Saturday 23 June 2018

Friday night and I just love complaining

Apparently footy is broken and must be saved before TV stations withdraw support and players are forced to work part-time as PE teachers again. Just like the 80s when the game was flawless. Much of the anxiety surrounds plummeting ratings on Friday - or as it's known in the industry 'Carlton Night' - so it was about time they put The New Entertainers on and gave us a chance to save the competition. Then the game opened with 15 goalless minutes, and by the time we put on three in rapid succession, thousands of viewers had their heads in the oven and were reaching for the knob.

All's well that ends well for neutrals, it ended in a thriller and gave viewers from coast-to-coast the opportunity to laugh about a team throwing away a three-quarter time lead because they didn't kick another goal. Neutrals can do one, hold all tickets for the next fortnight but this was the most infuriating loss of the year. We got closer against Geelong but played worse and had 21 more games to recover. This was absolutely vital in the context of the season, and we necked ourselves with 68 forward entries that were about as much use as dropping the ball inside 50 from a hot air balloon.

In footy's quality wars I'd like to think we at least gave viewers bang for their buck. My interest in the enjoyment of others is usually nil but I felt a weight of expectation to do something interesting in our only Friday game of the year. Surely last night was enough to satisfy; I'm not sure what another 30 points per team would have offered other than the chance to run 10 more ads. However that will all count for nil in the end, as it contributed to the further reduction in average scores and next season there will be more zones on the field than a game of Test Match. Recycling spokesman Chris J**d wants to make the game shorter, and after spending the week hanging shit on him for it I accept that we could have done with 30 minutes less here.

The War on Congestion may be just what we need, we seem to go to water against any side that can get close enough to apply pressure, and good teams already move the ball untouched like they're playing basketball against us anyway so why not sell out and try to get a flag ASAP? Given the disposal averages of our players in this game, and what to the naked eye looked like a complete inability to shift the ball from one end to the other without going via a contest, we should be more astonished at having nearly 70 inside 50s than how they were badly they were wasted.

There will be much talk about the umpiring, and believe me when Brayshaw wasn't paid that mark at the end I was about to go out and buy a cat just to kick it, but not for the first time in an interstate game we had the chance to rise above weird decisions from umpires terrified of the locals and win anyway. The comical decision to cost Melksham's a goal for a 'block' in a one-on-one contest, or some plonker running into Vince's hand were ripe to be heroically overcome if we found a non hit-and-hope avenue to goal. We didn't, we lost, bad luck to us.

If we were only due one Friday night game all season I'm thrilled that it was interstate. I've not the slightest interest in attending games on weekdays, especially after the Sydney debacle last year, due to the required several hours of aimlessly hanging around the city after work like a uni student. It suited my lifestyle much better to come home and have several hours to mentally warm-up for the inevitable debacle.

I'm not used to being home for any match considered important enough for a pre-game show. Say what you like about David King - and I certainly have - but pre-match coverage where they even lightly touch on how teams play and why takes a zesty dump on the insight free, boys' club FM radio atmosphere on Channel 7. It's unfortunate that when the game started they had to put the 7 call on, instead of Fox doing what they do for the NRL and running their own commentators over the top. As long as Dwayne wasn't involved it might have saved us from multiple HILARIOUS "Houston we have a problem" references as if nobody had ever cracked that gag before.

I'm satisfied with the game as it is, but that's probably because every game not involving us including the Grand Final is like background noise. An Essendon style surprise 50-1 start was too much to ask for, but a 3-3 score halfway through the first quarter didn't seem like as much of a burden to me as TV executives desperate to run ads. Why not just sell space on the humanoid mutants who hang over the fence yelling stupid shit at players? The six scoring opportunities, including some spectacular flubs from both sides, came outside an otherwise stoppage heavy quarter that would have caused lovers of free-flowing excitement to weep openly. Alternatively you could have enjoyed another heavyweight battle between two of the premier ruckmen in the sport and a brutal contest at ground level.

The pressure was immense - and remained so throughout - but the best example of why there's nothing wrong with congestion in the right hands is Clayton Oliver. You could blindfold him, spin him around three times and surround him with 4/5 opposition players and he'd still probably hit the right target. Six long years ago I came up with an ingenious idea for a Hogan's Alley style kicking drill, and would now like to extend this to handballs so I can see The Hamburglar set a world record. Like last week it was nowhere near his top performance, but considering how the rest of the side was crumbling under far less pressure than he was wearing (including a tagger with some of the busiest hands ever seen in Adelaide) he was still one of our best.

As the highest scoring team in the competition (⛷️) there was a reasonable expectation that we'd create a lot of chances, but our strategy was exactly what Port expected and they went on an Adam Oxley Kingsley nomination style streak of intercept possessions. It was obvious in the first two minutes that they'd rumbled us, and yet we were still doing the same thing two hours later with disappointing results.

I assume Simon Goodwin made some unseen adjustments, but whenever they cut to him he was extending the Wolf of Wall Street theme for another week by making faces like this:

I know where he was coming from, by the last quarter that's how I was reacting to our attacking moves too. The difference was I couldn't do anything about it.

With the 56 minutes of the hour left over after making this week's All The Goals, I'd like to request a supercut of all his half-quizzical, half-pained expressions. He was writing and circling on a piece of paper just captured at the bottom of screen, and somebody with sick modern technology needs to confirm that he was just wring "we're rooted" over and over again.

The biggest disappointment (before the last quarter) was that with Watts and Dom Barry dropped, Smilin' Jimmy Toumpas' career on life support in the SANFL and Trengove firmly 'break in case of emergency' we avoided having to take on any of the Four Horsemen of the 2013 Apocalypse. This was selection madness by the Power, who might be in good form but should have paid respect to the time honoured tradition of ex-players kicking the suitcase out of us. Between the four of them one had to be BOG, probably Trengove as another surprise foot injury unleashes his long-dormant running power and he kicked nine off the half-forward flank.

The loss of Watts hasn't seemed so bad since we discovered that Bayley Fritsch is good, but it still doesn't mean I'm keen on them chucking him for peanuts. Giving away an enigmatic but talented player for pick 31 and getting what looks like a long-term solid player in return is like diving off a pier and celebrating when you don't hit a submerged shopping trolley. Bruce McAvaney certainly liked Fritsch, who didn't get the ball very much but caused a Cyril-esque style party in the pants whenever he did. Bruce claims to love watching anyone play in the 31 at Melbourne, which is not something you ever heard when Donald Cockatoo-Collins was wearing it. They claimed it was his Bruce's birthday, and I feel bad that he had to spend it sitting next to a blathering idiot watching us torch more chances than he has candles on his cake.

Both teams should have had the first goal, but while we were blowing speculative chances, Port had the first decent opportunity after a 50. It would not be the last time they set up a shot on goal via that method, and not the last time the culprit would be Oscar McDonald. At least in this case he was rorted blind (or not if you're Michael Christian and fined him $2000), having eyes for nothing but the ball in a marking contest and clobbering his opponent only by virtue of arriving fractionally late. If the mark had been dropped they'd have just paid a free and got on with it, so in that split second was he supposed to have decided to make up for missing the mark by belting somebody? There's something fishy about four umpire games, and there will be until we get one where the rorts go overwhelmingly in our favour. The only good bit about the 50 other than kick missing was the replay showing our water carrier instinctively applauding the hit as it happened.

It was concerning that we were attacking constantly without reward, and that even if Port missed their limited opportunities they looked far more likely to score when going forward. It's been the same story against good sides all year, I'm absolutely thrilled that we can obliterate strugglers now and hope we keep doing it, but anybody who genuinely thought we were a top four team before the Pies game (much less now) must have been inhaling gas. The building blocks remain firmly in place but there are still holes big enough to drive a semi-trailer through.

I'm not going to blame the midfield, because Gawn held his own and they were certainly able to get the ball, it's just that they were under full harassment all night and as a consequence everything was rushed at 150% speed. Disposal efficiency on its own is unreliable evidence, but there's something to be said for the heat from Port across the ground when we ran riot in the clearances but Dom Tyson was our cleanest midfielder and Neville Jetta came in at 55.6%, which must be the worst result since his comeback. Our defence battled under siege but never looked comfortable, and in a flashback to the 'good old days' the half forward line was practically non-existent.

While Oliver floated in and out doing his sixth sense handballs, Viney was best suited to the general biff of the first half. Brayshaw proved he could get the ball against good company, but the pressure was not his friend and he ended up wasting most of his kicks by blindly thumping them forward. I'm satisfied that he will handle this better over time, and that not every team is going to be able to bring the same pressure as our last two opponents.

Like a bus you had to wait ages for the goals, then three came at once. First Melksham set up Hannan, then Tom McSizzle pulled off one of the wildest sidesteps ever seen on an AFL ground to go past an opponent into an open goal, and the mini-rampage continued with a Port defender shitting himself on the line and allowing Petracca to soccer through. When they gave away a free immediately after and Hibberd hit McDonald 30 metres out on not much angle at all it was looking like a repeat of the first quarter against the Crows on a 15 minute delay. Of course when they flashed up that he was 19.2 from set shots this season we all knew what was going to happen next, but regardless it was clear that the Power were rattled.

The idea of holding a good side goalless was appealing, but as the ball went down the other end in the last minute I think we all knew what was coming next. After failing to waste McDonald's goal immediately after he kicked it, we switched back to our other special skill and conceded in the last 90 seconds. Just like three quarter time against Collingwood when we were still an outside chance this came after the siren and ultimately proved even more decisive.

