Sunday 7 August 2016

Brawl State vs Natural High

A week ago I was happy to escape the MCG with a victory that perfectly represented the toil and struggle of our lost decade, now we're basking in the afterglow of one that may have done irreparable damage to the #fistedforever era. A win so historically momentous that David Hasselhoff is going to stand on top of it in a spangly jacket and sing Looking For Freedom.

It was like a career criminal walking out of the prison gates again, vowing that this time they're definitely going straight. We don't know if it's going to hold or whether we'll be back in the clink in a few months, but at least now we get the chance to find out. Things were already trending up, now starting next week expectations and scrutiny will be through the roof.

While the Decade of Disaster only has three weeks to run we won't know if the famous era has been banished until next year, but this gives us a good head start on seeing it off. After years of Member Appreciation Day games where our valued support was rewarded with unholy beatings we picked a great day to deliver what was arguably the best performance of the decade - at least on the podium alongside Sydney 2010 or Geelong 2015. Two of those featured Hogan withdrawing late, but let's not get any silly ideas about trading him to Freo for Pick 3 and Tendai Mzungu.

Assuming we'd lose - and for all the people who queued up during the week to suggest they had a sneaking suspicion about us it was still sensible to bet on defeat - what I really wanted was to end up in a situation where somebody was taunting me about flags, just to see how personally abusive my response could get. It never came, but I got something far better instead. For all the people suffering late season distress of the last few weeks and declaring how it was a 'wasted year', what is now our best season in a decade has been relatively free of great moments of anger and hatred since the Essendon game, but the small disappointments build up to the point where you eventually go right off and make a dick of yourself. I don't really care about Hawthorn, and might be in the minority that couldn't give a rats if they win 10 flags in a row unless we're playing against the Grand Final, but I pre-filled the hump of hate in case of an emergency.

As Hogan went out Frawley followed, with a 'jarred shoulder' probably suffered from practising how he was going to taunt our fans with a replica premiership cup if they booed him again. More likely the Hawks knew Hogan would never play and decided to give Chip a rest. You'd like to say it backfired on them, but if they were resting a player before the finals there's still one key element of that which we won't able to replicate - this year anyway. In Frawley's place came a bloke from New Zealand who spoiled everything that came near him for the first half like a seasoned veteran. It just goes to show Collingwood blundered by promoting Mason Cox off the rookie list before our first meeting then not playing him, because if there's one thing we're more vulnerable to than unheralded players it's players from other countries.

If you were looking for omens pointing to a game of great quality and excitement you probably walked out of the MCG/your house when the first bounce twanged off at right angles so violently that even in the year of the non-recalled bounce the umpire couldn't ignore it. If anything the only thing it correctly indicated was that all decisions would be made at random for the rest of the day.

It's always pot luck whether we're 'on' or not, and you could tell right from the start that this wasn't necessarily a win in the making but that we were going to make a go of it. From a vicious tackle in defence winning holding the ball we launched the other way for Jayden Hunt to do his NBA Jam style turbo button move and storm through the middle to kick the opening goal. Which was nice. What I liked was how he ran diagonally across the pack. Footy tactics go over my head, but it feels like good teams always do things diagonally. He didn't get that many more kicks for the rest of the day, but has rocketed in front of the mysteriously absent Harry O in the battle for the half-back sprinter role. When we recruited Lumumba I said "I'll have him because he's better than Terlich". And he still is, but he's not as good as Hunt.

His goal was the first in a long line of moments where we outpaced and out ran the Hawks. What a glory era this is, where we can dice opposition sides up by sprinting and playing on quickly. A few years ago we were slower than the rotation of the earth. It's terrible news if you're Jack Trengove, but I've regrettably come to the conclusion now that none of he, Grimes, Garland or Dunn are going to make it to our glory era. In a way it will be appropriate if Jones is the only survivor.

Last year we kicked the first two goals against Hawthorn and converted it into a 100 point loss, but the early two goals this time were of such higher value that you knew it wasn't going to spiral into disgrace. The worst thing about Gawn missing a kick not long after is that Petracca's slicing kick to set him will be forgotten. It was one of Maximum's few blemishes all day, until he missed the exclamation point kick after the siren - by which point nobody gave a rats because we were having a party.

