Sunday 10 April 2016

Divine wind

My relaxed attitude to exploding like a tire last week when a glorious start beckoned stayed intact all through the working week, and into the first quarter of the Essendon game where they returned to their expected state of running around in circles like a Little League team. That's when it struck me how badly we'd botched three different opportunities to belt that rump of a side like everyone expected us to. Sadly it seems the players thought a thrashing was on the cards, and we all know how that turned out.

It's understandable how a situation like that would lead to chaotic scenes, but but as much as I wanted to be angry and break things the rage didn't come. In fact on the way home I was almost laughing at the absurdity of it all, the sort of unintentional nervous laughter that can take hold permanently and lead to you ending the night bouncing off the walls of a asylum in a straitjacket.

If the part of my brain which deals with farce/shambles scenarios had shorted out after seeing so much disaster over the years, the jumper cables were firmly applied in the first quarter today when we were seven goals down without scoring and full power was being applied during the last minute. By the end of the day I was sprawled half across the floor of my loungeroom, and half across the floorboards of the corridor letting out of a guttural howl as we failed to take the last mark or crumb a winner to snatch an epic victory.

My tantrum landed me so far away from the TV that I didn't even know Billy Stretch had let off a last kick until after it had missed, and given that it was right on the siren and would have been taken off us anyway it's probably lucky it didn't go through because the only thing worse than losing in these circumstances would have been losing in those circumstances.

Meanwhile while the most bonkers Melbourne match for years that I'd been forced to watch on TV was going on I was trying to look after a small child. When the afternoon of randomly yelling at a screen ended me sprawled across two separate rooms having a tantrum she stood there looking at me like I was the worst dad since Bing Crosby. I can't be that bad, after Watts took that brave (!) leading mark (!!) in the last quarter I dashed to the kitchen to make sure she wasn't quaffing floor polish only to dash back to the television and wonder how the ball had suddenly wound up in the hands of a North player.

Declaring wins to be amongst the best ever is as cliched as comparing defeats to 186, but it's far from over to the top to suggest this would have been up there with the Fremantle '08 and Essendon '14 comebacks. If we ever win anything we might look back and gush over how brave our performance was, but for now it's a case of wondering how we ended up in such a deep hole to start with and praying to your chosen deity that if we remove the sort of nonsense which cost us a seven goal deficit to start with then we can compete with good teams without occasionally dipping into disgrace when starting favourite.

There was a lot going on, so forgive me if I miss your favourite moment of tension, drama or incompetence. I'm prepared to make amendments to the post for the historical record, so get in contact with any suggestions and I'll update the post. Even an extra long TL:DR can't possibly have captured everything mental about this match.

The odd thing about the massacre in the middle of the first quarter was that for the first five minutes we'd played well into the wind. It was just that we didn't have the forwards to take advantage. With Hogan starting in the middle it temporarily removed one target, but that didn't make much of a difference because by the time he got down there we'd demonstrated an inability to handle a strong breeze not seen since the glory days of the Western Oval where teams would kick 16 goals for the day made up of 8, 0, 8 and 0.

Even when they started kicking goals we were not necessarily playing like a side drifting aimlessly and begging to be put out of their misery. When their first came from a free kick it was the first of 11, and about five of them would have been there. Still could have won but the Red Spot Specials made it so much trickier.

When they weren't getting goals from frees they were making them happen via the sort of multi-pronged forward line that I'd quiver at the knees if we had. There were too many options, including Goldstein running riot inside 50, and the more often they used the breeze to get the ball down there the more chances there were to either take a mark or enjoy the benefit of the umpires randomly spinning the Wheel of Rules.

They were extremely keen to pay frees in the forward line, so maybe if we'd kept the ball at our end longer we'd have taken advantage, for all the conspiracy theories about umpires favouring one team or the other the fact is that in a game like this it was clear from the start that they were woefully out of practice and that the best thing to do would be get in a position to take advantage.

