Saturday 27 February 2016

Building dreams from the ground up

[Why not multiply your waffle by reading our season preview while you're at it? Get in quick before I change the bits about vandenBerg to be written by "Staff Writers" - Editor]

In the pre-season everything's made up and the points don't matter, but as much as we rolled about on the floor in mirth when Eddie McGuire suggested giving the NAB Cup winner a bye into the finals (providing much welcomed ammunition to shoot down any suggestion he ever makes about anything ever again) it would be rude to treat our games in this 'competition' with total contempt.

It wasn't so long ago that most practice games were conducted in far off cities where the only reportage available would be from agency writers who filed a fictional list of 'best' players because they never left the pub.

Now thanks to the public's ravenous attitude for footy we get live coverage of every game no matter if they're played in a fictional location like Burpengary, Beaconsfield (not sure if the suburb near Pakenham or the collapsed mine) or the impoverished northern suburbs of Adelaide. This is a good thing. The downside of having to listen to Dwayne Russell screaming about a game at Mount Barker like it's the Grand Final, or Gerard Healy moaning about how terrible the game is these days can't even detract from this amazing advance in broadcasting. Give me Dwayne's childlike sense of over-enthusiasm over Healy's drizzling misery any day, but treat any appearance by either of them as a warm-up so they don't detract too much from the experience when the important stuff starts.

Just a few short years ago there'd be no making your own mind up about the under-strength Dees taking on near full-strength Port because you'd have to rely on the call from some goombah commentator on 5AA who was only interested in the local players and couldn't tell the difference between Jayden Hunt and James Harmes. Fox Sports couldn't tell the difference between Jetta and Garlett today, but that's another matter entirely.

What a fun afternoon it turned out to be, even if it does turn out to be completely inconsequential. I'd started by psychologically preparing myself for defeat by repeating the mantra that it didn't really matter what happened, but by halfway through the third quarter I rose from a casually reclined position on my couch to stand up, pacing the living room like it was an actual game and not a trial game played under needlessly Mickey Mouse rules. Signs were everywhere and most of them were dollar signs. Not quite time to drag a sleeping bag down to Bass (do they still do finals tickets?) and queue up with my credit card in hand but it further convinced me that both Port and us will be in the same area at the end of the year.

It took us a while to warm up, but it was football as I liked to watch it - involving the Melbourne Football Club. Once the real stuff starts the games involving other sides will provide the sort of comforting background noise that you get from listening to test cricket on the radio, but my eyeballs are only forcibly held open for one group of loveable losers.

Even if your key interest is in order a) nobody being seriously injured (I think we got away with this), b) the kids showing good signs and c) not getting thrashed the first bounce of a game you've got emotional investment in has a remarkable effect on heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. The difference in where the contests of my stomach sat watching in this game compared to any Grand Final 2001 and onwards was noticeable. I'd like to say no matter how close a pre-season game got I'd treat it in the right spirit, but previous experience suggests otherwise.

No matter how it goes, seeing our players chasing an irregularly shaped ball around any oval in Australia was enough to dismiss off-field malaise at the drop of hat, to shelve my orgasmic excitement at the introduction of a goalkicking countdown clock and stop worrying about Jesse Hogan travelling to Perth on a fake passport and staying there. At least for a few hours.

This sort of enthusiasm for the sport in any variety (as long as it involves the Dees) usually lasts until about Round 14 when we've hit the skids and I ended up spending half the game writing borderline defamatory content that will probably end with me eventually handing over the keys of my house to Tom Gillies or Isaac Weetra. Here's to this being the season where we finally spread our momentum evenly across the season rather than leaving large patches of hatred and self-loathing as we're beaten favourites against shite teams.

As for Hogan let us not waste away our season fruitlessly debating whether he's going to dick us in 18 months' time. Unless there's a significant development or a situation which presents unmatched comic value I write my only comments on his deferred contract talks with my head very much out of the oven. Surely even the most optimistic people didn't expect that he'd sign a major contract extension before getting the opportunity to travel the country slaughtering defenders in every major media market? If he signed a five year deal now I'd have a Sherman in public like that guy who was trying to catch Kony but it would be insane business.

It doesn't mean he won't demand a trade at the end of the year (in which case the blow of officially turning into a feeder club should be slightly softened by blockbuster value coming the other way, but you can never be sure) or will play out his contract before entering Fremantle Harbour straddling the cannon of a battleship a'la Cher while locals throw rose petals into the water but I'll wait until this time next year when talks are 'on hold' or 'stalled' before I get down to the toaster shop in bare feet while clutching the most metallic fork I can find.

There's no doubting the lure of home, but what I don't understand is why anybody would willingly sign up for six hours of air travel every fortnight, much less if you were the sort of size that airline seats would disagree with. That the sort of ambition that has got me where I am today (e.g. nowhere), but those time and effort savings seem worth having to do hook turns for. The next time we do a presentation to him we should include this as the closing credits:

That's not to tell you how to feel about it, if you want to gnaw your fingernails off worrying about his impending departure that's your right as a footy fan but I'm resolving to sit back and enjoy the show for at least the rest of this year before becoming noticeably nervous.

If you were expecting him to start his million dollar world tour by tearing Port to shreds you might be disappointed, but you were probably expecting too much. What today showed is that all we need to feed him a metric shitload of goals will be supply and another convincing forward option to provide some mystery for opposition sides about who we're going to kick to. Once we get that right then you have my blessing to right over the top with whichever emotion of hope, glee or fear suits you best.

Considering Port had already played once, and had closer to a full-strength side on the park and everyone except me has decided they're going to storm back into the finals I went in with an open mind expecting defeat but determined to look for the good rather than the bad. We were perhaps overplaying the missing players a bit, Jones and Vince yes but otherwise Lumumba and Neal-Bullen were the only other members of my chosen 'best' 22 who were absent. Still, any signs we could misinterpret for the future would be welcomed.

We couldn't have had a more Melbourne-esque start to the 10th (and my god we hope last) year of the #fistedforever era, with Max Gawn leaping high to whack a perfect hit-out straight into the hands of Angus Brayshaw only for Gus to dumped into the turf and stay down clutching his knee. Before we'd had the opportunity to fully process how such a thing could happen at the first bounce of the first game Tyson was down too, decked by a stray elbow on our first attack. So we'd had one hit out, one kick, one inside 50 and two injuries - what a way to kick off the season.

