Monday 21 July 2014

Quicksand Incorporated

The process of following Melbourne remains weird and - for roughly 40 minutes a month - wonderful.

On a weekend where we pulled back from the brink after a fortnight of garbage football, almost toppled the same top four contender for the second time this year and equalled our record for the most losses by under 20 points since 1977 we also found ourselves firmly back in the 'race' for the wooden spoon - with only the positive (in a way) effect on our percentage from all those close losses keeping us above Brisbane and St Kilda. Somebody out there is probably celebrating this turn of events and punting us towards the spoon.

How wonderful the world seemed after the Essendon game when we were trading our cardboard box for a one bedroom flat in the outer suburbs, now we're relying on beating Brisbane/GWS or on St Kilda's disinterest in climbing off the bottom to save us from the indignity of yet another last place finish. Ironically we're only seven percentage points away from the mark I said I'd be happy with us achieving pre-season, but at that point I was still assuming we'd have won two games maximum by July 1 when the liquidators showed up. Now that respectability has been dangled in front of us several times I want more of it.

I'm not sure how to feel about this week's result. Options include joy at rescuing ourselves from two terrible performances, pride at almost winning, disappointment at not being able to finish the job, outright hostility at the fact we let ourselves get five goals down again and suspicion over shonky umpiring. Best to take a bit out of each of them, stew until Wednesday then take a much needed break next weekend before Shambles Clash 2014 against the Lions.

At least we did our bit for the AFL's most unpopular theme round, "Shit Teams Having A Go Week". Carlton started it against the only team mentally flakier than us, St Kilda upped the ante to ridiculous levels by pulverising Fremantle and GWS (*spit*) nearly toppled Geelong. Later on Sunday Footscray would join in by nearly beating Essendon, but even though the wheels have 3/4 fallen off at Port I still don't think anybody thought us ready, willing or capable of joining in the fun based on our performances against Froe and Geelong. But then again who would have expected Fremantle to neck themselves in such spectacular fashion this week? I'm not convinced that isn't part of some nefarious Bond villain style scheme by Ross Lyon, but at least he's nice enough to do this sort of thing against his old side so they can have a win.

I expected us to put up a reasonable fight, at least for the first few minutes, and god damn it they nearly proved everything I said about them last week wrong by winning but it would be nice if the next step in our evolution is to stop going five goals down before launching furious comebacks. If the Fremantle and Geelong games were mirror images of each other this was the Bulldogs match all over again. Kick the first goal, go five behind, turn it on from the last few minutes of the second quarter to the end of the third then clam up again in the last, go behind to a late late goal and waste the last two minutes on fruitless, panicked attack.

Similarly in both games we got flogged to death by the rubbish umpiring decisions going overwhelmingly against us, but both times we could very easily have taken it in our stride and still won if we had a bit more composure. Remember the glee you felt in the past when we still managed to win despite being the victims of heinous officiating? It can happen, and for that reason I'm not going to throw paint at AFL House or spend the next fortnight abusing umpires - they didn't help us, but we were at least equally culpable for our own demise.

The one thing this week had in common with all our recent matches is that we started the game with a bit of life, and at first it looked like we were capable of matching them. Eventually Port - who will be lucky to even make the eight let alone the top four if they keep playing like this - shambled their way to a big lead off the back of our comedy turnovers and inability to kick easy goals, but at least the intent was there. And we got two goals in the first quarter for the first time in a month, which isn't much of an achievement for most teams of the 21st century (or most of the 20th century) but is a big step for us.

While we still spend most of the game stopping, starting or kicking it to the opposition the bare minimum that we can do to combat this is to put pressure on - and even though we contrived to lose the tackle count heavily despite not having many more possessions there were some stand-out moments that warmed my cold, cold, red and blue heart.

Even the two sitters that McKenzie and Riley missed in the first quarter were generated by us doing things that we don't usually do enough. Jordie won his free after we managed to create repeat stoppages inside forward 50 and actually put some pressure on the opposition for the first time in god knows how long, and my new favourite player Aidan Riley laid a running tackle on a defender that Aaron Davey himself would have been proud of. If we can't get our forwards to apply forward pressure I'm happy enough for taggers and the front-line soldiers to do it instead - as long as somebody does.

It's one thing improving on keeping the ball inside our forward 50 once we finally get it there, but we're still vulnerable from kick-ins. Note the difference between the pressure we put Port under via those stoppages and Riley's tackle and compare to the wide open spaces they trotted off into after the McKenzie miss where the ball was back down the other end in about 15 seconds.

Loose as a goose structural issues aside I couldn't possibly fault the intent in the first half. Even as Port started to get on top we were at least making them earn it - I especially enjoyed the performance of Riley (six tackles in the first quarter alone - some of an eye-watering brutality) and Tapscott (smashing some clown straight down the middle just for the fun of it) who were going around with a look in their eye as if they'd just been teleported into the middle of a prison riot unarmed and were fighting to survive. The first goal to Tapscott came primarily thanks to Riley's efforts to tackle two different Port players within 10 seconds at the other end of the ground. He ran out of gas in the second quarter, and in the MFC spirit he kicks like he's got a peg leg but I'm happy to carry one or two players like that as long as they make up for it with insane competitiveness then I'm into it.

This new found willingness to crush, kill and destroy from a team who a week before had looked like they'd rather be drinking Pina Colada's in Tahiti had Port a bit nervy, and they started to botch simple kicks, handballs began to go astray and easy marks were dropped. Any top quality team (or Richmond) would have taken advantage of this, but just as the Fox Footy cameras cut to a cranky Ken Hinkley in the coaches box, complete with stereotype busting window reflection of a Port fan quaffing a champers, we went to sea in the traditional manner and let them ream us for a few minutes while everyone in red and blue white ran around in circles like they were on the deck of the Costa Concordia.

Not that 'certain decisions' helped us. At one point Nathan Jones got decked with an elbow to the head and a goal was then kicked over his lifeless corpse. His assailant will get suspended (update: or apparently he won't) but that didn't help us at the time. We're highly adept at costing ourselves goals by pissweak attempts at a bump or by leaving players on their own in the square for the easy handball over the top, we don't need lazy umpiring to help us do it.

As the second quarter went on and Port pulled further away it was fair to say that my incessant "Blease for the 1's (and not as sub)" campaign wasn't looking like a huge success. At least he found himself on the end of some crumb at one point, which is more than you can say for most of our list, and as the day went on both he and Kennedy-Harris showed why they need to be kept in the side for the rest of the year. Couldn't we do with some run and chase at the moment? Kent didn't do badly either, and it was refreshing to see three quick players on the field at the same time amongst all the plodders.

The best thing about Blease - apart from him deploying his special move of sprinting through the middle to kick a goal - were his defensive efforts, previously sorely lacking. Three tackles aren't all that many (though it is twice his career average) but it's more that he was also chasing and harassing effectively. I've still got no idea what constitutes a one percenter, but apparently he didn't have any, which is bullshit.

