Sunday 26 July 2015

Throwing deckchairs off the Titanic

Friends and sympathisers, I've not yet had time to proof read the post below so buyer beware. Which is also what it says on the back of our membership cards

In a week where the lesser Hulk Hogan has been exposed for being a bit of a racist it seems all that's left for us in 2015 is to take our vitamins and say our prayers that the red and blue one isn't sunning himself at Subiaco by Round 1 next year.

There were plenty of signs that this was not a day that would get the international market excited about football (first hint - the teams involved), but for Melbourne fans the second half of last week was probably all that was required to indicate there was a fiasco in our very near future. 

I've got no regrets at being happy about winning then, because as discussed at the time with our record you take it wherever you can get it, but the idea that it would translate to two in a row against a side in significantly better form than us was fanciful. Not that it was by any means an 'unwinnable' game, but St Kilda has vaulted off the bottom and straight past us at a million miles an hour this season. 

Even though we'd won the same number of games and might have beaten them a few weeks ago were it not for bungled timekeeping the last fortnight should have demonstrated that they would have more than enough in store to see us off. A sudden shock return to Kardinia Park style magic couldn't be ruled out, but after quarter time last week we were equal to or worse than the bottom side in the competition so I expected a next start let-down.

So it's not so much that we lost to St Kilda, if I couldn't handle that I'd be in a loony bin by now, but the way we set about totally dismantling ourselves to the point where by the last quarter nobody had any bloody idea what was going on.

When it comes to rebuilding quickly it helps to be able to revolve your side around one of the greatest players of a generation, and to have a solid crop of experienced players from a (relatively) successful recent future to complement the wide array of draft picks. We've had Nathan Jones rise from the backbenches to shoulder a herculean load, but what a luxury to have a future Hall of Famer like Riewoldt to hold it all together. 

Surely this is the year we at least get a player on the All-Australian shortlist (Vince or Jones, sadly Sizzle has slid too far down the board since Queen's Birthday) but shit sides who have finished below us on the ladder always seem to have at least one player in the team itself. We are trying to rebuild with no superstars, a handful of good players, promising kids and dregs - it's going to take some amazing luck to turn this around in any meaningful way before Jones' time is up - and it makes me sad in advance that if we are ever going to get better he might miss out. On what we saw yesterday the captain would have to drag out his career to absurd Dustin Fletcher style lengths to be involved. 

Fortunately, if the day had to turn out as the sort of footballing disaster that causes me to go off on massive philosophical tangents about how stuffed we are - the lightly read footy blogger (when do we get our TV show?) wheel of fortune spun in my favour and I wound up in a corporate box. Which at least meant I was physically comfortable while being tormented mentally.

This brief interlude as one of footy's rich and famous (hardly) didn't preclude me from being randomly selected for a metal detector check as I walked in the ground to scan my membership before walking straight back out and going in on the free ticket in an attempt to rort the attendance figures by one. It was 'random' in that there was absolutely nobody else going in so who else was he going to pick? I'm not suggesting it's a completely useless procedure, because one day somebody will try and get a rocket launcher into a Melbourne game, but given that it failed to detect any number of metal objects in my pockets let's just put it down as a token gesture rather than a serious attempt to catch people carrying samurai swords.

Having to get there 80 minutes before the first bounce was a small price to pay to avoid the elements. I'm too overly invested to walk out on any game early these days, and would have otherwise sat there until I couldn't feel my hands being 100 times more bitter and twisted about the disaster unfolding in front of me. Which would be saying somebody because days like this make me nothing if not bitter and twisted at accidentally following a club who turned a promising start into a decade long cover of the theme from Benny Hill.

I'd certainly never say no to an invite (PS this is not a hint), but in reality since I turned 18 and stopped being a drunken disgrace in superboxes I've been a terrible box mate. The expected behaviour is obviously to become uproariously intoxicated, make use of the suspiciously long and otherwise pointless steel bench in the toilet to do a Harley Bennell then spend four quarters scaring children by yelling obscenities out the window. Even with the motivation for self-destruction that comes with following Melbourne I'm too old for that now, and the only potential for drama all day was when some knob opened the window and as Arctic winds ripped through me I considered tipping him out.

The point to not being outside was that you didn't have to wear 13 layers of clothes, and here we have people throwing the window open and enjoying the elements. I'm a massive fan of winter but that was just too much. Nevertheless first world (actual world, not AFL world where we'd be lucky to cling on to third world status) problems aside you will be pleased to know I enjoyed the opportunity to eat about 13 sausage rolls and all but confirm a massive, fatal heart attack at three quarter time of the 2032 Grand Final just as the Dili Demons are finally poised to win it all.

Due to the early start the carnival atmosphere of free pastry and all the booze I wasn't interested in drinking was interrupted to study our initial warm-up, and the only thing of any note I manage to take from it was that Jesse Hogan was wearing an enormous pair of headphones. We used our industry connections to find out what he was listening to, and were not shocked by the results.

In another sign that the day wouldn't end well he nearly killed the one kid standing on the fence by getting soccer fever from the still-visible world game pitch imprinted on the MCG turf and attempting an ill-advised kick off the ground towards Nathan Jones which whizzed over Chunk's head and clacked into the top of the fence. A foot higher it would have caused the kid to do a full 360 and wind up in the Epworth. That's all we need, another lawsuit on our hands.

Whether you thought pouring rain or lovely sunshine was better for our chances of winning, Melbourne's weather had something for you before the game. By the end our team was so confused that even though the ground would have been heavy from all the rain just minutes before - and during - the game that they decided to play like it was taking place on Copacabana Beach instead of just hoofing it long to a contest. Not that hoofing it long helped us much when we actually did it, but it didn't have as much negative impact as trying to handball St Kilda to a standstill and hit laser like passes. It should be noted that in similar circumstances against the Bombers I was grumpy at them instinctively kicking long so at the moment I'm about as confused as our forward line set-up.

The long sleeves on St Kilda's jumper made them look like they were wearing a bio-hazard suit, which would have been exceedingly apt for the sort of poisonous slopfest they were about to be involved in. Let the record show that while we were absolutely slaughtered by the umpires we were playing so badly that even if they'd given us the free kicks we'd have handed the ball straight back anyway. In a low scoring game the Saints got some goals from questionable frees but when your entire side kicks six it's difficult to get up in arms too much about being rorted once or twice.

Yes, it was another glorious day for Melbourne football - the most damaged brand in the world of any organisation that hasn't killed somebody (although you could make a case given our recent history, let's see what toxic horrors turn up when they redevelop Junction Oval). The club that is single handedly fighting a rearguard action against knee-jerk rule changes by proving some players couldn't hit a target no matter how free and open the sport was engineered to become.

From the start you could tell something was wrong, much like the Essendon game Gawn was tapping everything and we were getting nothing out of it. They left the gate open by missing chances early, Hogan botched a sitter from right in front, simple disposals by both sides were failing to land in the same area code as their intended target and you knew it was going to be the sort of game to launch a thousand newspaper thinkpieces about the state of the game.

Once we did get our hands on it our forward line couldn't have been more dysfunctional. My kingdom for a properly functioning half-forward line. After his best game of the year last week Dawes started the game by taking a good overhead mark, then spent the rest of the quarter balancing the ledger by stuffing things up. Garlett was absent, McDonald was battling hard up the ground but couldn't get near it inside 50 (and should he have to? I'd much rather he went back on Riewoldt and did what he does best) to make a scoreboard impact and until Jones took it on himself to kick an absolute corker from the boundary line it was threatening to be a nil-all draw decided on behinds.

That was as good as it got for us, and the game was all but lost in the next few minutes when we caved in ans conceded four goals in a row. Our ball movement was absolutely putrid, and theirs wasn't much better but at least they managed to get players into space and string two kicks together instead of going around in circles by hand and foot until turning it over. Their first goal came when Riewoldt was left a mile in the open like a rookie (and never mind, their rookie forward was having a day out too) and managed to recover from a shithouse kick to set it up. In the process Nathan Jones did something which symbolised his last few seasons, putting his body on the line in a desperate attempt to stop them scoring but only coming out of it battered and bruised. Fortunately it wasn't serious because he's built like a brick shithouse, but it would have been an apt way for him to get hurt - trying to save the club without a teammate anywhere to be seen.

Riewoldt got a goal of his own a minute later, and he deserved it for having rescued his side from disaster to get the first one. Meanwhile at the other end we had players trying wild soccers off the ground and missing short passes to totally unaccompanied teammates. There's the difference between the sides for you. One of the many issues was that too often Hogan was up the ground taking strong marks and kicking it towards Dawes rather than the other way around. 

He might have been a bit down because his Hulkamania gimmick has been wrecked but we only managed to get it to him one-on-one in the forward line twice, one for an easy shot missed and one where he marked in the goal square then started his run-up in Williamstown before fortunately kicking it. Hulk Jesse tried hard for little reward, but he must get frustrated being on the end of that delivery. I love when he pushes up the ground and takes big grabs but unless there's somebody for him to kick it at what's the point?

What chance somebody takes a mark 60m out then turn around and kick it to a forward before opponents can get back and force a contested pack mark? Nil apparently. Then again, when St Kilda went down the other end and did the exact same thing they enjoyed the farcical scene of our defence parting like the red sea and straight into a forward's arms. Gleeful.

Jack Grimes was racking up possessions left right and centre but if there's a stat about attacking impact of a player he would have to have been near zero. Can't help when you look up and you've got a teammate one foot away but you don't have to give it to them - and he wasn't alone on that front. Lumumba's game didn't do much for me but at least he knew that when he got it the best course of action - after doing a bit of twinkletoed dancing - was to just roost it and hope for the best.

Max Gawn continued to press his claims as the #1 ruckman for many years to come by not only getting taps galore but quality possessions, and big marks. He's also the only player who tries to take contested marks in our defensive 50 rather than merely punching the ball towards the line but I suppose it helps that he's 7 foot tall.

On the other end of the scale vandenBerg was having a shocker, and we all hope that he's not about to plummet off the cliff Magner style but we'll know it's serious when he ends up being converted into a half-forward flanker.