Tyson quickly recovered, but we didn't see Brayshaw again for the rest of the day. It was impossible to get anything out of Fox Footy boundary rider Mark Ricciuto who was too busy giving us unwanted updates on Jake Neade to provide any actual insight on whether Angus was going to be back in one week, one month or 2019. Turns out he has a "low grade medial ligament sprain", which sounds harmless enough but I remember Colin Garland walking off after Round 1, 2008 then missing the whole year so I'll breathe again after he returns to training.

Other than the cosmic connection of Gawn/Viney acting like they were Jamar/Moloney in 2010/11 there was very little to recommend the opening minutes. Our record at Subiaco demonstrates how well we go on huge grounds, and for the first half we looked all at sea on this unnecessarily massive ground which was ironically referred to as Playford Alive Oval when Playford himself is very much dead.

It wasn't our first visit to the ground, previously trading under Elizabeth, and though not many of us would have seen it in the dark ages of footy broadcasting who will ever remember the day when we went there to play Adelaide in 2010 with Liam Jurrah about to become the next big thing and leaving with his shoulder in pieces? We lost Daniel Bell and Juice Newton to shoulder damage the same day, an odd-spate of injuries but one taken much worse than the community than the other two. It was our first visit to the ground since it had been named after a nine-time election winning state premier who maintained power via a shamelessly rigged electoral system, and the way the car industry is abandoning the northern suburbs of Adelaide at a rapid rate it might be our last before tumbleweeds start blowing through the place.

With Brayshaw in the rooms and Tyson seeing stars our midfield didn't have much to it early other than Gawn/Viney 2016 but we did get a super impressive debut from Clayton Oliver. Let's see it in the real stuff, but there were times today where he gathered the ball in traffic and gave himself all the time in the world before effectively disposing of it. He only had two kicks so it's hard to make any snap judgements, but if Brayshaw isn't back for Round 1 I don't think the next couple of weeks are going to change my mind that he should get a start instead. The winner of the Hamburglar lookalike contest 2015/16 also hit a vicious tackle for a holding the ball that should have gotten everyone excited no matter what time of the year it happened.

We were just ok while Port opened a lead early, there was nothing to worry about (much less in a practice game) and our ball movement from defence was ok but we still looked lost going inside 50 without another option other than Hogan. Later in the afternoon Pedersen did some nice work down there, and I think he can still do more damage as the second banana forward and 5% ruckman than either Dawes or Frost.

It took us 10 minutes to get a goal, which is in front of our usual average, but when it came it involved a lightning transition from one end to the other and a handball over the top to a player running into an open goal that Dean Bailey would have loved. The first quarter was a great one for people who are obsessed with changing the rules of soccer so it was more like the very popular international sport of Australian rules football, with association football style tap-in goals from directly in front flowing like a river.

People who like the nine point goal (1. Dwayne Russell, 2. Paul Wheatley 3. Certainly not me) got one via Port, while as usual we declined to participate. Which makes perfect sense because what's a howitzer from the centre square going to do for you in the regular season? "You don't see teams setting up for NINE!!" yelled Dwayne, with his voice actually going up an octave every time he said NINE!!, and of course you don't because any sane individual would rather take a higher percentage chance at six than the off-chance of nine in a game that doesn't actually mean anything. Before our game I saw the final 90 seconds of Collingwood/Geelong and he was so firm about the prospect of the Cats snatching victory at the death with a NINE!! that I'm surprised he didn't demand its introduction to the regular season.

We were dominant from stoppages, and not bad with the ball in hand in open play, but when Port got it we were as loose as a goose. Especially in defence where the first couple of their goals came from us being stretched to breaking point. Maybe it was because the forward 50 was bigger than the entire MCG but we were like Bourke and Wills in the open spaces. Salem got a well-taken goal on the run to keep us in it, and we weren't necessarily playing badly so there was nothing at all to become nervous about. Even John Butcher putting in an application to join the Kent Kingsley Klub for otherwise ordinary players who had a day out against the Dees (charter members include: Beau Wilkes, Marcus Baldwin and Brad Dick) wasn't too worrying, firstly because it doesn't count in a pre-season game and secondly because he kicks like a post-amputation Ben Holland.

It was the sort of pre-season quarter where you already wanted to skip ahead a week and see the next part of the puzzle in place. Fortunately I didn't decide to pull off a betting style cash-out there because we'd have missed an exciting second half. Before we got to that we had to wade through some waist-deep sludge as well.

Just in case you thought we could get through the season without a confusing rule we got our first taste of the all-new stricter interpretation of deliberate out of bounds in the second quarter when Sizzle was pinched in the forward pocket after picking the ball up a foot before the line and running over. No problem with them pinching the really obvious ones but this was ridiculous, and it's hard to take seriously when you know it's the sort of rule that will be flogged to death in the first few weeks of the season before being forgotten mid-year, then getting a surprise second wind when the league demands a crackdown in Round 17 before all rules are shelved before the finals.

Worse than the interpretation of itself, and the umpire will cut that out after he's been slagged off from the other side of the fence a few times, was the general consensus in the commentary box that if only he'd feigned a handball or kick as he crossed the line then he would have had no case to answer. What has this noble sport come to when we're having straight-faced discussions about how a player should act to provide an umpire with enough of an excuse not to pinch him for something he knows full well the player has done deliberately. Perhaps we just accept that boundary throw-ins are a fact of life and work on pinching people for the really obvious ones. The subsequent miss by Butcher was justice, and if you're ever disappointed about us drafting Watts look up articles from halfway through the next year where it was suggested we were going to take the Butch with one of our top picks.

Speaking of Watts he was also doing his tribute to the Baileyball era by randomly turning up in defence, but it seemed more like an exhibition of total football than a deliberate attempt to have him playing across the half-back line. He was pretty good, did a couple of nice things and had a couple of shockers but as long as he's available in attack more often than not I've got no problem with him drifting into defence. He set up Hogan's goal with a mark at centre-half forward and a perfect long kick to Hulk's advantage, and that is my dream attacking combination. No doubt by Round 4 he'll have been played in four different positions and everyone will have lost faith in him again but I feel like as long as they put him in one damn role and stick to it for a while he can have a career year.

