Monday 30 April 2018

Randy Salvage

Above: An important cargo barely saved from ruin. Not pictured - Melbourne Football Club.

After an unnecessarily hysterical media focus on our capitulation against Hawthorn, we sure got away with being nothing more than enthusiastic battlers for three quarters against Richmond. It helped that attention immediately switched to the Anzac Day game, then immediately towards the new round. There was no time to think deeply about how badly Richmond bottled us up, you just had to accept the company line that the effort was good enough and move on to Essendon.

Effort is great, but Terry Wallace's famous spray got it right. Everyone focuses on "I'll spew up!", but I'd like to print out signage with the second the bit where he says: "Fantastic effort, but what does a fucking fantastic effort mean? It doesn't get us anything. We don't get diddly squat" and stick it up in the changerooms.

For a half against the Bombers it looked like we were going down the same path as Tuesday night, trying our guts out but being hung by a lack of speed and system - and this time against much worse opposition. Then Essendon come out after half time, said "that will do us" and died in the arse. Maybe that was all part of the plan, adopting Muhammed Ali in Zaire style rope-a-dope techniques to tire them out so we could take advantage? That's just the kind of insane scenario you'd only get at this club. That and a player missing a game because he's been bitten by a dog.

For almost my entire supporting life the Melbourne Football Club has been untrustworthy. Both times we've played finals three seasons in a row since I showed up we've gone out meekly every time. Other than that it's either been up and down like a rollercoaster or just completely down to the point where you never got your expectations up long enough for them to be harpooned. At least in the Neeld/Craig plunge n' plummet era you knew where you were. I just didn't like being there without a paddle.

The lack of trust extends both across seasons (and sometimes decades), into individual games. This was one of those days where you get teased that something terrifically bad is going to happen before out of nowhere we start playing properly and emerge with our dignity intact. It wasn't quite a stranglewank, but it sat spiritually in the same neighbourhood. And it ended in a comfortable win, so honestly who's got anything to complain about? At least until next week.

At first the game was the sort of congestion fest that makes people want to change all the rules, as if you can engineer nine amazing games a week when there's about four good teams in the league, and we were lucky that Essendon was entirely incapable of taking advantage of their ability to get the ball into space and dash off towards goal. You'd like to think that we'd have overrun them when they stopped dead in the second half anyway, but the further you go behind the higher stakes everything becomes. You can't play Russian roulette every week and expect not to wind up dead.

It was our good fortune that they were left on the side of the road carrying a jerry can. Victory is not even tainted in the slightest by us having the extra day off (because you'd have to work bloody hard to taint any four points we get), but we'll have to wait until next week to discover if the form shown in the second half is transferable on the same ground against equally generic mid-table opposition.

We had one more defeat in us before every game became life or death stuff, but defeat here would have meant having to win the next three to realistically stay in the hunt. Essendon was in the same spot, but without looking at their run home I'd wager it doesn't resemble legging it through a minefield like ours does so they could afford to slightly more comfortably absorb a loss. They won't look it at that way, but nobody has done more work in the study of how to manipulate a fixture to fall into the lower realms of the top eight than me. Keep reading to discover where to pick up your free Bradbury Plan 2018 wallchart.

Even though we might have seen our season for all intents and purposes ended after six games, is that necessarily a bad thing? Under the expanded wildcard finals system of the future you'll be able to start the season 2-4 and amble back to 11-11 by the last round and still make it. Games like this won't even be worth leaving the house for. Is anyone - other than spectacle chasers and neutrals - satisfied at the idea of the losing team of this game still being well in range to play finals without having to go on a seriously impressive run of wins? What a wank.

If it came down to a first past the post vote I'd rather them do silly shit to the rules than introduce wildcards. Extra finals spots would suit us down to the ground, but any competition that allows a team from below halfway to have a shot at winning the title is not worth watching. How about we turn some of the undoubted talent on this list into a glorious string of victories that set us up to make what will probably be the last real top eight before things get silly and/or American? After yesterday this is still a semi-realistic possibility.

The light blue Studio 54 disco jumper evokes a party atmosphere, but the first quarter was like a nightclub where everyone had taken a bad batch of gear. The first minute featured the same insane pressure in the packs as Tuesday night, before predictably Essendon went forward for a score the very first time they extracted the ball into clear space. I'd have been disappointed, but by now I've come to expect that this is how we'll play every week. The only question is whether the opposition are good enough to take advantage - the problem being that sets you up to fail against the best teams and is vulnerable to bad days out against the others.

It's like we're trying to suck the ball towards our goal to launch lightning counter-attacks, except that usually once we get the ball in defence there's no bastard to kick to. For all the naive Owl Energy enthusiasm of Jayden Hunt there's no point in him smashing through the defence if he turns it straight over.  How I'd love to enjoy at least one day where we played like teams do against us, with half their squad patiently waiting for a turnover, then cartwheeling down the ground arms with aloft, waiting their turn to get a disposal. Nothing has changed on this front since 2016. If we were still running into open goals going the other way you'd accept it as a trade off, but I don't fancy having to physically and mentally break teams like this before opening up the scoring every week.

Theoretically the return of Tom McDonald should have provided a decent target, except that for the first half we took the only player we've got who can lead at the ball and/or take a contested mark and played him in some weird defender/wingman/space filler role that played to none of his strengths. The bit in the first quarter where he passed the ball 15 metres along the defensive 50 to Hogan, who then had nobody to kick it to, said it all about our ongoing struggle to create scoring opportunities. Maybe instead of railing against rule changes designed to artificially increase the number of goals I should be embracing them out of sheer self interest? Then you look at the way our defence has been bent out of position several dozen times this year and realise that no, clagging the game up is probably overall best for business.

To nobody's surprise, when McDonald went forward in the second half it worked a treat. He stuffed his one chance at a bullet lead by running back towards goal Hogan style just as Weideman was set to stick it on his tit, but otherwise it worked for me. After what Hulk did up the ground against Richmond I'd rather we freed him to roam and left Sizzle at home to aim at, but it was a good start to what should be a productive partnership. Unless it turns out we rushed McDonald back too quickly, and running around on a thin strip of turf atop a parking lot roof leaves him as the new Mitch Clark.

All's well that ends well, but I suspect letting the opposition get so much run is going to come back to haunt us eventually. It wasn't even their stars doing us in, we gave Dyson Heppell miles of space but a lot of the damage was being done by a first gamer with the absolutely absurd, Clutterbuck-esque name of Kobe Mutch, and some other bloke who sounded through wonky AM radio like he was called Gaddafi. Like the real Libyan strongman he met a grisly end, but not before giving us plenty to worry about.

Another one goal first quarter was a concern, especially when the opposition were missing opportunities all over the place. When we battled against the tide to keep them to one in the first 20 minutes before Hannan got the first I thought it might have been the start of something big, before conceding the second almost immediately after. We were wide open to suffer the usual avalanche of uncontested goals, but Essendon didn't have it in them to deliver and eventually paid the price. By the end of the quarter we'd somewhat started to level things out, and it was our turn to miss a couple of golden opportunities.

The second quarter started better, with Gawn missing another shot from right in front before Charlie Spargo added to what had already been a good debut with his first. I've had no time to take more than a cursory interest in the VFL this season, so his debut caught me by surprise. On Thursday night I thought it was a token effort to find a warm body who'd had an extra few days break, but he used all the experience from looking like James Harmes' 35-year-old father to put in a confident, assured performance. He never looked out of place, and even chucked in some niggle against Brendan Goddard - which always goes down a treat. Let's see it a few more times before we get really excited, after all Michael Evans did once get votes on debut at the same venue and look what happened to him - but it was as solid a debut as you could hope for.

For all the excitement of seeing a young (?) man kick his first AFL goal via perfectly judged crumb, we'd probably have been better off if he'd missed considering we then turned off and allowed them to kick a pair immediately after. The first was one of those classic goals that make you overreact and think there's no way your team can win, a player marking, being called to play on immediately and still having time to turn around and snap the goal. The second was even worse, a wave of players surging out the backline, leaving everyone in disco blue trailing sadly behind. Maybe that was the fast break that put them all away? In that case it was genius.

When the margin got out to 16 points I was starting to browse Effigies 'R Us to see if they had a Goodwin model available, before our old mate Joe Daniher did us a solid by being pinged holding the ball, allowing Melksham to finally set up an 'out the back' goal with a pinpoint 40 metre pass to Spargo for his second. The Milkshake then made the next one as well, dropping a perfect pass on Hannan 40 metres out directly in front. Not only a perfect pass, but perfect positioning. And crucially, shithouse defending. After a slow start this has been a golden week for Melksham, with the return of McDonald (and to be fair, the improved performance of Weideman) it was like playing with a half-forward line again.

It was a good day for the less well-known forwards. When Fritsch turned up in Round 1 looking entirely comfortable in senior company, I thought Hannan was a certainty to wind up in the Magner/vandenBerg file of one season wonders. What I failed to take into account was what would happen if you removed Garlett. Let's see them together a few more times before declaring it a winning combo, but on this day they were both fantastic. The guy sitting next to me insisted that we had to pick "Jeffy" (bah) "because he can win games". Which is true, but while I'm not entirely off him I'd prefer the four quarter contribution of Frannan than the occasional burst with ball in hand and not much else.