It was a shit game, and one goal first quarters make the baby Jesus cry, but let's not go off on one about the future of the sport based on clashes between bottom sides. Quality of game discussions should take the same view as figure skating and knock out the highest and lowest scores to get a better picture of the real figure.

Quarter time was highlighted by Roos storming out and waving his arms around like a madman in the huddle, so we can only assume that if he thought that quarter was worth cracking the shits about that his post match review is going to involve a white sheet and a shotgun. I wouldn't say he was totally without fault, he was seemingly hardly reacting to make changes to things that weren't working and it looked like the only adventurous move all day was to send McDonald back into defence as a loose man late in the second quarter after we'd kicked two goals in a row. I know that 95% of all posts on here involve me whinging about us giving goals straight back after kicking them but that felt slightly defeatist. Good to see him pinching moves off noted coaching legend James Hird though, that will end well.

The blast must have had some effect because we dominated the first few minutes of the second quarter, but in another throwback to that well-loved Essendon game we were throwing away chances like they aren't precious - and got to 1.6 before kicking another goal. The Entertainers are back.

Meanwhile in a nod to last week (if we're going to do nostalgia can we look at 1998 instead?) it was like we expected the opposition to keep playing like arseholes all day to keep us in it, but unfortunately unlike Brisbane the Saints were capable of rising above that level before it was too late. We got the two late goals and kept them without one but were hardly looking likely to run away with it. Somehow at half time each side was reported to have a 76% disposal efficiency, which was like having a body that was 76% burn free and 24% which had been charred by Napalm.

You'd think considering the way we were playing the heavy rain which fell early in the third quarter would have helped us, instead it was the cue for St Kilda to turn it up a notch and start kicking set shots like it was dry. Meanwhile we sat around with our thumbs collectively up our arses watching them do this, putting those thumbs in danger of serious injury considering how often players were falling on said arses.

I'd like to think that by using the sub wisely the game could have been altered, but while 'Having a Vivian' is usually rhyming slang for taking a slash, in Michie's case it may as well stand for sitting on the bench for half the game wearing a high visibility vest then getting dropped immediately. He was ok when he came on for the struggling vandenBerg - and certainly better than when he came on against the Saints last time - but by the time he was let free they already had their tails up. Not expecting him to come on and play like Gary Ablett but something different would be nice instead of cheerily going off to the gallows without protest.

It was a lovely Riewoldt (who else?) goal that did us in - from a ball up towards the Members' Wing where we didn't have anybody goal side and the ball was slapped straight into the hands of a running player who kicked it down his throat. By this time the players were starting to look frazzled and I do wonder if playing all the seniors players in the pre-season is starting to get to them. Still the right thing to do, but having some depth to give them a break would be great.

Just to add to the fun there was a second during the quarter where I thought McDonald had done his knee in Jonathan Patton "still able to run off" style. Turned out that he'd just been clawed in the face during a marking contest. No need for a free kick though, even though it was the AFL's annual PAY EVERYTHING Round to try and stop the media whinging.

What a real fillip the sudden change of umpiring this week was for the game in this difficult time (4000 per game under the all time record for average crowds which was set before every game was on live, just shut the league down we're all doomed), and I know many fans who have been hoping for the weeks that the league would put every club on double secret probation and start pinging them for every minor indiscretion. 

It would be fair enough if they started doing that in Round 1 then continued it through to the final siren of the Grand Final, instead of introducing it in Round 17 then dropping it at the end of Round 23 just so commentators can tell us how great it is that the whistle is put away in the finals.

Fortunately the Sizzle eyes and knee both game good and he returned, thrown into defence again late in the quarter when we had got back into it only for us to crack open and let them kick a late goal. Tyson had the chance to cut the margin again right at the end but if anybody's knows what has happened to the Dom Tyson of 2014 please advise the Melbourne Football Club immediately.

The star of the third quarter was Jack Viney, who was tagging Jack Steven into the ground and racking up touches at will. Even his disposals weren't as wonky as usual, capping off his best game yet. Taking the piss out of individuals for poor kicking in a team like this is impolite, but other than the one that caused a goal in the first quarter his turnovers weren't as damaging as others. He is rapidly growing in stature as a tagger who can also do damage but let's see what happens when other sides work it out and start hunting him instead. Either way he'll go as far as somebody who throws themselves into the game that hard can before their head caves in and they have to retire to the couch.

The wind was in our favour in the last quarter so if Tyson had kicked that (I can't slag us for conceding the one before so soon after complaining about the use of the loose man) we were an outside chance, but in another tribute to the Essendon game we'd left ourselves with too much to do. This time we didn't even have it in us to give them a scare and the Saints trotted away to an easy victory.

Throwing Garlett into the middle for the first bounce of the last quarter was great, and he hoovered up the first hitout in expert fashion then did the right thing by just lobbing it in quick and hoping for the best but a St Kilda player got in the way (as they so often did) and that was our last gasp. We go straight down the other end and Jetta - who had played a really good first half before it all went tits up for him - gifted the Saints his second goal in a row and it was officially over.

Sadly 'officially' didn't mean that everyone got to pack up and go home, so we enjoyed the two sides going through the motions for the next 30 minutes. Despite the conditions half the team hadn't had a tackle to this point, and we only managed 57 for the game so there's your weekly statistical indictment.

It got to the point where even the umpires had given up, and after guessing all day they managed to ping Jack Watts for handballing over his head. Watts has had a hard enough time, that's the last thing he needs. He got the ball enough but I didn't think he played a particularly good game, and looked like he wanted to be almost anywhere else. Maybe if he can't get to sunny Queensland where nobody knows who he is he should try and get traded to an Docklands side to avoid having to play in the conditions?

There was one other farcical moment where Jack had his legs taken out but the umpire paid a free to the opponent for in the back. There was some suggestion the free had happened before the slide but if the rule has been introduced for the safety of players why doesn't it supercede everything else? If you got pushed in the back then punched somebody in the face they would get the free, why isn't it the same with sliding? Perhaps because it was another knee-jerk rule introduced at the drop of a hat, leaving umpires with another interpretation to confuse everyone with.

Against all odds by the five minute mark of the last quarter I was the only person in the box left seriously watching the game. Even the father/son Melbourne fans behind me were talking amongst themselves only to chip in with swearing when we did something wrong. At the end of the game I accidentally insulted one of them when in a conversational mix-up he said something about Watts having a good game and I said "get stuffed" immediately after. The misunderstanding was never cleared up.

Even though everyone else had turned to eating scones and sinking as much free piss as they could in the remaining minutes, leaving me to enjoy the spectacle even I was starting to get bored and spent more time refreshing Twitter on my phone to enjoy the cleansing experience of seeing other Melbourne fans losing their minds while the team shits the bed. It wasn't until this point that I realised the game was being shown on the in-box TV (I had a headphone in, just one though because two would have been anti-social) and that's why all day I thought I'd been hearing mystery umpiring whistles - because the television was a few seconds behind the play. Turns out I wasn't losing my mind after all, other than having left the house to watch this rubbish and then stayed to the end 

By then Channel 7's clock had quit and was counting up by the last quarter. Which is the exact opposite to how their ratings were going.

We lost, we didn't deserve any better. Throw a rock and you'll find somebody guilty, but don't downplay how much it helped St Kilda to have Riewoldt down there. There's something for Hogan to look at, the guy is never going to win a premiership but he is going to go down as a legend of club and competition. More importantly he will not be leaving the game as a poor man, there's cash to be made as a one-club player - and if we lose Jesse now then our poor membership department may as well relocate to Uganda so he should think of them then block the phone number of anyone involved with Freo.

Didn't seem to me that we were set up as if all that concerned about launching a comeback in the last quarter. Not even claiming a $500k Tankquiry deposit is required, just that was a missed opportunity. If Garlett in the middle was the extent of it then it was a good start but what happened to the other 19 pages of the plan?

The season is shot right up, and at this point I'm very keen on Roos opting to swap roles with Goodwin for the last month. As long as it's not done just in time for Freo to dismember us. There's no doubt he's been involved in a lot of improvements but what a great opportunity to shuffle things around and give the future coach a taste of the good stuff.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Daniel Cross
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to McDonald and Grimes.

An all-night meeting of the Demonblog National Conference has made a decision regarding eligibility for the Seecamp. The player must appear in at least 50% of the games in defence AND earn at least 50% of his total votes there or he shall become ineligible. Great news for the King of Sizzle, who now looks certain to add the defender's medal to his Hilton and Demonbracket successes of the past. On that note I'd like to congratulate him on being declared the provisional winner of this year's award. If he gets enough votes to disqualify himself now he'll be winning a much more important medal anyway so either way he's making out like a bandit.

At the top neither of the top two scored again, so the big mover was Jack Viney who storms into fourth and is just a game and a half behind the leader. Nathan Jones also moves within striking distance of the leaders and has become a big chance of lifting his fifth Jakovich. In the other minors there's no movement on the Hilton front, but Gawn has almost confirmed victory in the Stynes. There are still 30 votes available, so the dreaded dotted line will be appearing for the first time next week as players are eliminated, but realistically it's down to the top four now.

30 - Bernie Vince
29 - Tom McDonald (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
25 - Nathan Jones
23 - Jack Viney
19 - Jesse Hogan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
17 - Angus Brayshaw
13 - Jack Watts
11 - Daniel Cross, Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett
6 - Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Dom Tyson
4 - Chris Dawes
3 - Viv Michie
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Howe, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Lynden Dunn, Mark Jamar, Ben Newton, Jake Spencer

It was nice to get pre-warning that our effort would be sponsor heavy. Well, you have to pay the bills somehow and at least we've got it in writing somewhere that we're excited about the 30 year partnership with the City of Casey even as both parties are probably both scouring the contract to find if there's a way to get out.

Interestingly there was no rotation, which I feel is a first. Indeed it did have nice kerning, but we were very lucky to be against St Kilda and their banners that look as if they were constructed in a primary school art class because if we'd been against Hawthorn's fantastic effort on Friday night featuring a perfectly drawn cartoon bird waving a cutlass about there's no way even in a competition this rigged that I could have declared us the winner. 

