five hours. It's got nothing on the North players against Nic Nat on Friday night, but for regulation middle of the game mark standing it's amazingly over the top. For want of any other 100 game players next year, and assuming we'll be no good again I'll have him next year just for comedy value but not entirely sure I'm comfortable with him playing as a defender.

Apart from being traditionally loose on the opposition when we didn't have the ball you couldn't fault the first few minutes, but that's been the same every week this year until we relax for five seconds and give them the opportunity to chop us to shreds. At least going forward we looked half decent, which is the first step towards respectability but it would help if we could avoid the ball then going straight back down the other end it's in a pinball machine 25 times a game. There were some advances on this front, but there's plenty more to do.

After becoming 'maligned' quicker than almost any player ever last week Dawes played a big part of the improved first quarter performance. I can forgive his first kick when he tried to change direction and got smothered, because unlike anybody in the last two years other than Mitch Clark in the few minutes he wasn't injured he provided a proper target up front - and lead exactly like a forward should.

We even - gasp - kicked it to his advantage a couple of times. He should have had more touches if we'd backed ourselves to hit him as a target leading up outside 50 more instead of dinking around from side-to-side until it went horribly wrong, and he could stand to attack the ball more but just like when Clark was kicking goals from limited opportunities in shite teams last year it convinces me that finding a way to get the ball down there more often will not only help us score more (obviously) but the better set-up will help it stay down there longer when we're not scoring - and the longer it's away from their goal the better. We even bothered with forward pressure today, which is nice considering it seemed to have been eradicated from the face of the planet in the last fortnight.

As well as the Tigers being shit kicks for goal and winning the inside 50 count comfortably it helped that we were kicking goals all over the place when we got it forward. If you're going to have limited opportunities at least make the best of them. Putting the brakes on their midfield a bit and even SHOCK HORROR winning some clearances out of the middle also helped. At the very least we weren't letting them storm out of the centre every five seconds. They got us in the end (45-29 total clearances), but they were always going to, we haven't got it in us to go four quarters with any team not at our end of the ladder unless some sort of unexplained phenomenon keeps their score under 70.

Our midfield is still probably the worst in the competition, but at least we were playing to their strengths for once. Jamar winning the hitouts convincingly helped, and Nathan Jones managing to do what he does best despite being tagged to buggery didn't hurt either but at least we finally used McKenzie to advantage as a tagger again instead of pretending he's a silky smooth user of the ball. Also Magner's long awaited return from the black hole added plenty of ball-winning ability in the middle. He's never going to win the Brownlow, but at least he gets possessions, which is more than you can say for most of our players. How he didn't get elevated from the Rookie List and picked to play last week will always be a mystery to me but it's best not to try and work out a lot of what we do or you'll go insane.

Of course recent history has shown that stern defensive efforts are only for the first half of the first quarter, and in traditional fashion we conceded the last goal and the first of the second after just 1.30. Cue floodgates? Perhaps not, we were clearly putting them off their game with the pressure and tackling, and even though you knew class would win out over industrial slog eventually it was a huge step forward to hold them back and go in just over a goal behind despite having seven less scoring shots. Of course they still only lost the tackle count by three despite having a hundred more possessions, so it wasn't like we were doing anything that other clubs don't do every single week but it's a start.

Our relatively decent performance in the second quarter was largely in part to Davey who relished the opportunity to play early in the game instead of sitting on the bench in a green vest and turned on his best quarter in years. He's still tremendously suspect running back into defence, but he's still such a reliable field kick it's a shame we can't get the ball to him more. Three goals for the term (though one was stolen off Dawes who was about to take a free from the square), and he could have had another if he had been selfish instead of trying to pass to Jetta who dropped a mark right in front of goal - which allowed Richmond to go straight down the other end and kick a goal and all but stuff his career in the eyes of most of our fans. The two goal turnaround (CLICHE!) wasn't Davey's fault though, at least he tried to do the team thing. This surprise form surge might not last, but he's bought himself a start for the next few weeks instead of becoming our professional sub.

At least there was no standing ovations when they left the field narrowly behind this time. It did feel right at the time against West Coast considering what had happened the week before, but the third quarter of that game showed exactly what 'near enough is good enough' gets you. From now on they've got to be held to a standard where they should be walking off the ground at half-time within range every week.