Given how torturous our ball movement was we were lucky to only be a good down at the half. It was real 14th vs 15th stuff, but maybe instead of looking for the coordinates to call an airstrike down on Etihad Stadium we should have remembered what happened last year. That was a slog first half full of mistakes too, before we ran them into the ground in the third quarter. The same thing happened again, almost exactly. In 2017 they were up by two at half time, we kicked eight goals to two in the third quarter and won by 38. This time the margin was six, the goals were seven to one and the margin 36. Both times I'd love to have kicked the shit out of them in the last quarter, but you can't blame the players for clamming up and entering self-preservation mode on such a short turnaround.

I'd like to say I never doubted we were going to win, but I very much did. When goalkicking is made looks so difficult it's hard to see a way that you'll score enough to win, let alone end up topping the century. You can cite historical precedent for suggesting Essendon ran out of legs in the second half, but let's not totally discount our own contribution. Almost immediately as the third quarter started there was a bit more life about us, and some run into space that removed the requirement to start every attack from inside a decompression chamber of 23 players. The forwards didn't get much more space, but at least the delivery put the opposition under pressure instead of merrily booting it to a Daw, Rance etc... (and who'd have thought they'd ever end up in the same example?) to mop up without pressure.

Meanwhile at the other end Essendon's attack was malfunctioning about as much as ours usually does. Like a low-rent version of Hogan on Tuesday night, Daniher couldn't get near the ball inside 50 and started wandering up the ground to find a kick. This left his side almost entirely bereft of targets, and because we knew he couldn't do any damage on the wing it allowed us to set up a wall for them to kick into. Which they did about 25 times in the next hour.

This suited Lever much better than the first half when he was having a 'mare, and whenever the ball hit the ground Jetta latched onto it like a vacuum cleaner. It was an encouraging defensive performance, with Hibberd playing another good game and Sizzle Jr continuing to grow in statue - but perhaps not the best attack to judge them against considering that until junk time we'd still have beaten them with their Anzac Day score included. Still, it should (SHOULD) be enough to take care of everyone we play in the next three weeks other than Tom Lynch. Now, watch your McCartin, Casboult, [insert some Suns player you've never heard of] maligned types go to town on us.

Within five minutes we'd turned a six point deficit into a two goal lead, at last delivering a run of goals without having to concede six in a row first. The way Gawn had been kicking for goal I thought no bloody chance when he marked in the pocket, directly in front of some peanut who was to soon make himself infamous, but true to his goalkicking history of missing the sitters and getting the ones you don't expect he checksided it through effortlessly. Having him rest forward and scare their defenders while Weideman or McDonald took the centre bounces was a winning move.

The third in quick succession came via a solid mark from Fritsch, with an assist from what looked to the naked eye like an exceedingly illegal shepherd from Melksham. The ridiculous nature of umpiring interpretations presumably deemed it was ok because he never took his eyes off the ball. And so it should be, but how stupid when he obviously knew a player was right behind him but would have been pinched if he'd turned around to look at him.

The circumstances of that goal undoubtedly displeased the Jimmy Toumpas looking peasant in the forward pocket who then went right off his face when Maximum was given a dubious free in the exact same spot as his last kick. I can't think of anything worse in life than ending up on television looking like an idiot, hanging over the fence yelling provocative statements at players. His ill-bred conduct was made to look even more ridiculous when Gawn steered the goal through and gave the bloke a casual point. I don't know Max personally, but I feel he definitely would have passive aggressively called the guy 'champ' and/or 'Tiger'.

No doubt the Anti Fun League are already issuing a 'please explain' letter to Max, and he'll be forced to apologise a'la Clayton Oliver to that Carlton goose from last year. Forget your high priced Grand Final Day entertainment, run the sprint then hold a tag team match between Maximum Hamburglar and the Dynamic Dickheads. The Essendon fan was probably one of the same clowns unloading a light smattering of boos whenever Hibberd or Melksham got the ball. Which is impolite when for all any of us know their club might have injected them both with Typhoid.

Essendon's only goal for the third quarter was a real charity job, Salem panicking when unexpectedly called to play on during a kick-in and chipping it straight into the path of an Essendon player. It was just the sort of disaster that we'd be going on about for the next 12 years if it had caused the momentum shift and led to defeat, but as we won we can all laugh about it now.

If, like me, you're the sort of person who thinks a 31 point lead at three quarter time is not nearly enough you'll have loved the hapless Essendon player marking inside 50 and playing on just as the siren went. The underrated highlight was the reaction of Jake Lever, whose glee at the cock-up should be zoomed in on and become a GIF that we can rip out whenever anything goes right for us in the future. It was yet another reason why the countdown clock should never be introduced inside the ground.

It would be nice to get it on the radio though, I've been whoring my favours around to all the stations this year and it's like there's a directive not to tell you how much time there is left. All you get is "there's just enough time for another score". Speaking of the radio, I'd like to see SEN do well but what lunatic thought putting Danny Frawley and Adam Cooney in the same commentary box was a good idea? Even before the first bounce the level of buffoonery was so spectacular that I had to turn over to the Tobin Brothers, where even four quarters of David Parkin making self-deprecating comments about being elderly represented the far lesser of two evils. They didn't bother to give time checks either.

At long last a spoiling disaster finally worked in our favour, gifting Hannan what was realistically the match-winner at the start of the last. I still wasn't confident, but up and out the door went about 10,000 Essendon fans as if there was a fire alarm that home fans had priority access to. Good thing to, it ensured the walk back to the station didn't feel like it was about to break into a deadly stampede. Hogan and McDonald got more, the latter from a perfect piece of crumb that made me want to fight his critics in the car park, and I was just about satisfied the result was safe.

I hoped we'd keep them goalless for the last quarter, meaning their only one from the half would come directly from our foul blunder, but it was not to be and they padded their score with four compensations. The Round 6, 1992 panic rule was invoked when Hunt giving away a goal with a silly downfield free kick, but Fritsch replied soon after and I allowed myself to relax at last.

In the end, a good day at the office but not sure how much it translates to the future. Still, for now it did the job. It was our first near death experience of the season and we did what was necessary to come out alive. The only downside is that if we play them in this fixture again next year no matter how deep a hole we're in at half time everyone will be expecting to put them to the sword in the third quarter, leading to the inevitable internet meltdown when it doesn't happen.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
I could have had 10 players in here, and in almost any order. If you don't like it lodge a case with our customer feedback department and we'll get back to you with a response in seven business days.

5 - Mitch Hannan
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - Jake Melksham
2 - Max Gawn
1 - Neville Jetta

Apologies to Jones, Hibberd, Brayshaw, O. McDonald and Spargo for narrowly missing out on the votes in a blanket finish.

Even with different players in the top two spots, the plot still thickens at the top. It's looking increasingly unlikely that anyone outside the top four is going to win this, but we live in hope of somebody completely unexpected ripping out half a dozen BOGs in a row and taking the competition by storm.

For fans of the minors, Fritsch has opened the door for the 2018 Hilton. Based on last year he might almost win it with four.

15 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Clayton Oliver
13 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Nathan Jones
6 - Jake Melksham
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Christian Petracca
4 - Bayley Fritsch (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
3 - Dean Kent
1 - Michael Hibberd, Neville Jetta, Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Maybe it's the surprise of him finally converting multiple opportunities, but it's hard to go past Gawn's second. The jawing with a nuffy before, and the subtle point to him after were what boosted it past the original. For the weekly prize Max wins a fancy dinner with the Essendon fan so he can slowly and patiently explain all the ways that his life is infinitely superior.

The clubhouse leader remains Melksham's comeback goal around the corner against Richmond.

The Essendon fans around me seemed like sane and rational people, probably because they're the type who sit at the back rather than hanging over the fence trying to provoke athletes who are paid $500,000 a year. That doesn't explain the dumpster fire disaster that the Bombers cheersquad put out here. 'Funny' banners that feature punchlines that Julia Morris wouldn't touch are a scourge on modern football, and this wildcard suggestion that celebrity animal bite victim Christian Petracca was at the snow was no exception.

Now, I'm not precious enough to get excited by them taking the piss out of our players but poorly thought out attempts at comedy grind my gears. I reiterate my offer to ask as a paid slogan consultant to any cheersquad in the competition. You bring me your second rate comedy, I'll edit it so it at least scans properly.

The key issue, as pictured, is that unless Truck has gone overseas there is no snow. I went to Falls Creek in 1987 and have never been back since, but even I know that you can't ski in April. This capped off a day where I turned on AFL Game Day just to cry over Jack Watts' studio appearance and Hamish McLachlan cracked a gag about cheese platters that fell flat on its face, leading to him awkwardly repeating the punchline and still not receiving more than polite, nervous laughter.

More importantly, if they left making it late enough to know that Petracca wasn't going to play was there not one person capable of whipping up a quick gag about the fact that he'd been chomped on by a canine? I'd have worked in a cheap shot at the NRL and gone with:



On the other hand, ours was solid, inoffensive and entirely lacking opposition 'banter' that primary school kids would reject as too simplistic. 6-0 Dees for the season.

Crowd watch
It's difficult to take the moral highground on matchday entertainment when your club puts people in overalls and has them fall on their head in front of 75,000 people but Essendon is nearly at Carlton levels of unconvincingly trying to remind you that they're very much still a powerhouse club. I might have had traumatic flashbacks to the 2000 Grand Final just by Darren Bewick showing up, but it lost some of the terrifying effect when they had him vigorously turning the handle of an air raid siren.

