Wednesday 19 December 2018

Demonblog's 2018 End of Year Spectacular

Yes friends, it's that time of the year again. The season is over, exciting trade period bombs have dropped, a few familiar names have been given the Tijuana, and we gather to celebrate a season well played. And for once it really was well played, so the celebrations aren't sarcastic.

From the smouldering crater in the MCG caused by the reaction of our fans when we kicked the sealer in the Hawthorn game, it's the 2018 Demonblog End of Year Spectacular. Please rise for the national anthem:

This is the latest season review post ever, mainly because I've just discovered how hard they are without leaning heavily on gags about being a shambles. Now we're... good? I think. Either that September was one hell of a thrilling mirage.

Even the brief mid-table mediocrity era provided plenty of material, now we've made the last four of the competition and the only point of mockery is a disastrous Preliminary Final performance. If you'd offered me a prelim 12 months ago I'd have leapt on you so vigorously you'd have needed surgery, so you won't find me complaining. Until Round 1 next year when it will be sack everybody and bring back Swooper Northey.

The post was intended to mark a triumphant return for the world famous Demonblog Solid Brown Dancers, but because I've deleted the original files and can't be arsed redoing the video you'll have to use your imagination to enjoy their rendition of Melbourne, Melbourne:

Farewell the finals drought
Hello prelim blow out
Better than ninth

Joel Selwood has a sook
BT spoke gobbledygook
Gee god boy wow

Melbourne Melbourne
Winning six games in a row
Jesse’s off to shout heave ho
Ho ho ho ho ho hey

Melbourne Melbourne
Beating Carlton until dead
Quarter time man dropped on head
Ho ho ho ho ho hey

Melbourne Melbourne
Blew the Gold Coast Suns to bits
Jack Watts says he loves the tits
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Dean Kent kicked a magic goal
Then we sent him to a hole
Ho ho ho ho ho

Goodwin hit the jackpot
After we whinged a lot
On the internet

Lever could play a bit
Shame his knee went to shit
Atop a car park

Melbourne Melbourne
Finally beating North at last
Max's year was unsurpassed
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Everything went wrong in Perth
Daisy Pearce is giving birth
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Brownlow bronze for comeback Gus
Viney's foot is pretty suss
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Bayley Fritsch played everywhere
Lewis has synthetic hair
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
It's easier to do satire
When your team's completely dire
Ho ho ho ho ho hey!

... and if you thought that was low quality content you'll love the rest of this post.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance

How long ago pre-season feels now, when wobbling to an unconvincing win over North in front of 1500 Tasmanians seemed like a major achievement. To be fair, in early 2018 beating North under any conditions was an event. Who'd have thought then that we'd end the season with a memorable finals run? I still didn't think that after Round 20.

After North came a win over St Kilda and that was it. No votes were awarded for AFLX because it was an ill-conceived idea, poorly executed for the enjoyment of dickheads. Bad news for Jake Melksham, who proved himself to be the greatest athlete in the history of that sport. Which is like being the most successful sailor on the Titanic.

Based on the two games that counted, it's congratulations to confirmed superstar Gawn and pending superstar Petracca for etching their name onto the most eclectic leaderboard in the business. I'd love to go back and do retrospective votes for 2005-2007 (especially because Chris Johnson once got five in a NAB Cup game), but the absence of votes in the low-effort first season of this page and the incomplete set of reports after that make it difficult without relying on bullshit newspaper reports.

7 - Max Gawn, Christian Petracca
5 - Alex Neal-Bullen
4 - James Harmes
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Bayley Fritsch, Dom Tyson

Honour Roll
2008 - Aaron Davey
2009 - Cameron Bruce
2010 - Brad Green
2011 - Colin Sylvia
2012 - Nathan Jones
2013 - Nathan Jones (2)
2014 - Jeremy Howe
2015 - Heritier Lumumba
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Jesse Hogan, Jayden Hunt and Clayton Oliver
2018 - Max Gawn and Christian Petracca

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal

When you think of unexpected positional changes by Melbourne players you think of Clint Bizzell turning into a defender, Tom McDonald becoming a forward and James McDonald becoming unemployed. Other than the still contentious forced retirement of Junior, none of these were as high-risk as a mid-good season conversion of a first year VFL forward into a wingman and running defender.

It worked a treat, until we chucked him for the prelim on the grounds that he was tired only for the rest of the team to play like they were under heavy sedation anyway.

Bayley started favourite for this award so it was hardly a surprising result, he was expected to win as a forward and the good news that he would have anyway. There was a school of thought that held he played enough in defence to qualify for the Seecamp, but in the most bespoke piece of analysis in the history of the game Champion Data confirmed that he was only officially a backman for four games.

The man for all seasons took advantage of the smallest field of contenders for years to win the equivalent of a 6-0, 6-0 in tennis. He became the first favourite to win since Jack Grimes in 2009 - and look how well things turned out for him. It's also important that he got a decent number of votes so even if the award is uncontested it retains its legitimacy.

16 - Bayley Fritsch
0 - Corey Maynard, Charlie Spargo
DNQ - Oskar Baker, Lachlan Filipovic, Dion Johnstone, Declan Keilty, Pat McKenna

Honour Roll
2005 - No players eligible.
2006 - Matthew Bate
2007 - Michael Newton
2008 - Cale Morton
2009 - Jack Grimes ($4 fav)
2010 - [REVOKED] ($5)
2011 - Jeremy Howe ($30)
2012 - Tom McDonald ($8)
2013 - Jack Viney ($5)
2014 - Jay Kennedy-Harris ($15)
2015 - Jesse Hogan ($4.50)
2016 - Jayden Hunt ($50) and Christian Petracca ($10)
2017 - Mitch Hannan ($15)
2018 - Bayley Fritsch ($4.50 fav)

Demonbracket VII

If Demonbrackets were Wrestlemanias this would have been the one where Hulk Hogan pinned villainous Iraqi sympathiser Sgt. Slaughter. In this case it was left to Nifty Neville Jetta to play the role of wholesome babyface, throwing back to the early glory days for defenders in this competition by defeating Clayton Oliver in a more Wrestlemania VI-esque battle of good guys.

I've gone cold on the proposed format review for next year and will once again be presenting a straight knockout tournament. The only concession to spectacle is that rather than blindly following the tournament draw daily matches will be hand-picked to ensure a balance of attractive clashes and probable massacres.

Honour Roll
2012 - James Frawley d. Nathan Jones
2013 - Tom McDonald d. Mitch Clark
2014 - Nathan Jones d. Jack Watts
2015 - Nathan Jones d. Dom Tyson
2016 - Jack Viney d. Nathan Jones
2017 - Max Gawn d. Jack Viney
2018 - Neville Jetta d. Clayton Oliver 

2018 seeds
No change to seeding policy, defending champion opens the batting followed by the top seven in the best and fairest. Clear your calendar for Day 1 action on Monday 28 January 2019.

1. Neville Jetta
2. Max Gawn
3. Clayton Oliver
4. James Harmes
5. Nathan Jones
6. Tom McDonald
7. Angus Brayshaw
8. Jake Melksham

Fond farewells and assorted goodbyes

Harley Balic
We hardly knew ye. Kicked six in a VFL game to make people sit up and go "hello!", until we realised that the goals came against a bloody awful side and he realised he wasn't having any fun playing professional footy. Good on him for putting his hand up and getting the necessary help. We wish him well for the future.

Tom Bugg
Shamefully overlooked in the original draft of this post, the master of Buggery delivered some of the most memorable moments of the last four years. He wore a strange 60s jacket after playing in a win on debut, shhhed the Richmond cheersquad, pushed Jack Riewoldt over while injured, asked "you ready?" alongside Jack Redvers Watts, punched a bloke in the chops and kicked four in our drought breaking victory over North. Was a reasonable soldier in his day, but not the sort of player who's going anywhere in a finals team. So he's done the opposite and gone to Carlton.

Lachlan Filipovic
A very sour goodbye to all the references to Croatian head-kicking sensation Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic that were going to wheeled out during his career. And because now I'll never get another opportunity, here's the original recipe's surprisingly poptastic ring entrance that our one never got to enter the MCG to.

The Great Queen's Birthday Free Kick
At last we're not completely skint (for now anyway) and don't need the guaranteed home game to keep us afloat. That's a good thing. I always unrealistically fantasised about turning on the Pies and kicking them out first but that was never going to happen. Know your role and all that.

For all the put-on rivalry with Collingwood I'm not going to quibble about this, we've had nearly 20 years of charity from them so about time we stood on our own feet. The only complaint is that we'll have the home Anzac Eve game in the same year as our home Queen's Birthday game, meaning the CFO will want to stuff a shitload of money down the back of the couch in the 'on' years just in case we run short in the other. 

Jesse Hogan
The main event of departure season was the day we'd feared for years, and when it finally happened nobody seemed all that concerned. In fact you got the hint that the club were giving it the same "you don't have to leave but what about we drive you to the airport?" treatment Watts got last year. The assumption is Weideman will go supernova and McSizzle can't be stopped even if the focus goes on him in Hogan's absence. I'm keen to sign up, because the alternative is a Roos Year 1 scenario where the defence is solid but we make kicking goals look like landing a man on the moon.

The first time we play Freo you're entitled to act however you wish, but there will be no Carnival of Hate redux from me. Jesse did his time in the asylum, and I hope he does very well at Freo while they do very poorly.

Peter Jackson
The greatest bald head ever returned an air of quiet dignity to the CEO's office after a period of David Brent-esque self parody. He presided over the Herculean task of dragging us back from beyond the brink of irrelevance to a respectable footballing side and a mid-range financial power and did it without ever looking publicly stressed. Godspeed you wonderful, shiny bonced man.

Dion Johnstone
Started as a forward, and looked like he was on the verge of great things when named an emergency in 2017. Then we found out that was only because a bunch of other players had been suspended for illicitly getting on the piss. He never went close again and was converted into a defender in a last ditch attempt to save his career. For every Tom McBizzell style winning switcheroo there's a Troy Davis or Tom Gillies who is dragged down the other end to no avail. Took a shortcut to his released by belting somebody in the VFL Prelim, yet still survived for a week longer than all the other delistees. Maybe he just refused to answer the phone?

Dean Kent
At least we'll always have Perth Stadium. The clutch goal that gave us finals life was practically his last act as a Demon, injured early the next week and subsequently excluded from our bonkers finals run. By all accounts we were comfortable in letting him go, and for some reason St Kilda think they're going to make him a first string midfielder. Everyone's a winner, he'll get paid handsomely for three years to try something new and we don't give a continental if the Saints blow their dough. Pick 65 later formed part of the trade to Fremantle for Hogan, allowing him a partial stake in Steven May's hopefully amazing career with us.

Mitch King
A bad season to be a developing ruckman, and sincere apologies that I never did work out which one was Mitch King and which one was Max King before both were dismissed.

Cameron Pedersen
This one makes me sad. Has there ever been somebody who went from maligned to beloved via about 29 different stints in the VFL? It feels cruel he's been reduced to playing at Phillip Island (who must either be nicknamed the Penguins or shut down) when he'd be a perfectly good backup option for our list, much less one of the down on their luck shitbox teams who need mature bodies.

They've helped us prop up the bottom line for years, now hopefully the moment we sign them over to new owners they malfunction like an American voting machine and have to be written off as a bad investment. If you're mourning the loss of these glorified Sony Playstations why not just send me a hundred dollars and a number, and if you're lucky and pick the same number I'm thinking of I'll TREBLE your investment. We've sold Leighoak but are apparently keeping the Bentleigh Club without pokies, which seems like a fair gamble on the popularity of the joint as a wedding venue. 