But - temporarily at least - back to Port. Once they settled down and realised that no matter what they did we'd just give them the ball back within 10 seconds anyway they settled and it started to look a lot like the last couple of weeks all over again. Admittedly it also looked like the Essendon and Footscray games, but what were the odds that we had it in us to launch a third blockbuster comeback from 30 points down? Pretty good as it turned out, but before we got there we had to enjoy the spectacle of conceding a rebound goal after Pedersen took a mark outside 50, Dawes told him to kick it one way, he kicked it the other and it was instantly whisked the other way for a score.

Then, just when the lifeboats were being readied and the orchestra were preparing to go under while playing It's A Grand Old Flag something unexpected and mystical happened as just like in the Bulldogs game we suddenly decided to start playing like we were [insert name of whoever the premiership favourite is this week]. It all started with Bernie Vince having a dust-up with Chad Cornes. He had been held well to that point and didn't end up having a great day by any means, but once the crowd started getting into him he fed off their hate (I would like to think so anyway, but maybe I've been watching too much wrestling) and helped spark the comeback. For the next quarter we were irresistible, running to space, linking up by hand and foot, taking calculated risks instead of handballing at somebody's feet, kicking goals etc.. etc.. All the stuff we don't usually do, so that was nice. It's always pleasant to peer the window and see what it must be like to follow another team.

A large part of the third quarter comeback was thanks to Watts' work mopping up Port slop in defence. He hadn't done much to that point other than one pissweak attempt at a bump (at least he tried) and fantastic kick inside 50, but in the third quarter he looked sensational. Of course in the end he'd wind up 'giving away' the 'free kick' which cost us the lead at three-quarter time, but I'm not going to hold that against him. He even wandered back down into attack and kicked the goal which gave us the lead. I've given up on trying to work out where he's going to end up playing in the future - but at least like Howe and Frawley (for the next five games) he's flexible enough to be used in different roles.

Unfortunately his goal - the third in five minutes - was the cue for Port to tighten up again and we didn't kick another goal for a quarter. Which is nothing for us when the scores are close, but it's usually the first quarter where we can't manage one. On the other hand if you take out the questionable Wingard free we didn't let them get a legitimate one from 14 minutes into the second quarter until 15 minutes in the last quarter - so swings and roundabouts, 'attacks' and defences, Neelds' and Roos'.

By three-quarter time I wanted to win as much to stuff up Dom Cassisi's farewell as anything. No offence to the guy, who I have nothing in the slightest against and who I've probably given about 23 seconds thought to in my life before yesterday, but everyone knows he chose to retire this week so he could play in a guaranteed win. Which he did, so good luck to him, but it would have been nice to stitch up his plan and then give him the guard of honour on the way off the field. It would have been especially cruel after that almost certain goal that he was jibbed out of by a novelty bounce, but I'd have taken it.

Alas with baffling decisions flying left right and centre we couldn't hold on. Tyson topped off his (spoiler) BOG return to form with a goal to put us back in front before we gave it away with first a traditionally shambolic defensive calamity, then by leaving Dunn isolated inside 50 against Schultz. There was still time if we were good enough (CLICHE) but we weren't (ABSOLUTE FACT). With the game on the line everyone shit themselves - Jones played on ludicrously from a free, Grimes kicked it out on the full with two players free and another four points went begging.

How we will look upon days like this in the future (which decade hasn't yet been decided) and laugh.

Hair Watch
Bernie Vince somewhat rescued his look by balancing out the cut rather than going for the reverse Morrissey back of head quiff again, but no matter what he did with the hair he wouldn't have been able to top Jasper Pittard for looking silly. As if being called Jasper isn't bad enough he's sporting some weird moustache despite otherwise having the face of a 13-year-old girl. It is several hundred times worse than Dunn's effort of recent years because it is clearly not being worn with any sense of irony.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Mark Jamar
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Jordie McKenzie

Apologies to Bail, Frawley, Howe, Pedersen, Riley, Viney and Watts.

With the maximum (remember him?) votes available now down to 25, Tyson's slight gain on Jones is enough to keep him in the hunt for the major award for another couple of weeks. Everyone below the dotted line is out of the running.

Howe might have snuck in for the single vote, but it wouldn't have really helped him in the Seecamp - which is bad news for all those who took the 500-1 "any other player" option at the start of the year. Meanwhile Jamar has shot out to a nearly unbeatable lead in the Stynes, and the race for the Hilton remains about as interesting as an evening's viewing on Channel 10.

41 - Nathan Jones
29 - Dom Tyson
27 - Lynden Dunn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
20 - Daniel Cross
16 - Chris Dawes, Jack Viney
14 - Bernie Vince
12 - James Frawley
10 - Jeremy Howe
9 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Cameron Pedersen
8 - Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald
7 - Matt Jones
6 - Jack Watts
5 - Aidan Riley
4 - Dean Kent
3 - Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Colin Garland, Jack Grimes, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jordie McKenzie, Jake Spencer

Stat My Bitch Up
We narrowly beat our average for the season, causing a rise of +0.49ppg to 61.17. As per the table posted last week this still leaves us second last in a 20+ game season, and needing 46ppg to remain above GWS 2012. You would think that this shouldn't be too difficult but there's no telling which Melbourne is going to show up from week to another. Whichever one it is you can be sure they're not going to score more than 100 points - we are now only a 26 game streak without a ton, our longest since 1921.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
No change at the top of the leaderboard. The Big 10 from the Essendon game remain in the box seat for the end of season prize. As for this week, at the risk of courting controversy I'm relegating Bail's arsey but still fantastic goal from the pocket to runner-up in favour of Blease's big run through the middle. An assist to all of Howe, McDonald, Jones and Frawley for playing a part but only Sam wins the weekly prize of a tour through the disused Holden plant at Elizabeth conducted by South Australia's own Peter Walsh.

For once there was a few contenders to pick from - credits also to long goals from Tapscott/Watts and the JKH goal on the run. If we kick this many attractive goals while only scoring 69 imagine the sort of entertainment we'd be putting on if we were scoring more than 100?

While I enjoyed the Dom Cassisi caricature on the Port banner it was otherwise an uninspiring effort. Congratulations to our side for a solid effort which acknowledged not only multicultural round but also our long suffering (other than the last time we played there) South Australian members. Demons win on "who travelled furthest to get there" tiebreaker to go 17-0.

Crowd Watch
When you're in the 99% crowd majority always ensure that you act as if you've been rorted by the umps all day even when you've been getting a fantastic run and they let you kick a goal even after one of your players has knocked out an opponent. So much bronx. So many grown men leaping to their feet and contorting their faces as if they're in legitimate pain. So many adults giving the finger. There's not enough poison gas in the world.

Next Time
Given that we're all 'tired' (players and fans included) this randomly placed week off probably comes at the right time, then straight back to the 'race' for/to avoid the wooden spoon. There's every possible chance we're going to lose to Brisbane - especially because it's at Docklands - but you would think (in the spirit of the Tankquiry) that St Kilda will be quite happy with the morale boosting win over Freo and will have scant interest in jeopardising picks 1 or 2 by winning again.

As for changes I take the footy fan's prerogative to selectively ignore form in the VFL to suit my own prejudices - if Harmes had got another 40 touches yesterday I'd be demanding rookie elevations, but because Nicholson did it then they don't count.

