Monday 10 July 2017

The Big Steal

There may come a day when I'm willing to reject a win like this, and say that we may as well not have got the four points. But this isn't it. When you're psychologically all-in on a finals run to the point where it's consuming your thinking for most of the working week, falling over the line against a lowly side who'd played two short on the bench for the entire second half is still sporting gold.

Thieving a win from the cheeriest coach in the history of the game capped off a week where the internet lit up over my controversial Bradbury Plan to make the eight on the back of our nearest competitors suffering a string of misfortunes and surprise defeats.

The Plan got off to a great start last week with Brisbane beating Essendon, and was poised for greatness of Friday night when Adelaide walloped Footscray before nearly everything went wrong. You could understand Collingwood gifting the Bombers a win because they are pus, but Hawthorn getting a draw courtesy of an obscure bounce just when you finally wanted GWS to win wasn't helpful. Nor was Richmond - this week's recipient of the media's "could they win the flag?" wankfest - going 90 points down at half time against a side who'd barely beaten Fremantle the week before. Other than the two weeks of our brief - and is turns out comically poor - tilt at the eight last year I've not been this invested in the results of other teams since 2005.

This was no way to behave when your team had won four of its last five, but I was spooked by our Civil War battlefield style injury list where all we were missing was somebody having a limb amputated without anaesthetic. As a coping strategy I've tried to assume we're going to miss the eight this year and come back all guns blazing in 2018, but barely below surface level getting there as soon as possible means far too much to me. Outsiders - and even some of our fans - preach patience, but there's a lingering terror about us finding new and exciting ways to go backwards. Not to mention my fear that the AFL will introduce a Final 15 and devalue the worth of 'qualifying' to almost nothing.

The best thing to do is make everyone else's results irrelevant by winning, especially to avoid a Round 22, 1976 style debacle where we're tipped out by results elsewhere. But with experience having already permanently scarred me into expecting defeat the absence of Jones, Viney, Tyson, Salem and Watts left me fearful of losing to a side which might be improving quickly but still featured enough potential Kingsley nominees to fill a tram. It's not often that I take an interest in other teams, and maybe it's just because they have the most interesting opposition coach since Choke Yourself With A Tie, but I was definitely on the right track in the pre-season when I said they were a couple of years away from being a very good side. For now they can get in the queue behind us.

The bookies considered us reasonably hot favourites, with made some sense against a 5-8 team but I still felt like we were walking into an ambush. We were always going to be thumped in the centre, it was just a case of how we'd hold them out, send the ball back the other way and create scoring opportunities. We also had to take our chances, and as much as Hogan's return was welcomed it was unrealistic to expect him to show up at 100% after weeks away and dual personal tragedies. Fortunately we had Tom McDonald to continue the Sizzle Set Shot Spectacular, upping his tally to 12 in three weeks in the most unusual run of goalkicking since Darren Cuthbertson. Let's go back and wipe everything I wrote on Queen's Birthday about him trying hard but not being up to it as a forward, if he keeps going like this we'll never see him in defence again. How fitting that after years of lonely support for his importance to our backline that he'd go supernova as a forward just as I jumped off the bandwagon.

Our lineup was moderately less like Casey than last week, but I still knew if we were to win it would involve outrageous levels of toil and struggle. If the experience of following Melbourne post-2006 has given me anything (other than the inevitable fatal heart attack in the fourth quarter of a Grand Final), it's made me self-aware of games that are going to make me act like an prick so I can take appropriate steps to ensure other people aren't cloaked by my veil of obscenity. For this reason there was nowhere else to go other than directly to Row MM, section Q33. Like one of those weirdos who start their own country it was a space where I could freely express myself without having to conform to the law or social norms. At least it was until the second half when inexplicably several other people decided to move up there as well, and I had to shift one bay over to escape them. Just like how everyone else has now discovered the Neville Jetta bandwagon two years after I started championing him, my passionate promotion of the back row lifestyle is going to end in people coming from everywhere and stuffing it up.