A two goal lead was still welcome, but we'd wasted our period of domination and would never get the same clear run again. Joel Smith made up for being pinged holding the ball to gift them that goal by saving one with a ripping tackle early in the second. He had another ok game, but I'd like to watch the tapes with a defensive coach and see what they think about his positioning. He is an animal at ground level and his disposal isn't bad, but there is something chaotic about our defensive structure and I'm not sure he's helping. It said plenty about how few times Port actually went forward, and how we barely dealt with the threat when they did was that were only 25 disposals between him, Sizzle Jr and Jetta. They all grafted hard, but Hibberd was the only one who looked even remotely likely to start an attacking chain.

Smith's save preserved another several minutes of goal free footy. It was still a reasonable advertisement for the game, but if the AFL want us to keep saving footy they'll have to help us develop a way to take advantage of all the inside 50s. Last night was another dark day for that stat, three quarters of ours could be easily ignored because they could only have led to scores via tremendous luck. The number of properly crafted opportunities would have been lucky to get into double figures.

I'm sure the late goal in the first quarter wasn't the difference, and that Port would have come back to win anyway, but soon enough they were level. McDonald's second got us back in front, but we still didn't look much like kicking a winning score or keeping Port out long enough to defend a small score. And so it came to pass. When tactical illiterates like me could accurately see what was going to happen an hour out something must have been wrong.

We only kicked one goal to the right of screen all night but should have had another straight after McDonald's goal. We went forward again and Melksham found himself one-on-one inside 50, held his ground in the contest and was pinched for a block. On a point of law, how do you block when there's not a third man in the contest? (Update - I've reviewed the rules and it does say you can block an individual player. Not that he did.) It was up there with the wackiest decisions of all time, and the air of shambles was not helped by Milkshake casually kicking the 'goal' after the free in a way that demonstrated he 100% knew (if not understood why) he'd been pinched, then doing a muted goal celebration in an attempt to avoid conceding 50.

Hanging on to a stringy lead, we tried ultra-hard to get up another DemonTime™ goal up by standing back and letting Lindsay Thomas (and who knew he was still playing?) take a mark. He missed, and we were left to ponder how there's an AFL team with a Jane Austen cast of Darcy, Dougal, Jasper and Lindsay and it's not us. Despite the failure of the Heritier Lumumba experiment in picking players against type, we should keep trying to find players with traditional 80s names like Barry and Kevin who have anchor tatts and a liberal attitude towards physical violence.

We were still two points in front, but I was sorely lacking confidence in carrying on after half time. In fact I'm surprised we got into the position to throw it away in the last quarter to begin with. We looked ok from stoppages anywhere in the middle of the ground, but got trapped in defence too often with stuff all prospect of coast-to-coast goals. Then when we did go forward it was via the fingers crossed and hope for the best method. Whatever Port did to Hogan it worked a treat, barely letting him get the ball in space up the ground and completely removing him from the game inside 50. It's telling that even though future Coleman Medallist McDonald kicked another three none were from marks. Their backline had us completely handcuffed with no idea how to escape.

If the entertainment loving CEO of Channel 7 was still watching, the third quarter was the closest you were going to get to a shootout without deleting two players from each side and extending the goalsquare to Mt Gambier. Four goals to one in the first 15 minutes, and we were back in the ascendancy again. That seems pointless now that we know the result, but at least demonstrates an ability to trouble good sides. Now to work on troubling them for more than five minutes in the first quarter, 15 in the third and not much at all in the last.

Our second and final burst was ended by one piece of bad luck, and one of rampant stupidity both involving Angus Brayshaw. First Gus mistimed a leap into the air, landed on top of his opponent's head and gave away a free for a goal. It happens, no heat on him for that. Then he was left marooned on the goal-line with the significantly larger Charlie Dixon marking over him because none of the talls could be bothered going down to help during a set shot. That's not the first time we've conceded in those circumstances this year, maybe the forward line and back line coaches should swap for a week and see if anything comes of it.

Port had us running scared but wasn't all one way pressure, Nev pulled off a tackle of such rare beauty that nobody even cared that he followed it up by kicking out on the full for the first time in about four seasons.

Nifty later took his third minor knock to the head of the year, which is a worry after years of giving his battered bonce a rest. In the press conference they were more interested in talking about him rolling his ankle rather than being knocked half goofy and still putting in more repeat efforts immediately after than Hogan did all night. Given the concussion rules and his history it was a bit suspect how quickly he came back, but hey I'm not a doctor.

McSizzle flipped the script on Queen's Birthday by wasting somebody else's goal, replying right out of the centre via assists from Viney and Melksham, and then had his Monday nightmare replayed when we conceded a minute after that. Holding an eight point lead through the last quarter was not inconceivable if we could get another run of goals on, and in a piece of punditry that he'll want deleted from the replay, the otherwise sensible James (never Jimmy) Bartel said Port would "have to kick six, because you'd think Melbourne will get four". When would you ever think Melbourne was going to kick four in a quarter against a top eight team outside of Victoria?

In the end, Port only needed three and we fell moderately short of Bartel's expectations with two behinds. It was an especially frustrating finale because we burnt countless opportunities to either kick decisive goals at the start, or to get back in it when they overtook us. There was a bit of five-finger-fisting from the umps, but we could have got past that with a bit more composure. It would have been an excellent time for Hogan to arrive, or for Petracca to come back for the first time since the first quarter. Neither did much, and will both be writing letters under fake names to the AFL this week demanding that the game is artificially ripped apart to give them free range space.

When McDonald was poleaxed in a contest and left on the ground pissing blood from his mouth I was about to pack up on this season. The six weeks of glory will be remembered forever, but the way it feels like the rest of 2018 is going to drip away Forward Sizzle is about the only thing I've got going for me. Despite the fact that he appeared to be dead and the ball came to a stop for a mark, the umpires didn't think to stop the game so he could go off and let it carry on around his semi-lifeless corpse. In those seconds in was my dream that he'd rise from the dead, snatch the ball off the ground, and kick a goal that left the Sherrin soaking in blood. Put that on sale at your MFC Auction Spectacular (P.S - GAGF if you're the person who beat me to the Rhys Healey #50 Shanghai game jumper).

Even after they got in front we had a handful of decent chances. Fritsch went closest, missing on the run with a shot that would have put us back in front. Oscar then gave away his second questionable 50 for post-mark clobbering and we were down 11 points with barely any time left and no indication that we'd be able to kick two in a row. To be fair the time we were most likely to score all day was after centre clearances, so one may have quickly begat another. The theory was never tested, and we spent the last two minutes trying to score through chaos. Oliver and Lewis crashed into each other going for a loose ball, and eventually a panic kick found Brayshaw running straight up the 50. He spilt it, and morally there's no way it should have been paid as a mark except for a Port player having just as little control on one inside 50 earlier and being allowed to keep it.

With 30 seconds to go another fingers crossed kick was intercepted, I turned off the TV and for the first time all night sat down instead of hovering over the screen yelling. Apparently Port had another shot after the siren, giving us a 75% DemonTime™ ratio for the night. Now that they don't want Watts can we get him back on a free just so he can regain his position as our designated spare man in defence across the last two minutes, flapping like a bird after a mark to tell everyone to calm down.

Losing an interstate thriller to a top four contender shouldn't have me this upset, but one day there will be a scientific inquest that proves losing a thriller is worse for your mental health than going down by six goals. To contribute to the study I've spent most of Saturday being an arsehole to strangers through no fault of their own.

Not sure how much was learnt, other than the need to relegate this forward entry plan to the 'against shit teams only' file. We've always been a fringe top eight side at best, and that's what we have to fight for from here. I too dared to dream of more when we were steamrolling rubbish but let's be realistic. The most important thing is to qualify, you can't tell me the Bulldogs were any better than us now when they won the flag. Get in, and hope to get on a roll. Or finish 9th again and become a Richmond style cliche.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
I'm not especially thrilled by handing out many of these, but at least unlike Queen's Birthday I had a group of apologies who might not have deserved votes but I would have been comfortable including in an emergency.

5 - Jack Viney
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Tom McDonald
1 - Michael Hibberd

Apologies to Brayshaw, Melksham Fritsch and Salem

Maximum claws one back on Oliver as they further firm as the only two who can win it from here. There are only 45 votes left unless we make the eight, so it's time for those who have not yet polled to get onto the run of their lives if they want to have any chance. No move in any of the minors, but all betting agencies have paid out on Max in the Stynes.

The real battle is in the backline, where Nev has a razor thin lead over Oscar and Hibberd. Lewis should probably be eligible for that as well, which would put him in a share of the lead and make me want to shut the award down. The Jakovich Committee will rule on his eligibility shortly.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Still not much on offer this year, we've never kicked so many goals (in total, not tonight) and barely had any that were spectacular. For want of other options it's Tom McSizzle for the one where he sold a dummy so enormous it should be sponsored by Baby Bunting, took an unnecessarily early bounce and dribbled the ball through. For his weekly prize he wins a chiropractic assessment to determine what damage carrying our forward line has caused.

The leader is still Tyson for that goal at Essendon, but surely even he'd refuse to accept it if nothing better comes along. Either that or you'll think he's refused because he's so slow to get to the podium.

If you were just going by the TV coverage it looked like we either didn't have a banner or it had something controversial splashed across it, because the footage cut from players emerging from the room to them on the other side of the ground as if the player/crepe paper interface didn't happen. Fortunately the Cheer Squad did what Channel 7 didn't and gave us a look. Somebody must have done a motivational seminar during the week. Should have just said LOWER YOUR EYES.

Design wise that text is spot on. Compare to Port, who had a font that was one step away from Times New Roman and became the 79th to use the word 'exorcise' against us since 1990. Dees 13-0 for the year.

Next week
In theory we should be able to send out the same side against St. Kilda and piss it in, but as we're left hanging on by our fingernails in the race for the eight anyway I'd rather try to find a system that may stand up for us in a final. Vince is roasted, and Lewis is serviceable with the ball in hand but a massive liability defensively. If somebody else can't play the mop-up role in his absence then work around it, because every club will be trying to take advantage of us with a Billy Hartung style designated sprinter who has NFI how to do anything but run.