It could easily have been another day where we blew numerous opportunities by aimlessly kicking to opposition defenders, but after a brief period of bombing and hoping we started to craft goals instead and it worked well. There is no question that Hogan is super important to this team but maybe they need to sit down and have a think about the forward structure works with him. We've got to give him the space to violently dispose of lesser men, but not at the expense of the kind of leads and pack marks we saw yesterday.

When Sam Weideman took advantage of a perfectly weighted kick from Stretch (who would easily keep Salem out of the side on current form) to take the sort of overhead contested mark that must have made Chris Dawes stand up, shake hands with those around him and walk out I thought "this is the team". There were no nerves, he just stood at the sort of angle that many have made a dick of themselves by missing from in the past and belted it through effortlessly to join the prestigious likes of Peter Tossol, Paul Hopgood and James Magner in goaling with his first kick.

As much as we love unnecessarily writing off first games you can't declare somebody a solid gold success or a failure in the making from their debut alone, but I'd be willing to bet on his success. If he'd turned up two or three years ago it might have been a different story. We're on the verge of pulling off the ultimate draft heist, eventually using pick nine to draft him after flogging Gold Coast a future first round selection then finishing high enough that the Suns only get pick nine back in return.

The man who will launch a million 'smoking Weid' headlines tired later in the day, but that was no concern because he'd already shown plenty. It proved why there was no reason to be concerned about debuting him against Hawthorn. I respected the concerns of some people about playing him first up against the best side in the competition, the way we've handled draftees over the years there is a natural instinct to protect the kids. But even if we lost yesterday this is a different environment to the orgy of violence we plonked Toumpas into less than five years ago. If he'd had zero kicks, zero handballs and eight frees against yesterday it wouldn't have been the end of him, and as it turns out the gamble paid off handsomely.

Down the other end it was the greatest tag team performance the McDonald brothers have ever put on. We waited all day for Senior's contractually obligated blooper which never came, and Junior had a few rocky moments but on the whole looked more composed than any other time so far in his career. There were still times we were overly dinky with the handballs in defence, but you couldn't hold that solely against them when everyone was doing it. If it's all part of the grand scheme for the future I can handle working out the bugs now.

I didn't think we'd win, especially after last week's fumblefest, but that we'd at least trouble them well into the last quarter. Then because I'm a very nervy fan once they hit the lead I was convinced we'd be thrashed. There was no science behind it, the first came from a 50 for 'encroaching' the protected zone (zzzz) and the second from a free immediately after Cyril Rioli had shirtfronted the Hamburglar in the head. Let the historical record show that it wasn't like when we got a free last week and turned it straight into a Gold Coast goal, but that they got the free after he was collected high in a tackle while Oliver was still collecting his thoughts on one knee. The second free was there, but it would never have happened if they'd paid the first.

We got our fair share of ropey decisions for the rest of the day, but not as many in goalscoring range. I don't buy the pro-Hawthorn umpiring conspiracies (if they want to make a buck why not rort it in Collingwood's favour?), but like West Coast players being smart enough to get rewarded for outrageous cheating when being tackled we should be studying whatever the Hawks do to get themselves into positions to win all these questionable frees.

I loved the way Oliver just got up, kept going, and played a belter of a game. The foundations of the latest - and god we hope last - rebuild are manly men, ready to take a forearm to the chin and bounce back up again, rather than the slender and terrified kids who got to the outskirts of credibility in 2011 before being battered into submission. Cyril is lucky that the Burglar is made of steel, because if he'd whacked a more fragile player in the same way he'd be enjoying a much needed three weeks off + the useless bye before the exhibition series. Now they can afford to let him get away with it and give an irrelevant fine for his later dangerous tackle. His defence should be that he was trying to punish Oliver for the weird, early 90s style undercut thing he's done with his hair.

It wasn't just the "don't hit people in the head" rule that was in disarray, the much maligned 15 metre kick was also a topic of contention. Or it would be if most fans hadn't given up trying to argue the point, knowing that because in 2016 Stoppages are Satan that they'll pay anything 5 metres or over to keep the play moving. In absolute seriousness Wayne Carey suggested that because the umpires had no idea how to consistently decide what had gone 15m that they should extend the requirement to 20m. He failed to outline how they would be any more likely to judge that correctly and should have been forced to immediately piss in a cup to ascertain whether he was fit to continue broadcasting.