Other than Oliver and his ability to slow time down while weaving through traffic it wasn't a huge day for the kids, Oscar McDonald didn't do much but at least it gave him the opportunity to get experience against big bastards like Schultz, we never saw any of the supposed trademark dashes from Hunt, Harmes was battling along and neither Josh Wagner or Billy Stretch hadn't been seen at this point. Doesn't matter, none of them except perhaps Harmes is in the frame for Round 1 so it's all about the run.

As for the recruits neither Bugg or Kennedy provided much in the first half, though both rose on the tide in the second half and did some nice things. Kennedy especially looked like a sure starter for Round 1, especially if we're going to be playing the game where everyone bolts forward on a turnover to try and kick goals on the run. Sam Frost was near enough to a recruit considering he'd missed 19 weeks with a frostbitten toe but he didn't show much, I'd have him behind Pedersen for now but he's got the rest of the pre-season to stake his claim.

Three goals in a row nearly put us away, the first from Schultz teaching Sizzle Jr a lesson by marking over the top and the next two from crumb inside our loose defensive 50. That might have been it if the umpire hadn't given us a huge leg up shortly before half time, Pedersen was paid a free kick directly in front of goal but despite Jeff (never under any circumstances Jeffy) Garlett hungrily gathering and missing a snap on goal we were given another opportunity which the man with the most socially unacceptable nickname in the competition duly converted. It's easy to say that you should sit down and shut up for pre-season games but if that had happened against us I'm not sure I could have restrained myself from throwing a shoe at the TV.

We might have had another one shortly after, but as Dean Kent led out and dropped a mark over the boundary line it was fortunate that he ran straight at an effects mic because when he screamed "FUCK!" straight into it his profanity was broadcast across the country. Forget the kids watching, it's what the rest of us (and plenty of the kids) want.

Pedersen's ill-gotten goal left us hope going into the second half, but my key learning was that if Max Gawn gets hurt we are as Dean Kent might put it "fucked". Talk about having all your eggs in one basket, he was absolutely immense and his taps were going exactly where we wanted them to - and he was helpful around the ground too. There's no replacing what he's delivered since he came back into the side last year with anybody else on the list, and we might get away with for a week or two at a time but over the course of a season we'd be cactus with any of the known ruckmen and must likely worse off with the unknowns.

We'll also have to guard against running him into the ground, it was alright to rely on Pedersen and Frost for most of the last quarter today when the game was won but you can't rely on OTHER in a tight game. Fortunately he has an amazing capability of being able to push on even when he looked physically shot - today he was sucking wind so hard in the second quarter that the front row was in danger of passing out but kept jumping to our advantage and running around the ground. Remember the Collingwood win last year when he looked like he was about to die 20 minutes into the third quarter then played a major part in our victory? In the nicest possible he is a freak and I am a little bit in love with him hobo beard and all.

Goodwin had originally been slated to coach the team, but nobody bothered to mention it for the whole day so I'm wondering if the idea was shelved. The layout of the coaches' box seemed to indicate he was, perhaps I was just being stupid to rely on the commentary team to do anything other than fondle themselves over the prospect of a Supergoal. Both would have been pointing at the other one at half time, and by the end both would have been claiming credit for the comeback.

None of the defenders had great days, but they hardly got the chance to redeem themselves in the second half where Port barely went inside 50. The comeback was built on a manic pressure that isn't as sexy as Hogan taking grabs and kicking goals by the truckload but will bring a tear to the eye of this correspondent if it starts winning us games when they actually count. Soon enough our pressure brought the game to the nexus where our momentum met them feeling it, and they imploded.

Forward pressure was also a highlight. Garlett didn't do much with the ball except when he was kicking goals, but off the ball he was running and chasing like a greyhound. It was a good combination with Kent, and Kennedy also contributed in the second half as we started to shut them down. The combination of midfield and forward pressure meant they couldn't get the ball down there enough to take advantage of the wide open spaces of the massive ground. Practice match or not it was a rare example of a game where we completely strangled the opposition and stopped them playing like they wanted to. How good is it to do that to somebody else for once?

Kent's goal was followed by one to Kennedy shortly after, set up by Garlett's vicious tackle. This is where if you're a Port fan you start complaining about the umpiring, Matt Jones got a goal from a 50 and Garlett did likewise from a set shot (!). Some of the decisions might have been arguable but the reason we were getting them is because Port were unable to get the ball clear due to our pressure.

The tide had certainly turned in our favour, before the best of all the shonky free kicks. It was probably even better than the McDonald deliberate, with Kent being handed a free shot on goal after a Port player managed to give away a ball in the middle of mutual off-the-ball wrestle. What an overreaction it is to pay a free in that situation. If it's at a stoppage or impacts the play fair enough, but when the ball is five metres away and two or more men are grappling the umpire shouldn't be able to decide that one of them is worse than the other unless they openly commit a capital crime a'la Barry Hall vs Brent Staker. If you're going to pay frees in that situation pay it against the first person to grab another player who doesn't have the ball, otherwise report them all for wrestling if you must and let play continue.

Kent did the right thing and missed the kick, but it was one of only a handful of blips in an otherwise near flawless quarter. vandenBerg made up for the miss not long after when he converted a super novelty checkside set shot from the boundary. If that's what he'll be serving up for the rest of the year - and it did look like the sort of kick that a player would be too scared to do in a real game - then I will hopefully violently live to regret suggesting he'd peaked in his first season. It wasn't just his two goals, he was immense around the ball and I look forward to sending him a ham at the end of the year to say sorry for doubting him.

As that goal went in and I realised that Port hadn't been inside 50 for god knows how long or scored for the quarter I had the traditional sinking feeling that we were going to concede in the last minute. I've developed a sixth sense for this sort of thing over the years, and with Gawn out of the middle Port went forward for a mark in the dying seconds. To cap off one of the great pre-season quarters the muppet who marked it decided to play on just as the siren went and his kick stood for nothing. It's a shame it wasn't the Port player who was sporting the same haircut as Tom Cruise in Magnolia so there could be endless references to 'respect the clock and tame the punt'.

It was another example of why kids and mentally deficient people counting along to a goalkicking clock isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things but players should never, even be allowed to see how much time there is left in a quarter. Some would argue it would be better in situations like this, I say bad luck. The lack of a countdown clock probably cost us the game against St Kilda last year, but stiff shit to us that's what you get for being a disorganised rabble.