I saw the first half of the Casey game against Coburg online, and it's hard to make any serious judgements from that game due to the toilet quality of the opposition. It was interesting to see Pedersen playing in defence, either because Petty wasn't there or they think he's an option to do it in the seniors. Either way, the surprise mid-season positional switch in the VFL is usually a sign that you're about to get the arse.

Garlett has done chuff all in the VFL and didn't do much from what I saw but it's time to roll the dice on the theory that he's a match-winner. Likewise Spargo wasn't all that prominent, but has had the week off to reflect on his blistering second quarter on Queen's Birthday and stuff all in the other three so I'm willing to give him another go. Petracca can follow the same path, reflect on what he did in the first quarter last night, learn from a week off and come back ready to blow Freo's brains out in Darwin.

Weideman kicking seven was the ultimate in not getting excited considering the opposition but stuff it, I'm going to reward form anyway. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter what happened at an arctic Casey Fields in pissing rain, time to make decisions on whether we're playing to hang on by our fingernails this year or build for the future. If we make changes and somehow contrive to lose to the Saints then stiff shit, it's better than winning next week with Lewis and Vince who are going nowhere and Petracca thinking he's bullet proof then missing the eight anyway.

IN: Garlett, Petty, Spargo, Weideman
OUT: Lewis, Petracca, T. Smith, Vince (omit)
LUCKY: Tyson (for want of options)
UNLUCKY: Baker, Bugg, Stretch and me for following Melbourne

This is all academic, there's more chance of me being picked than Lewis and Vince being dropped at the same time. How about a couple of face-saving mystery injuries? This article is spot on across the board, but especially about the changes. In fact you've wasted your time reading this post when the truth was readily available by reading that. I'd fall off my chair if even one of the two got the boot, because going off the cliff like lemmings without altering course is in our DNA.

If I am picked in lieu of the double droppings it will be awkward, because in one of the great stitch-ups of our time my kid's birthday party has been arranged for the exact same time of the game. Therefore I'll be watching on delay once the people who don't understand me have gone home. I was sour for the first five minutes after finding out about the schedule clash, before realising that it's better to concede defeat here than have her cite Round 15, 2018 in future counselling sessions. It should be ok as long as guests understand that there's a media ban in place and I don't instinctively browse Twitter while trying to avoid mingling. It may be the first home game I've missed since Queen's Birthday 2013 - that's a lot of episodes of Hogan's Heroes (and one too many of Hogan's Highball).

Ad Chat
Max Gawn (shown as 'AFL Player - The Demons') has followed in the footsteps of Jack Watts for Energy Watch and Mitch Clark for Ultratune by converting his MFC related fame into an acting career. With difficult material to pull off in the Google Mini ads he just keeps it from going off the rails. I don't understand the product, are you bastards too lazy to even type what you want to watch on TV now?

Crowd Watch
When ranking cringeworthy things in footy, Port's community singing is only marginally better than Kiss Cam. It must be a regional thing, because when Collingwood tried to copy the idea even their puppet fans refused to participate. There's only one INXS song that should be played in conjunction with footy:

The All New Bradbury Plan
Champion Data provides the all-important reading material for next week's how to vote card. I'm interested by their cynicism about Hawthorn recovering when they've got Gold Coast, Bulldogs, Brisbane, Carlton and St Kilda in their last eight games, plus genuine 50/50s against GWS and Freo away, and the usually bonkers match against Geelong that could go anywhere. I've got them comfortably in to the point where they were almost lifted from the Battle Royale group.
Given the few other results to go off at the time of writing I may be hasty in promoting some of these sides. I'm taking Champion Data's word for Sydney being night on unstoppable in the race so they may as well start taking points from our opposition. Port has a piss easy run from here so they can start working for us too.

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

The rest of the desired results for this week are both obvious and highly unlikely, so now that this bye nonsense has finished your how to vote card (subject to change) for Round 15 is:

Footscray d. Geelong
Carlton d. Port
West Coast d. Adelaide
Gold Coast d. Collingwood
Hawthorn d. GWS (if you go on the table above it's a genuine 50/50, but I think better to piss the Giants off ASAP given the last round fixture)
Essendon d. North (this would be massive, feel free to go bananas in the first quarter again)
Brisbane d. Freo (just to sink Sex Chat Ross' 1% chance of a happy ending)

... and Richmond vs Sydney has zero impact.

At this stage, I have us in a three-way battle with Geelong and North, nudging out the Roos only by winning in the last round. They play slop merchants Gold Coast and St Kilda respectively in the final game so don't expect late favours from anyone else.

I don't have the slightest qualification to comment on the suitability of Gary Pert for the role, but the timing of the appointment was certainly a surprise. It's almost like they were lining up the rising stars of our office (+ bonus Al Nicholson rumours), then somebody with a proven track record came along and they decided to play it safe.

We're 1-1 on recent off-field signings from the Pies (and even Jason Taylor had a rocky start if you believe the rumour and innuendo), so happy to sit back and hope for the best. His record at Collingwood was mostly in the positive, but with the vast difference in financial might between the two he might be the off-field version of when Harry O realised he didn't have Swan and Pendlebury to kick ta any more. At least when his first staff meeting was leaked straight to the media it painted us in a positive light, instead of the Cold War style hotline between board members and Caroline Wilson that propped Telstra's profits up for several years.

Pert will have plenty to do once The World's Greatest Bald Head departs. Finding the money to cover chucking the pokies still concerns me, but I'm pleased to see there is now some talk about pissing off Darwin and going all-in for one game in the Alice.

Perhaps his biggest task, unless PJ pulls off the negotiations of the century, will be to shepherd home the plan for a dedicated training oval and HQ at the Jolimont end of the MCG precinct. This is obviously the best option, but maybe the whole thing is a wildly ambit claim to soften up previously raised options in Docklands or around the University?

I don't like our chances, even if it would effectively be replacing random parkland with a lightly fenced off oval. The net effect for the park will be stuff all, but there will still be enough "won't somebody please think of the children?" style moaning about it to keep us out.

There's also the question of who's going to pay for all this. If it was any other club I'd be ready to punch on at the idea of the government putting money into it, but because it's us I howled at Opposition Leader Matthew Guy (the worst leader of a struggling unit since Mark Neeld in 2013) doing a 'gag' about us having more chance of winning a flag than getting the land. His views on the footy ground may not be relevant considering the MCC control it, but given that the railway space is government owned that's more of a concern. Considering his record approving high rise buildings out the yin yang as planning minister, maybe we didn't stack enough layers on top?

All I want is for the western side of that HQ facing Jolimont Station to have a deck with a bar/function room, where after a massive win we can taunt opposition fans waiting on the platform. That's the sort of Billy Big Bollocks style behaviour that will put the exclamation mark on any glory era that may accidentally turn up. Either that or a train will derail underneath and the entire structure will collapse.

Administrative announcement
Confirmed Roos Chat, sadly without a lights out, no holds barred second hour where we could start delving into ridiculously insider chat about Mitch Clisby. You should still enjoy, and well done to Roosy for making it through the hour without dying from the obvious illness he was suffering.

Final thoughts
Before last night the odds on us making the eight were reaching the peak frenzy levels of 2017, and I have the feeling it's going the same way this time. Now I've got an even more desperate need for qualification, the unthinkable has happened and I've signed up to go back to shift work. I'll get through this season, but from the 2019 AFLW season for the foreseeable future/until I'm sacked my S and MFC relationship will operate on a reduced schedule. I'm hoping to still watch most games live on TV even if I can't be there, but there are going to be times when you the dear listener will be called upon to volunteer for guest reporting duties.

It's outrageous that after being spat at, slapped and kneed in the knackers by this club so many times that I'd risk stepping away from what could (on paper at least) be a glory era but you've got to be an adult at some point in your life. Literally the only thing holding me back from enthusiastically signing on the dotted line when offered the job was the idea of losing touch with the Dees. My whole life would be a field day for psychologists, but I'm going through legitimate trauma about the idea of not being able to be 100% in on following this club. Ultimately taking a step back will probably prolong my life to the point where I might see us make the finals again.

So, what I'm trying to say is that it would be an excellent time for the Dees to go on an amazing run and get the flag now so I can comfortably sneak into the night. At an absolute minimum could everyone involved please recognise my untold suffering since Round 1, 2007 and at least qualify for the finals? Is that really too much to ask?

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Spectacle O'Clock - footy 'innovations' rated.

The campaign to talk the game down has succeeded to the point where it's inevitable that bonkers rule changes are on the way to try and get people jazzed up about footy again. The first step towards regaining the feelgood factor would be not to treat people like they're morons for still watching a supposedly broken game.

Here we present a number of suggestions that have been floated by the good, the bad, a mad rooting TV executive and me on how to improve the game. To help you compile a psychological analysis on where my life is at I've helpfully bracketed them in order of ideas that I'd advocate for to things that would make me investigate becoming a rugby unionist.

This is intended to be a definitive list of serious suggestions, so if there's anything that needs to be added to the list please comment or get in touch via the usual channels and I'll issue an emergency update.

Actually in favour of it
See, I'm not entirely scared of change.

It's not an all-or-nothing proposition on 25 vs 50, there is still a place for the current version when a player is bulldozed after a mark but it's ludicrous that players are whacked with the maximum sentence for running north-south instead of east-west (or is it the other way around? Pick up your 250 page guide from AFL House for clarification) metres from the guy with the ball. Sure, pay 50s if a player is legitimately impeded trying to play on, or if you throw the ball into Row A after a free, but for the picky administrative frees that make following footy as much fun as doing your taxes a shorter sanction will do. Has the added bonus amongst rule changes of being simple for umpires to decide on, instead of asking them to undertake a complicated series of interpretations while the game is in motion.

