Saturday 28 May 2016

Assisted Football Living

I suppose when you field the youngest and least experienced side in the competition there will be days where almost everything goes wrong. At least that's what I was trying to convince myself at the final siren. To take my mind off such a poxy, wide-open performance I went on what was supposed to be a calming trip to the supermarket. As much as I tried to pretend otherwise the afternoon had annoyed me greatly, because by the time I reached the checkout this period of mature reflection had been replaced with the desire to run a trolley through everyone who stood in my way. 

All theories about the reasons for our defeat will be willingly accepted, other than where it was played. Every time we lose one of these games there's a lot of "we would have won at the MCG", and usually I agree but the goals Port scored today would have been kicked on any ground in Australia. I'll get back to you when we're the first team to lose to Fremantle after a greasy, humid, evening game in Darwin where players need to adjourn to an industrial fridge at quarter time but the unfortunate fact is that the games are a necessity at the moment for financial reasons. The significant anti-NT grouping (which most of you are probably in, and best of luck to you) will get their way if the Territory ditches us at the end of this year, then they can work on a better business plan than "win some games" to cover the $1.2m a year shortfall.

Whether it was played at Traeger Park, the MCG or Highgate Recreation Reserve in Craigieburn there were always deep suspicions about which way this was going to go. By our standards we thumped Brisbane in the end last week but it was far from a dynamic performance, and my MSDS screamed that the opportunity of slipping into the eight after Round 10 was too good to be true.

Now that our all-new style has been proven good for battering down on their luck Queensland sides this was a necessary test against a side around our level and we failed miserably. Even after this you have to admit you're having more fun (relatively speaking) this year than at any time since mid-2011, and when our gameplan works it looks beautiful, but the supporting tactic of pushing everybody up the ground is coming unstuck in spectacular fashion. Forget this diamond bullshit at centre bounces that Fox Footy is whopping off over discovering, the structure at kick-ins and after turnovers is far more crucial to where we're at. It was not surprising to discover we've conceded the most goals in the competition from inside 30 metres, and if there's a stat for goals from inside the square we've probably already broken the world record.

When your tactics are basically "kick a goal or bust" it's going to look good some weeks, and awful most others. If we don't win the clearances or successfully move the ball forward quickly for a goal we are cactus against any halfway decent team (and Essendon). I'm used to our attacks provoking other teams to score, but after seeing the exact same thing happen against St Kilda and to a lesser extent the Bulldogs watching another four quarters of being massacred "out the back" (CLICHE) left me wondering if there really is something in the Plan B envelope other than a piece of paper that says "this page left intentionally blank". We tried something different in the second half against St Kilda and that barely had an impact, so maybe they decided that even when Plan A isn't working we might as well press on in the hope of mastering it by the end of the year. I just need to remind myself to breathe while the development is happening, because watching games like today is not good for your sporting self-esteem.

Speaking of tactics, and there's something you never thought you'd get here, whether it's the defensive or midfield coach responsible for whatever ridiculous set-up we were going with from kick-ins they should walk home. We were barely able to contest the first kick-in let alone the second or third. While they were smothering us with pressure at every turn we were allowing their entire side to trot around unimpeded. Where had we seen that before? If you're still wondering how we lost to Essendon consider how much more damage they'd have done to us with all their free running players if they had a real team. The blueprint has been set for the rest of the league on how to beat us, and our chances of invading Geelong in the last round with everything on the line is now practically nil. That's ok, fans can stop fantasising and coaches can start working on how to keep the exciting, attacking side of our game alive while ensuring that we can cope with the other side getting a kick.

As the afternoon wore on it became progressively more depressing, but it can't be forgotten how many opportunities we had in the first quarter. With Port not having a recognised ruckman we should have dominated them in the middle, but with Viney being squashed to the point of violent retaliation in a tag none of the mids other than Jones present there was barely any advantage from Gawn's uninterrupted tapfest. At various times Trengove didn't bother jumping because he knew his teammates had us covered, and at point in the first quarter decided to take vigilante action by jamming his fingers into Maximum's face during a centre bounce contest. Play on apparently.

Even without Viney or Tyson doing anything in the middle, we were getting the ball forward. The problem was that after Watts kicked the first goal we went on a spree of missed opportunities courtesy of haphazard entries inside 50 and speculative, rushed kicks when we got there. The weight of attacks was an excellent chance to assert our authority, but even then there were plenty of early signs that they were going to attack constantly throughout the afternoon. I've got no idea how a zone is supposed to work but even I could tell that ours didn't qualify for consideration. Didn't help that half our side were missing in action.

It's been suggested that Ben Kennedy injured his ankle in the warm-up, and persisting with him didn't help us much because he barely got a touch in the first half. Dawes and Michie were there as as emergencies, the first option would have unbalanced us but depending on how hurt he was a surprise comeback for Michie might not have gone astray. When we find out BK was impeded by the injury Roos' inbox will be flooded so severely that he might drag out the old veil of negativity again. Surely by now he's set a rule in Microsoft Outlook to auto-forward any email not from an address to Simon Goodwin, who has hopefully set one to send them all to the bin because if there's one thing coaches shouldn't be doing is wasting time on what nutters like us think.

Other than Jetta who was fantastic again our defence struggled, I have sympathy with them trying to run back to goal after being told to push up but one-on-one they weren't much chop either. Garland is struggling mightily, Oscar McDonald isn't there yet and McDonald Sr is dying for another tall. Isn't that what we recruited Frost to do? It might not work, and I have concerns about his ability to take overhead marks but it's worth a go after a couple of weeks testing in the VFL. For now it's staggering that Dunn can't get a game, he might not be the future and isn't quick enough for all this running back towards goal palaver but we were so rubbery you could have introduced a doped to the eyeballs 1988 Ben Johnson in defence and they'd still have kicked half a dozen goals from the square.

When Hogan got one at the end of the quarter it was two apiece even though we'd had nine scoring shots. We lost the centre clearance battle so there's no promise that if we had kicked goals we'd have got the other opportunities but it would have been nice to find out. It would have also been nice if any of the small forwards had bothered to turn up. Garlett was basically unseen all day and Kent played a game that was reminiscent of North in Hobart but without the four goals to pad an otherwise awful performance.

For reasons not known other than the fact that he'd been completely cut out of the game Jack Viney decided to end the first quarter by hitting Brad Ebert in the face a few times. At least that's what it looked like, and given that he wasn't reported on the spot he might be saved by Ebert not suffering any ill-effects and the Match Review Panel being forced to view footage which looked like the camera was filming from the moon. Even with a helpful spotlight applied to the replay it looks a bit like he was doing the time honoured Hundred Hand Slap of E. Honda in Street Fighter II but they're going to have to guess/err on the side of caution if they can't tell whether it was punching or vigorous shoving. No team does the old end of quarter scuffle like us, and flying the flag for Port was somebody called "Jasper" who looks like a depressed 14 year old. No wonder it didn't break into the open warfare we've seen several times this year, who's going to get fined for grappling with somebody like that?

If there was an alternative option for stopping them racking up uncontested possessions in such wide space that they were in a different area code to any of our players quarter time would have been an excellent point to implement it. It was a good chance to reboot after having so many opportunities while not looking dangerous in creating them. We returned with the same relaxed attitude to going near opponents or staying back in defence and conceded six goals. Cheers for that. Getting a kick would have been a good start, Port were toying with us like holding a ball slightly out of a dog's grasp and watching it jump to try and get it. If there's one thing that puts this Super Baileyball philosophy on its arse it's the opposition playing keepings off. Did we change anything to combat this? Of course not.

Hogan had a strange game, considering the lack of other decent forward options he was all but forced to play a lone hand and was pretty good but missed several important opportunities. At least somebody was providing a target, but I'm convinced even if he converted in the first minute of the second quarter it wouldn't have made a difference. In fact even if we'd kicked the first five goals of the second quarter without Port getting a touch it wouldn't have made a difference because like St Kilda and like the Bulldogs the moment they got the ball we were dead. This needs to be addressed, and quickly because even if finals are off any sane agenda we can't afford batterings at the hands of any of Hawthorn, Collingwood, Sydney or Adelaide. Call me for a reinvestigation of our finals hopes if we win three of four (no calls will be made), but even if we lose the lot we've got to at least retain our dignity and spend the second half of the year building to 2017. I'm resigned to the good teams beating us but now I'm worried that Collingwood won't make the same mistake twice.

Amongst the fast breaks and Jetta's now traditional brave but pointless attempts to take on key position forwards in a marking contest because none of the other defenders were present we had our moments. It was a return to the inglorious days where Jones had to carry our midfield alone, only this time with Gawn playing like a gigantic sized midfielder alongside him and those two were so far ahead of the rest of our side it was obscene. Still, if we could restrict the damage to half time we had so many players to get back into the game that all need not be lost. Most of them never returned, and Petracca hit the wall in the second half after a hot start.

When Hogan kicked his second to put the brakes on them there was two and a half minutes left to get another. For some reason he went straight into defence, which wouldn't be a bad idea if there was 45 seconds left but this was just defeatist. I know we're scarred from last year's St Kilda incident but this was excessively conservative. The worst thing about it was that Port had already demonstrated an ability to take any defender out of the equation by kicking over their head.

My abuse almost proved premature when we got it forward for Kent to have a shot, but wouldn't it have been better to have a giant hulking bastard down there instead? Kent missed, and our famous kick-in defence allowed Port to enjoy a five point play, bursting down the other end and kicking to a guy standing a metre out for a goal with Jesse nowhere to be seen. At this point it all became too much for me and I punted a kiddie couch (NB: with no child in it) across the living room. We were playing like a village team and deserved to lose.

The hope that we'd get a repeat of the pre-season game where Port shot to a five goal lead before giving up were quickly dashed. Other than Gawn and Jones our midfield was operating at 2013 levels, and best of luck to Port for leaving us in that position. The captain had to stay out there but I'm surprised Max didn't storm off in anger after one of his many taps was turned into a clearance by Port's mids.