Dom Tyson
Delightful fluffy hair, a world record pace for being caught holding the ball, and competent midfield play that looked a lot better when we didn't have any other good mids. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but in Dom's case our midfield going from village standard to arguably the best in the competition left him surplus to requirements.

Harmes' astronomical emergence was the final blow, but it's undeniable that the best Tyson looked all year was when Viney was out so he should have gone to Carlton or Gold Coast and flourished while all around him was covered in shit. Instead he's gone to North and nobody can work out why. We wish him well.

Bernie Vince
The only player anywhere near their prime who chose to join us when we were out on our feet and begging for scraps. Forget what happened this season when he was shot and remember the very good times in very bad teams before that. I've delayed this post so long that he's already come back in some sort of part time coaching/mentoring role. There's never been a better time to bring back this tweet in tribute:

AFLW season in review

Round 1 vs Greater Western Sydney

Where I enacted a good old fashioned media ban, watched on tape the next day and saw us require a grandstand comeback in the last quarter to win. In a competition where you could only stand to lose one game and make the Grand Final (so we thought anyway) this was nearly curtains at the first hurdle, but a win was still one step ahead of what we'd done against them the year before.

Round 2 vs Adelaide

The week the AFL reacted to a perceived lack of razzle dazzle footy in the opening round by pissing about with the rules like madmen. This might have been a good thing for us, because after falling over the line as hot favourites in the opening week we tonked the defending premiers here. Unbeaten after two games and all was well with the world.

Round 3 vs Fremantle

Whether men's football, women's football or intergalactic alien football there has rarely ever been a more ridiculous defeat than this. We kept them without a single inside 50 in the first quarter, but only converted one of six scoring shots at the other end and gave them a second life. They gratefully accepted our gift and roared back with a vengeance to win, leaving us with minimal room for error in the last four games.

Round 4 vs Collingwood

A Perth to Alice Springs road trip seemed like rude scheduling, until you remembered that it was our choice to flog the game to the Northern Territory as part of the sponsorship deal that keeps us in the black. As an advertisement for games in the Alice the pulverisation of Adelaide's men was much better, with the women dying in the arse against mediocre opposition in the heat. This time it wasn't even close, with Special K spokeswoman Mo Hope winning the first female Kingsley nomination shortly before legging it from the Pies to play elsewhere. At 2-2 we were now basically rooted.

Round 5 vs Brisbane Lions

Our AFLW squad took the mantra "life wasn't mean to be easy" far too seriously, barely staying afloat against the Lions with the season on the line. In the dying seconds, inside Brisbane's 50 with a goal the difference we totally ran one out of bounds on the full deliberately which was paid as a boundary throw-in. I was less than gracious in victory towards an incredulous Lion...
... which nearly backfired when Brisbane made the Grand Final. But they lost, so double sucked in.

Round 6 vs Carlton

Carlton's women were as crap as their men. When the saving grace of a club is the VFL side finishing 12th you know you're in trouble. It's been nearly 20 years since teams had the chance to suck in three different grades, but you can be certain that if anyone put together an equally disappointing campaign in the days of the Under 19s it would have been us.

With a near certain victory here we looked towards an unofficial elimination final against the Bulldogs a week later, with the backup option of falling in on percentage in front of Brisbane if we won by a landslide here. The Blues had already handed Footscray our record for the largest AFLW win a few weeks earlier, and when we were 6.3 to 0.1 in front at quarter time here it looked like the mother of all percentage boosters was on the way. Then it wasn't, kicking one less goal for the rest of the game and losing Mel Hickey (for good as it turns out) with a knee injury.

Round 7 vs Footscray

Even with a 4-2 record there was a Grand Final lifeline to be had by beating the Dogs on their own ground. A win wasn't out of the question after toppling them at home in 2017, but while we gave winning a fair old crack the natural weight of part of the Melbourne Football Club dragged us under.

Our season quite literally swung on the wind, with a boundary throw-in dropping short because of the breeze and allowing the Dogs to sweep forward for the winner. It was the third consecutive season played by a team called Melbourne where we narrowly missed the finals and I was jack of it. Thank god then, for the first time in years, for the men. 

Daisy Pearce Medal for Women's Player of the Year

That's right, if you missed our award winning AFLW coverage (which to be fair was mostly complaining about ad hoc rule changes and Melbourne narrowly missing the Grand Final) we took the unprecedented step of renaming an award after a serving player. Who knew she'd decline to challenge for her own title in 2019 due to OUT: Pearce (Up The Duff). That's a team change you've never seen before.

In her last tilt at the title for now, Daisy finished third behind a thrilling Karen Paxman vs Elise O'Dea dual. The ever reliable Paxman won, and betting agencies across the country are suggesting they'll be facing off for top spot again next year.

20 - Karen Paxman
19 - Elise O'Dea
16 - Daisy Pearce
10 - Tegan Cunningham
6 - Katherine Smith
5 - Richelle Cranston, Shelley Scott
4 - Laura Duryea, Bianca Jakobsson, Lauren Pearce
3 - Mel Hickey, Brooke Patterson
2 - Meg Downie, Lily Mithen
1 - Harriet Cordner, Erin Hoare

Honour Roll
2017 - Daisy Pearce
2018 - Karen Paxman

2018 Year in Review Part 1


My attempt at a boycott of this unholy slurry lasted until I heard we were in the final. In case we never win anything meaningful I caved, tuning in to see us lift a trophy that looked like it was from a primary school arts and crafts fair. It was the most pointless exercise of all time, and next year will be played with all-star teams instead of real clubs as it should have right from the start. If any of our stars so much as cramp there will be murder.

JLT Community Series game 1 vs North Melbourne

We started another year of nobody knowing what JLT is by beating North in a real game - or as close as you get to it with supergoals - for the first time in over a decade.  Nobody turned up to a suburban ground in Hobart to see it but television coverage confirmed it really happened.

Now we'd toppled our long time nemesis in an AFLX wankfest and a pre-season game so the only frontier left to cross was the one that mattered.

JLT Community Series game 2 vs St Kilda

St Kilda were supposed to be in the same up elevator as us, so even in a practice game beating them made things start to seem real. Like the North game we needlessly left the door open to a comeback instead of obliterating them. We withstood a comeback, and when the Reverse Stranglewank failed we ran away with it in the last quarter. As I'd declined the three hour roundtrip to Casey Fields I turned my TV off and went to bed.

Round 1 vs Geelong

We'd keep finding inventive ways to lose during the season, but this hurt even more than the usual defeats because we had the game in our own hands with 30 seconds to play. You know the story by now, after recovering from a horror first half where the defence look like they'd just met Gawn marked 25 metres out directly in front with a shot to win it. He missed, the soon to disappear from the face of the earth Jayden Hunt had an underrated ping at a 70 metre torp from the boundary line after the siren and we were back to our old habit of losing in Round 1. 

Round 2 vs Brisbane

Well done to those who spotted the reference to Milton Berle's horsecock in the title, and more importantly to Melbourne for narrowly toppling Brisbane on their own ground. It was not without some nervous moments, with the Lions charging back from a mile down to make it all too interesting for my liking. In a higher stakes repeat of the St Kilda pre-season game we burst back to win easily, which was much appreciated considering I'd threatened to write the season off if we didn't start 2-1.

Round 3 vs North Melbourne

The trifecta of wins over North was complete, and we'd achieved the crucial two wins against ordinary teams that allowed me to buy in to the season. I'd somewhat cash out again over the next two weeks, but all's well that ends well. Victory was achieved in the face of a first half by Billy Hartung that reminded seasoned watchers of Robert Flower until he kicked the ball. It would be Billy's finest moment before he was dropped and subsequently delisted, seeing our first nominee of the season to the Kingsley Klub.

There's no telling if the rest of the season would have gone the same if we'd lost here (e.g. would we have still cocked it up so spectacularly against St Kilda?) but on a raw viewing of the numbers it represented the difference between the win in Perth sealing our spot and another week of tension waiting to see if we'd beat GWS. More importantly, Josh Wagner's heat map drew a cock and balls:

Round 4 vs Hawthorn

Hello top eight contenders, goodbye dignity. In the rain we played a searing five goal first quarter,  before Al Clarkson decided he'd have none of that rubbish and didn't allow another until we were 10 goals down in the last quarter. And that was the only one we got in the last three quarters. What a day to opt for doing something more important and watch on delay from home.

Round 5 vs Richmond
A memorable night for so many reasons, including a Richmond cheersquad member disgracing the memory of the Anzacs by wearing a comedy jacket to the pre-match tribute, and the bloke necking himself during Hogan's Heroes. There was also a footy game, and we barely participated in it. One game in the hole after five was about where I expected us to be at the start of the year but it was the struggle to score that made many of us get prematurely morose and ironically start acting like bloodthirsty pre-flag Tigers fans. Imagine knowing then we'd end up as the highest scoring team in the competition.

Round 6 vs Essendon
Randy Salvage

For the second year in a row our 18 hours of extra rest after the Anzac games proved decisive as the Bombers went to bits after half time. Until then Simon Goodwin was in all sorts of trouble from 'the internet', for the zero that matters. Even I was starting to get nervy and as 2012 to the third quarter of Round 1 2013 showed I'm usually too generous on coaches. Then Gawn laughed in the face of a numpty after kicking a goal and the Bombers stacked it, prompting us to straighten up, fly right and start giving teams what for.

Round 7 vs St Kilda
Keep a lid on things

In years gone by back-to-back trips to Docklands would have been cause to put your head in the oven, but now we were a better team at Fortress Shithole than on the MCG so another game there was welcomed like an old friend. Sure you still risked being trampled leaving the place, but now you'd die happy instead of cursing the club under your breath. By now we knew St Kilda were crap, but that didn't affect our joy at recovering from two weeks of tension with a fortnight of comfortable wins. The qualification mark for a comfortable win was about to be redefined...

Round 8 vs Gold Coast
Slip, slap, slop

The two wins before were most welcome, but this was truly the opening ceremony to probably the best three mid-season weeks of my life. Who'd have thought that of a literally unprecedented three week orgy of violence, venom and velocity a 69 point win against the Suns would be the least brutal.

In front of a palty 6060 people at the Gabba, while the Suns' ground had a Commonwealth Games long jump pit on it, we evoked happy memories of that first stomping of them on the same ground. Except that day we won by 90 and went home unhappy, while this 21 point 'worse' margin was far more memorable. It could have been more considering we had the equal more inside 50s ever in a game. Even 186 had less, but to be fair Geelong didn't need them when they kicked a goal on every entry.

Round 9 vs Carlton
How to make friends and eviscerate people

On the joyous occasion of celebrities getting hitched, our present to the Commonwealth of Nations was the 100 point win I'd coveted ever since the 1993 beheading of Richmond. Even that was a throwaway end of season game when we were well out of the finals race, this was a statement of intent that we'd graduated from errand boys to assassins. I had some sympathy with the Blues in the last quarter, having watched sides capitulate in similar fashion many times. Bad luck somebody had to be on the end of a kicking eventually.

By the end there was almost as much tension in keeping the margin over the ton than there would have been if we were up by a goal. Now the final frontier (non-premiership department) is somebody kicking 10.

Round 10 vs Adelaide
Alice Wonderland

We'd had it so good for a fortnight that I thought it would absolutely come to a screaming halt here. The Crows were not in the same shape as when they'd made the Grand Final, but were still a cut above the flotsam and jetsam we'd thrashed over the previous three weeks so as a coping mechanism I expected the worst. Next thing we'd kicked 12 first half goals, were up by 48 and on the way to a fifth consecutive win.

