Monday 17 June 2013

2013 mid-season review and State of the Union

So, that's half the season done. How was it for you? Unless you're a supermasochist or a supporter of another club the answer undoubtedly involves the words "horrible", "horrendous" or the phrase "I'd rather jam a nail into my eye than go through that ever again" - all of which are perfectly reasonable reactions to the situation we've got ourselves in.

When I started writing this on Sunday afternoon it was safe in the knowledge that we were skint and that there was no way the board was going to tip the coach at least until we got thumped by the Bulldogs in two weeks' time. Little did I know that for the first time in history the Melbourne Football Club board had gone more than two days without leaking for the first time in recent history and that the decision had already been made that the coach was to go. Cue a rewrite to remove all references to "if", "when" and "how" the Neeld era would come to end - and to instead welcome our new temporary overlord Neil Craig, a man who it seems is being forced into the job at gunpoint.

As would be expected of a coach who only lasted 33 games there won't be a lot of flowing praise to read out as his eulogy. "Here lies Mark Neeld, he had a go" isn't going to be much to look back upon in the future but that's about it. Other than Jeremy Howe and Nathan Jones who has improved dramatically in the last two years? Even Jones started to get back into top form late in 2011 after Bailey got the arse, so I'm not sure if he can even claim that.

Whose fault it is/was will be debated for years to come, but the simple fact is that under him we have become a terrible team who are horribly boring to watch. Our scores since Round 1 2012 are 144, 135, 108, 96, 87, 84, 83, 83, 82, 81, 78, 78, 76, 74, 73, 72, 67, 66, 61,  60, 58, 58, 56, 54, 54, 49, 48, 49, 40, 40, 37, 36, 39. So far that's an average of 66 this year and 72 in 2012, and you can have one guess as to which two teams the three scores of over 100 were against.

At the moment our percentage is the third worst in any MFC season, in front of only 1906 (1 win, 48.75%) and 1919 (0 wins, 42.96%). The next worst in the history of our club is 59.54% in 1910, and at the moment we're a long way from getting to that. Nobody's talking about these stats but everyone can see why they're happening, I accept the fact that injuries are an issue but any team would be lucky to have their best 22 playing and it doesn't seem to matter what team lineup we have, we're still terrible and the players run around like headless chickens while opposition sides boost their percentage to untold levels.

Mark Neeld, like Neil Balme, Neale Daniher, Dean Bailey and god knows who else you are now free. Thanks for at least having a crack (albeit on a higher salary than the Prime Minister by the sound of it), but it's all over. Like them you may now go on to a less high-profile and lower paying but significantly less stressful job that won't make you look silly on a weekly basis. In honour of your escape from the MFC orbit after just 33 matches in charge we've organised a special celebrity guest to perform a musical tribute. 

To be fair it could also apply to the people who have been frantically trying to get him in the arse for the last year and a half. Watch in whatever spirit suits you, and look carefully for 3.22 when he almost gets decapitated by a firework piffed from the crowd - which is pretty much the only thing that our fans didn't try and do to Neeld over the last 33 games.

What a tremendous shambles we are. Never fear though, like a small Central American republic we've got ourselves into a terrible state and the AFL is about to play the role of the USA and plow in with tanks, helicopters and all guns blazing to save us. Which, as history has shown us, always ends well. A few weeks ago I wrote on here that we had to avoid becoming the property of the league, but as it's almost inevitable now (if it hasn't already happened) we may as well accept that if we ever want to see prosperity again then a few blind eyes may need to be turned to a human rights abuses and sudden unexplained disappearances.

In the hours before troops land and a new puppet government is sworn in I'm not sure that anybody really needs another list of our litany of recent disasters, but for reasons of future historical study here's the abridged story of Round 1 to 11 2013. One day Demonblog will be passed on to future generations of my family as a record of how everything went wrong from shortly after I inadvertently insulted a lady hairdresser an hour before Round 1 2007 until they finally put the shutters up in December 2017 after President Kennett's failed attempt to relocate the club to the Cocos and Keeling Islands, and they may as well know how we got there.

The fiasco that is 2013 (at least the first bit of it) will certainly go down in history as something special, but I'm not sure whether the fact that we've been no good for so long makes it feel better or worse. After having respectability briefly dangled above our eyes during 2010 and 2011 I'd say worse. Compare with 2007, that year was bad but at least when we went in with high expectations and came out covered in murky brown water you could pretend it was a one off and things were going to get better. I really thought things would get better in 2008. Still waiting.

After we permanently turned to shite in Round 19, 2011 and saw no noticeable improvement last year only the most blindly optimistic or insane would have thought we could play finals a season later but 2013 was supposed to be Mark Neeld's version of Dean Bailey's 2010. It was meant to be a year where his side suggested that the disgraces of the past were behind them and that there was some sort of future, only for it to eventually go tits up anyway. Unfortunately for him it hasn't quite worked out as well as expected, and the only thing he's got in common with Bailey now is that they've both been set free from being involved with us.

In retrospect the alarm bells should have been ringing loudly in the pre-season. All three 'full' matches we played (and one of the novelty NAB Cup games) featured the opposition getting a run of several goals in a row that either wrecked our chances of winning or nearly did. The only reason we won the Port Adelaide game in Renmark (yes, future generations. Renmark. No, I've got no idea either. Look it up) was because their B-team let our B-team get off to a fast start, and they couldn't make chances count late in the last quarter.

