Sunday 27 August 2017

Home and broken hearted

After a traumatic start to the week where nerves stopped me from being a functioning member of society, a surprise wave of calm came over me sometime on Thursday afternoon. I was still worried about winning, but decided on the balance of probabilities that we probably would. Big mistake. When the margin hit 41 points in the third quarter I was like a mother watching her habitual offender son go back to jail for the 10th time. The anger had gone early, now there was only a mixture of disappointment and sadness. In the last quarter the anger came back.

I'd been further sedated by sensible, sober team selections that removed a pair of strugglers and replaced them with good ball users. Neither Salem or Watts are going to win the UFC Award for vigorous play, but surely with everything on the line for us and nothing for Collingwood the game would be left wide open enough to play to their strengths. Going about it that way might not win you a final, but that will be a moot point if we never qualify for one.

By Friday night I'd settled down to the point where I was actually able to sleep properly for the first time all week. It wasn't until about 10:00 Saturday morning that I started to panic again, plowing through a block of chocolate like it was my last meal on death row. Then I went to the MCG and got another reminder of why you never, EVER believe in this shambling wreck of a club. It's an unreliable entity and has been for the vast majority of my supporting life. We'd risen above losing to Freo and North x2 to go into the last game with a chance to seal our own finals berth, and by quarter time we were 32 points behind with barely a hand laid on an opponent in anger. What a prick of a club.

You would never go back five years unless you were a supermasochist, but at least by the end of 2012 we'd stopped getting our short term hopes up. It was painful, and I have to seriously doubt whether I'd be as committed to the process if we ended up in that position again, but if nothing else (and there wasn't much else) you knew where you stood. Now hope brings a crushing level of tension, followed by nothing. And now six months without a game, and probably a full year until we can even potentially be playing finals again. By which time I'll most likely have dropped dead from a heart attack or been hit by a bus. What a downer. I'm well aware of how it would have gone against Port in the first week, but that wasn't the point. I was prepared to go there, lose comfortably and know that we'd snuck one last finals appearance in before the arrival of the wildcard system/global thermonuclear war. Maybe we won't make it for another 10 years? Do I need to bring up 1976 again?

Winning three games in a row as favourites was improbable, but do you think there's any way we'd have turned up like that if we needed a win just to stay alive and still had to rely on other results? More power to Collingwood for playing their hearts out in a dead rubber, but it's hard to imagine a 100% do-or-die game opening with such a distressing mix of players who seemed disinterested or spooked. Even Neville Jetta, the steadiest hand in the side and a man whose commitment will never be questioned, had more errors in the first 10 minutes than he's had combined all season. Whatever the mixture was it tasted like Drano and burnt both going down and coming up again. By the time we were launching a third comeback it felt sarcastic.

Having one of those days at just the wrong time fits in with my theory that a few players were about to keel over and die from fatigue, but that doesn't explain running straight out of the sheds and into a brick wall. If a young side (Collect your 1x Coaching Cliche bonus) fell apart in the last quarter of Round 23 you'd almost understand it, but starting like this was extracting gallons of piss from the suckers who religiously turn up to watch every week. And all the people in 2009 membership scarves who were hoping to time their return perfectly. In the end we put our fate in the hands of others and got exactly what we deserved.

Ending the day still in the race was only peripheral comfort, after a near miss with self-sabotage last week this was a snatch of defeat from the jaws of victory that would have even cheered Hillary Clinton up. But who was really surprised? Even if you'd been suckered into believing in false idols like me, you must have had clammy hands every time an outsider spoke about us like we were definitely in. Let nobody accuse our fans of getting ahead of ourselves, it was overwhelmingly bullshit from outsiders talking like it was a done deal. There were plenty of Demons in my circle hopefully talking about winning and where they'd be flying to in a fortnight, but not many were locking it away as certain. We were just trying to be hopeful, and look how that turned out? Then with five minutes to go on Sunday there was another moment where it looked like the Bradbury Plan might pay off in the most absurd fashion, that lasted about 30 seconds.

Nobody's flunked a final exam like this since Year 12 VCE Psychology where I didn't know any of the answers so wrote in nonsense for the amusement of whoever was marking it. If the 22 players involved yesterday care as much as they would publicly profess I hope it burns them that they didn't lay a tackle until we were three goals down and only eight for the first quarter. I suppose it's not easy to grab somebody when they're belting around in acres of free space, but still it's an indictment on the lot of them. A handful of players - chiefly Nathan Jones and Christian Petracca - redeemed themselves by playing the rest of the game like their lives depended on it but the damage was done. Had things gone the other way in Perth I'd have had to wind back a bit of my venom and refocus on the eight, but now everyone can get stuffed.