Other than serenity, and the opportunity to swear like a dockworker without offending anyone, ascending to the heavens reintroduced me to the frustration of watching our Free Range defence stand 30 metres off an opponent, and players streaming into goal from turnovers because our lot stopped chasing when it went the other way. Confidence is great - it's what inspires lead AFL heel Clayton Oliver to finally strike a blow for players against abusive fans by telling some bloke to GAGF over the fence - but let's not get ahead of ourselves and assume that turnovers have been eradicated like Smallpox.

It's possible that this has been happening every week, but having not been sky high for so long it's not as obvious. I'm happy for people to sit wherever they like, but if any level one dwellers ever want to vigorously debate the benefits of seeing the whole ground vs being able to yell NQR things at players over the fence I'll be pointing to this. Where else can you have so much time to take a screenshot showing six of our players on their own, one trying to defend two at once and an opposition standing on his own instead 50 with only an umpire for company? The guy directly in front of goal was standing there for so long that I had time to remove my phone from pocket, turn the camera on, tilt it sideways and level thing before taking the shot.

It's not all roses following the All New Melbourne FC, but overall the benefits are finally outweighing the frustrations. Which is all well and good to say because we won, otherwise you'd already have waded through 2500 words bemoaning how many times Carlton players casually stepped around and ran off. Or how we were battered senseless in contested marks to the point where it was almost the difference between winning or losing to a side who had half their players about to die from exhaustion in the last five minutes.

You like to think that the Blues players would have been demotivated by their baffling banner (more on that in the usual place), but instead they emerged on the other side to find a depleted opposition who even at their best charitably try to give the average and depressed every possible chance to exceed their potential. Whoever Sam Kerridge is it's a good thing that he flubbed a great many of his 35 touches or his application to join The Klub would already be on the desk at Kingsley Kourt.

All my fears came life at the first bounce, when Carlton shot out of the centre like a missile and were soon having a shot at goal from directly in front. That the simple kick was missed only briefly consoled me, before Hibberd's kick-in was interrupted by a free paid up the ground for some handbags at 20 paces jostling. I understand the free was iffy at best, and judging by the lack of outrage the decision to pay it 'up the ground' to where Hibberd was standing was technically correct, but what a farce of a concept when the ball was only there because the offence occurred before we'd kicked in.

The ball was 30 metres away by the time the whistle went, but I suppose as the umpire decided to call it from 100 metres away he had to wait to get within earshot before blowing. Fair enough if you biff somebody in the chops in front of goal, or if it's given 70 metres out and a 50 is tacked on for something, but it's loopy gifting a team a goal when the ball is being kicked to where the infringement occurred. Carlton fans would accuse us of having a good run with the umpires, but if there was something dodgy going on this must been purely done for deception.

After a few weeks of Stranglewank free footy where we never had launch a comeback from four goals down (or in the Sydney game, generously opted not to) it looked like it was heading that way in the first quarter. We were already desperately vulnerable in the middle before Matthew Kruezer started giving Gawn a bath, and he didn't let up for the rest of the game. No harm done to Maximum's reputation because you can't win every week, but it killed off any hope we had of breaking even in the middle. Which need not have been a problem as long as could win around the ground. Except there we were being slaughtered in the contested marks by second year players, and every turnover was greeted with a Moomba Parade style procession of Blues players wandering into space.

Though the Blues looked significantly more dangerous when they had the ball we might have levelled it at one apiece if Hogan hadn't missed running into an open goal. Now that we've won I can't blame him if he was already thinking about the wild celebrations before it hit the boot. He was also perfectly stooged by a Carlton defender, who sat in perfect space where it meant he couldn't handball to a waiting Garlett in the square but was also under some pressure when he kicked.