At three quarter time an understandably upset Don Pyke channelled his rage into silent patrolling of the huddle and eyeballing of players. They responded by staring back thinking "aren't you the tit who kidnapped us in a bus?" Concerned that he'd be driving them back to South Australia they briefly rallied at the start of the last term, before deciding it was all too hard again shortly after and crumbling to the largest defeat any team has ever had against us outside of the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Round 11 vs Footscray
Six won, and tons for fun

Sugarhill Gang fans rejoiced over the post title, while people who hate playing games in the Northern Territory were ready to riot when we went three goals behind in the opening minutes. Our near record streak of winning quarters was halted at 16, but from there Bulldogs packed up and let us do whatever we wanted. The not long for this world McSizzle/Hulkamania forward combination lobbed through nine, the winning streak extended to Milton Berle-esque length, and to remind us that we were Melbourne fans and could never truly be happy Jake Lever did his knee.

Round 12 vs Collingwood
On the slide

In what was all of a sudden a heavyweight clash against resurgent opposition our coach tempted fate by going down the charity slide dressed as a downhill skier. Against our first finals contender opposition in seven weeks we were soon exposed. In an outcome that would have paid 2000-1 a couple of years earlier, Tom McDonald and Mason Cox kicked 11 between them but the American's five were worth far more because his teammates joined in.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year

Round 1 - Alex Neal-Bullen
Round 2 - Jeff Garlett
Round 3 - Jeff Garlett (2)
Round 4 - Jesse Hogan
Round 5 - Jake Melksham
Round 6 - Max Gawn
Round 7 - Dom Tyson
Round 8 - Max Gawn (2)
Round 9 - Jake Melksham (2)
Round 10 - Christian Petracca
Round 11 - Jesse Hogan (2)
Round 12 - Mitch Hannan
Round 14 - Tom McDonald
Round 15 - Christian Petracca
Round 16 - Jake Melksham (3)
Round 17 - Christian Petracca (2)
Round 18 - Charlie Spargo
Round 19 - Jake Melksham
Round 20 - Charlie Spargo (2)
Round 21 - Cameron Pedersen
Round 22 - Dean Kent
Round 23 - Christian Petracca (3)
Elimination Final - Mitch Hannan
Semi Final - Christian Petracca (4)
Preliminary Final - Mitch Hannan (2)

... and your winner by popular acclaim - with apologies to the late Dean Kent in Perth - is Mitch Hannan sealing the Elimination Final with one of those heart in mouth running goals that ends in an eruption of ecstasy a'la Watts on Queens Birthday 2017. But better.
In the all-time leaderboard, Garlett now has 21 nominations and Petracca 10.

Honour Roll
2014 - Christian Salem
2015 - Nathan Jones
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Tom McDonald

2018 - Mitch Hannan

Tweets of the Year

If you're a player social media is a best avoided sewer, but I'd have had an even shitter time in the dark days if it wasn't for the people of Demon Twitter. Here's some of their finest work, headlined by this mid-preliminary final character assassination:
Accurate pre-season commentary that seemed more ludicrous than the bottom right old lady's jumper when we were struggling early in the season
Thoughtful Nathan Jones pondered the meaning of life while Fritsch and Harmes pissfarted around
A return to traditional values for the first time since Aidan Riley was on the list.
#ruleschat with Maximum - the tweet that saved us from the giant goalsquare
If you take the view that this was a legitimate account and not something doing a gimmick I'd like to meet them. Went quiet from July until dropping one last bomb after the Prelim
This perfect summation of the shared experience of climbing out of the sewer

And remember, if your account is locked it's not that I'm being rude and refusing to respond, I just can't see what you're saying. 

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

The good news for Maximum is that he could have retired disinterested after one vote and still clung to a perilous victory due to nobody else even going close to the 10 hitout per game qualifying mark. Next closest was Tim Smith at 4.25 per game, and he didn't get any votes either.

The bad news for Max's campaign for a sixth title in 2019 is that the aggressively bald Braydon Preuss surely hasn't joined us to test his mettle on a freezing Casey Fields so there might be genuine theatre in this award for the first time since the Fitzpatrick Debacle. 

51 - Max Gawn
DNQ - Lachlan Filipovic, Mitch King, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen, Sam Weideman, Any other player

Honour Roll
2005 - Jeff White
2006 - Jeff White (2)
2007 - Jeff White (3)
2008 - Paul Johnson
2009 - Mark Jamar ($3)
2010 - Mark Jamar (2) ($1.50 fav)
2011 - Stefan Martin ($30)
2012 - Stefan Martin (2) ($12)
2013 - Jack Fitzpatrick ($50) and Max Gawn ($45)
2014 - Mark Jamar (3) ($5)
2015 - Max Gawn (2) ($10)
2016 - Max Gawn (3) ($1.80)
2017 - Max Gawn (4) ($1.25 fav)
2018 - Max Gawn (5) ($1.10 fav)

Welcome to my vendetta

Jake Lever's knee
Sam Docherty's has blown out like a faulty truck tyre for the second year in a row, leaving me shitscared of Lever's doing the same. Internet conspiracy theorists and Donald Trump dickheads are already discussing how convenient it is that Adelaide could have benefited from Lever going down and will benefit from Docherty's injury. Don Pyke with an ultrasonic sniper rifle not pictured.

Kade Kolodjashnij
Likely to pose the most spelling trouble for fans since Austin Wonaeamirri, and it's no easier to divine whether he'll deliver on-field. Given that he's had concussion trouble I'll be waiting patiently for the triple clack head knock with Brayshaw and Jetta, but if he can avoid that working purely off the vibe I think this will turn out ok. Has played 78 games, which makes me think of Mark Neeld's quest to get players up to the 80-100 game mark only to get the arse after 33 himself.

Steven May
If this goes badly I'll be inconsolable because I've coveted him for years. So much that I quickly forgave him for his cold blooded murder of Stefan Martin, and genuinely fretted when it seemed he was going to ditch Gold Coast for another Victorian club. No idea what draws me to him but I reserve the right to treat him like a messiah until the first time he unloads some poxy kick in defence and costs us a goal.

Gary Pert
Like Matthew Knights after Kevin Sheedy, David Moyes after Alex Ferguson or Denis Napthine after Jeff Kennett good bloody luck following an icon. He has runs on the board at Collingwood, but ask Heritier Lumumba what it was like leaving that moneybags operation and discovering all the stuff that used to work effortlessly at the old joint is a struggle here. Judging a CEO before he's started is about as wacky as doing articles about who won the draft before anybody's played a game, so let's just remain calm and see how it goes.

Natalie Portman
Probably the first not quite sure what they're watching American ring-in we've had since Don Lane. Later told of her experiences as a celebrity supporter on the Ellen show, providing the first entertaining content that godforsaken program has ever put to air. Feels appropriate to be involved with somebody who starred in V for Vendetta. Now do V for Viney.

Braydon Preuss
We'll either be playing him alongside McSizzle and Weid in the forward line, or he'll ruck more and free Gawn to go and create havoc in the forward line. Otherwise he should have just stayed at North and pushed Todd Goldstein down the stairs. Has kicked 5.6 in eight senior games so at least he's running at an average of more than one shot per game. Not exactly Simon Madden numbers but in Goodwin we trust. Coming from Queensland I don't fancy his chances of making the end of the year if we leave him at frozen Casey Fields all winter.

I hate the resulting draw with a passion, but welcome to the world of being the 4th best team in the competition. Not sure how I'm going to take to being the hunted rather than the hunter but am certainly not complaining at the chance to give it a crack. We've got a better team than last season, but if we crack through the good team draw to finish top four we'll win the bloody competition. Early prediction is a top four near miss again but I am here to be surprised.

All the draftees
With our first pick not until well beyond the point of serious draft analysis I have no idea who any of them are, what they do, and whether they project to be good, bad or otherwise. It certainly looks like we've gone small, which certainly makes sense in defence but I could have done with parking another forward of the future in the VFL just in case. Or we could have kept Pedersen.

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

In contrast to the Stynes, this award was low-scoring but ultra-competitive and could have gone almost anywhere in the last few weeks. Ultimately Michael Hibberd's bid to become the first repeat winner since the 2010-2012 Frawley three-peat fell just short and Christian Salem became the fifth first-time winner in a row. Now that we've chucked Tyson it's entirely up to him to win us the Josh Kelly related trade, and this was a good start.

Gambling fanatics will note this is also the fifth consecutive player to win at double figure odds. Put your house on Declan Keilty in 2019. Then find somewhere else to live.

10 - Christian Salem
9 - Michael Hibberd
8 - Jordan Lewis
7 - Neville Jetta
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - Jake Lever
2 - Sam Frost, Joel Smith
1 - Cameron Pedersen
0 - Jayden Hunt, Declan Keilty, Bernie Vince, Josh Wagner
DQ - Bayley Fritsch

Honour Roll
2005 - Nathan Carroll and Ryan Ferguson
2006 - Jared Rivers
2007 - Paul Wheatley
2008 - Matthew Whelan
2009 - James Frawley ($22)
2010 - James Frawley (2) ($3.50)
2011 - James Frawley (3) ($4)
2012 - Jack Grimes ($7)
2013 - James Frawley (4) ($2.80)
2014 - Lynden Dunn ($25)
2015 - Tom McDonald ($14)
2016 - Neville Jetta ($13)
2017 - Michael Hibberd ($16)
2018 - Christian Salem ($20)

2018 Year in Review Part Two

Round 14 vs Port Adelaide
Friday night and I just love complaining

The half of the year where we finally brought home the bacon had an inauspicious start. There was a period in the first quarter where it looked like we were going to march into Adelaide, extract  four points by force and return across the border leaving a trail of destruction behind us, before the league's scoring juggernaut clammed up. We only kicked nine goals, a 20 point lead was squandered, and our wobbles started to set off seismic detectors across the eastern seaboard.

As long as we didn't do anything stupid like lose to St Kilda...

Round 15 vs St Kilda
The welcome to my nightmare game

Much like the Hawthorn loss I can only imagine my reaction if I'd left the house to watch this. Especially if I'd been a flat out shithouse human and rearranged my daughter's birthday party to get there. I opted not to be the subject of future psychiatrist sessions, watched on tape delay and stormed out of the room in frustration when they went four goals up only to check the score and discover we nearly won. That would have been embarrassing. In hindsight consider it the loss we had to have.

Round 16 vs Fremantle
Home sweat home

After stacking into the wall against one team of also rans I can't tell you how little a Darwin game against Sex Chat Roscoe and the Heave Ho Squad appealed. If we'd lost the heroics of Alice Springs would have been forgotten while people lined up a no confidence motion in the entire administration. Fortunately just when things were starting to look dodgy the Dockers only offered token resistance. We went on our merry way racking up a ridiculous number of behinds, 5.15 at the half, and 13.24 by the end of a win that was comfortable but in no way suggested a barnstorming run to the final four was on the cards.

Round 17 vs Footscray
Climb the ladder, make yourself famous

Another outing where we staggered, wobbled, went around in circles and mixed our metaphors for a bit before deploying the afterburners and ripping the opposition's knackers off. Even after winning in Darwin there were still people waiting with baseball bats if the delayed effects of the humidity hit us here. At half time when we were only three points ahead they looked like this...

... before a masterclass of rucking by Gawn put both the naysayers and the Bulldogs on their arse. The NT was off the hook as Max fed his midfielders like he was throwing food to the starving. It rained hitouts as Max and the Midfielders combined for eight thrilling goals in 12 erotic minutes. Another four to one in the last quarter saw us win running away, and all it lacked was Peter Jackson running around the ground with a novelty cheque showing how much we'd made for playing in Darwin.