If the umpires loved giving frees at the drop of a head, they despised the idea of recalling centre bounces which skewed wildly in one direction or the other. It looked like the idea was that as long as the other ruckman got to the contest that was good enough, which will undoubtedly lead to players pulling out when they see it go off on an angle in the hope that it will be recalled.

The windy conditions can't have helped but they botched about eight before finally deciding to re-do one in the third quarter, and given that most of the poor bounces immediately flung off at an angle rather than skewing when they got into the breeze should count against all of them when they're pleading for another go at umpiring an AFL game next week.

I'm usually the sort of person to start a picket line about rule changes, and if they bring in last touch out of bounds that will do it for me and any AFL match not involving Melbourne, but it's about time to give up on the dream of the bounce and just throw the damn thing up every time for the sake of consistency. We're trying to get this people to adjudicate the intention of a player kicking near the boundary line and can't for the life of us get them to see when a player blatantly ducks into a tackle so let's take their minds off trying to make an irregular ball rise perfectly.

One of these reject bounces provided the best of the many baffling umpiring decisions in the first quarter, when the ball swung wildly in favour of Goldstein and as it was called play-on the rampaging Gawn who was trying desperately to make up the five metre disadvantage was pinched for putting a hand on him. Surely when you decide to deem a bounce that far askew to be ok anything short of collecting your opponent with a coat-hanger should be legal? Then after the baffling free that he probably wasn't yet sure he'd actually given away, and with wind swirling everywhere Oliver was pinched for a 50 after playing on which gifted them another goal. It was a real spirit lifter. You couldn't blame Oliver, he probably played on because a) he didn't think it was a free and b) the sound of the whistle was probably carried out to Bass Strait.

When umpires weren't nosing in on their dual Goldstein vs Gawn proved one of the greatest ruck clashes I've ever seen. In a year where stoppages = Satan they were the only place the umpires couldn't find free kicks, and instead of eradicating them we had a demonstration of how beautiful stoppages can be as these two gigantic figures went to war about 100 times for the day. They were still going at the end, and we had over 260 points scored so whatever was allegedly killing footy for the last few years it wasn't necessarily ball-ups.

Goldstein's goals and his side winning probably just get him the nod overall, but it was a close run thing. No doubt when Brownlow Night rolls around neither of them will get a start because the umpires will just pick the players who had the most kicks, but either would be deserving of a vote. The difference between this battle and their one-on-one dual late in 2015 was that while Maximum went all day both times today he was still jumping unhindered deep into the last quarter. Maybe it was because it was late in the season but last time he was dragging himself around ready to have a coronary deep in the game, while now he was still winning important contests. When was the last time we had a player who exerted so much influence which such brittle backup if anything goes wrong? Was it before the VFL was formed?

There was much snickering when Maximum declared he wanted to be the best ruckman in the competition before the season - and any of our fans who joined in were idiots because a Melbourne player setting lofty goals like that should be congratulated - and it's shame that we don't play North again (unless we play them in a final of course...) because if he lost the World Heavyweight Title fight on points today it made me desperately want to see the rematch. For now I can settle for him being the second best in the competition, but roll on the other stars of the ruck because I'm convinced he can take them.

What made Gawn's performance look even better was our dominance in clearances, even when we were being trashed Tyson, the Hamburglar, Viney and Jones were mopping everything up. It was the best game Tyson has played for ages, and he was especially notable in the first half. The problem was going forward then having the ball pinballed back the other way for another North score. We could have also stood to increase our pressure, which by the end of the second quarter had been refined into an art-form. We kept it up for the rest of the game, other than a pair of five minute periods where we slipped it up and lost the game.

Even when we managed to avoid North scoring from an inside 50 we got no help from the umpires who must have just emigrated to the country and were watching their first game of Australian rules football. The free against Gawn in the middle was one thing, but when a 25 metre kick across the back pocket was deemed "not 15" it was time to tip a table over and walk out. Except I was in my lounge room where there are no tables so I just howled "YOU BASTARDS!" and shook my fist as if it would make some difference. We've lost to North Melbourne by a range of margins from 1 to 122 in the last decade, we do not need to be persecuted by confused whistle-blowers who can't accurately judge distance.