As a long term suffered of Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome it seemed like a great set up for us to suffer a heartbreaking loss. When we copped a goal in the first minute after Clayton Oliver did his tribute to Trengove vs Dangerfield 2011 by lobbing an opponent to ground and Port went straight forward and kicked a goal it made up for their thwarted attempt at goal at the end of the third. If Oliver gets reported for it I might punch on.

What about during the week when some high ranking AFL official was asked why players who are suspended in the pre-season have to serve the ban in the regular season he said it was because back in the day some sides would progress in the tournament and some didn't. Which is fine if it's 2008, but they change every other rule at the drop of a hat so if that's the best excuse they've got I'm not buying it. Maybe let them serve it in the pre-season with extra carry-over points, I don't know. It just seemed like a comical answer, maybe he was caught out never having thought about it before and just plucked the answer from nowhere. Either way it's another classic piece of administration from the people who bought us a bailout of several million dollars so I suppose it's alright with me.

Port's comeback didn't stretch beyond that first goal, shortly after vandenBerg continued to make a mockery of my pre-season predictions by taking a huge contested grab in front of goal. Port's defence started to break down then, allowing Pedersen a big mark in front of goal as well. I inadvertently found myself pumping my fist when he kicked it, having to take a moment to remind myself that it didn't mean anything. To prove everything was flowing in our favour there was a moment shortly after where James Harmes dropped the ball when tackled like no player ever had before, he even swung and missed at the ball with his free hand on the way down and still got away with it. If it was a real game Port fans would have burnt the place down after that.

When the Power defender decided to go off on a run with Kent standing right behind him, was dragged to the floor and caught holding the ball it was all but over. Our old mate Butcher had one last chance to put his side back in the game but continued to kick like he had a wooden leg and we were home. Garlett ran into another open goal, Tyson kicked the sealer and we'd unexpectedly enjoyed an excellent trial for the real stuff.

One of the main caveats on our storming second half performance is that we were one of the few sides so far this year to completely ignore the pending interchange cap and keep rotating players like it was going out of fashion. At one point in the last quarter we were 'in front' 130-80, so damn right we should have finished better. Smashing through the cap for this year doesn't provide much for us to look at for the regular season but we've got another fortnight to start working on that, I'm happy enough to go for a morale boosting win no matter what the circumstances were. We started the process of running Gawn into the ground last year and can concentrate on doing similar to the rest of our players over the next fortnight.

In the last few minutes we packed Maximum away and relied of Pedersen to play his role. He did an ok job, but who could live up to the dominant standards that Gawn had set to that point? Port got a couple of late goals to make the margin look better but we'd already done the damage. Take it and run with it.

Not sure I needed the commentators talking about how we could start the season 2-0 on the back of this, but considering some of the pre-season abortions we'd been involved in over the years it was better than the alternative. Nevertheless I'm writing this from atop the lid I'm sitting on it to make sure we don't go and do anything stupid just yet like deciding we're going to play finals. It's a first tentative step, let's wait two weeks and see how we go on a real ground before making any rash decisions.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Jack Watts
1 - Clayton Oliver

Major apologies to Garlett, Jones, Kennedy and Kent. Minor apologies to many others.

7 - Jack Watts
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Jesse Hogan, Jack Viney
3 - Lynden Dunn, Aaron vandenBerg
3 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Christian Salem

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It's the only award that can broach the gap between the Prymke Plate and the Jakovich Medal, and for the first time all goals are eligible from the first competitive game. Never fear, even if somebody kicks goal over their head from the centre square after backflipping over four opposition players there's no way I'm giving an award this prestigious to a nine pointer because they're heresy and should be burnt at the stake.

Having said that vandenBerg from the boundary line would be a fair contender for the overall prize, if I wasn't suspect that he'd never have done it in a normal game. It just came off the boot so perfectly, that I bet he couldn't have hit it as well if he'd done it another 99 times from the same spot.

Stat My Bitch Up
We're now 55-2-178 in all games since the #fistedforever era began in 2007. With two wins in a row it's clear that the tide is turning.

Final Thoughts
If this is the dawn of the era of hardcore Gawnography sign me up for a life membership. Find me an election somewhere this year when I can vote GAWN/VINEY 2016.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Dignity, always dignity - 2016 season preview

If you're an anthropologist studying Melbourne fans you'll have noticed a change in the atmosphere since the end of last year. The traditional fear of being awful for so long that the club is relegated to the NEAFL has been banished to the shadows at least temporarily and replaced with a less virulent strain which concerns itself more with the expectation that this year we're finally supposed to move away from the foot of the laughing stock league and into mid-table security.

In both the last two seasons there have been moments when we've threatened to burst out of the bottom group before choking. In 2014 it was the Essendon win which was followed by 10 losses, and last year we knocked over the Pies in Round 18 then limped through to the end of the year without ever impressing again.

I want to believe that we've finally turned the corner, because it was easy to slog through the second half of 2013 and 2014 when we expected toxic waste were pleasantly surprised by anything more. Now we've got things to look forward to again, and while going into my 12th year in this caper I might be reaching my shelf life for keyboard mashing football opinion I've got a sick feeling that we're better built for a flag now that any point in the previous 11 years.

We might have blagged our way to a flag in '05 or '06 with an obscene amount of luck , but with the best of our list either over the hill we had to win or die and did the latter in some style. The next time where we thought the tide had turned was in the 2011 pre-season, when we had a mix of kids on the rise and experienced players with enough time left but then unlike now we also had to contend with the irresistible force of players who didn't want to do the hard work colliding with the immovable object of administrators who wanted to be Norm Smith in the ultimate nuclear holocaust.

The first demonstration that we might have climbed out of footy's underclass came after the first practice match of the season when Carlton fans were desperately trying to find positives from their side full of draft picks and recycled players suffering a mid-range loss to a half-interested opposition. Remember how it felt when we used to do that? Don't get too excited yet, we could be right back to doing the same thing next Saturday night.

I've spent a lot of time in the last few months trawling through the archives as part of a project that will most likely never see the light of day, and reading the posts from 2010 there was an outrageous amount of whinging when we lost but at least the worst thrashing we suffered was 'just' nine goals and we were an outside chance of playing finals with a few weeks left. That six of the eight wins came in two three week bursts doesn't matter, right now I'd book an open top bus if we managed two wins in a row.