Then, in one of the less well received attempts at a crowd rev-up the ground announcer tried to lead the audience in a soccer style chant of "We are Essendon, say we are Essendon" to the sensible disinterest of everyone in the stadium. There was also a surprise quarter time appearance by somebody dressed as Captain America, who had one line to deliver at the end of the promotion and said it just as the siren went.

As for Docklands itself, it can't be a coincidence that ever since we've started to win there I've started to like the place. The closed roof is a major factor, I might be a traditionalist when it comes to some things but put a lid on every stadium as far as I'm concerned. What holds it back from ever challenging the 'G is the inability to get away from people whenever there's a halfway decent crowd.

Unless you deliberately sit in the restricted viewing area - which I noticed a few weirdos were - you can't escape being in too close proximity to other fans. The Essendonians around me were reasonable enough coves, all too far back to charge the fence and make arseholes of themselves on national television, but I hate having kids right in front of me, especially when it's some junior Charlie Church that turns around and glares when you mutter "JESUS CHRIST!" under your breath. If that causes concern please join me in Row MM one week for the full indecent language experience.

Next week
Now people are going to look at the second half and assume we'll easily beat St Kilda, which is a dangerous way to approach things. They're not very good, but at the same time they did recently give GWS all sorts of trouble so let's not pretend we're playing them in the Sean Charles/Brett Moyle era. We've already made beating North look more difficult than it was in the pre-season, so nothing is a given. What does work in our favour is a surprisingly good recent record at Docklands, where the narrow confines of the car park roof cut out 20 metres of space where teams would otherwise butcher us up and down the wings.

IN: Petracca
OUT: Neal-Bullen (omit)
LUCKY: Tyson, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Pedersen

I thought Harmes was much improved on the last couple of weeks, but wouldn't be surprised if he's rotated out for a rest. Just hope they don't rush Garlett back in, Hannan/Fritsch have to be given a chance to prove this wasn't a fluke. I've enjoyed Garlett over the last few seasons, but he was rotten after the Brisbane game, and by all accounts not much chop at Casey so give the kids their chance.

The All New Bradbury Plan
After six weeks we can start to look at where other results will help and hinder us. Should we win enough games to remain in touch with the eight this list will be regularly updated:

Can win every week - will clearly be above us - Richmond and GWS
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - West Coast, Adelaide
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other - Geelong, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Sydney
Preferred result depends on opposition - North Melbourne, Collingwood, Fremantle,
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Gold Coast, Footscray, St Kilda and Essendon
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane and Carlton

Mind you, this may all be in vain - take a look at the top eight as it stands now and tell me any of them other than North are going to drop out. By Round 11 we'll either be able to identify the preferred Bradbury result in each game or won't care anymore because our season will be cactus.

Was it worth it?
On the balance of things yes, and I hope the Carlton fan who spent 20 minutes on the train telling me about how much she hated Essendon fans appreciated it. For the first five minutes it was cute, for the next several stations I was desperately giving cues that I wanted to get out of the conversation and go back to stressing about the game in my own private way. I've rarely been happier on public transport than when she got off at an intermediate station instead of going all the way to Spencer Street.

Final thoughts
We're only a game under where I thought we'd be after six, but none of the wins have been particularly impressive. That's what makes the next three so important. If we don't win two we're dead no matter what, if we don't win three we deserve to be.

The last word goes to an Essendon fan on the train home, who matter of factly declared: "they were shit". I'm not sure which side she meant, but we were six goals less shit than them and live to fight another day.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Don't forget: you're here forever

The person who said "the darkest hour comes before the dawn" failed to factor in what it's like following Melbourne. At least this year when they send out a finals ticket brochure the day after we're eliminated you'll get it in June.

Yes, we're back to our safe place of teetering on the brink of crisis. After a glorious week of being Victoria's #1 team we've served up a pair of steamy turds that have left us better off than only St Kilda, Footscray and Carlton - all of who we're a red hot chance of losing to later in the year. Cue chaos, with a large faction of supporters trying to hang, draw and quarter the coach lining up against a minority dissenting opinion that suggests we should have been satisfied with briefly challenging the premiers before folding like umbrellas in the last quarter.

I'm not voting for either side. The entire Melbourne experience has flattened me so much that it's hard to get wildly excited one way or the other. What I do know is that we kicked eight goals for the night, played in front of 10,000 less people than last year and were generally dragged around the nose like a farm animal. That it was against a side in hot form is only partial comfort after watching us play like Mark Neeld was holding Simon Goodwin hostage a'la Max Walker in The 12th Man.

It was one of those uncomfortably ugly but not entirely disastrous performances that inflames passions, but for now can we retain some shred of dignity and not turn the place into a war zone requiring intervention by the United Nations? Things have gone very badly since 20 minutes into the Hawthorn game, but in the next four weeks we play Essendon, St Kilda, Gold Coast and Carlton - four teams in varying states of terrible form. Don't be the person left without any effigies to torch on Sunday 20 May when we've really stuffed things up.

It's not a ringing endorsement, but at least this was a better performance than against the Hawks. Conversely, this result has done more to harpoon my belief in this team going anywhere quickly. I was prepared to give them a week to regroup, nobody has worn the Veil of Negativity better than me but even I thought the outpouring of grief after one insipid defeat was well over the top. When AFL360 rip out the dramatic video package of distressed and/or angry fans you know you're in trouble. Which always seems cruel to the people pictured, unless they support other clubs then it is tremendous viewing.

There was much consternation over the suggestion in this article that you shouldn't let your kids follow Melbourne. I disagree entirely, it's important to develop a siege mentality at the earliest possible age. At least if you can't convince them to follow you into disaster then at least steer them away from footy entirely and make sure no other team benefits. Then when we can't replace the pokies money and are relocated to Penang you can spend more quality time with your children.

Now I want the scrutiny. The club itself should clam up and get on with business, and supporters should take a deep breath, but give me all the media exposes and slow motion insights into where it went wrong. I didn't think we'd beat Richmond, even when we got to within a goal in the third quarter, but while it was nothing near the worst defeat of the last few years the performance was so stagnant and lacking in creativity that you lose confidence in beating any team that matters. It made me wonder if I'd overrated us as a fringe finals contender. The people who were roped into thinking we'd finish top four must be hearing that famous line "ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Serves you right, nothing realistically suggested we'd take the great leap forward this year.

Last week's Melbourne Member Meltdown led to a lot of club personalities being prematurely wheeled out to talk about our 'brand' and what the 'narrative' is/was/should be. It all came off like a tremendous wank, give me the David Brent free experience. The days of Mick Malthouse looking like he was about to garrotte Mark Stevens with his own microphone cord are over, but spare me these chintzy catchphrases that are supposed to give the impression that everything's under control but make it look more like it's not. There's no point in them whipping themselves publicly again - not that there was last week - so I'm happy for them to work the fictional PR line that this was a half-decent performance if that's what it takes to focus for the Bombers on Saturday.

After all that (and changes in the coaching box which are probably not nearly as drastic as the guy who hosts the club's official podcast makes it out to be) I was hoping that we might get into the spirit of Anzac Day by playing I Was Only 19 while all the well-regarded juniors that we've ruined by drafting them did a lap of the oval. Port would have had to agree to let Trengove, Toumpas and Watts come over for it but it would have been a great chance to heal. Remember the Friday night in 2004 where they paraded past players around the ground so we'd forget about all the board turmoil then Neita kicked nine? More of that please. After that game Neale Daniher said: "I'm really happy for our supporters to be able to witness a Melbourne team really firing up. It was a great night for the club. The players did a bit of soul-searching after last week and they knew we were better than that" and it would be dandy if we could do something to encourage the incumbent to say the same next week.

Speaking of Jack Redvers Watts, remember the people who told us that all our troubles were over when he got the boot? That a new standard of amazing professionalism would sweep over the club in his absence? Looks to me like we're still prone to losing games via being completely mental for a quarter or two. You couldn't question that the players were having a bash for most of the night - especially the first quarter - but whatever amazing steps we were supposed to have taken on the training track don't mean anything if you play the game like you're trying to set the world record for the most players that can be stuffed into one part of the ground simultaneously. There's no point in litigating the Watts case again, but I still think he'd have come in handy this year.

More than 24 hours later I feel a lot better about how good Richmond are compared to us. It's a sobering reminder that we're not going to unexpectedly challenge for a flag, but my goal was to make the eight so I'll be willing to settle for that as a first step. It's not like we didn't have chances to score, but in a flashback to the year when Dawes was our leading goalkicker under a ruthlessly defensive coaching regime we made it look so complicated that you wanted to gouge your eyes out.

The issue of needing a Jesse Hogan up the ground and another one inside 50 reared its ugly head again. He played an excellent game, but when he was in attack nobody could get the ball to him, and when he ventured down-field to take marks and provide a link in the chain there was nobody to go to next.

I thought Sam Weideman had a whole-hearted crack, and like that Adelaide game last year his pressure at ground level is fantastic but he couldn't hold a mark running at the ball for shit (though he did manage to pull down a good one going away from it) so we were left unnecessarily contesting for the ball at ground level, when we should have been quickly going deep into attack. His rucking was surprisingly competent so I'm happy to give him another go, but I can't wait for Tom McSizzle to get back down there so Hogan can afford to shift up the ground (possibly not all the way to the half-back flank Baileyball style), or provide a second big target to aim at.