Round 18 vs Geelong
Respect the clock and tame the punt

Just when you thought everything was back on track along came an old fashioned MFC disaster. Not much of one by Kardinia Park standards, but try telling me that when Zac Tuohy's goal went through and I forcefully sunk the slipper into an innocent fence. The amount of energy I was expending on running ladder predictors and scenarios to get us into the eight at this point was ridiculous, adding an extra 'losing an eight pointer' level of agony onto the already traumatic nature of this defeat. After a nervy few weeks the ladder shook out so that we weren't in direct competition with the Cats for a spot so this was ultimately worse for our top four chances than top eight.

Round 19 vs Adelaide
Attempting reentry

What made the Geelong fiasco even worse was the prospect of having to travel again the next week. The Adelaide Oval holds nowhere near the same fears for us that Football Park did after the Port loss it still felt like a great place to dig a hole and bury our premiership hopes. It was nearly a burial at sea, as the Crows came at us with all guns blazing in a sodden last quarter. Much love to Eddie Betts for missing from the square in the dying minutes and allowing us to survive. It was a maintenance win, not pushing us much further towards September but preventing what might have been a fatal dip to 10th.

AFLX premiership coach Stone Cold Craig Jennings shot to internet superstardom when he treated the result with the same level of excitement as collecting your dry cleaning, with added contempt for being smacked about the head.
Round 20 vs Gold Coast

The Suns were in an even worse state than the last time we'd thrashed them, but had somehow recently beaten Sydney in a result so unusual even Pakistani cricketers would have said "blimey!" We had to be on guard against something equally bizarre happening but need not have worried, their only tall forward was injured in the first 30 seconds, and we registered our second biggest quarter in history. Ever. Against anyone. Since 1897.

When the lead hit 75 in the middle of the second quarter our record 141 point win against Hawthorn in 1926 was in grave danger. To the delight of nobody the Suns demonstrated some self-respect and dug in, only losing the rest of the game by 21. The margin narrowly tipped over the century late, before we missed another chance at it after the siren. Fine time for teams to stop kicking goals after the bell.

Round 21 vs Sydney
Unsafe at any speed

Victory here would all but seal our spot in the finals with two games to play, allowing a relatively stress free trip to Perth the next week. And it all looked so good at the start, before we reverted to Old Melbourne and threw away the game in 20 minutes of pressure-free madness. Once Sydney lost more troops than the first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan we had the chance to launch a rattling comeback but got within touching distance and clammed up again. Pedersen ended his Melbourne career setting up Mark of the Year with a shit kick, Hogan ended his with a damaged foot, and our finals hopes now hung on by a thread. 

Round 22 vs West Coast
You're going home in a cosmic ambience

Shame we'll never be able to remember this without also thinking about the Prelim, because before the legacy of Perth Stadium 2018 games was ruined it ranked as one of the most enjoyable victories ever. Still worth giving some thought to, especially how we didn't go to pieces when they hit the lead. At that point I was so nervous it was like somebody on real solid gear who thinks they're hovering outside their body.

The idea of choking our way out of the eight against the Giants the following week terrified me. Thank god then for Dean Kent, who in practically his last act before being shuffled out the door sank an ice cold set shot. That got us back in front, before a later premiership winning defender fell over and let Melksham goal unchallenged from the square to confirm it. I did a victory lap around the house, Chris J**d acted like a joyless wanker about regulation on-field celebrations and at last you could receive a finals brochure in the mail without kicking the postman.

Round 23 vs Greater Western Sydney
The Great Australian Free Hit

When you reach the last round playing simply for the right to host a home final then you know something has gone right. It was either back to the MCG for a festival of frenzy amongst the faithful, or filling the Giants' dinky stadium with our fans anyway. We avoided travel once, karmically rolling ourselves into going to Perth later, by winning in a canter. It didn't look like the Giants had their hearts in it, and we were pleased to take advantage in a warm-up carnival atmosphere for the chaotic scenes at our next game. Pride restored, time to go for the jackpot.

Elimination Final vs Geelong
Having expended so much psychic energy just to get in, it was a bit rude to play a team who'd already beaten us twice in heartbreaking circumstances. But this surprisingly quite good version of Melbourne accepted the challenge to a degree science is unable to properly measure.

60,000 odd diehard Melburnians, bandwagon jumpers and carpetbaggers who'd risen above Ticketek's ineptitude to get in went off their nut, and the remainder were stunned into silence by a blockbusting first quarter that left us five goals up. With mouths agape across the ground the inevitable response came on the counter-attack in another quarter where we comprehensively outplayed them.

After a weird third quarter where each side only kicked one goal we turned it on again in the last to win easily. As a bonus we not only withstood their comeback, but Joel Selwood was driven insane by the pressure and was offered free life coaching advice by Sam Frost.
Semi Final vs Hawthorn

After one life-affirming evening of Demon fans tripping off their tits, we arrived the following Friday night knowing that the only two places to go were Perth or out. I vowed to go west if we won, secretly not expecting to have to go through with it. In a reverse of the previous game we were the ones who kicked goals against the run of play in the second quarter, before a burst at the end of the third quarter set up what should have been an unassailable lead.

As payback for Channel 7 showing old ladies crying in joy at the last change Hawthorn kicked the first three goals of the last quarter to leave things looking very ropey indeed. Enter Jake Melksham, with a goal so great that serial shit chatter Brian Taylor of all people unloaded what may be my favourite commentary moment of all time.

Preliminary Final vs West Coast

It cost me about $1000 to get there, I walked the long way to the stadium because Google Maps didn't know there was a bridge over the river, we were pummelled from the opening bounce and my flight home was delayed but I regret nothing. If I'd chickened out and we'd won at least I've had had a Grand Final to look forward to, but even with the grisly circumstances of our demise I'd have felt like a poltroon not being there. 

Even if victory was unlikely (though I didn't think it was zero goals in the first half unlikely) the wave of the first two weeks needed to be ridden to its ultimate conclusion - which turned out to be some jagged as fuck rocks. Afterwards I met a drunk man in charge of children and watched 10 overs of domestic cricket at the WACA, before travelling home in misery.

The Still Unnamed Medal for Finals Player of the Year

You'd think more than two months later I'd have come up with a name for this. But no, I'm waiting for us to make another finals series first. Also, it's hard finding anyone sensible to name it after when we've played so few finals - relatively speaking - in the last 50 years. I'm tempted to do a Daisy and just name it after Nathan Jones now in tribute to his bridging of the 2007-2018 #fistedforever gap but won't tempt fate. Here's hoping we're announcing a name next year and not 2032.

10 - Jack Viney
9 - James Harmes
6 - Tom McDonald
5 - Michael Hibberd, Sam Weideman
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Angus Brayshaw 
1 - Neville Jetta, Christian Petracca

What we can do is use the votes of the past to declare a retrospective winner for 2006. I'd love to do 2005 as well, but for reasons still not adequately explained decided to go to work instead of chucking a sickie and watching us get thumped in the Elimination Final.

Honour Roll
2006 - Brock McLean
2018 - Jack Viney

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

He looks like the McHamburglar, he dishes off psychic handballs to players out of his field of vision, he's become the second man behind St Nathan Jones to win two Jakovichs. He is possibly the best midfielder we've had since [insert a year that gives away your age].

I'm so surprised to have found a player of such rare quality that I'm continuously waiting for something to go wrong. For now the man who made Mooroopna famous has emerged unscathed, and is well on his way to becoming Demon royalty.

He becomes the second shortest price favourite ever to win, but was arguably better value than Jones' $2 in 2013 when he was the only breathing midfielder.

Congratulations Clayton, and best of luck with your quest to become the second triple winner in Jakovich history.

64 - Clayton Oliver
51 - Max Gawn
36 - James Harmes
29 - Jesse Hogan
26 - Angus Brayshaw
24 - Tom McDonald
18 - Jack Viney (WINNER: As Yet Unnamed Medal for Best Finals Player)
16 - Bayley Fritsch (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Jake Melksham
11 - Christian Petracca
10 - Christian Salem
9 - Michael Hibberd
8 - Jordan Lewis
7 - Neville Jetta
6 - Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Dom Tyson
2 - Sam Frost, Joel Smith
1 - Cameron Pedersen

Honour Roll

2005 - Travis Johnstone
2006 - Brock McLean
2007 - Nathan Jones
2008 - Cameron Bruce
2009 - Aaron Davey ($8)
2010 - Brad Green ($4)
2011 - Brent Moloney ($9)
2012 - Nathan Jones (2) ($3.50)
2013 - Nathan Jones (3) ($2)
2014 - Nathan Jones (4) ($3.50)
2015 - Jack Viney ($15)
2016 - Nathan Jones (5) ($8)
2017 - Clayton Oliver ($35)
2018 - Clayton Oliver (2)  ($3.25 fav)

And there you have it, at long last the curtain falls on the 14th season of Demonblog. As you would surely be aware if you've come this far I'm going to miss several games next year due to work commitments.

I'm hoping to be able to sneakily watch everything, but will still be taking up the offers of everyone who has volunteered to do a stint as a guest reporter. It's probably come at the right time, I'm worn out. But not enough to hush up and keep my crackpots opinions to myself.

So, until AFLW season, the pre-season series, and the real stuff we say farewell. Until then why not bury your head in either the 8000 page leviathan Demonwiki or the now not as relevant as it used to be book. I'm out, here's Nathan Jones going off his bald nut:

Monday 24 September 2018

Fly In, Fall Over

In the final reckoning of things I've wasted money on during my life it's going to be hard to top this weekend without joining a pyramid scheme. We came, we saw, we paid a motza, and our team fell in a screaming heap. At least I flew there and back direct, can't imagine the people who allegedly went via Singapore would be pleased with their life choices. Not to mention the group on a 6800km drive. They might have enjoyed community singing and fraternal love of the Dees on the way there but the return leg will likely end in murder.

Just when we had some momentum for the first time in years this was a horrific performance, but at the same time what a fitting way to end my 2007-2018 period of deep emotional connection and even deeper emotional torment. One last elbow-deep fisting to sit alongside undisputed classics like 186, 148 and Round 23, 2017 in my nightmares.

Once we have a moment to compose ourselves it will become clear that there's a huge difference between this limp defeat and all those outrages. This came after two weeks sitting at the footy world's top table. The Geelong win was a monkey off the back 12 years in the making, and beating Hawthorn to a frenzied response left us one giant leap from the big one. Those wins allowed us to have hope right there and then, instead of dreaming about some fictional golden future far off in the distance. It wasn't supposed to happen this year, but nobody was going to argue if it did.

Like the people aboard the Hindenberg we had a good ride before the fiery crash. Last Wednesday I activated my right to a guaranteed Grand Final ticket - a ticket that now passes to a Collingwood or West Coast fan in a year where I didn't expect either of them to make the eight. Fat lot of good it did, just another $5 charged for Ticketek for 'processing' (286, 386 or 486?) on top of the eight seasons I've been dutifully buying that membership just in case. But it was symbolic, almost worth a fiver just to realise that we were one of the last four standing. In the end, the season still ends with a result that leaves us with a bitter taste. Like 2008, 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017 - and that's not even factoring in the garden variety loss years. This time we got two amazing nights in front of 90,000 people before the plot was lost.