At six goals to nothing down, with them roosting through 60 metre goals as if from the square we didn't need any further bad luck. It was obvious that there was a bastard of a breeze going that way, but the further away you let the other side get the less chance you're going to be able to reel it in quickly enough before they get another go. Besides, do we strike you as the sort of side who in normal operating conditions could take advantage of the kind of force 10 gale which causes cargo ships to tip over? On historical performances it was more likely that we'd win the second quarter three goals to two then concede 13 in the third.

The seventh goal felt like a bridge too far, Goldstein kicking his third when he attempted to play on a foot out and nearly stuffed it up. The video replay was no help so the goal umpire's original decision stood but it was hard not to concentrate on Billy Stretch's attempt to tackle him. It was like trying to take on King Kong but once he started to try and wrap him up he thought he'd better pull out just in case play-on hadn't been called. Which would have been sensible except they were standing on the goal-line anyway so a 50 metre penalty wouldn't have made much difference. With a little more pressure he might have done enough wrong for the video to pick it up and throw us a lifeline.

We were getting enough of the ball, and while the wind was undoubtedly playing its part it showed the difference between our forwards and a line crammed to the gills with mobile targets who get to take advantage of the ball being sent down there quickly. Even under perfect conditions we've usually got one of Hogan or Watts down there while the other one's up the ground and your Pedersens and Frosts of the world are struggling to keep up. If he hadn't been a big chance of winding up in pokey after final list lodgement last year I'd have taken Majak Daw on the cheap to play the 80/20 forward/ruckman gig.

We got one back from a vandenBerg set shot (and despite this I'm starting to warm to my prediction that last year was the best we'll see of him), but if Goldstein had kicked their eighth after Gawn was pinched for one of seven free kicks for the day sensible people would have been off for a long walk off a short pier. I'd have sat there for the whole thing no matter what, becoming increasingly abusive towards our players, their players, the umpires and especially the commentators led by emo misery guts Gerard Healy who hasn't had a good time since his cheque from Geoffrey Edelsten cleared. He's such a depressing figure that it's enough to make you pine for the over-the-top but genuine childlike enthusiasm of a Dwayne Russell or Basil Zempilas.

After Watts was tripped to the general disinterest of the umpire (it wasn't deliberate by the North player, who was just trying to get up but surely if you're impeded it's a trip no matter what) he managed to do enough to set up Hogan to snap a second and provide some hope of a wind-assisted comeback in the second. Before they completed the half century before quarter time with a late goal to stick two fingers up at us again as they sprinted into the distance.

There was little wrong with Jesse Hogan's body language this week as he was kicking three goals in the first half despite ending it with his jumper torn to buggery and hanging loose like he was a backing dancer at a Madonna concert. Sadly he sought a replacement rather than play out the game with the sides torn off and flapping in the breeze.

As much as I'd lost my mind and decided we were going to win the wooden spoon halfway through the quarter it was actually the best we've played in 10 years of regularly conceding eight goals in half an hour. The only problem, and to be fair it was a major one, was the conditions had confused us to the point where we had a 30% kicking efficiency. The dominance at the clearances, the fact that there had been so many already, and Gawn beating Goldstein at everything other than conceding frees and kicking goals were positives even if we had left ourselves far too much work to do to challenge them. At least it provided hope of avoiding the 120 point loss that was looming midway through the quarter.

Now we'd find out if the most boring team in the competition could take advantage of a roaring wind to mount a brave comeback. To the surprise of the entire football watching public and restless Melbourne fans everywhere who were nipping out to the garden to find a suitable rag to stick in the top of their Molotov Cocktails the answer was actually yes.

It didn't start positively, and the suspicion that we wouldn't be able to take advantage was furthered when Dean Kent kicked off the worst four goal performance ever by blazing away carelessly on the run. He'd already done that at the end of the first quarter, and at this point I was ready to drop him for Garlett the moment they landed at Tullamarine. The next thing you know he's booting the goals that nearly win us the match. Hard to say no to a turnaround like that, even if the four majors were practically his only effective disposals all afternoon.