Even when we were attacking continually in the first quarter you could feel it was one of those days where the other side would shortly regain their senses and start playing keepings off. It was the same story that we've seen many times over the last couple of seasons, if we could get the ball to the middle of the ground we could get it inside 50 but the delivery was ordinary, and the structure on the other end were tracking somewhere between lacking and non-existent. It led to rushed chances at best, and only a slight delay before conceding a score.

If Richmond got the ball inside their 50 it was lights out, we were lucky if it escaped without a goal being kicked within five minutes. I liked the defence as individuals, though the system fell apart a few times, but what I hated was the one-dimensional way of moving the ball up the ground. Over and over again we hoofed it down the line for no reward. The idea of a heat-map is a bit gimmicky (except when Josh Wagner's drew a cock and balls against North), but our second quarter one was a horror story.
Any danger of a switch? No, it was just whacking it down the line at Gawn and hoping for the best. This just fed more Richmond opportunities, and we were lucky that they spectacularly cocked up a number of opportunities in the first half. Oscar was doing a good on Riewoldt, Lever was playing his best game yet, and Hibberd was on top form for almost the first time all year but about the only time we went into the middle was when a panicked kick out of a pack bobbled in that direction. Tyson made a horrible mess of one attempt in the third quarter, but at least he tried. Why you would get into a position where a turnover merchant is the only guy trying to change directions in the backline is an entirely different matter.

What happened to bursting out of defensive 50 and finding a player - usually Garlett - running into the 50 on his own? That is the most comfortable of all goals, instead of the trial by ordeal process we went through last night. You will note that the best we looked all night was when Hogan went forward, but that the moment Richmond managed to get the ball back inside their forward 50 his impact was negated and he had to go back to roaming up the ground to get involved.

Then there was the clearances, where Gawn spanked his opponent in the desperately overrated hitout stat but Richmond still managed to spirit the ball away more overall and twice as much in the middle. At one stage the Tigers ruckman, and it may have been the backup, didn't even bother to contest the tap and we still only narrowly avoided them getting it straight out of the middle. Oliver and Jones were fine, and The Hamburglar especially played one massive quarter, but where does the blame for the armchair ride going to waste sit? Is it with the guy tapping, or the people he's supposed to be tapping to. The sooner we get Viney back the better, as long as it's not another rush job that crocks his foot.

So, that's a lot of pressure on McDonald and Viney. I'm sure Jack will be fine, but I'm starting to get worried that the Sizzle Forward Experience won't carry on its promising start. There's no evidence from the pre-season to suggest that, but look at everyone else who has gone backwards from last year. Hunt is off, Petracca is treading water, Hibberd has been down on last season, Garlett has gone missing in all the losses, Salem is on and off like a tap, Jetta is not himself, and Neal-Bullen is offering a cut price $cully service of running a lot but having little actual impact. Then you get Dean Kent unexpectedly reviving his career only to be injured again.

Then there's Harmes, who is a competent bit part player, Tyson who I have little faith in and Stretch who we bear no ill will towards but played one of the worst games I've ever seen by a Melbourne player. He looked completely overwhelmed, and as much as I'm usually in favour of giving a player a couple of shots before giving them the boot if he's in the selected side on Friday night I will break things.

To be fair to Goodwin this is only the fourth time he's presided over a Bailey Quarter ("that's a one goal opener if you're just joining us" - Dwayne) but three of them have now come since Round 16 last year and the only one in a win was narrowly against Carlton. In his first 14 games we averaged 101.5 points, but since that shitbox Sydney game the last time we stunk up prime time football it's down to 81.1 - including the 123 against North two weeks ago that's the highest score he's ever coached. There's a common armchair theory that he had a plan which has been found out. I don't think you can be that simplistic about it, but there's definitely something off chops going on with our scoring compared to the first half of 2017.

If nothing else the first quarter was intense, but there's only so far ferocity can get you before you have to match it with the appropriate structure. What happened to the daring raids through the middle that we were doing at our best last year? This was football so cautious that we should be sponsored by Worksafe. It was like they were just trying to stick with the Tigers for as long as possible in the hope that something would go wrong for them and let us nick in for a cheap win. It was Ugly, defeatist bullshit from a side that should - at least at its top end - be much better than that. Whether they are or not will be demonstrated in the next 30 days.

There was plenty of finger pointing towards the umpires, but in a game of 732 disposals and probably 150 other opportunities to get a kick I'd contend that a good side should be able to rise above a few howlers. Particular decisions might not make it is easy, but don't represent the crucial factor in a game where you play like arseholes anyway. Besides, I thought they were all over the place in every direction. Witness for instance Melksham's much celebrated second goal which was such a charity job that it should have been delivered via parachute by the Red Cross.

If anything could be said of the umpiring it was that Dustin Martin clearly gets an additional 20% bonus time to dispose of the ball, but I say let's find a player like that and start reaping the benefits. Somebody who leaves umpires awestruck and opponents terrified before they even turn up to the ground, knowing that he can wreck them anywhere from the defensive 50 to the goal-line. He is tremendously overexposed, and that ad of him punching on with all and sundry inside a train is one of the shittest things I've ever seen, but what a player. How can you not enjoy him stuffing his arm into an opponent and having them fly off like Street Fighter II: Championship Edition?

Of course, if we'd drafted him he'd have turned out to be the mental case that his first couple of seasons suggested. I have it on good authority that he credits much of his supernova rise over the last few seasons to work with Richmond's mindfulness guru, to the point where she now works with all players as a matter of course. We're probably still operating under the Neeld era macho bullshit fiction that if players are glum they can have a chat to a coach. MFC HQ connected readers - I see that we do have a sports psychologist on staff, how about a look into what he does instead of another press conference where poor old Nathan Jones is wheeled out to apologise.

If any Richmond fans were aggrieved by the Melksham goal, they didn't have to wait long to get the reply. The ball went straight back into their attack from the next bounce, and we made it out as far as the wing before Stretch boosted was what undoubtedly the worst game of his career into the stratosphere by turning it over and allowing them to get one back. That left us 'just' 20 points behind at half time, but having kicked three goals in our last five quarters. When you're running at less than 1.0 goals per quarter have a good hard look at yourselves.

I was having a miserable old time, and didn't expect it to get any better in the third quarter but against the odds we launched a token comeback. With Hogan allowed to be a target, and Oliver firing, the ball was kept out of Richmond's clutches for long enough to get to within a goal. Then after 10 minutes of battering the door down, and actually getting some reward for once, we let them go down the other end and effortlessly bang through a steadier. They missed another golden opportunity not long after, before Milkshake broke the trend of the evening and got one against the run of play. We weren't out of it, but nor were we anywhere near in it.

Discussion of the last quarter can start and end at Harmes kicking the first goal to give us some way outside hope of pulling off a famous comeback. Instead I sat there sullenly doing my impression of this guy:
If you were a glass half full person you'd say at least they were saving their legs for Sunday. What I saw, when not furiously pounding away on my phone in a failed attempt to make myself feel better, was another occasion where we whipped out our alternative logo of a white cross on a white background. Even Richmond fans were starting to get bored by the end, leaving Adelaide supporters the most engaged as they celebrated the implications of our plummeting percentage on the traded first round pick. My favourite part - and there weren't many to choose from - was when we set up the rare minus one point play by allowing Richmond to respond to Weideman kicking OOF by going straight down the other end for a point.

It's not over yet, and to be fair other than an unexpectedly shithouse percentage we're only one win behind where I thought we'd be. But like going five goals behind in a game and just falling short of a comeback, when you leave yourself down in the hole and having to work on Bradbury Plan calculations five games into the season then don't be surprised if the end result is the wrong one.

Not that you'd know it from all the dull people trying to shorten the season, lengthen the draft, abolish the draw and generally pull themselves over the NFL, but this could be the most even season in years. With apologies to Carlton and Brisbane, the middle of the table is a spectacular battle royale at the moment. Some teams are going to die in the arse by the end (e.g. us) but not before a brutal series of unexpected results and swinging wildly from one end of the battle to the other. Maybe the random results mean that a team will be able to scab into the eight on percentage at 11-11, but if we take 12-10 as the absolute minimum that means we have to go 10-7 from here via trips to Geelong, Adelaide and Perth in the last few weeks of the year. Fat fucking chance.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
I have no confidence in these votes. For the second consecutive week nobody really deserved them.

5 - Jesse Hogan
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Jake Melksham
2 - Oscar McDonald
1 - Michael Hibberd

Apologies to Lever, Gawn, Jones or Wagner who narrowly missed the veil of voting negativity that was draped over the entire squad.

The midfielders vs everyone else battle continues to rate, with the tag team battle now Gawn/Hogan vs Oliver/Jones. Everyone else is a BOG and a bit away and not looking like getting any closer. After five games Hibberd, Jetta and Hunt haven't repeated (or Viney/McDonald, but I think they can be excused), Petracca and Garlett are just going and Pedersen is playing for Casey because that's just what we do with him when we've run out of ideas.

14 - Clayton Oliver
13 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jesse Hogan
12 - Nathan Jones
5 - Jeff Garlett, Christian Petracca
4 - Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Melksham
1 - Michael Hibberd, Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Melksham had near enough to 50.1% of our goals, so I'm going to opt for his bendy snap at the start. Remember that? When you had some remote hope of this game turning out well? It was actually a very nice goal, and given that the rest of the game shouldn't be allowed to sully it, I'm going to declare it the clubhouse leader for the award.

For his weekly prize Jake wins a full DNA testing session from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to work out whether or not Essendon injected him with Mad Cow Disease.