In a year where the MFC Stranglewank went from a local concern to worldwide infamy it would have been appropriate to ride one into the finals, and like Queen's Birthday 2015 we had two goes before coming out empty handed. This time we narrowly failed to trip the criteria for a SW by never getting within a goal, but morally it had all the hallmarks before we ran out of time, options and gusto. Then later willing accomplices.

For those keeping score our first quarters for 2017 are now 56.52.388 for and 69.69.483 against. In a ruthless statistical analysis this just cancelled out the 6-1 opener against St Kilda. Like the Saints we rallied to get close in the last quarter but had dug ourselves in such a deep crater that being the better side for large parts of the game didn't matter. Winning the last three quarters was no adequate consolation prize.

There's no call for an individual autopsy of the Pies first quarter goals - because that would mean watching the highlights to see them again - but suffice to say we looked a million miles off. If Garlett hadn't rushed a snap which would have been the first after absorbing a couple of minutes of pressure maybe things would have turned out differently, but as much as we love to pick out individual moments to blame players (e.g. that gimp in #29 for Adelaide who kicked it out on the full) that doesn't mean it's his fault. He wasn't the one watching the ball spirited from one end to the other with the greatest of ease, as half a dozen opposition players plowed into the forward 50 unchecked while we desperately struggled to keep up. He might have done more to stop them evacuating the ball at warp speed but that goes for everyone. It's a collective failure, and I'd say throw them all out of a plane but they've got no need to go in one now BECAUSE THEY WENT FROM 7TH TO 9TH IN 26 HOURS.

The first Collingwood goal didn't do much for my nerves, but the second pulled up danger signs so large you could see them from the moon. They just merrily chipped the ball around until it landed within scoring range, while everyone in red and blue stood looking dumbfounded. Then when a ruckman marked in a five-man pack and kicked truly to make it 3-0 I started to panic and developed a sweaty head that ended up feeling like I'd been in a shower by the final siren (NB: in the first draft of this post I'd written 'finals' siren. Psychologists, commence your analysis).

After the third we were given a series of lives via missed shots, before finally getting some clean run forward and finding Petracca to kick a goal on the run. That should have been the opportunity to reset and try something different, instead barely two minutes later we set up Howe's latest massive screamer and he created the fourth.

It was another day where inability to consistently take overhead marks under pressure cost us - not even contested marks but the ones where a player confidently arrives in the middle of a number of opponents to take the strong grab. Like Pedersen last week, but all over the ground instead of just when a young backline forget where they're supposed to stand. The worst of them all was Hunt's 'spoil' that cost the fifth. I thought he was pivotal in the comeback(s), but this was a disaster. With the ball flying into the square he might have taken the mark, but even a strong spoil for a point would have done the job. Instead he aimlessly stuck an arm out in the ball's direction, only propelling it into the path of a Collingwood player to merrily stuff it home. But if you sacked every one of our players who had a brain explosion yesterday we'd have to recruit next year's squad via Seek.

There was a distinct lack of fight on display, but it's not like we were playing for anything special after a decade of being fisted up and down the country. You'd have thought that somebody would have suplexed an opponent or thrown somebody into the fence to give us a break after the first couple of goals to get the boys fired up (and Bernie Vince gets reported for everything else so why not him?) but we carried on like a bunch of traffic cones. Then to really rub it the sixth was another masterclass in easily moving the ball through an opposition who weren't interested in stopping it. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

The game wasn't over, but as we've learnt so many times in the last few years, coming from that far back removes your margin of error and requires everything to go right. On rare occasions you get away with it, most of the time you don't. It's one thing ripping out a triumphant comeback in Adelaide early in the season, but even on our home deck against a supposedly inferior side it seemed clear that there were too many nerves to do it again when it really mattered. That we eventually overcame the tension - and a second round of shambles - to get within 10 would be cause for congratulations if we were the under the pump strugglers trying to keep up with a potential finalist. It counted for nothing when it involved only slightly lower mid-table mediocrities monster us like they were 1980s Hawthorn.

I started the day in the Ponsford Stand, even though it's solid Pies territory for their home games. Where else would I go? After 10 years of enduring immeasurable abuse together (middle deck 2007-2011, top deck and/or Row MM 2012-) it just seemed right to be together for either the first day of the rest of our lives or another horrific letdown. To keep the theme of the #fistedforever/mid-table mediocrity eras going I showed up ridiculously early, scarfed a pre-match Kaiser and accidentally ran into somebody I worked with until chucking my shift work job at the end of 2006 to watch the Dees play every week. That's been a solid decision, god knows how much money I've cost myself watching us lose for 10 years in a row, then make a complete hash of a winning season too. Good thing we never sent out an email about how the finals were on the way and... oh shit.
Technically it was correct, September is around the corner. Other than that - and the fact that they were probably mandated to send it by the AFL - it was needless provocation to an already stressed group of people waiting for any reason to believe that we were going to have the rug swiped from under us. It's like going back to 1987 and ringing every member up individually to tell them we're going to make it for Robbie.