We were still prone to some of the old classics, after Watts kicked his first we let the Hawks go straight down the other end for a mark in front of goal. When you have near total disinterest in other sides you're often surprised at who crops up, and the Hawks have a suspicious number of solid bronze nobodies who are probably going to sink like a stone once the multiple premiership legends start retiring. Whoever Tim O'Brien is, other than having the sort of generic name of a forgotten 25 game player in the mid-90s, he should have punished us but missed a sitter from the sort of angle Weideman had calmly negotiated a few minutes before.

This was not classic Hawthorn, and we were being given one decent chance to scratch their name off the Decade of Dishonour list (other members - North, St Kilda and Subiaco). Most of the stars were there, but many of them didn't fancy it. In years past it wouldn't have mattered, they'd have trotted about in first gear, won anyway, gone through the motions of singing the song and given us some bullshit platitudes about being a "tough team" in the post-match interviews. Finally we were fielding a lineup who wanted to make them pay for not taking us seriously.

We denied them the space to play the usually game of keepings off, and even turned the tables by doing it to them. It was legitimately fun viewing, and when a Weideman/Kent combination set up Watts to storm down the middle of the 50 through two defenders for his second goal it was beautiful not just for the way Kent speared the ball in low and hard to him, but how Jack set himself up to run through their backmen to get it.

We might have had another if Pedersen had converted post a massive "I'm just happy to be here" screamer, but the goal came not long after anyway - even if we had to wait through Rioli getting away with ducking into a tackle that made Paul Roos quite obviously exclaim "FUCKING HELL!" in the box. You know things are going well when we kick a goal even after Watts had been sent back in the last two minutes to make sure we didn't concede. Kent's goal was created by Harmes running through Hawthorn players swatting them off with ease. For most of the day he had a shocker and single handedly drove down our efficiency stats by handballing to people's feet but there was nothing wrong with him here.

I was very much on guard for a great first quarter to be followed by a stinker, but even if we'd stopped there you could officially certify this rebuild as having being built to all appropriate Australian construction standards. The bottom end of the list might get us one day, but the top end is going to be a goldmine. Not even considering the key position players, Viney, Brayshaw, Oliver and Petracca alone will be a licence to print money. After Petracca benefited from a defensive disaster to kick the first of the quarter and give us a three goal lead we gave it back from an attempted Brayshaw switch that he couldn't have telegraphed any more if he'd flown a plane across the MCG trailing a banner behind explaining what he'd do next. If a McDonald had done the same people would have been climbing the fence to punch on with them but I'll wear classic cock-ups like that from a player like Brayshaw because I know he generally has footy smarts out the yin yang.

For a glimpse into the future all you needed was the instant reply from our second goal of the quarter, where Oliver gathered in the middle and turned to deliver a perfect kick to Brayshaw running down the wing. On replay I noticed vandenBerg did a dodgy shepherd which was excellently disguised as him just stopping running after which the Hawthorn player cluttered into his back and left them both on the ground to give Brayshaw the space to run in and kick it. The finish was nice, the shepherd was attractively sneaky, but Oliver's kick was worth ordering several crates of champagne over. Stefan Martin might have been the smartest player in the AFL when we had him, but these kids don't have any time for quantum physics while they're pulling off spectacular moves like that.

It looked like Oliver had been told to kick more, there were a couple of times where he looked like his first instinct was to handball it before changing his mind. Good, that's what we now call development. I love his ability to slow time down in a pack but throwing kicks like that Brayshaw one into the mix as well will give us great joy for years to come. I don't even care that he finally got caught holding the ball, his record for avoiding disaster is still world leading.

Unusually the goal started with Watts in the ruck. Having anybody in there other than Maximum is often the first step to conceding, but during the afternoon three of Jack's contests ended in goals. If Hogan stays, Weideman is a keeper, and Watts continues to go ballistic what does that do for our quest to find a forward/ruckman to take some of the heat off Gawn? Would a fourth tall be one too many? What about killing two birds with one stone with a defender/ruckman? I don't even know if that sort of thing exists. Watts might have rolled himself into doing the job permanently. How much the last two goals had to do with him is debatable considering we were like a rampaging elephant by then, but as long as more intensive ruck tutelage didn't detract from his forward development then I could live with it. Until the first pre-season game next year where somebody rams a knee through his chest.