As it were the only thing that stopped their thin sliver of a banner from being totally see through was a giant Dare Iced Coffee logo on our side - and all I could see poking through were the words "let's win tonight" for a game that ended at 6pm. Here's hoping their banners can rebuild as quickly as the club. 17-1-0 for the season.

Matchday Experience Watch
Should have known we were in for a dud day when there wasn't even a near tragedy during Howie's Hangers. Other than that everything was as normal, except for the trumpeteer being allowed to go home about a minute into the last quarter. Meanwhile I hope by next year they've got a better Hells Bells/Grand Old Flag mashup, it's a good concept but the mix is comically unmatched at the moment and it skips from menacing to jaunty in one second. I once edited a new version of Freo's theme song, I know audio mixing and it needs to make use of the fade in/out feature.

Last week one old lady sitting near me was horrified at the idea that they weren't even going to play the theme until it hit out of nowhere just as they came through the banner, in difficult times we can't afford to toy with people's emotions like this.

Meanwhile in matters that aren't directly under the control of the Melbourne Football Club it was good to see the Little League kids wheeled out at 2pm to play in front of approximately 125 people just so half time could be occupied by overweight adults playing AFL 9's (or as the league call it 'Australian football rules 2020') and the sponsored 'kick-to-kick' session. I thought this stupid idea had been retired last season, but at least now they're not trying to pretend that the 'lucky' people who get to wear a t-shirt promoting a chocolate bar while they aimlessly punt the ball around (also known as "playing for Carlton") are randomly selected, because I'm sure if anybody other than me cared about these things I'm sure nobody would be fooled.

You can do whatever you like at half time and unless it involves full frontal nudity or a public execution nobody will care, but I still find it tremendously rude that these kids are given a token run in an empty stadium (in this case, in pouring rain but I won't hold that against the league). As if they're going to remember that fondly, and isn't the whole point to create memories that will rope the kids in as life-long fans? Don't ask me, I turned down the chance to play in Grade 6 because I didn't want to go to Waverley on a Friday night but I'm sure it would have been memorable. It's just that you may as well get the kids there after school on a Thursday if you're going to treat their 'big day' with that sort of contempt anyway. Unless it's the league trying to get them over as a curtain raiser because they know while we all demand the reintroduction of Reserves games after two weeks none of us will be bothered to show up for them.

Crowd Watch
Nobody was there, but what a surprise that people would rather watch a game live on free-to-air television than leave the house to freeze their tits off with half the carpark closed and dickhead football firmly on the agenda. As with last week and the week before it, good luck legislating to create interest in games where players can't hit a target by foot from 20m under no pressure and handball to teammates a foot away. Maybe just legislate against us as a start? I notice the Carlton game on Friday night was refreshingly open and free-flowing, and look how well that turned out for them?

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Poor Jeff Garlett, you dominate the competition all year and get about 13 nominations only for Nathan Jones to nip in and steal the clubhouse lead with a few weeks left. His banana on the run while simultaneously being pushed to the ground during the first quarter was a thing of beauty, and it pushes Garlett vs Footscray and vs Geelong into second and third places. He was beaten to the Hilton in his first season by the late great Matthew Bate but has won every other competition he's been eligible for so I wouldn't be surprised if he switches into defence in his declining years and pockets the Seecamp as well. And I will build a statue of him if he finishes his career with us, so he's got that going for him as well.

Stat My Bitch Up
Every time you think sub-50 scores are a thing of the past they come back to mock us. We outscored Carlton, they lost by 135 points and we're still behind them for overall scores this year. A forward line that is led by Levi Casboult and ? is nine points better off than us and people think it's an absolute certainty that we're going to beat them in Round 21. Our defence is better though, which is comforting in a way. Now the only side we've kicked more points than - at 70.18ppg - is Brisbane so thank goodness we've got them covered.

Today somebody was telling me about how their kids are "old enough" to now flat out refuse to go to the footy, and is it any surprise considering how many times we've finished below 50 in the last few years? A handful of 100+ scores every year aren't going to rope the children in, consistently scoring over 70 instead of swinging from one end of the scale to the other on a weekly basis might help. I've said it before and I will say it again, as the older members die off we've got about five years to replace them before we're going back to the AFL with our mooching sack again - and this time they would be well within their rights to tell us to piss off.

The Demonblog Megastore
During the week Taylor Swift contentiously launched her 'TS 1989' range in China, a nation which rather remembers 1989 and the initials T.S more for some major unpleasantness in a public area rather than the birthdate of a pop idol. 

Because everything in my life eventually relates back to the Melbourne Football Club the first thing I thought of was a future debacle where we somehow end up releasing merchandise with 186 emblazoned across it. Meanwhile she was born in 1989 and is worth tens of millions, while I went to my first game that year and have seen stuff all success since.

I also found an apt sponsor in the carpark pre-match. 1300 FORK should have shown up for the MFC hat trick.
Next Week
Collingwood in crisis! Cloke out! Well that's a certain morale boosting victory for them then isn't it? As the greyhound industry has successfully demonstrated you can't beat a bit of live baiting, and either we're going to come out and have an almighty bash or the less than traditional Pies away game is going to turn ugly.

Hope we get a montage of classic moments from non-traditionals of the past like Petterd's dropped mark and Ben Johnson hitting Daniel Bell so hard the space/time continuum tore and we were the ones who ended up being sued. Incidentally does anyone know what happened with that case? How much did it cost us and who left the insurance forms in the top drawer of a $30,000 oak drawer so we weren't covered.

Not our home game so who gives a shit but I can't see many Demons coming out to enjoy playing the old enemy (well our old enemy, they are not interested in us) back into form while 40,000 simpletons who have never been further than Epping make snide remarks about the snow. The good news is there's a Press Red for Ed session of Fox Footy if you want to recreate the experience. I'll do Press Yellow for Slander if Foxtel will put me up in a warm commentary box.

The initial thought is to make wholesale changes and see what else we can do, but no offence to Jordie McKenzie but when he's the best in the VFL then the stocks are thin. Looking forward to getting Salem and Kent back but neither is fit yet (Kent's hamstring didn't even get through a comeback game in the thirds) and that doesn't leaves us with much to get excited over. No offence to the two I'm omitting, just think that they've had a reasonable go the last few weeks and should go back and get a lot of kicks in the VFL for a week or two instead of a handful in the seniors. Also keen on bringing in Riley for his 50% bone-jarring tackles, 50% in the back free kicks routine and hoping that we get more of the latter.

IN: Neal-Bullen, Riley
OUT: Harmes, Stretch (omit)
LUCKY: Brayshaw (tired - if not this week will be rested soon), Dawes (up and down like the proverbial), Grimes (can get it, can't use it), Howe (getting to the "what's the point?" stage), Lumumba (I will never say no to somebody playing merely out of spite), Michie (will probably get dropped anyway, because that's what they do with him), Tyson (one more go)
UNLUCKY: Spencer (just because I like him), Hunt (amongst the Casey bests a few weeks in a row), McKenzie (I'm all for rewarding form but there really is no point now)

After next week
Imagine the sort of crowd we're going to get against GWS at Docklands if we somehow contrive to lose to Carlton in our last Victorian game before that. Turns out I might not be there either, a holiday booking disaster saw the as yet unscheduled last round treated as the first week of the finals. If it's the 3.20 or 4.40 Sunday game I might still make it just to wonder why I bothered. Somebody's got to go, otherwise it'll just be our cheer squad sitting in an empty stadium. Even those GWS 'monks' don't bother now that the AFL aren't paying them appearance money.

It's late enough in the year that you can now honestly admit to looking at the top five draft prospects (did you know there's a GWS Academy player called Harry Himmelburg? Surely they've got enough other players to bid on that we can get that zany Zeppelinesque name on our list). It's also a great time to start making uninformed speculation about contracts. We haven't had a contract extension for a while so there are a few decent names left with their future in the air and a few weeks left to either save themselves or squeeze out a few

Daniel Cross - Must get another year on current form. Might not last the full 2016 but has to be there at the start. Knowing our record for making ludicrous decisions we'll probably suggest he retires only for him to go back to Footscray and win the flag.

Jack Fitzpatrick - When he was flogging Tom Boyd as a makeshift defender a few weeks back you'd have thought he was a certainty. I expect him to get another go in the next few weeks but hopefully his career isn't going to suffer Death by Tunnelball.

Colin Garland - He's going isn't it? Hard to tell if he's got the Thousand Yard Stare or if that's just the way he always looks but I guarantee you he's not having any fun whatsoever playing in that backline, and if he hasn't made the decision already he will when he sees Frawley waving the premiership cup over his head in early October. Will probably wind up at Hawthorn - because everyone does eventually - and at least then he'll get to play games in Tasmania.

Max Gawn - Write out contract for a reasonable amount of money, put contract in front of him, file signed contract with AFL. He does not in any way seem to be the sort of guy who would dick us at this stage of his career but #fistedforever is not just a hashtag, it's a life philosophy.

James Harmes - Has done enough in the last few weeks to be retained for another year, but not sure if he's worth an upgrade to the senior list yet. My limited understanding of player contract rules is that you're allowed to retain one third year rookie for a third year.

Jeremy Howe - I'll assume the contract talks that were slated to start during May have 'stalled', and am absolutely convinced he'll be off at the end of the year. He can do a Garland and go to North to enjoy the opportunity of playing 'home games' in Tassie.

Jayden Hunt - Has been in the bests for Casey a few times recently, so may as well give him a go in the seniors at some point over the next few weeks. Maybe it's better for him if he gets to the end of the year without demonstrating what he's like in senior company just in case we don't like what we see. I will suggest he gets another go no matter what due to mass drain of players elsewhere.

Mark Jamar - Hope he gets a go somewhere else for a year or two, never my favourite player but can't deny he's put in over the years while playing in some filthy sides.