People with shorter fuses than I started to panic when it happened against Gold Coast, and admittedly even I cocked an eyebrow with concern when St Kilda turned us over at Casey Fields with seven goals in a row, but both of those results could be written off as the result of pre-season tinkering. The only thing that matters is the regular season right? In fact many of us could almost have copped losing to Port in the first game as long as it was a decent performance. Then the plane hit the ground, and nothing would ever be the same again. 

The assumption that Port were just as bad as us (or worse) didn't help. Had we lost by that margin to them at Football Park there would have been inquiries and inquests, and the MFC Facebook page would have instantly exploded in a shower of sparks, but it wouldn't have had the psychological effect on the whole club of being smashed by 80 points on the MCG after a whole off-season of 'hope' being force fed down our throats foie gras style.

There are some miserablists who wouldn't be happy unless we were winning the flag every year, but most normal people at least held out some hope - no matter how minor - that our situation would improve at least a little bit in 2013. We dreamed about what a fit Mitch Clark would do, watched the recruitment of Chris Dawes with interest, celebrated stealing Jack Viney for a criminally low pick, swooned over Toumpas, (some of us) held open minds about potentially nutty recruiting decisions and watched film of the players pushing themselves to the limit in the Darwin training camp.  I wasn't the only one who got sucked in to thinking that there was no way they could be as terrible as last year again, and that natural progression should at least carry us to a few decent wins if not a big jump on the ladder. Sadly not for the first or last time I fell for it. I want to believe.

The most painful thing about the Port performance was how our defence was in total disarray. The likes of Frawley and Garland, who had done so much heroic work to stop every week being a 186, all of a sudden looking totally at sea. They eventually recovered, and Garland is an absolute certainty to be this year's defender who finishes top three in the B&F - but the damage was already done.

Looking back at that afternoon it was one of the few times this year we weren't all that bad out of the middle and looked relatively potent in the forward line - it was just that we couldn't stop a side who at the time we thought were our natural rivals for 16th place from scoring. Sure they went three goals up at the start of the game, but it's been shown numerous times this year that three goals behind is not a fatal spot to be in. When Mitch Clark kicked two in a row it looked like early nerves had been settled, that we were about to have a proper go and that beautiful Mitch was about to kick 70 goals for the season. We weren't, he sadly won't, and a cavalcade of players who were either unheralded or nobody had ever heard of proceeded to beat the shit out of us. Cue chaos.

Not for the last time in 2013 (or for the first time if you count 2012) it was an unstoppable rush of goals which sank us. A 29 point deficit at half time was hardly ideal, but better teams than Port have blown a five goal lead in two quarters. From the 10 minute mark onwards they kicked 5.4 to nothing - as well as the last goal of the second and first goal of the last. Seven in a row with barely a shot fired in response - for the whole third term we only managed a single rushed behind, and were outscored 8.12 to 1.4 for the full second half. Considering what was to come later it wasn't that bad, but the shock value of the defeat was enough to set everyone off on a path of self-destruction that made Richmond fans of the last three decades go "crikey, I recognise this" before they get back to enjoying finally following a non-shit side.

One week and a time and all that rubbish, but in a way the widespread panic following that game was fair enough. We had been promised better, and while some would have gone troppo even if we'd lost by a point nobody expected to lose by 80 - even if we didn't know at the time that Port were about to win five in a row. I was up the top of the Ponsford Stand yelling out all sorts of things as well, but the footage of players going off under a hail of abuse (including from a cantankerous old man) gave the media perfect opportunity to make us 2013's first 'club in crisis'. This was the role we were born for, and we were more than happy to go along with it.

A respectable performance against Essendon the next week might have put us back on something approaching the right path, but the whole thing was a massive botch from start to finish. It started with letting TV cameras show players sitting around looking confused by Neeld's pre-match speech (not sure whose fault it was that they didn't seem to know what was going on, but either way it shouldn't have been shown on TV considering the position we were in and the possibility that we'd be thrashed), travelling through Jack Watts being used as the scapegoat by fans and coaches alike to become our worst loss at the MCG ever. Another happy memory for the MFC "wish you were here" postcard series.

We went in holding a bizarre good recent record against the Bombers and came out with official confirmation that a shipwreck waiting to happen was now officially upside down on the rocks with burning oil spewing out the sides. Sure, we were getting thrashed at half time, that was to be expected. What wasn't so easy to understand was how from the three minute mark of the third quarter onwards we could concede 14.10 to 0.2. Thank god they couldn't kick straight, but it's not like we didn't give them enough chances to turn 148 into 186 or worse. It's a good thing we don't run into sides with something to prove more often.

That we would later find out half our team had been involved with the same 'sports supplements' shenanigans the Bombers were on the front pages for at the same time is neither here nor there, the Port fiasco had destroyed confidence in one dark afternoon, and from then the only question was how many bodybags would be required and when they should be delivered.