Gawn wasn't involved this time, but my psychological reliance on him has become so severe that I no longer fear Hogan tripping on a pothole while going for a milkshake but instead want to follow Max around the streets at an only slightly creepy distance making sure that I can throw myself in the way if a rabid dog attacks him. I enjoyed his first half, but the second was match-winning gold. When Hogan was withdrawn I said "remember how Max went bananas with the contested marks in Geelong last year?", as if it had something to do with Hogan not being there and he did it again. The best thing about Max is how he's ignored item 1.1 of the Constitution for Cult Players and is actually extremely good. Not just flittering into games here and there, but dominating enormous parts of matches.

Yesterday was a return to the partnership with Viney that looked like it was going to do enormous amounts of damage in the pre-season. They've had their moments together throughout the year, and have both been excellent when operating separately, but yesterday was the first time it has come together that well since Gold Coast the first time around when they were enjoying a more dazzling psychic connection since the glory days of Jamar/Moloney. I don't expect either of the Jacks to break into the competitive All-Australian team but if at least one or not both of them isn't on the shortlist alongside Gawn I hope the team loses to Ireland, Cote d'Ivoire or whoever they're playing this year.

The best thing about winning this game - other than the obvious - was the way we continually rebounded from their attempt comebacks. Even when we were three goals in front in the second quarter I didn't expect to hold onto the lead, but when they came at us we stood up instead of crumbling under the pressure. It wasn't all good news, during the second quarter out kick-ins were like the bad old days where sides kicking a point were almost guaranteed a seven or more point play, Garlett could barely get near it again, and other than a couple of excellent moments when he had the ball in hand (and his dubious shepherd) vandenBerg wasn't looking nearly as comfortable as last week. We were still vulnerable to giving the opposition chances on a silver platter, of the 51 points they got in the first half 42 of them came from turnovers. On the other hand we were riding the Gawn Express to a shitload of scores from stoppages so for once the universe was balancing something in our favour.

It was only force of habit making me pick out negatives, the majority of the news was good. Like Weideman positioning himself perfectly to make Gibson concede a free that the umpire in the middle of the ground had to pay because the guy looking directly at it from 10 metres away couldn't be bothered getting involved. Hawks fans who thought they were being hard done by were advised to drape themselves in any one of the available premiership flags and proceed directly towards the nearest natural disaster.

The revenge of Hawthorn's random players came from James Sicily's clothesline on Bernie Vince. If he ever rises above handy second option status I'll get around the town wearing brown in tribute. Leaving Bernie wearing the crimson mask was the only thing he successfully managed to pull off all day. No free kick of course, and it will most likely become the third time this year that an opposition player is cited for an illegal act that wasn't deemed good enough for a free at the time. I look forward to a bright future when we're good enough to start getting the run of bullshit umpiring like that.

After Bernard picked himself up off the turf and made sure the face that must have torn Adelaide's 'dating' scene apart was still intact he ran back to contest a ball in the square, and as Frost was nicked for holding onto the forward the umpire realised Vince was bleeding heavily and would have to go off. You don't say? How do you reckon that happened, trying to do some housekeeping in the nostrils and dug too deep? Have a week doing the Yackandandah Thirds/enjoy all your decisions being ticked off as correct by the league. This assassination was the start of a good run for the Hawks where they got the margin back under a goal at half time, again convincing me that they wouldn't let us play so well that we could possibly topple them - especially considering how many thrillers they'd won already this year.

The first step in the third quarter was not to get blown away. We're used to coming out after half time and playing like demented lunatics, but that's par for the course with teams from the wrong side of the tracks. This is the best side of the modern era, you expect that Angry Al Clarkson would have been throwing kettles around the dressing room and screaming into the face of scared players to make sure they knew what they were doing. When the Hawks got the first goal to get in front again I thought he'd cracked the secret to beating us and it would all be downhill from there. The rich man's Watts, Jack Gunston stuffed up a sitter for the second in a row but it didn't take long for them to get it anyway to go more than a goal in front. We'd started to shit ourselves with the disposal and entries into 50, and it was lucky that it was a day where we were as fortunate with shit kicks still bouncing to our players as we were unlucky with the umpiring. They still couldn't get rid of us, which was all I wanted. Until halfway through the last quarter when all I wanted changed to winning.