Max King - If you can only have one third year rookie then either he or Harmes is going to have to be promoted. Booted five in a game at Casey and will survive based on the theory about ruckmen taking longer, but not sure if senior list or rookie. Might depend on what happens to Fitzpatrick.

Jordie McKenzie - Gone. Remember the good times, like when Adelaide wanted him to join them and go straight to the senior list but he choose to stay as a rookie with us. That should have tipped us off to a penchant for poor decision making.

Cameron Pedersen - Finally coming to the end of the ever popular three year contract, which against the odds turned out to be one of Neeld's few great moves. Was doing really well before injured so he's got to stay.

Jimmy Toumpas - Trade value sadly negligible, but if he's interested in making it back to South Australia we should get something for him. Another classic MFC success story.

Mitchell White - Never seen him play in my life but usually rookies get two years so best of luck to him.

Nobody seems to know how long Rohan Bail, Sam Frost, Viv Michie, Ben Newton, Aidan Riley, Dean Terlich or Dom Tyson are signed for. I'm sure Tyson, Newton and Frost are signed up for longer but we just don't know about it, but surely if Bail or Terlich are only there for this year - and you'd think so but we've done stranger things - they are gone. As for the other two neither are shooting the lights out but if my predictions are correct and we lose seven (Garland as a free agent, Toumpas and Howe as trades, Bail, Jamar, McKenzie and Terlich as delistings) I think both will get the time honoured 'one more go' to keep senior bodies on the list.

Roos wants another A-grade midfielder, and fair enough because who doesn't? But I look forward to a trade period of being linked with everyone under the sun only to settle for the comeback kid Cale Morton on a free transfer. Unfair comparisons aside I would take him if it cost nowt and he agreed to undergo the same sort of basic training that turned Private Pyle into a killing machine in Full Metal Jacket. I fear even if it did make perfect sense (and it doen't, but I'd love us to have a redemption story), that he'd walk through the door and be so traumatised by the memories that he kept going out the fire escape and into the Yarra.

Freudian Slop
The other night I had a wonderful dream that we had won a grand final. No idea how we did it but Bernie Vince and Daniel Cross were involved so the fantasy can't have been set too far in the future. The telling bit for psychologists both pro and amateur to tear apart is that I was watching in my loungeroom and after it became obvious we were going to win and I'd shed tears of joy I then went off to find somebody else to share the elation with but nobody was interested. Next thing I was at some rinky dink local market where somebody was selling guinea pigs and got home just after the Norm Smith Medal winner had been announced.

Fanciful stuff, possibly pointing towards total mental breakdown.

Was it worth it?
If only just to 'be there', and for the free food because otherwise it was bad football played badly in front of a bad crowd in bad weather. Will still be there hate-watching next week, waiting patiently for the levee to break and our remaining fans to go right off their collective nut if we stink the joint up again.

Final Thoughts
We're like a minor political party now, just on the ballot out of habit and treating any minor success like it's life changing. It's just a slapdash collection of battlers hoping for the best. Appoint the receivers now. Look, we're better than Brisbane. That's got to be some sort of comfort doesn't it? No? Fair enough, carry on then.

Update - I bet you're glad you plowed through all that misery when commenter 'Anonymous' has summed it all up in three words:

And how!

Monday 20 July 2015

It's lonely at the top (of the bottom four)

Now I finally know how fans of all the other flotsam and jetsam clubs have felt watching their sides struggling to beat us over the last few years. The good sides haven't had any such trouble, but St Kilda, Carlton et al know very well what it's like to have the relief of winning as favourite coupled with concern that the opposition was so bad that you've missed the opportunity of delivering a battering.

I can't think of a less consequential win against a non-expansion club for years, and that is a very good sign. In our situation any win is worth savouring. Like a $100 note spotted floating in a public toilet four points is still worth shelving your dignity, rolling your sleeves up and delving deep into the muck for.

If you took an objective and analytical view of the game there would be plenty to complain about, and you'd be reading the wrong 'review', but that's not important right now. Let not our inability to take the hint and storm away to a morale boosting victory distract you from the fact that we have just won a game - and for the first time since plodding to a win against GWS at Manuka Oval in Round 21, 2012 a Melbourne Football Club victory was not the sort of event television that ends up as a video package on AFL 360 the next night. Nobody sent congratulatory text messages afterwards, and thank god because our wins are no longer a jaw-dropping surprise even when they come against the worst side in the competition.

This is not to suggest that if you haven't seen the game that anything after quarter time is worth going back and watching (admittedly you could probably skip most of the first quarter as well), but could all the fetishists who are gagging for any opportunity to change the rules and make the game more 'enjoyable' please detail what they'd have done to make bottom vs close enough to an appropriate spectacle.

Back in the days where you could watch your own team live, and if lucky one other game from Sydney or Brisbane on Sunday, discussion about how stuffed the game was had to be confined to newspaper opinion pieces wedged next to the VFA scores. There was scarcely any other forums for people to go on about it, unlike now when we have to fill about 15 different footy TV shows, hundreds of hours of radio and the need for clickbait friendly online newspaper columns.

Whinging about the game not being good any more has been going on since about 1860, but it's gone into overdrive since we've been given the opportunity to watch nine games a week. Neutrals and the media carry on like they're having their eyelids held open mechanically to force them into watching and you can't turn left or right for somebody wanting to introduce razzle dazzle elements to 'improve' the contest. Good luck with that, great teams will always beat up on dud teams and dud teams will always play games against each other where you can hear a feint circus music on repeat in the background. Occasionally you'll get lucky and a slopfest will end in thrilling circumstances, but more often than not it just peters out into insignificance like this game did - and so what?

If you were trying to convert somebody to the sport you wouldn't recommend this match to anyone, but nor would you allow them near an episode of On The Couch where the panel spend 10 minutes pouring petrol on themselves in despair about how terrible things have allegedly become. Being able to watch every game live is a blessing and a curse, in the past nobody would have known how bad it was other than those who were there and a journalist who phoned in his report after spending the last three quarters listening on the radio in The Royal.

There are few clubs who need blockbuster TV rights deals more than us, but even if you slashed the number of teams, introduced zones, removed two players a side and set an interchange cap of one you're still going to 'enjoy' trench warfare games and error-strewn disasters like this - and like a nil-all draw in soccer the lack of overt excitement doesn't mean it can't be interesting to watch if you're emotionally invested. These sort of games are not even a necessary evil, they're a sporting fact of life. The EPL and NFL serve up shit from exotic locations like Jacksonville, Florida and St James' Park, Newcastle on a weekly basis but nobody notices or cares because all the games are on at the same time and you've not interested you've got another option.

People who are clamouring to return the game to some utopian past when everything was 'better' are like a less offensive version of the people who parade around the streets trying to drive out 'foreigners', they all want to go back to the past but can't identify a time that would suit them - and both would find something else to sob about even if they got their way.

In 1996 Kevin Sheedy thought the Olympics were going to topple footy because it wasn't entertaining enough only for crowds to go through the roof, and while sadly nobody's pointing a finger at the IOC now we have only lost 4000 per game from the all-time season average attendance record - and that's with nine games a week on live TV and certain clubs dragging the average down by playing purely for money in front of 4500 people in Alice Springs.

The sky is not falling, and even if you do somehow manage to engineer the game to produce more close results it's not going to help players kicking the ball over each other's head or missing handballs two foot away. You're never going to 'fix' the game, it's an imperfect and chaotic sport that in many ways make no sense (just look at the ball for god's sake), and just because you've romanticised the past to be like a music video for Up There Cazaly it doesn't mean that repairing one thing isn't going to break five others. Change what you like, I'm in this game for the Melbourne Football Club not the competition, but be prepared to put your hand up and admit it when everything goes tits up.

Bad neutral games are easily solved, open your front door and go for a walk around the block. When watching my own club I don't care for quality, I care for wins. You love your kids but you don't go to their school concert to enjoy the music. When we were strangling the life out of them in the second quarter without being able to put them away for good my thoughts were hardly on the plight of some poor person who was under house arrest Derryn Hinch style and had dropped their remote control down the back of the couch. Likewise the purists weren't front of mind as we wobbled to the finish line like a very slow greyhound being pursued by another without hind legs - by then they'd presumably all turned over to the Adelaide/Port game and good riddance.

Obviously I wish we'd gone on to stuff them like we briefly threatened during the second quarter, and if that had happened I'd have started playing Pocket Billiards at an Olympic standard in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand. We've been on the end of enough porkings over the year that we deserve to do somebody over with violence, venom and velocity - and at this point anyone will do.

It seems rude to complain about any aspect of a victory but we really should have squashed them, I think after watching Melbourne play live about 100 times over the last decade I'm well suited to comment on what a bad football team looks like, and for those of you looking back on this in 40 years’ time let the record show that Brisbane were very, very bad.

Everyone on their side who hadn't previously played for a highly successful, respected side (e.g. Beams, Christensen and... err... Stefan Martin) went about it as if they've been transplanted onto the MCG as part of a humiliating new reality television show. It’s a good thing they were playing the least threatening opposition available or it would have got spectacularly ugly by the end of the day. We lowered ourselves head first into the quagmire after half time, but fortunately by then the damage had been well and truly done.

If they really wanted to get people to watch they should have left the soccer infrastructure in place from last night and forced the teams to play 11-a-side. It's hard to tell whether the players who kept going arse over on the edges of the pitch still firmly implanted through the middle of the ground were being troubled by it or were just joining in for the general carnival atmosphere of bottom four footy.
It was the classic battle of a side winning plenty of the ball but playing without a forward line (and not even trying to plug the gap with defenders a'la Melbourne 2012/13), against one who can get the ball 66% of the way down the field but then often have no idea what to do next. I'm not trying to victim shame anyone, but if you bought a ticket or sat on your couch expecting a replay of the 1989 Grand Final to break out you got exactly what you deserved.

When it took us a few minutes to get going and the Lions had the first couple of shots on goal I would have started adjusting my collar nervously but it was about four layers of clothes deep due to the arctic conditions. The fear was that we were going to do the same as last week and take so long to wake up that a mentally fragile side would get turn the tables on us.

