Monday 31 August 2015

The Rainbow Connection Meets The Reality Bus Uptown

Round 22, what a time to be alive. No longer the end of the home and away season, but you'd hate to be one of the thousands of Melbourne fans who threw their arms up in despair and walked out last week not to return until at least 2016. If you'd done that you'd have missed the latest in the conga line of self-inflicted debacles, the Veil of Negativity fiasco.

As far as debacles involving us went it was minor but came just at the right time as people wanted to lash out at anybody in power, and fuelled by shithouse crisis management took over the week. It seemed a bit early to enter crisis mode considering we were about to go as lambs to the slaughter in Perth, but now that the internet allows us to entire InstantOutrage mode at the drop of a hat the reaction to the implication that Melbourne fans are self-loathing, teenage emos who are rummaging around their cutlery draw for a fork to plunge into the toaster was scathing.

Not that anyone particularly cared when Roos first raised the spectre of the famous veil on Monday night's AFL 360. I certainly didn't think any more of it, but at the same time I was too busy screaming at the TV for them to ask him a sensible question that I may have missed the chance to take offence at his comments. Where the shit hit the fan was when Peter Jackson decided to come out and helpfully clarify that Roos wasn't talking about the club being a downer to work or play at, just that the fans are the negative ones. Which caused an otherwise nothing story to blow up to the point where people are blowing their top. Roos must have gone into PJ's office and thanked him for turning a trickle of emails into an avalanche.

Given that nobody has done more than I to spread the famous veil across the club it seems almost hypocritical to say it, but don't you think people went a bit over the top about all this? The suggestion that Melbourne fans are negative is... 100% correct. Other than the few "think happy thoughts" teenyboppers who believe that positive vibes can make a difference our fanbase has had their hearts ripped out and shoved back in so many times over recent years that a lot of people don't have any emotion left to give - but it's a near total verballing to suggest they were saying we were the reason the side is still crap after all these years.

What irritated me was the clarification from somebody who is generally a gun operator. Maybe he got stitched up by the papers Bartlett/Yankees style, but I'm not sure who they were speaking to when they rushed to tell us about they scored highly on a staff engagement survey as if there'd be a mass exodus in the finance department otherwise. It just poured fuel on the fire, and now the poor receptionist is probably on stress leave again because she spent all Tuesday afternoon taking calls from frothing nutters intent on explaining how they weren't negative. Compare and contrast to the pre-season when some galoot on 3AW started spreading rumours that we were going to sack Jackson and replace him with Brian Cook, they refused to respond and provide oxygen to the story and it died in the arse. Now along with the team who voted itself out of existence we're going to be the side whose coach and CEO "blamed the fans" for losing.

And we fell right into the media trap on this. In a year where the previously cadaverous MFC has started to show vital signs again this gives them an opportunity to lay the boots in again and make us look stupid. We've got people paid to do that on the footy field, we don't need to assist. Of course somebody then decided to make the own goal decision of ringing around trying to flog $200 raffle tickets but I suppose when you're skint like we are the need to make money outweighs everything else. There's no truth to the rumour that we helped the Australian Border Force with a publicity campaign later in the week.

By the end of the week it was practically accepted wisdom that Roos had gone on Fox Footy on Monday and said "We lose because the fans are depressing us" and that Jackson had rung up the Herald Sun on Tuesday to clarify that "yes, they are a bunch of miserable pricks who are really bringing us all down". I foolishly opened the Facebook comments about Sizzle Jr's debut to see the very same people who are probably up in arms about being referred to as negative whinging about how awful it was that we were going to kill his career by throwing him to the wolves in an unwinnable game. Which it was, but if you can't see the difference between a late season taste of the big stuff and burying somebody like we did with Toumpas (who has apparently re-signed, which I'm for because we may as well persist rather than give him away for peanuts) you're not trying.  Conspiracy theorists would suggest they picked him because they needed a good news story, and well at this time of the year who doesn't?

So after five days of this, to the point where even I of all people wanted to buy Facebook advertising and target it to Melbourne fans telling them to calm the fuck down losing to Freo seemed like an afterthought. As long as the veil wasn't the 2015 version of the pre-186 accommodation debacle we'd forget about the game quickly and could get back on to eating our club alive like classic era Richmond fans.

To be honest it's Monday night and I've already forgotten the game. I remember us getting thrashed, I remember us kicking it out on the full and I remember Jesse Hogan moving increasingly closer to breaking the neck of a teammate but otherwise it was just a blur of late season slurry that didn't tell me anything I didn't know about either side but was soundtracked by Dermott Brereton talking through his ringpiece on several topics and shouting condescending advice at our players like he was watching little kids vs big kids at an Auskick session.

Our world famous "was it worth it?" segment is usually reserved for games personally attended, but in this case I'll deviate from normal procedure and tell you that even from the couch there was very little essential about this match. In a bizarre twist of fate I'd been left in charge of a small child while all this was going on, celebrating just over a year since the first game of her life ended with the Dees kicking 4.10.34 against Freo in Darwin. Around the 20 minute mark of the first quarter as the people who gave us Scott Chisholm began battering us the smell of a turd wafted through our living room, which seemed appropriate.

The only blip in the expected Fremantle dominance was the brief but wholly unsatisfying period in the first few minutes when we were getting the ball forward easily but panic hoofing it into congestion for want of the slightest idea of how to craft a scoring opportunity. Highlights of our inept attacking set-ups on Queen's Birthday must have been on high rotation at Docker HQ this week, because they set the loose man trap and like total suckers we fell for it repeatedly. At least we did for a few minutes until they realised who they were playing at the same time we realised it was a first quarter and proceeded to tear us apart. Five goals before quarter time and another five unanswered in the second quarter before easing off and letting us stumble to the finish line with slivers of our dignity intact.

We got off lightly because they didn't care enough to tear all our limbs off, but at least when people look back at the record books once we've folded at least they won't identify this as one of the all-time great debacles. If it had been two or three weeks ago we would have been clobbered in spectacular fashion, and would have deserved every bit of it.

Given that everyone in the world knew we were going to lose this game (lift that veil Roosy, you did too and there's no point denying it) the primary focus should have been on Nathan Jones' 200th game. There should have been a Press Red for Chunk option to watch him run around crashing into people, but if there was it would have ended in tragedy. Just in case you didn't already know that other than the perennial injury cases he's the unluckiest player ever to have been born his big day ended with five clanger disposals and an ankle injury. I said it last week and I'm even more certain now, if he's been playing fit the last few weeks I'd be astonished. Nevertheless a month of struggling towards a milestone should not detract from the way he has taken the load on himself since 2012.

It's hard to know if he would be the same player elsewhere, but after a few years out of the spotlight he's developed himself into the biggest fish in the most polluted pond over the last few years and for that he should have been hoisted on the shoulders of teammates and fans alike then carried all the way back to Victoria. He has been a colossus, and as his injury doesn't appear to be serious deserves to sit there this week and watch from afar what he's been propping up all this time. In a manly way I just want to hug him and tell him that winning games would be nice but the respect of the people means so much more when it's won in the worst of times.

The best tribute all week came from Colin Garland of all people, who betrayed more emotion in a single column than he ever has in his face. It had a certain valedictory tone about it, like an era was about to come to an end and as we know Jones isn't going anywhere my first thought was that Col had wrestled with the decision of whether to stay or go and had finally reluctantly opted for the latter but was waiting for somebody to talk him out of it. Then a competing conspiracy theory emerged suggesting that he wasn't just leaving, but that he was completely jack of football and is about to announce his retirement. I can't think there's anything in it, and I'd rather he goes elsewhere and has success than chuck it all in, but in a week where Slamming Sam Blease has been forced into retirement due to concussion wouldn't it be appropriate that another player who has been comprehensively Melbourned stood up and said "I can't take this any more" and went to work in a chicken shop somewhere?

My problem with losing Garland, and to a lesser degree Howe, is that on their day they are players who you could see in a top eight side. The sad fact is that we're running at starvation levels of them, and much of our list owe their careers to the AFL pointlessly expanding into markets where nobody cares. For instance Matt Jones is a fine VFL player, and he had a good run in his first season despite falling into a toxic environment but he couldn't sustain it. Even as the tide rose slightly he sank from view and is at best good for one or two serviceable games a season. Which would be fine if we had a cavalcade of stars that meant we only relied on him or one of Terlich, McKenzie, Riley etc.. a couple of times a year but we've got about 10 who either fit that bill or you feel are only likely to ever be really useful if we can develop stars to play around them.

Witness, for instance, Newton doing the reverse to all his teammates except Viney (our only siren-to-siren player all day) and playing a good game when we were being thrashed then disappearing when the sting went out of the game in the second half. Or Michie who seems like he should be handy but has proven very little over the last couple of years. One day we might not have to rely on players like this, but that's a long way off unless we hit the jackpot on recruiting and/or manage to develop Brayshaw, Salem, Hogan, Kent and probably Petracca instead of ruining them like we have so many others recently. It's not a veil of negativity, it's an all encompassing Tuckerbag style paper bag of negativity worn completely over the head with slits cut out for eyes.