Hulk was rustier than an old gate inside 50, and when the media are putting together the next "OMG Liam Jones is the fullback of the century" articles they should put a disclaimer on this one that Hogan was there for presence and match practice rather than being expected to kick four. He got one from a solid mark and did some good work up the ground so no harm done. Instead he was overshadowed by McDonald, Jones' captain in the "What The Fuck?" All-Australian team, in a situation you'd have been carted off to the nut house (apologies to Jesse) for suggesting even two months ago.

The turnaround from that miss to the goal at the other end was frighteningly quick, and led to a player running into an open goal on his own in a scenario that caused my first obscene outburst of the afternoon. When they got the third from a mark deep inside 50 not long after all I had to fall back on was Simon Goodwin's admirable record of quickly recognising when his Plan A has been rumbled and switching to something else. There will be street parties when they finally start executing his vision from the first bounce.

Misses from directly in front by Hogan and Garlett aside we looked so unlikely to kick a goal in the first quarter that it was fitting for the unlikely Josh Wagner to contribute the opener in the last few minutes. It was his first in 20 games, followed by his second in the next quarter as we continued to turn defenders into goalkicking machines, leaving 30 game Oscar McDonald well in front on his own for most games played without one. The good news is that his brother had to wait a further 30 games on top of that to salute for the first time, and 59 games later he's turned into Jason Dunstall. I liked that the first person to congratulate Wagner was his twin Hunt, and that the rest of the team got back in position instead of unnecessarily wasting energy mobbing him.

By now we'd settled the Blues down, having let them jump us as underdogs for the third time in four starts (see also Round 21, 2015, Round 22, 2016). Bolton might not have the players yet, but I confidently predict that once Carlton get up and going he will execute a Ross Lyon style chokehold on us. If we'd got to quarter time without conceding another it would have been fair reward for slowing them down in the last 10 minutes. Then we conceded a goal on the siren. Of course we did. For added MFC Rewards Points it came from a free given away because the Carlton player was standing in another area code to the defenders when the ball entered 50 and they infringed while desperately converging on him. I'm not enough of an expert in anything zone defences to know how much the players bore responsibility, and how much was the system's fault, but they did great work getting back to spoil from hopeless positions. Especially Sam Frost, whose deadly closing speed is a weekly highlight.

There was still a road back, but I spent quarter time gloomily lamenting why we make it so hard for ourselves. It wasn't quite at the stage where conceding one more goal will kill off the game, but that was closing at a Frost-like speed. Enter your hero and mine Tom McDonald (well, mine at least. You lot have been hanging shit on him for years) who won a free and converted another one of his remarkably accurate set shots. I know Hogan will kick many more goals over the course of his career, and prefers a bit of over the top action where he can give the Zac Dawson treatment to defenders but Tom could actually show him something about leading. I'm going to back in time, make thousands of dollars of bets on this topic with Melbourne fans and buy myself an MCG superbox.

It was then that Clayton Oliver enhanced his status as the lead heel on our team. Bugg's antics had higher comedy value until he got excited and whacked somebody, but he's a midcarder. Oliver is cutting a swathe of main event style chaos across the country, this time reacting to some bloke hanging over the fence and making an idiot by turning around and giving it to him. Realistically it's not the right thing to do, and I hope to get this post out before it's conclusively proven he said something indefensible, but it's about time players got to give it back to the sort of humanoids who sit in the front row specifically to wave at the camera and hang shit on the opposition.

When I'd only seen it live, and in screenshot form where the guy had his mouth so far open that you could stuff a ball in it at Luna Park I missed the highlight of him vigorously pointing at Oliver afterwards as if security was going to escort The Hamburglar to the Bay 6 Administration Office, Ground Floor Olympic Stand and take to him with the Yellow Pages. It was originally reported that Oliver though he was called a "weak cunt", the Carlton bloke reckons there was a threat to kill, and Clayts ended up apologising and accepting no profanity was used to make it all go away. Melbourne contacted Mr. Carlton to get his side of the story, sadly not contained in a flaming dog shit laden paper bag on his doorstep. It's all a storm in a teacup, but it was interesting to see people go wild on the social media profiles of the guy once his name got out. If it became known because he spoke to the media then stiff shit.