Fortunately Brisbane were playing such fantastically suicidal football that it would have taken a Melbourne vs Richmond 2009 style commitment to avoiding victory for them to be a chance. They were eager to give the ball back on a platter at every opportunity, and fortunately we were briefly in a position to take advantage. Even with Jones being tagged to within an inch of his life and Vince kicking like Pegleg Pete we put the game away by the quarter.

Obviously the Jesse Hogan show was the star attraction of the first quarter, but credit has to go to Chris Dawes who did exactly what I predicted he would after calling for him to be dropped last week and playing the game of his season. Perhaps it was because the Brisbane players had already decided that they'd be right for the day but he was running and marking at will - and helped set up Hogan's first goal.

Harmes was also important in the first goal, and he played a very encouraging second game for a young rookie. By the last quarter when all 42 players left in the game had lost interest he unloaded a couple of tired hit-and-hope forward entries straight into the arms of Brisbane players but before that he used the ball well. Not only that but he doubled it with solid tackling and pressure that caused a goal during the second quarter. Probably due to be rotated into the hi-vis next week but has had an encouraging start.

Clearances proved to be as useless as ever while the Lions won them hands down (and I know the SME didn't get many taps but the ones who did made me swoon) they were terrible at moving the ball more than twice in the same chain without turning it over (sound familiar?) and kicking into a forward line that may as well have featured six competition winners plucked out of the food court at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.

It took us until the last 10 minutes to really put them away, first Hogan kicked his second, then Tom McDonald of all people took a big contested grab (not a surprise) and kicked accurately from a difficult angle (very surprising, but probably better than putting him right in front), Hulkamania showed up for a third and Garlett profited from Brayshaw being made out of Kevlar to get another one just before quarter time and seemingly ruin any hope they had of getting back into the game.

It's not that we were that far in front, certainly not in the year of teams blowing five goal leads for fun, but that they were playing so badly. Still, you can't rely on teams going around like that for four quarters, and needed to come out in the second quarter and keep wailing away at them until they totally collapsed. Didn't happen, and if they'd kicked the first goal of the quarter when given a golden opportunity I'd have started to tighten up noticeably. Fortunately their kicking for goal was about as inept as our was last week, or Joe Daniher/Travis Cloke's in any game where they're not playing us.

The last 10 minutes of the first quarter cost the Lions dearly, because from there on they weren't all that much worse than us. Holding a side to one goal for a half and four for a game is a momentous achievement for us (lowest opposition score since Round 5, 1994 against the other Brisbane) but it's not like they didn't have their chances. Still a very good day out for the defence against putrid opposition, with Jeremy Howe back to looking good in defence after the return forward that I demanded earlier in the season came to nowt. Sorry about that.

Alas just when the opposition was wide open and begging to be put out of their misery we had punched ourselves out and were unable to land the final blow. It took 15 minutes to kick our first goal of the quarter, and as the game quickly dissolved into farce we only managed one more at the end - but it was from a Garlett set shot so who am I to argue?

We've been horrible at beating sides below us over the last few years, mainly attacking the 9-14 bracket other than that night Neeld shocked the world when he drove the Reality Bus over Essendon and I forgot how to walk for 20 minutes after the final siren, so when it became clear that we would finally beat a team that we were were supposed to it was not the joy of victory on offer but the excitement of turning the tables and tonking somebody else for once instead of playing the victim. Then we kicked one more goal for the game.

By the third quarter both sides were back on the same level. It was like a low fat version of that day we opened up a 45 point lead at quarter time against Gold Coast then broke even for the rest of the game, we were just lucky that they were totally impotent when going forward. Admittedly I was shitting it when they got the first goal of the last quarter but even though we'd stopped to a crawl by then it just didn't seem feasible that they could kick another three goals to win. And they couldn't. Hogan had to settle for four instead of the 12 that he was threatening to boot at quarter time, but a few weeks ago four represented a ground-breaking achievement so we must be going places after all.

Keeping a group of strugglers at arms' length rather than caving in and handing them a morale boosting win shouldn't be a reason for celebration - but in the last decade we're still several wins below what Fitzroy managed over the same period so I choose to reveal in victory no matter how grimy and/or gritty it may appear.

Having forgotten to bring a radio I was - like a Melbourne player in a game against St Kilda - totally surprised by the siren at the 26 minute mark and didn't know how to react. Usually when the siren goes and a win is confirmed spontaneous parties break out, and would be cause for staying around for multiple playings of the song and leaping on strangers while the players did a lap shaking hands and kissing babies, then remaining in place until they had left the ground. This time it was just a quick round of applause to show appreciation, much relief and out the door.

In the end it was a result that would have satisfied everyone other than Brisbane fans - I'm happy we won, other people are happy that we won and they can still complain, neutrals are happy that neither side will be posing a threat to them in the near future, Gerard Healy can waffle on about changing the rules and journalists can continue to pump out articles like this about how we're going nowhere fast. I can see where Mark Robinson was going with that one, he was setting up for an "I told you so" follow-up if we lost, but even having spent nearly 11 seasons torturing metaphors even I wouldn't have tried to get that headline over. Apparently he's blocked me on Twitter, which is odd because he's in the holy trinity of people who I like against the odds - and against wider public sentiment - alongside Kevin Rudd and Jeff Kennett. Lost causes are in my blood.

What a liberating feeling to be that blasé about victory after so many years of living and dying on every close finish. This must be what being in the mid-table feels like. I do hope your personal doomsday clock has been temporarily wound back a few hours. Our time to dismiss wins like this as inconsequential gash will come, but for now just enjoy not having lost.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jesse Hogan
4 - Chris Dawes
3 - Daniel Cross
2 - Max Gawn
1 - Lynden Dunn

Apologies to vandenBerg (close to the last vote), Howe (likewise), Jetta, Garland, Tyson, Garlett, McDonald and Viney with a special encouragement award to Harmes.

I'm not trying to take the Healy route of fixing the competition to ensure a blockbuster finish, but there was no action in the top five. Vince got plenty of it but was shanking it everywhere, McDonald and Viney were good enough for apologies, Jones battled away and Brayshaw looked tired. Hogan's move into fourth and recapturing of the Hilton lead is the most significant change, but Mitchell White is still in the hunt to storm home and nick the Jakovich with eight BOGs in a row.

The committee are holding an urgent meeting tonight to determine how long McDonald can play forward and remain eligible for the Seecamp. Unlike the new rules for the Stynes (you must average 10 hitouts per game played) defenders come in so many different shapes there's nothing that we can apply as a blanket rule to decide whether or not they've gone forward too much. Fortunately these experiments only ever seem to last a couple of weeks before everything reverts to normal, but it will be full crisis mode if he plays the next two matches forward. I'm leaning towards a certain percentage of games having to be primarily played in defence, but we'll have an official ruling next Sunday.

30 - Bernie Vince
29 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Nathan Jones
19 - Jesse Hogan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
18 - Jack Viney
17 - Angus Brayshaw
13 - Jack Watts
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett, Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
7 - Daniel Cross
6 - Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Dom Tyson
4 - Chris Dawes
3 - Viv Michie
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Lynden Dunn, Mark Jamar, Ben Newton, Jake Spencer

The old school three line slogan on our banner was a welcome alternative to the failed attempts at comedy that other clubs are going for just to get themselves in the paper, but I feel that in the line that ended "Turning a roar into just a meow" could have gone without 'just' and been punchier.

Brisbane have to be encouraged for being the first opposition side I've seen all season who had the courtesy to rotate the banner so all parts of the ground could see both messages. As long-time readers would be aware this is something I've been championing ever since this segment started, and now that we've managed to put poncy curtains out of business hopefully the next thing my banner consultancy business can help with is encouraging everyone to rotate.

We still win in a squeaker though, even though the back of ours featured an ad for fishing. 16-1-0 for the year. St Kilda's cheersquad has NFI so we may as well claim next week's victory in advance - 17-1-0 it is.

Matchday Experience Watch
By this stage of the season there's little new that can be unleashed to surprise us, which is probably a good thing. At least the short quarter meant that old mate on the trumpet was stopped halfway by the siren. As part of our weekly Howie's Hangers report (almost certainly ready to be rebranded as GAWN'S GRABS next year when Howe is a Carlton player, and hopefully given an appropriately Maximum touch by forcing contestants to take crashing pack marks against multiple opponents) I'm pleased to report that one of the contestants almost crippled himself - and equally pleased that Robbo mentioned that he'd had to sign a waiver before participating. Still hoping that a reader will sign up and get a shot of the form so we can see if it covers total maiming and mutilation.

Crowd Watch
Plenty of Brisbane fans in attendance, presumably because of a rare MCG game and a special "Victorian Members Day" which they decided to celebrate by delivering a completely rancid performance. In keeping with the spirit of the actual match the people sitting around me seemed as if they had been put under heavy sedation beforehand - and the situation didn't get any better from there on. Midway through the last quarter the two Melbourne fans in front of me stood halfway through - with the game not yet won - and pushed off. One of those days.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I did enjoy Garlett finishing off Brayshaw's barge through a tackle, but for sheer unexpected goalkicking joy I'll have to opt for McDonald guiding through a set shot from an angle in the first quarter. He's probably better off not going from right in front, but it was a great mark and a good finish. Not even remotely close to taking the lead from Garlett against Footscray though.

Stat My Bitch Up
After we kicked 50 three weeks in a row earlier this year now we've kicked 60 three weeks in a row. What a baffling club. Thanks to Brisbane kicking a Deemonesque 4.12.36 it didn't put us in any danger but it does see our season average nudge down 0.84 to 71.80ppg. We've now only scored more than Essendon (good to see Joe Daniher revert to type this week and barely manage to land shots on goal in the right postcode) and the hapless Lions, but are at least within five goals of both Gold Coast and Carlton.

As well as passing our win tally from last season, and equalling the total of the two seasons before that, our percentage is 11 points higher than it was at the end of 2014 - but only 0.9 better than it was at this point last season before we wrecked it in the last two months so that's something to look out for. In the field of goalkicking Garlett remains one ahead of Hogan but they've both already plowed past Dawes' slender figure.