When we got a run on we were scoring goals for fun, but there were long periods where attacking looked as painfully difficult as Subiaco. What saved us was the defence not doing anything stupid and the midfield holding together long enough for us to create what might have been the team goal of the year - from Oliver keeping the ball in on the half-back flank when he could have easily let it go out, Viney selling a dummy and dashing past a totally confused opponent who is probably still standing in the shadows of the Southern Stand now wondering where he went, then another shonky kick bounced perfectly, this time to Weideman, who gave it to Pedersen to kick long for Bugg to rush into an open goal and soccer it home from the same spot where he caused Jon Ralph to have a nervous breakdown with his shhhing antics against Richmond.

If you're ever going do a full psychological examination on me do it during a football game, because that's where all my anxieties come out. I sat there thinking that if we'd scored 65 halfway through the third quarter that we'd probably be lucky to get 80. There was no scientific basis to this, just the fear that thinking we could beat the Hawks was so outrageous that I was only setting myself up for sadness when the inevitable happened.

When Jones hit the post and it led to a two goal swing I'd have bet my life on us stuffing it up from there. That their goal came from a dodgy 50 was so unsurprisingly that it was hard to get upset. At the same time we were enjoying one of the most exciting aspects of becoming a respectable club again as Watts annoyed Sam Mitchell into slapping him in the sort of way that would have provoked a duel with pistols in the 18th century. Earlier this year we'd frustrated Alex Rance so much that he'd clubbed Watts in the back of the head, now this. There was very little to it, but I love the idea of provoking four time premiership players into violence instead of laughing in our face. When even Watts - almost certainly the nicest man on the face of the planet - can provoke multiple acts of violence we must have something about us.

Now we were on the ropes, and only Gunston continuing to kick as if he'd undergone a quick round of leg surgery that morning saved us from a two goal deficit close to three quarter time. He was terrifically charitable to kick so horribly, allowing the bizarre and troubling scene of Sam Frost delivering a "get out of my face peasant" style fend off to Luke Hodge before setting up Gawn for the return goal. We finally got a real dodgy major when Josh Gibson was pinched for the sort of "tunnel" would make commentators would have a nervous breakdown about the state of the game if it was paid every time. "It was there!" said our fans. The same people who would have kept Telstra's profits afloat by calling talkback radio to complain if it was paid against us.

Knowing how horrendous our last quarters have been over the last two months I couldn't possibly be convinced that we'd win from there, but tellingly I was nervous enough to have to stand up. That's always the dead giveaway of when I think we're a chance but am too scared to admit it to try and minimise the let-down. This is why you try and sit somewhere with nobody behind you - just in case. Even if we'd lost we'd come a long way from the days where every Lubemobile in Victoria started circling the MCG like Mr. Whippy whenever we played the Hawks.

Gawn/Viney had already started to hit the big time late in the third quarter, and Max had saved us with a huge mark in the square at the end, but in the last quarter the combination went supernova. After several fruitless minutes where we didn't look even half a chance of kicking any more goals I was reaching deep into the Stat My Bitch Up files for that one about our last quarters in the second half of this year. Then just like when openly whinging about vandenBerg last week provoked him into kicking two quick goals we unloaded one of the most artistic barrages of recent times. In the spirit of the Olympics, Nadia Comaneci should have jumped the fence and declared it a perfect 10.

In the opening minutes of the last quarter it was all Hawthorn, and I started to have more feelings of dread about how we'll miss the elder McDonald if he goes - including successfully marking a horrible bomb across the defensive 50 by Gawn which was payback for all the players Tom has stitched up with dodgy kicks over the years. He wasn't playing against much, but he was so good with the ball. You are actually on drugs if you think he is not a super important player to our future. Surely after a win like this, where your brother has just locked away his spot after a rocky start, you ring Sydney, Footscray and whoever else is offering, tell them to do one and take whatever Peter Jackson's got in the briefcase.

For a few nervous minutes nobody was kicking goals, which was better than Hawthorn kicking them, and we could have had one through post-quarter time specialist AVB leading perfectly for Harmes only for the kick to miss him while metres in the clear. All's well that ends well, because it led directly to the classic moment where Oliver managed to pick the ball up with one hand while being tackled and still manage to find the free man behind him.
We still had to fight back from behind again, with Rioli rising above theatrical boos to put them back in front. It could have gone wrong from here, but I couldn't not be prouder about how we stood up to the pressure. Ultimate proof how everything was going right for us came when Sizzle Jr's attempt at a decisive kick inside 50 rolled along the ground and deserved absolutely nothing only for it to pitch straight into Pedersen's hands, who set up Stretch to put us back in front. The good fortune kept on coming for second, as a floaty Vince pass found Bugg for his first set shot all year. It was perfectly converted, he should do it more. On a related note he has adopted a filthy moustache that suits his pantomime villain character perfectly.