The salary cap is $12 million a year, why do you still need to bung a few kids and recycled veterans into a corner, pay them less than everyone else and have to abide by arcane rules about when they can be played? Each club can currently have 47 players including Cat A and Cat B rookies, give everyone a maximum two player allowance for internationals and volleyball players who haven't kicked a footy since they were 12, allow clubs to offer players drafted below a certain round one year contracts and let them pick the side unhindered every week.

Bring back the deliberately rushed behind
This is something that I have literally never seen anyone else come out in favour of, but it's my fantasy. Instead of half-abolishing it and making things more confusing after that Richmond poon discovered a loophole why not just make it so you can't rush the ball under the other team has had a possession? 

Was the world really a worse place when players could thump the ball through their own goal from 30 metres out for want of anything better to do? Otherwise let them swing for the fences, if you want scoring defenders are quite happy to help out instead of having to do their best Acting Football League job to 'accidentally' run the ball over the line.  We all love it when a defender doesn't know if he can rush it and ends up conceding a goal, but realistically what are all the other times the ball is kept in play one metre out from goal doing for us? It's just asking defenders - never the world's most reliable kickists - to try and escape from a phonebooth. Cue thumping the ball towards the boundary or into traffic and you've either got the dreaded stoppage or the doubly dreaded congestion. 

If a team wants to concede a score and leave themselves having to find a way to exit the 50 who am I to stop them? And if they'd got some fantastic way that the rushed behind can convert into a quick escape and instant attack that's the sort of ingenuity we should be celebrating. But not by extending the size of the goal square, that would be shit.

Don't pay frees if there's not a direct impact on the play
You tackle somebody to the ground, they're not going anywhere, you then lean it on their back or lovingly caress their neck and are pinged. Rubbish. There's no way this will happen because the only benefit these weak as piss frees offer is that they avoid stoppages.

Free for out of bounds from a kick-in after playing on
I'm considerably opposed to a last touch out of bounds rule (and we'll get to that), but how come if you kick in directly from the square and it rolls out you're penalised but if you kick to yourself first it's not? Won't do much for spectacle, but will help my OCD. I'm expecting somebody to tell me this is already a rule, because I'm baffled as to how it isn't.

No more nominated ruckmen
Just throw the bloody thing up and if more than one player from either side jumps at it then pay a free kick. Alternatively bring back third man up and let everyone leap, the more people you've got in the air the more space there is at the ground for the ball to make a quick exit.

Proper score reviews
Give up on trying to determine whether the ball hit any part of a human on the way through and introduce some VAR/Hawkeye laser shit to properly adjudicate whether it crossed the line/hit the post. Otherwise go with the umpire's decision and don't encourage them to allow further inside the field of play than the post and/or goal line to be subject to video review.

Also, chuck these wildcat reviews that get done after a goal even though nobody asks for them. We can live with the slightest touch or deflection slipping through unnoticed. Especially because the person doing these unseen mystery reviews is rushed to complete it before the ball is bounced, if you're not going to give them the appropriate time to analyse something properly then don't do it it all. Besides, we all know they're not going to do it when a game is controversially won after the siren, so if an umpire doesn't ask you to review something sit in your bunker and put your feet up until called.

Sack about 75% of the Channel 7 commentary team and sedate Dwayne Russell
A cavalcade of buffoonery with not the remotest insight into why what you're seeing is happening. If you want people to feel invested in the game try educating us in how it's being played instead of force-feeding anecdotes about the parents of players and patting each other on the back for a "great call". Radio is the place for callers to go right off unnecessarily and act the goat, because people who don't like that sort of thing can generally find another option. On TV we're stuck with slop like BT, Basil and Darcy carrying on like they're doing breakfast radio in Dubbo.

As for Dwayne, go back and watch the end of Gold Coast vs St Kilda and enjoy the way a caller deemed only good enough for the worst game of the round perfectly captured the winning goal without going off like a pork chop. I don't even know who it was, but bless him for doing his job with the minimum of pomposity. It feels like Dwayne takes himself so seriously that he sits a level above the Channel 7 crowd, so we may be able to salvage something from him. He just needs to get some perspective by swapping places with Jason Bennett and calling VFL games at suburban grounds in the middle of a hurricane. 

Fair enough
The sort of stuff that I'll willingly go along with

Do nothing
My next best option to everything above. Last year was the highest scoring in three seasons, and skipping over the era where expansion teams and Melbourne were being caned every week 2017 was only a point per team worse off than 2010. So this year a bunch of horrid teams can barely score 50 and the overall average is at its worst since the 1960s, is that worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater over? Ratings are ordinary, but at least wait a couple of years before falling on the floor screaming like the CEO of Channel 7. At least that guy has got a direct financial interest in how the ratings go, he's got families to feed.

I'm an advocate that scoring doesn't necessarily = entertainment, but I will consider talking if it stalls at 1968 levels for a couple of years. Until then you're just jumping at shadows, and undoubtedly anything you do will have some sort of unforeseen consequence that will irritate somebody else. People have been moaning about footy not being as good as it used to be since the 1860s, what's new now other than a billion dollar TV contract? I say stuff the contract and get back to the days where players masqueraded as milkmen five days a week.

Four field umpires and/or two goal umpires
The charm of this game is that it's chaotic as fuck, and in an environment like that you're never going to get every decision right, but if this makes you feel you're as close as possible to perfection without introducing any in-play video referee bullshit knock yourself out. Just be wary that it's going to lead to more frees.

Pay holding the ball via stripping
So to speak. Isn't a bit weird that you could run the length of the field and if a player tackles you'd be caught holding the ball but if he missed and knocked it from your hands it would be play on? I'm open to discussion on how this would backfire but surely once you'd have appropriate prior opportunity and the ball is knocked from your grasp you've had enough fair warning to be pinged? It should also lead to a few hilarious scenes where players try to attack the ball and are left for dust as the carrier steps around them and runs off. Warning - may only be appropriate for a one-on-one strip, causing more interpretations for the umpires and leading me to only cautiously supporting it.

Remove the centre bounce
Happy for it to be thrown-up everywhere as a necessary sacrifice to avoid worse ideas being foisted on us. It would certainly save a few seconds every game where they don't have to recall the shit bounces that fling off in unintended directions. 

Set the interchange free
I'm not sure even the greatest spin doctor could prove a direct correlation, but if scoring is our one god almighty then it should be noted that it has kept going down since they capped rotations. Maybe we should just let coaches go for their lives again and see what happens? In all the confusion of players going on and off at a rapid rate somebody's sure to lose their opponent and create scoring opportunities.

Would not violently oppose, but unnecessary
This is the middle of road stuff that I don't feel is necessary, but wouldn't punch on over either.

Too late, everyone rolled over and let this rubbish happen and now you're stuck with it forever. Both pointless clubs that should have been strangled at birth, but I don't buy this argument that there aren't enough quality players to go around. If you cut 90 players across the league it might prematurely finish off a few has-beens and never-will-bes but I guarantee you that doesn't lead to a Carlton game on Friday night being worth watching.

I'm astonished that the AFL never carried on with this after the trial. It adds absolutely nothing to the spectating experience, where even on television you can't see them unless there's a close-up but I would have thought they'd have been all over it for merchandising purposes. Dwayne is keen on it so fans at home can see who everyone is, maybe you call them instead of screaming like an escaped mental patient whenever a team goes inside 50?

Play on from backwards kicks
This doesn't particularly stress me, but the question is how far back you're not allowed to go? If it's a strict line where it can't even retreat a centimetre and will finish switching the play away as a tactic forever then cram it with walnuts. If it's specifically only for kicks back into the defensive 50 I could wear it without too many complaints.

Lesser of multiple evils
Things I'll go along with if I absolutely have to, but reserve the right to picks holes in all the live long day. Moderate to high chance of punching on.

A twilight or night Grand Final
Do what you like, we won't be in it and I'm far too old to be at a party. May end up going to bed at half time.

Everyone told us the last reduction of the cap was going to cure the world's problems and apparently things have just kept getting worse. I'd wager this isn't going to help, but it's not such a radical change that I'd burn Steven Hocking and his committee in effigy if it happened. I still don't understand why a professional sport would want to try and engineer an outcome by fatiguing players, has anyone considered what games are going to look like at the end when you've flogged the bejesus out of the players for four quarters? Nevertheless, I'd be willing to cop this as a final number - if it doesn't work you don't get to go even lower.

Zones at a centre bounce
I suspect all the really stupid ideas being floated are just a warm-up so that when this is introduced next season you go "ahh, it might have been worse". I'm not convinced it will have the result you're hoping for, but will reluctantly cop it as long as the rest of the game is left unmolested. That might be the reason it doesn't get up, because it's fine to clear the ball out of the middle but what if nobody kicks a goal straight away and then the ball gets trapped in the same deadly congestion that we've all been so traumatised by? It's certainly the least offensive option involving a zone, which is not saying much.

Not at all interested, but not fatal
The sort of shit that I'd hate with a passion at first, and either come to terms with or moan about while I carried on half-heartedly watching neutral games.

Supposedly designed to 'widen the ground' and allow teams to transfer the ball from one end to the other easily. You know how people that refer to welfare as 'socialism' are weird and you can comfortably ignore them? Well when it comes to footy this is where I've got some sympathy for that viewpoint. If a team isn't good enough to move the ball from end-to-end on their own stiff shit, we don't need to introduce a handicap system to help them out.

Years ago I used to be in favour of this, now with draft points, academies, father/son bidding and soon live trading across two tedious days I don't see how it works. Besides, if you finish in the bottom four and can't find a good player you're either incompetent, the previous Melbourne administration or both.