After five minutes of fruitlessly going forward to the advantage of nobody but Freo the floodgates finally opened. There was some assistance from questionable free kicks, but even if the frees had gone the other way we were playing like such rank amateurs that we'd have undoubtedly given them the ball back for a goal before long. Cue the procession, where clearances were non-existent (and in some cases around the ground woefully defended that it was embarrassing even by our standards) and none of our players could get their hands on the ball to the point where four of our top five possessions were playing in defence even though we only lost the inside 50's by nine.

As the 10th goal went in I was holding a kiddies toy ("you've changed man" - Adam 1981-2013) and 'playfully' piffed it at the floor only for it to ricochet off a play-mat and rocket into the centre of my television. Fortunately no permanent damage was caused, I've spent enough money on this club in 2015 the last thing I want is to be replacing an appliance ruined in a fit of pique during an otherwise meaningless match. Later when we managed to stem the bleeding long enough to have a clear kick across half back and the runner gave away a free kick for fuck's sake I adopted the Basil Fawlty position directly in front of the TV.

The only thing that caused me to uncurl and rejoin society was when 'Derm' tried to sound knowledgeable by naming the runner as if they were old mates only for Brad Johnson to point out that he was actually looking at the Fremantle team sheet and the Melbourne runner was some other bloke.

Why did I still care? I don't know, it's in the blood. It still hurts me to see our club being treated with contempt by opponents. I'm used to it now but it still rankles, I just want somebody to make a stand. The only person likely to that yesterday was Viney, whose efforts to fire his teammates up ended in him paying a $1000 fine for wrestling. Money well spent.

As the game rapidly degenerated into Disinterested vs Disinteresting the only excitement was a small dog running across my garden during the fourth quarter and late in the day when I realised Daniel Cross had somehow managed 39 touches. Which is the equal ninth most on record for us. If you'd blindfolded me, spun me around, forced me to swing at a Pinata then asked how many he'd had I wouldn't have said more than 25, but it was that kind of day for showing interest. After a rocky start - not that he was alone - I liked what he did and think he should definitely go on next year but I'm not sure there wasn't a typo somewhere along the way.

I didn't mind Sizzle Jr's debut. He was clearly way out of his depth, but we know he was only there to get experience and give the club a good news story to try and defuse some of the bad karma so I'm not going to hold it against him. It was far from a Weetra-esque debut, and he showed enough to indicate that he'll get games on merit next year if he bulks up beyond Cale Morton dimensions and is no longer likely to lift off in a strong breeze.

The last quarter passed me by as if watching a game between two neutral teams. I've still got enough in me to go next week and watch with intent - and to miss footy a week later - but I find it hard to get into our games watching them on TV at the best of times let alone when it's clear that not one person involved except the permanently aroused Dwayne Russell wants to be there.

Such scant interest was being paid that I didn't even remember to pause it when I left the room just before the end of three quarter time and totally missed Gawn's goal. We kick so few it seems rude to have been out of the room when it happened, but even when I came back it didn't register that we'd added another for about five minutes. I'm used to being tired and emotional (not a euphemism for being roaring drunk) but this was ultimate CBF on the same level as the Northcote Leader delivery kid who dumped their entire run in my recycling bin on Friday night despite the fact that we live nowhere near Northcote. Draft that kid.

It's a measure of how satanic our form has been against the Dockers over the last few years that it turned out to be our highest score against them since Round 16, 2012 and raised our average score per game against them since then to the dizzying heights of 42.66. There's a lot of things that could be regarded as our kryptonite (drafting, development, Docklands, North Melbourne) but in the last three seasons Freo has equalled death like no other. I've not got the time nor the inclination to go through the archives to find out but I've got deep suspicions that we've had such an impotent run over six matches against any side since World War I

We should be able to string our lavender marriage with the top 14 out to the end of the season as long as Essendon don't beat Collingwood and make up two percent, and we are getting there (to mid-table), but at the moment progress is slower than paddling a canoe to New Zealand but with the same high potential for us to be wiped out by a freak storm. My head says there's better to come next year, but my heart says it's still a good idea renew your Farce Insurance for 2016.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jack Viney
---- Significant distance ----
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Lynden Dunn
2 - Jeff Garlett
1 - Daniel Cross

Apologies to Grimes and Salem who were at least in the mix for the last couple of votes. He might not have pocketed a vote but congratulations must go to Grimes who has won quarter time bragging rights two of the last three weeks by being named sub and playing no part in us going 10 goals behind. He'd better start playing his part in debacles soon or they'll make him captain again by default.

Courtesy of a great run in some terrible games it's advantage Viney, and after looking the certain winner a few weeks ago Vince now finds himself needing to keep Jack scoreless and deliver a best-on-ground performance just to steal a share of the prize pool.

McSizzle also remains a chance, but with Viney's capability of staying afloat when all around him are floundering put him in the box seat to take home his first Jakovich outright. However, if you're a betting man you'll know that Tom has scored 10 of his 85 career votes against GWS, and Viney 7 of 83 so each has a claim. Vince hasn't polled against the Giants yet, and I would suggest this as a great time to start.

In the minors Hogan and Gawn do what was almost certain last week and confirm themselves as champions. After suggesting it would be Gawn who would take the title on Thursday night it turned out that Jesse was the recipient of selection changes when Brayshaw was mercifully rested a month after he threatened to keel over and die.

40 - Jack Viney
38 - Tom McDonald (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
35 - Bernie Vince
27 - Nathan Jones
25 - Jesse Hogan (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
17 - Angus Brayshaw, Jack Watts
16 - Daniel Cross
15 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Jeff Garlett, Aaron vandenBerg
7 - Chris Dawes, Dom Tyson
6 - Viv Michie, Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Ben Newton
4 - Lynden Dunn, Neville Jetta
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Jack Grimes, James Harmes, Jeremy Howe, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Mark Jamar, Matt Jones, Alex Neal-Bullen, Jake Spencer

Freo's cheersquad must have pre-submitted their application to tank, because even with home advantage and the sort of arrogance that could only come from being the minor premier (whatever that is) they could only manage a dull "thanks to supporters and members" message in the worst font since Times New Roman.

On the other hand our side paid a fitting tribute to a great man by shipping this monster across the continent.

Dees win by a landslide, and as GWS are to cheersquads what we are to Australian rules football I'm claiming victory in advance for next week, which will give us a record of 24-1-0 and the first unbeaten season in Banner Watch history. Congratulations to all who found themselves contemplating their life while elbow deep in crepe paper on a Thursday night in Bentleigh, if there is a football heaven you all deserve to end up there.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Imagine following a team who kicks reasonable scores, you wouldn't know where to turn. Lucky for us the Dees kick so few goals you could decide the winner by a game of Rock Scissors Paper. This week I'm opting for Watts' snap, narrowly beating out the accidental Jack Grimes goal which may have come off McDonald on the way through which I ranked highly because its absurd nature neatly matches my experiences of watching this club.

Garlett still leads overall, but in a dramatic development I'm swinging back to the ice skating goal against Geelong as my favourite.

Stat My Bitch Up
Apparently after looking at membership data it was revealed that a large portion of people aren't even in the ground at the first bounce every week, and what a treat the last month has been for those people. They certainly haven't missed many Melbourne goals, three in total. They have however failed to see 26 by the opposition and probably find themselves doing this on the way into the ground

Which would be awkward if you'd gone all the way to Perth. A month ago our first quarters weren't looking terrible, but suddenly they've drawn alongside the third and fourth in the axis is evil. Second quarters... not so bad.

Q1 - 54.50 to 76.57
Q2 - 57.43 to 64.56
Q3 - 59.30 to 81.50
Q4 - 45.57 to 67.74

For those of you watching our average points per game plunge like the Chinese stock market we've somehow managed to land dead on 70ppg. No charismatic extra numbers, no recurring three, just 70 exactly. Which makes the equation for next week fairly simple, hit the average or go below. Considering this year we've scored 50 thrice, 60 thrice (and nearly hit another hat-trick over the last three weeks by going 54, 54, 55) I don't doubt we can score a nice round number but it's probably more likely to be 40.

We've been moderately blinded by progress, but unless we score 110 this week (fat chance) it will be the fourth worst scoring 22 game season we've ever played behind 2013, 1997 and 2014. So, three of our lowest scoring seasons since 1970 in a row - roll-up kids and start supporting the amazing excitement machine.

There's a lot of other stats about how dreadful we are, but out of respect to anybody who does think that the veil is having an effect I'll keep them to myself.