'Improved' performance aside I still sat there finding it hard to feel emotion about what was happening. About the only time I felt any proper emotion all day was when Davey tried to roll the goal in off the ground and hit the post. Hooray for whatever bullshit decision got him another kick, I totally missed it attacking the seat in front. Other than that it was a ho-hum trudge through another four quarters of being not good enough to match it with any team ranked 1-14 on the ladder for more than a few seconds at a time. And we still had the third quarter to come.

Despite the undoubted upside to the first half (apart from Toumpas briefly looking like he'd snapped his leg off) and the good old fashioned Pier 6 brawl as the players walked off at half-time we still do some tremendously dumb things. Leaving Dunn to kick in a third time after stuffing up the first two was one of them, as it the insistence on always switching to a player who then doesn't have anybody running for him and has to kick to a contest anyway. Is somebody supposed to be running there? You would hope so. Unless we're just trying to get a boundary throw-in eventually, because god knows we're unbeatable at clearances so we should encourage as many of them as possible. Then there's playing on and handballing to players standing still, that's another winning move that haunts all Melbourne fans in their sleep.

It's not just in-play moments that baffle me either, how come when Toumpas is obviously not coming back Bail doesn't participate in the same drills as the rest of the team when they come out after half-time? While they're all bumping bodies, handballing in close and all that other rubbish we do shortly before folding like a house of cards in the third quarter every week he's playing kick-to-kick with a trainer 20m away. I'd like to say he needs all the kicking practice he can get, but casual drop punts under no pressure aren't achieving anything. Even I could hit the target in that situation, but put a player within five metres and I'd be kicking like The Spencil.

To nobody's surprise we proceeded to be completely shit in the opening minutes of the third. This is the most frustrating phenomenon in football, and it was only lucky that Richmond stuffed up almost every chance they had to really put us away. More than one goal in a row at the start and they'd have completely wrecked any hope we had of clinging onto their coat-tails until the last quarter. Really good teams aren't going to give us this sort of latitude, and our next three games are against really good teams. Be very afraid of what's going to happen in third quarters against them. Not to mention all the other quarters.

For all Richmond's dominance we could admittedly have been almost level at three-quarter time. If Dawes kicked his third from a relatively simple angle then they don't end up down the other end with Riewoldt kicking a goal right on the siren to make it 22 points the difference and all but killing us. Still, what good would it have done? I have to confess I wasn't all that concerned when he kicked the goal, that's how desensitised I've become to fate being against us. We were going to lose anyway and as long as we could avoid copping 10 goals to one in the last quarter all the 'respect' we were likely to earn was in the bank. Sure we might have pulled out some miracle in the last and won, and that goal totally stuffed any chance of that but it would have taken something even more farcical than Dunn's standing the mark or kicking in techniques to do it. My belief in us winning was so small that it was almost like I was watching another team play, disconnected from feeling rage about how we were going to yet another loss over five goals.

Ok, we were better I'll admit that - and the famous tackle count was a positive - but how are we ever going to win when we're 100 disposals behind the opposition every week? Why do we see unheralded players racking up a million touches against us every week while our best struggle to just over 20 if we're lucky? We can't go on like that and expect to get anywhere other than to the top of the hill of the worst teams in the league if we're lucky. We might beat Footscray if we're lucky, and maybe GWS once more before they turn it on next year like Gold Coast are starting to now, but we're never going to get out of the bottom bracket by allowing other teams to run free in numbers all day but at the same time bottling us up so we can't do anything when we do get it. There were some steps forward but they're not significant in the grand scheme of things, it's more paper over the cracks which will be stripped back by the good teams to the point where any feelgood factor from this game will be totally gone by Saturday 22 June when we play our next remotely winnable game (and even then a colossal long shot) against St Kilda.

No doubt the coach is safe for now pending any 186 style disasters over the next few weeks, but it's the week after that St Kilda game - The Lifeline Cup against Footscray - that could sink him. They're almost as putrid as we are at the moment, so if we contrive to get beaten by 10 goals that night then it could get ugly for all involved. The good news is that speaking of 186-esque fiascos we've got to go to Kardinia Park a fortnight later. If we've turned the corner this week good, but you will forgive me for holding judgement until I see real, sustained improvement.

Thank god we're (allegedly) exactly where we're supposed to be and the five year plan is in full swing. Roll on 2018.