Cue an even more intense media frenzy, and a good old fashioned team bonding trip to try and do a runner from the media and get everyone's head back together. Surprisingly it worked for a while, we put in a decent first half against West Coast (who, in contrast with Port we didn't know yet were actually no good) before crashing to earth again. It was a more than adequate response, and they were quite rightly applauded from the ground for their vastly improved efforts but even at the time I wasn't sure a standing ovation for a 10 point deficit sent the right message. Polite applause would probably have sufficed. The Eagles must have walked from the field seeing that and thought "my god, we're going to pulverise this lot in the second half". Which they did, kicking 6.1 to nothing in the first 15 minutes of the third quarter to ruin any chance we had of winning then adding another 5.2 to 1.1 in the next 15 to turn it into a thrashing.

That was 'ok' as long as we beat GWS the next week. As it turns out, having already sacked Cameron Schwab after the Essendon game, we were in no position to pay Neeld's contract out anyway but as nobody knew at the time that we were up for $600k to give him the boot (really? $600k? Was this some sort of tax dodge?) it was widely assumed that he was out the door first thing Monday if the Giants beat us. Looking back now it's interesting to think what would have happened if we hadn't finally turned the tables and booted a shitload of goals in a row on somebody else (admittedly the AFL equivalent of the Diamond Valley Under 9's) during the last quarter. Would they have thrown caution to the wind and blown the bank giving him the arse right there and then? It would probably have been cleaner than waiting another two months for the AFL's money to hit our account.

At no matter how nervy it had been for three and a half quarters at least we had one win in the bank. Made us better than the 1919 side anyway, and by winning by more than a point we were technically better than 1981 as well. Things were looking us, and with the almost equally disappointing Lions the next week we had the chance to continue the good times for at least a fortnight. For a half it looked like that might be the case - then normal service resumed, conceding the first three goals of the third quarter in double quick time. The (brief) good times were over, yet to properly return for more than five or ten minutes at a time - and for some people gone for good.

Carlton tonked us the next week (five goals in a row to start to the game), then just when you thought it could get worse but were hoping it wouldn't Gold Coast did the same and helped us discover new and exciting levels of rock bottom. Neeld survived that debacle, using up another one of his lives due to us being totally skint, but surely when he walked out the door that day he understood that he was finished sooner rather than later. Sure he'd lost Mitch Clark, Jack Viney and Jack Grimes by this point, but even with the injury horrors still to come (Dawes, Frawley etc..) the rest of the team were playing like such total muppets that the buck could only stop at the top.

A decent showing against Richmond the next week took the heat off a bit, but 268 points worth of losses in the month since then (including the bye) stamped his papers - even if he did survive the Board Meeting of Death after the Hawthorn game. Thank god he did survive that day, not only to annoy the media vultures who camped out all day hoping to get the old entrails on the pavement shot, but it would have been an additional humiliation to find out that we're the sort of club who can't make a decision to sack somebody without having a scheduled board meeting first. Which would have come as a huge surprise to Dean Bailey, who probably remembers being given the arse at 7pm on a Sunday night after 186.

Given that the board didn't even bother backing the coach for the rest of the season it turned out that the most important part of the day's proceedings wasn't his famous 'presentation', it was the bit where we worked out that we had stuff all cash. Somehow that's been addressed and he's free to sit at home and catch up on all the TV he's missed in the last couple of years. His Foxtel IQ must be absolutely heaving by now, time to enjoy the full 12 hour Real Housewives Of Atlanta marathon without being interrupted by phone calls from Rory Taggert.

So here we are, the very familiar 1-10. Same as 2008, same as 2009, same as 2012. Not the same as 2010 and 2011 because they were basically premiership seasons in comparison. If only we'd had 500 top 20 draft picks in the last few years we might not be in this situation eh? As much as Peter Jackson danced around the issue at the Neeld press conference there's no doubt we have or are going to ask for a priority pick - which is absolutely brazen but you might as well try. 

Neeld got one last thing right as he went out the door when he said that you would obviously take one if it were offered. If they're stupid enough to throw morality out the window and give us one then that's their problem and they can explain it to all the clubs who have done the right thing over the years and not turned into a rolling fiasco. They couldn't do it though could they? Surely the game is that we ask for a really good extra pick and eventually end up with one at the end of the first round - which even if it would still be morally unsavoury is at least not complete daylight robbery.

Drafting shenanigans will have to wait though, we've got to get through the second half of the season first. God knows what horrors await us, but the bad news is that we've finished our golden run of playing all but two games at the MCG in the first 13. Now we've got to go to Docklands (losses) and Kardinia Park (big losses) as well as the unknown quantities of Carrara (in the modern era at least) and the Sydney Showgrounds. Good luck with that Neil Craig.

Realistically we could win the next two games (though even with the new couch bounce we probably won't) but after that without a remarkable turnaround or stroke of luck the only games that we've got half a chance in are Brisbane in Darwin, GWS in Sydney and the Bulldogs in the last round even though it's at Docklands where we're no chance of ever putting in a good performance. Hopefully they're back down in putrid territory by then and out slop us OR are tanking furiously to try and finish below St Kilda. At this point I really don't care whether we get pick 1, 2, 3 or 4 - if you can't find a winning player with one of those then you're either spaz, the MFC or both.

There's not much scope for getting a run on anywhere in the second half of the season as we run into good teams too often, but if we can get Dawes, Frawley, Grimes, Viney and god forbid Clark back into the side by Round 17, and limit the psychological damage from our trip to Kardinia Park, we could conceivably win a couple and put in some decent performances from there. 

