Monday 28 May 2018

Alice Wonderland

Last week I risked domestic harmony by suggesting that on the fifth anniversary of my wedding weekend the only event that mattered was Melbourne vs Adelaide. I think I got away with it, and after every romantic scenario I'd planned from Friday night to Sunday morning failed to go as expected the most fitting way to end the weekend was a jaw-dropping unexpected surprise footy result. Who said romance was dead?

Five years of wedded bliss undamaged by a sleazy side relationship with the Dees also means it's the anniversary of the lowest ebb of the Neeld years. It was this weekend in 2013 where I was so embarrassed to be a Melbourne fan that the plan to exit the reception to a surprise rendition of the Grand Old Flag was shelved out of shame. The next day Freo beat us by 90, highlighted by that classic photo of Dunn, Garland and Sellar spoiling each other and the safe knowledge that the coach was about to be put out of his misery.

Telling footy fans that it will all turn around eventually is about the most patronising thing you can do, but fast forward five seasons from that Round 9, 2013 fiasco and we'd encourage somebody else's coach to go completely bonkers. At three quarter time the Crows were 80 points down and Don Pyke was skulking around the huddle, silently eyeballing players like he'd completely slipped his moorings. Yes, being touched up by the Dees will do that to you.

Finally we're making other people's lives hell. Usually the best we can do to a coach is make them slam a phone down, but when you can get that sort of reaction from a guy who had his players driven around in a bus blindfolded for 24 hours like they'd been kidnapped by militants you know you're into something good. The way he was feeling the Crows will be lucky if they weren't forced to hitchhike back to Adelaide with Bradley John Murdoch.

Adelaide's other key innovation in the last year - other than removing most of the remaining fun in football by allowing Richmond to win a flag - was a 'power stance' that somebody must have discovered in a Management Techniques For Wankers book. Our players also did one of those when they declined to go on a pre-season camp organised by the Reverend Jim Jones, and on this sample size it seems they were right to say no to paramilitary shit. On their trip to Waco, Texas the Crows were apparently "asked to complete emotionally upsetting questionnaires". After yesterday they will be retrieving their notes them from the archives and writing more on the back.

But enough about the off-field failings of other clubs, let's talk about The Entertainers. That's what we used to sarcastically call Melbourne sides that were lucky to kick five goals for the day. Now, in the lowest scoring season since 1968 we may be the only thing standing between fans of the other 17 clubs and a host of stupid, counter-productive rule changes. The case for the 'no to forced spectacle' should just be 'If Melbourne can score 140 three weeks in a row why can't everyone else?' The rest of the league hasn't done it once combined since Round 22 last year. What a time to be alive. Alternatively we're about to get screwed and after finally putting together what looks like an attacking juggernaut the game will be cracked open so everyone can kick 20 goals a week.

It goes without saying that the power and ferocity of this victory was a surprise. The most optimistic view I'd seen of any Melbourne fan was a 40 point win, and while I was ready to accept we were an excellent chance based on 14 good quarters in a row from half time of the Essendon game my chronic Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome cautioned me against getting too optimistic. After all, this was supposed to be the return to playing good teams after a month of warming up against the league's flotsam and jetsam. I assume the good team missed their flight, and the Crows had to go around the city paying backpackers to turn out for them.

Despite Dwayne Russell style hyperbole in the opening video narration which included us in "two of the strongest clubs in the country", the MFC Magic 8 Ball had all signs pointing to YES. When purported All-Australian Paul Seedsman injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced by somebody implausibly called Myles Poholke I could smell a Kingsley nomination miles off. My senses were tricking me, Hokey Poholke failed to have a touch for the first quarter and not many more in the other three.

The main event was supposed to be the City of Adelaide vs Jake Lever, but with all the wacky motivational shit they're into the Crows forgot to engage in the most basic of all football traditions, trying to punch on with players who left in controversial circumstances. The Carnival of Mild Irritation stretched to one guy lightly jostling him, some half-hearted boos when it became obvious we were going to win, and Jever playing a dominant game in defence. Now he's got one over them it's should ensure some real oomph to the rematch in Round 19 - and it was telling that in the post-match interview he instantly knew what round we were playing them again - but after this debacle we'll know any players trying to get butch with him are faking it.

So once it became obvious that neither Adelaide fans nor players cared all that much about Jake ditching them we got on with wrecking the value of the draft pick traded to get him in. I settled in for a big afternoon yelling at my TV. There's something to be said for running around the living room and jumping up and down in front of my TV like I was on Aerobics Oz Style instead of packing on pounds eating ropey hotdogs in Row MM.

I was relatively calm at first, just hovering in a tight circle as Petracca took a smart handball over the top from Hogan to trot in for his first. He kicked the cover off it in a desperate attempt to kill an innocent cameraman, just failing to achieve enough elevation to smack the ball straight into the lens. The way he's been kicking for goal I was just happy that he converted from that range. As we were about to discover that's where all the fashionable types were getting their goals from. And I was soon possessed by the spirit, leaping and dancing all over the room like the truly demented.

Two years ago some dickhead wrote an article after Port had scored about 15 goals from the square in the corresponding game suggesting that it looked like we were heading in the right direction, but that it paid not to get too overconfident. Now the boot was on the other foot and it was merrily thumping through goals from point blank range after unlocking a defence in total disarray. This was winner's justice at it's best, casting off years of misery in a bloodthirsty orgy of blood and guts. It was appropriate that Adelaide had 'Hybrid' written on their back - they were half traffic cone, half splattered roadkill.

Melksham went against type by kicking a goal from a difficult spot, marking on the boundary and snapping it through around his body, before Neal-Bullen and Hannan started the fancy Hollywood shit at the five minute mark of the first quarter, exchanging dinky passes in a cavernous setting up ANB to waltz in unchallenged. Trot, waltz, walk, stroll - there aren't enough ways to describe the act of kicking through an unguarded goal to cover all the times we did it.

For the first and last time the Crows might have had an excuse for somebody ambling (there's a new one) into goal when Hannan got his reward for setting the previous one. A long kick fortuitously beat everyone and allowed him to run onto it into another goal to make Jeff (never Jeffy, not even in the state league) Garlett throw something at the television in anger at missing the riches on offer.

Adelaide had chances during the opening ambush, but their expensive and marginally effective forward line of Betts, Jenkins and 'the Tom Lynch you wouldn't have expected to kick 10 in a game' were usually left watching the ball go down the other end via unchallenged chains of disposal that looked as good as anything you've seen in recent years. After several weeks where it looked like our lot was the long bomb and the occasional crumb 'transition' has gone from a cliche to a lifestyle. The way we tore them apart coming out of defence was outrageous. It's trite to liken an actual game to a training drill, but at times this was as close as you could get. There was a destructive, 186-like ease (albeit with 50% of the damage done in a full game as Geelong did in a half) that was in contrast to our recent struggles to convert inside 50s.

The highlight of this first quarter machine-gunning was the way Max Gawn was conserving effort by loping casually around the forward line. Knowing he was going to have to ruck 95% of the game on a 28 degree day I don't hold it against him, it was legitimately fun watching him plod around like a giraffe on the plains of Africa with the game going full pelt around him. He dominated again and there were so many good players it didn't stand out.

The Crows finally got two in a row via that time-honoured trap of allowing Hogan to kick a goal which we then wasted immediately out of the centre. Then got another soon after and were rarely seen again. Fortunately wasted Hogan goals are so much rarer than they used to be. He either kicks so many that we can't blow them all, or is storming the middle at the subsequent bounce to help stop it getting out so easily.

My three most used words when watching a game are either "for fuck's sake" or "here we go", and in this case when they got another goal and added a point shortly after that to cut the margin to 18 it was the latter. Procession mode had been switched off, we were back to panic bombing into the forward line at every opportunity and I was becoming depressed at having being even remotely confident in a 31-0 lead in the first place.

Had they got to quarter time just three goals behind after being dominated so comprehensively they might almost have been satisfied, before cocking it up spectacularly in the last 30 seconds. Some poor, unwitting bastard gathered in front of his own goal, failed to notice ANB stalking him like prey and was pinged for holding the ball. Bullet is so confident in his recent resurgence that he reacted with a wide grin, practically laughed in the face of his victim and lobbed through our seventh goal of the quarter.

Most of the scoring came from centimetres out, but our many and varied forward options were still causing the Crows untold drama. They had one defender who was doing his best impression of the days Frawley would desperately try to keep things from collapsing around him, but the rest of them were MIA. It was an irrepressible act. Tom McSizzle was intimidated by Tony Lockett turning up to see the man who replaced him as the greatest full forward in history but still got two, and in what passed for Tom's 'absence' the Wheel of Scoring spun back around to Hogan after a few weeks playing as a support act.

There was also good news for Tim Smith, who played by far his best game and wiped out the last of Adelaide's first quarter comeback goals within a minute of the second. His form was bad news for the People's Champion Cameron Pedersen, left running laps in a sports bra alongside Jayden Hunt outside the ground while the demolition job continued unchecked a few hundred metres away.