I'm going to say no change (with Grimes very lucky), but that's conditional on Tapscott being fit and Vince not getting suspended. If they are I'll have Michie and Jones back in. I've seen some suggestion that Cross might be fit again in two weeks, and if he is obviously he comes straight back in as well.

If we're going down to the Lions I hope it's as the result of the Stefan Martin Experience having 75 hitouts and kicking six.

Final Thoughts
Every time I start to get maudlin about how this season has gone since the magic of the Essendon match I try to remind myself how far we've come. It's like reasoning with yourself that it's better to have Smallpox than Ebola, but the fact remains that before this season started I would have crawled over broken glass to get three losses by 10 points or less.

Sunday 13 July 2014

5.6.36 - The number of the beast

If it feels like you saw this game before that's probably because it was an almost exact replica of last Saturday night in Darwin, and it wasn't much good then either. With a week to revise our tactics and enjoy the serenity of not playing against a side who has graduated from Strangulation Football University while we're still staggering around drunk in a toga at O-Week.

Not that playing Geelong should be much more of a comfort considering what they've done to us in recent years, but safe in the knowledge that they've gone from being a great team to a good team in the last year I thought we might at least give them some nervy moments. Even a replay of the North game where we annoy them until the third quarter before imploding would have been nice, but instead it was Freo in Darwin Redux.

Both games featured a five minute period at the start of the match where we matched it with the opposition but were too inept to complete scoring opportunities handed to us on a plate then didn't kick a goal at all in the first quarter. Then once the opposition realised that we weren't good enough to compete they unloaded a ruthless burst in the second quarter to put us away. Both times we managed to restrict the damage to aggravated GBH rather than a total pulverising despite kicking an embarrassingly low score. And neither game did anything for my enjoyment of season 2014.

The only difference between the two weeks was that the first one took place in unseasonable (for us, not Darwin) humidity and the second was played on the coldest day of the year so far. Several times during the afternoon bright sunshine came out, but like a Grimes family injury you were never more than five minutes away from pelting rain. It was so cold that the community service message on the scoreboard was changed to read "In the event of a major emergency you may be required to eat members of an Uruguayan rugby team for your own survival."

Notwithstanding the fact that I've seen some toxic performances against the Cats in recent years (which has been fantastic karma for my behaviour towards the locals at the final siren of Round 20, 2005) it was the final blow to the extreme feelgood factor which was unleashed by the Essendon game. The Fremantle game mortally wounded it, this match saw the life support system switched off.

The grim death march to the off-season has officially started. Admittedly it makes a big change to have it begin in Round 17 rather than Round 8 (2012) or Round 2 (2013), but having enjoyed the majority of the season so far I feel like I'm going to revert to my default state of watching the rest of it through my fingers as it turns ugly.

It also means that time is running out for comparing everything to the 2012/13 disasters - which is terrible news for me because that'll be about 75% of my material gone, but to kick off the last six weeks of the Carnival of Comparison I'd like to point out that almost one year to the day (364 days to be precise) we played pretty much the exact same game in the wet against the Cats at Kardinia Park. That's not to say we haven't improved (our percentage was 54.0 that week and is 71.8 now, down from a peak of 78.5 after the Essendon game) but only up to the level of a really bad team.

As will be demonstrated later in this post we're set to achieve our rightful place as one of the most boring teams in the modern era - scoring at roughly the same rate as the 1921 wooden spooner - but there are reasons to be cheerful. Or at least the hope that there will be in the not too distant future. For now we've got to get through the last six weeks of the season with a squad that has hit the wall physically and mentally in brutal fashion over the last two weeks.

The upside is that as deflating as the last two weeks have been neither game will be remembered in a decade - but when 2014 is remembered we'll always have the Adelaide Oval, Pedo's sealer against Carlton, Richmond stuffing up the Hafey game and the last two minutes of Essendon. Remember in the afterglow of the Bombers game where I fooled myself into believing that we had achieved comfortable middle class status? Well last night we were a couple of minutes away from 17th place when Brisbane almost toppled the Eagles.

Ever since that glorious Sunday evening the last month has had a real 2012/13 stink about it. Other than the 30 minutes against the Bulldogs when we came back from the dead by playing on instinct and brief, fruitless flashes of mediocrity against North we've been horrible. The fact that we've played two top four contenders and one almost certain finalist in that time has helped us escape criticism, but imagine for a minute Mark Neeld had managed to avoid answering his phone long enough to avoid the sack. Think of the shit he'd have copped for being involved in novelty videos with Sesame Street characters in the middle of two consecutive 11 goal losses where we scored under 40? Even before things turned 'nasty' last year there would have been lynch mobs chasing him down the street.

(NB: I've got no problems with them doing novelty videos. Nobody seems to have a problem when they're teaching schoolkids to read or high fiving kids in the carpark at Uluru, and neither of them contribute to what happens on game day. Maybe we should have shacked up with the Muppets instead of Sesame Street, but the "why don't you practice how to kick instead?" crowd are taking a pretty simplistic view of things. The least you can do when your club loses every week (12 of our current players are in the worst win/loss records in the competition) is give the players the opportunity to do 'something else' rather than treating them like inmates in a Soviet gulag)

Of course the scenario above is a trick, because in the first half of last year we'd have scored 36 and still lost the match by 20 goals, so considering how substandard our list is Roos gets plenty of credit for massaging a decent run out of them for 10 weeks - but it doesn't mean we don't still get to ask critical questions about what's going on. This can't become an Essendon fan/James Hird cult of personality where everything he does is genius even when it's practically the same as what the last guy did but with less injectable substances purchased in Tijuana.

He's feeling the strain of it all too, you could see it at the start of yesterday's press conference when he was rubbing his face like an Essendon doping victim trying to brush imaginary bugs off his skin. I don't blame him, because getting this team back up to standard must be like Fitzcarraldo trying to haul a boat over a mountain, but he's right into the footy equivalent of political leaders saying it's not their fault because the last administration stuffed things up so much. Which they may very well have, but the clock is ticking on how long that's going to be a good excuse.

His suggestion in yesterday's press conference that plenty of players weren't up for it seemed to be 100% correct, but it's a bit farcical to come out and blame the players' traumatic past for packing up at five goals down when we've had two comebacks from exactly the same position in the last six weeks.

I'm not here to defend the Mark Neeld era (impossible task), but we were all happy to hang him high for the sins of the players so we should at least ask the question of what the coaching team are doing to get the players up. Mark it down that he said in this press conference that it's his job to make sure they come out against Port firing on all cylinders, so look out to see what the reaction is if/when they belt us.

I'm not expecting him to conduct a North Korean style self-denunciation session but players didn't seem to attempting self-harm at 30 points down against Essendon or Footscray, so bringing it up now seems to be grasping at straws. At the risk of the Herald Sun printing a DEMON FANS TURN ON ROOS story (because they will print pretty much anything), was this Roos deflecting attention from weird situations like Selwood running riot for the entire first quarter without intervention or making Terlich the substitute with no obvious benefit? The Selwood debacle was raised but nobody followed up with a supplementary question asking why it took the entire first quarter to realise this and make the chance. Or maybe they did, the AFL are still too cheap to introduce a boom mic to press conference and it sounds as if they're asking questions from inside a pit.