Only Brisbane, GWS and Footscray are obviously winnable matches but North, Gold Coast and Adelaide aren't entirely out of the question if we can lift ourselves out of Josef Fritzl's basement and start playing like a proper AFL team again.

Round 13 - St Kilda (Docklands) (Maybe)
Round 14 - Footscray (MCG) (Maybe)
Round 15 - Sydney (MCG) (No chance)
Round 16 - Geelong (Kardinia Park) (Oh god we'll be murdered)
Round 17 - Brisbane (Darwin) (Maybe)
Round 18 - North Melbourne (Docklands) (Maybe if they're still being super flaky and mental)
Round 19 - GWS (Showgrounds) (Could very well win)
Round 20 - Gold Coast (Carrara) (Hopefully they're over it by this point)
Round 21 - Fremantle (MCG) (Will probably lose 10.10.70 to 0.5.5)
Round 22 - Adelaide (Football Park) (Assume we'll get thrashed just because of the venue)
Round 23 - Footscray (Docklands) (Time to go out on a high)

Unfortunately for Neil Craig you can get Weekend at Bernie's styles reincarnations of Norm Smith and Checker Hughes in the coaches box if you like and it won't make a lick of difference if you don't have the players. So on that note we turn to one of my favourite mid-season features for a look at who you should be investing in, and who you should furiously sell shares in as their value plummets to earth. Thanks to our generous sponsors the Pyramid Building Society it's...

Buy, Hold, Sell

Aaron Davey - I like his old stuff better than his new stuff, but recent form show he could go on next year at a lower price. Alternatively he's probably playing himself into being a chance of other more immediately successful clubs being interested in dropping him into their side for one or two seasons while he chases a flag.

Chris Dawes - Just started to show why he was recruited when in true MFC fashion he injured himself. It's supposed to be minor, so I expect we'll never see him play again.

James Frawley - Decided that he's not going anywhere at the end of this year at least. Was just coming back into form when injured so we should get at least one more good season out of him before he's off to Hawthorn.

Colin Garland - Career best form in a career worst defence after a rocky start, but I have serious concerns over his mental health. He cares, which is more than can be said for many. Hopefully he doesn't care too much and can sleep at night.

Jack Grimes - Surely his next major injury has to be a repeat of one of the other ones, nobody could have this much bad luck to different parts of their body. Was just starting to look like a top quality player when hurt, after getting through all of last year unhurt and only being put out by a freak contact accident this year I'm confident he'll be back better than ever.

Jesse Hogan - There's nothing we do better than put far too much expectation on the shoulders of a kid, so let's do it again. Sell your house and use it to buy stock in him, then watch him become the next John Butcher and play five games in three years.

Jeremy Howe - Has levelled off in the last couple of weeks as other teams have realised that he's our get-out option, but there's a lot to be said for having one player who commentators jizz openly over in keeping us out of 4.40pm Sunday every single week.

Matt Jones - Has come from nowhere to be one of our better midfielders. Which is, admittedly, like being one of the highest rating programs on ABC3 but has still been a pleasant surprise.

Nathan Jones - Will get tired of carrying the rest of the midfield on his back eventually. Get him some help before he cracks up. Now firmly back in the frame for captaincy next year, possibly on a joint ticket with Grimes.

Dean Terlich - Cocks up occasionally and probably wouldn't get a game at 16 other clubs but like Jones has pleasantly surprised. Might be holding a spot until somebody better comes along, but that could be five years or more at this rate.

Jack Trengove - Starting to get back towards his 2011 form. Start buying now at a low price, could be flying by the end of the year - and hopefully unburdened by captaincy and/or injury will be set for a big 2014.

Jack Viney - Blue chip prospect. Forget the injuries for now, as long as this mysterious toe isn't going to keep troubling him he'll play every week.

Rohan Bail - Contracted for next year so there's time for him to do something, and Neeld did seem to like him until last week, but has he ever had a really good game? It didn't hurt Clint Bartram's career to fly under the radar for five years, but at least he was quietly achieving in the background.

Dom Barry - An unknown quantity so far. Keep watching.

Sam Blease - Provides some excitement and kicks goals when you play him inside 50 (i.e 2012) but still about as likely to hit a target kicking on the run as I am. Has been downhill ever since you voted him my new favourite player, but will hopefully now be restored to his rightful place kicking goals out of his arse.

Mitch Clark - So many injuries. Makes me sad to think that he was on the way to kicking about 15 against GWS last year and since then we've only seen him a couple of times. Can do damage, has to play first.

Neil Craig - Holding for the fort until the end of the year. Assuming he's not going to put his hand up for the top job, but even Todd Viney got excited about the prospect of staying on after one win. Then we lost to Port and he was stuffed. The question is whether we'll remember his stint kindly or whether he join the likes of Alan McConnell as caretaker coaches for more than 10 games who didn't manage  a win.

Michael Evans - Has hit the wall after a few good weeks at the start of the year, but signed a new contract and will be there for the next couple of years at least. Worth keeping in the side for the rest of the year.

Jack Fitzpatrick - Looks like he'll get more opportunities, and big men get more time than anyone else, but playing for your career in our forward line must be the hardest job in football. Hasn't done anything yet to show that he's a better long term forward option than Juice Newton but god forbid he plays in a game where we're not putrid and have 12 inside 50's then he might be able to show something.