After brief dips in the wake of St Kilda and Sydney, the period from our first trip to Perth to 1.19pm Saturday was so enjoyable that it was contending to become my favourite season ever. We slaughtered a few teams, we beat sides interstate, and more importantly we won finals. 1998 was a surprise coming off a spoon, but the emergence from the #fistedforever years and the carnival atmosphere of the Friday finals had 2018 just in front. Then this stuffed that up. Even though we lost the '98 Prelim we were competitive, and a way outside chance of winning at three quarter time. This year our tilt at a Grand Final ended so quickly you could have looked down and missed it. This year will hold up well in retrospect, but for now the feeling of going out with a whimper rather than a bang is too raw and I can only slot it into second ahead of 2000 and 1991.

Even knowing now that we'd serve up the first scoreless half in a final since 1927 (in a game that ended 25-13) I'd have felt like a coward for not going. I might have opened my bank account 10 minutes into the second quarter and looked lovingly at the money not spent on a fruitless cross-continental jaunt but there would have been regrets. If something completely bonkers happened and we'd won I'd have probably entered a deep depression about missing out on seeing it live for 30 seconds before realising a Grand Final was just around the corner and concentrating on that instead.

It really was a stupid idea to chase the dream of another McDonald 2017 or Kent 2018 moment. Forget what the bookies said the moral odds of a third consecutive Perth win in a game that meant everything were astronomical. Even worse, like the Geelong after the siren ruining the memories of a game played in 2005, I'm not sure I can ever properly enjoy Round 22 again without it reminding me of this capitulation.

But what if we did win? Just the thought of the scenes it would have caused still gives me a rush even 36 hours after it didn't happen. The midweek media tour of Paul Roos doing anecdotes about Jack Fitzpatrick copping a footy in the face at training, and a farewell to the 'Old Melbourne' just before it made a surprise reappearance gave some an air of inevitability that we were going to win. I just thought it was angering the footy gods. It was all a bit over the top, but at least after two weeks where everyone on our list except Harley Balic had been the subject of a newspaper feature the focus switched to Richmond vs Collingwood. Maybe that's where we went wrong, with the media curse successfully killed over the last fortnight we went tits up due to a lack of hype. Unlikely.

My delusional fan fiction about winning didn't even have to end in a thriller, I was willing to settle for a replay of Essendon being six goals ahead of a better Eagles lineup at quarter time three months ago. Anything would do as long we ended the afternoon it in front, and the idea of a victory anywhere along the spectrum from thrilling to comfortable to insane was the high risk, high reward gamble that led me and a few thousand other lunatics to make the trip. Deep down we all know that we're destined to live our lives unfulfilled, but there was enough hope to compel us towards Perth. I went with mixed expectations. I could us winning, but the idea of Melbourne in a Grand Final? Outrageous. Every time I allowed myself to think it was possible this came into my head:
I have no real reference point to us playing in a Grand Final. In 1988 I was an interested observer, and in 2000 refused to queue and sat on my couch sourly eating chips instead. This would have been the first time we'd made it when I've been old enough and of sound mind to go. If only we could vault one more gigantic hurdle and qualify there was no expectation of winning next week. I was ready for ultimate heartbreak with the entire country watching but just wanted to be in the lottery. A third fairytale premier in a row was far too much to ask for (and for our sins we're now risking a Collingwood flag) but like Neale Daniher said "Why not us?" Why not indeed, ask the Bulldogs if you need to be the best team in the competition to win one. You just need to get going at the right time, something we managed to do - despite being notorious inconsistent - for two of the four required legs before stacking it at the second last hurdle.

The threat of a returning Josh Kennedy and a not-knocked-out Jack Darling to the side we beat to make finals in the first place was not my key concern - though it should have been. I just couldn't fathom Melbourne storming into heavily fortified opposition territory in a game of this magnitude and holding their nerve to win. In Round 22 sure, and maybe even in an Elimination Final like the Bulldogs, but with a Grand Final on the line? I don't think there's ever been a Melbourne team in my lifetime I'd implicitly trust in those circumstances.

The challenge of this group is to become the first team in my lifetime that you can picture winning monumental matches. There was even a clue in the result of the 1994 Prelim (of which I do not remember a second), where a team that looked to be on the rise poleaxed a couple of contenders then went to Perth and folded like a house of cards. Here's hoping that this time there isn't a three year wait via trying to vote ourselves out of existence and a spoon before making the finals again. I don't think it will be, this result stings but despite a quick detour via the bottom of the harbour we're still pointing in the right direction.

About the only thing the club got right this weekend was fan appreciation. On Friday afternoon I was in a Melbourne airport awash with red and blue travellers when I saw tweets about fans being handed biscuits and thank you letters signed by players on arrival at Perth. Sounded like a cute idea, and I assumed it was a quick publicity stunt because they knew a journo was on the plane but I turned up four hours later to find a pair of club employees still in place to thank us for travelling. Fantastic idea, and very much appreciated.

They must have deduced the never before acknowledged but pretty bloody obvious fact that Tom McDonald has been my favourite player since his 2013 Demonbracket campaign because I got the McSizzle greeting card. Straight to the "sad occasions" wing of my memorabilia collection, along with the Optus Stadium ticket and my unnecessarily Essendon-heavy first goalkicker raffle entries of Melksham and Hibberd.

Hell remained undisturbed, but given how the club had done almost everything else right since the Sydney game we may as well have gone on to make the Grand Final as well. Like Jack Riewoldt with the Killers, the stage was set for Neville Jetta to sing Working Class Man alongside Jimmy Barnes next Saturday night. Now nothing.

The club even kicked in a $10 voucher for food at the stadium, which is a welcome investment in the fans seven years since we were so tight that Dean Bailey had to whip out his own credit card to put the team up in Geelong then got sacked anyway.

The idea of preserving the accompanying Angus Brayshaw biscuit for the collection went out the window when I got stressed and ate it about two hours later. This was just the start of an outrageous 24 hours of nervously eating deadly food, capping off two months where footy has been one of a variety of stresses that have caused me to pork up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. First priority in this post-footy environment is to calm down and start trying to be healthy, the months of smashing ladder predictors and hanging off the results of non-MFC games must have taken years off my life.

From the airport the assembled Demons scattered to the wind, heading off in all different directions, only to spend the next 18 hours passing each other in the street and either knowingly nodding or just outright yelling "Go Dees!". Having never been to Subiaco and only going to Football Park once on Mother's Day when Port's fans couldn't give a shit I'd never enjoyed the feeling of being in such a backs-to-the-wall sporting minority. As we walked the streets trying to get to 1.20pm Saturday as quickly and efficiently as possible, every fellow traveller (in all senses of the word) spotted in scarves, jumpers and everything in between gave me a rush. How I desperately wanted to live the dream alongside these people yesterday and again next Saturday.

By the time I reached my hotel something outrageous was going on at home. In the face of all sensible predictions Collingwood was rising up as despised underdogs and pulverising the previously unbeatable Richmond. My tension level had been kept in check for most of the week, but this caused it to spike through the roof. If it was good enough for the Pies to come back from 0-2 and three goals down against Carlton with a coach who'd have been floating down a river 18 months ago anywhere else and a novelty American player taking marks like Wayne Carey we could lay waste to Optus Stadium and its inhabitants. As much as I tried to downplay our chances of making the Grand Final, the slaying of the unslayable beast also removed the '88/'00 style threat of running into the juggernaut team of its generation. I fancied us far more against the Pies than Richmond, but now concede the marquee matchup of Sam Frost vs Mason Cox may have ended in an 11 goal haul.

Until I discovered Collingwood four goals up I'd treated the trip like a crazy adventure that was doomed to failure. Always trust your first instinct. When they went on to win I started to get butterflies about pulling off a second Preliminary Final shock, but my stomach only turned to jelly at the close of Channel 7's coverage when three 'experts' all picked us to win. It would have been nice to get one dissenting opinion to focus on instead of unanimous acclaim. As Murray Weideman cleared his calendar for a week of interviews about the 1950s and his grandson it was like reality had gone out the window and we'd entered a dream world where there was every possible chance of walking out of Optus Stadium and back to Victoria with the greatest level of strut known to man.

The travel had no impact on my body clock, but late arriving white-hot sporting tension kept me awake Why I should have cared what Hamish McLachlan thinks is unclear, but obviously my calm had been a total fraud and any excuse for going to water was welcome. I didn't want to go to bed because I've had so much fun over the last two weeks that I didn't want to face the prospect of our finals run ending. It's been such fun over the last two weeks that There was always a chance of extending the excitement to a fourth straight death or glory game but it was difficult to visualise what
winning here would look like to set it up. It wasn't helpful to compare to our previous meeting, that was a great day but there were still major doubts about our killer instinct. Turns out we didn't even show up with a survival instinct.

Savouring the hours before the game was the right thing to do, because in the NSFW words of Perth's own Kevin Bloody Wilson it was over before it began. I woke up at 6am, jaw sore from excessive clenching, with every aspect of my brain that wasn't focused on staying alive contemplating footy. To say I had nothing to do was an understatement, so I just walked around the city and waited for it to wake up. Around, and around with no aim or direction other than killing time. It was killed about as effectively as a kick into the West Coast forward line. I tried to comfort myself by contracting diabetes, ripping off a nervous move pioneered on my wedding day and smashing an entire block of Top Deck in about five minutes. All that walking and eating still left me with five hours until the bounce, so I just went back to bed and listened to a 90s radio station playing hits from the last time we lost a prelim in Perth.

At the close of my third straight season since last having any sort of booze I'd never been more tempted to get back into binge drinking. Two hours of Kriss Kross ("Tommy Mac'll make you jump jump, Oscar Mac'll make you jump jump. Uh huh uh huh") and Salt 'n Peppa (no obvious MFC connection) was about all I could take, and with Google Maps projecting a 45 minute walk to the stadium that was near enough for me. There was an inauspicious start to my one-man march on the ground when the guy checking me out of the hotel didn't take a hint from the footy jumper or scarf and asked "so, what are you up to today?"

My choice of jumper nuffy attire was the same #28 iPrimus sponsored Philthy Phil Read jumper I'd worn into Round 1, 2007. The #34 SME or #17 Sam Blease editions were better identified with the club's darkest years but I thought it apt to end my career (for now) as a full-time fan wearing the same outfit it started in. Five years on from realising I was too old to wear a jumper I was tremendously self-conscious but it had to be done and damn the consequences. So, as the jumper is retired again for good (or maybe a future Grand Final) here's to you Phil Read - and your spanking goal from the boundary line in the ill-fated 2004 Elimination Final - wherever you are.

Nobody had told Google about a footbridge across the river not far from where I was staying, doubling the amount of time I needed to get to the ground. No drama, not like I had anything else to do. They instead sent me on a loopy route over a train line, beside a freeway, on a bridge under the same freeway, then down a bike path that eventually led me to the stadium. I should have known something was wrong with the navigation options when Eagles fans kept walking in the opposite direction with a look on their face like "where is this dickhead going?" None thought to steer me in the right direction, though one did say a probably sarcastic "good luck" and feign disbelief when I replied "thanks, we'll need it". I hope 10 minutes into the second quarter he turned to his mate and went "shit, that guy knew this was going to happen". I didn't really, it was just a defensive mechanism to avoid betraying any confidence. I knew there was a high likelihood of losing, it would just have been nice to get a bit of a run for our money before the game went so far south that it passed over Margaret River before 2pm.

Maybe because I was rolling a suitcase behind me the whole time (and god almighty by 2am the next morning I was sick of hearing the sound of those wheels) it took a lot longer to get there than the purported 45 minutes. Google doesn't have much luck with Perth, the last time I went there in 2013 it didn't recognise any of the one way roads and kept trying to send me into incoming traffic. Just when I thought they were directing me to Optus Oval not Optus Stadium I came under another bridge, turned the corner and there it was. Target acquired, call in the airstrike.