Even though there was still nobody for several rows, and not one person had turned around to look at me mockingly when I turned the air blue at Hunt's 'punch' I had a moment of panic at the quarter time siren and just had to bail out. Like a crashed airplane I deployed the slide and ran for my life, only pausing to have a small moment of personal crisis in the Ponsford to Olympic Stand Cluedo shortcut. If you were in the MCC during the break and heard a massive thud from above that would have been me.

With no reserve seat available, the only option was to go somewhere I've never been before. To Row MM of the Olympic Stand. Which is exactly like its Ponsford equivalent, only with a side-on view and no overwhelming stack of opposition fans to likely end up in a fight with. I didn't like what I saw on-field, but the view of it was fantastic. Maybe it's time I moved on from the years of turmoil and shifted for good. It should still ensure not having to mingle with other supporters, and provides a quicker escape from the ground.

Maybe it would have been better if we'd just crumbled to dust instead of launching a comeback, it would certainly have saved me some pain and suffering the next night. But like that guy who cut his own arm off to survive a rock climbing accident, it was only when we were at our most desperate that we decided to have a go at staying alive. The difference between the first bounces of the quarters was immeasurable, this time we ripped into them right away and were rewarded with a much needed goal after 30 seconds. That was more like it, if you're going to clamber out of the Grand Canyon may as well get a start on it quickly. After a few minutes where we were by far the better team but couldn't convert, our latest disaster-fated forward combo of Hogan and Watts combined for another and the margin was back to a far more manageable level.

It was classic Melbourne, we often looked good streaming forward with the ball in hand but the moment the other side got it everyone panicked like somebody had yelled FIRE! in a crowded theatre. For now we were well and truly back in it, and had either Garlett or Gawn kicked sitters I might have even let myself get some confidence up again. Then after 15 minutes of domination we let them go down the other end for a goal courtesy of Jamie Elliot - who might not have a punchable face in the Toby Greene mould, but at least a slappable one. By the time he was finally kept quiet - after a goal ripped straight out of his arse, kicking across the body while being tackled - he'd done enough to set up the win.

Garlett kicked a set shot at the second opportunity to cancel out Elliot's first of the quarter, before Collingwood kicked two more to drag us back to no more than four points better off than we'd been at the first change. We even contrived to concede a goal because everyone was too scared to rush it, the kick was smothered out of bounds, and they plucked a Melksham-esque goal from nowhere from the throw-in. Another bonus to sitting high in the Olympic, you can see all the people walking out at half time with no intention of returning. Like those who escaped 186 while it was still only 114 I knew they had the right idea, even if I could never bring myself to follow them.

Our hopes of overhauling the margin were not helped by Hogan disappearing with a hamstring injury. His season has been a perfect metaphor for our club, climbing off the canvas after a shocking run of bad luck, returning to deliver a tantalising burst of magic football, then falling to bits again at the final hurdle. It's not his fault, in the immortal words of David Brent if he fell in a barrel full of tits he'd come up sucking his own thumb. When he re-emerged after half time to warm-up, even after the club had already written him off for the day, I visualised the greatest against-the-odds half since Farmer kicked nine in 2000. Then he walked off, pulled the tracksuit on and was never seen again.

At four points a quarter it was going to take us another 1 3/4 games to even get a draw, so even without Hogan it was time to get on with it. This was the grand final for everyone who has speculated that our attack functions better without him, and when Neal-Bullen pushed forward for the first goal of the third quarter there was life in us yet. He had a weird day, doing some nice things but also butchering a majority of his possessions. I have faith in him yet, certainly more than I do for Tyson who is just doing nothing for me these days. It's all well and good to do things around the pack - even an Oliver style 1m handball to a teammate under the pump - but what's his attacking impact? Not much. Some people love him, and good luck to them but I'm out.

The reasoning behind getting him and Salem for a pick was still sound at the time, but that journalist we've been hanging shit on for years for saying we stuffed up is probably feeling cheery now. Maybe there's still time for us to parachute in with a blockbuster offer for Josh Kelly? I try not to think about other clubs, especially GWS, but he looks like the kind of player you'd give a knacker/ladybit for. Even after seeing him shamble around with our season on the line I'll take Jake Lever as a consolation prize to boost our defence, but would much rather another class player in the midfield. Knowing us we'll probably rookie list Morton. And not even Cale.