Every other year the classy joint banner has led to a draw. It was a lovely banner this year too, except for the Richmond cheersquad peanut who showed up to hold it dressed in a head to toe yellow and black striped suit with a comedy wig on. Which is fine when you're playing anyone else, but it's entirely NQR to do it when you're participating in a ceremony meant to honour people who have fought for their country and in great numbers died.

To be fair he did at least take his novelty hat off for the playing of the Last Post, but when he turned up like that somebody should have told him to have a spell from banner duties. I'm hardly Bruce Ruxton for ruthlessly enforcing Anzac Day standards, but you've got to treat the event with some sort of dignity instead of carrying on like you're the King of Moomba. So, due to fielding an ineligible player Richmond were disqualified from this round. Full points to the Dees, who are now 5-0 for the year and a chance for the perfect season for the first time in years.

Crowd watch
A mystery benefactor smuggled me into the AFL Members, and while I appreciate his patronage there was an apprehension about having to sit amongst Richmond fans. It's bad enough watching opposition fans have fun at any game, let alone when they've just won the flag. When I sat down to find that our group of three was literally the only Demon representation anywhere to be seen I set the clock for how long it would take for somebody to do the old "at least I've seen my team win a flag" chestnut. There's no comeback to that - at least in the immediate season after they won - leaving you to either a) take the moral high ground and congratulate your adversary on their success, or b) get personal. I wish I was an a) person but I am actually very much b).

A Richmond fan extracting the piss about premiership droughts is like a sudden lottery winner walking the streets kicking begging bowls away from leprosy victims, but to the credit of those around us it never happened. Maybe because the handful of Melbourne fans present were all too gloomy to get involved in an argument with anyone other than our own players and/or coaching staff. If I was a Richmond fan - and until last year I'd probably have fit in - the challenge would have been to put a new spin on it, by waiting for a Melburnian to make comment about the Nathan Broad/free-range norgs controversy then asking "how many of your players have been in trouble over a photo of a premiership medallion?"

I thought we were in substantial trouble before the bounce when the trippers in front of us sang along to Eagle Rock (we may never discuss it again, so can I state for the record how much I hate that song? I would rather they play Rupert Holmes' The Pina Colada Song). Then when they showed the moon on the scoreboard one of them pointed and said "the moooooooon" like he had a brain injury, and as Hardwick walked the boundary after a pre-match interview somebody just lightly said "Dimmmmmmmma" in an ethereal way that was not loud enough for him to hear, but loud enough that they obviously wanted somebody in the area to take notice.

This is why it's best that I sit on my own, or with a handful of likeminded individuals. Especially if people are going to titter at stupid shit yelled by other fans like they're a tennis crowd, and painfully follow deliberate calls by 'humorously' demanding them for everything for the next 45 minutes. By the third quarter I was hoping we'd be pinged for one so they'd be forced to debut new material.

In the end the people in front were fine, the most irritating character was the poon behind us who spent four quarters explaining every aspect of the game to a girl who by her responses had quite clearly seen a game of Australian rules football before and didn't need it laid out like a copy of Footy For Idiots. He was one of those people who should be occupying Row MM, because all he did was either mansplain the sport or talk to himself. And when Harmes took a mark at the start of the game he said, with not even the slightest hint of irony, "is that Jack Watts?". But, he's seen his side win a flag and I haven't so he wins.

Stat My Bitch Up 
A few seasons ago we were looking closely at the tremendous Melbourne stack of the worst win-loss records in the competition. I'm pleased to say that even after the latest pair of outrages that we're down to one full time MFC player in the top 20. The SME, Jeremy Howe and Lynden Dunn all feature but we can't be entirely blamed for them (though with the latter two most of the damage was done here).

Regretfully, the last man standing is Nathan Jones with a 29.01% winning record. More concerning is that he is now just 13 career losses off Robbie Flower for the most by a Melbourne player, and 37 off Kevin Murray for the all-time record. I can't see him playing long enough to reach Murray's 208 from 333 games but Flower's record could go down by Round 23 the way we've been playing recently. That will leave them as the only two players on the list to play in less than 100 wins. This club should be facing charges of crimes against humanity. See you in The Hague.

Matchday Experience watch
Tell you how shit a night I had. How many years have I been coming on here speculating that somebody was going to neck themselves doing Hogan's Heroes? Last night I chose to ignore the segment going on 10 rows right in front of me and missed the second contestant knocking himself out by falling on his head. Reader @chrispyy84 confirms that there actually is a waiver, and it's only a one pager that says you can't sue the footy club or the paint company. Note - the MCC are not involved, so if you slip on the grass in your run-up you may still be eligible for a payoff.. err... payout as long as you disclosed any other health concerns ("health concerns").

The last line - with the superfluously capitalised 'ACKNOWLEDGE' suggests that as long as the parents are satisfied we can do a Little League version, hopefully with the addition of a trampoline for the kids to get on Russell Robertson's back.

They did helpfully show a big screen replay of the neckage just in case Nowicki Carbone hadn't already been notified. My highlight was Robbo immediately shutting the segment down after that and moving onto the next thing before the guy had even regained consciousness. You had to be there to enjoy the way Robertson legged it from the scene with the marking bag still attached to his back, leaving some unlucky third player called 'Wombat' unable to have his chance at acquiring a concussion.

So, if that's the end of Howie's Hangers/Hogan's Heroes we bid it a fond farewell. Roll on Gawn's Gags, where three hapless amateurs are handed a microphone and asked to perform a quick stand up comedy routine. Or Goodwin's Gripes, where supporters line up to hang shit on the coach.

Next week
At least if the axe swings (which it won't) the Casey players have had an extra couple of days off. They were last seen pulling off that classic MFC move of going five goals up at quarter time then dying. But at least they kicked five goals in a quarter, which is three more than the seniors managed in an entire half.

I don't know if we can play all of Hogan, Weideman and Pedersen but I'm willing to try. It's not like whatever we've done recently has worked. Have Hulk and Pedersen rotating between CHF and FF, with the Weid floating around the half-forward flank trying to find some space. It's a tall forward line but they need not all be contesting the same ball, and christ knows the small forwards could try some pressure when the ball hits the ground for once instead of letting it fling off down the other end ASAP. Maybe it will leave us too tall, maybe it will be pioneer a grand new way of playing football and sweep us to a flag?

I've had enough of Vince and Lewis now. If you're comfortable bringing Weideman and Stretch in to play in front of (what you thought would be) more than 80,000 people then you're comfortable trying something new for the future to replace the veterans instead of sandbagging to protect 2018. Critics will suggest that Vince had six clearances, but when Tyson had eight inside 50s you know there's no point debating the basic level, free stats.

IN: Fritsch, Hannan, Pedersen, Frost
OUT: Harmes, Stretch, Vince (omit), Kent (inj)
LUCKY: Garlett, Hunt, Neal-Bullen, Tyson
UNLUCKY: Anyone on our list who is fit

I'd love to drop more players, but for all our alleged new found depth I can't find many alternatives that interest me. If it goes pear shaped in the next month just concede - which shouldn't be hard for this team - and play everyone up to and including Lachlan Filipovic. For now I'll give it one more week, then I'm going troppo.

The whole organisation had better respond. And the best place to do that is on the field. Otherwise the club can collectively settle and stop acting like we're in deep a crisis mode like after the Hawthorn game? Just because the receptionist got a few nutty phone calls and we all acted the goat on Twitter is no reason to jump at shadows. No explanatory interviews on podcasts, no mid-week calls for calm from players. Just don't play like a team of enthusiastic amateurs that met for the first time on their way into the ground.

Essendon were reportedly putrid against Collingwood, with Brendan Goddard spreading the love by arguing with his teammates in the middle of the game. Notwithstanding the fact that we play better at Docklands than our home ground, what's the bet they deliver the ultimate team performance next week and walk off in arm-in-arm as the best mates ever. Alternatively we could find a new avenue to kick goals and crush them unmercifully. In a sick way I'm looking forward to it.

Was it worth it?
Christ on a bicycle no. I left home at 5.40am, finished work at 3pm, did Demonwiki research at the State Library until 5 (including causing a microfilm of Inside Football 1978 to completely unspool and have to be hand wound back on), walked to the G, waited for an hour and half for the bounce, saw us kick two goals in a half, walked back to my car on Spencer Street, got caught in road works and walked back in the door bang on midnight. A fair and reasonable person would have gotten home at 4, done something productive with my family for three hours, yelled at the TV for a bit and gone to bed. I am obviously not a fair and reasonable person as I follow Melbourne.

After a shithouse night all I wanted to do was get in the car and listen to Finey's Final Siren, and at least try to remember the corresponding fixture two years earlier where it was the Richmond fans carrying on like pork chops and trying to sack their coach immediately.

But because Hutchy brand SEN is as dull as dishwater this iconic program has replaced with Rohan Connolly earnestly soldiering through a limp knock-off called The Wash Up. With a generic name like that there wasn't much hope, but as much as I like Rohan (except when I followed him on Twitter and he'd keep getting roped into digital punch-ups with numpties) it lacked that potent mixture of sarcasm and disdain for stupid callers that made FFS the greatest show on Australian radio since Get This. All the heavy lifting had to be done by aggrieved Melbourne fans, most of whom you couldn't hear because the audio levels were at a community radio standard.