My feet were about to fall off, and the bloody suitcase was almost ready to be thrown in the river, but seeing the 100:1 ratio of Eagles fans to ours gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I was ready to go, but the people who had to deliver the goods were not. We had another chapter of what had already been a great finals campaign in our hands but there was nothing left to give. We fell to bits in the 21st game of 2016, the 22nd game of 2017, and made it to the 25th of 2018. I'm burning now, but when you consider we didn't make it to three quarter time of Round 1, 2013 without falling into disarray there's plenty to be said for how far we've come. I'll be sure to appreciate that in November.

With the crowd numbers overwhelmingly against us my key goal in acquiring a ticket was to avoid being stuck in the middle of uniformly polo shirt clad West Coast fans. The Demon Army came to the rescue with a very kind offer to sit with them behind the goals. Finally years of recognising their domination in Banner Watch pays off. By half time I wished for a restricted viewing ticket that didn't allow me access anywhere west of Oodnadatta.

My normal mode for viewing games is to be seized up in terror, but because I didn't want to be dead weight in the bay of the league's leading cheersquad I showed my appreciation for the invitation by trying my hand at waving flag waving. This was a failure, crashing into the much larger flag ahead of me several times. So instead I limply jiggled it back and forth for a bit as our players ran on. Eventually it became obvious I had no natural aptitude for task and instead switched to either doing [team name] *clap* *clap* *clap* or loudly saying "fuck!" My contribution was ordinary, but it was an honour to be a temporary associate of the finest banner makers in the industry.

What of the match itself? I'd rather continue with a bland run-down of everything I did on my trip, but if we must... I meant to apologise in advance to the lady sitting next me for any wild scenes that may have broken out, but it never got to the point where either of us was in danger of dying in our seat. Instead we just occasionally glanced at each other in disbelief as careless handballs flung loose in all directions and the Eagles kicked a series of goals ranging from simple to arsey.
As the ball was bounced I thought we were a chance. And about 30 seconds later realised we were in more trouble than the early settlers. There is a school of thought that you can tell where a game is going within the first couple of minutes, and even with respect to the number of times we've climbed out of the shit under Goodwin it was blatantly obvious this wasn't going to be another Stranglewank Special. Even before they were 24 points up it was only a matter of when not if. That mark was unexpectedly delayed by one wildcat video review and one where a free had already been paid before it went through. This was just delaying the inevitable.

The rot didn't need much of an excuse to set in, but Jetta thumping it straight out on the full (then doing it again a few minutes later) was at least a genuine footballing mistake. Unlike, say, Lewis going all macho and belting somebody in the guts to give away a free while we were trying to get the ball out of defence. I expect he saw a nervy first couple of minutes and thought he'd better do something to make a statement. Unfortunately the statement was "my team is in a state of shambles". Then he doubled down with a loose as a goose handball that gifted the Eagles a goal. Jack Viney was later given a much more severe whack in the throat with an umpire standing two foot away, but as we were 57-4 down the resulting free kick goal wouldn't have done much good.

Lewis had a horrendous game, like somebody playing his first final not his 26th, but wasn't alone in giving away goals with ridiculous handball. Maybe they all had RSI from signing the 'thank you' cards, because you've rarely seen a post-Neeld side distribute the ball so suicidally. It's one thing to turn it over trying a 40 metre kick, but you'd think a short handball to a teammate you've been working alongside season would easier to execute. Alas no, as physical and mental walls were simultaneously hit West Coast said "thank you very much" and joyfully whipped the piss out of us. At one stage I hadn't seen Tom McDonald for so long that I thought he might walked off in disgust at being dropped back into defence during the first quarter. It would have done wonders for the value of my thank you card. He was there, but like his teammates was unable to get anywhere near the ball. Like the team itself it was an inauspicious finish to an otherwise fun season, and I'm sure we'll work on delivering it to him with some sort of system next season so that he can kick 120 goals.

Perhaps if a Melksham snap hadn't just rolled wide at two goals to nil down we'd have had an opportunity to reboot. Or maybe it wouldn't have meant anything other than not having a 1927esque score at the half. It might not have made a difference, but I'll never understand the logic behind dumping Bayley Fritsch for Joel Smith. I've got no problem with Smith, it's that if we were going to run scared at the idea of their tall forwards (and rightly so as it turns out) I can't understand how Fritsch didn't survive at the expense of Tyson. Dom was great until Jack Viney came back, he has done chuff all since. Smith goes into defence, Fritsch shifts up the ground, and you never know what happens. I choose to ignore Bayley's two minutes of lunatic nervous play at the end of the second quarter last week and and assume he'd have made all the difference.

If the theory behind Smith was sound his execution was off, but it didn't help him to have forwards with zero interest in defensive pressure, a midfield haemorrhaging forward 50s, and teammates like Frost, Lewis and Jetta all simultaneously having their worst game of the season. Mass shittage of pants occurred across the ground, and it wasn't even like one of those days where you go four goals down but can see a hint of life. When Smith went forward for the second half it was the on-field equivalent of when that bloke in the stands waved the white flag. Kennedy and Sex Romper Darling (now appearing in a football romp as well) might have stitched us even more without him, but if the idea was to keep the score down it was one of the great finals mishaps. The surprise omission did provide Fritsch the chance to play for his old side in a VFL Grand Final instead, which they proceeded to lose in a thriller. Nobody gets out of this club alive.

As much as I hate focusing on individual umpires the stakes were high enough to look for any advantage. The idea of Ray Chamberlain getting a rush in his loins from umpiring in such a hostile environment and subconsciously (that's how our lawyers told us to write it) setting himself to go against the usual How The Locals Like It tradition appealed greatly. If only we'd given Ray the opportunity to call one deep in the last quarter that would have quite literally brought the house down. There's already talk of expanding the stadium, but if he'd been put in a position to play the ultimate heel to 58,000 people they'd have had to rebuild from a smoking crater first.

The contest wasn't officially over until the early minutes of the second quarter but clearly once they were three goals up from handball turnovers and narrowly missed two others (one of them from a handball turnover too) it was going to take the Miracle on Grass for us to launch a comeback. May as well have been the Miracle on Ice for the number of players we had falling on their arse, or as a tribute to West Coast's 2006 Premiership side. It wasn't like we went back and forth then conceded three finely crafted artisan goals, they just burst through our defences with brute force and commenced pillaging. As the famous 24 point margin was crossed I desired to to duck out and catch the early flight.

Imagine being one of the people who got their back up when David King suggested we'd be thrashed if we didn't improve on the Hawthorn game. I've had my digital disagreements with him over the years but this was an astute call. Last week was glorious, but as if this wasn't going to be a far sterner task. For a month the bottom six have played out of their skin. This time the bottom six, the middle six, the top six and the other four all disappeared as if they've been drafted by the Bermuda Triangle.

It was an unstoppable wave of destruction. Out of despair my mind went back to Adelaide 2017 when the margin peaked at 28 points before we plowed past them to win by plenty. The difference was that game started on an even keel before we went to sleep for 15 minutes, this started badly and just got worse. If there's any consolation - and there isn't - the fatal blow was delivered so swiftly that several other whacks of the axe during the second quarter didn't hurt. I just went numb, almost laughing at the absurdity of it all. The idea of going through all that stress and strain to make the eight, enjoying two grand nights at the 'G then losing a Prelim by 100 had a novelty value to it that caused me to completely slip my moorings and float through the rest like it was a virtual reality exhibition. Maybe this is the off-season for the long awaited repeat viewing of 186, just to work out how we could have possibly played a half nearly twice as bad as this.

A thrashing is never completely out of the question when we're involved, but I expected the result to still be up in the air at the start of the last quarter. We might have been six goals down, but some ridiculously minor chance. A modern version of Jim Stynes 1987 was optional, with a player being pinged a 50 after the siren for not running past the mark in the right geographical direction. The locals will never believe it but the umpiring wasn't a factor, mainly because it had no need to be. Other than the Viney incident there wasn't much to hold the interest of non-WA umpire bashers. We even got a cheap one in the pocket at three goals down that might have calmed the situation, Harmes missed and the carnage soon escalated.

By the time the margin was four goals I could tell there was no legal way for us to recover. The key forwards couldn't get near it, the midfielders occasionally got near it then turned it over and we were all hoping that Lewis wouldn't get near it again. Frost was suffering an almighty reality check from Josh Kennedy and the level of panic wouldn't have been out of place during a natural disaster. Still, stranger things have happened in footy. Probably not in a Preliminary Final but there's a first for everything. With the game already all but lost the quarter ended with 10 minutes of relentless pressure where they just couldn't find the knockout goal. If we'd emerged from that without conceding again we might have been a slim chance, instead conceding one right at the end of the quarter. Nobody had been this badly beaten up at Optus Stadium since Andrew Brayshaw.

If the last goal of the opening term was the cue to shut the gate, the opening minute of the second saw it bolted, padlocked and repossessed by the bank. The ball came straight out of the first bounce towards our goal and Frost's nightmare afternoon continued with a horrid wank handed 'tackle' that led to Josh Kennedy kicking his side's sixth. At this point I was still a bit upset by it all, but when he marked and goalled again a minute later anger was replaced by a lemon-lipped expression of disdain. From there the rest of the first half was spent on regular looks to my next door neighbour to confirm this was reality, or straight up as if God was going to select this moment to prove his existence by interfering in sports.

Procession mode was in full swing, one Eagle took advantage of the disarray of our defence to mark at the top of the square, then Neville Jetta's old mate Mark LeCras had the last laugh from their previous scuffle by almost accidentally backheeling the ball over the line. There was no point going to the video review, of course he'd made contact in time because it was just that sort of day. Later one of their shots to our end was going nowhere near goal before breaking late and going through - and later the same thing happened again. Luke Shuey was hobbling around with an ankle injury, George McGovern had been off for a concussion test and it matter not a jot in the context of them teeing off on us without raising a sweat.

Meanwhile our midfield was in distress, Oliver had an even excessive for him five kicks and 22 handballs, Viney 4/17 and was still by default our best and Tyson 3/11. Brayshaw and Harmes got the most kicks and simultaneously the most clangers as with nothing else to do they just threw ball on boot and prayed for something to happen. It never did, and we reached half time 63 points down with a grand total of 0.6.6 - the number of the inaccurate beast. Last time we had less at half time was Round 5, 2009 but our 0.3 looked a lot better against Adelaide's 4.6 than West Coast's 10.9. It's the furthest we've ever been behind after a goalless first half, beating the 57 in Round 14, 1919 when HALF OUR TEAM HAD JUST COME BACK FROM THE GREAT BLOODY WAR. What a startling collapse, but hey at least I was there to see a record. There was to be no tension induced coma.

It was not pleasant experiencing this in the stadium, overwhelmingly outnumbered and forced to sit there copping it sweet (albeit with a few people who were 100% not me unloading loose comments to locals about being inbred), but I still felt for those watching at home. Except that turkey Neil Mitchell who can now kindly piss off for another five years. His fake WWE style feud with the Perth radio station with the same owners as 3AW was an unwelcome distraction from somebody who hasn't been seen since arranging Mike Brady to write a patronising song about when we were shit. The purported beaming of frenzied Melbourne fans onto the screen at Optus Stadium consisted of about 15 seconds of footage from Fed Square, so thanks for arranging that Neil because it was a real winner. I'd like to have seen what the live site crowd looked like at half time, probably empty except for bemused tourists wondering why there was blood everywhere.