Max Gawn - Absolutely 100% a required player, but it would be nice if we would actually play him where he's supposed to be played for more than five minutes every week. We're shit anyway and will be no matter what we're doing, so why not look toward the future and play him as our first ruck? No wonder he hasn't signed a new contract, the fact that we stood by him through two knee reconstructions aside why wouldn't he be open to offers elsewhere?

Dean Kent - Not sure if he can play footy yet but appears to have the sort of anti-social streak which I can get behind.

Joel Macdonald - I still like him, even if nobody else does. If for no other reason than his Twitter picture, which appears to be the man himself waving at a security camera

James Magner - Should be playing in front of Rodan. One of them is a chance of being there in a couple of years, and while Mags is never going to be a superstar he can get the ball and appears to care. Showed enough last year to deserve a couple of years on the senior list, but was obviously not in favour under Neeld so who knows what will happen now.

Tom McDonald - Like Blease he's gone backwards ever since getting the public's stamp of approval, but there's plenty of time for the King of Sizzle to get back to the 2012 vintage. Playing in our backline is a task that will cause anybody to have moments of self-doubt and farce/shambles so patience is a virtue.

Melbourne Football Club - We're not dead yet, but intensive rehabilitation is required.

Daniel Nicholson - Woefully out of form this year. Showed a bit last season though, so it's not all over yet. Can run fast. Would be nice if he was used in a way that complemented that attribute.

Cameron Pedersen - Across the next three (3!) seasons he'd want to show something more than a brief cameo like the GWS game to avoid becoming the poster-child for wacky recruiting and list management decisions under Neeld. Not completely off him yet but worried about him being relegated to defence permanently.

Jake Spencer - Can tap, can run surprisingly quick, can kick from a 'stoppage' but has absolutely NFI in traffic. Contracted for next year so likely to play a few more games, but unlikely to become a regular without injury or Gawn dicking us and going elsewhere. Probably not costing us much, but unless we're going to get a ready-made replacement via trade/free agency then he's worth having around.

James Strauss - Looked good when he came back from injury late last year, and wasn't playing all that badly when he got dropped for the Freo game. Came back a week later and was ordinary but given that he's been around so long and we're going to be terrible no matter what so would it be such a crime to play him anyway? If you dropped every player who put in one horrid week we'd only ever be able to field 22 players for Round 1.

Jimmy Toumpas - Apparently picked with the long term in mind because he'd had two hip operations, which makes it odd that he played the whole pre-season and the first couple of games. Young enough to be a blank canvas he's shown that when he gets the ball he can be dangerous but just doesn't know how to get it yet. That's fine, plenty of time to go. Started to show a bit on Queen's Birthday before the whole side went tits up. Must play the rest of the year if fit.

Jack Watts - Like Fitzpatrick is struggling to show his best in a forward line which gets no service, but there's still questions about how much he wants it and apart from a couple of cameos here and there hasn't done a great deal this year. Is still every possible chance to wave two fingers at us and rack off elsewhere. Performances in 2011 showed that in a forward line where he gets a respectable amount of silver-platter service then he can be dangerous, but I fear that by the time we're able to provide that he'll be enjoying playing pressure-off second fiddle to Jack Riewoldt.

Maia Westrupp - Our record shows that we can't teach Australian kids how to play properly so I'm not sure how we're going to get on with a New Zealander - but you never know, it might work.

Shannon Byrnes - Two good games against teams in our division (GWS and Brisbane) and a bunch of ordinary to bad ones against better sides. I'm all for the off-field benefits but not entirely sure why we signed him on a two year contract. A new coach might invite him to have a 'quiet word' with a view to being shuffled off to the backroom staff.

Troy Davis - Going nowhere, deserves an opportunity at some point but would have to do something dramatic to survive.

Lynden Dunn - The party's over. Being an angry individual will only get you so far. At least his mum will be happy that CEO, Coach and President are all gone.

Tom Gillies - Might get another go before the end of the year, and I'd like him to just to avoid leaving us with an average losing margin of +100 points and zero good memories but on a one year contract he'd be lucky to go on next year.

Mark Jamar - Improved performance on Queen's Birthday, but his brief glory era is over. Will still be there next year, and has surprised in the past, but isn't 

Neville Jetta - Has played enough games now that we can be sure he's not going to be a match winner. May have a place at a better club.

Jordie McKenzie - Signs contract extension, goes backwards. Melbourne FC magic. Must pine for the Dean Bailey era.

David Rodan - Like Byrnes the off-field stuff is great but on-field it's not a big win. Unlike Byrnes he's only on a one year deal so I've got no doubt he'll be invited to a special player review in Carpark D at Casey Fields after which he'll never be seen again.

James Sellar - Competing for exactly the same spot as Pedersen. I like the guy but he's not going to win that battle. The sudden emergence of Craig may give him a leg up before Mr. New Coach gives him the boot.

Colin Sylvia - Get what you can before he's playing for another club.

Rory Taggert - Doesn't seem to be doing much at Casey. Might get Tom McNamara games at the end of the season.

Luke Tapscott - I don't know who to blame but doesn't seem to be anything more than a bit part player at the moment. Needs to go back into defence quickly.