Good times are not going to arrive overnight, and I'm not getting roped into any of the annual "if XYZ happens we could make the eight" conversations until hard evidence has been presented but I think this list can take the great leap forward. And they'd better take some steps forward, let's not forget we've flogged our first pick to Gold Coast so if we completely stink the joint out it'll be a double blow that I won't recover from. At least until the next pre-season.

Our triple threat of pre-season games are a good mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly of 2015. Port Adelaide in some rinky dink suburb of Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs in some rinky dink suburb of Melbourne and St Kilda at some rinky dink stadium in the heart of Melbourne are a good mixture of games against the good, the bad and the ugly of 2015.

This year we should see more of the kids after concentrating last year on playing a near full-strength side all the way through the pre-season to try and get some momentum up for Round 1 (which worked well). Now we've got an opportunity to give kids both highly rated and otherwise a decent introduction to the big stuff rather than expecting them to develop on the frozen tundra of Casey Fields.

Whatever happens in the Mickey Mouse games might be a small pointer to what's coming, but no matter how our three practice games turnout we're not going to learn much until Round 1. Forget the tension of whether your hubcaps will still be in place after we'd played the Western Bulldogs in Craigieburn, let's look forward at the doomsday double of GWS and Essendon in the first two rounds.

Forget what happened in the last round of 2015, we're at least on the level with the Giants so it's no automatic victory but can we take a vow now that IF we lose toys are not thrown out of the cot. The last thing we need is to provoke a media storm before what should be a win against the Bombers in Round 2, because it's a bad enough time to play them as it is without going in with images of red-faced lunatics hanging over the fence screaming (unless it's at $cully which is encouraged). Their top up players will still be full of beans, and the surviving experienced players won't have started dropping like flies yet. Come the middle of the year teams will be teeing off on them for fun, but if we can get it right and not overreact to a disappointing result in the first game we should at least win one of two. God forbid we could even be 2-0, but don't think about that too hard or you'll give yourself elevated blood pressure.

Sitting down to write this after almost completely ignoring contemporary footy related topics since the draft has started to perk me up for the campaign ahead, but every year my interest in the activities of the other 17 teams ebbs away more and more. Can you blame me when the first thing I heard all year after turning in halfway through the Fremantle/Richmond game was notorious miserablist Gerard Healy moaning about the rules? Can I really be bothered with another season that turns out to be about 30 straight weeks of people sooking about what's wrong the game and floating stupid theories about how to 'fix' the sport? If only off-field scandals involving the greats of the game rooting out of school could have been hushed up for a few more weeks we could have enjoyed that instead of discussing the vagaries of the holding the ball rule.

I am first and foremost an MFC loyalist, there for the club and everything that surrounds it with the rest being background noise. Though to be fair even my interest in Melbourne related topics has waned over summer compared to other years, maybe because I'm clamming up under the pressure of us having something to play for this year.

At least we've already had the traditional serious injury early in the year so you knew when to flip your calendar over from off to pre-season. This year's victim was Christian Petracca, doubling down on his season ending knee injury last season by breaking his toe doing an Phil Smyth impersonation on the basketball court. At least he'll be back in six weeks, unlike Jake Milkshake who was wiped out in the courts with the rest of the Essendon players from the dodgy Mexican injections era. The experiment of trading for him while a year long banned remained a possibility can still yield better results than drafting Lucas Cook, but for now all we can hope for on his return is that he reaches the giddy heights of Jordan Gysberts.

On paper I think we've got a decent side, but not one with serious depth once bodies start hitting the floor a few weeks in. We could do with a proper forward/ruckman to go into tandem with Maximum and take the heat off Hogan but otherwise our starting 22 seems reasonably solid. The question is how fast the kids develop and how far we've got to reach into the bottom drawer to fill our squad when it starts getting hot mid-year.

I'm some way off even dreaming of premierships, but this year we can string a few wins together and have entire months that are on balance better good than bad. It won't end in finals, but if we were still more than a mathematical chance of finals in the first week of August I'll consider it a better pointer to the future than 2010 when we were still playing the swashbuckling Baileyball style of forwards running around in defence and players spinning around in circles like a video game when they intercepted the ball because they couldn't find anyone forward to kick to. There are no obvious signs of such a ludicrous situation bubbling this time.

The team
NB: I'm putting them where I'd have them, but they could end up anywhere.

The backmen

Tomas Bugg - A handy pick-up at a low price. Given that GWS have followed roughly the same trajectory as we have since his debut it's as difficult to make a decision on him based in his role in that side as it would be for outsiders to decide on our players from the same time. What I do know is that with the hated substitute rule banished forever players who can do more than one thing are crucial, and while his main role is a defender he can also go through the midfield (remember him having 33 touches when GWS won their only game against us in 2014? Me neither until I looked it up) and he can kick goals as well so it's his place to lose.

Lynden Dunn - Went from outstanding in 2014 to solid in 2015, but given where he was a few years earlier there's nothing wrong with that. After playing in every position including the ruck in his early years he's found his niche at last, and while he's still doing jobs well the difference was he wasn't forced to lead the defence almost single-handedly as he was while Frawley was running the clock down at the other end of the ground before pissing off and pocketing a flag. Now that Jamar is gone he's one of three survivors of the worst times along with Garland and Jones, so here's to him getting something out of his career with us eventually. The match-up against Hogan in the intra-club game suggests he'll be doing more one-on-one than floating around.

Sam Frost - Lost early in the season to a toe injury so severe that we thought he'd lost it to hypothermia so we never got a proper look at him. I'm slotting him in as a defender but he could easily be considered a forward as well, witness for instance the chase in last year's pre-season game against the Bulldogs where he stalked a much smaller opponent from our attacking 50 into defence and by the end still had enough gas to put the guy off his kick.

Colin Garland - The heart and soul of the defence, even though you'd never know it from the look on his face. He's committed himself to the club for the rest of his career and deserves success now. In the absence of Frawley he shifted more towards the traditional key-defender role last year and remains a solid match-up for talls and smalls alike.