Off they went on a run of scores that we were powerless to stop. It took until midway through the quarter when Watts goaled for us to enjoy anything approaching 'dominance', and even then we were too inept to take proper advantage. Then when we finally did the goal was given straight back by conceding a needless 50 in the middle of the ground. This was classic Melbourne, right down to struggling to kick a score over 60.

With the chance to kill us off once and for all at the end of the third quarter somebody called 'Dougal' charitably tried to keep the game alive by converting an absolute sitter into a point by trying to roll it through theatrically instead of kicking it properly. Ken Hinkley delivered his verdict by punching the window and Gawn marked at the other end to cut the margin to 17. We'd only narrowly won the quarter but after kicking five goals there was a hope that we'd finally rediscovered the attacking juggernaut that had been used to such positive effect the week before. The problem was that if we kept up the loosest defensive effort since France 1940 there was no way we could keep them out of attack long enough to overcome a three goal deficit.

Whatever exciting fitness regime we're supposed to have been enjoying for the last few years you've never heard anyone say "they'll run the game out better". We've launched comebacks, but most of them have involved desperation football rather than our superior ability to run a side into the ground. There was to be no comeback, and the longer it went the worse it got. After Port got the first we managed to hang around for 10 minutes on the back of their missed chances before Hogan continued his zany day by missing a sitter which would have given us life with plenty of time left. It would have been wasted life, you can never rule out a side crumbling under pressure but the way we were going unless we kicked eight goals in a row without them getting a touch they were going to go the other way and fix us up.

Blaming the umpires on a day where we played so badly in almost every aspect of the game is missing the point almost as much as blaming the venue, nevertheless how could all three umpires miss Charlie Dixon's allegedly inadvertent backhander to Garland's face which might have left Col with a fractured cheekbone? Even if it wasn't deliberate it was the most blatant contact above the shoulders since Gawn was facemasked in the ruck contest. I'm not expecting Port to stop the game just because one of our players is on the ground clutching his face, especially if the umpire had deemed it ok, but of course with Garland unavailable they swept forward unaided for another score. The way we were going would it have mattered even if he was upright? There was also a ripper of a rugby pass deemed legal later, but these days anything that keeps the ball moving is good stuff as far as the league are concerned. 

The easy goals continued right to the end, each one more infuriating than the last until the point where I couldn't bring myself to wreak any more havoc in my loungeroom and instead spent most of the last quarter dashing in and out of the room making sure I didn't spend the last few minutes on the phone to the Poisons Information Hotline after my kid quaffed floor polish.

Port were far superior, and we got what we deserved for being tactically inflexible. Move on to next week and pray to your chosen deity than 19 different Hawthorn players come down with the squirts on Friday.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Neville Jetta
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Jack Watts

Apologies to Stretch and Viney (second half only)

Viney's struggles were a great result for the three men previously tied for second place as they all stepped into the breach with votes to close the gap. Maximum closes fastest, and it's time to be honest with ourselves that no other ruckman on our list is going to poll 19 votes so congratulations to him on his second consecutive Stynes. Jack's willingness to inappropriately throw punches at his opponent might also assist them, but considering he won the award after playing half a season last year he would have to remain the overwhelming favourite.

In the minors the shining light of our defence Neville Jetta pulls further ahead in the Seecamp, while Petracca's second half fade-out means Oliver's week on the sidelines doesn't cost him ground in the running for the Hilton.

25 - Jack Viney
19 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
18 - Nathan Jones
15 - Jack Watts
11 - Jesse Hogan
10 - Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
9 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Bernie Vince
6 - Billy Stretch
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem 
2 - Tomas Bugg, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba, Tom McDonald, Christian Petracca
1 - Dean Kent, Cameron Pedersen

After a scare last week this is another close one, the only reasons I'm going to opt for our version of the Indigenous Round banner were the blocky font used by Port and our subtle use of a sponsor's logo instead of just bashing a big yellow RENAULT symbol in the corner. My first car was a Renault and the most yellow thing about it was that it was a fucking lemon. 14-1-0 Melbourne for the season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Back to the original era of this award where there were so few goals it was easy to find a winner. Pity they were all dull as dishwater, so with no spectacular options to choose from I'll have Gawn's big grab in front of goal. He wins a Subway foot-long roll in a plastic bag from the on-site outlet at Traeger Park which he may use to swing around his head and attack his teammates for failing to take advantage of his 48 hitouts.

Garlett retains the overall lead, which along with his new contract is about the only things that went right for him this week.

Next Week
If we were in the horse racing business we'd be treating Hawthorn as a warm-up run for Collingwood a week later. We'd have also spent much of the last decade with the white screen up dispatching people.

What a terrible week for Casey to have off due to some rinky dink state game featuring Mitch Clisby playing for South Australia. There's no better advertisement for an AFL Reserves competition than the haphazard fixturing of that competition, can't they just know their role and introduce 25 replacements instead of shutting down the entire league for a week?

In the press conference Roos did his impression of one of those Filipino nutters who whip themselves for Good Friday by "taking responsibility" for not bringing more experienced players in, which points towards multiple changes this week even if Viney doesn't get wiped out for his random outbreak of violence. Oliver is a certainty, but otherwise it's in with the old. Apologies to Trengove for trying to bring him back in a week where we'll be belted. Don't hold it against him.

IN: Dawes, Dunn, Oliver, Trengove
OUT: Kent, Newton (omitted), Garland (injured), Viney (suspended)
LUCKY: Kennedy (possible injury excuse) O. McDonald (due to lack of alternatives)
UNLUCKY: Grimes (more than willing to give him a game eventually but not the answer for now), Pedersen (just want to give Dawes a go)

Random House
Thanks to the far more people than expected who have already pre-ordered the book. A reminder that orders for the collectors edition (including your own copy of the classic artwork featuring Gawn spewing on $cully) are open until shortly after our season finishes for delivery by early December. I'd like to credit the 10 years of posts and several years of tweets that I've indulged in as research for providing a sense of perspective about days like today - it was a horrible performance, but it was nowhere near our worst. 

The comments on this Facebook post features a large number of people who think it will be the most depressing tome of all time but I promise there will be gags and plenty of them. It's the Tom McDonald of books, when it hits targets it will look great but there will be some outrageous clangers as well.

Final Thoughts
The amazing revival will have to wait for another year, but no matter how much you want to throw rocks at the plane when it lands just think what a novelty it is to have a 50% record at this point of the year. There have been times recently when we've been lucky to have 50% after Round 10, let alone five wins. Breathe deeply.

Monday 23 May 2016

I knew the bride when she used to be a moll

What a relative glory era we're in when you can walk out of a 63 point win after somebody's kicked five thinking that neither feat was particularly impressive. The first hurdle was to win, which seemed simple on paper but nobody except Melbourne fans could appreciate how this had all the hallmarks of a good old fashioned fiasco, the likes of which we'd not seen for a good two months. 

Starting raging favourites at home against a club in crisis who'd just enjoyed the biggest selection turnover since the days where Ross Lyon could deliberately choose second rate sides instead of having them thrust upon him. What could possibly go wrong? At least after two debacles against Essendon and one against Carlton during the last calendar year our fans learnt their lesson and settled down on outrageous claims about leaving the opposition sobbing in a heap by the final siren after a triple figure win. The only people left talking about thrashings were neutrals and psychologically battered Brisbane fans.

The Lions sent out a side so anonymous that it would be surprising if their own fans recognised half of them. Even when we were at our lowest ebb surely semi-interested neutral fans would have picked more of our players from a line-up. Most of them were probably there on a work for the dole scheme, and that's just the kind of side we were likely to either lose against or beat in such an unconvincing fashion that four points were the only benefit. Thank god we've reached the stage where the latter exists as an option instead of every victory being treated like gold. Did anyone send you a congratulatory text today? No, that era is over and we're much for the better for it.

It was obvious from very early that we weren't going to lose, but we were heading squarely for an uninspiring victory before finally beating them into submission in the last quarter. If we were a horse it wouldn't be treated as a top trial for a big race, but our form against the garbage of the competition has finally reached the stage where we don't have to face them in fear. I'm not getting too excited yet, maybe we've just got the wood on Queensland sides. Besides, if we were a horse they'd have put the white screen up and dispatched us years ago.

It's a good thing the Lions are bobbins because we'd never have gotten away with half the stuff we did against a side who were in any way competent. It wasn't like watching us at our worst, because we played like them on our best days under Neeld, but they weren't far away. To their credit they held back the tide for as long as possible by turning the game into a slopfest which we were unable to bust through. I remember us doing the same against plenty of mid-table teams and it usually ended in the same way, with a heavy but not fatal defeat.

All the chat during the week about how we weren't taking them lightly only heightened my suspicions of an impending cock-up. I was desperate for us not to let them get their hopes up at the start, so when they crashed out of the middle at the first bounce and kicked to a mark almost directly in front with Sizzle Jr. despairingly lunging at his opponent's outstretched arms the only reaction that seemed appropriate was laughter.

Other than winning free kicks by ducking into tackles and congesting the play in a way that must have had Roos secretly nodding in approval the only thing they did successfully all day was spurn good chances, and with a dodgy wind blowing across the ground he mercifully hit the post. 

Even with some of our best players well held the game was rarely in doubt from that point. It didn't mean we always looked convincing, but once we got out to a reasonable lead it would have been nearly impossible to go sour long enough for the Lions to take advantage while simultaneously launching their assault on the Guinness World Record for 'most botched chances'. As the afternoon went on we made our own bid for the title, but in a phrase you don't readily associate with the Melbourne Football Club class won out.

In the first quarter with the game still there to be won their kicking was reaching Melbourne-esque levels of disarray. You couldn't help but beat a team who turned several attacking opportunities with multiple players running free into turnovers. Thank god we did because even more importantly than being ahead of the ledger after nine games for the first time since 2006 it means we don't have to hear people using the phrase "arousal levels" in an attempt to sound knowledgeable.

For once playing under a roof might have us helped, anyone who says there are no winds at Etihad Stadium has never been there but knocking out some of the tricky sideways breeze would have done us wonders. Given the way it was going across the ground we were reasonable from set shots, it was mostly wild snaps that were missing. It might have helped the Lions kick more accurately for goal, but at the same time would probably have generated dozens more shots down our end.