Quite literally immediately after Anal-Bullet's goal we were treated to a passage of play so ridiculous that only Melbourne could be involved.
  • We won the centre clearance - but turned it over
  • We took a strong defensive mark in front of goal - and kicked it out on the full
  • The Collingwood player was stopped from playing on - when he flubbed the pass
  • His shot was initially called touched on the line - which was reviewed and found to be a goal
... and that was the instant reply. That should have been the end of us, and for the next 10 minutes it was. When Collingwood introduced a late change with the initials KK all the talk was of the first official Kingsley Klub nomination of the season, but what we didn't see was that it would come from a different angle. 18 months after he was promoted from the rookie list before they played us, only to be overlooked for Jesse White in an insane misreading of how we'd deal with a lanky international, Mason Cox finally climbed the famous dais at Kingsley Manor and took his place in the Collingwood wing alongside Brad Dick x2 and Adam Oxley.

He kicked his first for two in a row, then they added another not long after as I started casually glancing into Yarra Park and thinking how I'd love to be amongst the increasing numbers of Melburnians running for their life to avoid humiliation. But why try to avoid it now? My dignity was stripped long ago. If you're an opposition fan accidentally stumbling upon this let me state clearly for the record, there is absolutely no hokey, breakfast radio quality gag you can lay on us that stings even nearly as much as following this club up and down the S-Bend.

Then just when all seemed lost greatest traditions of the Stranglewank erupted - and this game at least deserves observer status in that Hall of Fame. We turned on a blistering 10 minutes where it looked like we'd beat anyone in the competition and the opposition looked like rank amateurs. The next significant step in our development is to not have to be 5' 11" under before doing it. It's for this sort of blistering footy to be the standard gameplan instead of a reaction to being in a near hopeless position. We did it two weeks ago (then clammed up), but that was being force-fed by the opposition playing like lunatics. If you sorted out whatever we've done in opening quarters this year we'd have qualified for the finals weeks ago and this would have been a victory lap, waving two fingers at the Pies as we left them for dust. Now the whole country knows we're a shambles and #fistedforever is trending on Twitter.

It was not Pedersen's best day, either due to having to share space with Watts or because he wasn't playing against a defence full of randoms trying to adapt to a new system, but he started the comeback with a brave contest inside 50 which eventually allowed Garlett to set up Milkshake. It looked like far more effort than absolutely necessary, but was much appreciated to stop their run. Before you knew it we'd caned through four in a row and now Collingwood looked completely lost. They even missed the set shot we gave them in the middle that would have killed our momentum. In the end the only thing that could put the brakes on our run was the three quarter time siren, leaving us three goals down and needlessly inflated with belief again.

The Pies suffered some nasty second half failures this year, notably that complete debacle when Adelaide drew after the siren but as recently as last week when a hot start against Geelong was followed by three quarters of steaming shite. At this margin I was relying on them to lose it rather than us winning. Given that it was unlikely to turn into a GWS 2013 style comeback avalanche I knew that any win was most likely going to take until the final minute to confirm, and may have ended with me falling to the concrete theatrically and crying.

We could have done with another cardiac collapse, it was either going to be Collingwood or me. At this point I took the Row MM prerogative to stand up for the rest of the game (well, until it was confirmed that were going to lose anyway), and spent the entire three quarter time break walking back and forth between seats 11 and 17. Before that I'd been in 14 (still love you Lynden) because it was the only one not caked in years old bird shit. It was another scenario where I'll be lucky if nobody was filming me, because until that last goal went in I was continued prowling Row MM like a panther, reacting to everything in what would seem like an over the top fashion to anyone else but was perfectly natural for me.

With one final massive effort required we disappeared into footy's Bermuda Triangle again for the first 10 minutes. After they kicked the first goal of the quarter the degree of difficulty on our comeback was up there with a reverse 4 1/2 twist dive in pike position, into a tiny opening amidst a pool of biological waste. Then again we got a run on that would have carried us to victory in a game where we hadn't GONE 32 FUCKING POINTS DOWN AT QUARTER TIME TO START WITH. Last quarter specialist Hannan appeared after a day of anonymity to kick one courtesy of a bullet Lewis handball, then set up another for Melksham with a perfect lead and kick. The margin was back under 10 when we unlocked their defence and left Pedersen to walk into an open goal. Then we kicked one more point in the last 10 minutes.

It was not a great day to be a McSizzle fan. From the heights of the West Coast game it was a long way down to this last quarter. He's a passionate man, as evidenced by continually going off at the umpires over perceived frees to the point where I thought he was about to launch a John Bourke style assault, but the last quarter was party time for his detractors. It was enough to make me want to throttle the next dreary person who cracked a 'hilarious' cheese joke. Mind you, at least they're up with contemporary comedy topics, unlike like garden variety fuckwits who greeted our demise with snow gags.