If I ever find myself in this situation - and I'd have to be propped up dead a'la Weekend At Bernies to sit on the fence in the first place - slap the shit out of me if my only response is "I made a dickhead out of myself, apologies to everyone in my family tree". There is nothing worse than somebody trying to channel their 15 seconds of fame into a media appearance, and I can say that as the person who declined a Channel 9 reporter's kind offer to go on post-Carnival of Hate and wave an anti-$cully banner around. Unless you're going to make a buck out of it consider how much a poon the majority of viewers are going to see you as. And for christ sake whoever you are, even if you're not intending to make 'incidental contact' with a player over the fence then act like he's shot your family put some damn security settings on your Facebook account.

It ended (at least at the time of writing) in a deservedly insincere apology from Oliver for getting involved, while the Carlton bloke is probably writing an autobiography entitled "I was famous for being told to fuck off by somebody who'll earn more in his playing career than I will in my lifetime". To be fair if the guy does want to make a quick buck he could get an ambulance chaser lawyer and clean clean up about 200 different Melbourne fans for online defamation. We wait patiently for Oliver's next outrage against public decency, and note that now West Coast and Carlton think he's the antichrist he's got 15 other clubs (16 if he completes the heel work by turning on us) to irritate, before retiring to swim in a vault full of money and awards.

The combination of McDonald's goal and Oliver's profanity must have inspired us, because first Kent wasted good work to set him up by missing a relatively easy set shot, before Wagner turned up again for his second. When Harmes literally used his head to set up Neal-Bullen's first (failing to be credited with a goal assist by the killjoys at Champion Data) the margin was back to a point and we had new life to launch a proper attack on an inferior - albeit 250 games more experienced - team. Then they kicked two in a row, courtesy of a pair of contested marks that were so simply executed it looked like Carlton were playing a professional version of Hogan's Heroes.

You could argue that we won because we're awesome, but I'd pay at least some credit to Patrick Cripps breaking his leg trying to smother Hunt. No wonder, at the speed he runs being hit with that leg in full swing must be like having your fibula disarranged with a sledgehammer. He was never seen again, nor was some other bloke who'd I'd never heard of that was also injured. To any normal team an opposition two down would be an open invitation to run away to an easy victory, but our record for taking advantage of sides is hideous.

One player up for now we got the next goal to stay in touch, but soon gave it away +1 by gifting the Blues a seven point play. Speaking of obscure statistical categories that we must be top of the league in... That the second goal came from a turnover and found a player inside 50 with an absurd amount of time to turn and snap did nothing for my peaking heart rate. We were only 14 down, but it felt like more.

Thank god for a rare play where handballing 500 times ended in a goal as Vince found Hogan in his favoured position right in front of goal. It was no thanks to Billy Stretch, whose loose handball might have killed the whole thing if it hadn't luckily sat up for Bernard. Watch the replay and enjoy the Petracca handball that opened up the play, one of many similar moments of brilliance throughout the afternoon. He capped off the afternoon by planting a big kiss on Lewis' cheek after the winning goal, then seemingly having Max Gawn accidentally grab him on the dick after the siren. Which is cool.

This welcome outbreak of Hulkamania - including the longest ever distance to goal/length of run-up ratio ever - kicked off a dominant last few minutes of the quarter which wasn't further rewarded until McDonald won a needless free right on the siren for a rare Reverse Demon Time goal. Once again the margin was back to a point, but this time they were going to play two full quarters with two less players. I don't know if the stat on the radio about teams -2 for a second half losing 98% of games was scientifically sound but it scared the shit out of me.

McDonald's third - none of which were captured by the always informative and erudite highlights package - at the start of the third put us in front, then Garlett started what should have been the floodgates with another. And for the second time that day just as we righted the ship the Blues kicked two quick goals, now I was taking on terror like a sinking ship. The idea was to have a workable lead that they wouldn't be able to overcome in the last quarter with two less players, and here they were threatening to overcome their handicap and instead set up a margin of their own to defend in their own version of the Bradbury Plan.