The first goal demonstrated why letting the game be played in the open could only end in disaster for the Lions as we gave them a taste of what the Dogs did to us last week by bouncing from end to the other unchallenged. Two of the keys in the chain were Kennedy and Petracca who both had wonderful first quarters. BK (Burger King? Pair him with The Hamburglar and make a fortune) was good but didn't stretch it across four quarters, and while Truck faded away late in the game he was immense early. Officially he kicked 0.4, morally he kicked 1.3 (more on that later) but arguably better than his attacks were his brutal tackles. Quality of opposition notwithstanding forward pressure is back with a vengeance, and we will all watch endless repeats of his absolute burial of Allen Christensen which generated the second goal.

Garlett was on the end of the lightning fast transition, and even though his eyes were shiftily darting everywhere to find somebody to pass to he was better off kicking from the boundary line than 20 metres out directly in front. That settled us down, and the second from Kennedy provided a decent buffer against my nerves.

Hooray also for Pearce Hanley giving away the most obvious deliberately rushed behind of all time. Justin Leppitsch got a bit sooky about it after the match, but if that had been one of our players I'd have been horrified if the coach tried to argue that it wouldn't have been paid under any interpretation since the rule was introduced. They were spectacularly good at cheating when tackled (something which we are conversely no good at due to retaining some morality and will probably only perfect a week before the rules are changed) but this was so blatant he should have interchanged himself in shame after. Australia's ambassador to Mars Dwayne Russell responded with the classic line "I know he's from Ireland but he's been around long enough..."

Defence has been thrown out the window this season but I'm still concerned about ours. This is mainly because I'm still not used to us having kicked the third most points in the competition and still expect goals to be drip-fed throughout the day so we're lucky to get 8.12.60. Even as goals from a metre out have become footy's next big thing (stats boffins - what's the difference in goals kicked from 10m or less this year compared to other seasons?) I'm still concerned we'll never kick enough to counter decent teams. 

Sizzle Sr is a given (albeit an unsigned one), but with Sizzle Jr still bright green and the sudden drop in popularity of Garland and Dunn we're lacking one tall. Hot rumours have us pursuing either Michael Hurley or Steven May, and while one bashed a taxi driver and one bashed the SME we're suddenly seeing success on the horizon so this is no time to be putting recruits through a fit and proper persons test.

One defender I'll say no thanks to is Daniel Merrett. Remember when we tried to trade for him a couple of years ago? He played a good first 20 minutes on Hogan before dying in the arse in spectacular fashion. First came the deliberate where he could have taken possession of a ball bouncing straight at him and instead thwacked it straight out of bounds, then for the rest of the day he was either punching away easy marks or dropping them.

It was a horrible first quarter for Hogan, led to the ball and generally looking a bit sulky but the best players can make an impact even when they're not at their best and he finished it with two goals. He should have had a third, robbed out of some plus-sized crumb by a dubious mark being paid to a Brisbane player who practically dropped the ball into his hands.

We were dominating play but until Hulk got into at the end were getting scant reward. It was a return to my cherished theory that as long as we get it inside 50 enough we'll score, and given that we had 36 scoring shots from 52 entries you wonder how much more brutal it might have got if we'd been more dominant out of the middle.

All week we heard about how our new and innovative centre bounce techniques were dependent on Gawn dominating, and after the last two weeks I'd say it's time for the boffins at MFC Labs to start developing alternatives. He continued to battle away but needs to really squash somebody again to get his season going if he wants to stay on Goldstein's tail in the battle for ruck supremacy. Maybe playing him for four quarters in a practice match on a hot day in Craigieburn is going to be exposed as a stupid idea sooner than we expected?

Concentrating on defenders storming the centre like they were launching the invasion of Normandy was fine but that didn't explain why the Bulldogs were bounding from one end to the other for the rest of the game, not just from the middle. It's probably curtains for the tactic now anyway, you'd expect that other clubs would have already been aware but after things are discussed openly they always come to a screeching halt - like when Jamar/Moloney ticked away through 2010 and the first half of 2011 developing the Psychic Friends Connection before overplaying their hand and breaking Adelaide so badly that they were never allowed the same freedom again.

It was odd that when Pedersen was a late withdrawal we didn't bother introducing another makeshift ruckman. Against a side who don't have much more than ruckmen it was risky, but they must have backed themselves to win out of the middle no matter what happened. That didn't go quite as planned but Brisbane were so adept at shooting themselves in the foot that it made little difference.

The last obscure player we had contesting a centre-bounce was Dunn in the last round of 2015 when nobody was taking the game seriously, so without him in the side there was an extremely thin field of alternatives. When Watts wandered off to a centre bounce I thought "this will go badly" but all things considered he actually did really well. Let's not push our luck though, the #fistedforever era hasn't been completely banished yet so knowing our luck the best season of his life will end with a Gareth John style crushed larynx.

In playing another good game Jack was also forced to rise above having his teammates continually ignoring him while he was standing a mile in the open. God knows what happened to his partnership with Hogan but Jesse had absolutely no interest in him, cavorting with Jeff Garlett instead as the two tried everything they could to set up goals for each other. I'm sure there was no Barry Round/Ricky Quade style malice about it and they'll reignite their sparkling, lucrative partnership again soon but there were times in the second quarter when it looked like the coldest tag-team bust-up since Shawn Michaels threw Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window

My favourite bit was when Jack was burnt like buggery but after we got the goal anyway he momentarily stopped to argue the point before realising he was supposed to be the centre-bounce ruckman and having to trot off. He eventually had to do his own work, taking advantage of Oliver bursting from the centre like he was in the Grand Final Sprint to jump all over a hapless defender for a mark and goal. In the middle of all this Michie kicked his first career goal, and while he was far from terrible you just know that against quality opposition it's not going to work.

The Hogan/Garlett show was the main event of a second quarter where for unclear reasons we started playing arrogant, carnivale football when a simple nudge would have sent the Lions sprawling over the edge. To prove how far we've come this year in Round 2 it was "what right do Melbourne players have to take anybody lightly?" and now it had become "what right do Melbourne players have to try playing sexy football against a demoralised opponent?" I can think of a few times over years where we'd have benefited from sides playing Cirque Du Soleil footy when they had us wide open for a beating.

It was one of those days where I expected a five goal quarter to be followed by one (which is every day when we kick five goals in a first quarter) and while we doubled our tally four of them came in a seven minute burst. I'm not complaining, I'll take five goals in a quarter by any means necessary - even if we could have had more if there wasn't so much pissfarting around going on.

The difference between the sides was so stark that we should have been beating their brains in, and conceding the last two goals of the quarter was an appropriate Razzle Dazzle Tax. The margin was out to 44 after Watts' goal, but even reduced to 32 there was no realistic way they could sustain attack long enough to catch us. It would be like asking a drunk to walk on a tightrope, he might get a couple of metres across but the obvious is going to happen eventually.

We were a second away from a 'steadier' when Gawn was narrowly beaten to a mark 20m out by the siren. Somehow this provoked handbags at 20 paces style macho wankery where Max was seen whispering sweet nothings into Merrett's ear. Hopefully he was delivering him some really filthy chat midway between the usual lame on-field sledging and Patrick McGinnity's comments about Ricky Petterd's mum. Nothing came of it, and with all the fines we've copped for wrestling and meleeing this year nobody was going to waste their money on a dust up with Brisbane.

I expected that after Roos/Goodwin/whoever is actually coaching us right now told them to pull their finger out and stop showboating that we'd come out and stomp the Lions into dust. I liked to picture somebody dragging in a substantial list of all the times we'd been thrashed over the years, unfurling it theatrically and asking "don't you think it's time you took some revenge?"

We won big eventually, but not before a quarter that threatened to single-handedly undo the theory that the quality of footy has gone through the roof this year thanks to the new deliberate rule. The rule that could save that quarter hasn't been invented yet, but you can be sure when it is the AFL will introduce it at the drop of a hat and deal with the fall-out later.

If Round 2 was exactly the same game that we'd played against Essendon in 2015 this shaped up similarly to our last win over the Lions. That day we'd done all the heavy lifting in the first half then sludged our way to the final siren offering no entertainment value whatsoever, and this was rapidly heading down the same path.

The folly of playing like millionaires in the second quarter threatened to be exposed when the Lions kicked the first goal almost straight away. They started to trouble us but after getting that one from a metre out couldn't kick for goal to save themselves for the rest of the quarter. It might have got altogether far too interesting for my liking if they'd got any closer, because all of a sudden the artistic footy had been replaced with an interpretative tribute to Andres Serrano's Piss Christ

Maybe the half-time dressing down for all the antics caused our players to recoil in horror at not being able to play funky football any more? Thank the good footballing lord that the opposition were such a rabble and only managed five more points for the quarter.

We did kick a goal through Petracca, after which the ball managed to get all the way back to the middle for a centre bounce without any Brisbane players complaining about it being touched or the umpire calling for a review before some miserable arsehole decided he'd launch a vigilante review. He came to the conclusion that it had been touched, and it very well might have been but without conclusive footage or any Brisbane players appealing for a replay and the ludicrous amount of time elapsed before anyone realised what was going on it was an unwelcome intervention. The worst thing was you know they would never do that in a real game, "would you want to see a Grand Final decided like that?" is usually the signal to stop listening to somebody but if they even pulled that off in the first quarter of an Elimination Final I'd be astonished.

At this point several seagulls started swirling around me, a dire portent of evil like Edgar Allen Poe's Raven. Not only were we going to turn a period of dominance into defeat by playing like we were at a Full Moon Party but as the only person these airborne disease vectors had any interest in I was also going to be shat on from close-range.

Clearance king Oliver was at it again, a super reliable option for getting the ball out of the centre but also setting up the chain of possessions which ended in Newton kicking a much needed goal when we wobbling all over the place like Kayne Turner at a booze bus. The Hamburglar (I will not have any of this 'Clarrie' rubbish any more than I'll cop The Spencil being called 'Pencil') was playing such a good game despite looking half fit that even when he fell flat on his arse at the end of the quarter he still managed to find a target to handball to.