I understand why he couldn't play forward with Hogan, Pedersen and Watts all in the side, but he hadn't done much to help settle down and organise a backline that was in complete disarray either. So when they threw him forward in our hour of need it made some sense - albeit at the expense of opening the door for a giraffe-like American to have the time of his life. In Hogan's absence he was helping, if not looking like he was going to rip out four goals in quick succession and win us the game singlehandedly. Then in an all-hands-on-deck moment he found himself back in defence, decided to try a quick kick-in and stuffed it right into the hands of the aforementioned Cox. The last time I'd sat even remotely close to Row MM in the Olympic was 2008, on a day where Jamar marked on the line and as I looked down he tried to play on and missed. This time I nervously glanced down after the behind, and only looked up when I heard the tell-tale "something's gone horribly wrong" roar.

Cox missing was a lifeline, and if we'd kept going and won it might have been a Hilarious Anecdote in years to come. Then McDonald went down the other end, took a strong mark on the 50 and landed a perfect pass in the arms of a Pies player. Was it Howe? It may as well have been, we kicked it to him more often than we did when he played for us. He'd have loved it too. Dunn went about his job professionally, and probably felt a bit sad deep down about us losing (now you send me footage of him joyfully belting out the theme song like he'd single-handedly won World War II) but Howe probably whacked off over beating us before going to bed. If his hands were up to it after marking everything we kicked at him.

There was still time if we held our nerve, but that would have been difficult given that it was seen floating down Brunton Avenue a minute into the first quarter. Somehow Garlett ended up at the wrong end, being marked over a Pies forward and that was it. It left us needing three goals in three minutes, and despite our random outbursts of champagne football it just wasn't going to happen. There was more to play out the next day, but the MCG season finished in a similar way to last year. As the winning goal went through I firmly planted one foot on the ground to avoid an embarrassing slip and kicked the shit out of a Row MM seat. Different stand, one week later, slightly better opposition, same result.

That would have been a fitting conclusion to a season where so much emotional energy was expended for little gain, but we were left waiting until early Sunday evening to know whether there would be more to come. Safe in the knowledge that Fremantle were only here to play Essendon because the AFL wouldn't let them forfeit, it all hinged on the result of the West Coast vs Adelaide game. Or so I thought, until the Dockers decided to launch one last desperate attempt to claw back respectability after 208 points of losses in a fortnight and took the Bombers deep into the last quarter. When that didn't work it was

If nothing else our thwarted comeback built a bridge of about three goals that West Coast had to overcome while winning. Which we naturally assumed they would, even before GWS' capitulation in Geelong ensured the Crows would be minor premiers no matter what. When they took Taylor Walker and Daniel Talia out of the selected side and replaced them with Lance Ringo and Hammond Von Schlitzingburger you knew they weren't taking it seriously anyway, and with Josh Kennedy five goals behind in the Coleman Medal race it was action stations for him to go bananas and carry his side over the line. Ironically he was well held, and all the damage was done at the other end where Adelaide attacks were regularly chopped off.

It was a bit rich to expect the Crows to give a shit about us when they had absolutely nothing to play for, and after kicking the first goal they switched to an appropriately Melbourne-esque gameplan of panic handballs and long kicks to a marking defender. Not only were the Eagles and Subiaco taking revenge on us for the epic finish of the McDonald game, but George McGovern too had the time of his life mopping up dozens of aimless forward kicks. Our buffer had already ebbed away before quarter time and it looked like the effort of the Eagles - which was admirably like what you'd expect a finals contender to deliver, unlike some other shithouse sides - and the disinterest of half the Adelaide side was going to sink us with plenty of time left.

A slight revival and a last minute goal kept us ahead at the half, but you just knew that the Eagles had too much in store. I'm impressed that they even bothered to mount a comeback, maybe like me they were dying for what would have been a hilarious scenario of the Eagles winning and all their fans having a cry while the theme song played. I'd cry if you played that soft rock abortion to me as well. Then somehow, and I don't even know how it happened because I was already in a state of psychological torture, Adelaide kicked two goals in a row to put us back in front. We were about to cash in our Money In The Bank contract and steal one of the simultaneously least and most satisfying victories of all time. Until the Eagles scored practically straight out of the middle.