After being flavour of the month to date this was an opportunity for everyone to pile on, including the Western Australia police taking time off from framing suspects in gold robberies to do a funny about how bad we were. I don't want police to be amusing, I want them to successfully apprehend a pissed Ben Cousins when he does a runner from the booze bus. Then to prove anyone was welcome to have a go Baby John Burgess had a swing, receiving a reply that stands as the only ever amusing use of the term 'flog'.

A lot will be made of the criminally low tackle count, the worst in a final since 2008, but to lay a tackle you have to be within range of an opponent first. Forget that, give me the criminal handball tally. There were somewhere between several dozen and several hundred times where our players either grasped at thin air or failed to get all of a tackle and allowed the Eagles to break free. When Frost's absolute Gillies of a first quarter continued and allowed them to walk into an open goal at the start of the second I started to realise that we probably shouldn't rely on him to hold down a key position forever. Here's to the long sought after SME Killer Steven May, because regardless of Lever coming back next year this day demonstrated that it's one thing to have a finals backline, it's another to have one fit for a premiership. Next to the faltering Frost, Oscar did some nice things but was beaten by sheer weight of numbers. I still have faith in Smith in the contest but am not yet convinced by him with ball in hand. Mind you, it wouldn't have mattered if we had the full back of the century down there if 21 of his teammates were going to continually soil themselves under pressure.

Even before half time West Coast players didn't need to risk being tackled, they negotiated 18 red and blue traffic cones with the greatest of ease. They always had overwhelming numbers around the ball, including what felt like at the centre bounces even though that's impossible, and down the ground. Who knows where all our players were, but they weren't in a position to either get the ball or contest with the guy who did. At one stage a bloke did a basketball bounce past Lewis and Jones, and for all the times over the years I've referred to us as the Washington Generals vs the Harlem Globetrotters this was the first time anybody took it literally.

It was most certainly the worst of September times, probably the worst final we've played since the last time West Coast beat us by 10 goals in a prelim. Even the 2000 Grand Final had a few minutes in the first half where we were super-competitive and could suspend disbelief, this was just an hour of humiliation followed by a second hour toying with us like adults letting kids score a token victory to stop them from getting discouraged. Fortunately for us it's not in anybody's interest to press on and top the ton under these circumstances. The inevitable outbreak of self-preservation mode came immediately after half time, allowing us to escape what was morally a massacre with some tiny shreds of our dignity intact. When they dig the AFL record books out from our crumbled civilisation in a thousand years the historians of the future will go "hey, but they did alright in the second half!"

After all our wasted disposals, the third quarter heralded the immediate introduction of official Waste Disposal Time. Bins of all varieties were wheeled out across the state of WA in celebration at an hour of footy where there was no earthly way for them to miss the Grand Final. As the SANFL demonstrated during the week even sending on a 19th man wouldn't have led to them being DQed. I've enjoyed that feeling of liberation early in a game, but never with this much on the line. Only losing the second half by three points is not to be celebrated, there were times when Eagles players ran towards a contest and basically said "no you first" in case they emerged with a busted collarbone or a suspension.

I knew that we had to kick a minimum of one goal once West Coast players realised that they had bigger fish to fry seven days later, and in a sign of just where the game was going we finally got one via Oliver in the first minute. This was soon handed back by a Lewis blunder, and if he's still in best 22 by this time next year we'll probably have lost an Elimination Final two weeks earlier. I'm satisfied with him going on in 2019 based on a couple of good finals before this, but we are derelict in our duties if not already trying to line up a replacement. It was hard to decide what was worse, the criminally negligent free at the start or any of the multiple botched disposals after it. He's an easy whipping boy but Jesus H Christ what a time to play like you've just seen a ghost.

Defeat robbed us of a Gawn vs Grundy heavyweight title match at the biggest event of the year, but Maximum was back to the state of a few weeks ago where he looked to be way less than 100% fit. Maybe he just managed to push through when everything was going well, only to finally throw his hands up and go "bugger it" on the seventh or eighth hitout of the first quarter where none of his midfielders were within the same area code as an opponent. The rucking was fine, but finding somebody who can jump higher than their opponent and tap a ball is one thing there was none of the usual around the ground stuff that makes him so special.

He has played a mighty season and should be commended for making it through 25 games but you do wonder if there's something in getting a mature backup to help him out. The problem is what they're going to do the 20 weeks of the year when Max is playing, or the 95% of the time of those games he's rucking. And if there's a split in game what do they do while the other is in the middle - we've already got enough trouble fitting McDonald, Hogan and Weideman into the same forward line without having to park a resting ruckman as well.

For what it's worth (e.g. very little) Maximum not only shattered the record for most hitouts by any player in a season but the gap between his 1119 and the 60 of our 2nd place getter Tom McSizzle must be the most lopsided statistical difference between two teammates in history. He also had the second most contested marks on record in an MFC season (since 1999), second only to Neitz 2000. I don't expect him to win the Brownlow, but if the contest is in any way serious he'll finish in the top five. If it's one of those years when everyone talks rucks and he gets six votes then there is literally no point even holding a ceremony next year, just give it to the midfielder who had the most disposals.

Each side blundered through a few more goals but the only tension left was what price Eagles fans were going to pay for flights to Melbourne. If you thought our fans driving to the game were going to have an awkward trip home just wait for the stereotypical stories about Western Australians coming over on buses, trains, boats and zeppelins. Every single one of them in a polo shirt.

We finally got the much-needed leg up from the umpires when Melksham got a soft as butter administrative 50 for the second, and on the other side of a nice finish from Hannan and more Eagles goals Milkshake was handed another gift courtesy of a downfield free. It was a bit late for all this, and any belated benefits from the umpiring were wiped out by moments like Hannan getting a mile into space inside 50 then copping a bastard of a bounce. Not too long after they got one of their leg break specials and I reserved the right to feel ever so slightly persecuted as if there was some element of luck to being 10 goals behind.

If the third quarter was junk time, I don't know how to accurately describe the last. If you'd given up by then all you need to know is that Max Gawn ended his finest year the way he'd started it, missing a set shot from 20 metres directly in front. The home side was so disinterested that for a few minutes they let us get ahead for the second half before kicking the last two just to make a point. Their soft rock abortion of a theme song played, our players gingerly came towards us to applaud without getting too close and we waved goodbye to a season that always promised a bit, then briefly a lot before ending like all of them since 1965.

The extraction of piss was complete after the final siren, when just as 55,000 people were going off to Eagle Rock like they were at a 40th birthday party I got a text to say my flight was delayed an hour. With quite literally nothing else to do I walked back over the river to the WACA and watched South Australia bat out the last 10 overs of a one dayer. Even though I was never afford the opportunity to get wound up about footy this paid off well, riding out the extra hour focusing on something more productive than moping around the airport with all the other depressed Melbourne fans. When Nathan Coulter-Nile almost killed Adam Zampa with a narrowly avoided bean ball I momentarily forgot the other horror I'd just witnessed. But only momentarily.

On the way there I met an Eagles fan so pissed that he could barely walk and who had an extremely liberal attitude to swearing in front of his children. He was pleasant but it was a bit sad for kids to grow up seeing their dad getting ratshit at the footy and toppling all over the place. I'm no social worker, so I did what felt right and tried to explain to the older kid that he had to cherish the flag next week if it comes because it may never happen again. He won't, because at that age there's no pain to underpin the feeling of glory. The good news is that because he's an Eagles fan he'll probably get half a dozen more opportunities in his lifetime to find a premiership win that does suit him while I end up seeing FUCK ALL success.

Having no idea how to get into the WACA I followed this pisswreck bloke on a full lap of the venue looking for an open gate, only for him to instantly be refused entry by security for being too blind. "Your dad hasn't done anything wrong..." said the security guard to the kids as he made it clear their dad was off his guts. My pep talk about flags was more from the heart. With that I shook hands with the bloke, wished him well next week and went inside to try and think about anything other than footy. Which was easier said than done when about 500 other Melbourne fans had the same idea and every second bastard in the place was wearing red and blue.

With our flight the last to go from the lesser of Perth's domestic terminals it was easy to work out who was a normal traveller a bit sad about having to wait another hour with no access to domestic cricket and the Melbourne fans who'd already had their traumatic experience for the day. They all kept their merch on, whereas I realised that I looked like a goose, ducked into the bathroom and returned undercover. The haunted look on my face gave away the game though, and people kept starting "woe is us" conversations. Woe indeed but I had no interest in group therapy, I just wanted to grieve in my own way, be ungrateful about the season in general for a few hours and go home to eat my feelings.

I remained stoic until about halfway through the flight when fatigue and reality kicked in. The go home factor can get stuffed, anyone signing up to do that trip every second week is mad. I was already convinced Jesse Hogan would be crazy to go back to Perth and this proves it. No wonder Jeff White wanted out so quickly, imagine what it would have been like doing it in the 90s before online entertainment was invented? With no space for anything else on this crusty old plane which was probably flying on a code share arrangement with Air Rhodesia, all I could do was prop my head in my hands, shut my eyes and wait it out. With the number of disgruntled Demons on board (+ two gruntled Eagles fans) it's a surprise nobody drank the equivalent of a slab and ended up cable tied by the cabin crew.

The final reality of the situation hit me when we landed and a line of Melburnians miserably trudged into the terminal. From the second Melksham goal against Hawthorn until about 1.21pm Saturday I'd been holding onto a fantasy about coming off the plane on return to Melbourne as if I'd won the game myself. No idea who was supposed to be in the worst of all terminals to see it at 1am (much less the 2am that it became) but this was my brain on finals. In the dream sequence media, but anybody would have done, would have treated us like conquering heroes as we came off the tarmac with arms raised aloft. Instead there was one bloke who must have been frighteningly early for his flight sleeping on a couch. The Beatles at Shea Stadium it was not.

A last indignity came while trying to find my car. I knew I'd put it in H, and that it was sitting along a fence but was in such a state of premature euphoria on leaving Melbourne that I'd not bothered to note which of the 30 odd sections of H it was in. The fence was a vital clue, and thank god for that because if it had been in the general mix I might still be there now. For 20 minutes I wandered in one direction, then the other, pressing the unlock button on my keys and hoping to see lights flash. Thank god nobody else was around, because my frustrations with that fucking suitcase finally tipped over at this stage and I began to openly abuse it as if it was responsible for the whole stupid journey.

In his press conference Simon Goodwin said "you either win or you learn", and he's quite right. We are all richer for the experience. I didn't win, but I did learn to know my limitations and never again chase a sporting miracle outside the state of Victoria. Until we play a final in Adelaide. Or Sydney. Or Brisbane.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
One of those days where nobody deserves a cracker, and if not for the importance of the historical record I'd give all 15 votes to myself for showing up and enjoy a top 10 finish.

5 - Jack Viney
--- Less certain, almost completely uncertain ---
4 - James Harmes
3 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Michael Hibberd

Apologies to nil. Melksham or Neal-Bullen could have got a look in for the last vote I suppose.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal Final Leaderboard
Oliver had this award won last week, but adds another couple of votes to his already record tally. Not even in the same area code as his best games but sometimes players get lucky and rise to the top of a pool of slurry. Congratulations also to Harmes for his shock third place finish, Brayshaw for jumping McDonald into the top five, Viney for winning the finals award, Salem for seeing off the rest of the defenders for the Seecamp, and to the otherwise desperately unlucky Fritsch on the Hilton he had sewn up weeks ago..

Jako was there yesterday, imagine if I'd had the foresight to think about how to get him to either present Oliver with the award or record a message of support. In fact bugger that, imagine if I'd just flat out met Jako and not one contemporary Melbourne's player name was mentioned once.