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - James Magner
4 - Dean Terlich
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Colin Garland

Varying degrees of apology to Dawes, Evans, Jamar, McKenzie, M. Jones, Frawley, Sellar and Tapscott just for creating a menacing atmosphere

19 - Nathan Jones
12 - Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award), Colin Sylvia
11 - Jack Viney
9 - Shannon Byrnes, Jeremy Howe
6 - Michael Evans, Colin Garland (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Aaron Davey, Lynden Dunn, Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes, James Magner
4 - Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar
1 - Mitch Clark, James Frawley, Jordie McKenzie, Luke Tapscott

Crowd Watch
Were I ever to get into an honest to goodness fist fight at the footy it would have been today, so I took myself back to the spot where I saw great moments like Essendon 2012 and Sam Blease dominating junktime like no man since Russell Robertson against St Kilda and enjoyed the serenity of there being nobody within 30 rows.

Somewhere elsewhere in the MCG I'm sure you and the other fast diminishing band of red and blue loyalists were copping exactly what I was avoiding, newly 'successful' (of sorts) fans looking down their noses at us for daring to show up knowing we were going to get thrashed. I might cop that from most clubs, but you'd think Tigers fans would know as well as anybody about turning up week in, week out to watch your club deliver shithouse performances.

Feel free to submit your own crowd watch moments in the comments, but I was enjoying the same sort of surrounds as last week - albeit in the only non-birdshit stained seat in Q32, row LL. All I could hear was bleating about free kicks (of which Richmond received more for the day), the likes of which teams always do when either a) they've got the overwhelming majority of supporters in the stands and can say whatever they like without being challenged or b) are scared shitless of losing to a rubbish team. Add a) to b) and it's an audio visual extravaganza to match no other. If a) is off the agenda for any games not involving interstate clubs god I want to feel b) again.

A question about the MCG, have the signs showing the numbers of the anti-social behaviour hotline been removed from around the ground? I couldn't see one from my seat, which had a clear view of all the advertising hoardings in the Olympic and 90% of the Southern Stand, and while there was a plug of the number on the scoreboard at the 24.30 minute mark of the last quarter that seemed like a token effort so they can say they 'reacted' but the offenders were already on their way out of the ground.

Not that anybody was bothering me other than dragged along kids who clearly had no interest running up and down the stairs, but it would be interesting if they are downplaying the hotline in light of the number of recent reports of filth in the stands racially abusing players. You'd think they'd be plastering the number everywhere.

Media Watch
Forget politicians, radio footy callers should be voted the most untrustworthy characters in society. There's is absolutely no doubt that when you're listening to a game on the radio you're being lied to about what's going half the time. Every station does it, treating their call as if nobody at the game is watching and can tell that they're making it up.

It's one thing to get player names wrong in the heat of the action (and some callers are adept at just shouting out the name of the most well-known indigenous player on a team if any of 'them' go near it) but how in open play do you call Matt Jones as Nathan Jones when they don't look alike or have a number even remotely similar. Then there's calling that a ruckman got the tap when it's clear that he never even got near it and claiming that a kick is from 'right in front' when they're halfway to the boundary.

It's not quite the days when Rex Hunt used to claim that the ball bounced out in front the [company name] sign when the actual sign was for a totally different company but it's nearly just as bad. Today during the first quarter when Sellar accidentally booted the ball out on the full when chasing it near the boundary old mate on the radio said, as if it was the absolute truth "free against Sellar for holding onto the jumper". Liars one and all. They're providing a valuable service, but don't treat the people at the game like idiots. There's no point changing the channel, they're all the same. If you're lucky you'll even get some fuckwit boundary rider from Triple M doing a snow gag.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week

Most comments this week are people saying it was a good performance and somebody else abusing them for it, but this piece of good old fashioned casual prejudice stood out. Welcome to the Melbourne FC Facebook page, where an indigenous player from Western Australia is told to go 'back to a Park in Alice springs' and five people click like. Yay tolerance.

Next Week

Now that the easy part of our draw is out of the way we can go to Perth with all the confidence in the world of storming home to a much deserved finals berth. By the looks of it we'll have to settle for missing out on the double chance but that's ok. Alternatively I'd take actually kicking one goal against Fremantle. It was bad enough in the final round last year when they were flirting with playing dead for their own benefit and we still had to grimly slog our way to 5.10.40. This year we'll be lucky to have 10 scoring shots in total.

From the bits I saw of the Casey game nobody's exactly banging the door down to get a call-up so we may as well back most of the same team to see if they can replicate the effort. No doubt we'll pick Pedersen at some point in the near future to justify the fact that we've apparently got him on a three year contract (pardon?), and he did have 27 touches but were any of them any good? No interest at the moment. If we don't want to pay our salary cap on players next year can we sack some of these contracted players and have that count towards our minimum payments?