The seagulls eventually departed to plague somebody else, and Brisbane went with them. When Merrett's poxy attempt at a double fist sent the ball straight up in the air for Hogan to crumb another we might not have hit the Chris Sullivan Line but adjusted for the incredible blundering of the opposition it was near enough to it that I could afford to relax.

There was minor interest in a potential violent crumble when they kicked the first of the last quarter, but we continued to bang away at goal and Hogan's fifth eventually broke their spirit. His path to five involved some major antics, twice between the 10 and 15 minute mark of the last quarter he was having a shot and wasted time watching the countdown clock. The second one was from a mark taken on the goal line, there was really no need for it but as long as the end result is right I'm not arguing.

It was hardly the first test for the AFL's all-new version of the shot clock where it goes off in the last two minutes and the umpire can call play on if somebody's showing no interest - even they wouldn't allow a player to be penalised for glancing sideways. Forget the clich├ęd 'basketball background', if the Acting Football League brings in any more rules which you can circumvent by looking like you're doing something the next big thing will be recruiting Thespians from the cast of Guys and Dolls.

The game was well and truly won by then so what sort of forward wouldn't want to get it through as quickly as possible so they could enjoy multiple other opportunities to kick goals? He is an odd character, but an effective and soon to be obscenely rich one. If he loves the tension of a countdown clock he should negotiate his contract via a game of Beat The Bomb. If you're interested in torturing yourself with conspiracy theories about where he'll be next year have a look at his semi-interested performance singing the song. I just think he's not big on singing.

2013/14 Adam would have been baffled sitting there watching me legitimately concerned that we weren't going to score 100, but once we got there we banged on another 31 just for the sake of it. Party time was officially opened when Hogan spurned his sixth to prove he wasn't all about Garlett by setting up Kent.

Harmes kicked three of the junkiest junk-timers ever for four total but once again not a soul is arguing. He has excellent goal sense and loves crumb so I'm interested in the theory of having him and Kent swapping positions. Does anyone actually play in positions these days or am I living in 1998?

We are developing a decent undercard of players, people love to talk about premierships being won by the 16-22 group and considering the players we've still got in the VFL we're getting somewhere on this front. I'm not convinced on Wagner (has shown good signs though), Sizzle Jr (plenty of time for him though) or Michie but I know deep in my heart that Hunt and Neal-Bullen are the real deal. Hunt runs off half-back in a way that suggests Harry O may not be required even when fit, Bugg delivers a few shocking disposals but he can get the ball and is generally ok with it and I remain a solid Ben Newton fan even if he'll be straight out the door again when Tyson recovers from illness.

You don't even need to include Stretch in the discussion after the last fortnight, he's come on spectacularly. Roos went on to suggest he was playing young players in different spots to gain them experience, which I assume is ok as nobody's talking about Tankquiry II: Electric Boogaloo. It's amazing what you're allowed to do when draft picks aren't involved.

For all Dwayne's efforts to claim that we'd been "awe inspiring at times" (take a cold shower mate) the run at the end made it look better than it was. We were the better team by a long way but practically played against an empty net. Remember when we were that empty net and shudder.

It reminded me of all the times we'd dragged a team down to our level, giving everyone a tedious day out before ultimately succumbing to a limp defeat. A real contender would have brained them, and I'm not sure a real contender wouldn't have brained us too but winning shit games is what growing teams do. It will mean very little if we don't turn up in Alice Springs next week ready to rumble.

Commentary corner
I've come to prefer Dwayne's childlike enthusiasm over Gerald Healy's stream of misery or anything involving BT but best to stick to screaming about firestarters rather than doing open auditions to replace Dennis Cometti.
2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Billy Stretch
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Jack Watts
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Tomas Bugg

Top level apologies to Harmes, Hogan, Jones, Kennedy, Neal-Bullen, Vince and Viney.

Nothing for the top three, allowing Watts to close the gap and make it a top four. That's still good news for Viney who just needs to defend a lead of over two BOGs to go back to back.

In the minors Oliver pulls away from the Petracca threat in the Hilton despite Christian's first career votes, and I have to start questioning whether Stretch counts as a defender for the purposes of the Seecamp. For now I'm going to say no, but if there's some obscure stat held by Champion Data about how much time each player spends where I'd be interested in using it to make a decision - Vince isn't out of the running either.

25 - Jack Viney
14 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Nathan Jones, Jack Watts
10 - Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
9 - Jesse Hogan, Bernie Vince
6 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Billy Stretch
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem 
2 - Tomas Bugg, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba, Tom McDonald, Christian Petracca
1 - Dean Kent, Cameron Pedersen

To their credit the visitors made a small banner for the women's game, but having seen neither of them I'm just going to straight out assume ours won. So that was 1-0 for the day, before the main event nearly ended in a controversial draw. Ours was better designed, and well rotated but when you've got players running through the names of people who've donated shitloads of money to the club it's just a case of keeping benefactors happy. Nevertheless I thought our side did well to cover up their contractual obligations with the slogan. 

Brisbane had a decent effort, and the lack of a curtain would have helped the Lions nick in for the first ever non-Anzac game tie until it was revealed that without help from our side they wouldn't have participated. After neglecting to consider the all-important question of how they'd hold the banner up without poles or ropes our side lashed together makeshift poles and deployed emergency rope to give them a hand. Other teams would probably have probably laughed in their face (especially the Sydney lot who weren't allowed to unfurl a banner at all on the Gabba a few weeks ago) but it proves that even as we're developing a list full of players with evil intentions our fans are still good eggs. 13-1-0 Melbourne for the season.

Crowd Watch
I'd have considered it a bad omen being stuck behind somebody who didn't know how to use a scanner but that's been happening ever since they introduced barcode scanned tickets. Even if they brought back the membership cards where each game was punched off manually these are the people who'd walk in carrying them backwards. While I was waiting for this gibbon to work out which way up the ticket went I noticed that you after being 'wanded' on entry you can go out and come back in the pass-out queue without them doing it again. Good luck stopping anyone doing anything with slack security measures like that.

It's no good for content but I took myself back to the wide open spaces of the Ponsford Stand after several weeks away, and with nobody within 10 rows was somehow still asked several times to pair my phone with Gillian's iPad. After rejecting several of her kind invitations I stopped responding and will probably wake up tomorrow to find my bank account fleeced of every dollar.

What about the person waving a "Christians vs Lions" banner around in the cheersquad? They'd obviously decided that even after Salem was dropped one Christian was good enough and that they weren't going to wait until our next game against Brisbane to get some use out of it. They hadn't done their research to learn that in ancient days that time honoured clash usually ended with the Lions tearing the hapless Christians to pieces. None of this was well thought out. It had nothing on "Bloods d. Crips".

There was no need for fisticuffs on the train this week, but if anybody was going to start them it was me as I enjoyed 40 minutes of conversation between two brothers who hated their sister and managed to turn every topic of conversation to their dislike of a certain side of politics. Given that they were Melbourne fans I'll give you one guess as to who they'll be backing on July 2. Which is fine, do whatever you like in the privacy of a voting booth but you can imagine what it would be like to actually know these dullards in real life. At least in most situations other than a crowded train you could walk off on them. I'm on the sister's side.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
There's little that I enjoy more than somebody kicking a goal over their head, so as suspect as the second quarter Garlett/Hogan floorshow was I can't go past the goal that started with Harmes missing Hogan a mile in the clear, then saw Jesse throw a Las Vegas handball to Kent. He did well to quickly palm it off to Garlett who ran away from goal before booting it. You'll have to go a long way to beat Russell Robertson in Perth or Liam Jurrah against St Kilda in the last game of 2009 for great MFC goals kicked in that fashion but it was good enough for now.

The perennial nominee fails to dislodge himself from the clubhouse lead for the goal against Richmond. His weekly prize is a night out at the Eltham Barrel with Hogan and Watts so they can sort out what the hell is going on in their respective relationships.

Next Week
I can't believe it's come to the point where this can be said without snickering behind my hand but if we want to remain a realistic chance of playing finals we have to beat Port next week. The four games after are 50/50 at best (you would think no on Hawthorn and Sydney, Collingwood will probably reintroduce Cloke to kick eight against us and the Crows have a forward line that worries me greatly).

At least we're on target to stay alive until the last few weeks of the season - where we have the most up and down run home ever of (in order of perceived difficulty) Gold Coast, Carlton, Port, Hawthorn, Geelong and West Coast - the latter two away. There's still time to roll down Moorabool Street atop a Panzer Tank in Round 23 before we play for our lives.

The big question about our trip to Alice Springs is if anyone will turn up, we still haven't heard anything about an extension of the NT contract after they teased dumping us early this year and another crowd of 4000 isn't going to do much for their willingness to hand over another suitcase full of cash.

It's getting increasingly difficult to suggest ins and outs. It's not like they're going to make four changes after a 10 goal win anyway so this is all a pipedream, and if the corky suffered by The Hamburglar is fixed then I don't know what I'm going to do.

IN: Dawes, Dunn, Jetta, Tyson
OUT: Newton, O. McDonald, Michie (omit), Oliver (inj)
UNLUCKY: Newton, Salem (ok with giving him two in a row in the VFL), Pedersen (may as well give Dawes a go), Trengove (will be his poor luck to get a game again when we start playing the good teams and Grimes (playing well in the VFL and deserves another go eventually)

Hollywood Boulevard
After one off-beat mention in The Australian in 2006 part two of my media career finally arrived on this week's Melbourne Demons podcast. How odd to be on the same marquee as a fondly remembered name like Steven Stretch. I should have put this at the top so you could read the rest of the post in the voice one reader described as not as "psychologically tormented" as expected.

'Torment' is a fantastic word, and if you want to hear it at its best sit next to me during a game. Instead of open swearing the sound of my inner turmoil bubbles over in a series of nervous tics and indecipherable noises straight from where my soul would be if I hadn't sold it on eBay to somebody from Albury for $13.50 in 2002.

A week containing more promotion by others than I've bothered to do for myself since 2005 ended appropriately with the Chris Sullivan Line scoring a wildcard mention as part of the SEN call. The madness is spreading.

Melbourne Major Projects
At last, the mysterious project sizzled up in Round 1 can finally be revealed. Coming soon - the first (and presumably last) Demonblog book.