With a comfortable but in no way safe lead things went quiet for a bit. The Crows got a goal through some bloke who looked like he was up for a fight here but had earlier chickened out of a proper all-in stoush with Lever, and even though they conceded five goals to one for the term the bookends of the quarter were probably Adelaide's best period of the day. Shame about the middle. They lost the last term by less, but the game was shot to buggery by then. They even managed to hold us out for 10 minutes at one stage before normal service resumed. We scored so much that it even made my extended highlights dealer go on holiday mid-round. He is probably in the same RSI rest ward as the person who does the MFC All The Goals videos. Speaking of club employees, we understand that the receptionist has put in a complaint that since people stopped calling with abuse she hasn't got any work to do.

The chaos resumed with Brayshaw completing a rare (at least until this game) set-shot, then Fritsch finding Neal-Bullen with a smart pass inside 50 that would have had a stereotypical Italian chef kissing his fingers and screaming "MOLTO BENE!" He was left wearing the Anal-Bullet grin after converting a third and it was starting to look a lot like Christmas. They kept us at bay for the next few minutes, before a defender panicked and slapped a farcical tackle on Gawn without the ball, allowing Jones to play on and plow through another. In further signs that this was going to be a successful outing it was our second reverse DemonTime goal in a row.

Even at 48 points ahead I was still terrified that we'd suffer a record breaking reverse. After all we'd run a lot to grind them into dust, while most of the Adelaide players had spent the first hour standing in one place looking flummoxed. Comparing Alice Springs and Darwin is like when people assumed Jay Kennedy-Harris would be a cheeky crumber just because of the colour of his skin, but even in significantly less sweaty conditions than the topper top end I was still having nightmare flashbacks to nearly throwing it away against Port Adelaide in 2010.

In a blood curdling stat that I'm glad I didn't know about at the time, the biggest lead we've ever lost at half time is 45 in that Round 6, 1992 game against the Bombers. So statistically we were safe as houses, but there was still something nagging me about us collapsing in a heap. You may ask why I'm so hard to satisfy me, and as evidence I tender my supporting life from 1990 to the present. Everything pointed to a victory, albeit not by such a colossal final margin, but I still felt like somebody was standing on my chest and had to withdraw to another room at half time and have a bit of a lie down. This being reasonably good stuff can't be healthy for your heart.

I recovered just in time for the third quarter, missing what I expect was a half time show that doubled as an infomercial for Northern Territory tourism. Whatever we were being paid to play there, Channel 7 must have been getting double. The pre-game looked like an episode of Postcards with bonus footage of Brian Taylor on a camel, and the call was littered with Cash For Comment style casual asides about how wonderful the scenery was and how you'd be a mug for not booking your next holiday there. By the time we got the 19th mention of the big tree overlooking the oval it was more likely that our fans were trying to cancel trips in September than book more.

There were pros and cons to being covered by a major network. For one we couldn't draw Dwayne, but on the other hand there was one point where BT suggested that somebody having a shot aim at the mountain behind the goal so it's a mixed bag. At least he didn't ask it if it was Uluru like Brad Johnson last year. Meanwhile Bruce McAvaney restrained himself from too many breathless John Laws style plugs for the NT, but did refer to Neal-Bullen at various times as "Neal-Balwyn" and simply "Bullen". There was such a carnival atmosphere that I wish somebody had tampered with his notes and written Anal-Bullet on there.

My sense of impending doom was not helped by the goalscoring machine slowing down at the start of the third. If you took the fortuitous Jones one out at the end of the second we went a good 20 minutes without a goal, which was about three times fasted than the rate we'd get them at back in the day but felt disappointing now that we were off our face on scoring. This is your brain on goals:

The five goal-free minutes were spent talking us up like flag favourites, which inevitably led to a Crows goal and marginal nervous adjustment of collar. By the time we'd kicked the next six I'd gone from sweating out of nerves to quivering with ecstasy. The shellacking restarted when Smith barrelled down the middle of the 50 in McDonald-esque fashion and didn't let up for another 20 magical minutes.

Adelaide would occasionally get the ball forward, only for our defenders to take the piss out of them. Salem was the only one who had more than a handful of dodgy moments in defence, and the highlight was undoubtedly Lever's gleeful demolition of his former comrades. I can sense an Adelaide fan somewhere cracking sad about us celebrating him while treating $cully poorly, and let me reiterate that you're free to go off your nut in spectacular fashion at him. It's your right as a footy fan, just try to put a bit more vigour into it than your players.

In the rare moments when we weren't attacking, usually just after a goal, there was plenty on offer in the midfield. Early in his career I labelled Christian Petracca a master at working in confined spaces, but that's only because I hadn't been introduced to Clayton Oliver yet. He will never get the respect he deserves from outsiders who go purely on the vibe, because so much of what he does happens in the blink of an eye amidst heavy congestion. On the other hand, the ones who probably don't even watch the game and just go off the stats must need a lie down whenever his name appears. Those of us with a vested interest in hanging off every possession understand, outsiders can feel free to remain ignorant.

You would assume the people paid substantial sums to analyse opposition teams can also see how damaging he really is, but best of luck stopping it for long. And even if you do, could I introduce you to man for all seasons Nathan Jones, the resurgent Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney now entirely rust-free and a 208cm ruckman that plays at ground level like a rover? This quite literally unprecedented run - the first time we've ever won three games in a row by over 60 points - can't go forever, but for now I would like to condense the feeling into a liquid then bathe in it.

There was a period of forced calm when a child insisted on seeing how many items she could balance on my head without them falling off, a game that I very nearly ruined twice as we kicked more goals. I was sitting still, the lid was going into orbit. When they flashed up a free kick count of 20-8 several western district towns were dragged kilometres closer to the border by a million South Australians simultaneously sucking in air. I say win a few contested possessions and see if that helps you get more frees.

After years of stability the Chris Sullivan Line was bulldozed for the second consecutive week. Theoretically we'd already reached it at half time, but that left plenty of time for the other lot to mount a comeback if they were capable. *Arrested Development voice* they were not. A double to Petracca at the end, both from his favoured distance of 'not much at all' extended the margin to 80 (8-0, LXXX etc...) If this had happened in the 1500s everyone involved would have been burnt at the stake for witchcraft. It could have been at least one point more, with Hogan narrowly being caught playing on as the siren went then rightfully cracking the shits that nobody had told him to just kick it normally.

By this stage even I - after manually picking my jaw up off the floor - was prepared to admit that an 80 point three quarter time lead confirmed we'd win. In this changed world we (at least temporarily) live in I'd love to have piled on several more goals unanswered and won by over a hundred again, but it was fair enough to conserve energy in advance of next week. Then we won the quarter comfortably anyway.

At first I was greedily concerned about Pyke's 'menacing' actions spurring the Crows on to winning the last quarter, and in the early stages it looked like his theatrics were significantly more successful than the footballing shit he'd tried for three quarters. I'm so high on carnage now that I even started to get a touch distressed when they ate away at the margin by kicking the first two goals. It would have been disappointing - in a way - to come down from this trip and find we'd only (!?) won by 10 goals.

The final heave towards 91 began in suitably NQR fashion, with Melksham kicking the sort of goal that you usually only see conceded by us. He nicked in and soccered through the easiest major of his life after patiently waiting for an Adelaide player half fumbling the ball the ball while trying to pick it up and half thinking about rushing it to make up his mind. In a rare moment of charity towards fallen opposition, this was handed back immediately by Salem dropping the simplest of marks in defence. Junk time had started about 30 seconds into the third quarter, but this was the point where the City of Alice Springs waste disposal units should have started doing laps of the boundary.

The charity goal made it look like our ridiculous record of consecutive quarter wins was about top out at 17 but there is a streak of ruthlessness in this side that is reminiscent of 2011 when sides set out to be as cruel to each other as possible. Two more goals extended the margin beyond the three-quarter time level, and somehow the team that has made going from hot to cold unexpectedly iconic is within three quarters of the greatest run of consecutive quarter wins in the history of the competition. This is just the sort of bullshit, otherwise pointless record that I'm dying for us to capture but hope none of the players find out about.

It may have been the opening of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, but I was ready to have an Uncle Doug when Hogan took a huge grab with a knee in his opponent's back to kick a fifth. Here's hoping he was paying no mind to the sign hanging over the fence saying "Jesse Hogan come to Freo", complete with a dinky little cartoon anchor. I'm sure he'll be able to restrain himself from leaving this freewheeling excitement machine to go and play for the boring as batshit Dockers. Ross Lyon can offer sex chat, we can offer sexy football.

After walking 20 something goals in from point blank range, it was a nice touch for the last goal to come from a long distance set shot to Brayshaw, capping the best game of his career. He was floating so high above the clouds that he didn't even mind the siren going halfway through his run-up. Lovers of obscure statistical facts rejoiced as it pushed the margin beyond Gold Coast at the Gabba in 2011 to become our biggest ever win outside the Melbourne metropolitan area. It's weird that for all the torment we suffered at Football Park that we've now beaten the Crows twice in seven years by larger margins than any Adelaide team ever put on us at home.

Apologies if this disjointed, aimless post fails to capture the glee of violently stomping a well-qualified side appropriately, but I can't remember another win that has had such a negative effect on my sleep. After Carlton I went out like a light, satisfied that one significant monkey had been hurled from our back, but last night my patented 'mountain of blankets' technique for dealing with winter was wiped out in a bigger violent thrashing than the one suffered by the Crows. I kept waking up with them flying in every direction as if my mind needed to be constantly reminded that this was real and not one of those vivid dreams where you wake up thinking you're rich for the first 10 seconds.