Live ladders are the stupidest concept in the world before Round 20, but as the lead traded another two times for the quarter we veered wildly between fourth and eighth. We went back in front courtesy of McDonald bringing the ball to ground in a contest, then setting up ANB with a funky underground handball into an open square. Mr. Total Football finally qualified for the AFL's highlights package with his fourth goal, courtesy of a pack mark in the middle of eight players, and even then they didn't show the ball off the boot. But hey, they did show us fans yelling at players and a guy breaking his leg so who needs all the goals? Every time McDonald had a shot I thought his luck was finally going to come to an end, but he drilled every one. This was crucial, it set up a lead of nearly two goals just as the Blues could be expected to start wilting.

What they needed was quick goals, if we got the first of the last quarter it might have been curtains for Carlton, instead they got the first via an arsey shot on the run from the boundary line and any pretence I had to calm at three quarter time was out the window. Forget Oliver vs Carlton fans, if somebody trained a camera on me in the last quarter they'd have come out with the greatest documentary on the human condition ever made.

I started it standing, before realising that somebody had clambered up the stairs and was sitting just a few seats away and was self-conscious enough about looking like a loony that I sat again. God knows when she pushed off, but there's every possible chance it was due to my antics. Ironically standing up would have probably stopped me from engaging in one of the most slapstick moments in the history of the game.

After one ridiculous turnover in the middle I snatched my hat off and thumped the seat in front with it, causing the thing to cartwheel into the row in front. For a couple of minutes I decided to leave it and remain hatless, then just as I clambered into row LL, picked it up and reapplied it to my bonce Casboult took another screaming pack mark inside 50 and I shamefully turned around and punched the seat. This caused my recently reapplied hat to fly off again, and land in row KK. Luckily this Three Stooges skit ended there, because if the hat had fallen off one more time I'd have risked ejection by flinging it across the top of the Ponsford like Oddjob in Goldfinger.

By then we'd already had to launch another fightback, after allowing them to get nine points in front with three goals in seven minutes. If I'd been stressing before, now panic was setting in. Even with all our injury issues there would have been something particularly offensive about not only failing to beat a team two men down, but letting them run away from us. Garlett didn't have many touches, but most of them were useful and his third goal cut the gap to under a goal again.

The game then went into a 10 minute goalless lull where we blew endless chances to move the ball forward, and Carlton botched another chance to extend a handy lead. It was around this time that Casboult took his mark and the chair viciously attacked my hand. My first impression of Marc Rosset at the Hopman Cup in years is still affecting me now, and I'm not sure there isn't actual damage to the middle finger other than a skinned knuckle. Serves me right for being a dickhead.

I'm convinced if Casboult had kicked the goal we'd have been done, and given that he's suddenly a decent goalkicker who will stand in a pocket alongside McDonald in the WTFAA side I thought it appropriate that he'd sink us. He missed, and two minutes later we're hitting the front down the other end. Credit goes to Garlett for helping set it up, protecting a ball that dropped short in the middle of two defenders, and fortuitously slapping the ball straight into one of their legs to propel it forward, where Hogan intercepted a handball and fed Melksham. It was appropriately ironic that we won after a 2 on 1 situation, because for most of the game we had two players leaving opponents to chase one only for the guy who'd been left behind on his own to get the ball.

There was still a ridiculous amount of time to lose it, and with no killer goal forthcoming as we entered the last 90 seconds the Patron Saint of Underrated Players, Neville Jetta arrived like a holy vision to save us. With the battle rapidly extracted from Carlton's defensive 50 it was hoisted long down to the Southern Stand wing to a one-on-one contest where if he fell on his arse or was turned around they'd have walked into an open goal. He not only halved the contest, but recovered his feet, beat his man in a physical contest to win the loose ball and got the ball back to Frost. I'm not sure what the rest of my top 10 is, but it was one of the greatest passages of small defendery I've ever seen.