Closely related to the 25 metre kick-in line, it's a gigantic square so players can instantly thump the ball into the middle of the ground. Meaning defenders would just sit back further so you either still had to go short or were kicking into a crowd like you do now. There'd be a bit more room, but are kick-ins really the devil? It would also penalise you for scoring a behind and elevate the five point play far beyond where it deserves to be.

Floating fixture
Before doing this, how about taking the guy who put Carlton on Friday night multiple times this year outside and kicking the shit out of him? If that doesn't make us feel better then this idea sounds alright in theory but good luck delivering it in practice. What is the aim of a Friday night game, is it to put on the best quality contest, the biggest drawing teams or the nearest thing you can find to both? It can't be the best game, because Channel 7 are never going to be rolled into broadcasting a top of the table GWS vs Port clash, and if you just rig it so the big teams are always on it ends up in this same scenario as now. So you're left with option C and what's the point of going to all that trouble just to end up often settling for second best anyway?

It's also not going to work when you've got certain games locked into particular timeslots, and matches in obscure places like Alice Spring, Cairns and China that have to be played at certain times. Attempting to implement the float around restrictions like this will end in complete shambles. How about instead they make an educated guess about who the interesting teams will be and focus on getting them on as much as possible - this year you'd have whiffed on guessing Essendon and Adelaide would be ok and North would shit, but it's not like the fixture is being computer generated for fairness like the EPL, it's constructed from scratch and quite frankly rigged within an inch of its life you can't tell me they couldn't get the balance right between quality and supporter numbers.

Reduced number of interchange players and substitutes
Back to the 3-1 days of 2011 to 2015, where highly paid AFL players rode exercise bikes for three quarters before coming on for cameo appearances. Looking back to how much I hated this at the time, it really didn't have that much of an impact so I wouldn't boil myself in oil if they reintroduced it. The problem was that nobody could get their story straight on why it was introduced in the first place, at the start it was supposed to be in the interests of making sure teams weren't disadvantaged by early injuries, then it was the old chestnut about tiring them out so the game would become a spectacle of fatigue by the end. Eventually the compromise of reduced interchange rotations saved us, and now even that's not good enough to stop us from ripping things up and starting again.

Shorter games
Depends how short. Lose 10 minutes and I'll reluctantly live with it, lose 30 minutes and I'm not going to spend time carting my arse to a ground but will watch on TV, lose 40 minutes and become a hit-and-giggle AFLX wankfest.

What this golden idea will do for the quality of the sport itself is unclear, I thought we were supposed to be exhausting players so they were unable to move at the end of a game? Does this come with all the other numpty stuff intended to have any player without a Milo of Croton level of fitness crawling along the turf by the final siren?

If you support this concept, perhaps don't enlist Chris Judd as your spokesperson. It was easy enough pocketing huge wads of cash to pretend he liked cardboard, but in this article one of his justifications for the game to be shorter is that Gold Coast vs St Kilda was close. A game that was won in the last 90 seconds, where under his plan we'd have been halfway through the press conferences.

Very suspect
The point where I'd start stocking canned food and weapons in advance of the spectacle apocalypse.

If you got 10 points for a win and one for the ton then maybe, but the idea that scoring a certain number is 25% as important as winning is shit and should be driven into the sea.

Last touch out of bounds
This is a game where you get a point for missing a shot at goal, now you're penalising teams with a free because a ball with a funky shape bounces out of play? It was a bad rule when they did it in the NAB Cup - with umpires often not sure who touched it last - it's a bad rule in AFLW where players miss a shot on goal and are penalised, and it will be a bad rule in AFLM. If congestion is your nightmare why would you do anything that makes it less attractive to kick to certain parts of the ground? The usual argument for it is that it will remove confusion about 'deliberate' decisions - then don't be such officious tightarses on those and only pay the really obvious ones.

I would be happy to watch a test of this and see how it went, but it feels like a stretch to try and artificially inflate attacking play. You've still got to get it clear though, people who advocate this seem to imagine the ball will instantly fling forward, but what about when it rolls towards the corner of the square and somebody's standing on the other side unable to do anything about it? Unnecessary.

Reduction of interchange to 20-40
How much more are we going to try and torture these players? Why not force them to operate a rowing machine while they're off the ground as well, just in case they've got enough energy to go make some sort of contest in the last quarter.

Or '17-5' if you'd prefer not to invoke the number of the beast. I don't see what's wrong with having an unbalanced draw, good teams will do well, bad teams will still play like arseholes and it's only middle of the road pretenders like us that will miss out because of the draw. Imagine trying to impose order on such a weird sport.

There's something that I can explain which draws me towards this, but when you look at it realistically why should the team finishing 12th have any hope of making the finals, and isn't it somewhat NQR for six teams to be playing for draft picks? Besides, it necks all your local derbies so it's never going to happen without being bastardised to try and fit them in as well - and once you take your allegedly 'fair' system and start rorting it to ensure West Coast play Freo twice what's the point in doing it to start with?

Wildcard games
Finally, mid-table mediocrity becomes something to aspire to, as 6th to 10th play for the right to either be obliterated by significantly better sides or make a mockery of the 22 weeks that got us there in the first place. Teams are 10th for a reason, because they're not very good. Finals should be elite, and despite what happened to us last year 8/18 is actually a perfect number. Why should the team that is exactly in the middle of a competition get to play for a title? Go away, get better and have another go the next year.

Zones at all stoppages
This is horrible, imagine the ridiculous scenes of players dashing hither and yon trying to get back in position before every stoppage? The only way that they could do this is by slaughtering stoppages with additional changes like last touch out of bounds, and that's not going to be good for anyone. What's wrong with stoppages anyway? The second ruckmen is effectively dead as a concept anyway, and this would start shifting the real deal out the door as well. 

The white flag department
Where you give up on the AFL in general - and other leagues that are forced to follow - and just follow your club until they win a flag then bow out gracefully.

This seems to be a popular option, but it makes me want to lean over and have a big old spew. In an 18 team competition you can have equity measures until the cows come home but there will still be shit teams, and the best way to send these shit teams to a gruesome death on a weekly basis will be to crack the field open and let them be run into the ground. You might get a better game when 1 plays 2, but there will be entire seasons where fans of teams below 12th don't even bother to turn up against good sides because they'll be certain a mauling is on the cards.

Much to the disinterest of the people who only love things that are American, soccer is a reasonably popular game and one of the few in the world where you can pit two teams that are ludicrously unbalanced and allow the worse one to hold some hope of an upset. What do you think happens to Iceland 1, Argentina 1 when you remove five players a side and play it at Box Hill Indoor Sports Centre? The Argies win by 20 and Lionel Messi scores 15. Is this a good thing? It is if you're Argentina, so when AFL goes 16 vs 16 and your team is in its imperial phase you'll have a lot of fun. When the rebuilding phase comes around you'll watch Iron Chef instead and come back a few seasons later when things have improved. If nothing else it should see teams comfortably top our 190/186 margins if they put any effort into it.

Having it in the women's league didn't stop the AFL from putting out a mid-season memo dictating how teams had to play. That's as much about the early standard of the competition as anything, but maybe if they had another couple of link players to kick to it wouldn't leave teams desperately trying to clear the ball out of defence for 10 minutes at a time?

People love to talk about how good the scoring was in the VFA, but that's probably because half the time teams were tearing each other to shreds. They had higher scores than the VFL every year from 1970, aided by classic battles like Williamstown 347 d. Camberwell 32 (1986) or Coburg 297 d. Camberwell 57 (189). Both on Camberwell's home ground, which must have had Cobras fans frothing at the mouth for more. To be fair to the Association, the scores only started to become regularly perverse in the 1980s, so perhaps if you artificially prop up all the teams to a reasonable standard for long enough you might get away it at the expense of any chance of a shit team to ever upset a good one again.

17 game season - teams play each other once
Where two weeks in you're 0-2 and reaching for the razor blades. Fortunately this will never happen in its purest, uncut form because the only thing the AFL loves more than spectacle is money. What we will get is the 'fair' draw then compromised with a bunch of top-up games 

Which, even if we remove the compromises required to the rest of the game to make this work, is the equivalent of discovering that T20 games are popular then playing 30 a week until they're just as boring as the shit you were trying to replace to start with. I would actually rather 17 games that meant something than 34 which didn't. Yes it happens in other sports. No it shouldn't happen here. According to proponent Patrick Dangerfield - who let's not forget is on the committee that is charged with coming up with wacky ideas - we'd have 80 minute games. Spew. 

Changing the scoring system
It's remarkable that none of the several dozen articles by ex-players have featured anyone trying to introduce a nine point goal. Dwayne Russell would crack a bar so hard there would be a Tsunami alert, but for sensible people realise that this does nothing for the game except probably see less goals kicked because players blow good options inside 50 trying to lob one in from distance. The extra points might cancel that out, but is this honestly going to drag anyone through the gate? I would think not. It just devalues the humble behind, footy's workhorse since 1897.

See also three points for a rushed behind, or anything involving bouncing it off the posts. Bonus scoring best experienced during some wankfest off-season AFLX match in Hong Kong.

The only place this even remotely makes sense is the NFL, where it's used to rig the fixture in favour of what passes for local derbys. Which is all good when you have a maximum of two teams in one city, but falls flat on its face in a competition where half the sides play at the same two grounds. Even in America it's often a farce, letting divisions full of shit teams send sides in the playoff while others with superior records in stronger groups are knocked out. One ladder, one finals series or GTFO. Peter Schwab - who's come up with a complicated format that ends in a 12 team finals series - suggests that conference titles give clubs more trophies to play for. Pull the other one Peter.