The question of whether we can do this against good teams remains unanswered, because there wasn't one in opposition. Good list, good recent record, decent number of wins this year but a total white flag surrender job on this occasion. You can only beat who they put in front of you though, and even against a side only narrowly lacking Kyle Cheney this was a more significant statement than either of the last two thrashings. I don't yet know if this even translates into playing finals, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed until at least Wednesday.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Margin slightly lower than last week, but degree of difficulty in awarding votes significantly higher. Complaints on a postcard to the usual address.

5 - Angus Brayshaw
4 - Jesse Hogan
3 - Jake Lever
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Jack Viney

Apologies to pretty much everyone else, but in no particular order to Fritsch, Gawn, Hibberd, Jetta, Jones, Lewis, O. McDonald, Melksham, Neal-Bullen, Smith and Vince

It's on in spectacular fashion at the top, with Hogan and Oliver making a move on Gawn and putting a serious dent in Jones' hopes of a 6th title. As Lever and Viney join the list, perhaps the only hope of the players outside the top three is that we may (NB: MAY - I am not calling anything until it is mathematically confirmed) have extra games for them to poll in this year.

24 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Clayton Oliver
21 - Jesse Hogan
14 - Nathan Jones
11 - Jake Melksham
7 - Angus Brayshaw
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Christian Petracca
4 - Bayley Fritsch (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Tom McDonald
3 - James Harmes, Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Michael Hibberd
1 - Neville Jetta, Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem, Jack Viney

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
On National Tap In Day it was hard to find too many spectacular finishes, and certainly nothing to trouble Tyson's goal under the roof for the clubhouse lead. I'm going to award the first joint nomination since half the team got a nod for setting up Salem vs Essendon in 2014. It goes to the first goal of the day, finished by Christian Petracca but set up via a delightful ground level gather and Clayton Oliver-esque lighting handball by Hogan. He won't be named in the final leaderboard, but credit also to Smith for a strong mark and quick dish to Hannan to create it. Apologies to Melksham and Brayshaw, who kicked the only half difficult set shots of the day.

For the weekly prize Hogan and Petracca win a trip to Hand Gestures and Novelty Celebrations Fantasy Camp to learn how to do all sorts of American shit after kicking goals. Your camp leader and bus driver will be Mr Don Pyke of Bloomington, Illinois. BYO blindfold and deep emotional scars.

This segment is about as biased as when Daisy Pearce interviewed the NT Demons fans at half time and said "thanks for cheering us on", but let this be an instructive lesson on why our banners are so good in comparison to other sides:
a) No curtain
b) Bold, confident font
c) Perfect kerning and ledding
d) The last line could have brought the whole thing undone, but preparation and proper planning has ensured that the words fit in by the narrowest possible margin.

In opposition, Adelaide fell for the common trap of a sad, weedy font. This sat above a barely concealed curtain held together by the slightest of materials so players could feel good about ripping it apart. The indigenous flags were well done, but the letters above were stretched even further out of place than their defenders. Dees win via a solid knockout. We're good, but last week I had us at 10 to zip when we'd only played nine games. So, for the second round in succession the Dees win and are 10-0 for the year.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Administration Chat)
It probably helped to play the Crows rather than Gold Coast, but it was easily the best crowd we've had at Traeger Park. According to the commentary - and they had clearly been well briefed on everything the NT has to offer - the capacity is only 7000, which would make a crowd of 6989 super impressive. Everything else online suggests that you can get 10k in there, either by hiding people behind the counter in the forward pocket Subway or double counting the guys hanging around out the back having a ciggy.

I enjoyed hearing the indigenous language version of our theme song at the start. The degree of difficulty may have been a bit high for the players to sing that one at the end, but it was a nice touch for what you could hear with BT blathering over the top. If Adelaide had one I didn't hear it being played, just that shitbox version of their tune that relegates them from being "the Mighty Adelaide Crows" to simply "known as the Adelaide Crows". What they were actually known as today is unprintable in a family publication.

All in all it was our most successful sold home game ever, at least until we play a team coming off a longer break next week and everyone falls in a heap during the final quarter. Best thing to do is to get about 80 points in front at the last change again and build a wall Donald Trump would get excited over.

Winning makes you think strange things, but I'm wondering if we couldn't find a way to keep this fixture, chuck the Darwin game and still make 75% of what we're getting now. Tossing them entirely isn't feasible, especially as we're getting rid of pokies and are supposedly going to pay two CEOs (one of who may be Big Al Nicholson, presumably with Chris Lamb as deputy) during the world's greatest bald head's transition period but that could be an interim solution.

If we played one AFLW and one AFL game in Alice, and Channel 7 remained committed to broadcasting an infomercial for Territory tourism in a decent timeslot wouldn't that be a better promotional opportunity for their government than a lightly viewed Saturday night Foxtel game featuring players resting in a meat locker? Let the puppet clubs like Gold Coast and GWS play the Sweatbox Challenge, and let us cut out one interstate trip.

If it's all or nothing then we can't afford not to do both, but from both a footballing and promotional standpoint I'd rather throw everything into a one-off promotional extravaganza. Interestingly, it has been suggested that as we only have a contract with the MCG for nine home games a year any leftovers would likely be played at Docklands. The obvious thought is just to renegotiate, but after Collingwood and Hawthorn played home games there this week it's clear that's where any extra games are going. On-field this is no longer a bad thing for us, and off-field the new management ensures that it's not the financial graveyard it once was. With the right opposition to compensate for our fans who'd refuse to go there for a Grand Final it could pay off. Over to you Nicho.

Next week
Now that it feels like we could beat anyone up to and including the US Army, the most old school Melbourne thing to do would be to turn back into pumpkins against lower mid-table mediocrities that have scored nearly 40 points a week less so far. The massacres have to stop somewhere, and as much as I'd love to give Fortress Shithole an early look at a team of invincible superheroes I'd be happy just to get through this with the points intact and consolidate our position in the four (!).

It's a bad time to be in the VFL, good luck getting in ahead of any of the players who have run riot over the last three weeks. Tyson had plenty of the ball for Casey against Port Melbourne, but even if they did come at a high degree of accuracy you couldn't get near our midfield on their current form. Balic might get a run at some point if he keeps kicking goals, but Garlett doesn't seem to be having much impact against semi-pros so I'll comfortably stick with Mitch Hannan.

The mid-season restings and face saving minor injuries will come, but for now I'm satisfied to keep a winning combination together. The only alteration I can see is Spargo being rotated out for a rest, possibly leading to a surprise Balic debut or the return of Garlett.

IN: Nil
OUT: Nil
UNLUCKY: Balic (first time listed), Bugg, Pedersen, Tyson

The All New Bradbury Plan
With the Crows plunging from finals certainties to the brink of elimination, the 6-10 group where all the action was anyway has turned into a 3-10 group. My rolling ladder prediction scenarios is remaining super-conservative, and now has us 7th a game and shitloads of percentage clear of North in 9th. I have more faith in Sydney, Adelaide and Port than the rest of the teams in that bracket, so may need to create a Division 3 and 3A after next week.

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

Your how to vote card for Fat Chance Round is:

Carlton d. Sydney (fat chance)
Port d. Hawthorn (50/50 - I'd usually go for the lower placed team but at the moment can see more benefit in keeping the Hawks down than creating more confusion in the race. There are positives if it goes the other way though, so make your own call on this)
Gold Coast d. Geelong (fat chance)
Richmond d. Essendon (apologies to those of you running a top two Bradbury Plan but the Bombers have done fantastic work for us in the last two weeks, time to cut off their comeback before it becomes a problem)
St Kilda d. West Coast (fat chance)
Brisbane d. North (fat chance)
Adelaide d. GWS (again, if you're working a top four plan you may want this the other way but I'd prefer to kill the Giants off ASAP)

Final thoughts
It could very well end in massive disappointment next Saturday, but even when this run does come to a halt the last three weeks are the sort of "remember when..." stuff you'll be talking about in a decade when we've run out of juice after five flags in a row and crashed back to the bottom of the ladder. If nothing else this quite remarkable ride has set us up very nicely for the second half of the year. We're now dead on where I realistically wanted us to be at this stage (with this win replacing the Hawthorn debacle) and with a monster percentage that effectively acts as an extra four points....

Monday 21 May 2018

How to make friends and eviscerate people

What a weekend for royals, the disco blue jumper officially became the greatest clash strip in the history of the sport and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can fondly reminder the weekend of their wedding as when Melbourne finally cast off years of tedious doormattery by violently abusing vulnerable opposition.

I haven't had a Sunday post out on the day of the game for a year, and this was delayed even further by not knowing where to start. It is a quite literally unprecedented scenario in the life of this blog to win a game by more than 96 points. That was not an inconsequential victory (especially if you were Jack Trengove and copped three weeks because Patrick Dangerfield has a porcelain head) but lacked that last important push over the psychological barrier of 100 points. After being involved in eight hundred plus decisions since the last time we topped the ton it was nice to finally get on the positive side of the equation.

