Sunday 1 April 2018

"He pulled out just enough to win"

Say you had something better to do on Saturday night than watching Melbourne wobble to an unconvincing victory against a lower mid-table side. I've got good news for you, there's no need to catch the replay, just cast your mind back to our pre-season game against St Kilda. If you pretend the Saints players you'd never heard of are the Brisbane players you'd never heard of and picture about as many people inside the Gabba as were at Casey Fields it was practically a carbon copy:
  • Play irresistible football in the first quarter to open a big lead
  • Barely extend the lead before half time as the other side belatedly turn up
  • Nearly lose after unexpectedly plummeting into a Grand Canyon sized hole
  • Cause fans to get collectively mopey about how mentally unfit we are
  • Bounce back to win relatively comfortably in the end.
At least this time the reward was four precious premiership points. And it can't be understated how precious they are. I'm living on the edge of a cliff, so spooked by our run home that my belief in getting anything out of this year (where anything = eighth or higher and damn what happens next) hinges entirely on starting 2-1. With that in mind, halfway through the last quarter I was pulling the shutters down on 2018 and heading outside to try and hammer in the last nail. One leg of the doomsday double is complete, but we've still got to get through North before I start showing any zest and/or vigour for the season.

Almost every "It wasn't pretty but I'll take it" win of the last few years has been against Brisbane, and like all of those I'm overjoyed to get the win but not confident that it will translate to the beating of good teams. The excuse of the Gabba being a humid hothouse at this time of year is a popular excuse for why we nearly collapsed, which would be fine if the Lions weren't 1-7 there in March/April over the last three years - and that win was against Gold Coast. Or that we sell home games to two hot, humid climates.

We got to our fourth win in a row against the Lions eventually, narrowly avoiding another 'losing as favourites' scenario. It's one thing to be the better team on paper (which is usually the first sign of impending doom), but anybody automatically counting this as a win in advance needed their head read. Wooden spooners or not, Brisbane is far from the rock bottom operation of a few seasons ago. They may not feature in the finals this year, but then again neither will we if there's not significant improvement in the next 20 weeks. But for now grasp the win to your bosom tenderly, because halfway through that last quarter the four points were heading out the door with its bags packed.

The start was good, but when it comes to Melbourne you're better off not trusting anyone. Clubs love waffling on about their 'brand' and what they stand for, well having enjoyed the first two weeks of this season and an AFLW campaign where we conceded a total of 0.1 in our last five first quarters and still lost three times (!!!) I'm reasonably confident that the poor starts which blighted us in 2017 have been addressed - leaving fans playing a the new game of guessing which of the other three quarters we'll cark it in. Last week it was the second, this week it was draped across the end of the third and the start of the last. One day everything will click, and we will enslave a team for four consecutive quarters. I will likely be on the pension by then.

The closest I get into werewolves, astrology and all that Games of Thrones shit is Max Gawn's facial hair, but I should have known something weird was going to happen when they focused artistically on a full moon before the first bounce. Next thing you knew we'd entirely strangled Brisbane to the point of being five goals up at quarter time. Then an hour later a seven goal lead had gone up in smoke and we stared down the barrel of humiliating defeat. Why would you follow anyone else?

By the end it looked a lot like our last unsatisfying win against the Lions. Only instead of Hogan tormenting defenders one-on-one and Pedersen ghosting in from the side to take advantage of their wonky structures it was left to Hulk to do it all, with supporting from Garlett hoovering around at ground level. Let's have it again when we play more organised teams, but that was the sort of performance by Jeff (not even Jeffy under these circumstances) which makes you laugh heartily at Carlton giving him away for peanuts. Next week he may have four kicks but we've still had value for our pick 70.

My key concern, other than just general anxiety about being in the toilet at 0-2, was that we wouldn't be able to take advantage of their disarray at the back to kick a string of tap-in goals like St Kilda did. We got around to it just when things were starting to look hairy, but in the crucial first quarter they were dead keen on making sure somebody was on the last line of defence at all times. Which effectively just condemned some poor bastard to an unsafe workplace by forcing him to go one-on-one with Hogan. Secretly we all know Harris Andrews (is he a department store?) would have rather been pushed up the ground and watching the ball being booted over his head into an open goal rather than having Jesse manhandle him.