Next Week
Contrary to my previous claims Casey are playing a final next week, which demonstrates just how much I care about them other than as a day-care centre for our rookies and midcarders. Feel free to go back to last week and read the opening of this particular segment again because most of it remains accidentally relevant.

Now that the VFL finals game neatly coincides with the last round there's even more complications in team selection, after years of uncomfortably shafting Casey at this time of the year we'll probably do the right thing and leave all the "too good for the 2's, not good enough for the 1's" players down there (in fact as a gesture of solidarity they can have Matt Jones back especially for the occasion) while the seniors plunge to bitter defeat.

It's effectively been revealed that Brayshaw, Harmes and Dawes (this time can he resist the urge to biff somebody and get suspended for Round 1 2016?) will all be back in, but I'm not sure how seriously we're meant to take that after last week's debacle where Harmes was announced as being rested, named on Thursday anyway then not picked on Friday. The suggested changes below reflect the fact that I think it's madness to bring Brayshaw back for a meaningless game when he's got nothing left to prove. Also happy to let Tyson get a head start on pre-season instead of risking him.

The Jamar question remains unanswered, and as far as I can see nobody can be bothered asking Roos if he'll play because they're too busy probing for his feelings like they're writing an article for New Idea. We don't need two ruckmen against GWS but I still want him to play. Don't think he will though, and if he does I suspect it will be announced well before 6.25pm Thursday in order to try and pump up some interest in what will otherwise be a record low crowd. If he's merely in on the extended bench then we've decided to take the piss out of a life member one last time for the road - because that's worked so well in the past.

IN: Jamar (emergency: Fitzpatrick), Riley, Harmes, Dawes
OUT: N. Jones, Spencer (inj), M. Jones (omit), Howe (no point)
LUCKY: Garland (I'm buying in to the conspiracy theories), Stretch, Neal-Bullen and O. McDonald (not great games but better to play them now no matter what)
UNLUCKY: Brayshaw (deserves his spot on form)

As for the crowd I'm not expecting much. The Bulldogs-GWS game in the last round of 2014 should be a good guide - a crap team vs GWS with nothing to play for got 14,725. Now adjust for our fans loathing the place, the lack of MCC Members and our 'disappointing' last month of the season and see what happens. Admittedly last year they played a 4.40pm game, but I still think it's going to be a numerical disaster. I've never been to a crowd lower than the 12,410 on Mother's Day 2003 against Port Adelaide (when my mum celebrated by nearly punching on with a Port fan) but if this tops that I'll be astonished. After the 'negativity' fiasco some people were speaking of boycotting this game, but how will we be able to tell? And it's Father's Day, which can't help. If like me your father is a feckless Scotsman who did a runner you won't have any issues, but many of you probably had proper upbringings and wish to spend time with the old man. Well, do it another day we've got to get to 10,000 - though I would secretly be chuffed to be at a record low.

We should have tacked on a page to Ross Lyon's application and asked to be considered for GWS style home crowd rorts to get us into five figures. Given that they're the opposition it shouldn't be too hard to organise. As Level 3 will be shut (I did give thought to smuggling in and unfurling a #FISTEDFOREVER banner up there during the last quarter for comic value, but the amusement value to the 14 people who read this would be outweighed by everyone else using it against us for years to come) what about throwing open Level 2? As long as the cheque doesn't bounce we'll end up paying the stadium for the privilege anyway, so why not try and rope a few more people in to spend on food and drink. Who am I kidding, it's going to be a fiasco and they're not even going to open the catering outlets. I might buy a Nandos and pour extra hot Peri Peri sauce into my eyeballs pre-game.

Final Thoughts
Describing Winston Churchill's support for Lord Beaverbrook (#draftsillynames) during the Second World War, Ernest Bevin said he was "a man who has married a whore, he knows she's a whore but he loves her just the same". I've got no idea who two of those three people are but as a Melbourne fan it seems apt.

Monday 24 August 2015

Instant asset write-offs

Students of the Melbourne Football club would surely have woken up on Sunday morning expecting to watch the game through their hands. The week of self-deprecating "we might lose" comments made as Carlton lurched from on-field to off-field crisis betrayed actual terror at the prospect of losing yet another game when starting favourite. No matter how hard you tried to spin it in your own mind you knew we were every possible chance of throwing this away. And we did. Sucked in us.

The Farce Alarm had been slowly beeping away all week, starting with the Blues plummeting to the bottom of the ladder with a disinterested performance against Brisbane last week. Without automatic priority picks on the agenda, and with two standout draftees on offer the chances of suspect activities and a subsequent $500k fine were low so they still had plenty to play for.

Then, in a week where St Kilda rolled out an American just because, it was expected that Carlton's surprise midweek selection change of OUT: Henderson (CBF) would lead to the Blues picking some kid from Transylvania to tear us to shreds then never play another good game in his life.

Shambles Detectors across the South Pacific started ringing when Roos implied he and his team were having a difficult time motivating players to get through the last few weeks, and they went into overdrive when the 'embattled' Blues couldn't even get to the first bounce without having to dip into their wafer-thin reserves due to a late change. The further the deck is stacked in our favour the less likely we are to take advantage of it. Because we are mental. For extra points in the ARIA Top 40 #fistedforever chart the late replacement was a mid-range player who had been unable to cement a regular spot - and as history has shown that's practically a gold pass to the Kingsley-Wilkes Club.

What a rich tapestry our history with Carlton is. Remember 2006 when they were total filth yet managed to beat us twice in a season where they only won three games? I certainly do. Even though we won a final for the first time since 2002 that should have been fair warning that everything was going to go tits up shortly after. Since then we've had the original tankfest, the game where Judd did nothing for three quarters and still got three Brownlow votes, the night we got banned from Friday night footy because Bailey tried to play for a nil-all draw and several other moments of high farce before finally toppling them again last year.

All things considered we should have done it again. I know it must be hard to plod through the last couple of weeks when you've been battering your body since late October, but was one last huge effort in a winnable game too much to ask for? As it turns out, yes. As long as we kept it fragrant in the last couple of games nobody would have minded a pair of losses but this was crucial to prove beyond any doubt that we'd spiritually as well as physically moved out of the top four. Now I just feel like we're living in a slightly extended bottom bracket instead of towering above the really poxy sides while simultaneously cowering in fear at the sight of the top four.

It was clear from the train full of Carlton fans that they knew full well the opposition were just the sort of side to run into an open goal and fall flat on their face. Perhaps they attempted to boost attendance by sending an email out with a link to that list. There was also something about a lap honour to say thanks to Chris Judd for briefly getting them into the mid-table, but most of the crowd showed up to see if the AFL's version of an ice addict trying to scratch away imaginary bugs would provide them a memorable afternoon. You're welcome.

It wasn't a great turnout for a champion (should have joined us, would have won just as much and I'm sure we could have found a fake job for him as well. If we didn't churn through sponsors at a rapid rate.), probably second only to when barely any of our fans turned up to say farewell to Neitz and I won a $100 booze voucher off the radio for ringing up and abusing them for it.

The idea that we'd show up and they'd just step aside for us to win was absurd. There's plenty of examples of suspect activity by teams in the last few weeks of seasons over the last 15 years, but the common thread between is off-field shenanigans leading to questionable selection or positional decisions rather than the players doing something outrageous like - just say - only landing two tackles in the first 20 minutes of a match while the other side run riot.

Any administrators who tinkered with the idea of casually moving themselves back to the bottom of the ladder might have calculated that the players would have scant interest in shenanigans but they would have also had to weight up playing against a side prematurely burnt out both mentally and physically before deciding to just get on with it and give their fans something memorable to go into the off-season with.

I've still got no regrets about playing our best 22 throughout the pre-season, but a bit of 'management' along the way wouldn't have gone astray. Gawn has been playing reasonably, but he's clearly been struggling ever since Goldstein ran him to a standstill at MCG a few weeks ago and there's absolutely no interest in giving him a hand. And what is there left for Brayshaw to prove? It's staggering that he's still playing full games when he's been slowing down ever since cutting Geelong to ribbons at Kardinia Park. Let him put his feet up for the last two weeks and roll in somebody we need to know more about. That's not tanking it's good sense.

Football is cruel. More accurately following Melbourne is cruel, when we beat a nothing team it turns into a relentless slog but when the shoe is on the other foot we concede nine goals in a row and the game is over at half time. When was the last time we ended a game against any opposition by half time? It could have been against Brisbane earlier this year before we turned into pumpkins in the second half. By my count the last time we did it against a non-expansion team was against Sydney in 2010. Now consider how many times we've been out of a game in the same time-frame and tip your coffee table over in frustration.

What a depressing, grim existence it is to be a Melbourne fan. Good luck getting the kids on board when much of the advice given before a nuclear attack is also relevant for following the Dees.