64 - Clayton Oliver (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
51 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
36 - James Harmes
29 - Jesse Hogan
26 - Angus Brayshaw
24 - Tom McDonald
18 - Jack Viney (WINNER: As Yet Unnamed Medal for Best Finals Player)
16 - Bayley Fritsch (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Jake Melksham
11 - Christian Petracca
10 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - Michael Hibberd
8 - Jordan Lewis
7 - Neville Jetta
6 - Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Dom Tyson
2 - Sam Frost, Joel Smith (NB: Joel was being ripped off out of one vote in earlier weeks, this has been corrected)
1 - Cameron Pedersen

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
The winner of the weekly prize often comes from a first quarter goal, which isn't going to be a problem this time. Everything we got was when West Coast didn't give a shit any more, and even those were usually unimpressive. For want of any other excitement I'll go for Mitch Hannan in the third quarter. As a weekly prize he wins a Name A Game DVD of the first Perth Stadium game in order to relive better times.

Speaking of better times for Mitch, I've made an executive decision on the overall winner and he's it for his running goal in the Elimination Final. Second to Dean Kent in Perth, third to Charlie Spargo in Geelong. Ironically after 22 weekly prizes there is no overall prize except the honour of joining Salem, Jones, Watts and McDonald, Tom on the honour roll.

The perfect season is complete at 25-0, as we put out a well designed effort that was sadly not matched by the efforts of the men who ran through it. In competition West Coast had their players do their Human Centipede impersonation, traipsing through the inflatable anus of a droopy beaked Eagle which spewed them onto the ground with not a square of crepe paper to be seen. Seemed to work out alright for them. Congratulations to the Demon Army for achieving perfection, and we hope that Richmond sends some goose in a comedy suit into the Anzac Day commemorations again next season so we can get away without splitting the points again.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Match Experience Watch)
The stadium might look like a wood panel Swedish sauna from the outside, but inside it was all the Matthew Pavlich ads cracked it up to be. It looked good, was well set up with plenty of open space outside (as opposed to Docklands, eventual home of a deadly stampede), and the layout inside suggests there wouldn't be a bad seat in the house. I've not been to the Adelaide Oval but based on what you can see on TV it's not going to top this joint, which sets a high standard for new stadium construction in Australia. Even after the game when I felt like sticking my head in wet cement I still took a moment of take in the atmosphere, knowing it's highly unlikely I'll ever be back. When we do another Perth prelim in 24 years I'll see you at Federation Square.

I was on the very far-left of the cheersquad bay, leaving me in close proximity to West Coast fans across the aisle. Amongst a surprising number of people wearing bootleg $2 shop scarves their greatest crime may have been oohing and ahhing at an eagle flying around the stadium as if the same thing hasn't happened at every home game this year. There was also one humanoid proudly wearing a homemade shirt reading WE USED TO HAVE BIG COX, NOW WE HAVE A LITTLE WILLIE for god's sake. Coupled with a billboard inviting us to 'whack it with a Dickie" you have to wonder whether there's some statewide concern about penis length.

I didn't expect a Football Park in the early 90s style level hostility, but was still surprised at how little angst there was. The person behind me was having a roaring battle with one of the locals but from my perspective there wasn't any real tension. Why would there be when we were putting up such weak resistance? I did give a side-mouthed FOC to one guy who dropped a hit and run smartarse comment on his way up the aisle but otherwise it was quite civilised. After the game a few people who clearly weren't even taking the piss came over to shake hands and say well done for coming etc... etc... Unlike the guy outside the ground who gave a sarcastic "your team played well" while walking the other way and obviously didn't hear what I called him in response because it didn't end in fisticuffs.

Generally the mood was more one of celebration. It's probably hard to blow up about anything (other than umpiring) when you're preoccupied watching your team stomp a hapless opposition unmercifully. Now that we've mastered the art of killing Gold Coast, Carlton and Geelong let us pray that we may one day do the same in a Prelim or better.

However, as magnanimous as I am towards their success there were serious questions raised when the whole joint broke into a raucous Mexican Wave towards the end. I thought we were involved in a carnival atmosphere the last two weeks but this takes the cake and then some. It was heartening that whenever it came to us about 10 people did nothing but display the middle digit. They even had a higher calibre of celebrity guests - as much as I enjoyed seeing David Neitz going boont over the last few weeks their big screen threw to shots of Julie Bishop, Daniel Ricciardo and Andrew Gaff to an increasingly raucous reception every time. The only Western Australian celebrities not to get an airing were Rose Hancock and Rocket Racer.

It goes without saying that they booed everything, including Angus Brayshaw for being related to somebody who one of their players assaulted. It must be in the state DNA because when the Warriors were denied an LBW at the cricket they burst out in a chorus there too.
Next week
Of course I'll give in and watch next Saturday, but at the moment it feels too painful to contemplate seeing the game we might have been in. This would have been a lot harder if we'd gotten 40+ points closer. Maybe I'll just go for a long drive and listen on the radio. I've got good friends who are Collingwood fans and I want them to be happy, but the idea of the Pies unexpectedly winning a flag before us is too difficult to comprehend so to my Magpie chums I'm sorry I love you but it's West Coast with no enthusiasm. Hope they go a step better than their last Grand Final and actually turn up.

Before that there's the Brownlow on Monday night, where Max will go in as a top three fancy before finishing joint 23rd. If the umpires are ever going to recognise a ruckman it's one who crops up forward and back with crucial marks, but if I had any money that wasn't wasted on this stupid bloody trip I'd back Oliver to score more than Maximum. Otherwise it's come on anyone but Tom Mitchell just for the internet content after his managers prematurely had a crack at getting him $1k per interview after winning.

Next season
Proof, as if you needed it, that finishing top four and forcing interstate sides to come to us is crucial. There was something about doing the road trip and avoiding the scramble for tickets to the 'G that would have made this one of the great victories if we'd pulled it off, but now I'm back to being bitter and twisted about the Pies forcing us to go via Perth. All that and Howe is going to win a flag while the properly deserving Dunn sits on the sidelines with a crocked knee.

It's pretty unlucky to end up going to Perth for a prelim (this was the 6th since 1994) but in the future don't leave it up the kindness of strangers to avoid it. We've had our 'just happy to be here' run now and exceeded expectations, next year this has to be a double chance list or we risk it ending in the same way. Alternatively - just kick shit out of teams whenever, wherever. Either way flag please.

The list management picture is beginning to take shape. Of the uncontracted players we know Balic and Vince will go off the senior list, leaving a minimum one more to cut. Cleaning space to ring-in players from other clubs, and a potential senior list upgrade for Tim Smith, I'm going to suggest that Dion Johnstone is 100% going and Pat McKenna is 99% to follow. vandenBerg, Kent and Kennedy-Harris to survive and Declan Keilty to go around as a rookie again. Sadly I think it will be curtains for Cameron Pedersen, which is a shame because he would be a handy depth player. As for Mitch King and Lachlan Filipovic NFI, ruckmen survive longer but King is ending his third season so they're going to have to make a decision pretty quickly on whether they want to persist with him. I haven't got Tom Bugg's contract status but I reckon he might be in all sorts as well if he doesn't have a deal for next season.

Unless they're going to spring something surprising on us Jack Watts style (e.g. the always mooted Hogan switcheroo) I can't see much trade bait. Kent might want more opportunity, and I'd be trying to flog Tyson but otherwise everyone who has any sort of value would be required. Jayden Hunt and Jeff Garlett are the only other ex-regulars confined to the VFL and I can't see us getting enough for either to justify dumping them. Like Kent, Garlett might want to go somewhere he can get a game but it's not going to be at a top club. With Tyson I know this sounds ludicrous after potting him for half the season but think he'd be smart to find somewhere that he can be a starting mid, with Harmes' emergence it's not working for him to be stuck in the queue with us.

Then there's Weideman, who crashed back to earth this week but had his value go through the roof against Geelong. If I was him I wouldn't be sitting back and waiting for Hogan to come back and squeeze me out. If nothing else his manager should be working the phones Canberra style to see if anyone else is interested - I don't fancy a set of three tall forwards next year so something's going to have to give.

I suspect the delistings will start coming through by the end of this week. And from now until trading kicks off on 08/10 that'll be all there is of interest for us.

Administrative announcement
So that's the end of my madness years, 12 seasons of barely missing a game in Victoria sold out for filthy shift work dollars. I'm giving myself a KPI of seeing 18 home and away games either live or live on tape without knowing the result next year. It might be more, it could very well be less, but having played my hand as a lunatic by making this trip at the drop of a hat there's no option to chuck a bunch of carefully laid out sickies to get to games. In fact it would look so bad that I'll probably have to work game days even if genuinely afflicted. It's safe to assume that finals (if relevant) will be viewed by any means necessary.

What this means is that guest reporters will definitely be required next season. I'm not even factoring AFLW and pre-season games into that 18. My intention is to cover everything but it would take an amazing miracle for the fixture to work in my favour 30 times in a season. During the off-season I'll be putting out an expression of interest for those who want to accept the not-at-all poison chalice and etch their name in history. Please do not run a mile thinking you either have to a) attend the game in person, or b) write Unabomber length manifestos about your experiences. I'll give you a template with all the important segments to cover and how you get there is up to you. If I can't fill a guest spot I suppose it'll be me writing about replays where I already know the result, which promises to be the most boring content in history so for god's sake please be ready to enlist and serve as required.

Also, there is one more post to come this year. I'm used to having all September to drag out the same gags for the end of season spectacular, so with the delayed schedule it could land at any time between Grand Final Day and Christmas. Links in all the usual places when available.

Casey Corner
If we'd won in Perth I'd probably have done a lap of honour at Fortress Shithole to watch the VFL Grand Final, but as I don't feel like leaving the house until about December that wasn't happening. It's a poor substitute for the real thing but there was still enough emotional investment in the players involved to want Casey to win. In direct contrast to the senior team they shot out to a dominant early lead before collapsing in a heap. To be fair, they've been losing finals a lot longer than we have. They're now 4-14 in finals during the alignment years, with all the wins coming in Grand Final years and 0-12 otherwise. Somewhere there's a Springvale fan shedding a tear, personally I'm just happy to see them develop our kids.

It's disappointing for Bernie Vince (and perhaps Pedersen) to miss a flag, especially when he had the chance to cut the margin to less than a goal with time left for another, but overall a fittingly disappointing way to end a Melbourne career. The ex-Scorpions won two finals - one massacre and one thriller - but realistically they've been on the wobble since the last month of the AFL when injuries at both levels began to affect them them. They still had plenty of senior listed players today, but so did the opposition and here we are still without any sort of real, non-AFLX silverware for anyone connected to our organisation since Sandringham 2006.

Was it worth it?
For now the emotions are too raw to say it was anything other than the worst contribution to Australian exploration since Leyland Brothers World. One day I hope to appreciate the cost, time and effort involved.

Final Thoughts
For now it's on with what used to be the best time of the year to be a Melbourne fan - delist - trade - draft, as we search for the secret recipe that will take us two wins further in 2019. Which is great, but won't stop me having to go to work in the morning and discuss this game with everyone. I don't want to talk to with Collingwood fans, people I didn't know were Melbourne supporters until a fortnight ago or anybody whose side has lost a prelim but later won a flag. In the final stages of the flight home the pilot thoughtfully commiserated with us, then ruined it by saying "I know what it's like after last night". No you don't dickhead, dry your eyes on a flag.

I don't want to hear from the non-footy people who've watched my recent excitement with bemused fascination. I don't even want to talk to Melbourne fans about it. Find me a West Coast supporter and I'll congratulate them, everyone else can piss right off. How about we just do some bloody work for once?