Apparently whatever Viney did to his toe he's out for the proverbial '4 to 6', which is just magnificent. I'm just assuming Byrnes' mystery wrist injury doesn't involve a double surprise amputation, but if it did then we may as well leave Bail in to see if he can do something worthwhile to justify being on our list until the end of 2014. If the King of Sizzle is fit again (injury lists show him as 1-2) he can replace Sellar, and god knows what Watts is going to do but I really fancy him going forward with Dawes to see what they can do. Good luck with that, he'll be straight into the backline and straight off to another club next season.

IN: Blease, Byrnes, Watts
OUT: Sellar, Bail (omit), Toumpas (inj)

LUCKY: Nicholson, who I'm still not interested in this year. Also rapidly losing interest in Jetta who can have a go until the cows come home but aren't getting any actually better at playing football.

UNLUCKY: Sellar, who has been ok in defence the last couple of weeks but is clearly not going to be there next season. Tapscott goes back to defence to hit people, Watts forward to hopefully dance around opponents like a Gazelle.

Next Season
More great media coverage during the week, this time surrounding Neeld supposedly suggesting we're five years away. Well that's sunk any chance of keeping Sylvia, Watts and Frawley in the next couple of years (but don't worry, we've got Bail, Nicholson and Pedo). Why would any of them stay around for that? And I'm sure Clark and Dawes will be thrilled to hear they've signed up for an organisation with such a positive future. To be fair nowhere in the article does it actually say five years, and they might be guessing based on his 100 game comment but at the moment you could write anything about us and people would believe it.

Apart from re-signing uncontracted players and trying desperately to land some decent, useful recruits one of the key things we've got to do for next year is get Trengove right. He can barely run, he can't kick distance. He's stuffed, and if he needs to go have surgery now then do it and bring him back next year repaired and free of the burden of trying to captain this slopfest.

Whoever the coach is, I want them to spill all positions and throw this 'leadership group' bullshit out the window. Instead of appointing nine (9!) people, calling them 'leaders' and expecting them to float angelically above all others to take all the players, line them up against a wall (there's no shooting involved here), point out who he wants as captain, point out who he wants as vice-captain, pick a deputy vice-captain if he really wants and then walk down the line poking a finger in every chest saying "you're a leader, you're a leader, you're a leader, and you're all bloody leaders". From whoever comes fourth to the lowliest rookie on the list they're all capable of leading in their own way without a title. Let's strip the 21st century psychology bullshit away a bit and go back to basics, leadership groups are a tremendous wank and we don't need one to get 22 players a week to play their hearts out.

There shall be no voting (down with democracy), and no 'consultation' to keep people happy. Stop 'empowering' groups who are so incapable of looking after themselves that they should get a Centrelink benefit and make hard decisions. It could be said that's what they did in appointing GRIMGOVE in the first place, but there's a fine line between clever and stupid. Scuttlebutt suggests players are crying about the Full Metal Jacket style atmosphere (though quoth an actual player from both Bailey and Neeld eras pre-season "Now it's like what I thought a footy club would be like") but taking control of the team leadership in a full scale military coup doesn't have to be a negative. I doubt Trengove would throw himself out a window if he were freed, and I similarly doubt that Byrnes and Dawes would run out the door crying if their 'group' is dissolved.

Was it worth it?
That's my last game in person until St Kilda after the bye, so in case there are players or coaches who aren't around by then it was. Almost straight after the Freo game finishes I'm off to WA for two weeks and will try to locate any wreckage of our season that I might fine strewn across their fine state. Thanks for those who have volunteered to step in and indulge their inner Margaret Pomeranz for the Hawthorn and Collingwood games.

Shameless self promotion
If you need some cheering up here's the first instalment of our top 100 wins from 1965 to today. Next part to follow at some point during the remainder of my life.

Final thoughts
Sorry to rain on the positivity parade, because I know you read this blog to be lifted up and inspired about our club, but even though we managed to avoid being murdered for one week our overall situation still seems so bleak to me. It doesn't really matter because it's an away game but we had so few fans there today. I don't blame people for not going out of their way to see us at the moment, especially if they only have the home membership, but we can't go on like this - apathy has taken hold.