On AFL 360 tonight Roos spoke about his bemusement at a fan sending him an email saying he knew we were going to lose, and I can understand that it might seem odd to somebody who previously coached a moderately successful side that nobody cared about but this is the reality of the Melbourne experience. You can't blame on-field performance on the sins of the past, but you certainly can see why fans are dangling their Black and Decker over the bathtub. Yesterday morning I was so tense about what was going to happen that a regulation garden weeding session ended with me spraying anything that fluttered in the breeze with herbicide using a double-handed action that Dirty Harry would have been proud of. God knows how much innocent plant-life was caught in the crossfire and will needlessly die but I was shitting bricks. Wrap your head around that Roosy, many of us have completely lost our minds since 2007.

Like Barassi in the 1980's Roos' legacy will be determined by what he leaves behind and what happens after he leaves, but I submit that after living his football life pre-mass media saturation and in Sydney and is surprised that people are going off their nut he's lucky he doesn't coach Carlton or Collingwood.

All the warning signs seemed to be confirmed when we got smashed out of the first centre clearance and conceded a goal within 40 seconds. Unfortunately for Garland the unnecessary bear-hug he slapped on Andrew Walker for the free kick didn't appear in the tackle count or we'd have had three in the first 20 minutes.

It was hardly the ideal start against a side who needed to be strangled at birth before they could get their confidence up. I love Garland and will wish him well when he replaces Rivers at Geelong but he's gone. His body language gives away far more than his face ever will, he's had enough playing in a train-wreck side and is going to leg it somewhere else. Like Frawley I can't hold it against him because he's given us years of service first, and as long as he doesn't go to GWS or Hawthorn like everyone else I hope he wins a flag.

We were given the chance to redeem ourselves after equalising through Grimes (!) after he had led for a mark inside 50. I'm assuming like McDonald vs Essendon the opposition had no idea he was there because the idea was so unusual, but he got free so easily that it seemed any early nerves were going to be wiped away as we plundered the hapless Blues for a morale boosting victory. That worked well. Grimes didn't play much of a game as a defender but when he got the ball he was reasonable enough considering the circumstances - remember when we all expected him to roll straight into the midfield after his apprenticeship? Then he ran into injury and made the horrible mistake of demonstrating leadership just as the powers that be were loading the guns to mow down all our senior players and he's been exhibiting a Thousand Yard Stare ever since.

His goal came from Salem's pass, but as he worked himself back into the game after so long out he didn't do much in the forward line other than give us warm memories of Essendon 2014 when he initially lined up for goal. It was only when he returned to the back-line in the second half that he proved really useful, which was lucky because Daniel Cross was playing like he was in the middle of having a stroke. Unfortunately by the time they got Salem down there and he started to deliver reminders of why we loved him earlier in the year the damage had been done - and much like last week the situation spiralled out of control too quickly for us to apply the brakes before the margin went beyond sane and sensible comeback territory.

Given that we could barely get hands on the ball or lay a tackle I'm almost tempted to watch a replay to see what we were doing in the first few minutes, but even when they opened up a three goal lead I still felt like if we could get the ball forward enough we'd win out through sheer weight of numbers. As it turns out this was right in the middle of them racking up six goals from 12 inside 50's while beating their recent average score by half time.

Meanwhile in the odd opportunities we did get past centre we were panic bombing into a forward line where nobody looked remotely capable of generating a big score. A week before a trip home and two weeks before the opportunity to slip out the side door and demand a trade was poor timing for Hogan to have his worst game yet. He was handicapped by shithouse delivery and teammates violating his airspace, but a random outbreak of Dawes Hands didn't help him either. At one point he became so frustrated that after failing to grasp a mark he looked at his hands as if they were cursed.

Somehow despite all this at three-quarter time it was revealed that we'd had more marks inside 50 than them, a staggering stat which caused me to openly and shamelessly shout abuse at the big screen. But as this point our blood pressure was only bubbling over towards dangerous levels, and even at three goals down we could still have cracked them if we'd managed to snatch a goal or two. 

To prove that it wasn't anybody's day Watts missed what would usually have been a sitter of a set shot for him. Hogan also missed one that he'd probably have kicked most other weeks, and the few minutes that we'd managed to slow the wooden-spooners elect down came to nowt. Then they kicked two goals in a row, I swore extremely loudly and the guy three rows in front temporarily walked out in disgust. He came back at the start of the second quarter but didn't even make it to half time before cracking the shits again and was not seen for the rest of the day. 

After being battered from pillar-to-post for the entire first quarter we managed to hold them at bay for the first 10 minutes of the second quarter. With the superstar duo of Jones and Vince having fallen off the face of the planet, replaced ably enough by the non-union Mexican equivalents Newton and Michie, it was one thing to keep them scoreless but we failed to add any score of our own and once Carlton realised that we were an easy kill then soon opened up a nine goals lead. Shithouse.

It took until the last couple of minutes to kick our second goal of the day against a side that had previously conceded an average of 108 points a game, which just compounded the embarrassment. It was one thing to put out an effort like this against a good side, but against unloveable losers it was vile. To add to the general carnival atmosphere as Dawes kicked what was probably the best set shot he's ever done in his time at the club he simultaneously collapsed to the ground due to an injured ankle. With Harry O already on crutches we were effectively two players down as well as eight goals.

There were some dubious umpiring decisions, and Hogan was unlucky to be declined a goal let alone conceding a 50m penalty for kicking it after the free had been paid, but we were playing like such arseholes that it's hard to mount a case that even if the decisions had been going in our favour that we'd have done very much with them.

Meanwhile Garlett must have been unaware that you're supposed to play a blinder against your old side and instead failed to register a stat in the first half. For some reason he got booed when he finally won a possession as if the Blues hadn't willingly traded him for pick 200, and in a sign of just how well our day was going he didn't even get to dispose of it before the siren beat him.

The inevitable death-or-glory comeback came in the third quarter after the players had shouted "I am not a number, I am a free man" and thrown the regulation gameplan out the window. It helped when Marc Murphy blew his shoulder out and the rest of his side joined him in sympathy. Once more it was our destiny to give up an big lead before mounting a fruitless comeback.

If you take the loose definition of a comeback to start at four goals down that leaves us with the following since Round 1, 2014.

  • Round 5 2014 vs Gold Coast - 26 down in the third quarter, lost by eight
  • Round 11 2014 vs Port - 26-0 behind in the first quarter, got in front in the last and lost
  • Round 13 2014 vs Essendon - 33 down in the third quarter and WON 
  • Round 14 2014 vs North - 24 down in the second quarter, back to seven in the same quarter, lost by 41
  • Round 15 2014 vs Bulldogs - 35 down in the second quarter, in front in the last and lost
  • Round 18 2014 vs Port - 30 down in the second quarter, in front in the last and lost
  • Round 6 2015 vs Sydney - 59 down in the second quarter, kicked five of the last six goals and lose by 38
  • Round 10 2015 vs Collingwood - 30 down in the first quarter, got in front, went 24 down in the third quarter, got level then conceded the last four goals and lost by 25
  • Round 11 2015 vs St Kilda - 24 down in second quarter, got in front in the last 40 seconds, fucked it up in the last 20 seconds
  • Round 19 2015 vs North Melbourne - 34 down at quarter time, back to within two points in the third quarter before falling apart
  • Round 20 2015 vs Footscray - 65 down in the second quarter, kicked five goals to nil in the third quarter before suffering the biggest pounding by a dog since Linda Lovelace
  • ... and the latest wankfest
So that's 1-11 in these circumstances under Roos. Given that half the side were playing like they'd just been exposed in the Ashley Madison database it might also be worth checking to see if they can find whether the Melbourne Football Club is listed as enjoying comebacks from hopeless positions and being cuckolded by out of contract players.

If they'd lost from there the AFL would have to launch another inquest, so fortunately for fans of probity we followed 30 minutes of domination by clamming up and reverting to playing as if we'd just seen a ghost the moment we got within three goals with 15 minutes left. You could argue that they ran out of gas in launching the comeback, but given that most of them hadn't started playing until midway through the third quarter that would be incredible spin. More like there's only so far carefree swashbuckling football can take you - and once they got within striking distance they revert to playing normally and that's what got them into trouble in the first place.

When we had them wobbling in the first few minutes of the last quarter, despite most of our best players still being well held, I'm convinced that one more goal would have caused them to crumble and we'd have been looking at a cheap and nasty version of the 2013 fourth quarter avalanche against GWS, but minutes of domination came to nowt.

In the middle of a shocker Garlett marked on the boundary and had an hour to play on, run around and kick to his strengths rather than trying to take a set shot but declined the opportunity and instead tried to convert with a drop punt from an outrageous angle despite the fact that he's no good at set shots when he's got the entire goal face at his disposal let alone hard on the boundary with barely daylight between the posts. It was a great example of how our comebacks are launched when people aren't thinking what they're doing, but when they have a second to stop you can see the gears turning above their heads.