I don't want to get you excited, because we all know that's the first step to disaster when following Melbourne, but after one game against a finals team and one against a not finals team Hulk is averaging four goals a game. The last time anyone did that was David Neitz in 2004, but to be fair he did boost his tally from zero to nine in the second game. For a more obscure option what about James Cook going 2, 6, carried off permanently crocked in 2000? It's a bit early to be hailing the return of the full-forward given that every year there's higher scoring in the first few weeks before the inevitable defensive correction, but while Jesse may not kick 88 for the season, having a spearhead upright and available to aim at is a big help.

The most intriguing battle was - for me at least - Gawn vs SME. In reality it was only the warm-up for Maximum's heavyweight title fight against Goldstein next week, but how could you not enjoy these behemoths going head-to-head from practically first siren to last? The ultimate goal of killing off stoppages and making the game look like a pinball machine is perhaps the dopiest 'innovation' of all. Huge humans going to battle 70+ times a game should be a selling point, not an annoyance getting in the way of 200-190 final scores. Congratulations to the umpires (surely some mistake? - editor) for getting into the spirit of the contest and letting them grapple for supremacy like Greco-Roman wrestlers instead of paying technical frees.

I will always cherish the SME years, and am overjoyed that he is doing well in Brisbane, but this showed why focusing on Gawn was the right thing to do (though I'm not sure that's where they were intending to go when Stef got the Tijuana). Max is a machine - on what planet does a huge man like that ruck almost the entire game in greasy, humid conditions without keeling over dead? Pedersen had six hitouts in relief and I was surprised he even got that, because he'd have been lucky to contest two centre bounces. There weren't as many perfect backhand taps as Maximum's best games, and a couple of loose ones did end up with Brisbane players, but his overall contribution was molto bene.

Always expecting the worst, I was concerned that we'd seen the start of this game many times over. Narrowly avoiding a goal at one end, then spending five minutes deep in attack for no reward. Usually this leads to the ball flinging out the back door and the other side scoring against the run of play, but this time Hogan sensibly picked Bugg's pocket 20 metres out on a slight angle to kick first goal.

That was a the beginning of a period of mass disarray for the Lions. I like Luke Hodge playing for them at this stage in their life, but he must have suffered terrible flashbacks to pre-glory era Hawthorn when he desperately cleared the ball to find the only person in the way was Garlett. Jeff has been surprisingly accurate with set shots (so far), in inverse proportion to Petracca forgetting how to kick them again after a glorious 2017 and duly converted.

Once we got the third goal - courtesy of a great commentator's curse declaring some bloke the Rising Star favourite just as he kicked it out on the full - I felt a lot more comfortable. Which is not to say I was actually 'comfortable', just not as nervous. The bullet kick by Tyson - probably his best disposal in three years - to Neal-Bullen leading perfectly into the space left by Brisbane's distressed defence was the added bonus.

The commentary box excuses for the Lions started early, apparently they're disadvantaged by not being able to train on their home ground over summer. Which doesn't carry much weight when you follow a club that hasn't been able to regularly train on theirs since about 1984. Having to wait for a Sheffield Shield final to finish didn't seem to be causing them too many problems when they were later kicking seven goals in 20 minutes.

Brisbane reminded me a lot of us in the last year under Roos. They're not very good, but have improved vastly from their absolute terror years. Outsiders wouldn't have a clue who half their players are, but they were all having a massive bash and only losing out to the odd barmy option or failed disposal. To prove they are a lot like us, they desperately needed to settle things down and not go any further than 22-3 behind with three minutes left then let in two goals. All it lacked was a Jack Watts (RIP) figure sent back to take a mark in defence, flap his arms around as if to say "everyone calm down" then watch it be kicked straight back over his head.

It's another season where the AFL website doesn't believe 'highlights' means showing all the goals, so I'll just have to assume without seeing it again that Jordan Lewis did get a hand to what looked heaps like a throw, setting up a pinpoint Hibberd kick to Melksham and on to Hogan for the fourth. It's criminal that they don't consider Hibberd's kick worthy of inclusion in the highlights, it was nearly as perfect of a disposal that you'll get on a footy ground. I unashamedly love him, we may never have underrated an All-Australian more. Then, just as I was preparing to build a shrine in my backyard he barely got a touch after half time. But the point still remains valid, he is magnificent.

