Wednesday 5 June 2013

The long dark tea-time of the soul

Comrades, while I'm gallivanting around on holiday there's no time to sit down and properly take in the full horror of the 2013 MFC. It's bad enough that I'm still taking time off to watch the damn games let alone writing about them - so thanks then to Big Footy's Higgs Boson and Twitter's @R3mm3t (conveniently the same guy), who has agreed to take the poison chalice of describing Sunday's debacle against Hawthorn without resulting to posting the Goatse photo or libelling anyone. Good luck with that.

Watch this space for more mystery guest posting next week, and I'll be back full time after the bye - by which time there's no doubt we'll have a new coach courtesy of Neeld finally flipping out and recreating the video for Eminem's Stan but with Jack Watts locked in the trunk instead of Dido.

Until then...

So here we are again.  Another week in the life of a Demons supporter.

Massive loss?  Check.

Talk of sacking the coach?  Check plus plus.

Embarrassing Monday morning at work?  Again, check plus plus.

Mind you, where we are at right now has its positives, that is if one has the ability to squeeze out optimism from despair like blood from the proverbial stone.  Hey, its what we do – at least its what the saner of my Melbourne supporting brethren do, because otherwise lies certain madness.  The positive of all of this is that we know we're shit.  We've had to come to accept the fetid, faecal reality.  It's a little like the alcoholic who has accepted and announced he has a problem.  There is a degree of serenity that accompanies the public exposure of the awful truth.  

Me, I used to become incandescent with rage after a bad loss.  Mrs Boson would nervously check the scores so that she could work out whether to talk to me when I arrived home, or whether she should set up the doona and pillow on the couch, and put the cat outside so as to avoid it getting a damn good kicking.  But now... nothing.  No rage.  No violent breakages.  I even laugh a little, although it's that kind of disturbed Satanic little giggle you'd otherwise expect from a young girl whose head is about to rotate several times.  I feel dead inside, and I've come to make peace with that limp, lifeless feeling.  It's now like an old friend who turns up for tea and biscuits like clockwork every week at about 6.00pm on a Sunday evening (because it's always a Sunday evening, FFFFUUUU AFL).

It really is a positive when you think about it.  Lipstick on a pig?  Certainly.  My, what a pretty side of pork you are.  Hellooo Melbooourrrnne.

Another positive from this particular match was that the margin at the end was less than 100 points.  Don't think I'm being facetious here, there is no doubt that as time on in the last ticked by, the Melbourne players and coaching staff were sweating on a last gasp goal to bring the margin back to double figures.  We're now at the stage where we need something – anything – that makes the whole stinkaroo a little less putrid, and I'm very sad to report that avoiding a 100 point loss is now something on which we can hang our hats.  Mission accomplished.

Not that Mark Neeld is going to be around to complete many more missions.  It doesn't really matter what happens from here on in, he's officially a dead man walking (actually, a few wins might save him but 'sif that's going to happen amirite?).  The jungle drums are beating loudly in the media, and there comes a point at which the whole thing just becomes self-fulfilling.  It doesn't really matter what Neeld is working on internally in secret, that we're actually meeting some bullshit performance indicator like that our missed tackle count is coming down quite nicely thank you very much.  Neeld can bleat on all he likes about how he's developing the team for the future otherwise he wouldn't have drafted a kid who can't even play and another who has had two hip operations.  It matters not because even the most steadfast football club board will eventually wilt under the blowtorch applied by those paragons of virtue Caroline Wilson and Damien Barrett, and it's not as if our board has shown previously that it has any sort of spine at all anyway.

Melbourne must sack Neeld, they hoot.  He's running the club into the ground and everyone will just leave if he stays!  Who cares that bringing in a caretaker will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem identified.  It's not as if the players will magically start trying to impress a flog whose almost certainly not going to be there next year anyway when the club commences its rebuilds of a rebuild of a rebuild.  And who cares that beyond media speculation there has been absolutely no sign of player disenchantment with the coach, but quite the reverse?  True it is that Moloney and Rivers have dumped on Neeld from a great height since they left in a petulant huff, but they would, wouldn't they?  Anyway, the whole sack the leadership group thing has been done now, they're out, and there's no going back as much as many out there would want to.  

Me, if I was on the board I'd be doing a Costanza after getting the dodgy stock tip and going dooown with the ship.  At least if it works you'd be looking like a genius, rather than being seen as a gutless wonder whatever happens.  At the very least supporting the coach through tough times might make it at least semi-palatable for whoever is still left out there with the heart to try to steer this doomed wreck off the rocks to put up his hand up to be cannon fodder to the pirate media.

Alas though, the result on Sunday was always going to be just one more turn of the wagon wheel up the cobbled street to the gallows out of town.  So it came to pass that, with the great man Supermercado traipsing gaily around the other side of the continent, leaving his many cares behind him, I drew the short straw to do this blog.  Against Hawthorn.  Obviously I killed someone in a former life, and needed to atone for my sins.  