Final thoughts
I'm not buying a lynch mob membership yet, but that risks missing out when they're all sold in the next few weeks. By Round 9 we'll either be firmly back amongst the mid-table mediocrities or there will be a smouldering crater where our hopes and dreams used to sit. Failure to launch in the next month may make Chernobyl look like burnt toast. Head to your designated fallout shelter and await further instructions.

Monday 16 April 2018

Things can only get bitter

Due to a spectacularly incompetent reading of international time zones, the work I thought I'd signed up to do immediately after our game ended up starting 10 minutes into the first quarter. So, I shut my eyes, hit record, made sure I didn't go anywhere near spoilers and started watching from scratch at 6.07pm.

In the end this was probably a good thing, allowing me to concentrate on what needed to be done instead of wiping tears away and occasionally screaming "WHY?" at the top of my voice. Still, if I'd known in advance that I'd have to ignore our game until it was over I would have probably turned back the money and trudged all the way to the MCG to see this screaming shitshow.

On the balance of things I'm happy that I got the money and the emotional distance that comes from not being there live, but it was still difficult to come to terms with the idea that my beloved (?) Melbourne was playing a real life, competitive, important game in the background and I didn't have any idea of what was happening. Could the universe please align to the same deal that I have with my family, where I'll do anything they like in the off-season if I get to indulge in this self-destructive pastime approximately 25 times a year.

Trying to media ban a game is surprisingly difficult, especially when your counter offer contractually obligates you to watch television and operate Twitter. There is always the nightmare scenario - as seen in an episode of George and Mildred - that you get all the way to the last minute before watching and something spoils the result. With the TV set up so that even an accidental hit of the back button would take me to a safe station, and alternative spoiler-free social media accounts in place, the closest I came to necking myself was at about 5.30 when I accidentally hit some obscure keyboard shortcut that ignored incognito mode (to avoid unwanted pop-ups, not because I was doing a XXX cam show) and tried to open my real Twitter feed. I just closed the window before it revealed fans lining up to drink from a foamy vat of poison.

I can't explain why I was so desperate to watch, nervous all the way through that the recording might not have worked and having to keep my phone in an entirely different room to avoid picking it up as a nervous reflex. Like the old days of the replay where they'd say "make sure you stay watching to the end!" seeing 50 notifications would have left me fretting that it either meant we'd done really well or really badly. Turns out we did both, with the bad recovering from disappointing returns in the early booths to win in a landslide.

It would have saved me a lot of time if something had gone wrong and exposed the score before I started watching. Even when I was finally free to start the tape, with Foxtel kindly keeping the recording instead of deleting it like my 75 saved episodes of classic era Simpsons, I expected some sort of last minute fiasco where a triple stretcher job caused a 58 minute last quarter that meant the recording cut out at the end. Ironically it did, ending one second before the siren, which in some circumstances may have posed a problem. Fortunately by that stage I was reasonably certain we weren't going to launch a comeback.

History was against me from the start, the last time I watched an entire match on delay we lost to Essendon by 148, and when I had more important things to do than go to a Hawthorn game in 2015 they thumped us by 105. Considering how much slime we've put on over the years I've certainly avoided a few rippers. Like my record at Kardinia Park, I must be about 500 points in the hole under these circumstances. The Essendon win last year was like the time we unexpectedly beat Geelong away, a small slice of excitement amidst an otherwise horrendous run.

There was a deep sense of guilt stretching from 3.20pm to 6.07pm about not at the very least watching live, but admittedly when I finally did tune in and the crowd looked colder than a witch's tit part of me was comfortable with having skived off under a heater. Now that I've missed being at the ground for half a dozen howlers in the post-Bailey era, I can confirm that it brings a welcome level of detachment. Had I been at the ground yesterday the second half would have been mostly spent howling derisively to nobody in particular, but safe in the knowledge that I didn't have to pack up and spend 90 minutes trudging home after the final siren the last quarter avalanche just washed over me.

There would have been a different reaction for a close game, especially when the recording died at the 0.01 second mark, but even when it was going reasonably well in the first quarter I just sat calmly without getting overexcited. Maybe it was the safe bet that we wouldn't play two good quarters in a row, but had it been an interstate game where I had no realistic chance to be there in person I'd have been hovering over the TV having nervous tics like Bruce McAvaney watching a horse until at least half time.

The option to stay inside for the rest of my supporting life is tempting, but it feels hollow. It's the little things you miss, like children falling down the stairs of the Olympic Stand, kids spewing on the wall of the Ponsford, opposition fans making a Rex Hunt of themselves and the inevitable severed spinal column from Hogan's Heroes. I'll be back for the Richmond game, to enjoy having people who've only just had a win in their lives hanging shit on us.

What TV does give you is a look at the ridiculous scenario of 22 grown men emerging en masse from their rooms through a set of comfortably wide double doors, then having to go into single file to get through a narrow roller door. Equally ludicrous is the idea that Brian Taylor is paid enormous amounts of money to talk from his arse for two hours. Pre-game he called Nathan Jones "a man of few words". Learn from him.

The original man of a few words was tasked with chasing possession magnet Tom Mitchell all day, and while he did a creditable job in keeping him to half the disposals as every other team you wonder if blowing arguably our most important midfielder (with apologies to Oliver's devil may care attack on the ball and lightning hands) on a near 100% negative job cost us. It sure felt that way when Max Gawn was merrily extending his own club record for hitouts in a game and most of them were falling to Hawthorn players.

If nothing else - and for us after the 25 minute mark there really was nothing else - the game started well. If you ignore the goal we conceded in the first 20 seconds. Jake Lever discovered why my advice is the last thing you should listen when he tried a gigantic Tom McDonald style overhead mark and failed to land it, leaving the ball to spill free to two Hawthorn players that had so much time they could even afford to have a Three Stooges style collision and still run into an open goal.

So far so shithouse, but after starting last week like everyone was on opium I wasn't panicking yet. But despite North bollocking Carlton on Saturday night (and have you noticed they found a place to sell home games to that actually helps them?), the road back should have been significantly more difficult against Hawthorn. Even this version, which is half premiership players and half guys from the VFL who are in all sorts of shit when the stars retire. At least that's what my experience with rebuilding suggests. Given that it's being done under the auspices of a highly successful and well performing club they will probably win a flag while we're still flapping around in mid-table mediocrity land.

On the topic of Hawthorn players, are the two guys with flowing mullets doing it for charity like the AFLW player or have they got significant personal troubles? I've come to the point where I'm prepared to welcome nigglers and probably armed robbers if they help us qualify for the finals, but after staying silent when Dunn was getting around with shit smeared across his lip I'd launch a board challenge if any of players turned up looking like that.

One of the mullets had more immediate issues when he unnecessarily gave away a free kick to Kent in the square as the ball was going through for a point. That was something, but it's not like it was a well-crafted goal that gave you confidence, we just got lucky with a long range hit-and-hope kick and ill-disciplined defending. Luck was not to go our way many more times before the final siren, probably because we rarely put their defenders under any pressure again.

The early signs suggested that it was going to be another day of endless attack for very little reward. When Garlett picked up the ball 20 metres out and refused to do one of those well received kicks straight back over his head towards goal I did start to shift nervously in my chair and wonder if this game was going to end very badly indeed. Nevertheless, Kent's first goal did launch an exciting run that caused me to (somewhere in the far recesses of my mind) wonder what it would be like to miss a game where we finally massacred a Victorian team. I continue to wait patiently for that opportunity.

Gawn's dominance in the taps was wasted for most of the day, but shortly after Kent's first he got another go via a Salem clearance. This time he had to convert from 40 metres out instead of five but whacked it through with the same violent intent and the only way was up. The unexpected good times continued when Hogan profited from one of the great bullet handballs/handball receives from Jones and Fritsch to snap a third.

I still didn't trust it, we were doing fantastically when we had the ball but how many times over the years have we seen games where everything looks like it's going swimmingly until the other side start to get a kick? Then an unseen switch flicks and we go from Harlem Globetrotters to Washington Generals, with nobody seemingly able to wrest control back and slow things down long enough to at least stop the other side attacking relentlessly.

It's one thing to slaughter the coach - and surprisingly good fun - but what of the on-ground leadership? If a team is going to have 360 disposals in a game who gives a fat rat's clacker if one player them gets 40 on his own? I'm comfortable with the hard tag at the start, but when we hit half time looking completely lost it was time to set Mitchell free and work on stopping the rest of them from slaughtering us. I don't know if Jones would have had any capability to change things if he was free, but it makes you wonder who else is going to step up in hard times. Do I need to cut my famous promo about not needing a title to be a leader again?

For now the good times were rolling along like an out of control freight train, Kent kicked his third, we were that many in front and looked dangerous whenever we got the ball.

You've heard of Clayton Oliver does funny things, this is where we got our first look at Alex Neal-Bullen does funny things. In a moment he'll be hoping nobody else remembers, he celebrated Kent's landmark goal by gleefully bumping into a sad looking Hawk in the middle. Shortly after he gave something back to the Hawks by handballing straight to one of them, then did a bounce handball to one of our players when stuck in a tight spot and celebrated a brave Brayshaw smother by vigorously patting him on the head. It might have had an effect, after a hot start Gus was barely ever seen again. After celebrating the fourth goal like the fall of the Berlin Wall, ANB would go on to kick our next two entirely goalless quarters later.