As frustrated as I am at least now we try different things during a game, which is a significant difference to the recent past where the same set-up who were being butchered five minutes were still copping it at the 25 minute mark of the last quarter, and I still think he's got them going in the right direction, but the last fortnight shows that our previous coach didn't have a monopoly on presiding over rank, heartless performances - just that he wasn't street smart, experienced or beloved by all enough to talk his way out of them. There's also probably a significant difference in the reviewing style between the two - less screaming in people's faces that they're "weak c**ts" is probably a positive step.

This week it was Frawley back (presumably in an attempt to pump up his contract value and maximise the compensation), Dunn forward and at last a full game for The Pornographer Aidan Riley. Frawley wasn't terrible, but his performance would have hardly sparked a bidding war amongst 17 other clubs. Dunn didn't do anything in the forward line, and when he had a set shot it was revealed that he sadly no longer does his ludicrously elaborate hop/skip/jump routine. He deserved to miss for that reason alone - bring back the Dunn shuffle.

I was happiest with Riley, who was really good as an inside midfielder. He made a couple of high profile blunders, but if you shot one Melbourne player for every outrageous clanger you'd be topping up with the Casey Scorpions within two weeks. They've got to keep playing him based on that performance. He ran out of legs a bit in the end but considering the serious injury he was coming back from that's to be expected. I'm a fan.

The key difference between this week and last week is that we actually had some players worthy of getting in the votes. Chris Dawes is an easy target, and if you just looked at his stats you'd probably say he had an average game but some of the stuff he did yesterday which don't count towards Supercoach scores was fantastic. I loved his charge into the centre at the first bounce to lay a tackle, his tap-ons of loose balls and his hard running to get to contests. If we ever give him some help up forward instead of surrounding him with converted defenders, resting ruckmen and no crumbers EVER he'll be a good attacking weapon. He even held marks in the wet that he'd probably have dropped in the dry two weeks ago.

He could have contributed more by kicking goals, but the way we're going that's far too much to ask. Having said that I'm more frustrated at our lack of forward pressure than I am at not kicking goals in the first place. If we could learn to lock the ball inside 50 for more than two seconds at a time the repeat attacks would surely lead to more goals. Crumbers would help, but what are the chances? It's ludicrous how often we attack fruitlessly only to see the ball swept down the other end in a few seconds, and I'm well aware that I go on about this every week - because it happens every week.

Like last week Geelong spent the first quarter keeping us in the game with poor kicking at goal and around the field, but with scant resistance on offer they eventually decided to follow the script and beat our brains out instead. Despite botching our best chances in the forward line via indecision/general shiteness and handing them chance after chance with faulty kicking in defence they left the door slightly open for us at quarter time.

It wasn't until the second quarter when they steamrolled us, and it was looking like a goalless half until Howe took advantage of a patented RoosSwitch™ to get two in a row. Forget that the second one was a gift for some vague off the ball incident, it's heartening to see that we've got players who can change ends and make an impact. Maybe we should play him forward again for the rest of the season to try and spark something in our forward line/give Dawes some help. At least the option is there, which is nice.

My favourite part of the second quarter was when matchups broke down to such a ridiculous degree that Jamar ended up trying to stop Motlop taking a mark. Unfortunately it came down to a battle of speed rather than bulk and he was beaten, but why was he in that situation in the first place? Whoever was supposed to be on Motlop was nowhere to be seen.

Having discovered that the Ponsford Stand was colder than the North Pole I made use of my reserved seat for the first time in god knows how long, and after a half of throwing my arms up in the air in frustration and cursing the heavens I got up to go and drown my sorrows in a floppy MCG hotdog only to discover that the corporate box right behind me was filled to the brim with all the injured/rested players. Lucky I didn't bring the #fistedforever banner along.

I thought it would make the rest of the game slightly uncomfortable, like watching an execution while sitting with the victim's family, but just as the Lubemobile fleet was pulling up outside and readying for a 100 point thrashing we played a third quarter that was probably how the whole game was intended to go. The highlight was undoubtedly Jack Viney demonstrating his commitment to the cause by driving Joel Selwood temporarily bonkers with a tagging job. It's the second time in a few weeks he's tagged somebody to buggery, which is fine because we know that he's being groomed for greater things. His disposal efficiency is still questionable, but AT LEAST HE CARES. We should have either started with Viney vs Selwood or used McKenzie (who did a reasonable job on him in the second) as the very competent tagger he is.

I can only assume the idea that we'd be up four goals to two at half time was why dour defender Dean Terlich was named as sub. He was probably intended to come on and contribute to saving the day by engineering a double scoreless large quarter and a brave 29-28 MFC victory. Shame then that the damage was well and truly done before Deano had the chance to take his tracksuit pants off.

No sub would have been able to make a difference considering how shithouse the second quarter was, but I'm not entirely sure how he was supposed to contribute as a sub. I'm glad he took the bullet and ensured that Riley could play a full game, but surely we'd have got more out of Kennedy-Harris or (god forbid) Blease running around for a quarter?

In the end we only lost the second half by seven points despite plenty of players having fallen into the same pit that journos are asking their press conference questions from. I thought Neville Jetta was actually quite good, so I'm not entirely sure why they took him off for Terlich. A straight swap is fine when the game is in the balance, but don't tell me there weren't 10 players more worthy of being dragged than Nifty Nev. There's been no suggestion that he's injured so I'm calling bullshit on this one. Maybe they botched their substituting and took the wrong man off a'la Tyson vs Gold Coast.

On the plus side Garland stopped Bartel from wrecking us, so it was good to see him back in some good form, and Pedersen continued to battle hard. I cracked the sads when Gawn got dropped, but I concede now that in the rain it would have been foolished to play both of them and Jamar - and Pedo has done so well this year that he has to stay. If we could create a hybrid of Pedo's around the ground play and Gawn's taps we'd be laughing.

Geelong clearly no longer cared in the last quarter, so that probably saved us a bit, but plenty of our players look tired. Time to give Tyson a week off to put his feet up, and try some of our 'other' players. He's not the only one who could do with a rest, Watts could probably do with some time off as well - but given the amount of scrutiny he gets that'll end up with us on the front page of the papers. I swear he's physically NQR, he hasn't fired a shot since his shagger's back flamed up against North. If he needs to be put on the shelf to get him right for the future there's never been a better time than now. If we're still allowed to do that without being accused of tanking.

Speaking of disasters somebody needs to have a chat with Bernie Vince about whatever he's had done to his head. It was the most ludicrous MFC hair moment since Lynden Dunn's mo. First Evans, then McDonald, now Vince - forget videos with Big Bird I'm more concerned about our players doing stupid things with their hair in their spare time. If Tyson messes with his luscious locks in his week off I'll go on strike.

In the end we got the result that was expected and which we deserved. Yet again there were dodgy umpiring decisions all over the place, but suspect holding the ball calls don't mean players can't run into space and to provide an option for their teammates for the other 85% of the time. Or leave their opponents to run riot into space up and down the ground. Or to take marks and then wait for the entire opposition to get back between them and the target before kicking.