I've gotten used to the end coming quickly in our games, but not usually in a good way. The decisive blows were so swift that it barely sunk in that we were in front before being in an unbeatable position. I don't think I took a breath between the first and fourth goals, standing there in disbelief at how easily we were doing it. When you feel you've been rorted by the umpires (accidentally or deliberately, depending on how far down the truther scale you go) the best way to take them out of the equation is to gallop around unchallenged, never letting the opposition get the ball or catch you with it.

To make up for the pass he should have had from Oscar a few minutes earlier Pedersen galloped down the middle of the 50 to finally have his lead rewarded with a laser pass from Watts. He kicked the goal to all but finish it, but I was still scared shitless. Because I'm a Melbourne fan. Supporters of battered clubs everywhere would understand the feeling - a 17 point lead with five minutes left was a one point loss waiting to happen. Hundreds of Hawthorn fans weren't waiting to find out, the brown clad masses escaped as one when it went through. Imagine having seen more flags in three years than our fans have since 1959 but still not being able to stand the shame of losing to Melbourne. That's downhill skiing at its best, and just the sort of people who won't be anywhere to be found when the premierships dry up.

The scarred, mentally besieged part of me that has seen all too much over the years wonders if Hawthorn just gave up because they had bigger fish to fry. Best not to dwell on that theory too long, just let the good feelings carry you like a gigantic wave - hopefully through at least the next two weeks if not until the point in February 2017 where you go "so that's what Jake Melksham looks like".

We kept giving nervous three game members reasons to leave. I'm too harsh on Tyson from the stands, watching on replay I see so much more overall attacking benefit than live, but even with a #12 sized blind spot you couldn't miss his two crucial goals when it mattered. I wasn't fully convinced we'd win until his second, which happened so quickly I didn't even know how it had been created until watching it on replay. Step back into your MFC Time Machine, return to any time in the past where you've denounced Jack Watts (and unless you're his family there will have been a time) and show them this pass. You might have to watch it a few times, because he rips the kick so quickly and so perfectly that it's easy to miss.
Long term readers will remember the 2007 NAB Cup game where they shot off into the distance, leaving us to fall to bits as they stormed to glory. This isn't going to be such a dramatic reversal of fortune, and I'm still picking them to win the flag and at least give it a nudge next year before starting to fall away, but at least for the first time in a decade we were going in the right direction against them instead of holding on for dear life or just being flat out massacred.

The veil of negativity that was still hovering above the MCG like a UFO last week even after winning wafted away on a late afternoon breeze, hopefully never to be seen again."THEY'VE WON THEIR GRAND FINAL!" shrieked Dwayne, in the same tone people usually only make when they've sat on something sharp, and for once his over the top yelling had a point. That's how badly Collingwood are going under Buckley, they don't even qualify to be the team we roll on the floor in glee at the idea of beating anymore.

It didn't just take 10 years to discover how to beat Hawthorn, we finally realised how best to deploy the trumpeteer. He was banned from playing until the final siren, leaving him entirely drowned out by the real version of the song. I was too bemused to join in any wild celebrations, the second half of the last quarter was on par with the GWS 12 goal avalanche adjusted for quality of opposition. If last week was such a wonky win that players should have been banned from singing the song as well as supporters, this time it should have been done with megaphones in the world's biggest circle on the middle of the ground - with anyone seeing their first ever win against the Hawks allowed to go in the circle with Weideman.

I said from the start of the season that all I wanted was to be an outrageous chance of making the eight with three games to go like 2010, and here we are. Just by looking at the ladder you'd think we had no chance - and we have about 0.1% - but with North woefully out of form and facing Hawthorn, Sydney and GWS in the last three games the idea that they could be thrashed enough to lose their nine percentage point lead on us is not totally kooky. We can beat Port, we can beat Carlton, we probably can't beat Geelong but at least we can hope. Like 2010 we'll probably respond to getting within touching distance by losing the lot, but whatever happens from now is a bonus. I choose to believe Simon Goodwin knows exactly what he's doing, that we might be able to attract some decent players, and that there is a big fat pot 'o gold at the end of the rainbow.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
It's no surprise that in a win like that the votes are entirely occupied by big guns. There were plenty of others who did well, but when it's time for magic you are most likely going to be relying on some combination of....