After that disappointing warm-up act it was time for the avalanche to start, one of the great MFC quarters and one that you'd go back and watch every day for a fortnight if we'd won the game but will now probably just fade into history as a distant but happy memory of an exciting but fruitless afternoon.

It started, as so many things did in the first half with Salem, who found Watts running back to mark and goal. One day we'll decide he's wasted at half-back, but for now he's playing sensational running football. If we're going to be playing on more often instead of ponderously kicking in circles or roosting the ball to a contest just in case he's going to be pivotal with his ability to make good decisions on the run. If Oliver is the man for the middle of a pack with defenders coming at him from all angles, Salem is the exact opposite and without players of both types we are not going anywhere.

Also pivotal in the rampage was the unlikely figure of Heritier Lumumba, now seemingly over his nightmare off-season where he was detained at a Congolese airport (note to future readers, that actually happened). For all the piss-taking of his high steppin' Department of Silly Walks runs out of defence last week he was immense in setting up scores in the second term. He strikes me as the sort of player who will dominate when things are going well and his teammates are flying, but rarely rise out of the quicksand in times of crisis and this was very much the former.  Surely no matter which of the two we serve up next week he'll be full of life in the hope that he can get his nemesis Nathan Buckley the sack.

The only downside to the Lumumba experience was when he successfully took off on a trot and Brad Johnson managed to deliver the most mangled athletics analogy of all time. Nobody has shoehorned more bizarre references into footy related 'reporting' than me, but his suggestion that Harry O had "changed lanes and ended up in lane 4 which is the widest lane you can get to in a running race" was so painful it hurt. He would later go on to chastise Max Gawn for a "lazy" handball deep in the last quarter after the guy had delivered 60 hit outs in mortal combat with the All-Australian ruckman. I'm usually comfortable with his cheery act, especially when compared to emo Healy who introduced the world to a "multi factorial" forward line in an attempt to sound learned, but he was all over the shop today.

Nifty Neville Jetta was the third leg of the smaller defenders who were doing so well. The fact that their small forwards did nothing probably has as much to do with their big forwards and Harvey being so rampant as anything but I absolutely loved Jetta's play when the game was on the line. His play-ons were generally spot on, and avoided selling a team-mate into trouble just for the sake of handballing to anybody he could find. He didn't have that many touches, but those ones were pivotal and set up at least two goals as well as cutting out a number of North attacks.

We were assisted by North starting to lose the plot under pressure, giving away a free to Watts for his second then allowing Dom Tyson the easiest tap-receive he'll ever get to follow on from a Hogan goal and we were right back in it. Karma finally struck in our favour when a centre bounce that blatantly favoured North but was allowed to go actually led to us kicking a goal, but we still couldn't get anything of value from the umpires. Not that we needed it at this point with feet barely touching the ground as we glided around the ground tearing them apart but a few cheap goals would have been ace.

By the middle of the quarter The Hamburglar converted his second set shot and we were not only in front but had a buffer of over a goal. This was ridiculous, but we deserved it. North went to pieces under pressure, and when they couldn't get the ball forward their four pronged attack couldn't hurt us. We knew there was a potential reverse on the cards in the third term, but there was hope once more than the margin could be close enough at three quarter time for us to have a genuine bash.

If it had lasted we'd have kicked 15 goals for the quarter, but had to contend with North finally discovering their feet and the glory of free goals. The umpires couldn't be accused of blowing with the wind, because they continued gifting the opposition at every available opportunity. One goal came from a throw, the other came from one of those free kicks where neither ruckman knows which way the umpire is going to point until the bastard raises his hand. This lead to a facial expression from Gawn that should turned into a reaction GIF for all umpiring disasters:

They could have had another one almost directly from an umpiring cock-up after a perfectly good Tyson mark was denied, but were nice enough to miss and leave the door open for Dunn to thump one through from distance with 10 seconds left to restore a seven point lead.