Work in progress. Slow work in progress.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Aidan Riley
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Chris Dawes
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Neville Jetta

Apologies will not be offered as any gentleman player would refuse them. Nevertheless Jeremy Howe challenged Nev for the last one.

30 votes left, so everyone behind Pedersen is now out of the running - and Jones looks to have banked enough votes in the first half of the year to get him over the line again. With our defence looking all over the place you would think that future Cat James Frawley wouldn't be able to reel in Dunn's 15 vote lead in the Seecamp from here.

With the Hilton still in a state of disarray the tantalising prospect of Jesse Hogan (or another first gamer) making his debut in the last month of the season, winning AND still being eligible to win next year is still on the cards. It would be a fiasco befitting the state of the competition this year.

As for the ruckmen Jamar might have put in a stinker, but he effectively won it two weeks ago with his performance forward against the Dogs. Gawn (or god forbid Fitzpatrick) is one BOG away from stealing a share of it, but he's hardly going to do that playing for Casey every second week is he?

38 - Nathan Jones
27 - Lynden Dunn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Dom Tyson
20 - Daniel Cross
16 - Chris Dawes, Jack Viney
14 - Bernie Vince
12 -  James Frawley
10 - Jeremy Howe
9 - Cameron Pedersen,
8 - Tom McDonald
7 - Matt Jones
6 - Neville Jetta, Jack Watts
5 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Aidan Riley
4 - Dean Kent,
3 - Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Colin Garland, Jack Grimes, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jake Spencer

Stat My Bitch Up
In the all excitement of last week I forgot the PPG update - and a week later it's not pretty at all. We're now down to 60.68, but the good news is that I've been relying on an unreliable stat the whole time and we're not actually the lowest scoring team in a 20+ game season (1945 and 1968-) just yet - the original GWS team still hold that dubious honour.

1266 - 63.3ppg - North Melbourne (1968)
1270 - 57.72ppg - GWS (2012)
1305 - 65.25ppg - St Kilda (1945)
1415 - 70.75ppg - Geelong (1945)
1452 - 66.00ppg - Fitzroy (1996)
1455 - 66.13ppg - Melbourne (2013)
1477 - 67.13ppg - Melbourne (1997)
1509 - 68.59ppg - Gold Coast (2012)
1513 - 68.77ppg - South Melbourne (1972)
1524 - 69.27ppg - GWS (2013)

The way it's going we're well on track for second place, unless we can overhaul the 38 point lead St Kilda has on us (63.06ppg) and throw them under the bus instead. No need to get excited, chances are we'll still be in third. Here's our final position based on the points-per-game average of the last six matches. Apart from draft picks this is basically all we've got to play for now.

100ppg - 71.40
90ppg - 68.68
80ppg - 65.95
70ppg - 63.22
60ppg - 60.50
50ppg - 57.77
45ppg - 56.40

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Obviously there was no challenge to the Big 10 vs Essendon for overall leadership of this prestigious award, but congratulations yet again to Bernie Vince for winning the weekly award for the umpteenth time for his quick kick on goal in the last quarter. What a pisstake to introduce this award in the year where we kick

For the weekly prize Bernard wins an Apple Newton to help him arrange his schedule, take advantage of all the great prizes he's won as part of this segment throughout the year and find a new hairdresser.

Crowd Watch
At the risk of being sued has there ever been a more suspect crowd figure than the one announced yesterday? I know when it rains more people are huddled up the back, and at Melbourne home games thousands head straight to the bar to drink themselves to a standstill but the claim that there were 36,000 people there must have been the result of a typo or a rogue scoreboard operator. There's no possible way that was correct, and the crowd who were there were quite right to gasp in amazement when it came up.

Sitting amongst the handful of people in the Redlegs section at least provided some proper Crowd Watch antics for the first time all season. In the immediate vicinity were an old lady who thought we were being rorted by the umpires, a few other lone weirdos like me and one very angry individual just across the aisle. He was sitting next to somebody but they never seemed to interact. I can understand why after enjoying (and I really was enjoying it) his first half performance where he would just yell one word demands of the umpire.

"BALL! HELD! HIGH! ARGH!" he would scream in short, sharp bursts with a tone of voice resembling Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. I've got no doubt that I was getting a preview of myself in 25 years - middle aged, with a hood pulled right up, body tilted forward with tension and a voice that sounded drenched in the misery of knowing you're never going to get to enjoy premiership success. So that's something to look forward to.

Much like the team he did his best work in the first 15 minutes, and only randomly vented his spleen until half time - at which point he must have realised the futility of it all and kept quiet. Which would have been the end of the fun if the MCG hadn't adopted an open borders policy when the rains came at half time and let a bunch of Geelong fans in to our reserved area as if there wasn't 15,000 seats in the general admission area of the Southern Stand where they could have gone instead.

I'm not taking the moral highground given that I've not been there for years, but the point of paying extra to sit in an area with no opposition fans deserves some respect. Try sneaking into the AFL or MCC Members sections and you'll probably wake up in a bathtub of ice without your kidney, but a reserve section 1/4 full of the sort of fans who usually just bend over and cop anything? No problems, just let anybody in.

Anyway, most of these interlopers were at least well behaved and restrained themselves from rubbing in the fact that their team is significantly better than ours - but there was one guy who was the exact opposite of Future Adam who eventually tipped him over the edge. They were both middle aged, but this guy obviously went through years of bitterness and thwarted ambitions before 2007 came along and an enormous weight was lifted off his shoulders. He sat bolt upright (which is almost compulsory considering the Tiger Airways-esque gap between seats), with his little headset radio on, cheerily punting his team home.

It took until midway through the last quarter for Future Adam to lose the plot at the guy, who was one row down and about four seats across. The family in front of me had gone home one minute into the last quarter when Geelong kicked a goal (why did they even wait through 3/4 time?) so they missed the action, but all of a sudden out of nowhere a perfectly innocent "Come on Cats!" set F.A off and he started screaming at him/mocking him "GO CATS! COME ON CATS! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! YOU'RE NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE HERE SO SHUT UP!"

I'd like to think that at this point even The Spencil gave up watching the game and started to fumble at the window of the corporate box with his plus sized hands to get it open and watch the potential biff, but the illegal immigrant Cats fan wasn't taking the bait. With the air of a man whose team was 70 points up and who has seen more premierships in the last decade than we will for the rest of our lives he just turned around and smiled at F.A, who was left without a reason to continue the 'argument' and shut up. At least he didn't try to start a fistfight or take the cowardly option of turning around and walking out. He stayed right until the end, and as the siren went we both stood up and went to walk up the aisle at the same time. I let him go first, he needed to go and get some fresh air quickly before he had a heart attack.

Meanwhile speaking of our fans, if we're supposed to be the upper class financially elite supporters of the league why do so many of our number insist on sporting the $2 shop MELBOURNE scarves and beanies? It's undignified. Put your hand in your pocket and support the club instead of being a highly visible tightwad. The club should send people out to intercept wearers of offending garments outside the ground and give them discount vouchers to the Demon Shop.