So who's going to pick up a ball in traffic knowing that any sort of tackle will see them pinged? It would guarantee about eight Brownlows in a row to sixth sense pack handballer Clayton Oliver, but the rest of the competition would be mired in an endless series of free kicks, soccers off the ground, and players standing around like the Looney Tunes gophers going "after you", "no, after you".

Permanent zones like a netball game
Fuck off and die.

The worst suggestion in history, confirming that nothing Eddie McGuire ever says again should be taken seriously.

To achieve what I'm not sure, other than blocking near adults from making good money. Charlie Spargo is 18-years-old, and some people would suggest that he's too young to have been drafted. So instead of pocketing a base of $85,000 this year plus $4000 each for his seven competent senior games and a bonus of $6000 for playing at least six games we'd have him hanging out at the Murray Bushrangers and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken in his spare time while he waits to become eligible.

Bollocks to that, why waste talent when it's roaring to go? Don't hold it against the players that some clubs (e.g. Melbourne 2012/13) have no idea what player welfare is. My outrageous suggestion that will never get up for mental health and relocating families is to go the other way and draft kids at 15. It'll certainly put an element of thrills and spills into your selections when you know they won't get to play until they're 17/18. Until then they get put on a sliding scale program where for the first year the club can barely touch them, then they can play a certain number of games for the reserves, and up we go until they become senior eligible. 

What's the point in having a unique game when you can just turn it into rugby, ironically as a response to people complaining that it's too much like rugby. If this ever gets in I'll eat my hat. It's only five metres further than the existing rule, but it's a bridge too far. Besides, who doesn't enjoy the bounce? Especially when a player flubs it and the ball bounces off at a bizarre angle? This is 100% a red herring proposal.

Substitutes only, no interchange
Another one for the "why do we want all the players to be dead by the end"? file. I bet the sadists who enjoy this sort of thing thought Human Centipede was a delightful comic romp.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

On the slide

... or I saw Neale Daniher battle like a trooper, Tom McDonald kick six goals and nothing else that was worth a shit.

Our finest winning streak in a decade had to end eventually, and while I hoped we could massage it through to the bye the best thing to do now is take a deep breath, forget this game ever happened and concentrate on the next battle. Except if you play through our midfielde, then you should have your eyelids held open for non-stop screenings of an 'All The Centre Bounces' package to understand where it went wrong.

It's ironic that the day began with our coach dressed as a downhill skier and ended with defeat to our first competent opposition in seven weeks but sometimes you have to throw your hands up in the air and admit the other lot played us off the park. There's a heightened sense of distress because of the opposition and the sense of occasion, but even with half our side MIA or worse we still managed to prop up the league average score by putting in 91 points in defeat. It's a setback in what was as much of an eight point game as you can get in Round 11, but the result doesn't have to be terminal.

In retrospect we probably saw a few early signs of what was to come against the Bulldogs, it's just that they had a forward line less threatening than the cuddly panda costume Ken Hinkley wore into the drink so we were able to easily escape the early scare. This time we ran into a quick side with a multi-pronged attack and got what we deserved.

I thought we'd win narrowly, but wasn't going to be surprised by defeat. It was hard to understand people coming from everywhere to clamber aboard the bandwagon after last week, if they'd missed the boat after we savaged the Crows what did the Dogs game add to the picture to convince anybody that we weren't in danger of another Sydney on Friday night style ambush here.

The savage series of wins (let's not call it a streak unless there's a DVD box set coming out) will be looked back at fondly in years to come, but it was absolutely fair enough to question whether we'd beaten anybody worthwhile. North and Adelaide are nothing more than out contemporaries now, but so are Hawthorn and they wiped us off the table. You had to be brave or insane to pick this week to go all-in on us, and like Donald Trump going in to bat for Roseanne just before she necked her big comeback, we should have known the end was nigh right when this happened:
Given that it was posted at 9.13am I have to think he was stone cold sober and just speculating hard on a form bubble, but it had a touch of this about it:

Steveaux's punishment is to be reminded of his blunder for the rest of the season and beyond by the sort of Twitterists who him look like reasonable company in comparison.

From our perspective it was such a nothing, wishy-washy, game other than the Forward Sizzle experience that it's hard to find anything to violently latch on to. At least if you were interested in a violent latching we so slow that there wouldn't be much trouble catching somebody. It was just sad that after committing hari kari against them in Round 23 last year, we again left ourselves having to clamber out of a colossal hole to launch an ultimately fruitless fightback. This time there was a tackle in the first 10 minutes, but otherwise it was like watching the same game except with an even more decisive finishing move by the Pies.

With 18 of the same players (sans only Garlett, Hunt, Tyson and Watts) from that fateful August afternoon, there was an action replay of free running Collingwood players gliding gracefully past opponents who looked helpless to intervene, and opening up a sizeable quarter time lead that made you want to denounce everyone involved in obscene terms. Then just like that game we nearly escaped from Nathan Buckley's torture dungeon before the same shit that got us into trouble to begin with reared its ugly head. This time we exhausted our best attempt comeback in the second quarter rather than the last, otherwise same same. The two years of Queen's Birthday ascendancy is over, and you can't say we didn't deserve it. Given the narrow win last year and the two games that have followed it's advantage Bucks in the battle against Goodwin.

On the same day two years ago when we were still mostly shit I had nightmarish visions of Mason Cox using his giraffe like stature to torment us. He did not, and despite kicking two goals was about as useful as an actual escaped animal while we cartwheeled away to an easy win. The countdown was on towards the ultimate revenge, a performance of such incredible novelty that there's a movement afoot to rename the Kent Kingsley Club in his favour. The MCC acronym is appealing, but not yet. For now he'll have to comfort himself with an induction to the Collingwood wing alongside Brad Dick x2 and Adam Oxley. Dick, Cox and Ox - coming soon to a breakfast radio program near you.

I've got no idea how he knocked off De Goey for BOG, but best of luck to him. If you can come into a game with six goals in 10 games then become the tallest player ever to kick five in a game I take my hat off to you. Any forward, no matter what unusual background they come from, could only dream of playing in front of a midfield that dominated the clearances to such an absurd degree, and often marched the ball out of defence with half a dozen free players to aim at. The only surprise is that he didn't kick more, instead of sharing the joy with the three others who had 11 between them.

We had a lot of players down on their recent good form, or just flat out beaten by better opponents, but what shit me to the point of nearly leaving my seat so I could attack an inanimate object was the demolition job they did on us in the clearances. So much for Gawn's defence of his World Heavyweight Title against Grundy, they probably fought a draw in the one-on-one battle but it was a wasteland at surface level. How often would the ball land from the centre ruck contest and be immediately flicked out to a spare player in acres of space? With Row MMs everywhere occupied I was forced to temper my language due to having a child in front of me, but by the fifth or sixth time we kicked a goal and immediately gifted them have a scoring opportunity from the middle I had to at least mutter filthy things under my breath.

The title fight didn't get off to an auspicious start when both ruckmen fresh-aired the opening contest, but I should have known something suspect was going to happen when the Pies whipped the ball straight into attack and resisted multiple attempts to remove it. Compare and contrast to our inside 50s, where they couldn't extract it any quicker without somebody suffering whiplash. Champion Data, I know you're not reading but nevertheless here's a challenge for you - for each inside 50 that didn't immediately lead to a goal, what was the average time the ball then spent in the defensive half of the ground? I don't even need to see the results to know that we were pantsed. They shut the exits and we couldn't find any sort of alternative escape route.

Nobody would have been surprised when two minutes of panic defending ended with Cox kicking his first. It can't entirely have been the absence of Lever (and if it was we're in deep shit) but our defence just looked spooked. For the first time all year Oscar seemed vulnerable - and continued a generally shit day for everybody by going off concussed - other than one cracking tackle Hibberd was well off on his recent pace, Nev suffered from the traditional QB media curse and was later injured while trying to get to a contest everyone else declined to participate in, Joel Smith played a very good game in the contest I wouldn't bet my life on his defensive positioning, Lewis got a lot of touches that were not matched by a lot of chases or tackles, Salem worries me and I'm still waiting for confirmation that Vince was out there at all. No bloody wonder a 211cm international could be the vanguard of an exciting 20 goal performance.

Even when we bounced down the other end for a settler through Hannan the signs were ropey. It was the first time all day we'd been able to bust free, and it didn't happen again for another 20 minutes. While the Pies did as they pleased we had plenty of players in struggletown - Petracca was entirely without impact, Melksham turned up for a couple of passages of play and christ only knows what any of Neal-Bullen, Brayshaw or Harmes were doing. Gus did some nice things when he got his hands on it, but this was nowhere near the party atmosphere provided by the absent Crows or Bulldogs.

The upside is that all these players have proven they can impact a game so the only way is up, the downside is that the blueprint on how to do them in has been delivered to all the other coaches. Relentless pressure helped, with most of our game confined to operating in a phone booth while the Pies dashed around in waves as they pleased. The lack of space to create anything decent led to artless panic kicking towards the general vicinity of the 50 in the hope that somebody would be there. They generally were not. Here's hoping that we're only vulnerable to the most insane of pressure performances, and that other sides won't be able to stop us going free range as effectively.

It was not a great day to be Jesse Hogan, all our losses happen when our half-forward line goes to pieces and he could barely get it inside or outside 50. It was all downhill from when he gave away a clumsy free kick for a two handed shove into the back of Dunn right in front of goal that almost directly led to the Pies' second. That was the closest we ever get to getting in front for the rest of the day. This is ok, he is now a proven commodity so we don't need to be nervous that any down day is a pointer to a future form slump.