The Trumpteer - Tellingly relegated to 'only playing when we win' after Schwab got the arse I'm sure they're not even inviting the guy to show up anymore. By the time we win another game at the G nobody will remember this rubbish gimmick anyway, so it's a perfect time to put it to bed and remove at least one of the ways that our club humiliates itself on a regular basis.

Josh Tynan - After two games in two and a half seasons he'd want to get back into contention for a senior game pretty quickly. 

Faulty Crystal Ball Corner
Looking back on the season preview post it's distressing to see how apologetic I was being about tipping us to come fifth last, as if by this point we'd be in the top eight and I'd have to admit how wrong I was. Fat chance. After setting our over/under at 5.5 wins we'll be lucky to get within a mile of it at this rate.

Things I got right included Nathan Jones being red-hot favourite for the Jakovich Medal and predicting that none of the ruckmen would get close to the main award. On the ladder I was right in predicting Hawthorn would be good (wow, what an achievement), GWS would be terrible (again, amazing prediction skills there) and that St Kilda wouldn't be much good either - but anybody could have managed that.

On the other hand I had Watts third in Jakovich betting with neither Matt Jones or Terlich given a hope. Not that either of them will win, but they will go close to the top five. Also Gawn at $45 for the Stynes seems absurd now, but I foolishly assumed that Jamar would win it by a million miles.

As for my predicted ladder the major clangers at the moment are Collingwood (1st), West Coast (3rd), Adelaide (4th), Brisbane (11th), Essendon (12th), Port Adelaide (16th) and Gold Coast (17th).

Here's an updated final ladder, so don't expect to see any of this actually happen. Teams grouped alongside the ones they're in the same class as. Once again the battle for 8th shows that anybody who suggests expanding the finals beyond eight should be thrown out of a window. 

1. Hawthorn
2. Sydney
3. Fremantle
4. Geelong
5. Essendon
6. Collingwood
7. Richmond
8. Carlton
9. North Melbourne
10. West Coast
11. Port Adelaide
12. Adelaide
13. Gold Coast
14. Brisbane
15. St Kilda
16. Footscray
17. Melbourne
18. Greater Western Sydney

I think Hawthorn will win everything, but I'll be going for Freo. At the other end I'm concerned about finishing below GWS - they've been just as awful as we have, but have arguably looked better in being terrible. If we can't beat them we probably won't win another game, so either both teams go into a neck-and-neck one win apiece backwards percentage race to the bottom or they catch fire late in the year and leave us stone motherless with our head in the oven.

Assuming we get pick two and the AFL aren't fooled into giving us a priority pick at the top of the draft it will be interesting to see what happens considering a big forward is supposed to be one of the top selections. GWS surely won't want him considering they'll have Cameron and Patton (maybe Franklin too, watch the AFL ensure that move happens in a desperate attempt to boost crowds into five figures) and neither will we assuming Mitch Clark can go on next year. Or would we? 

The 'best available' crowd would suggest that you take the forward, and Clark becomes more of a ruckman in front of a Dawes > Hogan > Boyd forward set-up (with possible half-forward flank contributions from Watts if he stays) but knowing that both St Kilda and Footscray would give their right nut for a key forward is there some sort of trade we can do that involves us swapping P2 for P4 as well as their second round pick and sweeteners? The only problem is that whether it's St Kilda or Footscray who finish just above us neither of them have anything worthwhile to add as a sweetener - which is why it almost certainly wouldn't happen.

With our midfield in the state it is I'm sure they will opt for one of them instead and allow the forward to fall through to pick three (keep an eye out for dodgy behaviour by St Kilda and Footscray late in the year, I want a Tankquiry if there's any question about their tactics) unless they can somehow scab a good, experienced midfielder via free agency or have somebody worthwhile committed to us via the pre-season draft. Fair enough, there's no point having a million forwards if there's nobody to kick it to them.

Meet The Pres
How strange have things become when the prospect of Jeff Kennett becoming our President is actually seriously being discussed. Sadly for the media, as much as they're cheerleading the bizarre switch just to get a hall of fame quote machine a job (Channel 9 - "McLardy's resignation clears the way for Jeff Kennett to become MFC President) I can't see it happening.

In the end that's probably a good thing. I'm not married to the idea that your President absolutely must be a passionate supporter of the club (though I'll put out an open invitation for Jeff to come sit with me next Saturday night so we can talk footy and yell abuse at all and sundry), as long as they've got a strong board of MFC people keeping them in line and all the necessary constitutional protections are there to stop them from doing anything insane without a vote of the members.

We could do with a strong leader now, and god knows Jeff's intervention hasn't exactly flushed out a number of interested contenders yet, but we also need unity and that's one of the biggest issues about the idea. The fact that he's called for us to be merged, relocated, shot at dawn etc.. in the past will be too much for some. Personally I look it as him wanting to make sure we don't end up in that situation again, rather than coming in with the grand plan of railroading us into a merger with Footscray or North - but he's not going to win without a vote and if he wins a vote it won't be decisive. Which will presumably lead to those who don't like the result sniping from the sidelines and doing more harm than good until he throws his hands up in the air and walks off. I'm not sure I'd vote for him (as long as a decent alternative put their hand up) but if he got in then he's got a blank slate.