5 - Max Gawn
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Jack Watts
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Dom Tyson

Major apologies to Oliver, the McDonalds, Bugg, Stretch, Kent and Weideman.

We have a ruckman occupying the sole lead in a major award - this is not a drill. It's not over yet though, with Jones and Viney both polling the race could still go down to the final game of the season. This week we bid farewell to Bernie Vince, who slips below the line of doom, and next week Watts will follow unless he picks up at least two votes on Maximum. All the minors except the Stynes remained unchanged and open for the last three weeks - it's unlikely that Weideman will romp home with 3x BOG to snatch the Seecamp, but by debuting in the last four weeks of the season and without us seemingly having a top 15 draft pick this year he will start 2017 as an outrageously short priced favourite.

43 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
40 - Nathan Jones, Jack Viney
32 - Jack Watts
22 - Bernie Vince
15 - Dom Tyson
13 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Christian Petracca (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Clayton Oliver
8 - Billy Stretch
7 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Ben Kennedy, Dean Kent, Tom McDonald, Christian Salem
3 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Tomas Bugg, Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Cameron Pedersen

As the only side to have ever defeated the Demon Army in this award (when I showed up in a foul mood and we had a Chumbawamba reference) I expected big things from the big budget Hawks. Instead they delivered complete dross, with a primary school font that screamed "we are mailing this in" and what looked suspiciously like taunting over the club's respective fortunes since the merger debate. Ours was nicely kerned, well written and featured a copyright defying Superman logo to celebrate Dean Kent's 50th. We win. 23-1-0 for the season.

Stat My Bitch Up
Before yesterday our 22 had a combined career record of 4-68 against the Hawks. Three of those wins were from Vince at Adelaide, and one from Bugg at GWS last year. Even Garlett was 0-6 against them lifetime. What in god's name have we been doing for 10 years?

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
During the week I got an email inviting me to sign up to do a lap of honour around the MCG for attending every home game. Not my sort of thing (walking), but when I saw players handing out jumpers to my fellow lunatics I was glad to have passed. In 2012 under the same circumstances Luke Tapscott handed me his jumper and was practically never seen again, I don't need to contribute to ruining anyone else's career - especially in a side that looks to have finally got 'it'. I sort of remember what 'it' was.

This year I've been less wacky with my seating arrangements, not going to the very back of the Ponsford for the sake of it even with 25 empty rows in front of me. This occasionally backfires when you take what you think is a seat in the middle of nowhere only for people to gather around you. Yesterday a guy plonked himself in front of me, scoured the Record like it was a publication actually worth reading and whipped out an iPad to start taking photos. "We've got a live one here" I thought, just the sort of innocent civilian who is going to go home needing counselling after a day of hearing me muttering dark threats to nobody in particular. Then I realised he was a tourist when he turned around and asked in a New Zealand accent "are Hawthorn a Tasmanian team?" I should have just said yes instead of trying to do my bit for the tourism industry by explaining how it works, leaving him even more confused than before he'd asked.

By half time I'd moved because the people behind me were engaging the blandest conversation of all time about having chicken for breakfast and/or saying "chewy on your boot" like it was the funniest thing of all time but god knows what our international visitor thought of the ground announcer suggesting "The big pedo was up and about early". I have it on excellent authority that he was stooged into believing that was Pedersen's official nickname by a Melbourne supporting operative, and to that person we say congratulations on your Oceans 11 style heist.

Amongst controversial suggestions that the same kid pocketed the free shoes in Run Like A Demon for the second week in a row nobody noticed at the time that Match The Emoji had suffered the quickest axing since The Bob Morrison Show. Even the flag raising lasted two home games before being discontinued due to popular ridicule. Like Michael Clark in 2002 it managed a career record of 1 win, 0 losses before being delisted.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
We had a welcome return to offering a number of contenders, but as so often happens I'm going to pick something from the first quarter - in this case the very first goal to Jayden Hunt. Apologies to almost everyone else, but especially the team goal started by Oliver keeping the ball in. For the weekly prize Jayden wins a start in the 100m sprint in Rio.

I'm still grappling with the overall choice between Garlett vs Richmond and Watts vs Gold Coast, but leaning towards the latter. I'll be making a final decision by next week.