Defence is basically the same, with 90.93 points against per game compared to 88.81 (thanks to Brisbane for levelling out the obscene score we conceded against Hawthorn) so statistically we're on the up, to mid-table by the end of 2016.

Next Week
It was hardly a sparkling trial, more like winning the first race at Omeo, so I'm not sure what to take out of it for St Kilda next Sunday afternoon. They necked themselves in Melbourne-esque fashion by throwing the game away early then launching a belated comeback after the game was shot, but I would still favour them to beat us. At least we should get a decent game out of it, and aren't you looking forward to seeing footage of Montagna stitching us up again so soon after it happened?

Poor old Jamar was in the best for Casey and has been for weeks, but he won't get picked. Dawes was a barely convincing ruckman but was so good around the ground that it would be difficult to shift him, and Gawn's in slashing form anyway so he's barely required to take any centre bounces. We must be getting near the point where he either announces his retirement or departure to another club next year so we can give him a farewell game. Probably against Freo in Perth.

Casey won by plenty, but if you base your decisions solely on the best players listed like I do none of the fringe players except Grimes got a mention. One of them was probably the hold-over for today's game but I would have been keen to give any of Toumpas, Riley, Newton or Michie a go. As it is I'm going to opt for Brayshaw to put his feet up for a week after going hell for leather all year and for Riley to come in and hopefully piledrive somebody. Elsewhere Grimes for Kennedy-Harris is hardly a straight swap but we'll live.

IN: Grimes, Riley
OUT: Kennedy-Harris (omit), Brayshaw (rested)
UNLUCKY: Jamar (perennial), Whoever the emergency was this week

Was it worth it?
Yes, yes, yes and a thousand times yes. Wins are beautiful, even when they're plug ugly.

Final Thoughts
Even though we are morally still a bottom four side this gives us some hope of dreaming big and finishing as high as fifth last. If we win next week, and I don't think we will, then finishing as high as 13th is on the agenda. At which point we will discover that the top selections in the draft are the greatest players of their generation and the sixth has leprosy.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Down with this sort of thing

If you've got a Melbourne Football Club #fistedforever Rewards Card I hope you swiped it at the gate and earned your "start favourites and lose" triple points bonus. If you haven't already signed up there's still time to get on board, and if there's much more like this by Round 23 you'll have enough points saved up to watch us fall apart and gift GWS a spot in the finals.

With our recent record it's hard to take any game where we're expected to win seriously, but they did just lose by 110 points to a confirmed mid-card side, lost their captain for the season and have the side matter of an international investigation hanging over their heads. It was well premature for people to be acting like we'd rampage to victory but you could at least see a scenario where for once (supposed) class would win out in the end - and for once we'd be on the right of the result. Life lesson learnt - don't trust anyone.

It was the first time in recent memory that monsoonal rains weren't welcome, and the idea of turning the game into aquatic warfare might see us dragged down to somebody else's level rather than the other way around. Mind you it's not like perfect conditions under a roof did much for Essendon last week, and given how most of our team have played more games on Casey Fields (the hallowed frozen tundra) than at the MCG you'd think they might have thrived in the freezing wet weather - a week late for Mark McGough style surprise contract-extending mudlarkery by Bail or Matt Jones.

With the ever helpful weather bureau predicting that conditions would resemble the north face of Mt Kilimanjaro at some point during the afternoon I attempted to rug up but didn't go nearly close enough. When the wind started to pick up along with the pre-match showers it seemed like I'd made a horrible mistake and would end the afternoon having to eat a fellow Demon to survive a'la those South American rugby players, but miraculously by the first bounce it had dropped from 'blizzard' to just 'cold'. Watching Melbourne usually elevates my body temperature as much as my blood pressure so I could likely survive anything off the back of that.

You'd have thought this surprise break from typhoon conditions would have helped us run rings around them. Blaming last week's defeat on West Coast being a top two side was perfectly reasonable, they probably won't win the flag but they're going to give it a good thrashing. Then the next day when we enjoyed watched St Kilda ripping Essendon to shreds while Hird forlornly looked into his magnets as if they were a Ouija board telling him what to do next it was decided as one that we were an absolute certainty - and that's where things went wrong, because in the strange and terrifying world of Melbourne nothing is ever certain.

There's no doubt we cocked up a golden chance at a precious four points against a weakened side, but some of the extreme reactions seem unjustified. I'm not here to tell you how to feel, and I've (surprisingly) never sat down to compile a list of my most horrifying defeats but I suspect this wouldn't even scrape the top 20. It was more confirmation - as if required - that no matter what heroics occurred at Kardinia Park against a side rapidly plummeting into the mid-table we're still firmly rooted.. to the bottom four. I thought we'd win but was not at all surprised to lose.

We could have won, and in many ways should have won but even if you put their stream of self-inflicted off-field turmoil aside for a second without their recent run of injuries they are still a better side than us - so why should it be such a surprise to lose to them? I'm bitter and twisted about what happened - and am not exactly happy about it now - but can't see any reason to hurl Molotov Cocktails at the Demon Shop that wasn't also there after the St Kilda loss, and a win shortly after helped us get over that quickly. Nothing else has worked so we may as well start looking at the big picture now. Until we lose to Brisbane, then you can run through a checklist of the all the usual suspects that I'll be trying to trade, delist or push out into the ocean on a raft.

I know everyone wanted to be responsible for getting James Hird the sack (as if Essendon's board would dare without hiring bodyguards first), and nobody on the planet wanted more than an opportunity to post the video of that guy singing Stand By Hird for the purposes of public mockery, but if you built yourself up for this being a certain, monumental victory then you've only got yourself to blame for the feeling of being cheated. Pouring shit on somebody else for once would have been dandy but what club do you follow and when did they earn the right to swan into any game like hot favourites?

In the vast majority of cases when a team loses by 100 points they at least have a period of improvement the next week. Most of the time it peters out and normal service resumes, but we managed to turn one into a victory over the Bulldogs, so if we can do that then nothing - even the loss of two further senior players as late changes - was going to stop the Bombers from at least rattling our cage, and when we declined to put them away when given the chance several times during the first half it was just asking for trouble. Next time let's just hold the triumphant behaviour until the side have done something to prove they deserve it.

Losing to Essendon B in the pre-season caused general commotion but it was easy to explain away as just a pre-season game, and while four months later the general feeling is of gloom so was this result if you take the view that we're a perennially rank side who have only recently graduated from pond scum to flotsam. Maybe it's because I don't hold the same white-hot hatred of Essendon that everyone else does (in fact I'm possibly the only person to dislike them less than when Sheedy was in charge), or because I didn't overcommit to us winning this game but I just think it's not worth going insane over. The coaches waited too long to make changes in an effort to impact the game, they were traditionally gun-shy in trying to change the game by using the sub and Roos trotted out some press conference bollocks about being a young team (well how were they picked, public SMS voting?) but at least we've got the chance to redeem ourselves next week against a side we really should beat - and if we don't that'll be something really worth losing your mind about.

The lucrative junket to Darwin will get some of the blame as well, but I'm not buying that. It was hardly the usual full scale Manilla conditions there, and we seemed to have plenty in the tank late in the game - it was that we'd left ourselves far too much to do and could only get back into the game when there was nothing left to play for. It was a lot like when we beat them last year, except that if that had happened yesterday Salem would have shanked his kick and barely snuck it through for a point.

It was hard to argue with selection, removing a tall in preparation for wet conditions, but while I generally liked JFK as the sub in retrospect maybe we should have put one of the less experienced players in that role. More than comfortable with Harmes making his debut on field as nobody should have their first game sullied by wearing the council worker vest, and Neal-Bullen did well when he came on early last week (though after five goals in two weeks did he go near our forward line in the last three quarters on Saturday?) so I suppose that leaves Stretch. In the end both he and Kennedy-Harris did about as much as you'd expect a last quarter sub to, but Billy had 81% of gametime to do it in. Harmes showed some good signs for a kid off the rookie list but by playing all the kids on the field at once do you think we did exactly what Geelong did against us and tried to sneak them a win in what was perceived as an easy victory? Surely not, still seemed excessive to start all of them though.

I'm all for keeping him in the side given that we're not playing for anything (other than perhaps a priority pick) but now that Kennedy-Harris has been eased back from injury it's time to throw him in the deep end for a few weeks and work out whether he's got a spot when Kent returns. Still not sure why he was in Darwin last week instead of playing another game in the VFL before returning to the seniors, and I suppose that means he had to be the sub but if there's any doubt over a player's ability to go four quarters should they be playing in the first place or are you just wasting everyone's time by picking them to play a quarter? Mind you I called for him to be included so I'm as guilty as anyone.

Much of the angst came from the fact that in the first quarter we were doing most things really well. Gawn was on his way to a historical dominance in the ruck, Vince was picking up touches at will and Viney was doing a blanket job on Heppell. With those factors in play you'd think a stoppage extravaganza would play into our hands, but that fails to take into account the fact that we were going to kick like drunken sailors. The ground would have been heavy from the pre-match showers, but it seemed like we continued to play as if stuck in the middle of a tropical storm - all hoof and hope, no flair or attempt at excitement. I know we're proven to be no good at telling players the time, but if they couldn't work out that it had stopped bucketing down on their own then there is no hope for any of us.

Despite Gawn putting it on a plate for the midfielders we had to rely on the kindness of video review insanity to save us from conceding the first goal. Haven't watched any of the highlights and won't be watching a replay but have got absolutely no idea how they decided that it had been touched on the line. Forget all the other unsavoury stuff, Bombers fans should be pointing at that as evidence of a massive AFL conspiracy against them. They never even got the square ups for being pinged twice (quite rightly) for deliberate. Hands up who else thought they'd give one back to them deep in the last quarter with the game on the line? It was just the sort of luck we needed, and now that the rain had moved off to piss on somebody else's afternoon we took advantage to go down the other end and kick the first of what would seemingly be about 25 goals once we shattered their fragile spirit. Or not as the case may be.