The Great Deepression will be a game-by-game memoir of everything since the fateful day I changed jobs in order to watch us every week at the end of 2006. Since then we've enjoyed some of the most startlingly inept on and off-field management the sport has ever seen. It's basically the #fistedforever list expanded to create the most TL:DR book in the history of our national game.

It's going to be a hefty mother, and as I'm not loopy enough to think any actual publishers would be interested in such a cartwheeling shambles of a story (but, you know, ring in if you are because formatting is doing my head in so it would be ace to have that looked after by professionals) it would be lovely if you'd pre-order before the end of the season. The first edition will be produced in extremely limited numbers and should sell for a tidy sum on the black market when I'm sued by any number of people.

Delivery should be by the first week of December at the absolute latest, making it the perfect Christmas present for the depressed Demon in your life, or supporters of other clubs who need to know no matter how badly their club is going somebody's had it worse.

Pre-order here or wait for mini-series but be prepared to cop a barrage of reminders through all formats before the season is over.

Was it worth it?
Yes indeed, you can never turn back 10 goal victories. Even during the third quarter when I was sitting in the same spot where I'd seen so many unedifying spectacles watching this game turn into another it was clear that no matter what the quality of the opposition or the play worthy of a suburban park that we have turned the corner. This time I think it's an actual corner with good things behind it, not like several times in the last decade when we've escaped from one nightmare only to find even worse lurking close behind.

Final Thoughts
As we find ourselves marooned in ninth it has been confirmed that our short-term goal of mid-table mediocrity has been achieved, and for now I'm having the second best time of my life since 2007 behind the brief period where we were the next big thing in mid-2010. Let's get through the next few weeks before we get excited about going any higher. I can wait until next year to put the brakes on the mundane and accelerate into the fast lane but the quicker we get there the better.

Monday 16 May 2016

Throw your hate in the ring

Next time Fox Footy play that ad where the coaches are asked which games don't matter feel free to scream MELBOURNE VS WESTERN BULLDOGS - ROUND 8 at the TV. Everything week is a learning experience, every week we don't play like drug addicts is a step closer to glory etc... etc... but by full time this was as close to an inconsequential result as you're likely to get at this point of the season. The Bulldogs confirmed that they're top four contenders and we now know we're at best mid-table placeholders - all of which we were pretty sure about at 3.19pm Sunday.

Defeat was cosmic punishment for being happy that we were in the eight on Friday night as if that counted for anything. We can always do with a good news story so there was nothing wrong with being happy about it, but who better to end our most recent post-Round 1 stint in the eight than the Bulldogs - the last time we were in it properly they brought things to a shuddering halt by unexpectedly thrashing us and a few weeks later we were off to Kardinia Park for the ultimate in rectal examinations.

It was terrifically generous to us to only lose by 32 but there was nothing worth dropping your bundle over. A better side exposed our fragile defence (across all parts of the ground) against swashbuckling counter-attack and beat us up around the contest but unless you expected to play finals this year it was exactly what you would have expected to happen.

If the AFL ever introduces a weather report style 'feels like' column to official records this one felt like we lost by about 10 goals so I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. The Dogs certainly did their bit for us by torching multiple easy opportunities with wayward kicking into the 50. There is a suspicion that if it had been played at Docklands we'd have copped the same kind of battering they gave us at the end of last year, but it wasn't so let's swallow our bile and move forward towards next week with the hope of unleashing an uncompromising explosion of total vengeance on a wounded opponent.

A lot of people thought the Bulldogs would go sour enough playing in the great outdoors that we could beat them, but that was a bit extreme for me. I thought we could hang around long enough to be annoying but victory was a bit far-fetched. There was a concern they'd undo us with a more advanced version of the way St Kilda played and there were notable similarities between the two games. Both times we were irresistible for the first few minutes before grinding to a halt the moment the other side were able to get their hands on the ball and find more loose players that they knew what to do with. Hooray for zones and all that dazzling tactical magic but teams being "out" against us will have been added to the Oxford Dictionary by the end of the year if we go on against good sides like this.

Finding a Bulldogs player on his own was like reading an entry level Where's Wally. It was impossible not to spot them dotted all over the MCG, running in waves without opposition other than a defender sprinting back from a 20 metre disadvantage to try and cover them. Whatever zonal shit we were doing only lacked Nick Riewoldt confusing the bejesus out of the defence by running in and out of it for the entire first half before anyone made a change.

There was a string of numpty umpiring decisions which threatened to send several of our fans home via a defibrillator but the way we were going the Bulldogs should have been deliberately giving them away on the wing and using our attempts at attacking as their springboard towards goal. I'm not going to provide a 40 point run-down of all the haywire decisions because the last thing I want to do is end up on the same side as the Adelaide fans who decided that they'd been cost victory by an umpire who'd done everything except set up September 11.

Sometimes the wheel of umpiring spins violently against you, and it probably seems to happen to us more because a) we lose most of the time and b) the level of perceived rorts need to be about 75% higher than expected before fans of the side getting them will admit they've been lucky. This time we got hosed but the idea that particular umpires or 'the system' are out to get you is over the top. If the AFL was going to start rigging games they wouldn't be bothered trying to prop up the Bulldogs.

The idea that they'd end up being slaughtered by the decisions just because there was so much publicity about their luck the week before was nothing more than hopeful wankery. They love ducking into a tackle and getting a free for it but good luck to them for exploiting the situation. After years spent launching clumsy attempts to rort the draft and salary cap sucked in to us for not joining in what is clearly a winning tactic. See also handballs on the umpire's blind-side that don't actually go anywhere near the hand.

The wheel does what the wheel wants but I was more concerned by the bit during the first quarter with the game still on the line that where we had a 17% kicking efficiency. Not to mention the number of players we usually rely on who were well down on their luck.

Garlett got a couple of goals but was practically anonymous otherwise and Hogan was kicking like Heather Mills McCartney but the most crucial comedown was from Gawn. Just when people started to float crazy theories about him winning the Brownlow he put in what may have been his worst game ever. The MFC Media Curse strikes again. He got plenty of taps but has either hit the wall physically from shouldering so much of the load or was carrying illness/injury because it was nothing like the high-marking, possessing demanding ruck machine we've seen so far this year. He got to a lot of contests but either dropped the mark or looked like he was having all sorts of trouble hauling his meaty frame off the ground. This is not good timing before the high profile (for me anyway) return of the SME next week, and if the newly re-signed and soon to be life member Spencil is called up for a mystery appearance this week I'll be convinced something dodgy is going on.

I've felt like Pedersen has spent an inordinate time in the ruck ever since the Richmond game, especially in first quarters, and while Gawn's time on ground numbers don't bear this out (82% this week was only his third least of the year, with the highest 89% in Hobart) but give us the % of bounces/ball-ups contested and Pedersen has surely done plenty more than you'd expect. He's a reasonable back-up, but he's no Maximum. I'm surprised he got such negative reviews in some circles because I thought he had a really good first half, and even when he faded in the second he set up that Oliver goal from the wonky snap with a lightning quick handball.

You can't expect too much from the kids but that goal aside Oliver finally came unstuck against a side who were tackling everything (whether or not the ball was actually in possession was irrelevant) but even as he gently came down to earth there was a moment during the second quarter where his Wizard of Space and Time routine came off perfectly, standing in the middle of the pack while a storm raged around him and handballing to a teammate in the open.

If the Hamburglar is a master of making something happen in the middle of chaos Petracca will be the king of storming through tight spaces and he played a more than reasonable game considering how many experienced teammates were MIA. After he kicked that goal in the first quarter right in front of me (have we got to the point where I don't need to link that phrase to the Adelaide fan whinging?) I properly understood why they call him Truck. It's not just because of his plus sized legs or the loose association with his surname, he just moves through people effortlessly. One of his kicks was better associated with the sort of truck that pumps sewerage but at this point that's no drama because I'll wear the odd-blunder for the opportunity to develop him.

The famous curse might have been expected to clean Harmes up as well after he won the Rising Star nomination but it didn't do him too much damage. For obvious reasons he didn't have same impact as in a free-wheeling extravaganza where we kicked Gold Coast to death but it wasn't a total flame-out either. Hunt and Wagner came down more violently after each making a good start to their career, but each is worth persisting with for now.

We were blatantly outclassed from early in the first quarter, and whenever we gave the ball away there was an instant terror watching their players run into space unattended but for the purposes of being positive I'm prepared to take hanging around like a bad smell until the third quarter as a positive. It was 21 points at quarter time and we were only losing by 38 before the last minute "everyone's given up" goal so as much as it felt like the Bulldogs should have had our head stuffed down the toilet we never truly caved.

For a time in the second quarter we were genuinely threatening, before it came to a screaming halt when a 50 metre penalty gifted them a goal. They didn't get another one for the rest of the half but we were still trailing behind at every turn and looked highly unlikely to mount any real challenge.

There might not have been any game left to play in the second half if the misunderstanding at the end of the quarter wasn't sorted out. The crowd was already touchy about the umpiring when a clear holding the ball ended with the umpire either pointing the wrong way or gesturing that he was giving a 50 to us in a way that made it look like the Dogs had been given the free. Unlike Turkish soccer fans we're smart enough not to burn our ground down because it would probably end with us playing at Etihad Stadium but at that point it might have gone close. Forget hovercrafts, fireworks, hip hop dancing and Kiss Cam - nothing gets a crowd going more than an umpire pointing the wrong way.

After a brief lull at the start of the third they killed us off with three goals in a row and to be entirely honest this was the point where I lost interest. We were threatening to put up a score like the worst days of the Neeld/original Roos eras, the Dogs were trotting around in first gear and while Hogan was fulfilling the prophecy of every commentator by missing set shots somebody called Jack Redpath who probably works at a McCafe drive-through in his spare time was playing like he's the one who should be getting paid a million dollars.

It was going poorly but have I ever told you how much I fancy Neville Jetta? He was almighty in defence, usually in the right place at the right time and doing his bit for propping us up by regularly taking on much larger opponents. There was a discussion on the radio last week where they were talking about the dearth of small defenders across the league and I almost stacked my car screaming "NIFTY!" repeatedly towards my dashboard.