I have to hand it to our cheersquad for still putting in the effort to make a decent banner when by Thursday they must have known that their Saturday afternoon was going to be spent sitting in pouring rain watching a violent beating. With this hanging over their head they still went the extra yard to deliver another superior effort, complete with a jaunty little cartoon demon logo.

Geelong, on the other hand, introduced us to a bizarre white/fluro green lettering colour scheme where words RANDOMLY changed CASE EVERY few words for no DISCERNIBLE reason. There was no curtain deduction but they do lose points on a code violation for not having the common decency to display both sides to the crowd. Even a full 360ยบ rotation wouldn't have got them into the same timezone as our banner. 16-0 Demons.

Next Week
A few weeks ago we almost (relatively speaking) beat Port Adelaide. No really, we did. We also won last start at the Adelaide Oval. What this adds up to is the Power splitting us in two like an axe through a block of wood. I assume they're going to beat Richmond (update - 4pm Sunday: obviously not. Another fantastic prediction by the accurate one), but they could still do with another pre-finals morale booster against a dud side. Be very afraid.

As for changes good luck. Casey only narrowly beat Bendigo Gold, a side who hasn't won a game all year and recently announced they were folding at the end of the year so it's hardly a ringing endorsement for the potential replacements. Unfortunately having wafer thin depth on the list was always going to get us eventually.

It must be hard to gauge performances against horrible teams (which is ironically how most AFL teams probably feel about playing us), but I was pleased to see James Harmes listed as best on ground. In a blurry screenshot posted by the Casey Twitter account (who also have no idea how to use hashtags) he appears to have had 23 touches to half time. I've lost track of the status of our list, and whether we're still able to promote anybody but he might be a sneaky chance for a promotion in the last few weeks if he keeps this up.

IN: Blease, Clisby, Kennedy-Harris, Gawn, Michie
OUT: Kent, M. Jones, Grimes, Terlich (omit), Tyson (rested)
LUCKY: Bail, Tapscott, Watts, Frawley (under the "if you're not going to be here next year why are we bothering?" rule)

The rest of the year
We're in all sorts now. Not that I expected to win either of the last two games, but they've shown that there's more than a handful of players who have had it with 2014. From here I'd say we'd be lucky to win one of the Brisbane/GWS games and get through matches against Port, Hawthorn, West Coast and North without losing at least one by more than 100.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Remember the pre-season preview where I said I didn't care if we finished last with four wins as long as we achieved a percentage of 80? Well, at least we're never going to get back to 80% now so that won't be tested. It's also fair to say I didn't expect the shift in expectations caused by having three wins up in the first nine weeks.

Was it worth it?
Not if you paid more than $0.00 to get in. I can't see why any neutral would have paid $25 minimum to go and watch that knowing exactly what was going to happen given the teams and the conditions - but unless that crowd figure is a total swizz somebody must have. Thanks for your donation.

Final thoughts
Defence is fantastic, and I'm having a much better time this year than last but good luck growing our fanbase by kicking five goals a week. Here's to it all coming good eventually and ushering in a glory era before we end up in another death spiral that ends up another trip on bended knee to the AFL to bail us out again.

Sunday 6 July 2014

A return to traditional values

I rarely mix personal business with long-winded waffle about losing football games, but in this case it's continuing a storyline so go with it.

Not that it got a mention at the time, but my first proper date with the now Mrs. Demonblog happened immediately after we thumped Sydney. On the evening of 186 (link to post unfortunately missing) we went to a movie where I took out my frustration by yelling at some hipsters for talking, we got engaged the day after it became clear the 2012 season was going to be shite, and the afternoon of the day following our wedding hunkered down in the honeymoon suite the Dockers waffle us via an iPad.

And so, to continue the tradition of tying ever major event in my life into what was happening in the footy that week (nothing ever happen betweens the start of the finals and the first pre-season game) Saturday night's listless, slopfest watched on TV by just 63,000 masochists will forever be connected with a far happier occasion - a significant addition to the team at Demonblog Towers.

You may have missed it on Twitter, or alternatively you might be one of the smart ones who would rather blend their own head than use Twitter, but a short recap of events on Tuesday...
Born at 12.27pm, became a member of the Melbourne Football Club at 2.30pm, tears my heart out by declaring she's a GWS fan by 1 January 2019. Sections of the above name may be fictional.

This recruiting coup didn't come as a total surprise, I've been quite aware that this was on the cards since November - but the final delivery came a little sooner than expected. The original due date of Saturday 19 July became Thursday 10 July and then at about 1.30pm on Monday it was decided (by professionals I may add, not us because we fancied it) that little Jako was going to have to come out the next day - and in the most fast-tracked debut since Jack Watts on Queen's Birthday the future captain of the MFC women's team arrived less than 24 hours later. I'm pleased to say all involved are doing well, even if certain key players (i.e me and the kid) have no idea what we're doing.

It was a good week. The next day Jesse Hogan signed a contract extension, and had my faltering BLEASE FOR THE 1's campaign finally succeeded on Thursday night everything would have come together nicely, but you can't have everything and a week spent dealing with enormous quantities of excrement was a great warm-up to last night's game.

An underrated aspect of the surprise entrance early in the week was that by Saturday night the situation had stabilised enough that I was able to scuttle away from the hospital and return to my beloved Demonblog Towers to watch the match in the comfort of my own living room. Good thing it wasn't on Channel 7 (as if they're stupid enough), because my new family man gimmick would have been exposed as a fraud by an evening of blue language and abuse of furnishings.

There was a slight sense of guilt in doing a runner to watch this of all games. Having spent 90% of the week living in the medical version of a low security prison it was a good excuse for a change of scenery but the match was never, ever going to end well. If ever there was a game to miss, and by the look of my Twitter feed on the night plenty of our fans had taken the sensible decision to watch Essendon vs Port instead, this was it - but I keep being drawn back. It seems rude to turn back any of this slightly improved season having 'enjoyed' the last couple in their entirety.

So, enough of this brief foray into tedious daddy blogging and back to our core business - tedious sports blogging.

The usual disclaimers about how much better we are off now than in the era spanning 186 and Round 23 2013 obviously apply, but the post-Essendon feelgood factor has almost totally evaporated. Throwing away two games in a row courtesy of a few minutes of madness was painful, but at least we looked semi-capable of kicking decent scores again. What better team than Freo to show up and deliver the ultimate reality (bus) check?

"Top four side beats bottom four side's brains out" is hardly a huge news story, so if you were a neutral and simply looked at the scores you'd probably think it was just natural justice having its way with us. In a way it was - we had a reasonable start to the Ross Lyon at Freo era by kicking 6.4.40 in the first quarter of our first meeting, and despite losing by six goals it was one of several false dawns over the last few years where it looked like we'd turn the corner. In the four games since we've kicked an average of 38 points a game. Wheel out whatever coach you like, Rosco has got us on a leash like we're at a fetish club.

So have we got any right to be as upset about this week's 63 point loss as the 95, 90 or 61 point defeats which preceded it? I'd say yes, and with yet another disclaimer to point out that's despite us probably playing 'better' in Darwin than in any of those other three games. 'Better' is of course subjective when you're involved in an abusive relationship with an opposition coach who would still engineer a 10 goal win if he coached from inside a sensory deprivation tank - but at least this time we can put some of our obscenely low score down to missed opportunities rather than a total stranglehold by the Dockers.