All was not lost with four or so minutes left, one more goal would tip it in our favour and who better than the Crows to mysteriously kick some bullshit over the top goal from a metre out? Then some deadset numpty defender shanked a simple kick straight out of bounds, and who else but our old mate Jack Darling bobbed up to take an uncontested mark on the line. I wonder what Lucas Cook is doing these days. He kicked the goal, we were finished and I turned off with 20 seconds left. They should have bulldozed the place when we finally won a game there, without waiting to let the crowd out.

The body was barely warm before open season was declared, with arseholes of all colours piling in on us. You can understand it from some quarters - Bulldogs fans after the #youready incident, West Coast fans and Damien Martyn after the diving fiasco (how apt that the Eagles qualified for the eight because we took a dive), and Sydney fans salty over the Bugg punch. Even Richmond supporters - flush from being good for the first time in 35 years - are piling in about Bugg "shhhing" mutants behind the goals 18 months earlier. But I will not cop shit from the Carlton cheersquad, a group so poxy that a marketing company has to write their still shithouse slogans (to be fair they later tweeted a withdrawal and apology, but you have to wonder why more than one person has the password to the account). Still, when you make fools of yourselves on an unprecedented scale it opens the door for arseholes of all shapes and sizes to have a go. We can all play at that game, keep a log of everyone who shits you in the immediate aftermath and resolve to do them mental or physical harm (your choice) at the first available opportunity. If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.

And so it's not quite a new low, but it's as close as we'll get without suffering a decline so serious that the club will mercifully be wound up. We've missed the finals by the narrowest percentage margin in history, choked like Greg Norman at August, GWS are going to win a flag and even Mark fucking Neeld has made the eight before us. There's only one thing left to do:

2017 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
I think I'm the only person who thought Jones played well yesterday. If you don't like it create your own bloody medal.

5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Christian Petracca
--- A few thousand lux of daylight ---
3 - Jordan Lewis
--- Further distance ---
2 - Jayden Hunt
1 - Jake Melksham

Apologies to Oliver, Salem and Watts who were in contention for the last two

Muted congratulations to Oliver and Hibberd for finishing 1-2 and both going home with their first ever awards. Also to Mitch Hannan for winning the least competitive Hilton race in years. And finally, to Max Gawn who despite being shithouse for two weeks has become the only man to win anything via a Bradbury Plan style accident. Until yesterday Pedersen's hitouts average was over 10, but only having two dropped him down to 9.8 per game and handed the title back to Gawn.

35 - Clayton Oliver (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
31 - Michael Hibberd (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Nathan Jones
25 - Jack Viney
24 - Christian Petracca
21 - Neville Jetta
18 - Jayden Hunt
16 - Tom McDonald
15 - Cameron Pedersen
13 - Jeff Garlett
12 - Sam Frost, Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Watts
11 - Jordan Lewis
9 - Christian Salem
8 - James Harmes
7 - Jake Melksham, Dom Tyson
5 - Jesse Hogan, Oscar McDonald
4 - Mitch Hannan (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Bernie Vince
2 - Dean Kent, Corey Maynard, Alex Neal-Bullen, Josh Wagner
1 - Jake Spencer

Many of the following segments were written on Sunday morning, so they may seem to be unnecessarily light and airy. Let me assure you that at this time I hate life and hope a comet drops on us tomorrow.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Secretly I hate them all because they meant nothing, but with apologies to the one that started with Melksham's leading mark (because this is not the David Neitz Medal for Lead of the Year) I'm opting for the one that via Hunt, Garlett, Melksham let Pedersen run to the line and bring us within 10 points. It's not a strong contender for the overall result, but I enjoyed it at the time. For the weekly prize he wins 100 extra signatures on this well-meaning petition intended to force a change in his nickname.

Ironically considering what happened at Subiaco today, McDonald still wins the overall award. Maybe I'll put some more excitement into that announcement in the end of year post because for now it feels hollow.

I came out of this game so traumatised that I can't even remember what the Pies one said. It was certainly something generic, and disappointingly not at all of the "we're going to stuff up your season" genre that Brisbane tried. They've stuffed themselves up, because if they'd done that just before it happened I'd have ignored their ugly font and given them a prophecy bonus that would have delivered victory. Instead ours wins, and though I'm sure several months without passing judgement on crepe paper slogans will have me champing at the bit for more I'm getting tired of this segment. Dees 22-1-0 for the season.

P.S - Sad my suggestion of Arrive, Raise Hell, Leave never got a run. Or in the case of yesterday - Arrive. Leave. Try to climb back in through a side window.

Crowd watch
As part of my efforts to be privately positive I wondered if it wouldn't be better to go with somebody so I could share the joy. That lasted about 15 minutes until I became so gloomy that even if I'd gone to the game with a reincarnated Nelson Mandela we'd have fallen out by the end. In the end I got the right result, not a single interaction with another supporter for the entire day.