Against the prevailing public view I also thought McDonald was very good after getting his contractually obligated goal-gifting howler out of the way early. He should never be able to kick in again, after Wagner's missed kick rolled through the points ("DELIBERATE!" screamed several hundred people with visible lobotomy scars) he did the right thing in trying to keep the ball moving but with predictable results. Without Dunn to launch cannon kicks outside 50 and Gawn not looking likely to take his usual high standard of get out of jail marks it was no wonder that by the end they had midfielders doing it. A lot of his kicks skim the boundary between genius and disaster but more often than not they come off nicely, though the goal he kicked in the last quarter barely made up for all the ones we concede while the defenders are pulled right up the ground then forced to run back like greyhounds leaping from the starting gate.

Even when defenders weren't expected to engage in the 100m sprint after we lost the ball Garland was not good. When he got dropped the first time this year I was blinded by love and the desire for all the survivors of our nightmare years to come out as winners in the end but even I could see he was miles off yesterday. Remember at the end of last year when he hadn't signed a new contract and there were hot rumours afoot that he was going to retire? I wonder if there was some truth in it. I wouldn't blame him for wanting to try and stick around to take part in a reasonably successful team after being a part of so much slop but he doesn't seem to be operating at full capacity. Some would argue that he's only ever had one good season but I run tearfully from the room when hurtful suggestions like that are made - if neither he or Dunn can stretch their career out long enough to get back in the finals then Jones will be our last hope.

At the end of the game Roos suggested we could have done with another tall defender. Do Dunn or Oscar McDonald count? If so I'm sure they'll be willing to have a bash. Whatever the answer was Viv Michie didn't represent it. I've got no idea who decided he was a defender but it didn't work. Why invent roles for fringe players when we've got so many in a winning VFL side who could do with a run? If he was picked as a midfielder then play him as one, and if there isn't a spot for him then bad luck. At one point he got lost at a contest inside 50 which cost us a goal and was given a fearsome spray from Oliver but can you really blame him when he's not going what he's used to? They might have been hoping he'd pull off the same sort of surprising success that Matt Jones was in a similar role before he was injured but at least do it in the Reserves first.

Just like the St Kilda game it was a great day for players to yell at each other. Even Hogan and Maximum were seeing engaging in a free exchange of views at one point. You can see Jesse is frustrated (and he's never been shy about cracking the shits in public) but for all the excellent work he's done in recent weeks marking up the ground and making goals for teammates he might want to chill out with some mood music before the game. If you're easily frustrated this is the worst place to play, and Freo are heading towards second with the added bonus of a six hour round-trips every fortnight. I'm patiently awaiting the Mitch Clark style screwjob where we think he's on the way home before he ends up following his hot Docklands form to its natural conclusion by signing for St Kilda.

At the start of year he was being slandered by all and sundry for his set shots based on one obscure effort in a pre-season game and responded by kicking goals from everywhere. Now just when people started to get comfortable he's started missing them again, which is a shame because they are usually set up by heaving defenders out of the way in such a beautiful fashion that it deserves a goal. The good news for him is that he's already created such a spectacular bidding war that he'll get a million dollars a year somewhere even if he dips below 50%, which must be a nice position to occupy.

He finally converted one in the last quarter for our second in a row, then in iconic Melbourne fashion the ball bounced straight out of the middle and through the goal at the other end. That seems to happen to him a lot, and I hope he uses it as his excuse for leaving because I for one will believe it 100% no matter how much we really know it involves an enormous cheque.

In the week where my years of moaning about the need for a sports psychologist to sort us out was vindicated when Jack Viney credited one with his rise to fame hopefully Jack's going to pocket massive referral bonuses for sending teammates there too. A bulk session on how to cope with being overwhelming favourites would probably come in handy at some point this week.

The Bulldogs were very good, though they'd want to fire up their forward line delivery against better sides, and in the end we took no major damage. We've still got mid-table mediocrity to rest our weary heads on and you can remove any twisted fantasies about ending the decade of disaster with an uplifting finals appearance. Don't cancel your September wedding yet, take the discount price and for bonus points give your friends and loved ones the shits by scheduling it on Grand Final day.

From here we can expect wins against teams at or below our level (and the dreaded veil of negativity is ready to drop from the ceiling like balloons if next week doesn't go well) and turmoil against the best sides in the competition. I'm comfortable with that for now, but at the same time will not rule out surprise outbreaks of grim, gloomy and/or grisly behaviour.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
After trying to fit about 10 in last week this one was far less clear, and though it feels foolish including two members of the defence but here we are. The ball was certainly down there enough. If I was just going by stats I'd have to put Tyson in but while I applaud him for getting 32 touches and 12 contested possessions I don't remember many of them coming to anything.

5 - Neville Jetta
4 - Jack Viney
--- Distance ---
3 - Jack Watts
2 - Billy Stretch
1 - Tom McDonald

Apologies to Jones, Pedersen, Petracca, Tyson and Vince who might have got one of the last two.


25 - Jack Viney
14 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Nathan Jones
11 - Jack Watts
9 - Jesse Hogan, Bernie Vince
6 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem 
2 - James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba, Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
1 - Tomas Bugg, Neville Jetta, Dean Kent, Cameron Pedersen

Our cheersquad made a second banner for the Pink Lady participants to march through, they held up another in the series of hokey gags for the sort of people who laugh when a ballkid stumbles at the Australian Open. If you hadn't heard we're all filthy rich this was the day for you, which is the best page of the Big Book 'o Footy Stereotypes. The unclear allegation which we assume is directed at us is false anyway, the only thing negative we're really worried about is a return to kicking 3.6.24 across four quarters.

Given that Carlton once had their players run through a Telechoice ad there's still something to be said for a good old fashioned slogan but god I just find the winking at the camera attempts to be amusing cringeworthy on the same level as an Australian sketch comedy show. If the point of comedy is to punch up not down they're obviously going to have a pop at our fans not our footy team but I wish somebody had told me there was a three house minimum in 1988 when the rest of my school followed Hawthorn. 

With an extra point for the Pink Lady banner the Dees move to 11-1-0 for the season.

Stat My Bitch Up
Congratulations to Jack Viney, who topped off another important game by breaking James McDonald's record for the most tackles in a match after a reign of just over 10 years. There was more focus on Tom Liberatore equaling the league record of 19, but what do we care about that?

Crowd Watch
What a poor week it was to sit in the reserved seats. When umpiring decisions go against us to the point where people are screaming for absolutely everything no matter how ridiculous I simultaneously get cultural cringe and a counter-productive secret desire for it to keep happening to see how far people can be pushed before they'd snap.

The guy next to me was closest to erupting, with veins bulging in his forehead and the kind of indecipherable screaming that I'd indulged in against St Kilda when this sort of performance was still a novelty. He also did a lot of leaping to his feet and turning around, which must have been uncomfortable for the poor person sitting behind him. If being right behind somebody like that is the sort of lottery you enter sitting in the reserved section then I'm back to Row MM next week - or as far up the Ponsford as it takes to get at least 10 rows and one bay away from any other human.

When we gave away the 50 for standing in the epicentre of the protected zone near the end of the second quarter he went right off, leaping to his feet again to scream about league conspiracies and how the umpires were on the take. After silently mocking him the umpire pointing the wrong way united us and we were both going off our nut simultaneously.

All it lacked was a contentious deliberate out of bounds decision against us like the one St Kilda got in Perth and small pockets of rioting would have broken out.

For obvious reasons there weren't many jibes about premierships being exchanged at the train station, but I did manage to get involved in some light civil disorder. If there's one thing I'll ever be murdered over it will be trying to enforce etiquette in a public place, but I didn't think it an unreasonable request for the old kent who walked into the carriage and stopped to keep moving so other people could board. This helpful suggestion was met with a punch to the arm, though it got more elbow that anything so probably did his withered hands more damage. People who are into thuggery don't usually care about the politics of entering a train carriage but here's to him trying the same thing on somebody who's had a few and ending up going home stuck halfway out the door.

Being an Australian male and therefore genetically predisposed to committing violent acts in a public place I turned around for the slightest fraction of a second ready to slap the piss out of him before the concept of a) fighting on a train and b) being arrested for attacking a 60 year old saw sanity prevail. With nothing else left except the nuclear option of strangling him with the headphones he was desperately trying to get in to end the argument I tried to lure others into the melee by cutting a promo about how many people were trying to squeeze past him because he was too lazy to move but the gormless fools just stared instead of joining in. I think they all just thought I was sour because of sports when they actually had nothing to do with it.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It seems the first quarter is the place to go for quality goals, and it was impossible to overlook Petracca's where he took a handball, dipped the shoulder to waltz past a defender then finished from 40 metres out as another one rapidly closed down on him. He wins a spot on the search party trying to work out where Tom Boyd went. I'm guessing the answer is Monaco.

Garlett retains the annual lead, and that's about the only thing he had going for him this week.

Next Week
Brisbane are 1-7, completely crippled, losing star players at a rapid rate and.. oh shit I can see where this is going. Assuming we're going to win, limping over the line will barely keep us in the finals race with another winnable game against Port in Alice Springs to follow but what would be much nicer would be to unleash hell on them. I'll believe it when I see it.

For my changes I'm betting on Vince and Pedersen both getting rubbed out. Is it NQR to bring Frost in as a defender/back-up ruckman? We concede enough goals with the second string rucks in any way so who'll be able to tell the difference? Do we even need the extra defender against Brisbane? It will be our luck that we'll go in too tall and they'll crumb 19 goals.

Also who knows what mysteriously happened to Dean Kent's back, so we'll have to wait for the injury reports to know how bad it was. For now I'll assume he's at least one more week away, but if fit I want him in ASAP. Anal-Bullet is straight in off the back of hot VFL form, and Dunn can take the kick-ins.