The surprisingly bright and sunny weather on approach to the 'G almost made one enjoy the experience, evocative of years past, when going to the footy was actually fun.  I was under no illusions however, I knew we'd be pumped, the Hawks fans knew we'd be pumped, hell even the seagulls knew we'd be pumped and were already circling, looking forward to an extended feast on the scraps left behind after the inevitable early walk out when the margin against became so insurmountable that no hope was left.  Sorry, that's quarter time; most stayed until at least the start of the last.  And suck shit seagulls, only 28,000 odd were there so it was slim pickings all round anyway.   I'll bet that wiped the smirk off your faces.  It felt good to have a win over a bird, even though the bird was not the one we were in fact there to play.

The first quarter was atypical in that, despite our opponents playing excellent footy generally (this was not the atypical bit), it was still not impossible for us to win the match when it ended.  Not that Melbourne had anything to do with this mind, with a score of 3.9.27 to 0.3.3, we should have been easily and comprehensively blown away, but the Hawks took pity on us with some wayward shooting for goal.  The Hawks got the first clearance and it was pretty much one way traffic after that.  By my count it took us at least five minutes of game time to even get the ball forward of centre.

Once we got the ball forward, Watts was looking pretty good.  In the past couple of weeks he actually looks like he's trying to attack the game, which is a pleasant change it has to be said.  If my eyes didn't deceive me, he even busted through a couple of tackles.  Please Mark Neeld, if you do stay around for anything longer than one week, please do not play Watts back ever again.  If you need him to pinch hit for a quarter here or there, fine, I'll accept that.  But none of this half back flank all game bullshit, it's just never going to work.  Dawes was also in fine fettle, showing that when we do have someone forward that can attack the contest, hell, even we can look okay on occasion.  I do feel some pity for Neeld having never had the comedy stylings of Clark and Dawes together at one time, were it to ever happen (and I have my doubts, curse you footy gods) we might even be a chance of kicking some sort of winning score.

Of course, this would require a midfield and, apart from the ever reliable N. Jones, we really don't have any real midfielders who regularly perform to an AFL standard.  My man love for Jones continues to grow.  On at least two occasions against Hawthorn he actually exploded packs, and it is such a pleasant change to see a Melbourne player beat an opponent (or, in the case of Jones, a number of opponents).

Our first goal chance came courtesy of Bail, and that was never going to turn out well, was it?  Same result when Fitzpatrick finally got a gilt-edged opportunity, which he proceeded to stuff up in typical MFC style.  It's this that perhaps shits me the most watching Melbourne; it's incredibly rare for there to be any more than two possessions in a row before a catastrophic error is made, which inevitably results in a turnover and the opposition in acres of space.

So the first quarter drew to a close with no goals on the board for the Dees, and a sense of weary resignation setting in.  A team who is not completely shit might take an opportunity presented to it by way of a disproportionate number of missed goals by the opposition early in the piece, but Melbourne is clearly not such a side.  Yes, okay, we won against Essendon in similar circumstances last year, but let's be honest, that was just a fluke.  The exception, rather than the rule.

I've surprised myself by writing this, but Pedersen was okay early if you can believe it.  Of course, that is a relative thing, and he wouldn't get a game anywhere else, but you take your wins where you can get them.  Speaking of dodgy ruckmen, I digress at this point to remark on David Hale – has there even been a player in the game with a bigger forehead?

The second quarter opened with – quelle surprise – two Melbourne clearances IN A ROW!  Of course, nothing eventuated from that, and Hawthorn proceeded to pump us.  Isaac Smith was pulling out party tricks and running straight past our blokes like they were standing still (because they were), and the Hawks were generally running in waves and making us look stupid (because we are).

At one point during the quarter, I resigned myself to the fact that we were going to be the first team to be held goalless for the entire match since... has it ever happened?  Stats aren't my bag I'm afraid, you'll have to ask Supermercado that (CBF looking up the actual round, but Adelaide at the MCG in 08 or 09 - Mercado).  The Melbourne effort was exemplified by a bit of comedy gold when Howe handballed straight into the back of Lynden Dunn, the latter having turned to a) pick up a man, b) make space, or c) none of the above because he had no clue what he was doing (hint: c)).

There was the occasional highlight, including Frawley running down Franklin.  That was pretty good.  In fact, Frawley did a magnificent job against Buddy all day.  Of course, cue a late injury and a spot on the MFC injury list.

Kent also looked good with his pace.  At one stage he sold a nifty bit of candy to open up a shot on goal – which of course he proceeded to shank.  To be fair, he did make up for this to some degree by being involved in Melbourne's first goal for the match.  The ball was kicked to him, at which point it bounced of its end and back over his shoulder, and the Benny Hill theme music started to loop through my brain (regular occurrence).  Happily, he managed to cleverly toe the ball to Dawes who bounced it through the goals despite not trying to do so at all.