It's (financially) a good thing we signed a contract extension with the Northern Territory during the week, because after delivering the sort of 'entertainment' we did last night they might have been on the phone to Footscray - the only other poor club who hasn't found an interstate venue to flog their games to - to try and replace us. We've already been personally run out of the ACT by their Chief Minister after the 2009 season, but fortunately the NT government has seen fit to keep writing us cheques - and while we're still losing money hand over fist while playing in Victoria we'll have to do something to keep ourselves afloat. Not sure they're getting their money's worth having 63k people nationally watch games played there, but it's their money so keep it coming.

It would be interesting to find out which point of the game the viewing figures were taken from, because there was a few minutes at the start where we actually looked like the better side without getting any reward for it. I seem to recall a similar pattern to our last meeting - we held them out for five minutes and even kicked a goal (just the one, it was an MFC first quarter after all) before punching ourselves out after five minutes then rolling over and dying when the going got too tough.

This time we didn't get a goal (not even one, it was an MFC first quarter after all) but could have had one via Max Gawn, outmarked in the square by a player 5ft shorter, or courtesy of Dawes who dropped a mark (FFS), gathered the crumb (YES!) then sprayed an easy snap (FFS!). When you score as little as we do you can't afford to go missing easy chances like that - but they weren't the only offenders throughout the night.

After 12 minutes of threatening to kick a goal despite seemingly playing without a forward line to receive our aimless hoofs inside 50, a missed snap by Nathan Jones allowed the Dockers their chance to deploy the same move every decent team does against us - converting a kick-in to a goal within 10 seconds by going straight down the middle of the ground to an easy mark then finding a player running unattended into an open goal.

Shortly afterwards the Turnover Kings struck again and the death march began. Picking out individual clangers in an MFC game is cruel considering at least half the team are responsible for one horror cock-up every game, but special mention must go to Jack Grimes following up his best game of the season last week by contributing to the tide turning with a hospital handball to Howe, who proceeded to shit himself in the tackle and dribble out a little handball to nobody in particular.

That shambles aside we were at least playing with intent in the first quarter, and Freo did their best to keep it lively by dropping easy marks and generally playing like they'd never been in humidity in their life, but with nobody seemingly capable of taking a contested mark and no burst players capable of showing up out of nowhere and doing something special it was only a matter of time before they choked us out.

They also helped us out by missing a bunch of easy chances, and like all good MFC wins the door was momentarily left open. Then Dawes held a mark for the first time in two weeks and didn't even go close to converting a set shot from 20m out on not much of angle. Two minutes later a meltdown at a defensive stoppage cost us another goal and it became abundantly clear that even on an off-day Fremantle are not flaky enough to fall-apart and let a side like us take advantage.

From there the evening descended into quite possibly one of the most tedious Melbourne games I've seen in recent years. Not that I want to run into opposition teams kicking 150 points and tearing us to shreds, but at least when that happened you'd sit there and appreciate it with a horrified fascination. This was a good side holding a poor one at arm's length and never expending more than the minimum of effort. At least Sylvia did nothing instead of exercising the option of all ex-MFC players to play their one great game at a new club against us.

Finally, 10 minutes into the second quarter Pedersen and Kent decided to take the game on (CLICHE) instead of stop-start slop and were rewarded for it with a goal. It helped that Kent converted on the run from a ludicrous angle, but thank god we've got at least one player capable of doing that. As much as I love Blease I'm prepared to admit that Kent looks like he does the same thing with far greater efforts across four quarters. He'd been down the last two weeks after the heroics of the Essendon game, but is far from our worst player at the moment.

At least having a player who can kick goals on the run makes up for not having anybody else looking likely around half-forward. I'd have thought Frawley could have helped in that regard having taken a shitload of marks from a lot of dodgy kicks when used as a forward, but for some reason he ended up back in defence despite Pavlich's late withdrawal leaving Freo without a vast array of talls.

He wasn't kicking an outrageous amount of goals up front, but he was far more likely to run to the ball and hold an important mark than some others. It was even more bizarre considering Pedersen has been quietened a bit in the last few weeks after his burst of career best form. It's not like we're well equipped to win the ball if it's kicked forward and not marked so why not play somebody down there who has proven that he can do just that. I thought - controversially as it turned out - that he was amongst our best last week but I'm into the horses for courses policy.

Not surprisingly the first time he went near the ball in the middle of the ground after being switched forward for the last quarter he marked it. The fact that he didn't have anyone to kick it to was secondary to the fact that many of our other forwards would have dropped it. Compensation issues aside I really think that if we can't get another decent forward in the off-season that we'd be better having him to play down there to take some of the heat off Hogan. The last thing I want is for Hulkamania, now being paid obscene money for somebody who has played two pre-season matches, to be ruined Toumpas style by being thrown to the wolves in his first year.

The fact that we're reverting to previous form is a huge win for Chip, who can now claim with a straight face (but smouldering pants) that we're not progressing enough for him to stay. I'm 90% that he's leaving now (based on nothing more than intuition), and am sad about it but as long as he manages to extract ridiculous amounts of money from another club in order to maximise our compensation hopefully we can swap that pick for an established player to help us take the next step back to the sweet mid-table mediocrity that we got a taste of a few weeks ago.

Back to the second quarter, where we momentarily held the Dockers up and played our customary dominant 10 minutes of a quarter for no reward before falling in a black hole never to be seen again. The theory behind boring the shit out of everybody momentarily seemed sound when Grimes - suddenly as much of an attacking option as you get with us in the last few weeks - won a free in the pocket. He missed, and soon half the team went missing as the Dockers did what they pleased.

I love that we're no longer (just yet) the sort of team to be 10 goals down at half time, and am well aware that Freo are the masters of slowly garrotting the opposition, but we've only got ourselves to blame this time. Giving up 51 points from turnovers doesn't say it all, but it says enough. The respective systems were never going to produce a 150-130 shootout, but it doesn't mean you can't finish some of your tiny number of chances and/or create a few more. At least the popular Kent/Pedo combination made something out of nothing instead of trying to work through the sludge to create the perfect opportunity or just get ball, kick ball, see ball marked by defenders and rebounded straight to the other end in trampoline fashion.

So by half-time the dream of luring them into stuffing it up was dead and the game was shot. At the risk of anti-Roos apostasy, and accepting of the fact that we're playing for bugger all this year, I wish he'd have taken a chance on the sub earlier. As long as the feedback is delivered constructively you're not going to crush Salem's youthful spirit by admitting that he's done nowt and replacing him with Barry at half time. Why wait until the game is shot before introducing a different type of player? Even if they wanted to try Salem in a different role to try and get his hands on the ball there was a lengthy queue of other potential victims waiting to be dragged off. To his credit Salem got into it more in the second half, but he still needs to go back to Casey and smash a few games to get his touch back. Barry, on the other hand, is clearly nowhere near it at the moment but if you're going to pick somebody as the sub at least back them to make a difference.