Even after that ill-advised effort there was plenty of time to left to pinch what would have been the worst win of all time and cause Carlton to be the victim of all sorts of insinuations, but we had another promising attack almost immediately after which foundered when nobody wanted to take a shot and ended up over-possessing to the point where we didn't even get a point out of it and that was it, after 10 minutes of arm-wrestle we handed them another goal and when it was clear that we were too far behind to challenge an unconscious agreement swept across the ground that it was junk-time and everyone should just get through to full time then piss off to the pub.

Any finger pointing accusations towards Carlton had to be replaced with vigorous North Korean style self-denunciation for leaving our homes to watch this shit. One man not prone to such self-indulgence is the coach, who said "Out best is very good" in the press conference. I suppose you have to say that sort of stuff or otherwise you'll get the same loonies who are slagging off Pendlebury for admitting he played in a nothing game writing emails to complain about a lack of passion.

It's still bollocks, our best is average league standard which can occasionally knock over a dud side and if we get lucky they can beat a mid-table team having a bad day. I do feel like there's at least average times in our future if we can stop all the promising youngsters from being depressed but these days you're just expecting something to go wrong.

Just think, if they introduced the 666 fixture we could have had two more weeks of this sort of thing. Maybe if we hadn't been beaten to death against finals sides over the last fortnight we might have tackled this match with something more than half-interest. Nevertheless it's killed the season off for me, even after last week I still felt like it would be nice for the season to go on a bit to see more of the kids and enjoy the weekly tension of the lose - post mortem - mid-week whinging - Jamar gets picked on the extended bench - Jamar doesn't get picked in the senior side - lose - repeat cycle but now it can get stuffed. Until September 18 when I'm bored and would very much like to subject myself to the horror of the AFL Premiership Season once again.

Having said that a sensible man would go away and forget footy existed for the next two weeks but as an addict I'll be watching bitterly. The final joke for the season will be on me for rearranging my life so I could make it to the Empty Arena Match in Round 23 only to show up and find they've locked all the gates. I'm legitimately worried about the crowd figure now for that game now, especially if we get thrashed next week. Unless they can convince Jakovich himself to come out of the woodwork for a lap of honour there's no way we're beating the all-time record low at the ground of 12,542 - and depending on the severity of the beating it will be lucky to reach five figures.

It's sad when a six win season is considered a positive, but we've been such a disgrace the last few years that you still have to take it. Doesn't mean you can't be bitter about individual moments though. Following Melbourne continues to be like passionately supporting a terrible political party, but with the added bonus of being able to lose every week instead of once every three years. Like the Australian Democrats we've done nothing since the mid 2000's and you wouldn't admit to a stranger that you were a supporter.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
For the second game in a row nobody really deserves votes, but like the AFL we're all about integrity. Last week I gave Matt Jones a vote and he got the arse so that says pretty much everything you need to know about this award and the person handing it out.

---- Taking full advantage of a poor field  ----
5 - Tom McDonald
---- ???? ----
4 - Ben Newton
3 - Viv Michie
---- By default ----
2 - Jack Grimes
---- The rare "where were you when we were shit?" vote for the substitute who played a reasonable game when everyone else was shite ----
1 - Alex Neal-Bullen

Gawn would probably have came out looking better if his teammates had ever got to a tap, if he wasn't set to keel over and die from exhaustion or if he could have gotten out of Jesse Hogan's way.

It's jaw-dropping scenes as the top of the table where Tom McSizzle hits the lead going into the last fortnight courtesy of others falling over in front of him in a way that would make that speed skating bloke stand up and applaud. He was probably lucky to get votes at all last week, but this time around he really did deserve it. This leaves us with just three potential first-time winners, as after three straight victories (and four overall) the era of Jones has temporarily come to an end.

Despite not polling both Hogan and Gawn effectively locked away their awards, and can both justifiably be labelled as provisional winners. Maximum is in the rare position where he can confirm victory on Thursday night if neither Jamar or Spencer are selected - and as we all know Fremantle don't have any decent ruckmen why would we pick them?

38 - Tom McDonald (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
35 - Bernie Vince, Jack Viney
27 - Nathan Jones
25 - Jesse Hogan (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
17 - Angus Brayshaw, Jack Watts
15 - Daniel Cross, Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
11 - Cameron Pedersen
10 - Aaron vandenBerg
8 - Jeff Garlett
7 - Chris Dawes, Dom Tyson
6 - Viv Michie, Christian Salem
5 - Colin Garland, Ben Newton
2 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Jack Grimes, James Harmes, Jeremy Howe, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Lynden Dunn, Mark Jamar, Matt Jones, Alex Neal-Bullen, Jake Spencer

Carlton were instantly disqualified for including the largest curtain you'll ever see. It was such an overwhelming slit that the tribute to Chris Judd had to be forced into the top third of the crepe paper to accommodate it. Worse still nobody in the cheersquad thought to uncouple the curtain, leaving Marc Murphy to have to reach down and fiddle with the switch with 21 players close behind him. He got it eventually but I wouldn't be surprised if that's what set his shoulder off on the wrong course.

Ours was solid and businesslike considering the Demon Army must have just about had enough by this point of the season. It also included a provocative shot about the "sad winter Blues" which will be great fodder for media dickheads and the eight other people who think teams take motivation from what the other side's banner says.

As for some unknown bloody reason In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins blared out despite it being 3.20pm a guard of honour began forming for Judd. They stood far too close to the pyro towers (which is a nice touch that we should rip-off, kids will love it before deciding they're Hawthorn fans at quarter time) and it took an MCG attendant sensibly hustling them away before they all burned like buggery. Mind you we might have come out with a technical a draw on an abandoned game if they'd all been torched.

Result - Demons win and 22-1-0 for the season, with Freo representing the only reasonable chance of ruining the perfect season as we know GWS and their 0's instead of O's will provide about as much competitions as we will on-field.

Matchday Experience Watch
For a fallen club they put on reasonable show. Sadly there was no sign of the famous hovercraft - especially if it had Judd in it - but what they did have was two characters dressed as Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men supervising a long kicking competition. This would have been bloody genius if anybody with foresight had realised that the two characters had their 'arms' permanently stuck in the air and that good fun could be had by putting them in the drop zone and waiting for somebody to deck them with a footy. It would have been like the golf driving range when the ball-retrieval cart comes out, provoking everyone to forget about their swing technique and instead start hitting balls at it.

The Judd tribute was fine, if a sign of the sort of hard times that Carlton have fallen on in the last few years. On the digital screens around the ground he was thanked for 'giving us hope', which says it all about where they were at when he showed up and where they're at as he leaves. Forget individuals, playing Melbourne is what gives you hope. The screens then announced that they were kicking towards the "Legends Stand" in the first quarter, which was technically correct if not a few suburbs short but an unwelcome call-back to the decrepit, dying days of Princes Park when they'd blown all their money building said stand. When that end works for you like it did yesterday call it whatever you damn well please. We could do similar and name the two ends the "FISTED END" and the "FOREVER END".

Also as far as pre-replay animations go theirs was about a third the length of Collingwood's, and thank god for that considering how many times we had to see it in the first half.

The fun factor was later ramped up to 11 when 'Bongo Cam' superimposing a pair of digital bongos on the big screen then putting the camera on kids who pretended to play them. Ridiculous stuff, and another unwelcome addition to the gimmick 'cam' genre along with Kiss Cam, Cuddle Cam and Dance Cam.

It was certainly a step above their three-quarter time gimmick of catching people unaware on their phones, broadcasting it on the big screen and suggested the 'humorous' texts they might have been making. The 'texts' must have been pre-planned because all of them were about people spilling mustard on themselves not of Carlton fans writing  "LOL @ MELBOURNE" to their mates. It was uninspiring stuff, but regular readers would know my first rule of Fan Engagement is that as long as you make a buck out of it you've had a win, and this came courtesy of some obscure phone company so no harm done.

Crowd Watch
Due to sitting there all day with headphones in and the volume right up I didn't know there was a kid sitting behind me when I went on a rampage of filth as we threw it away in the last quarter. Sorry child and parents, but while last week it was almost laughable how easily the Dogs were doing it this time I felt sick and angry because it seemed like an unnecessary capitulation. Good on Carlton, they wanted it more and as you very well know fans of shithouse clubs sometimes need to be reminded that it's worse persisting.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I'm going for Dawes at the end of the second quarter because I'm so impressed at him converting fluently despite his failing leg. Garlett still leads overall, with time rapidly running out for anyone to pinch it considering we're not going to kick any goals next week.

Stat My Bitch Up
Another masterclass of attacking football sees us down to 70.8ppg for the season with 12 out 20 scores of 60 or less. We're still 12 goals and about eight percent better off than all of 2014, so we're marginally better than our lowest scoring season in anybody's lifetime if that's any comfort. Alas in the backwards race to be the most boring side in the competition we're now below all of Essendon, Carlton and Gold Coast - and only 51 in front of Brisbane. We can still achieve something this year, boring our supporters to a standstill.