His magic intervention allowed Frost to one of his supersized turbo runs through the middle, with my heart so far in mouth it was about to spill out into the row in front like my hat as he ran what commentators refer to as 'his full measure', and eventually set up a pass to Neal-Bullen on his own inside 50 with a minute left. What a great time for Carlton to adopt our free range defensive policies, but there was even better to come. The problem was that if he kicked a goal we were home, but unless he could engineer another convenient out of bounds/throw-in any sort of miss would leave us vulnerable to loose players carrying the ball inside 50 unchallenged and screwing us over in the final seconds.

As the Bullet’s eyes darted back and forth from the scoreboard countdown to the field like he was walking down a dark alley in Baghdad, Carlton’s spirits sank and they failed to heed Lewis pulling off his part of the plan by wandering into a mile of open space 30 metres out. He had so much space that even a Melbourne player could hit the target without concern, landing the ball safely in Lewis’ arms with another 30 seconds to waste. What a fantastic innovation this shot clock has been, a real winner for fan engagement. If the lowlight of the highlights was not seeing one goal off Sizzle's boot, the highlight was hearing BT loudly whinge about how much attention Neal-Bullen was paying to the shot clock instead of concentrating on kicking the goal, only for a real commentator to acknowledge the brilliance of the move while Taylor remained silent, and most likely confused.

Lewis ran time down to the siren, then casually thumped the goal home anyway as an up yours to people compiling stats about games being decided by under a goal. This is the sort of cool-headed, fiendish plottery I want him for, maybe we could trade the third year of his contract for a role as our Director of Black Ops? The departmental org chart could include Tom Bugg as General Manager – Niggle and Clayton Oliver as Chief Fan Engagement Officer.

When the siren went there was no time for soaking in the atmosphere, I was up and out of there. It was as much as effort to make a ridiculously tight train connection (which failed due to hundreds of people casually dawdling through Flinders Street) as an acknowledgement that the four points were celebration enough and that we'd pulled off a sizeable heist. Take the points, put them in the bank and let's never speak of this day again.

2017 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Sam Frost
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Josh Wagner
1 - Christian Petracca

Major apologies to Hibberd and Jetta, both in contention for the last two sports. Lower grade apologies to Harmes and Neal-Bullen.

The controversial Hamburglar is back in charge at the top, and will presumably write in and tell me to GAGF as well if he loses from here. With 35 votes still on the table it's anyone on the list's award from here. No changes in the minors, with Pedersen desperately clinging on to his Stynes lead courtesy of eight hitouts today leaving him on 12.0 for the season. Talk about your Bradbury Plan if he gets dropped now and holds on to win.

24 - Clayton Oliver
21 - Michael Hibberd (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
20 - Jack Viney
16 - Neville Jetta, Christian Petracca
15 - Nathan Jones
14 - Jayden Hunt
13 - Jeff Garlett, Tom McDonald
12 - Sam Frost, Jack Watts
8 - Christian Salem
6 - James Harmes, Cameron Pedersen (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Mitch Hannan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Bernie Vince
3 - Oscar McDonald, Dom Tyson
2 - Dean Kent, Jordan Lewis, Jake Melksham, Josh Wagner
1 - Jesse Hogan, Jake Spencer

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I'm tempted to give this to Anal-Bullet for his second quarter tap-in just to reward James Harmes' perfect downward header in the square, but in a week where most of our goals came from workmanlike, industrial slog I'm opting for Melksham's cooly taken winner (with assists to Garlett and Hogan) and his passionate celebration afterwards. His disposal is almost quite literally 50/50, but the fact that he always looks like he's about to burst a blood vessel has won me over. For the weekly prize he wins a personalised cover version of Milkshake by Kelis.

Meanwhile I've made a ruling on the overall award, with apologies to Oliver's out the arse goal in Adelaide I can't go past McDonald against West Coast. A game winner will always get preference over everything but the most outrageous mid-match goal, especially when it also involves a herculean struggle to get the ball in the air just to hopefully swing a boot at it. Good luck to anyone who has designs on getting into the top two.