It was only the second triple figure win of my spectating life, following on almost 25 years later from that infamous day where the bird shat on my hand at three quarter time of Round 21, 1993. I suppose the statute of limitations has passed where I can freely admit that as we racked up our previous record win against the Blues in Round 6, 2004 I skived off from work and hid in Royal Park listening to it unfold on the radio. I'm still bitter at having missed that, which is why after being pus for so long this thumping victory meant so much to me. Even just symbolically going into a three figure margin left me with a little tear in my ey

Losing to us by the largest ever margin in a series dating back in 1864 was a fitting culmination to a crazy week in the life of the Carlton Football Club. First a drought breaking victory got Mark Neeld fired from Essendon, then they ended up on an episode of Law and Order: AFL courtesy of two brothers both illicitly touching umpires on the same day. First the Curnows got away with fines, then on an appeal launched by the league's spectacle police my second cousin in law was suspended (it's true, consult the 'tenuous connections' branch of the family tree), only for the one who escaped with a fine to miss with injury anyway. On paper the absence of their best forward and a handy midfielder looked good for us, but Melbourne fans everywhere sharply inhaled as we expected the replacements to come in and clean our clock. I think the guy who took Charlie's place is still standing on the G now waiting to get a kick, but the original recipe might not have done much better considering the haphazard way his teammates just hoofed the ball down the line blindly and hoped for the best.

While the Blues were engaged in legal drama we were quietly returning from Queensland with minimal fanfare after dismantling the Suns. Nobody even knew that Clayton Oliver had surgery for a broken finger, which makes a welcome change from the days where Caroline Wilson had written a story about what type of biscuits they had at the board meeting before it finished. He even suffered the injury playing footy, not sticking it in a dog's gob, halting a run of novelty injuries that was likely to end in somebody contracting black lung. At full time I'd like to have seen him remove the Nintendo Power Glove and rehab his middle digit by sticking it in the face of that mouthy Carlton fan from last year.

What turned out to be a momentous occasion started slowly, and it sure didn't look much like a record thrashing was on the cards in the first quarter. We were undoubtedly the better team, but in an unwanted repeat of last week an avalanche of inside 50s came to little, while the inferior team managed to nick goals from limited opportunities at the other end. By the end we could barely go inside 50 without scoring something - usually a goal - as confused Blues defenders stood around wondering where their opponents had gone.

Projecting towards more competitive games in the future, do we really need to play Tom McDonald on the wing for the first five minutes of every quarter? It's difficult to argue with how they've got him going - or scoring 300 points in two weeks - but recent history has shown that Hogan is a better option up field and Sizzle is the man to aim at inside 50, so why not start Hulk there? I assume the idea is for McDonald to run around with his opponent for a while then slip unnoticed into the forward 50 while nobody's looking, but there has been more than one time where we've hoisted a long kick forward in the first few minutes and I've longed for him to clatter through the pack and mark it. All's well that ends well etc... etc... but resting on our laurels after a memorable victory is a well-known MFC trait that should be abolished.

The problem for Hogan yesterday was that there was no point being a hardworking link-up man in a side that didn't need one. We were sweeping from end to end so effortlessly that he could afford to just play a solid, but unspectacular game even after getting the sooks on about not being paid an obvious free in the first quarter. It's an excellent sign that we could wait until we were 102 points in front before he kicked his first goal. You know my views on the footy butterfly effect, maybe we wouldn't have been 102 points up if he'd been paid that first free. We might have been 200 up the way Carlton played the last three quarters. The best bit about him not getting it was that he stopped to argue with the umpire and was still the first man to the loose ball. Sure he got pinged for diving on it, but it was quite the recovery from having a mid-play whinge.

At that stage we were the best part of 10 minutes in, neither side had kicked a goal and I started to think a disaster was looming. Which in hindsight was silly, how many times did we hold on for a first quarter when we were a shipwreck side only to be eventually squashed? As long as we didn't have to reel them in from five goals down we should have known that weight of attacking numbers would eventually win out. Fortunately Carlton's sixes and sevens defence didn't consider that getting away with one free was good fortune and change their ways, because almost immediately after I first started to get nervy Jake Milkshake was vigorously attended to in a contest almost directly in front barely any distance out. The way he's been kicking set shots this year it was no certainly, but he steered a dinky 9 iron of a kick through and was off to what would his greatest day.

The AFL Player Ratings are as reliable an indicator of performance as a Ouija board, but in this case I'm happy to go along with the slightly ludicrous suggestion that Melksham played the best game of anyone in the AFL this year. First he set himself for a lucrative career on the Asian AFLX circuit (where you can never see the huge crowds because they're always in a corporate marquee), now this. Even adjusting for the quality of the opposition it was easily his best game for us. He has the occasional day off - and did kick 0.7 in his first four starts for the season - but Half Forward Milkshake may finish second only to Forward Sizzle in the list of great Simon Goodwin innovations. Remember when he turned up as a defender and everyone wanted to delist him after three weeks? Now he's done the reverse Clint Bizzell with great success. In third place on the Renovation Rumble set they've somehow converted Bayley Fritsch from a handy VFL goalkicker into the new Jayden Hunt. If the coaching thing doesn't work out Goodwin should start a consultancy for reconditioning players.

At the other end of the ratings spectrum came Bernie Vince, below even the hapless Blues defender who spent the first half giving away unnecessary free kicks and the second watching the ball fly over his head. The process of dishing out these points (or in Bernie's case taking them away) is a mystery, but I suppose it's hard to lose them when you can't get close enough to the opposition to do anything. In an otherwise high watermark game - surpassing McDonald sinking the Eagles at Subi as the peak of our post-finals era - not much went right for Bernard. His best moment was a cracking shirtfront in the first quarter that would have been celebrated in the days before people realised that brain trauma is a bad thing. Dale Thomas bounced back to his feet unscathed, and despite leaping at him like he was coming off a trampoline, the equal most reported player in club history avoided another charge. Could probably do with a week off anyway to be honest...

The star attraction of the first quarter was the war between Michael Hibberd and Jed Lamb. I'd never heard of Lamb until he was famous sledged by some Essendon goose last week, so I'll just assume he was still playing angry because of that. Later, when the game was well and truly over Hibbo 'accidentally' lobbed a footy into his face. At least, he maintained the rage for about 30 minutes before his teammates evaporated around him. There was much mirth on the Blue side when Hibberd and Oscar overran the ball and gifted him a tap in from the square, before significantly more amusement was had from us kicking 22 of the next 26 goals. Another dark day for Brendon Bolton, formerly the cheeriest man in football and now somebody who looks like he's having a significant personal crisis. Can't coach Hawthorn every week.

Carlton only kicked seven goals, but there must have been about four that they then gave back straight out of the centre. Wasn't it just like watching us five years ago? You go through all that toil to get a goal then it's wasted immediately. The added bonus to the first one was Liam Jones bravely running back with the flight of the ball to mark, only to have all his efforts wasted by his teammate holding Fritsch out of the contest. The rest of Liam's day was spent trying to pick which of the four Melbourne players running past him to goal that he should concentrate on and often choosing none of the above. Their second goal was handed back even quicker than the first, with Gawn roving his own ball from the ruck, booting it off the ground to the resurgent Neal-Bullen, who launched long to Tom McSizzle goalside of that man Jones. How you end up with your man that far clear almost in the square within 15 seconds of a bounce is a mystery to me. I will assume it was the new John Coleman's positioning that created it.

At three goals to one entering the last minute I think we all knew what was coming next. Now that we've racked up a blockbusting win we can laugh heartily about our failed attempts to desperately hang on in DemonTime™. The obscure defensive combination of Hogan handballing to Tim Smith ended in a free 40 metres out right in front, feeding into my almost fanatical belief that Cameron Pedersen is perfect and would have carefully helped us run down the last few seconds of the quarter. Then the fun really started, with the Carlton bloke kicking into Gawn on the mark, prompting several of our players to trot in and laugh merrily at him. The problem was that Maximum had been adjudged to have crept over the mark and while players from both sides were left engaging in manly jostling the Carltonian was galloping down to the square to kick the goal from point blank range.

The highlight - retrospectively now that we know the result - is Maximum's look of wounded disbelief at being pinged. Not to mention the Carlton players exhausting their last bit of fight by running in to give it to him. Despite the score they were playing such Keystone Kops footy that we should not have bothered with a man on the mark for the kick and hoped that they'd do something stupid like play on after the siren.

It was a source of some bitterness that after dominating them for the first quarter that goal only left us three points in front. Like an unwanted replay of last week it was clear to see that the opposition were no good, but at the same time you wouldn't have staked your life on us winning. In a much more positively received replay of last week we soon made amends for the first quarter by battering them unmercifully. It still didn't look as easy as some of the 100 point games we've been on the wrong end of over the years. Here's to doing it again many times over in coming years so we've got something to compare with.

We should have known what was coming when Smith made up for his pre-quarter time shenanigans from almost the exact same spot by setting up Viney's comeback goal. It wasn't so much the goal, but that Smith juked, jived and did everything but play on and they still missed Jack running up the middle of the 50 mark uncontested. I'm sure nobody was expecting an instant classic from Viney in his comeback, but he was pretty good. Certainly nothing to complain about on return to top level competition for the first time since mid-August after no pre-season. As the ball went through I delivered the time honoured footy fan pledge that I would crack the shits if we lost to this rabble.

It didn't take long to add the next, with a Melksham/McSizzle combination through the middle setting up Petracca from a range where even he couldn't miss. Things were starting to look good now, but when it comes to Melbourne it's sensible to stay calm until victory is absolutely confirmed. The defence especially were all over their opponents. It's hard not to look good when matched against the least fearsome attack since us in 2014 but I've got faith they've worked out how to play with each other now. We're not going to get this easy a run against the good sides, but the blocks are in place. Stop the good teams getting the ball in there quickly and count your money.