Not being thrashed by Richmond changes nothing. We're not crashing back into poverty again, but it will get that way in a couple of years if we can't turn it around. The league can keep giving us easy draws but if we're not going to eventually take them up on it and start winning then the support is going to keep ebbing away to the point where we do start dying death by a thousand cuts like Fitzroy. We're in no immediate threat but I don't want to look back in a decade as we shut up shop and say that the mid 2000's were the beginning of the end - don't forget that there might be some untapped latent support and people who will probably come to the party if we're about to cark it but you don't follow Carlton or Collingwood here, it's a very limited amount. I suspect the Pies would gladly pull the Queen's Birthday rug under us if they could, so watch out for that move if we don't draw a top shelf crowd this year (says the person who won't even be in the state).

When the club is having to get players to ring junior members to convince them not to jump off you know whoever's in charge of long term planning has looked at the age demographic of our members/supporters and seen that we're approaching doomsday in the next few years without some sort of spectacular on-field turnaround. We can't afford to lose kids 5-10 years old now, because unless we somehow do a Hawthorn and become the 'in thing' in the next few seasons and the bandwagon refills then that age bracket will be lost forever, and as the older members go nobody will replace them. That's when you end up shedding members, selling assets and eventually playing in front of 5000 people at the Western Oval.

Obviously we're in the grimmest territory in living memory (voting ourselves out of existence in a rigged ballot aside) but it breaks my heart to see people writing that their kids are 'now' going to keep following Melbourne because A. Player rang them. It's good that it worked, and I think it's a great initiative to do it but how long's that going to last if we lose the next three games by 150 points? I was fortunate enough to jump on board after the '88 season so I don't know what it's like to be the kid whose team gets thumped every single week but I'll tell you I never met a single Lions fan in my days at school because they were already on the terminal slide by the early 90's and nobody wanted to risk their reputation in the playground by following them.

I wish I could sit down and tell these kids about what makes following this club through Death Valley worth it, but at the moment they're all intangibles. Kids don't understand the nobility of adopting what used to be referred to as a North Melbourne style siege mentality against the world (a concept which we've now laid claim to), they want to identify with star players and go to school talking about their team winning. We have no stars, we never win. Good luck selling that to your kids.

I'd like to tell them about all the laughs I've had following this club through the bad times thanks to all the random fellow sufferers I've never even met in real life but am in contact with online only like some weird support group. But they wouldn't get it, the kids couldn't give a shit. One of their best mates is coming to school wearing a 23 Hawthorn jumper, the next loves Dane Swan because he doesn't know what happened to the cleaner, one other kid has decided he's a Gold Coast fan because he knows Ablett is a star and even the lone North supporter is beaming because he's got a new hero in Majak Daw. Our kid is sat in the corner with the Footscray fan crying while Richmond fans who have obviously been born just at the right time point and laugh.

We've got a limited amount of time to turn this rudderless wreck around and do something that will ensure our long-term future as Melbourne, in Melbourne and playing at the MCG. The idea that the league "couldn't" have a club called Melbourne is laughable. When Collingwood will have 80,000 members this year do you think the league would give a rats about saving a totally broken down club, millions of dollars in unpayable debt just because of its name in five years when the big clubs will all have 80k and the Pies will probably have 100k? No, they might need us now for broadcast rights and for all the piss I've ripped out of them over the years I'm sure they will do their best to help us over the next few years, but if we sink to the point where no recovery is possible that they'll throw their hands up and say "oh well, we tried" and either merge us off or turf us out.

See also the MCC, I've said it before they might like to play up the connection with our club and how X amount of their members follow us, but do you think they haven't done the sums on what they could be making by not having to put on Melbourne vs Gold Coast at 4.40pm Sunday? The first step will be when the famous boutique stadium comes along and they try to shift our games against interstate teams there. That's the beginning of the end. Unless the financial benefits for shifting games from the MCG are massive along the lines of the interstate matches then the boutique stadium can get stuffed, I don't want us to leave the MCG without leaving a trail of blood from here to Timbuktu.

If it means playing more games interstate to stay afloat then that's what we've got to do, but it pains me to see everyone else doing the bit-part relocation better than us. Before Schwab got executed we were talking about two games a year in Darwin, which might have been a nice earner but is surely the worst place in the region (possibly other than Cairns, which Gold Coast have claimed anyway) to be doing this. Watching Hobart and New Zealand being swallowed up by other clubs while we left them open while doing deals to play at a ground where players have to ride exercise bikes in meat lockers is a massive farce, but it's what we're left with now.

So yeah, an 'honourable' loss didn't make me feel all that much better. I've become one of those "those the sky is falling" people. Shoot me now. Is it Round 23 next week?

Tuesday 21 May @ 6.32pm - Had Davey in the Jakovich leaderboard under both 3 and 2. Corrected.