So the half ended with what you might call a handy lead for the Hawks: 12.10.82 to 1.7.13.  Astonishingly, against all historical indicators, Melbourne actually won the third quarter.  There was even a transition of play that looked impressive, albeit that it resulted in Dawes missing the goal.  Goals to Watts, Davey, Kent and Dawes meant that the Dees went into the last only down by 56 points.  Sigh.

Of course, the final margin was 95 points, so obviously the last quarter was friggen hopeless.  Accordingly, I plan to write very little about it.  And not just because I lost all desire to write notes and its mid-week when I'm writing this, meaning that the self protection mechanisms in my brain have kicked in and a blissful fog of forgetfulness has descended, much like how women forget the pain of childbirth so that they will not be dissuaded from doing it all again.  

2013 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 – Chris Dawes
4 – Nathan Jones
3 – James Frawley
2 – Dean Terlich
1 – Colin Garland

Apologies to Jack Watts, Jeremy Howe, Aaron Davey and Dean Kent.

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

Crowd watch
Well, it was pretty much all brown and gold really.  28,546 at the 'G, and most of them were Hawthorn supporters.  If we can't pull 50,000 on Queen's Birthday next week we may as well leave the club out the front on Punt Road with the keys in the ignition.  Hopefully someone will swipe it and we can make a juicy claim on insurance.

Media watch
So now the papers are full of questions as to whether we should be given an extra 10 per cent in the salary cap to waste use to our advantage in recruiting some useful experience.  Even other clubs are now coming out and saying they'd support suffering a competitive disadvantage just so they don't whip us by 100 points every time they play us.  I suppose not supporting remedial action when it's on the agenda would be a bit like drowning a puppy, but it's all a bit unedifying, to say the least.  Don't misunderstand me to be saying I wouldn't take the extra $2M and run, because I would.  Surely it would help a lot more than another goddamn priority pick which, let's be honest, would only result in another talented youngster being dragged into the MFC dungeon and reamed Fritzl style.

And, hey, once Sylvia leaves as a free agent and Watts and Frawley request trades to anywhere but here, maybe we'd be able to put together some sort of wacky GWS style $9M offer to Buddy Franklin, or someone.  But could you imagine the meeting with the manager.  "So, Buddy (or whoever), that's a hell of a lot of cash and it would set you up for life.  You'd never have to worry about a thing, oh, except of course clinical depression".

Otherwise, the will-they-won't-they sack the coach game is in full swing.  Apparently it's now not if, but when.  Sure, Neeld survived decapitation at the monthly board meeting, but they have hardly been unequivocal in their support.  Mind you, saying he has the full support of the board is code for "he's gone", so maybe he actually is safe until the end of the season.

Next week
Collingwood.  Sigh.  Another smashing awaits.  I'm going with a Collingwood supporter so that should be fun.  At least we'll be in the hallowed chambers of the MCC and not smack bang amongst the filth in the Ponsford stand.

So what can Neeld focus on this week to try to convince all and sundry we're not complete arse?  Effort?  Well, no, we've shown that effort might be all well and good, but it's not going to kick us 15 goals if all it results in is giving the ball back to the opposition and having it sail back over our heads for more goals, is it?  How about reducing clangers?  Maybe, just maybe, if we can put together some passages of play without completely butchering it, we might be a show of being competitive (CLICHE).  But that's probably a bridge too far.

Let's get rid of the players who were completely shit.  Dunn, Rodan, I'm looking at you.  Apparently Blease kicked a couple for Casey, and featured in their best.  So, leaving aside Neeld's apparent hatred for him, let's bring him in and see if we can get a bit of spark.  I'd prefer him to, say, Strauss, who really hasn't impressed me much.  Tom McDonald would be an obvious straight swap for Frawley if the latter's shoulder is right.  Dunn is hopeless and I'd prefer to give Sellar a chance down back in his place.  No, really.  Otherwise, Sylvia is free to play, and obviously should come straight back.  

I see also that Taggert kicked four and was amongst the best.  If we're going to go down in a screaming heap, let's at least see if youngsters like him can actually play.  Won't happen though.  

IN: McDonald, Blease, Sylvia, Sellar.
OUT: Frawley (injured), Dunn, Rodan, Strauss.

Final thoughts
We lost by 95 points but I thought we actually didn't look as bad as we have during other times in the year.  How sad is that?

1 comment:

  1. Good guest post. I agree that it wasn't 'that' bad given my fears of a 186-esque perfect storm. This week's media shambles has been worse.

    Now for the irrelevance of QB! (which is right up there in the list of the most embarrassing things about following the MFC since the trumpeter got told to blow it somewhere else)

    - Martin

    P.S. Imagine if all you had in you life was footy?

    He he.

    *buys rope*


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