I've got no issue with Pies fans going off like they'd won something major at the end, there would have been similar satisfaction if we'd ever managed to close a disappointing season by torpedoing somebody else's finals hopes (except 2009 when it would have caused people to self-harm) in the last round. What I don't understand is their obsession with Jack Watts. It can't be the Queen's Birthday goal because he was getting it before that. Presumably just the politics of envy because he's paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lope around laconically and have a significant amount of sex with groupies while they toil in the cotton fields. Considering their Richmond-esque stance on ex-MFC players I'd calm down in case he ends up playing there next year.

Opposition watch
It would be comical if Eddie McGuire was distracted enough for the rest of the board to sack Buckley now. At least when Stan Alves and Grant Thomas got sacked it was for losing finals to us, now we're running the risk of having our first coaching Kingsley nomination then watching him being shown the door a few days later. This club is not to be trusted with an easy job, remember when we stuffed up what was supposed to be James Hird's last game?

Matchday experience watch
It seems churlish to mock the Pies for anything after they've ruined our season, but in the numerical order team listing around the boundary line they had numbers 4, 5, 16 and 7 in a row. Otherwise there was nothing offensive about it, certainly not a Carlton style vulgar display that's transparently to try and project the image of a big club. Instead the fans got a few rounds of Kiss Cam, the chance to bleat at Jack Watts like social underdogs and a win to end the season. Best of luck to them, we can all sit on the same couch and watch the exhibition series together.

Is it safe?

No, and it never will be.

Next week/the week after that
Nothing. Zero. As long as $cully doesn't win I couldn't give a shit what happens from here, and probably won't bother tuning into the Exhibition Series until at least the prelims. In fact, let's see how long I can go without knowing when and where we would have played.

Next year
The building blocks remain there, but we're still desperately lacking polish. Bernie Vince can hang them up, I've lost interest in Tyson, and after yesterday Hogan will probably demand a trade as far away from us as he can get. If it's not too much to ask for find me a solid marking defender, an outside midfielder and another marking forward. If that is too much to ask for, never mind I'll still come back year after year like an idiot. Beat me, whip me, abuse me I still secretly love it. Roll on 2018 and we'll see how that can be stuffed up too. If I can bring myself to do an end of year post we'll huddle together, have a good cry, take a more in-depth look at the list and realise that it's not so bad.

Was it worth it? (Saturday edition)
Only for potentially having been there when we removed the monkey from our back and threw it in the sea. Given the pus dripping slopfest that actually happened I wouldn't piss on the experience if it caught fire. To round off the theme of the day I had a shithouse of a trip home, missing one train by literally seconds and having to wait an hour for the next one. Then I got home to discover that my child had stolen a gag from the Harry Taylor playbook, taken an MFC mug from the cupboard (as distinct from the general fanbase, who are mugs for watching this shit) and stuffed it full of ham.

Was it worth it? (Sunday edition)
Only because I didn't have to leave the house, and was able to reject all phone calls from people who remarkably thought it was a great time to pick up the phone and have a chat immediately post-siren. I will get back to you all sometime around November.

Final thoughts (original version)

Final thoughts (06:00 Monday morning version)
I'd say I've had time to sleep on it, but that wouldn't be entirely correct. I've had time to bitterly mull over it and wake up half a dozen times during the night. And I don't know why I'm so upset, but it feels like I've suffered a genuinely traumatic incident. Admittedly a low grade one, and you can send a list of all the worse things going on in the world to GPO Box 9994 in your capital city, but I've rarely been flatter.

Missing out on the finals by a razor thin margin isn't even the most important thing, it's that there were probably six moments between 13:45 Saturday and 19:00 Sunday (2x MFC comebacks, 2x Freo comebacks, when Adelaide kicked their first and last goals) where I allowed myself to genuinely believe that for the first time since 1987 - when I was six years old and too busy crashing my bike into a tree to care about footy - that everything was going to go spectacularly right for us.

That's what it was about, not the right to spend hundreds of dollars going to Adelaide for them to squeeze us so hard our heads popped off, but just to have something amazing happen in our favour to try and make up for having endured the most traumatic sporting run of the 21st century. I haven't even updated this famous list for the last three seasons and it already featured enough misery to last anyone other than a Fitzroy fan (though Richmond supporters will be welcomed to look on if they go out in straight sets) a lifetime.

Sure a couple of our players have made dicks of themselves over the last couple of years, but which club's players haven't? I regret nothing anybody did to make outsiders hate us, because it's far better to be despised than pitied, but we'll still be here when every player on the current list is gone so what about something for us? Could the generally absent football gods not have given us just one monumental leg up?