Are Carlton still paying a marketing company to come up with their slogans, and if so when will they be asking for a full refund? As usual we concentrated on our own team, a win for those who still like to believe that the players take something out of a crepe-based motivational message, while the Blues opted for a dead-set abortion of an attempted gag.
Not only did that first line basically turn it into a short story, and the middle line suffer from the most violent forced justification in the history of kerning, but who is supposed to be cancelling their holiday to Noosa? It's was addressed to us, so you'd think that's who the advice was going to. Except why would the suggestion that Carlton's young players were going to beat us mean we'd cancel a holiday in September? Wouldn't it be more sensible to book early in that situation and save money? (Not that we need to, because we're all ROLLING IN IT aren't we Dees fans?) Or had they unexpectedly switched to addressing the home fans halfway through? We may never know. Nor will it ever be clear why Noosa scored a mention when it added nothing to the flow.

They also had a massive curtain. Fuck those guys. Dees 14-1-0 for the season.

Crowd watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
Now that people are starting to get involved in the Row MM experience I might try and cash in by starting a Fanatics style tour group, complete with t-shirts to make look like arseholes for my own financial benefit. Yesterday part of the trip could have been catching the same train as Shaun Smith, then seeing Choke Yourself With A Tie himself hanging around out the MCG before the game. I was tempted to go and leap on him in celebration, but was too shy.

Once I'd finished with celebrities outside the ground, I clambered to the back and settled in for a view of everything happening both on field and at the top of the Ponsford. It's a great spot if you're a people watcher, and while I'll be the last person to point fingers about bizarre behaviour at the footy after my antics during the last quarter (if there was a BluesBlog their Crowd Watch would be unmercifully ripping the piss out of me) I was taken by the Carlton fan who was physically reacting to the game with an astonishing variety of moves.

With nobody for 30 rows before him he was able to stand up and live every attack as if he was riding the last 100m of the Melbourne Cup. He'd throw his arms around, lean forward intently as if listening the secret of eternal life, and on one of the many fast breaks towards our goal actually clasped his hands together like a prayer and shook them desperately. There's a man who is operating in the same deranged obsessive territory as me. The only difference was that he would have seen a flag aged approximately 15 while I have enjoyed two thirds of fuck all since 1989.

At first this guy was better viewing than the footy, until I had to move for the second half to get away with all the carpetbaggers who'd invaded the back row and lost sight of him behind a giant pole. Shame, our combined nervous energy in the last quarter could have been harnessed to power the MCG lights. I didn't see him again until after the final siren, when just like I would in similar losing circumstances he sat slumped, having mentally given everything to a losing cause.

With supporters like that it's amazing that the Blues still need to roll out the hokiest, false-bravado matchday entertainment in the competition. Not only did they have the Hovercraft, with the sound of the engine channelled through the MCG speakers just in case we didn't get the idea, but mascots who looked like two of the most pissweak superheroes since Hong Kong Phooey. The male version did a few impressive flips without necking himself on the turf, the female took over the fence selfies with kids and perverts, then as the Blues went into the all-important huddle before the game both picked up flags and ran around the circle waving them. Always looking for something that might give us the edge I'd hoped the players might be distracted and spend the first five minutes thinking somebody in lycra was about to whack them with a flagpole but if anything it helped.

At quarter time the engagement level went up to 1000, with further proof that all the good segments have been thought of as fans were invited to "bobble your head for a bobblehead". The winner spent a good 30 seconds flinging his head around in a way that's probably left him with an acquired brain injury just to pocket a small doll. Forget complaining about Oliver, they should be paying him a fee for getting people excited. Back in the day you used to get a Playstation from Voice of the G and we all hung shit on him, now this is where we're at. Though good luck anyone ever beating the competition we ran once where a lady played a game of Three Card Monte for Chemist Warehouse, and was then informed that no prizes were on offer but they would be later in the season so bad luck for now.