*UPDATE - 4pm Monday 16 May - My powers of tribunal prediction are terrible, Vince free, Pedersen fined, Jetta OUT. Nifty should base his defence on the umpire pointing in the wrong direction*

IN: Frost, Dunn, Neal-Bullen
OUT: Garland, Michie (omit), Jetta (suspended)
UNLUCKY: Brayshaw (suffered a second concussion in a row and has had a cow of a run with injury this year), Trengove (it would be a good week to bring him back but I'd rather not look like we're making any charity selections)
PARTS UNKNOWN: Matt Jones (still waiting for a hospital bed?), vandenBerg (whither?)

Was it worth it?
Not particularly, given that we only had two players who were very good and a bunch of people below their best it was an unwelcome return to the days of good sides keeping us at arms' length despite not playing anywhere near their best. The difference is that from 2012-2014 (and even arguably at times of 2015) we'd have been relatively happy with the result, now it's threatening to set off another cavalcade of distress and self-doubt.

Final Thoughts
If offered 4-4 at the start of the year I'd have gleefully clutched it, even if they idea of winning four has been moderately discredit by Carlton doing it in consecutive weeks. They've had the greatest run of crisis clubs that any team has ever enjoyed but still, could you imagine us taking advantage of four different vulnerable opponents without allowing at least one, if not three to get back on their feet?

I admire the way they've entered a season where everybody expects them to be cannon fodder and are battling hard but hope a permanent move into mid-table or above means we won't have to be in that scenario again any time soon. Ask me again how calm I am next week while I'm scaling the outside of an MCG light tower.

Sunday 8 May 2016

How I learned to stop worrying and love the long bomb

If you didn't already know that this season is off its face we still found ourselves still on the verge of the eight after ballsing it up last week. Then with a travelling record worse than Aeroflot we ended up against a vulnerable opposition on their home deck after a 120 point loss and people were still having serious conversations about how the team who lost couldn't make the finals.

The only thing most bizarre than people using our name and finals in the same sentence without referring to 1959 was that it was still happening after a loss where we'd been cut up like a Christmas turkey. There were several ways we could have followed this surprising level of faith from neutrals, and even though I thought we were a reasonable chance of winning I didn't see it turning into a cart-wheeling smashing which produced our biggest score outside of Victoria since 1994, and anywhere since 2004. The odd year out is 2014, a season so boring that we've achieved 57% of that year's total score in seven weeks.

Football continues to hold its weekly frustrations but we're so much more interesting to watch now it's hard to come to terms with how any of us got through those shit years - and even though we barely ever scored 2014 wasn't even close to the worst of them. Can I even start talking like there's no way we could end up back in the mire without at least one finals appearance? Is this tempting fate to a ridiculous degree? It's been too long, I've forgotten how to act as the fan of a team that has gives you a reason to be cheerful more than twice a year.

Somehow we've taken advantage of footy breaking open into a carnival of goals kicked from 15 metres out to become an attacking juggernaut. With the exception of the Essendon loss that spurred us on to the lofty ninth place we now occupy even our losses feature a shitload of goals.  Of course the trade-off for that is that our backline is loose as a goose so we're also conceding plenty but when you're playing like aristocrats why not enjoy it for as long as possible? Last week I said don't believe the hype, but that's just for losses, you should bathe in it after wins.

The second biggest surprise was discovering a TV commentary team that didn't make me want to throw a remote control. The only reason we were playing in the off-beat 5.10pm timeslot was because the AFL had scheduled six games on one day for unclear reasons, and as ours was clearly expected to deliver the lowest rating we ended up with the most obscure commentary team.

This would generally be a cause for concern, because with some of the people they consider their 'stars' you'd hate to see what the fill-ins are like, but it turned out to be an excellent thing. The SEN All Stars of Matt Granland and Brett Thomas are several times better than any of the other options on offer because they called the game instead of forcing in pre-prepared gags, screaming like a house was burning down, cracking gags at each other's expense or continually moaning about the rules. The only unusual aspect of it was hearing them call a game without having to attach a sponsor's name to everything, but there was a moment when we kicked a goal from outside 50 where Granland clearly almost called it an SEN Supergoal before telling us to ring 9429 1116 to win a Bertocchi ham. Fox Sports, free to raise the tone of your games by hiring them permanently.

The aristocracy (on-field and off, isn't that right Dees fans? *quaffs fine wine from a cup made out of a skull*) had to wait in the opening minutes when it looked like we'd come straight from Etihad Stadium without having slept, and were suffering the same sort of criminally loose structure which caused our brutal demise against the Saints. Only this time it was joined by a criminal handball from the returning Colin Garland, setting up a first gamer to goal and give us a brief flash of terror that we were going to suffer the same sort of surprise battering that we'd copped from that St Kilda bloke who's name I've already forgotten.

Tom Lynch looked even more likely to slip us the wrong 'un, reacting to Garlett's spectacular equalising goal with two in the first quarter and two in the second before going missing like the rest of his side. The only thing he did from there was provoke a fight and still get a free kick out of it which was scant consolation for watching his team swirl down the toilet in counter clockwise fashion. He handily won the goalkicking battle against Hogan, but that should not underestimate Jesse's performance putting pressure on, taking marks up the ground and generally belting people out of the way so other forwards could take grabs.

The only shining light to our defence in the first quarter was Jetta, running around like a madman and marking everything that came near him. He was temporarily removed from the game when some great big lummox cleaned him up with a crude bump after a mark but returned to play a pivotal role in holding the Suns back before we could launch the string of attacking raids which killed them off. He just quietly goes about his business every week and he's doing a top job of it almost unnoticed. Otherwise we looked frighteningly vulnerable whenever they went forward, McDonald was doing a reasonable job on Lynch but couldn't hold him single handedly if the ball kept coming down there at speed.

In the middle of all this James Harmes was playing like Gary Ablett and Gary Ablett was playing like James Harmes. While the one with a Brownlow was struggling to get a kick our man was racked up 12 touches, and even if half of them didn't hit the target it was still quite the quarter. The 14 touches he had for the rest of the game were of significantly higher value and he ended up as one our best players.

Long time readers will remember way back to the 2010/11 days of Thank God For Brad Green, and all these years later we've got Thank God For Max Gawn. He was doing a solid if unspectacular job early in the ruck but continues to be one of the greatest exponents of the pack mark 20 metres from goal in the competition. After a quarter where we'd had plenty of attacks (amongst a massive 75 inside 50s for the day) but wasted most of them with horrible delivery, and were pointing towards one of our famous one goal quarters he turned up with another screamer to keep us within two goals.

If Watts is the guy you want marking on the boundary line (though he played like he was under general anaesthetic tonight), and Hogan's the one you want left alone with a hapless defender ready to be dismissed with ease, Maximum is the man for plucking the ball out of the middle of a nest of opposition players. This makes sense because he's enormous, but it's one thing to be larger than everyone else it's another to actually hold the thing, and another again to convert the set shots regularly.

It was one of those quarters that makes a mockery of my long held belief that if you just kick the ball down there we'll eventually score enough to win. The next three quarters proved quite the opposite, as the long range hoof was used in neat conjunction with the goal-line tap-in to deliver football gold. The idea of kicking 24 goals despite Hogan only having one and Watts none would be a bit outrageous, but that didn't account for eight different multiple goalkickers amongst 13 in total.

The start of the second quarter still lacked any indication of the wonderful stomping that was on the cards. We'd at least settled down and weren't letting them find so much space. The pressure that began to cause them trouble didn't go completely unanswered, but what's the point in pressure when you've got a player like Clayton Oliver handy? His form at the start of the year was no fluke, and he continued to demonstrate that he operates in his own Hamburglar Standard Time zone. The way he'd gather in traffic and wait a split second longer than other players to find the right handball option was so obscene it should be restricted to adult viewing only. At one point he was storming towards the greatest performance ever by a player without registering one kick but by the end we were so dominant that he couldn't help but pick up three.

When Jarrad Grant turned up unexpectedly for a goal it was a shock to me. Who even knew he was still playing, let alone outside the Bulldogs VFL team? He's already an associate of the Kingsleys, having taken us for three goals in that disgraceful loss to the Dogs late last year and there was a major sinking feeling when I realised he might have been about to take advantage of us again. He went on to do nothing else and they were so rattled by the end that he was playing in the midfield. No wonder Rodney Eade looked so forlorn in the coaches' box, he'd recruited him twice.

Positive form was also being shown by Jayden Hunt, for players who loved having a bounce nobody could beat the Gold Coast defender who spent the entire game doing it for fun but Hunt (who fits in neatly alongside Kent and Pedo in names you can't yell out without having your hard drive seized) was driving attacks when he did it instead of desperately trying to find an option in defence. Wagner was good too, even if it was his turn to deliver the second of the goals our defence is mandated to the concede through farcical play every week.

The problem with the sixth most prestigious commentary team was that it also meant the six most prestigious production crew, and unlike the callers they delivered exactly what you'd expect. In the first quarter Tom Lynch kicked a goal where the camera panned up to catch it at its apex only for nobody to bother putting the camera down to see it go through or switching to another camera. There was one point where they were in the middle of a replay when the umpire called 'play on' in the background so we got another slow motion replay of the same thing, and later when Ben Kennedy crumbed one out from the pack we were so zoomed in that you could only rely on the call and his reaction to know it had gone through and not deflected off a herd of migrating wildebeasts on the line. 
No wonder when Hogan shinned a quick snap 'over the line' with major questions over whether it had gone through or not they didn't bother calling for a video replay, all the monitors were probably showing the blue screen of death.

As now seems traditional for interstate matches I'd been forced to pay for all my days out at the footy by babysitting while the game was on. This doesn't usually prove much of an issue considering the kid either chumbles around the place doing her own thing or sits there looking bemused as I go from sitting to standing 19 times a quarter. Today I managed to unlock a great parenting achievement, when halfway through the second quarter just as we'd hit the lead she ran in carrying a book and instead of taking my eyes off the unfolding drama I manage to deliver a word perfect rendition of it while never taking my eyes off the TV. I expect the Department of Human Services will be on the phone any minute now.

After we'd hit the lead courtesy of Tyson and Stretch adding to the long range shooting party with a kick on the run and a set shot respectively that Hogan 'miss' would have calmed my nerves. Now we were playing better, working our way up the field with the ball and more importantly keeping it out of their hands but needed to punch home the advantage.