Now that we're basically run by the AFL if they want him he'll probably get the job, but would they? Not by the sound of Peter Jackson's press conference where he basically laughed the idea out of the room. I think the league would prefer somebody who is a good leader but also not as likely to make trouble, an MFC version of "jolly entertainment industry man" like David Koch. Not that we'll ever be able to make trouble in any way again after they've handed over a shedload of cash, we're their property then. May as well cut out the middleman and name Andrew Demetriou himself as the president.

I'm sticking with my conspiracy theory that this whole thing is Jeff acting as the stalking horse for his as yet unnamed mates who are 'calling on him to run'. Not sure how close he is to Alan Stockdale (and Jeff's got a record of not being all that fond of his fellow Libs) but that's one option. Either way whether you like him or not if he's absolutely serious about this and not just trying to keep his name in the press Aker style it would be good if he could get around to eventually introducing some of these other people that he wants the members to go out of their way to vote in.

Jeff is quite right in that there is no constitutional measure that can be used for fans to call an EGM (I think I said on here before that the signatures of 95% of the members are required - this is not correct, that's only to put a resolution to the members with less than 21 days' notice), so unless the board are keen on committing hari kiri mid-season and putting themselves up for a vote now then very little is going to happen before the next scheduled AGM. The problem is that it's usually held in February and a lot of big decisions need to be made before then - at the moment I'm happy with Peter Jackson effectively running the show but eventually everyone is going to have to be on the same page so we don't go into 2014 as an off-field shambles as well as on-field.

Note that the last time we had contested board elections, in 2011, they were held in mid-December. This has to be done again, the decision on the coach and a lot of the off-field stuff will already have been taken by then but we can't wait until the eve of the season to have our bloody backroom brawls - at least doing it in November or December allows whoever wins to have a few months to establish themselves before the actual business of playing footy comes around. Also note that the aforementioned Mr. Stockdale was a big part of that election too, including the allegation that he wanted Ron Walker to be President. The same Ron Walker is fairly chummy with one J. Kennett. The plot thickens, though Ron is now 73 so I think we can rule him out (as opposed to Jeff who is a spritely 65, even if he does look about 97 at times).

The establishment candidate seems to be Geoff Freeman, but apparently he's not got health concerns but he's also nipping off to France on holidays for a few weeks. As this article so rightly points out it's hardly the fist pumping, political rally style candidacy that we're all dreaming of. No wonder people are seriously considering Jeff - at least he used to do feelgood good ads with big band versions of Up There Cazaly playing in the background. We can't hold it against him that he shut down a few schools and all that 20 years ago, for one it's got nothing to with running a footy club in 2013 and if we're supposed to be the club run by Tory bastards for Tory bastards we might as well embrace it for the first time since the Billy Snedden era. If his slate of candidates is better than the other side's anyway.

Pipe dreams about Jeff rescuing us from the Cain/Kirner style Schwab/Bailey/Neeld era aside that post is right that the CEO is far more important than the president, who is effectively a figurehead who gets to speak at a lot of a lunches. If we've got the right guy there until the end of next year we probably don't need to take a death or glory last stab at relevance by putting somebody bizarre and previously unthinkable in charge. The whole thing would be a tremendous ego trip for Jeff, but there's still part of me that says it would be a fun ride.

In summary show me the options and I'll make a decision. I don't rule out anything at the moment, and the credentials of the people who are going to be on the board are as important as the President himself, so I'll cross this bridge when two (or more) lists of candidates are in front of me.

Next Week
Without a Casey game to base my changes off, and despite the last few weeks being so abysmal, I'd like some continuity in the side for at least one more week. Haven't we had enough sackings recently?

The following assumes a) Dawes is fit, b) Jack Viney isn't and c) Tom Couch isn't upgraded from the rookie list before Thursday. If a) is not correct then send Pedersen forward (for want of anybody else) and give Tapscott a go down back. If Viney's fit then Rodan can go - he wasn't all that bad but it's time for the future. Couch deserves a go, but there's probably only room for one of he and Magner in the side so he's not getting upgraded unless he's going to play.

IN: Magner, Macdonald
OUT: McKenzie, Tapscott (omit)
LUCKY: Dunn, Fitzpatrick, Rodan

Next Year
The process of trying to find a new senior coach apparently starts "now", which is hardly compatible with the assumption that we 'must' have somebody experienced in charge but it wouldn't be the first time we've lined up another side's assistant while their side is still going. It's what saved Dean Bailey from being involved in Port's shambolic 2007 Grand Final, and Mark Neeld from Collingwood's losing 2011 effort. The moral of the story is that if Paul Roos is still refusing to take our calls don't seek out anybody who works for a club that might eventually lose the Grand Final.

That's why it's Choco time. Also because he fits the bill as somebody who is a bit of a hard bastard (which we still want even after the 2012/13 disaster), but has been around the block plenty of times, can handle the media and is also enough of a left-field thinker that he understands the absurdity of the situation he's walking into. Let's hope he doesn't have too good a time with the Tigers for the rest of the year and get comfortable with the life of a sweating, boundary line lunatic. Also here's hoping he's looking forward to getting back into suits, I want a coach in a suit. Even Caro's keen, and as she practically runs the club at the moment that's a good sign.

If not the great man then there's a lot of other 'experienced' coaches out there. Please add any I've missed, but the following are all current AFL assistants who have had senior coaching experience Mark Harvey (Brisbane), Rodney Eade (Collingwood), Mark Thompson (Essendon), Brett Ratten (Hawthorn) and Dean Laidley (St Kilda) - plus assistants who have stepped in for caretaker stints of varying lengths like Darren Crocker, Gary Hocking, Alan Richardson and Paul Williams. 