After conceding the fourth in what used to be known as during Demon Time™, they really couldn't afford to let another in. Then some galoot turned it over in the dying seconds and allowed Hunt to set up Fritsch for five. It was another good night for Bayley (which conversely made it a bad night for Mitch Hannan), more used to howling arctic gales on unprotected VFL grounds than Queensland dew but still clean as a whistle while everyone else fumbled around him. He wasn't even put off by the siren going as he started his run-up, just casually went back and lobbed it through to provide what should have been - and I suppose ultimately was - a match winning lead.

Comparing to last week, there were a lot of similarities, but this time we had the fortune of playing against a less inexperienced, more disorganised side that seemed to have the worst tall forward lineup since us in the year Dawes was leading goalkicker with 22. The smalls were good though, and there were still a LOT of times where we'd lose the ball going forward and they'd come out of defence with so many options they didn't know what to do next. Our pressure was reasonable when the ball got within 30 metres of goal, but the lack of a genuine marking option across half-forward except for Hogan will continue to make me tense until McSizzle returns. Then again, if Pedersen takes the heat off Hoges and allows him to dominate, then perhaps McDonald can do the same for Lever? Sharing is caring.

I'm admittedly tactically naive, but there are some turnovers where I can't work out how we get so badly exposed. Fair enough when you're bursting out of defence and everyone's lining like a rugby league team to be the next option, but there was one last night where the kick went from half-back flank to a Brisbane player on the wing and returned straight into a bunch of opposition players standing on their own. Where did the defence get to in those crucial 2.4 seconds between ball leaving our boot and landing in their arms? All this and more next week on:

Even before women's football showed us how to throw away first quarter dominance I'd never have trusted the lead. There's never been a Chris Sullivan Line style declaration of what it would take for me to be comfortable with a quarter time lead. I was reasonably comfortable at 6.6 to 0.2 against Gold Coast in 2012, but even they briefly made it interesting. Set the time machine for Round 10, 1972 and let's see where 11.7 to 0.2 would have satisfied my nerves.

In my footy watching lifetime I've ever been at one game when we were 60+ in front at half time, and that was nearly 20 years ago. Which probably explains why I'm always so nervous. Compare to other middle of the road up-and-down teams like Port Adelaide, who had done it seven times since 1996 and Fremantle three since 1995. I need a full business intelligence platform to track all the ways that following Melbourne is less rewarding than almost every other club.

I think we were all poised for the inevitable correction in the second quarter, we certainly weren't going to get five goals to nothing part II. The Lions had to start scoring at some point, and usually that's the queue for our lot to start conserving their energy for later. To nobody's surprise our dominance in the opening term disappeared the moment the ball was bounced again. Brisbane got the first goal from a free, then should have had another one for Lewis' unconcealed attempt at punching the ball over the line deliberately. Because commentators see him as a whole instead of acting like his career began two years like I do, they conspired to explain away this fiasco because there was a player within the same postcode. No, it was an artless, desperate attempt at getting the ball out of bounds that was rightfully pinged.

I was wavering last week, but I've really had enough of Lewis. Thank you for your service, go gently into that good night. I thought Vince was much improved doing a tagging job, mainly in the first half, but one of them has to go. Neither is the future, but for now I'll do without the guy who gives away NQR frees by the bucketload. There was one where I'll have to give the benefit of the doubt (because umpires were whistling late all night, as if one of them was a work experience kid) that it was holding the ball, because otherwise it would have been another unnecessary free given away through ill-discipline and I'd be offering to drive him to Casey myself.

I don't doubt his commitment to the cause, I do doubt that we should be investing so much time into somebody is just going ok and won't be there at the business end. "He won't play in the next premiership side" is a terrible cliche for bottom four teams, because you need to get out of a hole to start with, but it becomes valid when you reach mid-table and are trying to find that last push over the top. Pedersen gets a pass because of his size, if we can't find somebody else to play as a mop up defender we're not trying. He seems to split the community 50/50 with no middle ground, so if you're violently in agreement with him address your letterbombs to Demonblog Towers - PO Box 999 in your capital city.