In the interests of fairness and balance the umpires also missed Lumumba being spun around and failing to dispose of the ball properly, and allowed Jack Viney to run about 30 metres without bouncing but as we'd already discovered they were shit at measurement. The difference was neither of those handed us a goal on a platter, we had to work for ours instead of having them randomly delivered to our door gift-wrapped.

I always thought we'd erred going all in on the Northern Territory (steamy conditions, players resting in a meat locker) when Hobart (cold, windy) was still available, and on the strength of one quarter while completely ignoring the first I was prepared to declare that a winning plan. We haven't heard any more from the NT Government about how they were going to ditch us, but if we keep playing quarters like the Harlem Globetrotters there will be a queue of promoters from Abu Dhabi to Las Vegas trying to sign us up.

The problem with Hobart would be how many games they wanted us to play there, and I'm not willing to sell more than two unless there's another grave financial emergency. Not to mention my irrational hatred for Bellerive based on nothing more than that end of the ground where behind the goals is just windows and dickheads in suits sitting on a balcony. Still, if the price was right I'd play for the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov so anything to keep the club afloat will do me.

It was clear at the start of the third quarter that we'd learnt our lesson going into the wind and weren't going to make the same mistakes. While we might have conceded the first goal Watts got a valuable third not long after. They got one back from a free (SURPRISE!) when Waite ducked into a Jetta tackle, before a miracle broke out and Gawn got a free right in front of goal for having his legs taken out. It was the correct application of a shit rule, and a far sight better than the fiasco at the same end in the last quarter when Drew Petrie grabbed the ball out of the ruck and was tackled only for the umpire 30 metres away to intervene when the guy standing a few foot away looking directly at the play didn't bother.

It was turning into a ridiculous game, with goals flying in from everywhere despite the rampant stoppages and shifty breeze. It concerned me that we are not the sort of team equipped to win a shootout, but was heartened by remembering how many times North have managed to blow games in similar circumstances over the years.

We held on into the breeze until the last few minutes when a few moments of inattention, and one of their few legitimate frees leading to a goal after Vince was pinched for deliberate for a big handball heave towards the line, allowed them to get the vital break.

The game was still heading towards a thriller where we'd undoubtedly lose to a free in the dying seconds after the umpire blew the whistle and nobody knew what it was for until he pointed, then after we thought it was in our favour he'd realise he'd pointed the wrong way and reverse it. That was the sort of run we were having with these bastards, and after years of saying things like "yeah, but you can't blame the umpires for [player] falling flat on his face at the kick-in" it felt great to have a chance to go to town on the officiating knowing that for once it was at least 51% correct and not just sour grapes.

Their run at the end extended the lead to 20 points, and when our pair of late chances came to nothing it left us needing to launch yet another furious comeback. That's three times out of three we've had to rely on running the opposition down, and now two times in a row where it hasn't worked. Today was a different situation due to the conditions but we can't keep relying on the low percentage option of blistering comebacks. How about we make sure of it next week and open up a thumping lead at the last break?

Like whoever the umpire's coach is now that Wayne Campbell has defected to GWS, I had to deal with a BT (big turd) during the three quarter time break - not mine it should be noted. Usually that would be symptomatic of our performances in last quarters, but with the famous breeze in our favour I was confident we could make a game of it rather than let North kick seven against the wind while running away to an easy victory.

It was a remarkable last quarter, with Kent taking advantage of a dropped Watts mark in the first 30 seconds to start the party. Jack recovered with the handball which set up the goal, but it was the first act of what would be a bizarre last term for him. With all the frees North had enjoyed inside 50 all day maybe it was just that we hadn't kicked it to enough contests (or ducked into enough tackles), and if we could use the breeze to deliver repeat inside 50's it might cause the wheel to land in our favour enough times to deliver a famous victory.