With respect to Original Recipe Lever doing the full FIFO thing whenever the ball came near him, and to Lifetime Achievement Award winner Neville Jetta, I love Oscar McDonald. He may be referred to as Sizzle Jr by association (much like Troy Longmuir being called 'Horse' because he looked like John Longmire, not for reportedly having a gigantic dong), but is so no frills that he should be simply listed on team sheets as DEFENDER but he's just quietly ticking away doing his job every week. This is not a bad thing.

I still wake up in the night mourning the season we left Lynden Dunn in the VFL all year - and fully still expect him to play finals before us - but on current indications it was the correct call to focus on Oscar. But be vigilant, I remember another defender of the same name having a blistering first half of the year that put him in All-Australian contention then being torn to shreds on Queen's Birthday and rapidly dropping out of calculations. Incidentally, the goalless Junior is only 10 games shy of the game where Tom kicked his first two, so we may as well try him up forward one day and see if forward play is in the family DNA.

As the second quarter went on the hits started coming at a more solid pace, with what was ultimately the knockout blow delivered courtesy of Lewis riding a bump 10% as savage as the one Vince had ironed out Thomas with earlier and finding that man Melksham miles in the clear with a perfect handball. Likewise, Melk saw McDonald caning into goal with nobody near him, dropped a delightful kick over the top to him and we were building a solid wall against the Blues ever turning up again.

The non-stop flow of goals from 20 metres was reminiscent of the day Port kicked a winning score entirely from the square in Alice a few years ago. Wherever Jeff Garlett was watching from he must have been spewing to miss out on a festival of kicks bombed over the top of a confused defence to waiting forwards, and cheapo handballs to players running into an open goal. Bad time to get dropped and by all reports do nothing in the seconds. For now I'm comfortable that everyone being picked instead is offering more across four quarters than he does. At this point - as we have to find money for two McDonalds, a Brayshaw and Jetta, you start to wonder how much money he's on and whether he might be jettisoned at the end of the season to clear cap room.

They kicked a nice running goal to steady the tide for a bit, only to hand it back in less than a minute again. If I was a Blues fan - and had the Dees lost the 1988 Prelim I would still have been too young to properly appreciate their '95 flag - I'd have been ropeable at the inability to hold the game up in the middle. This was one of those golden moments where the team who kicks one goal end up wishing they hadn't, because it leads to two immediately from the following centre bounces. When Melksham took a perfect over the top handball from Hogan to run into the goal and celebrate lustily with the cheersquad I secretly felt like we'd broken them. But kept it to myself. Which was fortunate because we then instantly gave up a seven point play courtesy of a nutbag Vince kick and the Blues had won the exchange by a point.

The excitement of the goal by Cripps - who must be on his way to Nathan Jones style neck surgery from carrying so many teammates - lasted a bit longer than the last one, but ultimately the result was the same. The ball bounced off the back of a pack to McDonald standing on his own, he was up to four and by any realistic reading of the situation we had the game won. I remained on high alert for a shambles.

Any suggestion that the newly miserable Bolton would deliver a spray for the ages and encourage his troops to overturn a five goal deficit went out the window within the first 30 seconds of the second half. Another ball fell over the top of the pack to a free player, where that man Melksham decided to swap close-range goals for a crumbtastic turn and snap from 40. This was the football equivalent of "you can actually pinpoint the second where his heart rips in half" from The Simpsons. I've seen enough overmatched teams enter panic mode and start playing like they're escaping a sinking ship over the years. I've nothing personal against the Blues, not since J**d retired anyway, but eventually somebody had to play victim for our triumphant return to respectability and they just happened to be standing in the way at the wrong time. Or in the case of their defenders, standing as far out of the way as possible.

If the first goal didn't cause them to bust out the lifeboats and start singing Nearer My God To Thee, the one we added about 15 seconds later must have been the last push over the edge. Brayshaw lobbed a long kick at goal that was probably going to beat everyone and bounce through anyway, before Fritsch made it more exciting by sprinting diagonally into the square and narrowly avoiding necking himself on the goalpost while taking the mark. I've enjoyed the extended highlights and there are looks on the faces of their fans behind the goal that are hauntingly similar to how I got around for most of 2012-2015. Only I was sensible enough to sit where the cameras couldn't catch me looking like it was the worst day of my life.

The carnival atmosphere kicked off in earnest when Petracca double fist punched a loose ball to Milkshake in a way that would never have come off a few years ago. He'd have got both hands to the ball only to see it bounce into Row A. This time it dropped directly into Jake's pocket to turn and snap a simple goal. Finally, a two handed fisting in our favour. It was the best thing Petracca has done for weeks, forget tripping over one dog playing basketball or being eaten alive by the other, a lucrative career on the off-season volleyball circuit awaits.

Five minutes in, courtesy of Anal-Bullet plucking a ball off the ground with the greatest of ease, we were 59 points ahead and goal umpire David Rodan must have been baffled at the idea that this was the shambolic wreck of a team he played for. We were making Rodan work so hard he might have done his knee again, almost straight after Neal-Bullen's goal Gawn added another after his opponent comically fell over in the contest, then the Bullet stormed right out of the middle for another and it was the most dominant stretch of MFC play since the 12 goal slaughter quarter against GWS.

At this rate we might have been a hundred up by three quarter time, but charitably calmed down for a few moments and let them kick a goal. You won't be surprised to discover that this was almost instantly wasted. Immediately cancelling out an opposition goal was one thing, but the most outrageous part was that it came from an Oliver vs Kruezer ruck dual. I can't believe he was meant to be there, and The Hamburglar didn't bother to contest. He just waited for it to come down and did what he normally does, with a similar result as Harmes goalled seconds later. It must have been galling to the Carlton man to finally get a chance to rest against somebody not a) called Gawn and b) likely to make him look stupid then watch the ball shoot off for a goal anyway.

We conceded in DemonTime™ again, but the Chris Sullivan Line had been breached to a point where you couldn't even remotely imagine us losing and it being renamed the [No Name Carlton Forward] Line. For once we could quite comfortably sit back and enjoy the last quarter, even if you did expect us to slow down or the Blues to try and claw back some dignity. Last week showed we'd discovered the joy of burying ides but still I couldn't bring myself to believe we'd go on with it beyond a 70 or 80 point victory. When you last saw a hundred point win aged 12 it's hard to find a point of reference.

The expected last-ditch fightback never came, and the score kept clocking upwards at a rate of knots. With it suddenly all to play for I very much enjoyed the Melksham goal where Salem ripped it long to a one-on-one, Jake bumped his man out of the way and had it sit perfectly in his hands to run into an open goal for a fifth. As McDonald kicking that many is no longer ludicrous, Jake instead goes into the Hall of Novelty Fivers alongside Slamming Sam Blease.

At three quarter time I'd resolved to sit back and enjoy the last quarter for what it was, but after the first three goals got us close to the line with plenty of time to play I was back to riding every kick like it was a thriller. For the first time since our three near misses in the first half of 2011 I had that rare feeling of your blood pressure going up with the margin as it cartwheels towards the hundred. It's the only scenario where you get more stressed the higher the score goes. Getting angry at players trying Hollywood kicks when you're 98 points up is a bit rude, but the three digit win meant a lot to me. My kid didn't care, but she'd at least reached three quarter time before becoming bored (quote: "we have already watched a lot of footy") and failed to appreciate that if we made it she'd have seen half as many 100 point wins as me in three career starts (+1 in utero loss to the Gold Coast Suns)

With more than 10 minutes left the margin crossed 90, and two minutes later Neal-Bullen was strolling into an open goal to put us within one kick of the promised land. This was no time to rest, seven years ago some Adelaide shit got a pointless late goal that held us out long enough to keep the margin to 96. With the weight of history on his shoulders, Charlie Spargo missed a sitter that would have made it 103, before Oliver took the ultimate revenge on the plonker he'd been forced to issue an insincere apology to last year by gleefully thumping home the decisive goal. He could have run a lap of the boundary looking for the guy, but would probably have had to run to Richmond Station to locate him.

With several minutes left - not that you'd know listening to the radio these days as they pretend there isn't a countdown clock in front of them - we were left in the ludicrous scenario of going home slightly unhappy if the Blues got a cheap one late and we 'only' won by 98. They had their chances, hitting the post once then missing a snap from the pocket in quick succession. I was almost ready to throw punches if they'd toppled us from here (not sure who at - probably a seat), before the Blues delivered a heritage round throwback to the first quarter by giving away a needless free. Hogan continued his run of kicking a goal in every game and the cherished margin was safe.

Absurdly it could have been even more. With the ball in hand for his 10th goal in two weeks, the league's new glamour full forward McDonald chose the most consequence-free moment of the season to finally miss a set shot. For half a second I was disgruntled that we didn't win by 114 points, but quickly snapped back to reality and what a great moment it was.

The sort of people who go to a 100th birthday party and say "gee, you look old" will mock us for celebrating this in lieu of finals or flags, but if you've lived the toil and struggle like we have you are well aware of what it meant. Of course I'd rather have beaten Collingwood in Round 23, 2017 and won this by 99 points but for where will sit in the world at the moment thrashing the pants off an incompetent team will have to do. Let's do it again sometime.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jake Melksham
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Tom McDonald
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to everyone, but especially Lever, Brayshaw and Oscar McDonald.