Against the odds we contained their early enthusiasm and extended the lead. Garlett was in everything, setting up Jones and kicking a pearler of a snap from 35 metres out for three in a row. When Pedersen had his best moment of the night by hitting Hogan right on the tit we were on the verge of setting up a margin highly unlikely to be overrun. He missed, and so did Bugg at the other end (because ever since I praised his set shot kicking early last year that's what he does) and opportunities to make the gap as close to safe as possible had been wasted.

Still, we'd kept a side to two goals in a half so who was going to argue that? Perhaps I wasn't going to 'argue', but their six behinds indicated that they still making opportunities and we didn't have an entirely steel-trap defence. Hibberd was brilliant, and Oscar McDonald is in career best form but a late arriving Max Gawn is still our most reliable pack mark in defence. That can't be healthy.

Jetta has been suffering a mini-Demonbracket hangover, and while the conditions did nothing for his hair, nor did being blatantly shoved into a collision shortly before half-time. He's been one concussion away from retirement for years now, and when he sank like a stone after the bump I was flat. He survived, but mysteriously the unnecessary shove by the Brisbane player, despite being as clear as day, was not picked up on by the commentators. This was surprisingly considering Paul Roos is so ridiculously pro-Melbourne in his special comments (and good for him) that it's like watching an MFC version of Press Red for Ed.

If the one man match review panel can't be arsed delivering a verdict on that potentially career-ending piece of attempted murder I doubt they'll want to get involved with Bayley Fritsch copping a Wrestlemania season move that looked like a cross between a DDT and a Codebreaker. Like the Jetta shove, it was 100% deliberate. It might not have been malicious, but was certainly dangerous. The player was trying to stop Fritsch from taking off and succeeded in not only dropping him on his neck but also kneeing him in the ribs. While Bayley went off clutching at himself to make sure nothing was broken, the umpire decided everything was above board and refused to pay a 50.

Later in the game a Lion was pinched for being north/south instead of east/west on a mark, but attempt a Mortal Kombat style fatality on a second gamer in the middle of the Gabba and she'll be right. At least it was consistent with Gawn and the SME going the full Weinstein on each other in ruck contests all night without penalty.

Other than nearly crippling two of our players, I enjoyed the anti-social nature of Brisbane's play. If players start being nicked at booze buses you'll know it's Luke Hodge's influence, but now that we've got past them with a win I hope they give sides the shits all year. Chief antagonist was Charlie Cameron, who put on what was probably the most niggly performance since Tom Bugg vs Richmond in 2016. The only Adelaide players I knew before the 2017 finals series were Scott Thompson, Eddie Betts, Kyle Cheney and Tex Walker, so like discovering Lever for the first time it was all new to me. What a show. He ran around like a greyhound, kicked goals, tried to start fights, and at one point celebrated a goal that he had absolutely nothing to do with by shaking his head wildly like a 1960s teenage girl at a Beatles concert.

On the other hand, how many players in the competition have a more punchable face than the stringy indie music haired Rhys Mathieson? Not bloody many. Speaking of punching people in the face, Bugg's kicking for goal concerns me. I like what does off the ball, but unless he's going to convert opportunities there's no spot for him. I'm also concerned at the lack of influence Melksham has had in the first two weeks, though I note he came good with a couple of great interventions when the game was on the line.

With a 37 point half time lead we were going to need one hell of a disastrous quarter to lose. Or two really bad ones strung together. Finally, after more missed set shots the great Nathan Jones appeared to remind us that after a quiet pre-season he's far from finished. His goal extended the margin beyond 40 nearly halfway through the third quarter, and as we fatefully like to say around here 'What could possibly go wrong?' I admit that Jones' goal sucked me in, and I started to believe that we weren't going to have the traditional tits-up capsize quarter. Then Brisbane kicked seven goals in 20 minutes.

Oliver and Jetta had chances at the end of the quarter to steady the ship but missed, and we went into the last change 'only' four goals up. It's a handy enough lead, but not insurmountable. Especially when all the humidity chat, and repeat mentions straight off the 'interesting facts' sheet about how they'd once come from 50 down to beat Geelong after the siren, had me royally spooked. But not as much as them thumping in four straight goals to draw level.

Lever (unfairly likened to Diamond Jim Tilbrook by one workplace smartarse during the week) had been alright to this point, but as Brisbane ran riot he was mostly left standing around and looking at Lions players going past. I don't care what master plan Goodwin is working on, get Sam Frost in there and stop making him play as a one-on-one defender. This isn't signing a down on his luck Clint Bizzell and successfully converting his position, it's taking the strengths of an All-Australian defender and tossing them out the window.