Oliver has cut down on the number of funny things he's done so far this year, but when you've built a reputation for mischief like he has controversy isn't too far away. After he kicked the ball out on the full the camera cut to a baby crying its eyes out. The commentators were clearly as perplexed as anyone else because they didn't say anything, but the insinuation was that the wild shot on goal had bonced the kid. I say who's bringing a child of less than one year to the footy on a freezing day AND sitting within 30 rows of the fence? At least the child was nominally a Hawthorn fan, meaning they will grow up to think footy is a piss easy pursuit where you only to wait a few years between flags.

The first sign things were going to stop going our way very quickly was when Lever took a mark on the line, which was good, then played on when he was behind the goal and gave away a point, which was bad. Like Van Halen taking out the brown M&Ms to make sure their 100 pages of stage instructions had been read, it wasn't such a big deal that he gave away the point but it just indicated a worrying lack of care and poise. He's looked less at sea since Frost came back, but I'm still concerned that he's being hung out to dry. I've got no idea what an untethered defensive zone is, but this Twitterist seems to know what's going on...

Despite watching the game on the vibe and refusing to participate in modern tactics, I've been concerned about the way we push up the ground too far since the days of Roos. I know you have to balance it against all the times it does work and creates goals, but surely if nothing else on a wet day you keep somebody hanging out the back to look after hopeful long bombs? Apparently not. We got  away with a couple of times in the first quarter where the whole team was forward of centre and a turnover saw the ball thumped the other way, skidding towards goal on a wet ground. I'm sure something was changed to compensate, it just wasn't apparent to the naked eye. Or as it turns out, in any way effective.

Considering Gawn went on to have 66 hitouts, it sure did feel like James Harmes was doing a lot of ruck work in the first half. Was the idea to keep him fresh for the end? If so that seems to be the only tactical gambit all day that worked. The Harmy Army would have enjoyed their man throwing himself over the top of his opposite number at a throw-in. At his apex he adopted the exact same pose as Michael Voss that time he broke his leg in Perth. We all love an unusual ruckman - third only behind outfield players in goal and wicketkeepers bowling - but as much as he tried hard it was ineffective. This is where Pedersen would have come in handy, not to mention giving us some sort of target inside 50 other than Hogan.

Gawn provides an excellent forward target, but only when he's 40 metres out. He marked in practically the same spot as the Geelong game, and under much less strenuous circumstances did exactly the same thing. Which at least proves his first miss wasn't because he was overawed by the occasion. Two weeks after thinking that Dean Kent's career was going down the gurgler, I suggest Maximum has a look at the footage of his two set shots and sees that no matter how close you are to goal you can kick with the same action. Like glory era Mark Jamar he is a surprisingly accurate set shot overall, but what's the point in having him take towering marks 20 metres from goal if they're going to spray everywhere?

It took until late in the first quarter, deep into DemonTime, to discover the full horror of what was about to befall us. With less than 90 seconds left all we needed to do was shepherd our nice little lead into the break, hopefully identify some of the issues that nearly tripped us up, and presumably come out to be thrashed anyway. Instead everyone was too shitscared to rush the ball and allowed a Hawthorn goal off the ground, leading to that grand traditional of commentators mocking players for "not understanding the rule" when nobody can be certain what the rule is from one week to the other.

That was bad enough, but when the ball flung straight out of the centre and into the arms of the reasonably well held Jarryd Roughhead with 10 seconds left my blood pressure tipped into dangerous levels for the first time. The siren meant he couldn't run around from an obscure angle and he missed, but it should have led to flashing red lights in our huddle. Instead we came out like Lemmings and dutifully plummeted off the cliff without protest. That's Melbournetainment.

If it wasn't for the last minute I'd have been half-tempted to think that in real life we'd already won and everyone other than me was enjoying a party atmosphere. At that point I just wanted to know what happened good, bad or otherwise (spoiler: bad). This watching on delay caper was doing nothing for my mental well-being. Being quite sure that we weren't going to follow a good first quarter with an equally good second - because we never do - it dawned on me that I'd never heard of half their side, and the idea of losing felt more offensive than the days where their premiership stars would regularly clean our clock.

There was a mild outbreak of macho bullshit at quarter time, and we must have got all the testosterone related activities out of our system there. James Sicily, like GWS' Lachie Whitfield a dead ringer for a random Trump child, was at the heart of it and good luck to him. Every team needs at least one antagonist who everyone else wants to punch in the head. Coincidentally by the end of this game I wanted to punch Bugg, and it had nothing to do with him niggling me.

Like the passengers who caught the Hindenberg all the way from Prussia to New Jersey before it burnt to buggery, nobody could have seen the journey ending as badly as it did at this stage. I could certainly contemplate that we'd lose (in fact I find it hard to think otherwise), but to go to pieces in that sort of lifeless fashion was offensive.

It's not until you don't have them that you start to appreciate the pause for contemplation that quarter and three-quarter time give you. Half time can piss up a rope, but the other two are a short break from brain squeezing tension. Of course I could have just sat through them instead of fast forwarding, but when you know the game is already over there's a rush to catch up so you can join the celebration/anguish (delete as applicable) with everyone else.

When you kick five goals in the first quarter it would obviously be nice to get another five (if not more), but for the moment I'll settle for at least three and breaking even. It seems rude to be complaining about not kicking enough goals when we used to struggle to five for the whole day, but didn't we sit through those years of criminally low scores in an attempt to teach everyone how to defend? Did we not place enough emphasis on letting other sides run riot up and down the ground while all our players stand around quietly contemplating the mysteries of the universe?

From the first bounce of the second quarter Hawthorn clamped the handcuffs on and beat the suitcase out of us. That we were still winning inside 50s deep into the last quarter tells you all you need to know about that useless statistic. We missed gettable chances, but the majority of entries were of the half-forward line averse "I'll just roost it down there and let somebody else take responsibility" sort, whereas our former merger partners would bound forward and find a backline so disarranged that the players often had to call long distance to speak to each other.

In the circumstances Oscar McDonald did great work, everyone else less so. Occasional flashes of brilliance aside, Hibberd is not getting any space to run and Jetta seems to be suffering a Demonbracket hangover because he's only been ok so far this year. From an outside perspective the backline doesn't seem to have anyone in charge. Is this what Vince and Lewis are supposed to do? Time to think about what we're doing there.

The bad times were brewing early, and when they kicked the first goal to cut the gap to less than six I felt like it was about to turn bad. When you haven't hauled yourself to the ground you don't have to bother holding out hope. What I wanted most was to do my usual nervous reaction of flicking through the world famous Dees Twitter community and feed off the distress of others. But I couldn't, so I just had to sit there on my own, wallowing in my own defeatist attitude.

We couldn't even take advantage of Frawley spending the entire second quarter on the bench with a mystery injury. Lack of a killer instinct continued to hurt us. For most of the quarter the ball was trapped in the middle of the ground, but the difference was that when we went forward we kicked points and in the same situation they got goals. It wasn't the weather for talls, but it feels like we could desperately have done with a second target down there - or just one to free Hogan to play further up the ground and try to at least create a contest and bring the smalls into it.

Yes, we did have smalls. Garlett played one of those games you've got to endure to get to the good ones. He refused to kick over his head, laid one ripping run down tackle and was barely seen again. Kent too was practically unseen once his opportunities dried up, almost his last appearance was gifting Roughead a goal via a stupid 50 after McDonald had beaten him all day.

Not for the first time this year we could have done with a Hogan at full forward and centre-half forward, because when he was in one nobody was in the other. It was just the sort of day where Watts would have gone missing, but I still can't help feel that he would fit the bill of a forward who can lead to the ball and semi-convincingly go into the ruck. It was one thing having Hogan try and drag a mature age first gamer to the square, but he had to be able to go towards the ball in those circumstances rather than waiting for it to be punted on his head. He didn't play a bad game by any means, but old mate VFL veteran more than held his own on debut.

Our Alf Ramsey style wingless wonders formation that had worked so well in the first quarter did bugger all in the second, but that didn't stop us from giving it a red hot go again after half time. For a time we did have the play at our end, but with nobody looking even remotely likely up front nothing came out of it. Then a long bomb down the middle found some Hawthorn bloke dashing into goal with three of our players trailing behind. Game, set and match. Some players clearly didn't fancy the conditions, others tried hard but looked a mile off the pace. Not sure it would have helped if we'd played in the dry, Clarkson had his opposing number on a leash.

Hawthorn was so dominant that they could afford to send the injured Frawley to play at full-forward. Either that or he was perfectly fine and they just wanted to put him where the action was. About time there was some respect for all that development work we put it into him in his last contract year. Later there was a great shot of him on the bench with his head in his hands that would have been great if he'd been concussed and we could pretend that he'd woken up thinking he still played for Melbourne.

A lame attempt at a spoil set up Hawthorn's seventh goal in a row, but considering we didn't look in any way likely to run down a 15 point margin what harm was another six points? Or another 50 as it turns out. When somebody finally got on one of Gawn's taps for the first time in 45 minutes, and Salem pumped the ball forward to Bugg we got the chance at an immediate reply but he fluffed it and hit the post. With respect to him having a career day a week earlier, his conversion rate is not good enough. He can obviously find space because he's having all these shots, but so often crucial opportunities are wasted. We need another tall, and now that Kent has come back to life it's time to take the niggle to the VFL.

As a spectacle the game was dead and buried. It was like one of those boring Roos era matches where we couldn't kick a goal for the life of us. The only difference this time was kicking five quick ones at the start before packing up shop and letting their defence do a similar number on us as Richmond vs Brisbane the day before. At least the Lions got a goal in the third quarter.