If Hogan's streak of kicking a goal every week had to go down, I'm glad Dunn played a role. Howe can continue to piss up a rope for stringing us along through that last season, but given that Brisbane are a lost cause now Dunn has pushed ahead of the SME for ex-Demons I want to see do well. I'd prefer he was a shining light in a horrid team, but if Collingwood have to be good again that's at least some aspect of it to be enjoyed. Interviewed after the game he made a point of saying how much he still loved the Dees, and I hope he comes back in some fashion when he's done playing. I also hope that next time we play them Hogan kicks 14 on him but that's purely business. Nevertheless, when he's retired in a couple of years we'll still have a decade of Sizzle Jr so I'm still comfortable with the direction we went with this.

Our free and easy attitude to going near an opponent left them to add another three in the middle of the quarter, and with plenty of time left we were already beyond the Stranglewank qualifying mark. There was fair anxiety at the umpiring - with some justification when they kicked a goal courtesy of an outrageous throw - but concentrating on that is just papering over the cracks of how we got what we deserved for disappearing under pressure. It wasn't as immediately drastic as Round 23, and we are more aware now than then that Collingwood are a decent side, but it was still hard to swallow the idea of tossing away another important game against them by quarter time. Enter the world's most unlikely locally produced forward, Tom McDonald.

If on that day in 2016 when we saw Cox for the first time you'd told me he and McDonald would share 11 goals between them I'd have been convinced that the American was going to get all of them. Instead, Tom played a lone hand in an otherwise absent attack, and his first allowed us to get to quarter time less than four goals down. More accurately, he did the right thing then watched as sheer dumb luck got us to quarter time less than four goals down. Just when we needed to at least halve a centre contest they barrelled forward and we were lucky to get away with only conceding two more points before the siren.

Regular readers will recall my theory about how many Jesse Hogan goals are immediately given back, but in evidence against our centre bounce performances let the record show that Collingwood scored 116, 91 and 114 seconds after his first three goals. They were polite enough to wait a full 128 after the fourth and around three minutes after the next two - average time of reply 112 seconds. Never once did we capitalise on any of his six goals to have the next score. I'm not sure I've ever seen a reasonable sized bag wasted so efficiently - but then again how often does anyone kick six in a game where their side spends so much time on the back foot?

Regardless of how much he might want to nut some of his teammates for wasting his efforts, watching Sizzle kick goals is a thrilling experience. I doubt other supporters are self-aware enough to have their own version of the Kingsleys, but any West Coast fan who thought "why us?" when he ran riot at Subi last year needs to cross his name off because he is now a genuine forward weapon. His goals were literally the only thing this game had going for it from my perspective.

He only had three kicks that weren't majors so it was hardly his best game around the ground but his forward presence is magnificent. Sod all this five minutes on the wing shit, stick him inside 50 at the opening bounce and kick the ball at him repeatedly. If you need to run him through the wing later in the game fair enough, but at 3.5 goals a game he's so dangerous that it's negligent not to have him down there at the start to try and nick some decisive early goals.

The second term was the only one McDonald didn't kick a goal in, but also the only quarter we won all day. For the first time there was a bit of life in our ball movement, and it wasn't just left to the Pies to play on ruthlessly at all costs. Charlie Spargo recovered from not having a touch in the first quarter to play the 15 minutes of his life, and we managed to control the ball long enough that it wasn't being pinged forward merrily to a queue of forwards on every disposal. You will not in any way be surprised to discover that we returned the second goal like an unwanted birthday present, but by the time Neal-Bullen ended a period of overly fancy play to cut the margin back to five it was game on.

At least statistically it was, we made kicking goals look like such a painful process that I didn't have any faith that this was sustainable for the rest of the game. Certainly not unless we tightened up on their ball movement. Two minutes after Bullet's goal we were defending another shot from Cox, and not surprisingly that begat the seven point play response not long after that. RIP to our most viable attempt at a comeback, but its chances of survival were always slim when we weren't allowed to play anything like the free-flowing pisstake footy that the rubbish sides had let us get away with. Can't play Essendon/St Kilda/Gold Coast/Carlton/Adelaide/Footscray every week.

There were brief moments of lucidity, like Gawn getting forward to convert the sort of set shot that everyone expects him to miss now. That cut the margin back to 13 approaching half time, a perfect opportunity to readdress what had ailed us and return for a proper swing at completing the comeback after the break. As long as we didn't do anything stupid like concede a goal two minutes later to almost entirely unwind all the good work we'd put in since quarter time. You know the drill.

We were offering so little, with so few players that were worth focusing on I was more interested in the work of an operative who was parked behind our bench and passing on this list of rotating catchphrases displayed on a tripod for players.
  • 666 (presumably the formation, not summoning the number of the beast)
  • Take the ball forward
  • Boost runners
  • Fwds inside a kick
  • Moneyball brothers (now you're just being silly)
  • Fwd power
  • Joker in the net
Christ only knows what any of it meant (well, 'take the ball forward' is fairly self-explanatory), maybe we lost at the centre bounces because the midfielders were having trouble giving each other the correct codeword. How about one next week that 'LOCK THE FUCKING BALL IN AFTER GOALS' - written and authorised by T. McDonald, AAMI Park, Melbourne.

Even at just 19 points down I didn't fancy us stopping them scoring long enough to overcome a four goal deficit. And that's how it went, that man Cox caused the Kingsley Manor phone lines to go into meltdown with this third and it was clear that they had both opportunity and motive to keep scoring. We turned the tables for once by McDonald being on the end of a quick reply, only for that to generate Pies goals from the next two bounces. At this stage all I could do was take deep breaths,  think back to the good times and enjoy the antics of the guy sitting a few seats from me who looked like he was about to have a stroke - and not the sort you might have been tempted by over the last few weeks.

Another brief flourish saw goals to Viney and McDonald that cut the gap back to 16, and can I tell you how great a time it would have been not to concede straight away after the second one? But no, with Oscar McSizzle already off the ground having his head attended to (and would later miss the end of the game with concussion, allowing further scope for the opposition forward line to twat us) the defence parted like the Red Sea, causing Jetta to so vigorously attempt to get into a marking contest he shouldn't have had to attend to that he simultaneously injured his shoulder and knee.

Even after the modern day Lockett and Dunstall, McDonald and Cox, traded goals at the end of the quarter there was still the outsidest chance of pulling something ridiculous off in the last quarter. At this stage we didn't know Oscar and Nifty were finished, but did think injury machine Daniel Wells was. You never know, we might have overrun them in a heroic performance to answer Neale Daniher's "why not us?" speech. Nah. With 30 seconds left we discovered the answer to the speech was "because we're shithouse at stopping quick attacking moves" and they worked it all the way from the back pocket to a mark inside 50. Some second game random kicked it after the siren, we went five goals down and there was more chance of me winning the raffle than us even making it remotely interesting.

We haven't had many exciting streaks over the last few years, and I remember a time where a win going into the bye was celebrated because it meant we got to be happy for two weeks in a row, but be it two straight or six there's still something depressing about watching a great run go up in smoke. As much as I'd like to have visualised the Carlton demolition job unfolding in front of me it was hard not to focus on the present, and I spent three quarter time standing up, pacing around and generally being completely ungrateful for Rounds 6 to 11. In the cold light of day I feel better about it, but at the time I was fuming.

There was a brief flourish in the opening minutes of the last quarter where we kicked two behinds and actually kept the ball inside their defensive 50 for a few seconds instead of letting them walk it out. That all came to stuff all as Cox took advantage of a 20 centimetre height advantage on emergency one-on-one defender Smith to kick his fifth with plenty of time left. We already knew it was a Kingsley worth game, but this should have led to Kent himself parachuting in to stop the game and make an official presentation. At this point I wasn't thinking straight and thought bugger it, just let him kick 10 and at least we'll have seen something memorable. This is the same sort of insane Stockholm Syndrome as when the margin hit 186 in Geelong and I thought "eh, I may as well at least see the all time record margin".

Copping the biggest haul of goals ever by a foreign born player (which I assume is the 13 by our own English born Harry Davie in Round 14, 1925) would have been a fitting way to depart a game where half our side had slowed to a crawl and most of the others never sped up to begin with. Even the much maligned Chris Mayne was having a day out, I'm not sure he can qualify as a Kingsley due to several years of meritorious service at Fremantle but in a Collingwood context he and his Priddis-esque poodle hair were taking the piss.

At an almost six goal margin the game was long gone, but considering how much road and foot traffic there was to beat I was surprised at how few of our fans left after Cox's fifth. Then at the next one a deadly stampede nearly broke out as people went for the door from all angles. What had been a tightly packed section now had more gaps than our backline. Creeping out early isn't my go, and I'm glad that if nothing else I got to stay for McDonald kicking six. Did I mention that he kicked six? Everything else was best avoided.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
There are good days where you can't pick between 10 players deserving of votes, there are bad games where a handful of players sit atop a shitberg and deservedly make the cut, then there are days like this where almost everyone was no good.

5 - Tom McDonald
--- Immense realms of space, and even then it's only the goals that got him up ---
4 - Clayton Oliver
--- The distance between Earth and Mars, even though it wasn't in his 20 best games ---
3 - Bayley Fritsch
2 - Joel Smith

And now, after a rigorous statistical analysis designed to get anybody else a vote I have to admit defeat. The person who said this...
... has to admit that even with zero tackles and a playing pace best suited to a retirement village that I can't make a legitimate case for anybody else. This is a very difficult situation for me and I would ask for privacy.

1 - Jordan Lewis

Apologies to nobody. Sod the lot of you.

The Sizzle Show arrives in the top five, but the big news is at the top where Oliver takes advantage of a rapidly receding tide to open a comprehensive lead. After grappling with Gawn and Hogan for the first half of the year he will be hard to beat now. We're going on 56 Watch in case he challenges the total from Nathan Jones' dominant 2014 campaign.