By quarter-time the sun was out (relatively speaking) and each side had managed just a single goal. I had been so worried about this game turning into a farcical reverse that I'd paid scant attention to either of the matches played earlier in the round, and all I'd seen of Richmond/Carlton was talk at half-time about how it was the worst game ever. If it was worse than this I'd be extremely surprised.

Even now that relatively football friendly conditions had broken out the game was being played as if in the middle of a constant downpour. Based on the lessons learnt in the Geelong game a free-flowing end to end contest would have suited us perfectly, but Essendon successfully managed to clog it up and turn it into a stoppage dominated scrap - and even then with ruck dominance we still couldn't take advantage. It's not like we were finding it hard to get to the ball, it was that we played right into their hands by wasting practically every attacking opportunity we had with panic kicking and a pox forward setup. Essendon were getting their tails up and we were playing like underdogs surprised to be involved in a competitive game.

We got plenty of the ball, but even when we did break free from the endless packs the delivery to our forwards was all eyes-closed hit and hope stuff to enormous packs of forwards who either got in each other's way or led their opponents into the path of a teammate. Later on Essendon showed that it was possible take an overhead mark in 'the conditions' but I wish somebody had demonstrated that to our lot in the first three quarters while they were crowded together as if on the Tokyo underground. At one point during the first quarter our forward entries were so predictable that a flock of pigeons took up comfortably inside 50, safe in the knowledge that nobody was going to run through them while leading or scatter them with a scything low kick. If Jeremy Howe was capable of taking nine of his Mark of the Round nominees in one quarter he'd have been well suited, and would have kicked at least 3.5 with one out on the full.

Admittedly their defenders were playing well, but only we could induct boom recruit James Gwilt to the Kent Kingsley/Beau Wilkes Society of ordinary players who look like superstars against Melbourne. It didn't hurt that we were making him look like Matthew Scarlett by continuously thumping the ball straight down his throat. With Garlett not looking likely early on any chance we had of holding the ball forward was out the window, and much like last week or 95% of weeks the best thing we could do for the opposition was to launch an attack then watch the ball fly out the other way as if shot from a cannon.

During all this Brendan Goddard was running riot, seemingly without an opponent in the same area code. They had 10 of their best 22 out, so you'd think he might be important. I know he had a shocker last week but did we just expect the same thing would happen again? Not quite, he had more touches in the first quarter than he'd had in four against St Kilda. Instead of trying to knock him out of the game we allowed him to roam free for the entire first quarter. Cross did a good job from the second quarter but why did we have to wait until the end of the term to something when it was clear five minutes in that he was tonking us? He was a massive part of keeping them in it early and helping them build enough confidence to realise they either weren't total wank after all and that we were very much gettable.

I'm sure the idea was that when the game broke open we'd run them off their feet, and we were getting it forward a lot only to blunder through numerous points courtesy of inexplicably rushed shots. Have you ever seen a game where we've had so many opportunities for players to run 20m closer to goal only for them to blaze away and miss. Unfortunately our wasteful kicking meant that by the time it happened they were full of confidence and notched up a lead that left us with nothing to do but throw everything at a belated comeback. We nearly got away with it but why make things so difficult?

The tactic of roosting the ball high to a nest of opposition defenders and expecting somebody to take a huge grab was a constant for the first three quarters even when it was clearly not working. The options were Howe (running at an all-time slow screamer rate), Hogan (better suited to one-on-ones), Garlett (five foot tall) or Dawes (not renowned for massive pack marks). No chance of anybody leading into space I suppose? Not unless it was 80m up the ground by the looks of it.

At the other end I thought the defence was solid. Garland and Dunn were good, Jetta serviceable and Lumumba was at least better than the alternatives but probably more suited to a panel discussion about the role of the Albanian Communist Party during the Sino-Soviet Split than to playing in a struggling team bereft of superstars. Imagine going from punting the ball at Pendles and Dane Swan one year to trying to make something of us the next? Good luck with that. Nevertheless he certainly hasn't carried on the play which saw him romp to victory in the Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance.

Sizzle has definitely hit the Nathan Carrolls (hopefully this doesn't end in him punching Ben Holland) and has slid right out of the All-Australian team and is probably off the shortlist now as well. It didn't help that Joe Daniher suddenly decided he was John Coleman and chose a game against us to start kicking flawless set shots after weeks where he couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo.

As an unashamed Sizzle fan I feel like he's been at least slightly unlucky since Queen's Birthday. Remember when Jack Riewoldt kicked 1.4 on him and everyone swooned, now he's had the misfortune of both Travis Cloke and the worst teenage moustache ever worn (with respect to the ludicrous bumfluff Jack Watts has just begun sporting) suddenly discovering hitherto unknown accuracy and people revert to the default status of trying to have him killed. Now based on one quarter against a side who had no idea they'd ever have to defend against him people are trying to start him forward next week. He looks down on confidence in defence, but for god's sake leave him where he does his best work instead of messing around putting players in positions they're not suited to. If he needs to go down there during a game then that's fine, but I'd like to go at least one season without having to use a key defender as an emergency forward. He desperately needs a win, and hopefully that will come against some nobody Brisbane player, but if you think based on one decent game Fitzpatrick can do better then you're involved in a supplements program.

Once the Bombers worked out that we were never going to kick convincingly to the forwards they were free to try and win the game, and did reasonable job of it. We had too many players not showing anything near their form from a few weeks ago - I can't hold it against Brayshaw considering he knocked himself out last week but perhaps he should have been rested. Easy to say afterwards, but he'll have to take a break at some point and maybe a day where it was projected to hammer down rain all day was the best time. It would usually be the sort of game he'd love but if he's out rested this week instead I'll chuck shit.

On the surface of it 10 minutes of inattention cost us, but converting a half chance or two would have gone a long way. We were playing against a team who played the last few minutes of the opening two quarters with a spare man in defence because they were happy just to be close. They were begging to be put away but we just weren't capable of doing the honours. It was less than four goals the difference at the last change but we hardly looked likely to put enough pressure on them based on our performance in the third quarter and our rotten kicking efficiency.

Finally after three quarters of the forward line malfunctioning like a Russian alarm clock they tried something difference, with the left-field move of McDonald forward with Howe back. It must have flummoxed the Bombers and caused Hird to throw his precious magnets across the box because for the first time all day we had a forward in space. There was even one point where he led short to a dangerous position for a team-mate outside 50 to kick to - even our real forwards don't do that. Kicking has never been his strong point so when he got it it wasn't much better than a 50/50 chance he'd kick it - which put him on the same level as most of our other forwards.

When the Bombers fudged a gilt edged chance to put the game away it seemed like maybe it would be our day, then when McDonald and Garlett both goalled to get us with in a kick it was on. Then in true Melbourne fashion we didn't score for the last five minutes. Good luck to them, they wanted it more. If you're looking for individual scapegoats from the last few minutes there were plenty of contenders. Watts could have gone harder for a tackle at our attacking 50 when we were within a goal (just another disaster on our half-forward line) or Lumumba could have made a better contest against Daniher as he went up for the mark, but the fact is we barely deserved to be in a position to snatch it anyway. It wouldn't have been grant theft, but it would have at least been akin to shoplifting.

Still, even when we got within a goal with plenty of time left - in fact enough time that we could still win if they did the usual and kicked a replying goal straight out of the middle - I never felt like we were going to snatch it. Even if we'd got in front I'd have been convinced that they were going to get one back, destiny is a crock but we would have found some way to lose this game. It was foretold in Hird's magnetic Ouija board.

Of course Daniher capped off his perfect day with a clutch set shot to win the game. How very bloody convenient. If we somehow contrived to have one of our traditionally wayward forwards (e.g. anyone but Hogan) play a dominant half to all but set up victory you can be entirely sure they'd miss the most important shot and it would be swept down the other end for the winning goal.

Even after the goal there was still 120 odd seconds left for a big steal, but hilariously (?) after what happened a few weeks ago nobody seemed to be in a major hurry to get the ball forward in this time. Which is odd because we'd spent the rest of the game hoofing the ball forward aimlessly, and now that Essendon were out on their feet and still vulnerable it would have been a great time to do similar. There was only 25 minutes gone when the goal went through, and if nobody told them the time again there needs to be a Royal Commission.

As the season has gone on I've really matured in the way I take defeat. After we threw it all away against GWS that time I went to the supermarket, stomped around the aisles swearing whenever I couldn't find something then got home and lobbed a remote control across the room. Today there was much swearing under and over the breath during the game but when the final siren went I just shrugged and trudged off to Jolimont Station. At least we have the memories, for a little bit until the kids get bored again and we're left like Homer Simpson in the Hullabalooza episode shouting "For more information on Mark Neeld's surprise first win as a senior AFL coach, consult your school library!" as they run away from us an towards the Hawthorn membership tent.

Speaking of Neeld, at least he and Neil Craig managed to retain their near flawless records of being instrumental in Melbourne losses.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Bernie Vince
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Aaron vandenBerg

Apologies to Dunn (who lost the last vote in a photo finish), Jones, Howe and Cross.

The Reign of Sizzle lasted three months but the dream of a defender lifting a prestigious AFL award ebbs away a little bit more every week as Vince storms into pole position for the first time in his career. He was wasteful with his kicking but who wasn't? With a maximum of 45 votes still available I'll say barring a Jakovich-esque second half of run of form that everyone below vandenBerg is finished for this year. For now everyone down to Mitchell White could still win in a canter, but over the next few weeks we'll know for sure who's in and who's out when the dreaded dotted line of death appears to indicate which players have no chance.

Speaking of Maximum, Gawn has smashed the Stynes field to shreds and saved us from the unusual scenario of Jamar getting a share while also not being acknowledged by the club as an employee. In the other minors Garland's votes keep the Seecamp alive for another week UNLESS McDonald ends up being sent forward in every other game this year and has the award cruelly ripped from his hands by a late disqualification. Finally, with neither of the leaders in the Hilton pocketing a vote it remains wide open for any of Brayshaw, Hogan or vandenBerg to get their AFL career off to a great start by enshrining themselves on our honour roll.