Jack Grimes - In an interview on the website Roos suggested he was going to be played on the wing, which seems like a remarkable (crack) pipe-dream unless the clock has been turned back to when he was dominant in early 2010. He's a defender, but despite being a solid citizen and all-round good human I can't see how he's going to find a permanent place in the side unless something surprising happens. Hopefully he will be the last of the players to have been Melbourned before the shutters come down on the #fistedforever era.

Neville Jetta - So important since he came back from the dead, and as long as he stays unconcussed he'll once again be crucial in defence knocking over small forwards at will.

Heritier Lumumba - Never hit any great heights after Round 1 but as much as some people with an axe to grind want to believe otherwise he wasn't terrible either. Last year he benefited from not having any reasonable contenders Should at least begin the year as a certainty but I wouldn't bet my life on him having the same level of security by Round 23.

Oscar McDonald - Showed promise when given a taste late last year, and could do with more bulk but we're hardly talking a Cale Morton wafer thin supermodel look here either. Looks like he has the footy smarts but as our defence becomes a surprisingly crowded field to get a start in he'll have to wait his chance in the seconds.

Tom McDonald - So good at the start and end of last year that you can forgive him the dip provoked by Travis Cloke running riot on Queen's Birthday. He improved every aspect of his game last year, cut down the kicking howlers and was deservedly in the All-Australian conversation until the Cloke debacle. Came back strongly in the last few weeks of the season and will be super important again this year because without him we're relying on Dunn and Garland stepping up in weight class to take on the biggest bastards in the land.

Christian Salem - Was heading for the stratosphere before he blew his hammy to bits in that Hawthorn disaster but has every attribute required to be amongst our best players this year. As long as his tissue remains intact and we don't get prematurely excited and try to make him a midfielder right now before his work in defence is done we're onto a winner here.

Dean Terlich - The forgotten man could probably do his own version of that Spanish guy who didn't show up to work but nobody noticed. He might get a game somewhere before the axe falls at the end of the year, but like Matt Jones it's fast approaching the end-game for our unexpected heroes of the 2013 Best and Fairest.

Josh Wagner - Allegedly being groomed to play across half-back, but at this point if he robbed me in the street I wouldn't be able to pick him out of a police line-up so I'll wait to be convinced by game form.

Mitch White - An encouraging debut in a throwaway game at the end of last year pointed to bigger and better things, but he'll have to battle his way back into the side when the meaningful games start.

The midfield

Angus Brayshaw - Slowed down as 2015 went on and we steadfastly refused to give him a rest, but showed enough in the first 3/4 of the year to indicate that he's going to deliver on early promise unlike [INSERT MASSIVE LIST HERE]. He's hard mentally and physically, and while Hogan causes most of the sliding from seats, but I'm only marginally less excited about watching this guy for the next decade.

Matt Jones - As maligned as he is, often by me, he's a handy enough depth player to keep around in case of emergency. So much so that unlike Terlich (who may as well take a shortcut and delist himself) I can see him pinch another one year extension unless 'the kids' come on like a freight train this year. Which we hope they will.

Nathan Jones - The warrior finally got a proper level of assistance from his comrades last year after three seasons of carrying such a massive weight that it ended up damaging his neck. Will still be amongst our best but I can see him starting to fade into the shadows behind some of the younger midfielders, with several years of being a useful elder-statesman hopefully ending in success before its too late.

Jake Melksham - Unless a Swiss court case heard in German lands in his favour he'll spend the year working on his golf handicap. Even if the Essendon players past and present get away with it on a technicality he'll still start a mile behind the rest of the field.

Viv Michie - Given a second chance at the senior list by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after a near-death experience almost saw him packing up his career for good. Has had plenty of opportunities over the last two years without ever showing anything and with the players we've got coming in and coming back I'd be surprised if he got anything but a token game before being given his P45 a second time.

Ben Newton - Seemed to have been ignored by most people but I really liked him last year because he provided much needed goals out of the midfield. Unlikely to be starting in the middle too often but a good option off the bench who I'll happily advocate for a spot in Round 1.

Clayton Oliver - This one could go anywhere, his lofty draft position was built on a second half of the season where most of the other top TAC Cup players were off playing representative games he wasn't picked for so there's no telling if it's going to translate to the AFL. At least this year we've got time to get him right instead of making the same mistake we did with the late Jimmy Toumpas and forcing him into the side to get butchered because we're devoid of alternatives.

Christian Petracca - His Harlem Globetrotters fiasco has set him back, but he should be ready to go early in the year. I don't expect to see him until after Queen's Birthday, and not as a full time midfielder until 2017 but he's got the attributes to make a killing. Could be handy for a few goals along the half-forward line if we decide to play with one for once.

Billy Stretch - Showed a few nice touches last year but nothing earth shattering yet. Unfortunately for him he's come along at the wrong time for a young midfielder, because two or three years ago he'd be gifted dozens of games that he's not going to get now. Will have opportunities throughout the year but will open the season proper in the 2's unless he turns in a massive pre-season campaign.

Jack Trengove - Just seeing him play one game will be a win considering what he's been through. Questions over pace linger but it's been so long since I've seen him play a proper game that I've almost forgotten those two years when he was so good before we wrecked him with the captaincy gamble before his body fell apart.

Dom Tyson - Suffered second season blues due to lingering injury so definitely one to look forward to this year. I'm backing him to return to the form that nearly won him a best and fairest at the first opportunity. Also seems to have stopped doing silly things with his hair and has accepted that it's a great barnet which shouldn't be interfered with.

Aaron vandenBerg - Bag this up for the end of the season when I've been proven completely and utterly wrong but I'm not as bullish on him as most others. He was good last year, and a couple of times he was great but I just don't see much further improvement. Should be a handy depth player for the next few years but if I was an investor on footy's Wall Street I'd sell on him now while his stock is high.

Bernie Vince - Did some killer jobs as an attacking tagger last year, which is about as good a result as you're ever going to get out of a player sent out to negate another. He's still versatile enough to go into business on his own so provides us with plenty of options including goalkicking. What a rare feeling it is to unanimously win a trade.

Jack Viney - Future Demon royalty who can take another step this year if he stays fit and doesn't cop a nine week suspension for piledriving somebody. His tackle numbers went through the roof last year, starting the season by tormenting Gary Ablett and going on from there. The only concern is that his hottest run of form came late in the year when we were playing like shite, so it could have been a case of one boat staying afloat while all others were taking on water. I doubt it, and in two years time the criminally low price we paid for him will look like such a ridiculous steal that it will make up for at least one of our high profile draft blunders.