Next week
Port are going nowhere except around in circles, so if we let them pull off the same end-to-end goals from a metre out as in Alice Springs I will - in the famous words of Terry Wallace - spew up. The idea that we're going to pay tribute to S. Bradbury with the most insane run into the eight ever is just a pipedream, but it doesn't mean we still can't make a statement on a ground other than the MCG. Besides, I want to finish above them to further devalue the pick we've traded to Gold Coast.

Casey tonked the sort of uncompetitive Essendon team you'd expect considering their reserves and playing for the seniors, and while there's no chance in hell we'll make three chances after a massive win I'm going to persist with making unrealistic and possibly harmful demands.

IN: Hogan, Kennedy, Neal-Bullen
OUT: Pedersen, Garlett, Harmes (omit)
UNLUCKY: Half our VFL side who are flying - but especially Hulett, who picked a terrible week to not kick any goals and fall behind Weideman.

Not that it matters but isn't it a bit NQR to finish the season with three away games? Even if one of them is at the MCG.

Phil Read
Hot rumour has it one of the cover stars of the book is demanding royalties. Which would be fine except a) garnishing the profits wouldn't make you enough to buy a floppy MCG hot dog and b) the conditions of entry whenever you step into an AFL venue have you agreeing to the league flogging your image to any 'commercial partner' that they want. I've always wanted to be a commercial partner, do I get Grand Final tickets? Hopefully the person whose drawing I pinched after Googling "fork in toaster" in late 2005 never catches up with me, because I've been dining out on their work for years.

It's going quite well, you know you've been reasonably comprehensive when you're editing furiously to get under an 828 page limit (though to be fair that is at a reasonably conservative physical size - if you've got that book about Norm Smith The Red Fox imagine about that size but 100pg chunkier) but I am starting to feel the tension of having to wrap-up in the next month or so. Please be gentle in your reviews, it is at heart a rampantly amateur production. Meanwhile good thing I added notes to myself wherever Hawthorn's fetish club style stranglehold on us was mentioned so I can go back and change all the references to us losing every game for a decade against them.

Like the Demon Shop I'm doing victory discounts until the end of the year - order by 6pm Monday night for 10% off.  I'm hoping to have the first draft of the cover ready in the next week, which I'll email first to anybody who has pre-ordered.

Was it worth it?
My god yes. The horror stories about people who assumed a loss and concentrated on family and/or friends are enough to convince me that sitting through every outbreak of rancid slurry is worth it for times like this - and if you go far enough down the path of addiction people will realise and stop inviting you to things during the season anyway.

That night I went to a live game not involving us for the first time in four years, and maybe it was because I'd just seen something so beautiful all I wanted to do was watch the replay immediately but can I tell you how god awful bored I was. The only positive was being in the standing area and being able to enjoy drunken North and Bulldogs fans scream abuse at each other. Never again, give me Melbourne or give me sitting on the couch doing 12 other things simultaneously with the games on as background noise.

🎵 Did you realise, that you were a champion in their eyes? 🎵

Final thoughts
I don't want to become the new Richmond, famous for tonking Hawthorn then doing bugger all after. We have to use this as the highlight tape to get the right experienced recruits in to fill the gaps and have a massive swipe at glory. The age profile (CLICHE) is in our favour, nobody other than Vince and Jones needs to get it done in the next three or four years, we've got time for a slow build if that's what it takes. It will be unfortunately ironic if this epoch making victory swings the door open for GWS and that bloke who used to play for us to win a flag. For now fuck them and fuck him, this could be the start of something big.


  1. I sat next to an old guy saying "chewy on ya boot" at one of the Collingwood games. I should have moved, but his daughter was hot.

  2. It's either sad or brilliant how
    Much better my life is when we win. When we beat hawthorn my week is like Jordan Belfort with some extra disposable. Go Dees, go Wattsy.

  3. Just finished watching for the 5th time the replay with happy tears welling up.
    Silly old fool!!.I can see a big future ahead and that decade of the Big Déepression indeed being despatched and swept away and giving us some serious payback.

  4. I'm a Hawthorn fan, but I'm pretty happy to see Melbourne finally coming right.
    It's going to get pretty old over the next few years when you start doing it to us twice per season, and act like it's just the way things are, but in the meantime I can treat it like a novelty.
    The really worrying thing is what regular winning is going to do to the standard of writing on this blog.


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