Maximum strikes back, further entrenching this as a race in four. Though Jake Milkshake in the form of his life might fancy himself an outright chance to at least make it a big five. The second division makes for exciting viewing, with Sizzle catching up to his brother and Anal-Bullet making his first appearance of the season.

24 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Clayton Oliver
17 - Jesse Hogan
14 - Nathan Jones
11 - Jake Melksham
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Christian Petracca
4 - Bayley Fritsch (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Tom McDonald
3 - James Harmes, Dean Kent, Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Angus Brayshaw, Michael Hibberd
1 - Neville Jetta, Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Two weeks in a row of having 20+ options to choose from puts all sorts of stress on the voting panel, but given how many came from walking past Carlton's open door defence into an open goal we can narrow it down to a handful of truly worthy contenders. The winner is former clubhouse leader Jake Melksham for his crumb and lusty blow to calm the nerves at the start of the third quarter.

Jake doesn't win back the overall lead, which is still held by Dom Tyson at Docklands, but for his second weekly prize of the year and a rare votes/GOTY double he wins this match on Laserdisc, VHS, DVD, Blue Ray and digital download.

For the second week in a row the opposition went with social issues on the run-through, but while Gold Coast's slogan had to skimp on text size to accommodate a massive curtain Carlton's was just a lazy, effort free hashtag. I think they stuffed up and held it the wrong way around, because the other side had the far more detailed message explaining what was going on. We had a supporting message on the back of ours that even rhymed properly. That, my friends, is a mark of quality. Dees win as usual, 10-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
It's noble that Carlton Respects, but how about a round of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing?

Talk about injuries in footy, I was casually walking back to my seat after a nervous pre-match whizz when I saw this and nearly did a tendon in my arm trying to get the phone onto camera mode before it disappeared. Maybe they realised that the extra letter would have pushed all the other text down a line and thought it fit in with the reduction of waste theme?

Handing out GWS style orange flags then issuing farcical, unclear instructions about their disposal (who were they supposed to hand them back to? Just lob it over the fence at Hype for Hire Pete Lazar?) was about as dynamic as the entertainment got. They didn't even bother trying to put on a show to prove their superiority, holding a quarter time Worksafe friendly version of Hogan's Heroes featuring an AFLW player gingerly kicking the ball to children and another iteration of Richmond's "Are You Paying Attention?" generically called 'Oblivious Cam'. Don't waste all your creativity at once.

Otherwise there was not a cracker from the crowd. We were surrounded almost entirely by Dees fans and the lone Carlton guy in front of us didn't even get sucked in during the first quarter. In fact I don't recalling him moving once during the game and he may actually have died in Q33 of the Ponsford Stand. What a great place to go. If I snuff it please smuggle the ashes in to a home game, spread them across Row MM and thrown the empty tin down the stairs when we lose a thriller.

Stat My Bitch Up
First time seniors and reserves have ever won by 100 on the same weekend. Good times.

Next week
We go into a top four game as the higher placed team, for our first genuine match of the round since god knows when. That should drag at least 5000 people through the gates in Alice Springs. On paper it should be the most exciting non-natural disaster event in the Territory's history, and venue aside we're probably getting the Crows at the right time. They're girt with injuries, and have just had to slog through the wet to win. We had to deal with rain too, but scooted across the top of the water like nobody since Jesus Christ.

The prospect of a massive let-down has to be considered, after all just look at the turd Carlton served up to follow their grandstand victory. I live in hope of extending this streak into a win against a contender, but pending how we play it's almost a free hit. The most important thing is not to shit the bed after beating a horrible team and let the Crows jump us. Here's to Taylor Walker enjoying another week of hamstring awareness, and Lever warming up for his Round 19 Carnival of Hate at the Adelaide Oval by taking 20 intercept marks. Or alternatively to Kyle Cheney mysteriously returning for 52 touches.

I'd like to hear more about Oskar Baker, though it's hard to judge anything based on a VFL game against a suburban side in disguise like Frankston. That will unfortunately count against Pedersen, whose six goals will be marked down accordingly. Smith did just enough that the patron saint of the 'unlucky' column won't be considered. Of course, if we're discarding older players to give the kids a run you'd be fair to ask why we wouldn't drop Vince even if he did beat MRP Lotto.

It's hard not to think we won't make a couple of cosmetic changes at some point in the next couple of weeks. You don't want to mess around with a winning side, but there's three games to the bye and Queen's Birthday is shaping up to be an actual blockbuster for the first time in years so there may be gentle massaging of the squad to keep players fresh. Best do that coming back from interstate, for now minimal alterations.

IN: Wagner
OUT: Vince ('rested')
UNLUCKY: Pedersen

The All New Bradbury Plan
What a spectacular weekend for The Plan. I ran a homebrew ladder predictor yesterday that had us winning all the obvious games and losing to top four contenders and it still landed us in a death-or-glory match against the Giants in the last round. Geelong and Hawthorn both unexpectedly stuffing up against spoiler only sides has given us a bit of a leg-up. From the lofty heights of third I'm not making any changes in the seedings, but Gold Coast can consider themselves lucky not to be sliding into the bottom five.

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

Now that we've got through the month of potential doom unscathed I'm pleased to announce your first Bradbury Plan how to vote card of the season for Round 10:

Bulldogs d. Collingwood
St Kilda d. Richmond
Brisbane d. Sydney
Carlton d. Geelong
Essendon d. Giants
Eagles d. Hawthorn (NB: Originally showed the other way around. I was excited ok?)
Freo d. North

No 50/50s this week, that is your card for maximum benefit. You never know, but I can't see any of the Plan friendly sides getting up except Freo. Still, who'd have seen Essendon beating Geelong? A cold as ice Jack Fitzpatrick apparently:
Was it worth it?
It's difficult to envision a scenario in which this wouldn't have been worth it. Perhaps if I'd contracted dysentery then slipped down the stairs on the wreckage the day would have gone down as a draw. My luck extended to parking, I'd never driven to a game with more than about 25,000 people, and only narrowly got in before they shut up shop, then ignored parking instructions from some galoot in a high vis vest that would have caused me to collide with another vehicle and shared a "what in god's name are these people doing?" look with the near other party in an insurance claim. Being practically on Punt Road I expected to still be waiting to get out at midnight, but instead was out the door and back on my way within minutes. I didn't even have to use my A.K. I got to say it was a good day.

Final thoughts
Back in the glory era of arcade gaming you didn't mind losing your coin once you'd have a fair go, and that's how I feel about the last month. It's a long way from the near turn on Goodwin in the second quarter in the Essendon game to a record breaking victory, but we've done exactly what we were supposed to in the first half of the season and that's set us up for a reasonable bash at the top eight. I won't be happy if we lose next week, but we've put ourselves in a position where beating the Crows would be a massive step towards building a siege mentality style fortress inside the eight. Forget family, friends or organised religion, clear your calendar for 3.20pm AEST next Sunday, the only event this week that matters a damn.

P.S - After nine games we've scored more than anyone else in the league despite totals of 48 and 56. What the bloody hell is going on?

Sunday 13 May 2018

Slip, slap slop

If the Gold Coast Suns are in the news, you know something's gone horribly wrong. First it was players on drugs, now they've been accused of acting as a branch of Pauline Hanson's One Nation. The polite thing to do would have been to forfeit this game to us while the investigation continued, and it took three quarters but in the end that's precisely what they did.

The Suns were terrible, but at least nobody saw it. An alleged 6060 was the lowest crowd at any AFL game at the Gabba. The previous record was for us against Brisbane in Round 22, 1991 so it's hard to put forward a case for us making any contribution to Queensland football beyond giving The Spencil a job for nine years. Sure it's not their home ground, but after the Suns have been hither and yon in the first seven weeks of the season you'd think their fans might relish the chance to see a game 80km down the road. Apparently not, even with a significant number of touring Melbourne fans present the tiny audience barely stretched around the lower level of the ground. Soon they'll be begging for that guy who had to return his membership after hurting Gary Ablett's feelings to come back.

The audience was 4.5 people shy of exactly half of what turned up for our 2011 game against them in Brisbane, and even that was suspiciously stacked with schoolkids and free ticket neutrals. Now they couldn't even give seats away, as demonstrated by the vast swathes of unoccupied corporate seats. It probably didn't help that the rugby leaguists were playing a double header featuring both the Titans and Broncos just down the road - and the Brisbane Lions were on TV about three hours later. Considering they've played on every other ground in the country over the last few weeks they should have gone for a double header of their own and made this the curtain raiser to GWS/West Coast because the stands were empty there too.

The best thing about Gold Coast - and there are not many - is that they've hired a fat coach. I too often hear the Carlton theme song playing while walking down the street, so appreciate affirmative action on behalf of the portly gent. Let's not forget that Stuart Dew should be our coach now, only stopped (or saved, depending on how you look at it) from being Roos' successor because Sydney wouldn't let him out of his contract. I'd have loved to be run by somebody who looks like he's going to have Pizza Hut deliver to the coaches' box. The only other heavy coach I can think of is Neil Balme, so like record defeats we could have had the two leaders with the highest BMIs in league history.