The forwards

Chris Dawes - For a long time I defended him based on his chase and tackle but he's not really going anywhere is he? Doesn't kick goals, doesn't take overhead marks. So what is there left except chase and tackle which can only take you so far? I think he'll start the year in the side but I will struggle to stay there, and if he's still with us in 2017 it'll be on greatly reduced wedge compared to what we've been paying him so far.

Jeff Garlett - Thanks again to Carlton for handing him over for a handful of shopper dockets, because he was a fantastic get. His non-goalkicking impact never peaked after Round 1, but what he did provide was the sort of electric small forward play that we've craved since the earliest days of Aaron Davey. It'll be interesting to see if he'll have the same sort of freedom to run around when Dean Kent returns but even in the unlikely event of him stopping dead now we've already had our money's worth from that trade.

James Harmes - Another one who drops another rung down the ladder with the return of Kent but looked really good in the second half of last year. He never completely grabbed a game until the last one, which was played with the intensity of a Little League match, but there's plenty to work with. Still not sure about the sleeve tattoo while he looks like a 12-year-old Swedish boy but the era of worrying about what players stick anywhere on their body is now over - get a tatt on your face like Mike Tyson for all I care as long as you can play.

Jesse Hogan - The greatest white hope showed plenty last year with average delivery and limited support so the better the side gets around him the more damage he's going to do, to the point where he should become our first true superstar since David Neitz. That is as long as he stays fit and doesn't do a runner to Perth. Either way, I'm so terrified of him being hurt that the injury he hasn't even suffered yet is making me depressed.

Liam Hullet - When you have to look up what position a draftee is it's a sign that a) you haven't been paying close attention during the off-season and b) you're probably not the best person to provide even the lowest level analysis of a team. Described as a possible third tall-forward and will be given plenty of time in the VFL and who am I to argue with that? I hope he plays just so we can enjoy his charismatic surname.

Jayden Hunt - Showed plenty of form in the VFL at the end of last year and in the intra-club with 'explosive' speed and in his third year he should get a senior opportunity pretty quickly. The question will be over whether he can put it together with a defensive side or if he'll end up as the next Sam Blease, sprinting one way and walking the other.

Ben Kennedy - Another early draft pick who suffered diminishing returns over his three years at Collingwood, he's one of many players who will enjoy no longer being butchered by the sub rule. Throwing another quick forward into the mix can't hurt us, but it does rapidly increase the chances of a multiple player collision where we lose half our forward line in one hit. He didn't kick too many goals in the VFL or AFL last year so while I think he'll pay off for us it might take some time.

Jay Kennedy-Harris - Hit the wall last year, and I'm not convinced of his long term future. With at least Garlett and Kent in front of him as a forward and more midfielders than ever in the mix he'll have to develop more strings to his bow or he's going to spend a lot of time in the VFL this year. It's been a long time since what looked like a break-out game against the Crows in his first season and he's not even played a good game since let alone a great one.

Dean Kent - Here's the one we're all looking forward to seeing again. His career was threatening to take off in the second half of 2014 and early in 2015 before he got hurt, and I'm expecting big things again. The combination with Garlett is largely untested, but I feel that what Jeff (never, ever Jeffy) adds in goalkicking Kent can complement with his chasing and aggression. No doubt as our scoring goes up he'll be on the end of more opportunities, and I'm very keen on his future.

Alex Neal-Bullen - Couldn't decide whether to have him as a midfield or a forward considering he's a hybrid of both, I was super impressed by him last year, especially that game in Geelong where he kicked three goals and think he do some a decent amount of damage in multiple roles this season. Calling my broker to buy immediately.

Cameron Pedersen - It's an unpopular viewpoint but I really like this guy as a forward. He's not the future but at the moment I'm far keener on him playing than the Dawes role than the man himself. He's a better mark, and what he lacks in marauding runs up the ground he gains in being a better kick inside 50. Can also be used as an emergency option in defence if absolutely required, furthering our desire to create a Total Football side where anybody can go anywhere. If Weideman comes on quicker than expected my plan will be destroyed but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Joel Smith - Considering we drafted him for nix based on him not playing footy for the last three years I'm just guessing a position based on where his dad's best work was done. Unlikely to be seen at the highest level for a while.

Jack Watts - Speaking of people who have been everywhere, here's a guy who was a pioneer in playing in alternative positions. Not that they were always suitable, and none of them ever took off permanently. We're still waiting for the season where they put him in one damn position then leave him there instead of panicking and dragging him around the field on a whim waiting for something amazing to happen. He's got a nasty habit of teasing great things then failing to deliver but look at his performance against Gold Coast effectively playing as a half-forward flanker pushing up onto the wing or dropping back to be a target inside 50 and tell me that's not what he's best suited to. No doubt in the world by Round 5 he'll be a half-back flanker and I'll have stuck my head in the oven.

Sam Weideman - Unless his injured ankle becomes a chronic issue the idea is for him to become Oates to Hogan's Hall, and while all signs point to that being a fearsome combination eventually there's no need to rush him. He missed five months last year so I've got no expectations at all this year so let's hopefully enjoy a taste in the practice games then send him off to massacre the VFL for a while before undoubtedly prematurely debuting him on Queen's Birthday in a 2009-esque attempt to drag a few thousand more people through the gate.

The ruckmen

Max Gawn - In a classic case of putting all your eggs in one basket we're in big trouble if he gets hurt. Once he finally got into the senior side last year he put in a remarkable couple of months as a solo ruck before the physical toll of playing 95% of the game on the ball started to wear him down. With another full pre-season he should be better suited to running around all day with the likes of Todd Goldstein but the cupboard is bare if he can't go all year. Has everything required to make an All-Australian ruckman, which should ensure that his career goes utterly tits up.

Max King - Provided a highlight for those of us who treat the VFL reports as the most important part of our week when he kicked five on debut last year but never rose to those heights again. Under the new interchange rules goalkicking ruckmen will be a huge bonusso here's hoping he quickly finds form in the VFL, because after Gawn our ruck cupboard is frightening bare.