Next Week
Fremantle's loss to North Melbourne yesterday afternoon might be a blow to their status as a premiership contender but it's an even bigger blow to our hopes of leaving Western Australia with anything approaching an 'honourable' loss. If all they needed to sew up top spot was a win they could put out their seconds and rely on their seconds players wanting to put their hands up for the finals to do enough to win comfortable without it getting ugly. What a shame Fyfe avoided suspension, that's ruined any chance we had of surviving unscathed.

Now even though they'll still be able to stay in first gear and win comfortably the best case scenario for us is that once they've scooted away to a 10 goal lead they'll relax and let us get to quarter time without further damage before going into self-preservation/Harlem Globetrotters mode for the rest of the afternoon/evening/I actually have no idea when this game is.

It feels harsh to pluck players out of Casey's elimination final to fly them across the country so they can act as cannon fodder for a rapidly fading finals contender but here we are. Usually I'd say stiff shit, you're getting paid to play in the seniors not the suburban leagues but in this case I'm not entirely sure. Still, if we make one enforced change just to try and get to the next round of the Reserves finals I'll punch on. The only ground I'll give is to not pick any first gamers so they can have a taste of finals of some sort before we ruin them in the seniors.

IN: Jamar, Riley, Fitzpatrick, Jetta, Tyson, Terlich
OUT: Lumumba, Dawes (inj), Brayshaw (rested), Garland, Howe (if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem)
LUCKY: Garlett (shite for the last month but always good for a goal or two, and we're going to need every opportunity we can get next week), Harmes (not a great day but happy to bust him down to sub for the last couple of weeks and keep him playing seniors)
UNLUCKY: Kent (has barely played so give him another week in the seconds to get up some fitness) and any fit Melbourne player who is not selected (though it saves them a six hour round trip and a flogging, so define 'unlucky').

Almost forgotten in our downhill run to an early grave is that it will be Nathan Jones' 200th game, and what better way to celebrate than by hoisting the team atop his shoulders for a completely unwinnable game one more time. I have a suspicion that he's playing injured so I wouldn't be surprised if he missed this game and came back for the milestone in the last week at a ground that must have given him so much joy to play at over the years. His first 100 and a bit games were good, but the last four years have been mighty while all crumbled around him. I do hope he will attend in person when we unveil the statue of him in 2020.

Off-season action
In case you missed the press release which briefly set social media alight, we announced during the week that the long and boring period between the end of trading and the National Draft will be filled by the second annual Demonbracket Classic.

It's the vote on a matter of public importance that you don't need to wait until the next term of Federal Parliament to have, but this time instead of selecting from the greatest MFC players we're going right to the other end of the spectrum in order to find your favourite of the 64 ex-Demons with the least senior games played for the club since 1990. This will be an interesting one considering there's no obvious winners, if you want to start formulating your strategy it's expected that players up to around 19 games will qualify.

The final field will be confirmed after this year's delistings, and the tournament will conclude on our grand final eve - the last day before the National Draft. More information on the classic and next year's regular tournament will be available on the usual channels as soon as possible.

Was it worth it?
Promotional consideration has been paid for by the following:
The Social Lounge

I am certainly doing my bit.

Final Thoughts
This is usually the point where I'd say something like "I'll miss this club when it's gone", but thanks to the new megabucks broadcast rights deal it seems we'll have to work extra hard to avoid surviving until at least 2022 or beyond. Which is probably a good thing ultimately, as losing the club would rip my heart out, but at times like this you do start to wonder...

Monday 17 August 2015

Complaining To A Tree

It was a brave coalition of supporters who suggested we went into this game "a chance" based on last week's belated comeback and eventual failure.

I suppose after all we've been through we've been conditioned to expect that any great achievement (e.g. a win) will soon be followed by a brutal correction, and for that reason some surmised that the Bulldogs nudging into the top four would be enough for them to temporarily relax and allow us to sneak for a memorable smash-and-grab victory.

Which is a highly romantic way of thinking, and the same people probably quite rightly saw the Geelong and Collingwood victories coming well before the rest of us, but it seemed to ignore the many factors pointing to a fiasco. For one the game was being played on an arena where our opponents are proven to play better whereas on the same ground we are traditionally putrid.

It's true that we rumbled them earlier in the year, but as Richmond have proven the past two seasons there's nothing that forces a fringe finals contender to take a good hard look at themselves like losing to Melbourne. Now against all odds they're a top four side, and no matter what tentative steps forward we've taken this year it was proof that any side good enough to be in the top four race with a month left is well out of our league.

It needn't have ended so brutally though. For the second week in a row I'm floating the conspiracy theory that we were set up to come out playing open and attacking football safe in the knowledge that if it all went tits up nobody would mind because we probably weren't going to win anyway but at least we'd put on a decent show. The difference was last week when it all went horribly wrong we clambered back off the ledge and launched a comeback, whereas this time we ran into a blitzkrieg of such violent force that by the time anyone realised what was happening and reacted we were a million points behind.

It's hard not to admire the Bulldogs, how can you not like a side who suffers the sort of adversity they did in the off-season and manages to bounce back in spectacular fashion instead of flopping the floor in a pile of blood, urine and half-written applications for a priority pick. Not to mention the fact that since the last time we won at Docklands Stadium they have been down, up, down and up again while we've been down, rose on a zephyr of wind around 2010/2011 then plummeted back to earth like the North banner.

 At some times this season we've been admirable too, but this was the ultimate in a team flying high running into one that has is making admiring glances towards Mad Monday. During pre-season when we played what was effectively our first choice team every week I predicted that they'd drop dead by the end of the year, but to be fair I also said that as long as they'd racked up a decent number of wins by that point it would be worth it so would be hypocritical to complain about it now.

Nor were we helped by the long awaited Salem comeback being thwarted by illness (why should he miss out on the fun everyone else had last week?) and Bail being seemingly the only person available to replace him. Then - not that it would have made much difference in the end - instead of opting for the 'last player picked is the sub' theory he was vaulted into the starting lineup. There's probably no better time of the year to throw the fringe like him, Jones and Michie out to see what happens - not to mention raw rookies who haven't yet played a solid four quarters - but in this case it backfired spectacularly. Not that Jones, Michie, Harmes and Neal-Bullen were amongst our worse, but when faced with a difficult situation rapidly deteriorating into hopelessness it was more the expendables than The Expendables.

Based on performance alone Grimes is a reasonable enough sub - as we enjoy the last declining days before the rule is shelved forever - but even if he's not the player he promised to be when we ransacked pick 16 out of Brisbane for him he would have provided better on-field leadership than some of his teammates who developed Thousand Yard Stare halfway through for the first quarter. As it was he nearly pulled of the Matthew Bate move of coming on at half time and falling into the votes for only being involved in half a debacle. Like the loopy umpiring that went against us throughout the afternoon, it hardly altered the course of the game but just contributed to the general air of farce around the afternoon.

We stuffed it up by gifting goals to them on a platter in the first few minutes, and that got them off to a flying start that they took full advantage of, but from then the upside to having to sit there and watch the apocalypse unfold in front of our eyes was that at least we were being torn to shreds by a team playing like stars. Which is at least unlike the St Kilda game means we won't roped into several thousand thinkpieces about the standard of football and why Gerard Healy thinks we should change every second rule so he can have more satisfaction as a neutral.

It was like we decided to try and beat them in a pace battle despite a major disadvantage in speedy players, and that went about as well as you'd expect. We might have the first goal through Harmes but his rushed snap missed to the left, and from then it was a first half procession the likes of which we haven't seen since a certain unfortunate August day in Geelong. Usually

How bad was it? If there was one of those moving lines they have in swimming that shows the world record pace...
... we'd have been behind 186 from 1.51 in the first quarter to 12.30 in the second. Fortunately while the Bulldogs are an exciting side they're no glory era Geelong.

Just by looking at the stats (and by half-time we were losing everything bar hitouts and hitouts to advantage - still love you Maximum) you'd complain about the lack of tackles, but it's not easy to lay a tackle when your opponents are dashing past you before you even realise they're in the vicinity. Or when they cleared the ball out of defence and find four spare players down the wing while we had four of our standing exactly halfway between two opponents frantically trying to work out what to do next. Fortunately for Mr M. Neeld of Tullamarine who has written in asking for a mention of his favourite stat there were also plenty of attempted tackles where an arm was despairingly thrown out in the hope of jarring the ball free/looking like they were making an effort.

It was such an odd game that after personally handing over three goals in the first quarter as part of his cover of Nathan Carroll's thwarted 2006 All-Australian campaign, McDonald ended up being one of our better players. How can a defender give away three goals that basically kill a side off and still (spoiler alert) sneak into the votes? Only at Melbourne.