30 - Bernie Vince
29 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Nathan Jones
18 - Jack Viney
17 - Angus Brayshaw (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
14 - Jesse Hogan
13 - Jack Watts
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett
6 - Max Gawn, (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Dom Tyson
4 - Daniel Cross
3 - Viv Michie
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Mark Jamar, Ben Newton, Jake Spencer

Not a great day for the industry, but can you really blame the cheersquads for phoning it in on Thursday night when they thought they'd be sitting there getting pelted with hail all day? Essendon went with a nice, charitable message for the Cure for Cancer, which was let down by overly prominent squares and a demonstration that they had no idea how a hashtag worked by putting spaces between the words. Aren't these the people who flogged #standbyhird, #backourboys and god knows what else? How can they not know how a hashtag works?

There was no curtain, which is always welcomed. They've seemingly been abolished this year (can I take credit?), but when the Bombers players ran out most of them did their own curtain job by ducking down and lifting it up at the front to ponce through. There was one visionary amongst them who refused to indulge in curtain cowardice and instead charged at the thing with his fist in the air and triumphantly punched through. For that I hope he gets three Brownlow votes.

They didn't rotate it either, which is usually a points deduction but under the circumstances they should be commended just for showing up. I'd have accidentally dropped the banner in the carpark, torn the crepe paper by treading on it and chucked a sickie. The other major tactical error they made was holding it up far too early and being left there for 10 minutes losing extremities to frostbite while the Bombers were still in the sheds.

Our effort was nothing to write home about, and looked like it was about to explode at any moment but it wins due to being 20% larger and having a significantly higher standard of kerning than the opposition. 14-1-0 for the year with near automatic wins against Footscray, St Kilda and GWS to come. Can the Demon Army go one better than last season and remain undefeated? Stay tuned, it might be the only thing left worth following later in the year.

Matchday Experience Watch
Air-raid sirens be buggered, when that weather report came out they should have booked Tony Bullimore to do a lap of honour while marine distress flares went off around the boundary line. Mind you, with Tony's MFC-esque record for capsizing you might want to budget for somebody to go out and rescue him midway through the lap.

Other than that bloody siren and nobody bothering to do an MCG version of their post-goal animation so it still showed a fighter jet dive bombing Etihad Stadium everything was fine. Sadly the animation didn't end looking like this:

They didn't have any decent pre-match gimmicks like Howie's Hangers (of if they did all were cancelled due to the conditions, and how I'd love to have seen people trying to take screamers off a tackling bag in pouring rain. The contestant indemnity forms would have been 120 pages each) but otherwise there was nothing amazingly offensive like you'd expect from Essendon such as community serenading of Hird or an ASADA effigy being torched by a rabid pack of supporters then torn apart by hand.

Crowd Watch
Midway through 1998 when we were flogged by St Kilda I sat in the front row behind the Ponsford End goals all day being pissed on from a great height for no apparent reason. If I had any excuse it was being 17 and being such a bland teenager that it ranks alongside staying up until 4am waiting to hear Premier League goal updates on the BBC World Service as the most hardcore activities of my teenage years to that point.

Kids do stupid things, especially when the pinnacle of their lives to that point has been winning the Belgian Premier League with an obscure team in Championship Manager (it's still in the top 100), but what excuse is there for the hundreds of grown adults who spent the pre-match sitting in pelting rain yesterday? Even with 55,000 general admission seats unoccupied you can nearly understand it during the game itself but why were these people sitting there being battered by precipitation just to watch players run through crepe paper and trot back and forth in the warm-up? It defies belief. Fortunately the weather cleared by the first bounce, so they were fine to enjoy the footy and soaking wet underpants for the rest of the afternoon.

In non-weather related news one of the more bizarre scenes of the afternoon was their raffle results being walked around the boundary line by a man holding a chalkboard sign as if all forms of modern communications technology hadn't been invented. The prize was a television but on that form it was probably one of those 1970's ones that had the remote control attached to the set that you could only operate if sitting frighteningly close to the screen.

The poxy crowd figure was not aided by the conditions, or by the thousands of Essendon fans who squibbed it at the prospect of losing to Melbourne and missed out on a win, but I suppose that's the end of the dream run of them playing home games against us at the MCG. Back to the baffling ticket system for their Etihad Stadium home games. Yet another factor that will have our membership department discreetly swigging bottles of rum under their desk before calling another deadbeat who set up their membership on a direct debit then cancelled the card.

After the match the regard shown for society by Melbourne fans in the wake of a disappointing defeat was demonstrated by the guy who threw out any semblance of decorum and was openly taking a piss against a tree in the carpark while families walked by. That's what this sport does to us.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Not many to choose from, and though he did barely anything else it'll have to be Garlett again for that crumb in the last quarter. For personal reasons I did enjoy McDonald's set shot but he's more likely to get an award for being the only forward to lead for a chest mark in the last fortnight despite not even being a forward to start with.

Following on from the controversy last week (when presumably nobody was reading either) in choosing which of his goals would stand as the clubhouse leader I've made a final decision that the one from the boundary against Footscray is #1 for now. That he sealed the game, from a set shot, with the most casual kick of his life and then did an even more casual celebration narrowly puts it in front of his Moscow Circus on Ice goal-line spectacular against the Cats. Quite frankly this award has been a bit of a fizzer this year so hopefully he's got something remarkable left for us in the last nine games.

Stat My Bitch Up
We're down to 72.64ppg, but the good news is that we only need 35.44 a week from here to match last year's record low 22 game season total. So that's something to look forward to. If we kick the current average in every match for the rest of the season it will only be our sixth lowest scoring season since 1970. In researching this hot fact I discovered that in 1982 we scored 113 a game, conceded 125 and won eight games - now that's entertainment.

As far as individual efforts go, congratulations to Max Gawn on registering the largest number of hitouts in a game by any Melbourne player ever. Unlike other stats that we don't have records back to 1897 for, hitouts are the one statistic that you can be absolutely sure are at an all-time high in the modern era so that's nice for him. Fat lot of good it did us in the end though. Refer to Ross Lyon's answer at the press conference after Sandilands captured the all-time record but the side lost. Except because I'm a stats nerd rather than a cold-hearted pragmatist like Roscoe I'm secretly thrilled about it. You couldn't blame Gawn though, it wasn't just the hitouts - how good were his marks? Finally he is ready to take the #1 spot for good.

As far as individual game records that I've seen live it goes alongside... - Travis Johnstone's 35 kicks, Jordie McKenzie's 26 handballs, Lynden Dunn's 16 rebound 50's, Brent Moloney's 19 clearances + 21 contested possessions (twice), Paul Wheatley and Bernie Vince's 33 uncontested possessions, David Neitz's 8 contested marks, Colin Garland's 17 one percenters (still NFI what that actually means), the triple 10x clanger records of Godfrey, N. Jones and Johnstone and three of four of the equal most goal assists (the eclectic lineup of Jones, Wonaeamirri and Brayshaw). Helps that half of those stats have only been kept this decade and that we rarely do anything of note outside the MCG.

Next Week
On form we should beat Brisbane at the MCG, so spend the week digging a bunker and stockpiling canned food because another debacle looms large. They weren't disgraced against Sydney so anybody who goes on about margins of victory will be bricked up behind a wall until after the match is over.

Fortunately Gold Coast's capitulation against Footscray in Cairns means that even if (?) we lose this we won't immediately be tossed back into the race for the wooden spoon. I've got no doubt we'll do better than last year and win at least one game in the last 10 but knowing us it'll be a totally unexpected result against North or Collingwood then we'll get ahead of ourselves and be embarrassingly rumbled by Carlton.

Happy to stick with all the kids but they've all had starts now, time to bust one of them down to sub and give Kennedy-Harris four quarters to try and prove himself. It would make sense to wait for a report on the Casey game until I decided on the alterations but when Matt Jones, Bail and McKenzie are listed best on ground am I going to suggest we pick them? Probably not, so why delay things unnecessarily?

In any event I'm not going to call for mass punitive droppings, let's talk again if we can't beat the last placed Lions but for now I want to avoid panic and try to back the similar side in. Record breaking performances aside I'm not for the idea of Maximum having to take on Leuenberger and the SME (lining up for another three votes) solo so opting for the reintroduction of the Spencil. A second ruck who could convincingly play forward as well would be my first option but it's Round 16, what are you going to do?

IN: Spencer
OUT: Dawes (omit)
UNLUCKY: Grimes (thought he was quite good before injury - would take him for one of Stretch/ANB/Harmes if necessary), Jamar (purged from history)

If Howe gets rubbed out for Trengoving I'll accept Dawes surviving, but other than the first quarter last week he is offering very little. Even Howe, who looks as likely to take a mark directly in front of goal as the Venus De Milo, compensated with some manic pressure to try and halt his asking price plummeting like the Shanghai stock market whereas Dawes had zero tackles. Not hanging him on that alone given that our beloved Hogan only had one, and he did take a nice mark to set up the first goal but somebody's got to go out of that forward line and he's it. Of course the last time I called for him to be dropped he followed up with a good performance, and I know there's no way they're going to dropping him so here's to another "fuck you anonymous blogger" performance of note.

Was it worth it?
I can't think of anything that happened which was must-see in-person viewing that would be remembered well in the future. Still, promise of Arctic conditions aside it felt essential to be there. Maybe not as essential as it was a couple of years ago but how much can anybody take before wilting? We might find out next week when there are 1400 people in attendance.

Final Thoughts
If nothing else (and there wasn't much else) it was a reminder for Melbourne fans to know their role and never assume victory no matter how grim circumstances look for the other team.

One day we'll start warm favourites and kick away to an easy victory. I'm informed that our performances over the last 10 years to the week are now officially worse than that of Fitzroy, so I'm currently expecting that to happen shortly after we're relocated to Norfolk Island in 2019.

For now I'm holding on to the spirit of Kardinia Park, but my order from has been shipped and is expected to arrive around 4.40pm next Sunday.