We carried on playing like it was dry, which was questionable at the start but even more so when it actually began to rain in play. We'd fall victims to cheap kicks over the top to nobody, everyone would jump for the one ball in defence without a player on the ground to mop up, and so, so many long kicks went to nobody. This team can find space and execute a string of disposals, I have seen them do it. Yesterday was like 2014 Appreciation Day, with a far better side playing like a far worse one.

The only surprise is that it took so long for us to completely crack. For those who've been following our record of games against teams that lose players to injury, you won't be surprised to know that we really fell off the cliff when they lost two players - on top of Frawley gingerly going through the motions inside forward 50. We were putrid, we played putrid football. I was pleased that Gawn tried a ridiculous snap in the last minute that went straight out on the full, because it was still a better attempt than any other bastard.

In the last quarter I started cheating to get to the end faster, 2x fast forwarding when the ball rolled out of bounds, and not waiting for any post goal analysis before skipping to the next bounce. As far as a last three quarters go it was about as limp as the Sydney game last year. The only question by now was how badly we were going to be beaten. They kept piling on the goals and I said thank the good lord Jakovich that I didn't turn back work and effectively pay hundreds of dollars to watch live. By this time I'd have been standing on top of the train on the way home trying to make contact with overhead wires.

After 75 long minutes Neal-Bullen got the sixth goal, and true to form we didn't even deserve it. Salem passed it to him after a free for bending over with the ball and doing a pro wrestling style backdrop on his opponent where he should have been done for holding the ball. Junk time had already been welcomed in long before that, but as that goal quickly gave way to struggle again I had to strongly resist going into x60 fast forward mode. About the only thing of note to happen in the last 10 minutes was Jimpey kicking Bugg in the jimmies during a marking contest. Otherwise we just conceded goals hand over fist in an attempt to make sure that this year our percentage doesn't narrowly keep us out of the eight.

The natives were restless, and there was a great collective murmur when Lever unnecessarily punched in a contest instead of marking. At least there was from those who hadn't been pictured piling up the stairs at top speed 30 seconds earlier. The work colleague who compared him to Diamond Jim Tilbrook a few weeks ago has since been dismissed (not because of his anti-Melbourne stance let me add), but I feel like tracking him down and saying that maybe he had a point. Jake did some decent stuff, he was not alone in doing some terrible stuff, but the price paid in draft picks is starting to hang around his neck like the millstone of old. Apparently his dad got into an argument with fans who were complaining, which is always excellent entertainment.

Even the VFL players were seen taking off early, with good guy Cameron Pedersen the only one who looked like he was staying. He didn't just stay, he happily clambered over the seat in front of him to improve where he was sitting. What a man. The way we were going I'm surprised he didn't slip and snap his ankle in a folding seat.

Thank christ it eventually ended. If anything happened on the siren I don't know about it. In fact whatever happened in the last 10 minutes was nothing more than a blur of Hawthorn goals. Can't play Brisbane and North every week. And when we do play Carlton they will live up to Team Kingsley reputation and give us a torrid time. As it started to go tits up in the third quarter I made a note that "at least now when we have a miserable loss that makes you question everything you believe in it is only by 30 points rather than 130". Then it became 40, 50, 60 and 70 and the spirit behind the message it was somewhat lost.

Simon Goodwin woke up this morning to worse polling figures than Malcolm Turnbull, but could everyone at least wait until mid-season before making football fans of themselves and trying to sack him? I'm traditionally overly cautious when it comes to turning on coaches, because eventually one of them has to be a success, but you know as well as I do that they're not going to get rid of him now so it's just pointless venting.

When I finally dared to look at a phone again I had the luxury of a 1000 tweet buffer to catch up on, and in the middle of a lot of reasonable questions about why we set up so badly in the wet there was all too much "there's no plan B!" going on. If you look back at the history of Goodwin's coaching career Plan A is usually the issue, leaving us often having to climb out of a Buffalo Bill style "it rubs the lotion on its skin" pit of death at some point in the first half. It's either that or we fire off to an early lead like this, Brisbane, either of the last two St Kilda games before everyone clams up with embarrassment at actually playing well and lets the other side launch a comeback.

Contrary to popular belief, the Sporting Stranglewank didn't originate with Melbourne circa 2014. Go back and look at Australia's 2006 World Cup campaign, where Guus Hiddink is feted for nearly getting us to a quarter final but really just got away with a string of death or glory moves when his side was in deep shit. This may work in a three group game tournament a'la the early 2000s Ansett Cup, but you can't spread it over 22 matches.

Melbourne fans accusing a coach of being without Plan B is, like Beauty and the Beast, a tale as old as time. When the Norm Smith/Checker Hughes combination was trampling everyone in the 50s there were probably still fans hanging over the fence demanding answers about what was going on with Denis Cordner.

God only knows who half those Hawthorn players were, but they sure made us look like arseholes after the first 20 minutes. Remember when we tried to throw millions at Clarko to become our coach and he laughed at us? He's not the best coach of the modern era by accident.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
None deserved. Some less undeserved than others.

5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Oscar McDonald
1 - Dean Kent

Apologies to Hogan for missing the last one narrowly and something nice for Neal-Bullen, Brayshaw and Salem.

Another good day for the usual suspects, and finally the breakthrough votes for Sizzle Jr that see him dismiss 'No Eligible Player' in the race for the Seecamp. Still nothing on offer for followers of the Hilton.

13 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
12 - Nathan Jones
10 - Clayton Oliver
8 - Jesse Hogan
5 - Jeff Garlett, Christian Petracca
3 - Dean Kent
2 - Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Back to the glory days of this competition, where we had less choice than a North Korean at the ballot box. By the time ANB got his goal it was almost getting to the perverse stage where you want to see how far we could go without one, so obviously the winner here is going to come from the first quarter.

With respect to the two Kent goals that didn't come from the square, I'm opting for Hogan's big snap around the corner. For the weekly prize he wins a flash to the eyes from a Men In Black style laser that helps him forget this game ever existed. I'm still not convinced we've seen anything like a winner of this tournament yet, so we will not be naming a clubhouse leader until that happens.

Hawthorn had more respect for this competition than to drag out one of their pre-printed industrial strength banners. Still didn't think much of it, the font was too weedy for my liking. Ont he other hand ours had a font so strong that you could drop it on a Syrian mustard gas factory. The white/red letter contrast is magnificent, I'm thrilled that it looks to be a permanent fixture now. Dees 4-0 for the season.

The Sponsor Shack
I know sponsor recall is important to clubs, so best they explain what the hell CSG is at some point. Hopefully it's coal seam gas, to replace pokies as our morally suspect money spinner.

Crowd Watch
What about the humanoid who threw the ball at Salem's feet after the deliberate in the last quarter then went back to his seat looking absolutely chuffed with himself. Get back to digging ditches for a living. Second place to the guy in the Hawthorn hat and scarf who realised he was on TV and unzipped his jacket to show a Hawks jumper as well. That answered my question, and several others.

Next week
Take a reasonable break before the Anzac Eve game. After a week as the best team in Victoria we're sure as shit not going to beat the new champions playing like this. After Dustin Martin took one hapless defence for six goals yesterday I expect that they'll have him go down there and rip the piss out of us as well.

I dispute our alleged depth at either end of the ground. We've got midfielders coming out the yin yang, but forwards and tall defenders are in short supply. I'm just opting for Pedersen ahead of Weideman or Tim Smith because we somebody who is a competent second ruck. Whatever second round pick we end up can we somehow acquire a forward who can also play backup to Gawn? Pedersen won't last forever, and Weideman is on the Cale Morton starvation plan so he's not going to do it.

IN: Pedersen
OUT: Bugg
LUCKY: Lever, Lewis, Melksham, Vince

After that it's Essendon, who could do anything, then the season defining run of St Kilda, Gold Coast and Carlton. If we don't win three of the next five I'll assume it's over until they do something to convince me otherwise. Who else would you rather follow?

Was it worth it?
From my perspective you're damn right it was. Imagine I'd left the house to watch this garbage? Could do this more often to be honest. I may as well have given in to what I felt was going to happen at quarter time, confirmed the score, had a five minute tantrum over the margin and got on with my Sunday night. Instead I struggled to the end, deleted it from my Foxtel box and went to bed.

Watching Essendon emerge from light crisis mode to handle Port Adelaide without raising a sweat, it is clear that mid-table mediocrity could stretch to about 15th on the ladder this year. This is why the Brisbane and North wins were so important, we might be kept alive longer by teams unexpectedly winning or losing but I don't fancy us to do anything great until Sizzle Sr and Viney are back.

Final thoughts
No club can possibly have had as many losses that have blown the wheels off and caused massed panic. One day Paul Roos will come out and admit the veil of negativity is justified, and David King will apologise for telling us not to be so worried. We've even reached 'should I raise my kids as Melbourne fans?' stage. The answer is obviously yes, they may suffer through decades of insipid football but at least they'll be a moral cut above the riff raff urchins that follow other clubs.

I still think this is the core of the group, but fortunately never thought it was the year. The idea was to establish a bridgehead in the eight - which we still may very well do, let's not commit hari kari for a few more weeks - and go for it in 2019/2020. Those who tipped us to burst into the top four should be commended for their optimism and faith, but they were suffering from delirium based on two surprise premiers in a row. At this point I'd settle for finishing where the Bulldogs did in 2016 and forget the remarkable run to the Grand Final.