We were continually reminded that the Suns were missing several players through injury or suspension, assisted by endless shots of them all tooling away on their phone. When they lost more players through injury during the game it was like we were being lured into a trap, how many other times have teams losing players inspired them to do great things against us? The tide of history is absolutely turning in our favour because we didn't let it stop us this time.

A life affirming rampage was not in our grasp yet, three goals in a row put them back in the box seat and I'd gone from perched on the edge of the couch ready to plummet off at the slightest provocation to sitting back looking like a sidelined Gold Coast player right down to the grim facial expressions and reliance on my phone to stay sane. Were I not acting as a responsible adult swearing would have been required, but instead I sat there clenching my jaw and willing us towards victory. We'd still been the better team that quarter, and our pressure was starting to cause them to crumble we just had to stop Lynch from kicking 10 and make sure Ablett didn't fire up.

Then the game turned again, Jones tonked through another long goal, Gawn won a dodgy free in front of goal and just snuck it in, then Kent stormed through a tackle with utter contempt to kick another and we were back in front at half time. It was solid reward for effort, but even if we were the better team I was so wary of them opening up and scoring freely if you'd told me the score ended 160-87 and Hogan wouldn't kick another one I'd have had my house on Gold Coast being the 73 point winners.

That's when the fun started, and it was generated from the midfielders. Like last week our major problem was when the other side got the ball, so the best way to stop that was by dominating possession and even better if it ended with us kicking goals. It started almost immediately courtesy of a Gawn set play tap over the head that landed in the arms of Jack Viney to storm to 50 and whack it home (as opposed to some of you who were probably whacking it at home immediately after), only to prove himself a surprisingly versatile goal-kicker by kicking one on the run from the other side almost immediately.

In the middle of the two goals a well-behaved Bugg saved our bacon with a desperate lunge to rush a behind, and that was when carnage poked its head around the corner and was ushered in to make a rare welcome appearance at a Melbourne game. It was like we'd found the 'procession mode' cheat code for a video game, another Gawn tap hit Jones for the third, followed by Harmes and Vince in quick succession. Kennedy came out of the cold after doing nothing all day and we had six in half a quarter. After a first quarter where we converted a fraction of inside 50s into scores now we were just slamming goals through for fun, and there was nothing that the guy who loved to have a bounce could do about it other than look up as the ball flew over his head eight times in 18 minutes.

When Petracca gifted Harmes his goal I took off around the house on a Lumumba style high-stepping celebration, and the pressure which I'd unfairly let fester all week after the Saints defeat exploded in a shower of joyful sparks. By the end of the quarter I was boiling hot again, not from rage like the previous Saturday but from having done so much jumping around in glee at the spectacle of a Melbourne side kicking goals freely without them being part of a blistering comeback after we'd found ourselves a million points down. It did not matter how battered they were, we have sat through enough tripe that we deserve at least one day of vicious retribution against any sort of opposition.

It had been so long since we'd got to three-quarter time with the margin beyond the Chris Sullivan Line, and I was looking forward to feet up relaxation right through three-quarter time before eking out a slightly bigger win by full time. Then we conceded a goal right on the siren to bring it back to 44, leaving me instantly forgetting all the barnstorming magic that had just unfolded and wondering instead about delivering an epic cock-up that would be talked about for years.

When they kicked the first of the last quarter I became convinced there was a world's best practice disaster on the cards before Pedersen showed up to kick two in a row, taking the pressure off and signalling that it was time to rip open metaphorical crates of champagne and pour them over each other like the end of a Formula 1 race.

We didn't even have to confine ourselves to just winning, or to throwing a couple of extra goals on the margin this was now a contest of how badly we could thump them, and that was a feeling I hadn't enjoyed for a while. Even the Carnival of Hate had done its best work by three-quarter time before petering out to nothing except non-stop abuse towards one particular player. We didn't get as many inside 50's in either game but the twin Adelaide/Fremantle demolition jobs in 2011 were the closest parallels, hopefully not ending with our last round trip to Kardinia Park ending in record breaking porkage. In fact I'd like to retain the fantasy that we could be playing for a spot in the finals that afternoon for as long as possible.

Petracca kept getting better through the game, and was starting to play some really good football by the last quarter when he threw in a couple of goals to top it off. The first was yet another long distance roost, before providing balance with one from right in front straight after. Harmes, Pedersen and Garlett all got their third each in quick succession and outrageously with 10 minutes of playing time left we were actually storming towards a triple figure margin for the first time since tonking Carlton in 2004.

Once Viney was removed from the game after taking a light blow to the head from a stray hip, and Gawn had been sent to relax in the forward line our relentless march to glory was halted but it hardly mattered. They got the sort of last minute patronising pat on the head junk time goals that we've become so famous for over the years, much to the disinterest of the locals who had been drowned out by the travelling fans all night.

Appropriately there was a business-like atmosphere at full time, with no histrionics (I had enough in my loungeroom for everyone) and nobody dancing about like they'd won the flag. I suppose the players had expended so much joy celebrating 24 goals that when the siren went there was nothing left to do but shake hands, walk off, belt out the theme song with ferocity and move to the next battle.

It was such a pleasing second half rampage that even though the Suns slammed the brakes on in the last few minutes and avoided complete ignominy two fans ended up arguing over the race with Gary Ablett. Maybe if the Suns management didn't force the players to stay out there autographing footys to give to the fans when they'd just been thumped they could have gotten off without the captain having to grapple with local oafs. We hope his response was to tell them that if they didn't like it they should go back to being Brisbane fans.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
What glory to have such an impossible decision to make, and as much as it just looks like taking the easy route and picking the guy who had the most touches I thought the captain was immense again. Kicking goals, directing traffic and generally running around with hope in his heart that he might still be there when we hit the jackpot.

5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - James Harmes
1 - Max Gawn

The biggest apologies of all go to Jetta, all game I was sitting there thinking it would be criminal if his contribution to the side went unrecognised then when sitting to do the votes couldn't quite fit him in. Who'd be anything but a midfielder by the looks of it?

Major apologies to Hunt, Pedersen and Vince who were all in the running, and also to Bugg, Petracca, Tyson, Vince and Wagner who weren't but were still very good. By the end there were very few who didn't hadn't played a good game.

The four time winner is slowly closing the lead at the top, but Viney continues to defy our previous history of father/son selections to retain a big lead in his back-to-back campaign. He's probably just about officially covered Tom Kavanagh, Michael Clarke, Shane Burgmann and Chris Johnson now. If you combined all four careers.

Meanwhile Maximum is one vote away from being declared the provisional winner of the Stynes. Even if Spencer played the rest of the season from here he's not scoring 15 votes.

21 - Jack Viney
14 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Nathan Jones
9 - Jesse Hogan, Bernie Vince
8 - Jack Watts
6 - Clayton Oliver (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Ben Kennedy, Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
2 - James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Tomas Bugg, Neville Jetta, Dean Kent, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen

There was high chance of a boilover here, we had a nicely designed, well kerned non-milestone interstate effort but with an even lovelier font and the inclusion of graphics the Gold Coast one would have got up for a rare non-MFC win until I realised it had a curtain so large you could fly an Airbus through it. Obviously in the franchise draft the Giants had first selection and chose 'being able to play footy', leaving the Suns having to take 'making attractive banners'. Dees 9-1-0 for the season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
What a wonderful world it has become when you have to sit down and watch the highlights to make a decision because there are so many contenders. In the old days it was a case of picking the least sludgy of five and moving on, now we've become The Entertainers in a surprisingly non-sarcastic fashion and there's contenders pouring in from every angle.

With apologies to either of the results of perfect Gawn taps, Pedersen's gather and throw on boot in the last quarter the long bombs from Petracca or Tyson and Petracca's second where he ran onto a loose ball, gathered and finished in the blink of an eye the winner has to be our first of the evening.

Garlett waited under a ball that had been fisted in the air (finally a fisting in our favour), fumbled it as it came down, gathered running towards the boundary with his back to goal, ran around and looked for an option before deciding "bugger this I'll do it myself" and snapping around the corner. He retains the overall lead for his inside out goal against the Tigers but for his weekly prize wins the chance to take a screamer off the back of a whale at SeaWorld from a ball kicked by former Demon and later CEO of the Gold Coast City Council Dale Dickson before leaving the region.

Next Week
The Bulldogs continue to play like a top four team, but on the MCG who knows what will happen to them? You'd think that they'll hear a week of "if you want to win finals..." and will come out appropriately fired up. At least by playing a good side you can be sure they won't be taken lightly no matter what happens. I bet they pick Tom Boyd just to try and exploit our defence and the bastard kicks eight. Any chance we can get Jack Fitzpatrick back from Hawthorn on loan to thump him again? After a week where they were carried over the line by decisions some have described as dodgy here's to a massive overcorrection next week where they can't get a free no matter what.

It's hard to make changes after such a monumental victory, so as a fit Salem is a certainty the only victim is Michie. He wasn't terrible but I'm not convinced his VFL form will ever permanently translate to the big time. He's welcome to return for another go later in the year but for now let's get at least one defender back in before playing a good side.

At half time there were a few in the cooking pot, but by the end the lid was so far off the pot that I'm prepared to turn a blind eye to several issues including Kennedy not having done anything since the Pies game. Like almost everyone else he came good and there's no need for any sort of violent hack and slash yet.

IN: Salem
OUT: Michie (omit)
LUCKY: Nil by full time but Oliver's elbow to future teammate Dion Prestia's head might not be viewed fondly by the "down with this sort of thing, careful now" authorities.
UNLUCKY: Brayshaw, Trengove, Neal-Bullen, Dunn, Lumumba, every man and his dog

Final Thoughts
The weight of expectation is still not doing any favours to my already overworked central nervous system but it's a a damn sight better than the alternative. The best we've been at this stage at any year of the past decade was three wins and a draw, and our totals have now covered off 2008/2013, drawing level with 2009/2012/2014.

In this round last year we lost to Hawthorn by 105 points and completed the unprecedented hat-trick of scoring exactly 50 three weeks in a row. We've still got to guard against debacles like the Essendon game but look how far we've come in just under 365 days. Could it just be that for the first time in years the signs aren't written in invisible ink?