There's also some guy called Bailey who (sort of) works at Adelaide but I'm not sure he's an option. John Worsfold looks likely to be on the way out of West Coast in the near future, but he looks like he needs a break so I'd rather not tempt him with a truckload of cash if his heart's not in it. His knowledge of chemistry procedure might be helpful at the Dankquiry, but to be moderately controversial the Eagles haven't done all that much in the last few years with a pretty talented list, so what's he bringing to a team bereft of hope or good fortune?

Then there's Gary Ayres, who a caller on SEN thought would be great for us because he once yelled at a fellow Hawthorn player for gobbing on the ground of the changeroom. Also something about winning a premiership with Shane Valenti and whoever Billy Burstin is. Damien Drum is available if you're keen, can convince him to leave a tremendously cushy job in the Upper House and were dropped on your head as a child.

If not Roos or Choco I'm not all that concerned. Personally my third choice would be Laidley, but that's because I've always admired his lunatic side rather than any hope that he could turn us around. Mark Harvey's owl eyes would at least provide some amusement value up until the point where he took a restraining order out on me.

Whoever it is they need to be backed in for a full three years come what may. There has rarely been a bigger hole for any coach to pull a club out of, and this guy won't be afforded the relative luxuries that Neeld had when he took over full of high ideals and bold dreams. He hasn't had all that much time, but that doesn't matter because we've gone so far backwards - this new guy and whatever team he ends up with is going to start from scratch.

Then there's the players. I suspect that we can't afford the same sort of widespread massacre as last year, but there will certainly be a lot of changes. However the way our contracts have been set up, with a lot of very middle of the road players being on the books for 2014 whether we like it or not, there's not a huge scope for butchery by the new coach.

As always, until somebody comes up with a better source, all contract details are from this thread hosted by our founder and generous major sponsor BigFooty.
Blease, Clark, Dawes, Evans, Frawley, Garland, Howe, M. Jones, N. Jones, Kent, McDonald, Terlich, Toumpas, Trengove, Viney

Gawn, Sylvia, Watts

Bail, Byrnes, Dunn, Jamar, McKenzie, Pedersen, Spencer, Strauss, Tapscott

Clisby, Davey, Magner, Stark

Couch, Fitzpatrick, Jetta, Macdonald, Nicholson, Rodan, Tynan

Davis, Gillies, Sellar, Taggert

At the moment I'd say the ones set to go from the senior list are the last four, plus Jetta, Rodan and a dashing Colin Sylvia legging to any team likely to challenge for the flag in the next two seasons. Pending any other retirements or Watts doing a shit bloke move and going elsewhere that's seven spots to fill, which seems about right. While it might mean some borderline cases like Fitzpatrick, Macdonald and Tynan survive there's no point knifing them if we haven't got trades/free agents to effectively replace them with. 

As it stands if we're lucky to finish second last (instead of bottom) before the draft order is molested by free agent compensation we'd get picks 2, 20, 38, 56, 74 and 92 plus the Pre-Season and Rookie Drafts. Let's assume 74 and 92 aren't used, but the PSD pick is - that's five 'senior' players coming in plus rookie elevations (Magner?) and any free agents we can lure into our house of horrors. If that means somebody like Neville Jetta survives another year for depth so be it.

It's all well and good putting the white screen up around Joel Mac because you don't enjoy his backline work and pointing at the security camera antics, but if you're just going to replace him with pick 92 or a rookie then what's the point? May as well get a few kids in this year, wait a season and get a few more kids in before totally shutting the door. I'm all for playing draft picks over the next couple of years but we can't totally throw it over to the kids GWS style without seeing half our fanbase walk away with the promise that they'll be back in a couple of years when we're being serious again - which we may never get the chance to do again if we keep going in this direction.

Has it been worth it?
Ask me in 18 months.

Will the next 11 games be worth it?
Yes, every day that the club is above ground is a good day.

Final thoughts
Time to remove your head from the oven and get there on Saturday night. Even if you have to, god forbid, pay for a ticket to get into an away game. We might not get to enjoy unity for long, let's at least get through the next fortnight before murdering each other.


  1. Whilst Taggert and Tynan have both been disappointing so far it is only their second seasons at the club. We need to have some patience with players so to me Taggert has impressed enough after missing most of his first year. That means we need another club to do us a Morton style favour with one of the safe but only by contract players OR a Watts/Sylvia leave or OR trade someone like Blease.

  2. I don't understand why we gave an untried coach a 3 year deal that had no performance clauses in it? It is not like anyone else was after him and if he wanted to become a senior coach he had to take what we gave him. Now we have to pay him out $600,000. To me this is just bad business. I would understand if it was some big coach but for some guy we just grabbed off the street the contact makes no sense to me.

    I hope we learn from this and start going down the old NFL road with contacts that are not worth the paper they are printed on.

  3. I've got Dennis Denuto going over the MFC Constitution as we speak.

  4. There was a coach whom we sacked to start this debacle and still remains in the system. Good bloke with a hard edge and knows his footy. Maybe doesn't wish to come back given our treatment of him, but why not Neale Daniher?


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