North had also learnt from their mistakes into the wind and successfully jammed us up for the next few minutes after that, not allowing any of the razzle dazzle shit we'd pulled on them in the second which was bad news for our hopes of selling games to the entertainment capitals of the world.

We were still playing better football, and when Watts took the best leading mark of his life in the middle of two defenders he was set to tip the balance in our favour. Then for some unknown reason he tried a dinky pass over the top to Hogan which failed, and North were off down the other end for a steadier. There was a suggestion that he'd come up gingerly after the marking contest but in those circumstances it would seem even less sensible to try and hit a perfect short kick.

It was an unfortunate blunder considering he'd done a lot during the day to assuage fears that Round 1 was a one-off and that he'd go missing for the rest of the year. There was no need to go over the top and try to have him executed for it though, if you shot every Melbourne player who made a mistake etc.. etc.. He had a few fumbles during the day but generally he's been heading in the right direction two out of three times so far this year, and right through the pre-season.

Another North goal immediately after all but put us away. At least Goldstein kicking five was nothing new, he'd already done it once when we were furiously tanking in 2009 and played a clearly outmatched Lynden Dunn on him all day. It was also the day The Spencil dropped the ball on his run-up and a debuting Rohan Bail was injured during the warm-up but we played him anyway and he lasted 30 seconds before being substituted out. All part of the rich tapestry of shambolic games we've played against this lot since I started taking an interest.

It was officially over when the umpires missed a throw so blatant that it must have been the other part of the exchange that got Folau and Hunt from the NRL. The aftermath of the pass was Harvey being gifted his career best sixth goal and how Melbournesque to allow a 400 game player the opportunity to enjoy his greatest ever goalkicking performance. He's stitched us up enough over the years - both legally and otherwise - but this was something else.

I might not like him personally, and almost crash the car every time I hear SEN trying to flog me some shithouse energy drink he's slapped his name on (including the segment where they get him on to talk about 'the week in footy' which is such blatant cash for comment that it should come with a disclaimer), but you can't deny the remarkable feat of running around like a 20-year-old while the verge of playing the most games in league history. We usually can't get a promising player through a second year without Melbourning them and he's been going since 1996 for god's sake.

As North started to wane, with Gawn still dominant in the middle, we had one final spin in the last five minutes. Forget Harmes pulling down a perfectly good mark and it not being paid, he kicked the first of the comeback. Of course after everyone had been booting set shots out of their arse all day vandenBerg missed one from dead in front, but at least for those of us hoping for a replay of Richmond choking to death against Collingwood a week earlier it make the margin less than two goals.

We attacked continually with no joy until the last minute where Kent marked and kicked his fourth. Hopefully Roos was verballed by the MFC Twitterist when it was suggested he thought it "could have been kicked quicker", because correct me if I'm wrong if he tried to rush it and missed we would have been completely stuffed yes? Better he took his time and got it right.

It was wasted press conference time where he was tackling such boring topics as the interchange cap when he could have told the umpires to get fucked before producing a wad of bills from his pocket and throwing it at a terrified AFL flunky to pay the fine. Usually I'd be into Kickstarter campaigns to fund coaches and/or players the right to go off their nut but he can afford it.

It left us with 20 seconds at the bounce to get forward and kick a goal, to rise above all the handicaps that are inherent in being Melbourne, take the umpires out of the equation and make up for epic chokes like St Kilda 2015. It was quite unlikely, but North were out on their feet so not impossible.

This is the only part of the replay I have or will ever watch again. For one of the rare times all day the umpire got his bounce spot on, but when it went forward and Salem missed with a wild air-swing that would probably have delivered the ball straight down the throat of a North player I thought that was it and adjusted my couch position from hovering right on the edge to slumped in resignation.

Next thing you know we're inside 50 and the ball runs through to the unlikely figure of Tomas Bugg who had played a decidedly ordinary game to that point. He wheels around and given that he'd have known there was barely any time left he could have had a shot, but if he'd missed I guarantee you we'd all be kicking his head in for being hungry.