Meanwhile, I'm not usually in the habit of taking creepy zoomed in shots of footy patrons but was astonished with how free and easy this guy was with his bollocks. It's not enough to go out in public wearing tracksuit pants, but casually airing your Lou Rawls like this suggests nothing on underneath either.
Next week
Off to Darwin to make a shitload of cash by playing top of the table Adelaide inside a greenhouse. Even with Watts and Tyson potentially returning we'd want to improve significantly to have any chance of toppling them for a second time this year. They're not going to fall for the same shit they did earlier in the year, and if we're as fumbly as yesterday we'll come back with nothing but a sack stuffed with taxpayer's money.

But if we do win I'm likely to climb on my roof and scream to the neighbourhood that nothing's going to stop us from here, and probably make outrageous claims about the potential for winning a flag. If we get players back, and with Hogan better for the run there's a case for us but it's a long shot. Alas I'm going to have to chop Pedersen, he should be there next year because he's a great depth player but if Watts returns there's no place for him alongside the Tom McDonald goalscoring juggernaut.

IN: Watts, Tyson
OUT: Pedersen, Stretch (omit)
LUCKY: Kent, Lewis, Vince, Melksham
UNLUCKY: Kennedy, Kennedy-Harris, Trengove, Spencer

Was it worth it?
During the first quarter I was doing my weekly cursing of Murray Wrensted, and Hawthorn fans for not voting to merge so I could be at home doing something I really wanted to. By the end it doesn't matter how gritty, sweaty, and downright unappealing the win was I'd have hated myself with a passion if I hadn't seen it happen live. Sometimes you can say a loss was worth it, though probably not as much as the days when we were happy just not to lose by 10 goals, but in this case if it wasn't for Nifty Nev's intervention I'd be coming in with a big fat NO. But we won, so yes please.

Final thoughts
Force feed me four points a time, I will never get enough of the taste. We've got a tough fortnight coming up, and if we win one of two even I'll start to concede we're more likely to play finals than not. If you look at it objectively the top three are absolutely home, and Port are basically there given their massive percentage. At the bottom Collingwood, Carlton, North and Brisbane are cactus - leaving us in a 10 team over the top battle royale for a spot.

If you're still subscribing to the Bradbury Plan instead of switching to a new, optimistic model where we are instead challenging for a spot in the four things don't get any easier. Realistically even though we're neck and neck with St Kilda the Plan says they need to beat Essendon to keep the Bombers away, Hawthorn will presumably be eliminated from contention by Geelong, Collingwood can do us a favour by knocking Gold Coast out but probably won't, for the second week in a row we want GWS to win (*spit*) to put the brakes on the Swans, there will be partying in the streets if the Lions beat Richmond, we'll be hoping Carlton beat the Bulldogs, and in West Coast vs Fremantle I'm going to favour the Dockers because while a win would keep them in contention they also having a percentage that drips with pus, so are far less of a threat than the Eagles.

None of this will be relevant if Melbourne keep winning. Appropriately I went home on a train with an add directing me to "JOIN THE OPTIMISTS". Welcome to interesting times...


  1. Ripping write up.

    This was the standout.

    " BT loudly whinge about how much attention Neal-Bullen was paying to the shot clock instead of concentrating on kicking the goal, only for a real commentator to acknowledge the brilliance of the move while Taylor remained silent, and most likely confused."

    Much as sometimes I like BT (everyone drops in shock), he's just too creepy and weird. It was the Viney jab-in-the-shoulder that sealed the deal for me.

    Would have loved to have heard Chris from Camberwell. If only 774 broadcast on digital.

  2. Consider yourself lucky(?) baseball isn't our national past-time, as sitting in the back row nose bleeds in a perceived safe space could be much more, er, hazardous:

  3. Have you ever encountered A Con Harismidis equivalent whilst watching Melbourne?

    1. Given my antics on Sunday I was the closest thing to an MFC Harismidis.


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