Under the current structure I am concerned Ben Brown and Jarrad Waite will combine for 21.19. Lever's torment - and does he ever do contested marks, or just punch everything that comes near him? - needs to be packaged up and delivered via Express Post to everyone who moaned about Tom McDonald in defence. I'll take the odd over-ambitious kick failure in exchange for somebody with bucket hands who can beat three players in a marking contest.

The comeback came much to the joy of the people sitting on the beer garden style deck behind the goals, which looked like the most heavily populated spot in the stadium. There were only slightly fewer people in my loungeroom than the top level of the Gabba, but with the prospect of having to go 12-8 through a minefield draw from here I was under more pressure than a deep sea diver.

If some well-meaning religious minority had knocked on the door right then I'd have either punched on or signed up. There's no way to explain to a non-football person the helplessness you feel when your side is rapidly shedding a lead. Or the sort of simplistic footy types who spent all Monday reminding us that we were "unlucky" against Geelong and focused entirely on Gawn's miss rather than the root cause.

Speaking of Maximum's kick, after a week of refusing to watch the replay I was finally subjected to it in the pre-match 'highlights', and how about that buffoon Brian Taylor calling it a goal off the boot? There are certain things people say that indicate they're a knob who should be ignored (e.g. 'virtue signalling' and 'gentrification'), in BT's case just throw a blanket over the lot. Being in off-Broadway games that probably struggle to beat TV Shopping Network in the ratings has some benefits. We might have had a soccer commentator relying heavily on his pre-prepared fun facts, but at least he was calling the game rather than yelling incoherently.

For all the stress, and the stream of indecent abuse I delivered at my TV as Brisbane drew level, you had to enjoy the way we steadied. After it happened anyway. We shouldn't have been in that position to begin with, but at least when it happened cool heads prevailed. The coolest head of them all amidst carnage is Jones, and he set up Garlett for the steadier. Then, for the second week in a row we were given a leg up by an opposition player missing a sitter, with Zorko stuffing one up from right in front. This flung the door open for Melksham to perfectly bump an opponent out of the way to take advantage of a pinpoint Petracca kick, and for Garlett to run into an open goal. Exactly the sort of soft coast-to-coast goal the Lions were bleeding from every orifice last week, but even better when it represented an 11 point turnaround.

After already losing one thriller I went back on high alert as the Lions goalled to reduce the margin to six, before 1880s steampunk superstar Cedric Cox kicked straight into Garlett on the mark and allowed our man Hoges to finish from the pocket. I felt solidarity with Melbourne Football Club life member and 1998 Reserves coach Chris Fagan when he hurt his hand punching the desk. The result obviously means plenty more to him than me, but when you boil it all down our anxieties come from the same place.

It still wasn't enough for me to relax, but fortunately Brisbane's spirit was crushed. After a final scare where the Brisbane guy didn't hear a play-on call and walk into an open goal, we went the other way for Hogan's fifth. Game over thank christ, with the exclamation mark of Fritsch whacking through a second on the siren to take us to exactly 100 points. Somewhere Mitch Hannan tipped his coffee table over.

It wasn't the most dynamic win you'll ever see, but it would do. But if you thought you were a bit flat after the siren, Brisbane Lions management took a spectacular quantity of piss out of their players by forcing them to run the boundary handing out Easter eggs to anyone who was left. As far as post-loss crowd engagement went it was certainly better than Gary Ablett stripping a Gold Coast fan of his membership, but you can't imagine it ever happening at a Victorian club. Unless it was Nathan Buckley or James Hird, where the crowd would be more interested in licking them than the chocolate.

The season is alive, at least for one more week. Win next week - well or otherwise - and let's start talking about a glorious future. But not too loudly.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jeff Garlett
4 - Jesse Hogan
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Max Gawn

Apologies to McDonald, Hibberd, Vince, Petracca and Fritsch

There has never been a more ridiculous leaderboard in the history of this competition, with five players tied for first. It's certainly a good start for all their title hopes, including Jones looking for an unprecedented 6th Jakovich. To be fair, nobody else has ever won two so even Oliver repeating would be unprecedented.