This would have been the perfect time for the umpire to pull a free out of his arse in a pack-situation and cause North fans to spontaneously combust as if they'd been hard done by, but with nobody in the square and a kick required before time expired he saw Billy Stretch with space on his opponent but the kick floated over him and was spoiled. I'd jumped to my feet when Bugg had gathered, but as the ball was spoiled started my rapid descent to the floor where I landed with an unsatisfying thud only to look up and see the ball flying towards goal.

In the immediate aftermath, once I'd climbed off the floor, returned to a sitting position and realised how close we'd come I felt symptoms that amateurs would have mistaken for an impending heart attack but any footy fan knows better as 'losing a thriller'. If I go during the night maybe it was a heart attack after all. (0800 Monday injury update for Nowicki Carbone - still alive but feeling absolutely foul).

It would have been theft to nick it from the position we were in after the beautiful pass for Harvey to score his sixth try goal, but that would have made it even better. We were already fuelled by a sense of outage, stealing victory from them would have been the biggest cherry on top ever. Alas no, and the decade of destruction against the Roos is complete, with the other Roos becoming the fourth MFC senior coach in that time to fail to beat them (Mark Riley and Todd Viney were saved by fixturing).

Having already seen them beat us by a point three times since 1998 it would have been poetic to finally snatch one back the other way but such is life. At least this week nobody's going to be reading this with their head in the oven.

If it leads to better things we'll look back in the future and describe it as the greatest losses of the #fistedforever decade, but if we turn up next week and play like muppets against Collingwood in Crisis it will all be for naught.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Christian Salem
3 - Jesse Hogan
2 - Heritier Lumumba
1 - Neville Jetta

Apologies to Oliver, Watts, Tyson, Viney + Kent for the goals.

After McDonald launched an insurgent campaign for defenders last year Maximum does his bit for the ruckmen (in our case it's practically 'the ruckman' because nobody's sure if any of the other ones are still alive) by taking the first outright lead for a ruckman since Jamar after the Petterd game against Collingwood, which was a lot like today but with a slightly less heart-breaking finish.

It's pleasing to see such a spread of players collecting votes already this year, and there are a number of contenders waiting in the wings to step in to the Seecamp battle if Vince is DQ'ed before Round 23.

7 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
5 - Bernie Vince (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Viney
4 - Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem, Jack Watts
3 - Jesse Hogan, Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
2 - Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen

For the third time this year the opposition didn't manage to put up a contender, with the North banner failing to arriving in the state of Tasmania before the game. This means there are no issues with Fox not even showing our run-through side of ours, because any old crepe beats bemused children waving flags at the players as they ran on.

The lack of tissue paper with a curtain big enough for Evil Knievel to jump a motorcycle through obviously didn't have a major effect on the performance of their players who responded by maliciously tearing us apart. The last time I saw a North banner it was being kept afloat by a Zeppelin, so I don't know why they didn't just float it across Bass Straight.

Resistance wasn't just scant, it was non-existent and that's 6-0 Dees for the year.

Crowd Watch
With a complete debacle taking place in front of them, congratulations to the patron who decided to add to the chaos by randomly blowing an umpire's whistle during the first quarter. The actual umpires were so dazed and confused that it was surprising they didn't hear the random tooting and pay a free.

It didn't last past the second quarter, the patron presumably left floating down the Derwent River. By full time the only people with a whistle who we wanted to see flailing in the water without lifejackets were the actual umpires.

To think, I'd originally planned to go to Hobart for this. It was a stupid idea borne of nothing more than wanting to go to a ground I'd never seen us play at before, rather than any thought of actually winning. If I'd spent good money to watch this gash I've have been in the river at quarter time with the whistle blower(s). By the end it would have worthwhile, and if I was lucky I'd have seen it from a lifeboat somewhere.