Mitch King - A ruck/forward who'll start at the bottom of the pecking order in both positions, has a year to develop in the 2's before the heat will start building on him. Unlikely to get a game this year unless he starts kicking goals or injuries hit the other ruck contenders but unsurprisingly we'll be better placed to judge once we've seen him play.

Jake Spencer - The ultimate survivor plows towards the most unusual life membership in history in an important position as one of only two experienced full-time ruckman on the list. If Maximum drops before the two Kings are ready we'll be in more trouble than the early settlers depending on the likes of Frost and Pedersen to plug gaps alongside him, so he might still play an important role. I'm still a big Spencil fan thanks to the memories of those days in 2013 where some days he was the only player in the side with half an interest in chasing or shepherding but his time has to be limited now that the age of the low-possession ruckman is coming to an end. Still, who would bet against him outliving all of us?


The coaching situation makes looking forward to 2017 interesting, you would think by the end of this year when Goodwin has practically been the proxy-coach we'll know what we're going to get but you never know when a 'new' leader will coincide with a period of things going tits up. Let's tackle that when we get to it shall we?

Projected ladder
There's never been a wider spread of options under the famous bracket system. I still think Hawthorn are going to win it once more before they take a much deserved break and start sliding down the ladder, but that the Eagles home ground advantage will get them top spot. I'm also giving Sydney and Fremantle one more year before they're followed by the sound of a balloon slowly deflating.

As usual these are hardly brave chances, but with a wider stretch of potentials for the top 14 spots. Even though Essendon will be badly affected by their absences I still think the Blues will be the only truly terrible side with a huge middle class of varying levels of slurry playing for the right to do stuff all in September - and that would do me nicely.

As for us we managed to keep beating mid-level teams last year, but were still horrible against the best sides and fell flat on our face against a couple of teams we should have beaten with our eyes closed. I would also like to avoid any defeat of +60 and just once smash the living bejesus out of another side big or small like so many have done to us over the years. One afternoon where we enjoy a glorious orgy of violence against an opposition unable to put the brakes on us no matter what they do.

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

Demonblog's chosen 22
The substitute is dead, and thank god. Who knows what ghastly side-effects we'll discover once the tighter interchange cap hits, but at least the days of players wearing hi-visibility vests and riding exercise bikes for three quarters are over. So for the first time since 2010 I can name my preferred line-up without having to indulge that horrid rule. As always positions are indicative only due to wingers and ruck rovers meaning bugger all these days.

B: Jetta, Garland, Dunn
HB: Salem, T. McDonald, Bugg
C: Tyson, Jones, Brayshaw
HF: Kent, Pedersen, Watts
F: Garlett, Hogan, vandenBerg
Foll: Gawn, Viney, Vince
INT: Lumumba, Neal-Bullen, Newton, Kennedy

Paul Prmyke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
Thanks to Twitter's own @bradphillips004 for venturing to Casey Fields and etching his name into the honour board of people who have handed out votes for prestigious Demonblog awards. This is how he saw Friday's intra-club game - where several Casey Scorpions players were roped in to provide some cannon fodder for us to feel better about beating.

5 - Jack Watts ("Finally looked dominant, possession top class, marked on the lead heaps, involved in everything")
4 - Jesse Hogan ("Quiet first half, kicked a fistful in the 2nd half, great dukes, swagger was on full display")
3 - Lynden Dunn ("Dunn - had the better of Hogan in the first half, great strength and loved a #defensivefist")
2 - Clayton Oliver ("Loved a contest, great in close, surprisingly nimble for a non-nimble looking lad")
1 - Christian Salem ("Great disposal off half back, never look flustered, hair game on point")

As we discovered last year when Lumumba went from zero in the intra-club to winning the Plate it's not necessary to score first up if you're going to lift silverware, and even if you are detained by the Congolese border police it shouldn't affect your chances of success.

First draft betting markets

A reminder that these odds are entirely fictional and should not be used for actual betting purposes. If you're struggling with gambling call Gambler's Helpline, if you're struggling with Australian Rules Football call the Melbourne membership line. Predictions on a postcard to the usual address.

Also, thanks to for wiping these after I'd already done them once, you're a pack of arseholes.

Allen Jakovich Medal
$6 - Jack Viney
$8 - Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince
$10 - Jesse Hogan
$15 - Angus Brayshaw, Tom McDonald
$20 - Christian Salem, Jack Watts
$22 - Jeff Garlett, Dom Tyson
$25 - Lynden Dunn
$30 - Colin Garland
$35 - Neville Jetta
$40 - Max Gawn, Aaron vandenBerg
$50 - Dean Kent, Heritier Lumumba
$70 - Chris Dawes, Ben Newton
$80 - Ben Kennedy, Cameron Pedersen
$100 - Tomas Bugg, Jack Grimes, Alex Neal-Bullen
$125 - Sam Frost, Christian Petracca, Jack Trengove
$150 - James Harmes, Jay Kennedy-Harris
$175 - Clayton Oliver
$190 - Oscar McDonald, Bill Stretch
$200 - Jake Spencer, Sam Weideman
$300 - Matt Jones
$450 - Jayden Hunt, Josh Wagner, Mitch White
$500 - Liam Hulett, Viv Michie
$600 - Dean Terlich
$1000 - Max King, Mitch King, Joel Smith
$2000 - Jake Melksham

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

$8 - Tom McDonald
$9 - Christian Salem
$13 - Lynden Dunn
$15 - Colin Garland
$20 - Neville Jetta
$30 - Heritier Lumumba
$40 - Tomas Bugg, Jack Grimes
$75 - Oscar McDonald
$125 - Dean Terlich
$150 - Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal
NB: Oscar McDonald and Mitch White remain eligible due to debuting in the last month of the previous season.

$8 - Clayton Oliver
$10 - Christian Petracca
$15 - Oscar McDonald, Sam Weideman
$20 - Josh Wagner
$50 - Jayden Hunt
$75 - Liam Hulett, Mitch White
$100 - Max King, Mitch King, Joel Smith

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year
A reminder that as of 2015 players are eligible for this award only if they average 10 hitouts a game.

$2.50 - Max Gawn
$10 - Jake Spencer
$21 - Max King
$100 - Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen
$150 - Mitch King, ANY OTHER PLAYER

Final thoughts