I know what an ill club looks like, and this lot need Florence Nightingale and/or euthanasia. Earlier in the day their reserves went goalless, which was a cause for great hilarity until the seniors kicked their first goal after 20 seconds, much to the delight of the 135 members in attendance. That was a setback, but we were soon down the other end menacing their defenders and endless repeat inside 50s became the theme of the day. They couldn't clear the ball effectively, we couldn't put it through the big sticks and by this point there were probably more people in the stands than watching on TV.

Finally after three behinds, including Gawn missing from hard on the boundary because nobody was there to hang shit on him from over the fence, the extraordinarily generous Sam Weideman set up the extraordinarily old Charlie Spargo for the first. It was another weird Weid game where he did nice looking things when he got it, but didn't get it enough. He was certainly kind enough to hand off about four goals to teammates but I'd like to see him get greedy and start snaffling a few for himself.

After struggling mightily to convert for the first 10 minutes, the next one came immediately from the bounce. Jones got a free and unleashed a kick straight down the middle of the 50 where the thinking man's Coleman Medallist Tom McDonald casually stepped in front of his opponent to grab the mark. He's so good at set shots now that I started to suffer a strange phenomenon during this game, my expectation of him kicking accurately is so high that I'm even more nervous about him having shots than a regular player because the implication is that any result other than a goal would be a grave waste of a chance.

McSizzle got the next one too, a suicidal Suns kick across defence was intercepted by Neal-Bullen, who missed Hannan standing on his own in the square and went wider instead. McDonald had to make the most of it from an angle and checksided it through for the second under heavy pressure even before Hannan could stop reacting negatively to being ignored in the first place.

The turnover was the sort of bonkers disposal that made you think the Suns were terrible and there was no way we could possibly lose to them, but it also only opened an eight point lead. Then they got the next goal and the prospect of punching ourselves out and being caught on the break loomed large. As all this was happening I was trying to act as the sole responsible adult to a near four year old who declared my hovering over the television and yelling "silly", but then wanted to join in when I responded to the follow up goal - ironically caused by an old school Tommy Mac turnover in defence - by jumping up and down on the spot theatrically.

Fortunately the cause for leaping about comically (at least to a kid, I was too nervous to have any fun) was quickly flipped on its head when we cartwheeled out of the centre for ANB to reply seconds later. By then Junior had already lost interest and wandered off, ducking back in periodically to ask if the footy was over yet so she could watch Peppa Pig.

After an NQR quarter where we dominated and kicked goals but still only led narrowly it was incredibly lucky that the siren went seconds before a Gold Coast player deep inside 50 could get boot to ball. We'll never know if he'd have snapped through the goals as casually without full knowledge that it wouldn't count. Even without that going through in time it was still hard to know what to make of it, we were obviously the much better side and had a far greater spread of players but while I couldn't see how we could lose to them I wasn't convinced we'd win either. At the time I didn't know that we were going to eventually overwhelm them with outrageous number of inside 50s. For now it just looked like we'd waste chances out the yin yang and be regularly hit on the counter.

There were ups and downs to being the lowest priority of the six Saturday games. We got the guy they consider to be the lowest on the commentary totem pole, but who should be commended for calling the game properly and not hyperventilating for four quarters BT/Dwayne style. They should be the ones relegated to Melbourne vs Gold Coast in front of friends and family while the likes of Papalia, Bennett or almost anyone else do the big games. They don't do anything that bogans like, and that's as good an endorsement as you can get.

On the other hand the director was off his or her face, persisting with ridiculous closeups which meant a ball would fly off-screen and the camera would barely get to where it went before it was on the move again. More than once a disposal led to a moment of terror because you had no idea who was on the other end. They were also keen on showing replays of free kicks while the game went on, without at least putting up a picture-in-picture of the live action. You'd think they were aware that only a tiny fraction of people cared. Also it's not the fault of the team doing this game, but somebody at Fox Footy probably should have thought about launching an ad with a shotgun related punchline the day after a major gun crime tragedy.

For the first half of the second term we didn't look much like winners, much less 70 point winners. I don't know if Sizzle Sr was even on the ground for most of it, because otherwise the obvious thing would have been to aim every attack at him. Instead he was nowhere to be seen, while Hogan was further up the ground trying hard to get involved. It can only help for the future that players like Hogan and Gawn can go all day, or that Clayton Oliver can be best on ground (spoiler!) on 75% of game time.

There was a sense - incorrect as it turns out - that we were going to stuff this up. After handing them the lead via a rare errant Oscar kick and a silly 50 from Hibberd, Neal-Bullen had the chance to kick through an unguarded goal but to continue his recent nervy run he missed. Had we not recovered to win by a lot I may have driven to the airport to pelt him with eggs on arrival. The poor bastard's blunder even made the infamously shit AFL website highlights, where they don't even bother to serve up all the goals but here's a guy doing a humiliating miss. When you're hot you're hot, and when you're not you're not.

People who like to complain about why football is allegedly no good these days may wish to direct their focus on a free kick paid against James Harmes during this quarter. He ran back against the flight of the ball, perfectly spoiled an opponent who was falling backwards anyway in an attempt to take the grab, and as the momentum caused our man to brush him on the way through a free kick was paid. If his follow through had landed him on top of the Brisbane man, impeding his ability to get up and contend for the ball fair enough, but this was ridiculous. People seem to want more frees to be paid, but as I've said before if the incidental contact doesn't impact on the player don't call it. I've given up trying to keep the number of interpretations for umpires down, it's always going to be a crap shoot so let's do something for the players.

For the sake of balance there was an arguably even worse free in the last quarter when Jetta ran into a guy who was doing nothing more than going for the ball and received given a free for low contact. It was about time Nifty had something go right for him at the Gabba, earlier in the year a Brisbane player had gotten away with trying to murder him, and this time a Suns player ran past and punched him in the dick.

If the state of Queensland has a hate on for Jetta, I'd be surprised if Harmes didn't request a trade to play there. Our only better interstate performance of recent years was the 73 point win against the Suns two years ago, and both times he's had one of the best games of his career. You have to adjust for the quality of the opposition, but this was by some distance his best game of the year. Speaking of maligned players, it was easily the Jordan Lewis' finest appearance all year, and one of the best of the last two seasons. He was rock solid in defence, setting up numerous scoring opportunities and almost flawless with the ball. Still not convinced he's got enough petrol in the tank to get him past the end of this year, but it was a welcome return to form. We hope that for both of them the good times continue against better organised sides.

The tide turned when SME Killer Steven May - still my favourite non-McDonald full back in the comp - gave away a cheap and pointless free to Hannan in the square 75 metres off the ball. Like the earlier Harmes debacle it was probably a correct decision to the letter of the law, but is that what we really want paid? May then tried to demonstrate that Hannan ducked and inadvertently lightly headbutted the umpire, who fortunately for him didn't take a Graham Carbery vs Phil Carmen style overly dramatic bump. May picked a bad week for it - unless he's trying to get out of going to Shanghai - after Tom Hawkins got rubbed out for swatting an umpire's hand and Ed Curnow will also be in trouble for fondling one at the MCG. None of it should be anything more than a fine, but no doubt they'll want to make an example of somebody and will order him to be broken on the rack. Which is also a fair way to describe the Gold Coast career of Harley Bennell.

Hannan's goal was the first of three in a row, with Oliver setting up another immediately after by winning a free from the bounce and stuffing it right down McDonald's throat at last. Finally we were playing to his strengths. He's already had a gift in the square from Weideman for his third, and followed up here with a belting full-extension overhead mark right in front. It was his worst set shot since the one from 20 metres out against North in Hobart last year, but things were running so severely in his direction that it snuck in.

I'm comfortable with questioning the methods of Simon Goodwin, but Forward Sizzle could be his masterpiece. Sure it came out of necessity last year when nobody else could kick a goal, but it's turned out spectacularly. Surely there can't be another player in history who has gone 59 games without a goal then had two bags of five. With the Sizzle Brothers on fire at either end are we sure we can afford to keep the band together at the end of this year? Their value goes up every week, and we've also got to fit Brayshaw and Jetta in this season - both of who would be rising in value weekly.. Considering the mad money Hogan, Jones, Viney, Gawn, Lever and Oliver at a minimum are on I start to wonder if we might have to start jettisoning some midcarders to pay for it all. For anybody else who is out of contract and a chance of being retained - e.g. Kent, Wagner, Pedersen, Harmes, Vince - I suggest signing anything you're offered without complaint.

After Melksham - who had a touch of the Petraccas in front of goal - missed an opportunity to really dig the knife in we got another sign from the heavens that things were going to go our way. Salem was clattered into by some oversized oaf after marking, and after dismissing the flashbacks to when the brick dropped on his head he took his 50 metre penalty and narrowly dropped the ball over the line from distance. A video review helpfully confirmed that it had gone about half a metre over the line before being touched. That goal should have been it for the first half, but where Gold Coast had been ordinary in the middle all night they chose the right time to win a centre clearance. For the second quarter in a row they were nearly beaten by the clock, but this time managed to stuff a hurried kick through for a point, leaving Salem's goal relatively unscathed.

Interviews with players walking off the ground are rarely worth it, but it was hard not to enjoy four goal hero McSizzle responding to a perfectly banal question about whether the Suns had done anything to surprise us like it had been implied that we'd come in expecting a 200 point win. For somebody who won Demonbracket with a spectacular run of novelty posts it was a magnificently serious performance, proving he's not just versatile with his field positioning.