Speaking of three goals in the first quarter, Congratulations to Jarrad Grant on becoming the latest inductee to the Kingsley/Wilkes Society of crap footballers who have a memorable day out against us after doing bugger all before. He'll be delivering the Brad Dick Lecture at this year's commemorative dinner after ending a run of games without more than one game stretching back to Round 20, 2013 by plundering three goals from us in the first quarter. Only the most depraved Demon loyalists had turned up to see this in person, but if he'd gone on to kick nine then the crowd for our last game of the year back at this infernal venue against GWS would have been lucky to crack four figures - forget about losing by 100 that would have done more than anything to tear a gaping hole in the side of the good ship Melbourne.

The domination was such that it's impossible to pick out any highlights that don't involve the Bulldogs running a training drill around up to 18 bright white traffic cones. It was yet another example in a long line over the last few years of us not showing up to play until the game was nearly gone - or in this case shot through like Bonnie & Clyde - and if you didn't know better you'd think that somebody involved is sexually aroused by watching Melbourne trying to overthrow a five goal deficit. All of a sudden we're the AFL's #1 auto-asphyxiation fanatics, only finding getting a result truly satisfying if it involves nearly dying in the act. Sadly, like many stranglewank enthusiasts, we're eventually found gagged, bound and in a compromising position.

The domination was total, to the point where it looked unlikely that we'd ever be able to keep the ball long enough to get a decent chance at a goal. That's almost the last insult waiting for us, being the first team in 50 years to fail to kick a goal - and more likely than not just to rub it in we'll do it indoors rather than knee deep in alluvial soil on a dilapidated suburban ground.

Metres gained is the razzle dazzle stat of the year, and at one point in the second quarter they were a full kilometre in front of us. Which is no surprise considering that they were heaving forward at a rapid rate while we were generally kicking backwards or straight into an opposition player, but damning nonetheless. Like inside 50's it's a completely useless metric if none of the kicks hit the target, but in this case the only question was which of five free Bulldogs players would you like to aim it at.

For every metre they gained I'd have lost a minute off my life, except that it was so ridiculous that when not screaming blue murder I was almost laughing at the absurdity of it all. At one point they got a goal courtesy of a textbook but in no way difficult shephard on the wing - later we were exactly the same position but instead of putting on a block for his teammate a Demon who shall not be named (why single out one when The Spencil is the only person who has regularly made the effort in the last two years?) tried to run forward to receive a two metre handball but never got it because the ball-carrier was under so much pressure than he completely flubbed it. That's something we don't even do properly when playing well, what hope did we have in a game where our players were so lost that somebody should have fired off a marine distress flare midway through the second quarter.

We finally managed to slow them down, breaking even at two goals each in the last 15 minutes. Just to make sure you knew you were watching Melbourne we even managed to concede one as an exclamation mark right at the end of the quarter. Was it after the siren? I can't remember, I think I had my head in my hands at the time.

At just over 10 goals the difference at half time we were still staring down the barrel of a massive loss, but halting the landslide made sure that the 186 world record line shot off into the distance where it couldn't be caught. Which was comforting, and left us just playing to avoid a 27th defeat by over 100 points - and what would have been the 9th in a decade as well as five other defeats of 90 plus.

Then the Bulldogs temporarily decided they'd done enough and ludicrously enough conceded five goals to nil for the third quarter. It was much like their game earlier in the year when they'd blown a 50 point lead against St Kilda, but they had such a massive buffer that there was absolutely no hope of the greatest comeback in all of league history. They could afford to trot around for a quarter and allow us to temporarily pretend we weren't an impediment on the competition.

In its way it was an enjoyable quarter, but even knowing the Dogs were letting us roam free I couldn't truly enjoy it because it seemed ridiculous to be in that situation after the totally inept half before it. I was already sick of playing terrible football and only coming of the game with credit with a futile death-or-glory comebacks, but the fact that we'd left it so that there was no chance of victory just made me angry. Not that angry though, it was all just so stupid that I sat there with what I expect was a bemused look on my face pondering my life choices. The one thing I enjoyed other than the goals was Tom McSizzle suddenly turning into an around-the-ground ruckman and doing a pretty good job of it. He'll never replace the SME in my heart (once more available, not sure where he'd fit in next to Maximum but what a homecoming it would be) but it's good to have as many versatile players as possible.

Naturally after dragging ourselves back into respectability we gave away a shot late in the quarter, and I don't know what I was thinking but when he missed it part of me thought it was a good thing because it kept us in it. The Chris Sullivan Line only applies to leads held by the MFC (and when did we last start a final quarter 48+ points up anyway?) but it gave me some comfort that we were within the greatest margin I'd ever seen the Dees stuff up.

After seeing us fall to pieces in the last 15 minutes against North when they finally broke our back it was foolish in the extreme to expect anything other than another violent crumble, and there were no surprises. Perhaps I didn't expect it to be a repeat of the first quarter where we looked completely hapless. The idea of using up all your energy in a comeback is fine if it's built on manic pressure but it didn't look to me like we were doing anything out of the ordinary in the third quarter so I refuse to put them coming out looking like they'd spent three-quarter time being mauled by a bear down to simply running out of gas.

Surely nobody, no matter how optimistic could have given us a chance of running them down having been 74-2 behind, and our attempt at pulling off the AFL's equivalent of the Fine Cotton affair unravelled in the last term when the real MFC reappeared, crawling to the line like they'd spent three-quarter time being mauled by a bear. Maybe they were all 'ill' again like last week? Which is why we only made one enforced change, and one late change instead of rotating some new faces in.

At least we got a couple of minutes of enjoyment before being completely steamrolled. Fortunately for Jack Watts only friends, family and the most criminally insane Melbourne supporters were still watching (if they were ever) so he should avoid being singled out and chased down the street more than usual for playing a direct hand in the two early goals which set Footscray off on their merry way. The first came via a Hollywood style over the head handball as we streamed down the ground, the second from a flat out rank kick across the defensive 50 and straight into the waiting arms of a gleeful Bulldog who couldn't quite believe his luck. (UPDATE - It has since been suggested that it was Hogan who did the handball, I'm sure it was the other way around I'd suffered such a severe concussion-by-association that it might have been Andy Lovell when it's all said and done)

That was it, Hogan kicked a goal which is always welcome, Garland continued to exhibit body language (don't bother trying to read the face) suggesting he's mentally checked out of the MFC and the Dogs ended with another five goals in a row in the face of scant resistance.

It ended in the most appropriate fashion, with Jeremy Howe steadfastly refusing to rush the ball under pressure and instead trying to find the line like a rugby league player and rightfully being nabbed for holding the ball and a goal. I'll believe the suggestions that he's now a chance to stay when I see a signature on paper, and I don't expect he'll stay anyway so that'll do for him as a Melbourne player in my books. What better way for a player who debuted in mid-2011 to end an MFC career strung out across dozens of disasters than to be involved in a massive blunder. It's been a nice run. His screamers will look nice somewhere else, and some of them might come with the scoreboard not showing his side a million points behind.

When they finally bulldoze the House of Horrors they'll find the corpse of the Melbourne Football Club putrefying under the thin layer of 'grass' atop the car park roof. It's one thing for teams to have lengthy losing streaks at grounds, but at this place Watts and Garland are now 0-14, Jetta 0-13, Grimes 0-11 and McKenzie 0-10. At least Nathan Jones has one win to go alongside his 24 defeats.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Former tagging sensation and future delistee Jordie McKenzie famously came out of 186 with a well deserved five votes despite the generally vile scenes unfolding around him, but this time I would have quite happily given out zero votes if it wasn't for the integrity of the competition.

---- Undeserved even in regular circumstances ----
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Daniel Cross
---- Even less deserved, and risking censure ----
3 - Tom McDonald
2 - James Harmes
---- Throwing names in the air and seeing where they land ----
1 - Matt Jones (!?!)

There are no apologies for obvious reasons but Hogan was in the raffle for the last spot just because goals are still an amazing novelty when you score as little as we do. He didn't do anything else though, which wasn't entirely his fault but you can't go around handing out votes just because players are surrounded by shithouse teammates.

Unbelievable scenes as Jack Viney's hot end of season form sees him draw level at the top. What fortune to pocket five votes in a slopfest while Vince was anonymous. McDonald also extremely lucky to poll, but he's not going to say no to falling into the votes for want of other reasonable candidates because it's kept his insurgent Jakovich campaign alive. The line knocks Brayshaw and Watts out of the running this week, and both Hogan and Jones could follow if the top two poll heavily.

In the minors there's no major movement, I'm happy to declare Gawn the provisional winner of the Stynes because the only way he can lose now is if Jamar or Spencer show up and bash out three straight BOG performances - and for those two just getting a game would be like winning awards. Hogan could seal the Hilton next week, but even if he doesn't vote I think Brayshaw has run out of gas and is unlikely to poll eight or more in the next three weeks. Feel the excitement, it might be the only MFC related activity worth following over the next three weeks.