Speaking of declining to implement alternative plans, perhaps the "Belt it towards Jamar" tactic from kick-ins should be shelved when he's playing against a giraffe like Sandilands? It cost us a goal in the third quarter. Later Dunn tried a gigantic hoof down the middle of the ground and that came straight back for a goal too, so be careful what you wish for I suppose.

We had to go 35 points behind before finally kicking our second goal. Which sounds familiar, but unlike last week we weren't playing a team at our level and Freo didn't fall into the trap of letting us get a run on by kicking multiple goals. Despite the extreme excitement factor of scoring two goals in more than a half of football end of season malaise started to kick in. Midway through the quarter I got distracted and wandered out of the room to do something else. Luckily I walked back in just to see Bail kicking his goal, which was nice because if you miss any MFC goal you might not see another one until 2015.

At this point I was half tempted to leave and do something sensible like rejoining my family, but couldn't bring myself to go in case I missed 'something' in this dull as dishwater game. It wasn't just me who was starting to look like they were reaching for the end of the season (oh how I will miss it come October though), half our side are still listed as missing by the NT Police and Freo were just trotting around doing whatever they liked.

I was half tempted to leave at three quarter time and do something sensible like returning to my family, but couldn't bring myself to.even though the whole thing was as dull as dishwater. Missed Grimes' turnover goal in the third because I'd lost interest again, and if you'd turned in to see a tough performance by our team you'd have been sorely disappointed. Freo were just running around doing whatever they liked. Fortunately they only wanted to deliver some light GBH rather than a total massacre.

You can cite game styles all you like, but we had plenty of chances to get in a scoring position and couldn't convert. The idea of setting up the Maginot Line and trying to keep opposition scores down is fine, but the amount of opportunities we stuff up due to shithouse kicks out of the middle, not having quick running players around the half-forward flank or any crumbers inside 50 is criminal.

At one point during the third quarter Pedersen ended up in the ruck, and it looked like even the coaches had given up but it turned out they'd eventually introduced Barry at the expense of Gawn. Thank god they finally got the kid on just to see if he could make a difference, but why not give Gawn the game-time against one of the best ruckmen in the comp? He's got the potential to be the undisputed #1 when Jamar retires, so let's stop pissing about with him and start preparing for the future.

Eventually 10 minutes into the last quarter I'd had enough of listening to Tony Shaw (whose one contribution to footy broadcasting appears to be whacking Dermott Brereton in the cock in the League Teams ad) and listened to the rest in the car. Managed to miss precisely zero goals, and can probably live without seeing 15 minutes of a 2013-esque bending over for a top team.

The next few weeks will tell whether or not we can show anything against good sides again like we did against Sydney (albeit while only kicking five goals) or whether this season is being thrown in the 'too hard' basket and planning for 2015 has started. If it's the latter then for god's sake can we please try some more of the 'other' players instead of going in with the same team every week?

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
One of those glorious games where nobody actually deserved a vote, but as per the Demonblog Constitution somebody's got to get them...

5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Matt Jones
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Bernie Vince
1 - Dean Kent

Apologies to the other 17 players who are about as worthy of votes as most of the above.

Seven games left, and 35 points on offer so good news to Dean Kent in that his one vote has kept him eligible for the big prize. It's still NJ's to lose, but his nearest challengers have done him a huge favour by being down on form/injured in the last few weeks. The Hilton remains farcical.

38 - Nathan Jones
27 - Lynden Dunn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Dom Tyson
20 - Daniel Cross
14 - Bernie Vince
13 - Chris Dawes
12 -  James Frawley, Jack Viney
10 - Jeremy Howe
9 - Cameron Pedersen,
8 - Tom McDonald
7 - Matt Jones
6 - Jack Watts
5 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Neville Jetta
4 - Dean Kent,
3 - Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Jack Grimes, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jake Spencer

Stat My Bitch Up
The first quarter was our 8th 0/1 goal opener of 2014. This compares 'favourably' to the other years of the dark ages:

2007 - 4 (2 Daniher, 2 Riley)
2008 - 9
2009 - 8
2010 - 6
2011 - 5 (4 Bailey, 1 Viney)
2012 - 9
2013 - 8 (5 Neeld, 3 Craig)

Total - Bailey 27 (32.53%), Neeld 14 (42.42%), Roos 8 (53.33%), Craig 3 (etc..), Daniher 2, Riley 2, Viney 1

It might all be in the best possible taste and in the name of stopping us conceding 1000 points a game, but if it hits 10 this year the Bailey Quarter may officially become the Roos Quarter.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
For a while it looked as if Pedo/Kent (Pent? Kedo?) was going to win by default, and even though there were three more goals none of them were better. Congratulations to the duo who win a double pass to the Viewbank Secondary College production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. Tickets are not transferable.

The Big 10 are still the clubhouse leaders for the goal against Essendon.

Given that the Dockers cheersquad didn't even bother to make a banner our team could have won even if they'd created something made out of tissue paper, which unsuccessfully attempted to merge pop culture phrases and obituaries, with 0's instead of O's and a curtain large enough to march King Kong through and they'd still have won. As it was they produced a banner of a good standard, and with extra points for the effort of transporting it to Darwin the only possible result is 15-0 Demons.

I wish the Freo players had run on and committed a deliberately provocative move like running through our banner.

Also may I say as I start to get jaded with this season the gusto that the community has taken to Banner Watch with has been a highlight. Keep on crepeing on.

Draft Watch
It's abundantly clear to me now that we won't finish outside the bottom four, so odds on three superstars and one honest toiler will go in the first few picks and we'll get the toiler. I'll just assume the first pick will end up being a disappointment, so I'm left hoping for us to finally use an insignificant national draft or rookie pick on some ill-bred lunatic with face tatts. You'd think I'd have learnt my lesson after demanding a hard coach for years then getting a pyromaniac who showed up with his own can of petrol, but no. Give us the insane. So much the better if they can play as an exciting half-forward flanker or crumber.

As for top line players I like the sound of this Christian Petracca guy just because he's a half-forward flanker which would give us the chance to actually play with one for once. There's also somebody called Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, so let's get him as part of the #draftsillynames campaign.

Next Week
Writing off Geelong is a national sport, and we've all indulged ourselves in a spot of it at some point only for them to leap out of the grave at the last minute and make us look foolish. They're hardly flying on all cylinders this year, but you'd think they've still got more than enough class to take care of us. Would be a fine time to make some sort of statement about how we're not intending to remain in the wooden spoon race, but coming back from Darwin I'd say fat chance. Prove me wrong gents, prove me wrong.

Apparently Casey choked on a giant set of plums again. Probably didn't help them that we were playing interstate and presumably took a couple of emergencies in case anybody did a Nifty Nev Jetta and got the trots just before the bounce. We were kind enough to leave Nicholson behind so it's not a totally loveless relationship, and along with Riley he was the only MFC listed player in the bests so that's not a great sign. So on that note...

IN: Tapscott, Jetta, Riley, Kennedy-Harris
OUT: Salem, Terlich, Barry, Bail (omit)
UNLUCKY: Bail - who hasn't been all that bad, but give him a week as the emergency and try somebody else.

Final Thoughts
We've got an ugly few weeks coming up. Top 8 by the time my kid graduates high school.