Things were looking a lot better than they had been before the May free kick, and when Neal-Bullen made amends for his earlier shithouse shot by dribbling one through from the top of the square the margin was inexplicably out to nearly five goals. At last the rising tide was beginning to swamp the Suns. They got a goal back almost immediately, before falling victim to a classic piece of Max Gawn total football. The man can do it anywhere on the ground, and in this case twice in the same passage of play. He contested a boundary throw-in, then ran to the square and took advantage of somebody punching a loose ball towards him to kick the reply to the reply. Three goals in the first three minutes of the quarter and who said footy was getting boring? We did our bit for average scores across the league here by not only kicking 146 but letting in 77. AFL House, send cheques of appreciation courtesy of Brunton Avenue.

McDonald then got his fifth with a quarter and a half left, leaving open the tantalising prospect of him kicking an actual real life bag. Ironically we spent the rest of the game aiming for him inside 50 and everyone else got the goals. After the Ronke Tonk Man did his Darren Cuthbertson impression by kicking seven for the Swans on Friday night the best thing to keep him from becoming overexposed would have been a reconditioned defender banging through 10, but we'll have to wait a bit longer for that. While he was doing this Hogan remained scoreless, but it was as good a scoreless game as you'd get. He covered more ground for the game than anyone, and it was nice to see him rewarded for effort by chipping in for a few when we'd blown the game to buggery in the last.

When you follow Melbourne you should never start to fantasise about anything amazing happening because you'll usually end up being let down. McDonald's fifth sparked the Suns into having a go for the first time since the second quarter and they made things temporarily uncomfortable by kicking three in a row. Maybe we got a bit excited by the margin and started to lose our structure, because the first one came against the unheralded defensive combination of Weideman/Tyson and the third after an absurd block from Spargo. I have no idea why any of these people were within 50 metres of our goal.

With the margin cut in half and still plenty of time to play in the third quarter we were desperately in need of a steadier, and unusually it came from Michael Hibberd. He was on the end of a flowing move from one end to the other and thumped through the much needed goal on the run. It restored  a comfortable four goal gap, and in reality crushed whatever fragile spirit they had left. If the real sun stops all life on earth ceases to exist, if the AFL version does nobody is all that surprised and Spargo paid back the goal he'd given away from a free in full by converting after having his head ripped off in a tackle.

We wasted two more chances through Harmes and Melksham, but all-in-all did well to ride out their brief flourish of resistance and come out looking like winners. A 32 point margin left us in that interesting position where we were short of the certainty of the Chris Sullivan Line, but would have to do something outrageously stupid to lose. I was confident that they couldn't keep the ball out of our attack long enough to kick six goals without reply, but considering we almost lost the Brisbane game by dying in the arse for 20 minutes you weren't going to take anything for granted.

It was ok to relax. At last we detected a team ready to collapse in a screaming heap and took advantage of them. We still conceded a couple of avoidable cheapies late, but eight goals to two partially made up for taking our foot off the gas late for the last two weeks. I suppose after wandering around the country aimlessly like backpackers we're supposed to feel sorry for Gold Coast having to go to China next week. Not in the slightest. Maybe they should have factored the effect of the Commonwealth Games in before gleefully signing up to sell their home game to support Port's oriental wankfest?

Considering the damage that would eventually be wrought on their rag-tag opposition, we started the last term slowly. The first, and what seemed like sealer even though I wasn't ready to trust yet, didn't come for eight minutes until Hogan set up Salem to storm towards goal unhindered and smash it through. If that wasn't good enough to convince you we were home, Brayshaw adding another about 30 seconds later should have done it.

Personally I was still waiting for one more, which eventually came from one of the odder set shot goals you're ever going to see. Hannan marked 40 metres out, and what looked like an attempt to set it up to the top of the square came off a bit too well and he actually set it up to the top of the fence straight through the middle. That was my cue to relax, when we were kicking bizarre goals like that there was no way the Suns were going to unleash a record breaking comeback.

The first step would have been to stop us from going forward every 20 seconds, as we constantly sent it forward to where their defenders were starting to lose the will to live. All of a sudden it started to look like we were going to beat the record for inside 50s in a game (at least since they started counting them in 1998), an idea almost as ludicrous as the day Mogadon Mark Neeld presided over the highest fourth quarter score in club history. This was not a bad fourth quarter score either, with goals flying in from all angles. With Milkshake converting a set shot all it lacked was McDonald putting through five and Petracca converting from anywhere to achieve perfection.

Because my MSDS knows no boundaries there was a close-up (surprise!) showing Brayshaw about to come on in the last few minutes and I was tense that he'd come on too early and we'd lost 71-0 on a head count. I don't even know if the head count is still a valid tactic in 2018, but if any team is ever going to lose a game because of one it'll be us.

Subliminally the players must have known how silly the inside 50 record would have been, because with three to get and plenty of time left they eased off. In the dying seconds Lewis could have hoisted one forward just for the stat but decided to dink it around instead and we had to settle for a share of the 20 year high alongside North Melbourne in a 129 point win over GWS. Even Geelong only had 69 during 186, but that's because they scored from 48 of them.

Even after finally putting a team to the sword there was still a bit of sour regret at conceding the last goal and losing the +70 margin. Still, there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Imagine reaching the stage in your supporting life when you win by 69 points and can find something minor to get upset about? I'm still not sure this is going to translate into beating the good sides, but the way it's going we should give ourselves a decent chance going into that nightmare run home. Onwards and upwards.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Jordan Lewis
3 - James Harmes
2 - Tom McDonald
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to - in reverse alphabetical order - Salem, Melksham, O. McDonald, Lever, Jetta, Hogan, Hibberd, Hannan, Gawn and Fritsch

The midfield strikes back, with Oliver's maximum carrying him back past the rucks and forwards to the top of the tree. Jones was the only other of the big four to take a point, leaving three new names to join the race this week. It will now take Jack Viney the equivalent of six BOGs without reply to win the title. Fat chance.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
A refreshing cavalcade of selections to choose from, but with apologies to Hibberd and Salem on the run it's Max Gawn taking a boundary throw-in, running towards the square then holding a man a head and a half shorter than him at bay to kick the goal.

For his second nomination of the year Max wins a framed commemorative poster showing our dual torments of the Suns at the Gabba over the years. They were supposed to have won about four flags by now. Stiff shit.

Tyson on the run vs St Kilda retains the clubhouse lead, possibly quite literally because like a golfer who's already played through the 18th I suspect he won't be on the course next week.

Very well done to the Suns for having a message suggesting we stamp out domestic and family violence. Shame the curtain under it was so enormous that the messages was reduced to about 10 point font at the very top. Ours came on the 'away' horizontal stripes and suggested lifting the intensity and blowing them away. Which we did, so an obvious win for the Demon Army there. 8-0 for the season.

Next week
At least if we flub the last leg of the quaddie it won't give the Blues their first win of the season. Hopefully having caused Essendon fans to go into full meltdown they've got it out of their system and go back to being terrible. To be fair, despite a club record rancid start to the season they weren't exactly Melbourne 2012/13, and we have proven to be worse at the MCG then every other ground we've played on this year so don't include a win in your ladder predictor calculations just yet.

I write before Viney plays his comeback game tomorrow, assuming that no matter how rusty he is we'll pick him unless he has his neck broken by some uncoordinated suburban player. That leaves the matter of who to drop, and it's time for Vendetta 2018 to finally pay off. Tyson was not very good tonight and somebody's got to make way from the midfield. Despite his two goals Anal-Bullet still looked uncomfortable, but it was better than his recent performances but for want of anyone else to pick he can have another go.

I'm 50/50 on Weideman. He has been serviceable, and I think we can carry the three talls but it's possibly time for a respectful, no hard feelings omission. He had four goal assists tonight but still only two kicks. The question is who to pick instead - Garlett is an obvious alternative if he plays well tomorrow. Otherwise the option is to send Fritsch back forward from whatever weird floating thing he was doing tonight and bring in somebody who can play a wing - not keen on Hunt immediately coming back, and don't get any crazy ideas about Wagner doing it again. I fall on the side of picking Jeff (never Jeffy at any level of the game) just in the hope that he'll kick three against his old side like both games last year.

Then there's Harmes potentially being done for a sling tackle that wasn't even deemed vicious enough to pay a free kick for at the time. Surely not.

I'd like to get off to a good start, Carlton have given us all sorts of trouble over the last few years despite being pox so let's not give them any oxygen. More importantly, what second rate matchday entertainment will the Blues put on to try and convince us that they're still a massive club?

IN: Viney
OUT: Tyson (omit)
LUCKY: Neal-Bullen, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Garlett (pending VFL performance), Pedersen (permanent entry)

The All New Bradbury Plan
With tomorrow's games to play there's not much movement in the Plan, other than to move Essendon into the irritant only category. The way the plan works we will want them to beat Geelong next week. But they won't, because they're shit. The marginally more successful of the two franchises are also down a rung this week, dumped into the mid-table mediocrity battle. I'm certain they'll pick up when they get players back, which is a shame. If they could become demoralised by Round 23 instead that would be excellent.

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

Final thoughts
In the least likely of the last three games we've finally discovered the joy of battering an opponent while waving the white flag. It still pays to remain vigilant, anyone talking up a prospective massive margin against the Blues will be boiled in oil.