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

A real late season slopfest. Ours was ok, theirs was another from the long line of gags so corny that the stars of vaudeville would refuse to deliver them. Dees win for being solid and old fashioned rather than modern and trendy. Also note the Dogs banner featured a curtain which is an instant DQ. The banner for the women's game was another triumph for minimalism over avante garde bullshit and gives us a dual victory, taking the side to 21-1-0 for the year - with an almost certain win against GWS in the last round.

Matchday Experience Watch
The Bulldogs put on the sort of carnival atmosphere that you can only get with a club who are collectively having the time of their life riding an enormous wave which could crash at any time. It reminds me of us in 1998, and who am I to deny anybody else that sort of beautiful season. They're going so well they've even taken the opportunity to brand all the nanny state big screen messages about not running on the field or throwing a house brick at the umpire.

The only advantage to Etihad Stadium over the MCG is that you can walk around the full perimeter of the ground level without having to produce any sort of pass or credentials. It's a good way to work off the rancid, floppy hot dog you're likely to nervously eat at half time. When I had to push through crowds 10 deep at one end of the ground I initially thought it was the queue for last minute "Oh shit, I didn't think we were going to be any good" finals ticket memberships, but as it was the Bulldogs were taking advantage of being one of the few clubs to sport a domesticated animal as a mascot and allowing fans to pat an actual dog. Thrilling stuff for the kids I'm sure, but not as much as supporting a side who can put bottom level teams to the sword.

The dog was walked onto the ground pre-game, and sadly failed to provide the ultimate in crowd engagement by humping the leg of a boundary umpire or delivering a withering verdict on the stadium by punching out a log. Four humans in dog suits were then introduced to mild applause, but none of them did anything interesting either. I spent half-time lined up for said rancid hot dog and sadly missed seeing them have a dance competition or appearing on Pal Superfoods Dry Hump Cam.

Crowd Watch
Footballing reasons aside my views on Docklands have softened recently, but the ultimate downside to the place remains how hard it is to get away from people. I had to move twice to get away from having Bulldogs fans sitting directly behind me, and still wound up having to listen to a family who showed up right before the bounce until I could get away.

They were reasonable people, not unnecessarily triumphant or aggrieved by our offensive exasperation but I never knew how much I wanted an interchange cap to be introduced and set at one until yesterday afternoon when one of the kids spent the first half paying more interest in the digital signage listing who was on the bench than the match itself. Never mind that his team were busy delivering the sort of ball-bursting performance that he's never likely to see in his life again, he was more fascinated about Lin Jong sitting down. Far be it from me to mock anyone for having an interest in obscure football topics (related - this week marks six years of Demonwiki), but if that was my kid I'd have told him to hush up and enjoy the juggernaut.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Even though he nearly stuffed it up several times it's hard to go past Dawes' goal when he attempted to run in, then attempted to run his defender and then when he'd run himself into trouble twice decided to boot it over his head instead.

I noted with interest a Footscray defender frantically claiming he'd touched it when the subsequent video replay showed that he was nowhere near. I'm not suggesting he would attempt to rort the system and try and claim such a thing when 10 goals in front, but he must have felt such a vicious gust of wind that it tricked him into thinking it had brushed his fingers. Remember when Mick Malthouse called Addam Maric a cheat in similar circumstances? I would never be so rude.

Garlett still leads the overall race for his goal against the Dogs the first time around. Three weeks left for somebody to deliver a moment of champagne football to snatch it away from him.

Stat My Bitch Up
Apparently Footscray's score was the greatest in the history of VFL/AFL football for a team that had a goalless quarter, which puts us on the end of yet another unwanted (albeit extremely obscure) record.

The good news is that the only other time in history we've lost by 98 it was followed by 10 wins from the next 11 on a run to the grand final so perhaps we're enter a team in the Sheffield Shield this season and win that?

Our 11th score of 60 or less from 19 appearances this year saw our points-per-game drop to 71.6. We're still marginally ahead of Essendon (+18), Carlton (+21) and Brisbane (+40) in points scored, what a time to be alive.

The Merchandise Table
Just when it looked like we were going to get a new logo in 2016 the club has denied it, which is a shame. When we registered the Schwab Shield they ran riot trying to get everyone to stop posting it, and I thought the reason they hadn't done similar this time is because the people now in charge understand how the internet works but obviously not.

The current logo is more divisive than Jack Watts, and while I've never been as down on it as most it represents the apex of the #fistedforever era and as such I'll be happy to see the back of it as soon as possible. How apt that that its creator it has received new life on the same weekend as an on-field disaster.

If the official denials were an attempt to throw people off the scent and this was suddenly unveiled in a glittering ceremony later in the year I'd be happy with it. Not sure it would draw a dime, but what would when you've got a team playing like they did yesterday? The proof that you can flog anything if it's connected to a winning side is demonstrated by Hawthorn's toilet coloured logo featuring a diseased chicken being splashed across $3 million of merchandise last year.

In an ideal world even if it did happen we'd roll out a merchandise/kid friendly Demon as well. As the article linked to above notes, Australian teams don't tend to have secondary logos like US sides but if there's ever been a time to start this is it. What they've come up with for whatever reason is nice, fluffy, corporate and reminds everyone we're pioneers of the sport but try selling that to the kids. It's nearly impossible to strike the balance between 'fearsome' and 'comedic' when creating a demon/devil logo but I'd love to see us have a go.

Maybe the classic logo is part of the President's push towards being the local franchise of the New York Yankees. Sadly our only connection to them at this point is that we're run like the famous Steinbrenner/Costanza era.

Rocky VII: Adriane's Revenge
Luke Beveridge looks startlingly like Sylvester Stallone after the good times had passed and he'd started making surprisingly lucrative skin flicks with Sharon Stone.

Next Week
... is not the dead-set certainty that it seemed the night before. The Blues play GWS (probable loss) and Hawthorn (certain loss even if the Hawks have nothing to play for) so there's no doubt they're going throw absolutely everything at us in the hope of breaking through for one last victory.

I'm not suggesting any team would ever try to lose (because.. well you remember), but you feel Carlton's management are probably satisfied with how many wins they've had this season. Not that the players will give a shit, so I expect to see any random player they can find getting a game on Sunday. It helps our cause that most of their second choice players are injured, but all that means is that some anonymous Irishman will probably turn up on Sunday and rumble us.

It's about 900 days since we've started favourite and won, and as much as you'd like to think their loss to Brisbane which sent them to the bottom of the ladder on percentage would mean that some real $500k value Tankquiry action was likely next week you can't convince me the Blues players have enough spirit left to involve themselves in any sort of shenanigans before they're all either delisted or traded en masse. The problem is that as much as Carlton fans might want them to pack up and enjoy the top pick in the draft they're so off-chops at the moment that they're just as likely to come out and win, so for the love of god let's strangle them before they even think of getting their tails up.

I just need this victory to confirm that we are better than the bottom three, we can work on the top four next season, just tick off the last victory against the total garbage sides for the year and we can at least take that into the off-season. Surely beating Brisbane, Carlton and Gold Coast is all we'll need to lure the biggest and best free agents next season. Perhaps not...

Casey were as always crap, Mitch White was the best on ground so any danger of throwing somebody else onto the long term injury list to give him a go? Probably not, so I'll be tremendously boring with my changes instead. Best not get too cute against a side with a broken spirit, let's just get in, make them humble and take four points no matter how dirty.

IN: Riley, Jamar, Salem
OUT: Jetta (inj), Bail, Howe (omit)
LUCKY: Lumumba (has been ordinary), Garland (will hold on for a signature for one more week), Brayshaw (tired - get him through next week then pack him away for the season), M. Jones (can't give somebody votes then try to drop them, Carlton right at his level next week then Casey forever)
UNLUCKY: Fitzpatrick (suddenly a forward again and kicked four for Casey. More a last fortnight of the season specialist with one goal from a handball into the square against Freo when we're 80 points down), Terlich (it has been alleged this week that he's actually contracted for next year, if true then we should punch our list manager in the head but may as well actually play the guy), Newton (got plenty of it at Casey but I prefer the violent stylings of Riley in a danger game against an even worse side than us)

Was it worth it?
Not in the slightest, I had better things to do and pushed them aside to venture to the city and enjoy this total gash. The only even remotely beneficial aspect was to provide content when the conversational topic is the most bizarre games you've ever seen in person. Just to top it all off while walking from the ground it turns out I had to go to work at 5.30 this morning - if I'd tipped the car over on the way home it would have completed the hat-trick.

Final Thoughts
It's all gone sour to the point where I'm almost entirely convinced the 6-6-6 McIntyre Number of the Beast system for fixturing the last few rounds is a good idea. Ask me again after we lose to Carlton next week, but for now the idea of running out the season with a few competitive games featuring players galore desperately trying to save their careers is appealing.