Stat My Bitch Up
It was our second match in Tasmania for premiership points, and the first since 1952 but we lost that too. At least they got 18,000 through the gate that day, the 12,000 who showed up today is almost as bad per capita as the 4500 we manage to lure through the gates in Alice Springs (but admittedly nowhere near as bad as 8000 against GWS at Etihad...) So much taxpayer money being waved around by the governments of some of the poorest states for so little gain - but as long as we're pocketing our share then play on.

It completed the first of three potential decade long losing streaks, now we've just got to lose to Hawthorn and St Kilda this year and we've achieved the hat-trick. Holding that sort of record against one team could be considering unlucky, having three going at once is criminal. In 1981 to 1983 we had four going when there were only 11 other teams in the competition, so god only knows how some of you have lived through the last decade having already seen those dark times.

The good news is that we're not even at our record streak against North yet, and there's still a lot more work to be done to topple the all-time championship streak of futility.

22 vs Hawthorn (1973-1984)
16 vs Carlton (1905-1911)
16 vs North Melbourne (1977-1984)
15 vs North Melbourne (2007-)
15 vs Carlton (1976-1983)
14 vs Essendon (1980-1986)
13 vs Collingwood (1968-1974)
12 vs Collingwood (1912-1921)
12 vs Hawthorn (2007-)
12 vs St Kilda (2007-)
12 vs South Melbourne (1909-1914)

* There was also 19 games without a win vs Collingwood from 1927 to 1936 but that included two draws.

Incidentally it was our sixth highest losing score ever, and the largest since 1984. The only one bigger in my entire supporting life was one of the first matches I went to when we lost 154-145 and I didn't understand why the crowd were so aggrieved at Brian Wilson kicking six and celebrating like he'd won an Oscar.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I've never had so many contenders to choose from, but with so many of the goals from set shots or stuffed in from the goal line none of them are going to take on Kennedy vs GWS for the clubhouse lead.

I'm going to opt for Kent from the boundary line in the last quarter. He was as useful as expired meat for the first two and a half quarters, but this was a cracking finish ably assisted by Watts dropping a mark in the first place. For the weekly prize I hope he's not come home yet because he's won a trip to Constitution Dock with Andy Lovell and Ben Beams to see a live performance from Tasmania's greatest ever musician:

Next Week
Now, let's not make the same mistake as the Essendon game again and assume we're going to clean up a side relying on fillers to make up the numbers (in this case Jeremy Howe). They've had two rubbish losses, won the other in the dying seconds, the fans are ready to riot and if the President didn't have a permanent horn for the coach he'd on the phone to HR asking them to start preparing the paperwork for a termination. It's got all the ingredients for a famous Pies victory if we don't turn up with the intent of crushing them under relentless pressure.

IN: Garlett
OUT: Harmes (omit but unlucky because I feel like a shit bloke dropping anyone who had 10 tackles)
LUCKY: Bugg (I remain unconvinced), Frost (if Pedersen is off the agenda I'll even take Dawes in that spot now when fit)
UNLUCKY: Garland (I don't care if he was shite last week, I am an incurable football romantic), Grimes (could have him instead of Bugg), Weideman and Petracca (please beat up somebody better than Frankston first)

Final Thoughts
To underline what a bonkers season this has been so far we went up a spot on the ladder despite losing, and are now top of the 1-2 bracket. That's mid-table mediocrity at its best, but if we go back into our shell next week I'm going to punch on. Also if like me you feel you're about to suffer a major cardiac arrest it's probably because so far our games have been decided by the highly symbolic average margin of 6.66 points.


  1. Saw Gerard reporting from the ground before the Crows VS Richmond game.
    He looked like he wanted to jump off the westgate and slit the wrists half way down just to make sure.

  2. It's not the umpiring that makes me swear, it's the awful awful commentators.
    I know they have 250 games and 5 flags each, but I'm not convinced any of them have ever actually watched a game before. That idiot "on the boundary" spend 10 minutes before the game telling us how swirly the wind was and how it wouldn't favour either team much, so I laughed and laughed when all the goals were scored at one end of the ground.
    Also, I know I'm going to start a riot, but Melbourne must be favourites over the woeful Collingwood, Shirley?


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