And I don't see any circumstances where Gawn's going to lose the Stynes from here, so let's get the formalities out of the way and declare our earliest ever provisional winner.

5 - Jeff Garlett, Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca
4 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Cameron Pedersen

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
With apologies to Hogan's effortless finish from the pocket in the last quarter, I'm going to opt for Garlett's around the corner effort in the second. Despite having more nominations for this award than anyone else he hasn't won it, and won't for this because something better will definitely come along. His house of already full of weekly prizes, so this time he gets the phone number of Carlton to ring up and laugh at them.

The slogan on ours was a bit clunky, but it came just at the right time after some corporate wanker in Collingwood's marketing department enforced the use of the term 'external narrative' on theirs. Meanwhile Brisbane failed to properly integrate the picture of the player, like your annoying work colleague who doesn't know how to use transparency in a Powerpoint presentation.

A crucial curtain penalty costs the Lions here, with the bonus points for lugging the banner interstate also contributing to another win for the good guys. Dees 2-0 for the season.

Matchday Experience Watch
Speaking of the hardest working people in the business, Collingwood's marketing department, they tried to take the heat off their disappointing run of results (except one in particular) by introducing a new pre-match singalong for their fans. After banning Port Adelaide from wearing their jumper, they'll probably insist the Power be banned from holding a faux emotional scarf waving wankfest as well.

It was reported that not only would they play Nothing Else Matters by Metallica before the bounce but they had 'bought the rights to it'. Which sounds like exactly the sort of thing they'd do, spend money unnecessarily when you could probably just sign up to APRA for a few thousand dollars a year and have access to Metallica's entire back catalogue. Its debut was celebrated in stony silence by a line of people, mainly kids but some half embarrassed looking adults, holding up the name of the song on a slickly produced banner in the exact same font as their official season hashtag on the digital screens behind them.

Elsewhere, Fremantle are promising "rock classics" like... err... Purple Rain and ex-Dockers having a shot on goal before the game (Phil Gilbert please). All this enforced fun is getting right on my tits, here's to sticking with a wonky sounding transition from Hell's Bells and people in overalls nearly breaking their neck taking a screamer at quarter time.

Who knows what sort of tripe the Gabba offered before the game, but their addition of a digital screen halfway up the stand on the wing was giving me the shits by quarter time. Apparently they're getting a new train line, which is a great use of government advertising dollars to promote it for the 15,000 people there and the 8000 watching elsewhere in Queensland.

Uniform Watch

I'll tell you what enhanced my matchday experience, the disco blue jumpers. They are magnificent. I'm sure they're even more aggressively light blue than the 1980s edition, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

See for instance my spirit animal Brent Crosswell:

and compare that to last night:
Where possible the real dark blue jumper should be worn at all times, but this is the best clash jumper we've ever had. After their well-received (by me anyway) outing in the 2006/07 heritage rounds it's outrageous that it's taken this long to become an official alternative. Imagine living in world where somebody - either at Melbourne or the AFL - thought the worst thing to happen to fashion since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was a more attractive option:

Is there any better example than that of what a mediocre, dull waste of space we were in 2008? It upsets me to even look at it. The disco jumper is full of personality and protruding nipple, it's the perfect outfit for our exciting new era of upper mid-table mediocrity.

Stat My Bitch Up
A reader from Punt Road takes a break from frottaging his replica premiership flag to ask:
If you go on my definition of said act (a 24 point lead that's reduced to a goal or less since Round 1, 2014), this is the first collated airing of THE WANK FILES. We still don't know who has a sexual fetish for near death experiences, but they would have been reduced to firing off air in the middle of last year.