For fans of the minors there's no move in the Seecamp, but Fritsch has further established what will probably be an unbeatable lead in the Hilton. I'm not in a position to declare him provisional winner yet, but given none of his opposition have polled a vote one more might get him there.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Most of them came from 20 metres out via McDonald (who kicked six), and as much as I enjoyed the mark he juggled on the line I'm going to flash right back to the start of the game and pick Mitch Hannan's opener on the run. For the weekly prize he wins a free pass for only having eight kicks, which is a pretty shithouse offering but it's 00:35, I've lost the will to live and would really like to go to bed now.

Tyson at Docklands retains the clubhouse lead at the halfway mark in a surprisingly dull year for spectacular goals.

Almost the end of two great runs here, as ours gets up solely on the tiebreakers of the snowflake effect and the opposition having a lift up and run under psuedo curtain. I legitimately enjoyed Collingwood's effort, the font was the best seen from any opposition this year, the kerning was impeccable, and even the gag on the back about us fucking it up in Round 23 last year was both accurate and flowed well. Highly commended, still lost. Dees 12-0 for the year.

Shrinkage Chat
The impact of getting AFL coaches to fly in from around the country for the Big Freeze was somewhat deadened by the MCG keeping the gates shut until 30 minutes before it started, leaving Goodwin to go down first to what looked like a typical Melbourne home game crowd. It was a massive cock-up by the MCC (that would be the Melbourne Cricket Club in this case) not to let people in earlier, by the time I got there the queue to get in to the Southern Stand was about 300 metres long. To their credit - and the security guards who just gave up on bag checks - it only took 13 minutes to get into the ground.

There was a weird dynamic to the line where we started in twos, then as we got closer to the walkway people fanned out to head for the various entrances (all the while watching plenty of people sneaking into the line via the break created on the concourse for people to walk through). There should be an anthropological study of the way we all just followed like sheep before breaking away to follow the queues at the end. Fascinating? Not to anyone whose football team turned up I'm sure.

Fortunately for the people stuck outside, Channel 7 halted proceedings every two minutes for ads so by the last few coaches there was a decent audience. The atmosphere was still a bit flat, they might have to drop a polar bear in there next year to liven things up. The only surprise was John Longmire not wearing speedos and giving us a live demonstration of why he's called 'Horse'. I'm just happy to have been there for the remarkable scenario of Chris Fagan doing a hammy going arse over on his way out while dressed like a priest. At least nobody dipped into the MFC fancy dress box and turned up as Rolf Harris.

The star of show was obviously Neale Daniher, who continues to battle his condition like an absolute trooper. I didn't see it properly until after the game, but how good was his speech to the coaches? You could tell he knew it was going to be the last time he'd be able to do something like that so he was giving it his all. It was hard to watch him walking around the ground knowing that by this time next year he probably won't be able to do that, or possibly even talk, but what a legacy he will leave for the Fight MND campaign. Suffice to say give money.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
With no desire to be anywhere near Collingwood fans I went back to Redlegs area for the first time since last Queen's Birthday. And ended up sitting across the aisle from one of them. He didn't seem to be with anyone so it's anybody's guess how he got in there, but whoever lent him their membership should have it revoked. Good timing too, in the week where the club sent an email to premium members reminding them not to let their guests act like arseholes.

Not that he was in any way badly behaved, certainly better than the corporate box full of scumbags I swore at after Watts' goal, but when you go to an era specifically designated for the fans of your club even somebody having a relaxed, respectful good time following the other side is provocative. I was expecting a repeat of that day about five years ago when a happy Geelong fan was screamed at by a vein-popping Demons man, but nobody else seemed to care.

It was appropriate that the 'Melbourne Experiences' superbox behind me was empty, but surprising that they couldn't sell it off for the biggest game of the year. I'd have been happy to sit there in the dark and without catering just to have had somewhere to do my Donald Duck impersonation during the first quarter. Or late in the third quarter. By the last I was over it.

At quarter time the football world held their breath waiting to see if we'd hold our nerve and not let one crippling injury in four years derail the Howie's Hangers/Hogan's Heroes legacy. When I looked up from my misery to see three men in overalls I thought "you magnificent bastards, they're just going to carry on like nothing happened". Then it was revealed that it had been rebranded Hogan's Highball, and would not feature a mechanical device shooting the ball for contestants to take a safe, ground level chest mark. Which is about the most boring concept ever:

a) Why can't they still call it Hogan's Heroes? Did we lose the name in a settlement?
b) Why did we have somebody manually delivering the ball in the competition that had a high degree of danger and not when it's as likely to cause injury as a casual kick in the park?

It's been six victory filled weeks since that bloke clobbered himself at the Richmond game, I'm deflated that this is the best they could come up with as a replacement. At least we're not going with a Kiss Cam, though on this occasion there was a half time proposal featuring a Demons man who will now be constantly forced to relive a poxy day at the footy by his Pies supporting partner. At least he'll always remember where he was when Tom McDonald kicked six.

And finally on Matchday Experience, congratulations to the young hoodlum who finally reacted to being caught on "Is your head in the clouds?" by flipping off the camera. Took involving a Collingwood fan for somebody to finally get that right.

Next week(s)
You'd say that Casey having the bye at the same time as the seniors made sense, it's just hard to swallow when they have two others during the season. What I could really do with this week is a game against a decent strength opposition to put the fire under our fringe players, but instead we'll just have to go on the evidence from Sunday's game against the Pies. Even though they won, the half I watched didn't turn up too many exciting performances other than Tyson racking up a shitload of touches.

I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater after one defeat where we still scored 91 but I'd like to try something different. Pedersen was ok in the circumstances but didn't do enough to cement his spot ahead of Smith, and Spargo goes out with the greatest of apologies. He didn't stop trying, but sit him down with a copy of the second quarter, tell him to do that all day and enjoy the profits when he comes back. It doesn't do much for the pace issue, but I'll roll Tyson back in to give us another midfield option. I won't be adverse to rolling him back out again if it doesn't work. Then there's Hunt for Vince, which might not be like for like but Bernard is fast approaching the point where he might think about putting his hand up so may as well get somebody who can run quickly.

Our criminal lack of forward 50 pressure opens a case for Garlett, but going off base stats alone (which is always dangerous) it's not like his tackle count suggests he'll be tearing opponents to shreds. I suppose unlike many of the players involved today he might imply pressure instead of standing there gawking while the ball rockets to the other end. Still not convinced.

IN: Hunt, T. Smith, Tyson
OUT: Pedersen, Spargo, Vince (omit)
LUCKY: Lewis, Petracca
UNLUCKY: Garlett, Petty

I'm not expecting to beat Port away, and am bracing for Watts to kick nine as Trengove debuts with 40 touches, but the strength of the reaction to this result will tell me if we really are top eight contenders or are going to achieve the rare feat of going 24-20 over two years and still not playing finals.

P.S - This assumes McDonald and Jetta both play, if they don't I might drop my toaster in the tub sometime during the week.

Tuesday afternoon update - Turns out Hunt did his ankle in the VFL and is out for the dreaded 4-6. There goes the speed.

Stat My Bitch Up
I take it 6989 to 83,518 is the biggest jump in attendance between home games ever...

The All New Bradbury Plan
I'm not the kind of guy to say I told you so, but I told you so. This result is one in the eye for all you lunatics who were trying to get Top 4 or even Top 2 plans started after Richmond lost Friday night. My rolling Round 23 ladder now has us making it on percentage only if we win the last game. That's a Tony Abbott style level of conservatism but you'd be mad to be too optimistic with this lot.

This week sees a new bracket created to cover Collingwood, who have a piss easy draw from here and should make it comfortably. They can now be used as spoilers to take games off the sides that will be contending against us. This is a volatile spot to be in, vulnerable to being relegated back to the mid-table Royal Rumble group with one surprise defeat.

It seems strange to say when they're currently 11th, but Hawthorn were close to being named in this group as well. The reason is that they play Gold Coast, Footscray, Brisbane and Carlton in coming weeks and will start favourite against Adelaide, Fremantle and Essendon as well. Here's to the last two doing us a favour and messing with them.

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

Given that we've got the bye this week I'll give you the top eight plan how-to-vote cards for the next two rounds:

Round 13
Footscray d. Port Adelaide
West Coast d. Sydney
Carlton d. Fremantle
Gold Coast/St Kilda irrelevant (and the game doesn't have any bearing on the eight either)
Hawthorn d. Adelaide (close to 50/50, but the Hawks have a piss easy run after this so may as well concede they'll make it and try to damage the Crows)
Richmond d. Geelong

Round 14 (card subject to change)
Not much for the plan here, other than West Coast putting Essendon away I don't expect any of the required results to get up.

West Coast d. Essendon
Gold Coast d. Hawthorn
Brisbane d. GWS
Footscray d. North
Carlton d. Collingwood

Administrative announcement(s)
The festive atmosphere around the official launch of the Demonblog Megastore has now fizzed out, but at the same time please consider. If you have any designs that skirt the edges of Australian copyright law and would like to submit to the store (and you can have the majority of the profits on your work, I'm just in it for the comedy value) please contact us via the usual channels. Also valid if you're the club sending us a cease and desist letter.

Secondly, the 1998 season in review post that was being forward sizzled on here last week is out and my goodness it's a long one. It's also an instructive look at how a season that started with a loss, had a nice winning streak in the middle, then spent the second half of the year regularly hitting the skids can turn out alright. Also features Garry Lyon in a jolly chef's hat:

Furthermore listen to this on Wednesday night if you want to hear me ask Paul Roos stupid questions and for him to declare the Grimgove captaincy as 'lunacy'.

Was it worth it?
Well it wasn't my preferred result in front of 83,000 people but it's not the end of the world either. I wish we could get on with the next game ASAP instead of waiting a week, but it's probably come at a good time for us to review where we're at. Give me the response I want against Port and let's talk about the rest of the year from there.

Final thoughts