Falling in on the last day because a side didn't win by enough would have been a cheap way to do it, but who would have minded? Certainly not me. We'd have had the best part of two weeks to dream. Now it's another bleak September, and I'm left genuinely scared that we'll find a way to stuff up on a larger scale and never make it. There's nothing rational about that line of thinking, but equally there's nothing rational about following a club through thick-and-thin when they continue to drop steaming turds wherever they go.

And to answer all the people who have asked about an updated version of the book to cover this deebacle, it's a no. That was the story of 2007-2016 and a finale where we lost by 20 goals couldn't have been any more appropriate. This is the first chapter of the sequel, which will be published after five seasons or when we win a flag - so look out for it at the end of 2021.

Thank you to everyone who has written in with kind words, and no thanks to my work for failing to have an employee assistance program office ready at my desk. They should be grateful that I've even turned up, by the time you read this I may have bashed some office comedian to death with a printer.

Wonder how this guy is going...

Final thoughts (Wednesday afternoon version)
It's taking the piss to have a third 'final' thought, but I'm confident nobody else is reading by this point so what does it matter? Besides, that's more times than you've seen the 'f' word in one place for a decade so embrace if where you can.

Last night I finally hit the 'acceptance' stage of grief. First there was "they can't be doing this to me" denial at about 2.20pm Saturday, then anger at the last Pies goal, bargaining on Sunday when somebody said the Exhibition Series matches were late to be confirmed and I thought "well, maybe there's been a botch with the percentages and we'd qualified after all and into a grand funk on Monday. Then about 30 seconds into a surprise media appearance on the Dees Podcast I just realised that there's no point keeping my head in the oven forever. We humiliated ourselves, and like the Chris Sullivan Line game it will probably leave me distraught forever but it's not going to change anything now.

This surprise outbreak of calm and rationality was terrible news for the podcasters, who were probably counting on a defamation laden spectacle which turned the air blue. Alas no. Even the provocative move by the club's twitterist to post a handy update on our draft position didn't stop me from packing the sniper rifle away and clambering back down the metaphorical bell tower. If you took off one other win, beat the Pies and were still tipped out by the Eagles we'd be rushing to throw flowers at the players as they walked down the street, but fold under pressure and you're remembered along with that guy who put the ball in the drink at the British Open.

Anyway, cope however you feel best (NB: unless you're the sort of bell-end who actually does ring up receptionists or send your membership back in pieces) but - and I can't believe this is coming from me - don't let the misery consume you. I hope that the AFLW season will help gently bring us back into the game with positive memories of a Melbourne side.

After the smoke cleared on Tuesday a fringe work colleague who had no idea about my allegiances said "you were PMSing hard yesterday". One day I hope to be PMSLing hard. But not yet.


  1. Have loved your work this season. Look forward to more diatribes next year. Go Dees ❤️💙

    1. Thanks Conrad, this experience will not break me. Like The Simpsons the longer it goes the worse it gets, but we'll back for season 14 anyway.

    2. There were some fkin good bits this year.

  2. That would be an Ecumenical matter

    1. "What would you say to a premiership cup?"
      "FECK OFF CUP"

  3. Summed up perfectly.

    "What a prick of a club"

    1. It was not as polite when first sent on Twitter at quarter time Saturday...

    2. You keep fighting the good fight, Adstar, and we'll keep on reading. Love your work, especially after train wrecks like this weekend. One day, no doubt during another Dees v Nobody game, that five people have attended, I'll have to venture up into the Ponsford, seek you out, and congratulate you personally.

      There's always next year, right?


  4. Dear Adam,

    I am a Bulldogs supporter and have kept a similar blog to yours (The Bulldog Tragician) documenting our depths of misery and the same relentless sense that we would always self destruct, always find new ways to incense the footy gods, never be anything different from the dysfunctional mess that I had watched all my barracking life.

    I say this, not to taunt or gloat, but to let you know that I once wrote that 'the miserable days, the days of heartache and failure won't be swept aside in our joy when that day (a premiership) comes, won't be forgotten; in fact they will somehow be the point of it all.'

    And it indeed was.

    Best wishes for next year (except, naturally, when you play my Dogs - you gave us a right old bollicking this year which I did not enjoy one little bit)

    Kerrie Soraghan (Bulldog Tragician)

  5. Adam, let's try to find the positives:

  6. Almost two weeks on and still down. It truly was a poor performance. I cannot blame the players. Until the coaches stop selecting players who lack the basic skill of hitting the chest of a player (hopefully one of ours) while under a smidge of pressure, we will continue to struggle. Aggression is nice but, unless it's accompanied by football skill, it's visually useless and sometimes worse than useless. Roll on 2018. Thanks Adam!


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