  • Round 13, 2014 vs Essendon (-33 at 3m Q3, +1 FT)
  • Round 1, 2017 vs St Kilda (-24 at 4m Q2, +30 FT)
  • Round 8, 2017 vs Adelaide (-28 at 17m Q2, +41 FT)
  • Round 10, 2017 vs Gold Coast (-24 at 20 Q2, +35 FT)
  • Round 11, 2017 vs Collingwood (-28 at 9m Q2, +4 FT)
  • Round 11, 2014 vs Port Adelaide (-26 at 13m Q1, +10 at 17m Q3, -20 FT)
  • Round 15, 2014 vs Footscray (-35 at 11m Q2, +6 at 6m Q4, -6 FT)
  • Round 19, 2015 vs North Melbourne (-34 at 29m Q1, -2 at 26m Q3, -35 FT)
  • Round 3, 2016 vs North Melbourne (-42 at 20m Q1, -5 FT)
  • Round 10, 2016 vs Collingwood (-24 at 24m Q1, +5 10m Q2, -25 9m Q3, level 19m Q3, -25 FT)
  • Round 15, 2016 vs Essendon (-24 at 30m Q3, -2 at 17m Q4, -9 FT)
  • Round 7, 2017 vs Hawthorn (-27 at 29m Q1, -3 FT)
  • Round 9, 2017 vs North Melbourne (-26 at 31m Q1, -2 at 13m Q4, -14 FT)
  • Round 1, 2018 vs Geelong (-27 at 35m Q2, -3 FT)
  • Round 7, 2014 vs Adelaide (+ 36 18m Q2, +3 FT)
  • Round 21, 2017 vs St Kilda (+39 at 10m Q2, +4 1m Q4, +24 FT)
  • Round 2, 2018 vs Brisbane (you know)
  • Round 2, 2015 vs GWS (+30 at 4m Q2, -45 FT)
  • Round 9, 2016 vs Port Adelaide (+24 at 6m Q2, -61 FT)
  • Round 3, 2017 vs Fremantle (+27 at 28m Q2, -2 FT)
Also, did you know we've been in more finals series than the Lions since their last Grand Final. That's an unpleasant reflection on both sides.

Next week
I was so poorly after the Geelong game that I said we were playing the Lions on Sunday. So, if you're such an avid reader that you take my word for everything (and why wouldn't you?) then I apologise that you missed the game. Your central nervous system thanks me.

So, to be absolutely clear next week it's North at 2.10pm Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. As if you didn't have this circled on your calendar in blood, eager to finally cast off the black magic spell they have on us and take control of our own destiny. You'd be significantly more confident if they hadn't kicked the shit out of St Kilda, so the best thing for my psychological health is just to assume they'll beat us. Probably by a point with a goal after the siren.

Casey played Frankston, the next best thing to a bye, in a VFL practice match and beat them by 110 points so I'm not sure what we learned there. What I know is that if you kept our defence in its current format Sizzle Jr and Lever should swap pay packets, so time to get some help in for the My Chemical Romance lookalike. Frost and Brayshaw go back, Hunt goes forward to try and get a kick, Lewis catches a train to Cranbourne Station, then connects with a bus to Casey Fields only to discover the first game is at Coburg.

IN: Frost, Brayshaw
OUT: Lewis, Bugg

Regardless of what they did to the out-of-sorts Saints, North is not going anywhere this year. They won't be awful, but a few teams are going to rip them from arsehole to breakfast. We will not be one of them. I will take any sort of win and a promise that the modern day Sam Blease, Billy Hartung isn't going to crash through the gates of Stately Kingsley Manor and demand immediate induction.

Injury news from other venues
Nope, not getting involved.

Final thoughts
Our last two outings will usually beat teams 10th-18th on the ladder, and if lucky might occasionally knock off 6th to 9th, but neither suggested a rock solid, guaranteed finals contender.

I'm not yet sold on Tyson, ANB or Harmes as four quarter players, you know my issues with Lewis and/or Vince, Garlett is on and off like a tap, Melksham doesn't look as good as he did late last year, Hunt is struggling, Lever hasn't been played to advantage yet and Wagner/Bugg are just ok. We have some potential blockbuster players are the top end, but not convinced that the middle and bottom of the 22 are yet good enough for anything but a brave but ultimately heartbreaking crack at the finals.

Wreck North with malice aforethought and I'll get interested, but for now I see a side barely improved from last year. Given how little we missed the finals by, 'barely' might be enough to scrape into 8th.


  1. Two weeks running has omitted more than a healthy share of our goals … they didn’t miss the enemy’s goals of course. Annoying when you don’t get to see the match first time. The retro jumpers bring back memories of freezing my backside on the hard benches in the Southern Stand in the early to mid ‘80s. Long live Danny Hughes, Peter Giles and co. I predict you can’t go more than two weeks before expressing sincere sympathy for our mate at GWS.

    1. Ok, you've got me, I hope the bloke who kicked the goalpost has a full recovery and can continue his career with a minimum of fuss.


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