Wednesday 6 June 2018

Hotter than Hell - season 1998 in review

(Hello from 2020, where I reviewed this video in audio form on the Australian Football Video Film Festival podcast. Suffice to say my tones are nowhere near as dulcet as the Stephen Phillips narration on Hotter Than Hell but have a crack anyway).

The AFL pretend to be keen on history, but have they ever posted a documentary about the formation of the Brisbane Bears or a video featuring Garry Lyon in women's knickers? No they haven't, which is why we turn to the Costa Sports YouTube channel for all our historical needs. Now they have delivered their masterpiece, the greatest Australian Rules video ever produced.

In the era before entertainment was invented I just watched the same VHSes over and over again. First it was 1988 Summer Olympics highlight tape Hand in Hand (complete with Bruce McAvaney blowing a gasket as Debbie Flintoff-King beat the commies in a photo), then Capital Combat 90: Return of Robocop, several years of endless repeats of episodes of Drop The Dead Donkey or KYTV taped off SBS, and then this magnificent beast.

About four years later the internet became interesting enough to kill off repeat viewings for good. Not to mention losing the tape somewhere between 2003 and 2006. Explain to me why this hasn't been re-released on DVD?

This video captures a great season, still my favourite of all time (though please note 2018 team, I'm looking for a replacement). With apologies to the narrowly missed 1987 and 1988, the rest of the podium is 2000 and the 1991 Winter of Jakovich.

Part of the charm was screaming off the bottom of the ladder and into a prelim, but there was a personal element that roped me in. By 1995 teenage misery was becoming my #1 hobby, and after we finally won a game at the seventh attempt that year I gave up. Other than briefly checking in to see us miss the finals in the last round that was pretty much it for the next two years. I didn't even feel sufficiently motivated to go to the Round 22, 1996 merger game, having already decided to chuff off and join Freo if the Melbourne Hawks got up.

My next appearance in person was Round 15, 1997. A Carltonian chum convinced me to go to what seemed on paper an easy win for the Blues, only for the Dees to get up and provoke an old man into shoving his finger in my face and shout "THE UMPIRES GAVE IT TO YOU!" At which point I said "I must have this in my life" and jumped back in.

I was so enthusiastic that I even went to the 1998 Family Day dressed as the biggest nerd in all of Australia, where the great Jim Stynes was subjected to this awkward pose. Please note the unusual combination of a classic era Wimbledon FC shirt and an Atlanta Falcons hat about four sizes too big for my head. I also looked positively malnourished, which is strange because by 2001 all photos looked like I'd been sucking on an air hose.

The rest of the events of that family day - inexplicably held at Xavier College - are lost to the ages. We'll never know if there was a special, lights out, unsanctioned over 18s only tent where you could guess the weight of Peter Walsh's wang.

Before the main event we're warmed up with one lonely ad for a Dean Jones tape available at Myer, Kmart, Target, Big W, Sanity/Delta, Harris Scarfe, or by calling Australian Cricket Video on 1800 035 665. This is followed by a history package with a maudlin version of the theme song that is supposed to be august and historic but makes you want to jump in the sea. This fades into contemporary highlights, including Marcus Seecamp panic bombing a kick out of defence and lots of players running past Ansett fence signage. Then, with 150 minutes to fill we're back to black and white historical features, even when the vision is clearly from the 1990s.

And now, the best reason to keep your video player instead of upgrading to BlueRay:

Despite the season starting and ending in defeat, the producers opt to give you the glass half-full viewpoint for your $29.95, starting with a joyous montage of happy supporters giving it maximum Grand Old Flag. Including this guy, and his tremendously oversized binoculars.

Our narrator offers us a 'whistlestop tour' back to September 1997, which is exactly the phrase just used to sell the Dean Jones tape. Australian Football/Cricket Video must only have had one scriptwriter

- Neale Daniher appointed senior coach under the "revitalised leadership of Joseph Gutnick", complete with anguished archival footage of The Reverend icing his troublesome knees. He says he's "very excited to be involved with such a great football club as Melbourne", as the fire brigade remain on watch for his pants to catch light.

Diamond Joe says everything about him is right for the job and that "I hope I say that in a few years' time". Well one of you is certainly going to get the sack within five seasons...

- A 14-year-old looking Jeff White signs his contract live at a press conference, which you can't do these days because somebody would magnify the footage and see what you were being paid. I think this function was just put on as a distraction as club operatives buried the original salary cap records in a shallow bush grave.

- We were "tempted" by Peter Matera and kindly skim over him reneging on signing. Until they throw to an interview with Cameron Schwab outside the club HQ where I bought my first membership that same year, who tosses the cat out of the bag and flat out says we were his club of choice but that we "respect his right to change his mind". Probably a good thing we missed out, if he'd signed as well as White they'd have needed to route our salary cap payments via the Cayman Islands.

- A key defensive post was filled by grabbing St Kilda's Grand Final fool... err full back Jamie Shanahan in the pre-season draft. With outrageously fluttering eyelids Daniher introduces him, before Shanners gives us an unlikely anecdote of his three year old son allegedly asking "where did they finish on the ladder last year?" No grown man should be called 'Jamie', but he went on to play a solid season and be unfairly maligned for the next two decades.

- New leadership team - Lyon out, Viney and his kitchen in. Our pre-season preparation was apparently "the talk of the AFL", a viewpoint backed up in our first visit to Stately Viney Manor. I suggest that over previous seasons - at least when he wasn't on the ATP Tour - that kettle in the background would have been piffed around the room in frustration a few times.

- Over four weeks the players were schooled on Daniher's philosophies and team rules, whereas these days he'd have had them do a Full Metal Jacket style military assault course until the union had to step in.

- A pair of practice matches, including a six quarter training drill against the Bulldogs are completely ignored - and why not when we lost both.

Ansett Cup Round 1 vs Sydney
To get 7800 people to watch Australian rules in Wellington, New Zealand they either had to give away a shitload of free tickets or apply the sort of crowd accounting methods that would serve GWS and Gold Coast well 15 years later. It's fair to say that teams didn't take the pre-season in any way seriously, we were still sponsored by Tooheys and had a young Russell Robertson still wearing #42.

Against a Swans side with Paul Roos and a putrid pre-season jumper (which at least had a sponsor who were still paying them) We overturned a one point deficit at three quarter time to win by 12, with the key highlight of David Schwarz barrelling through a goal from what was purported to be 55 metres out.

Footy Record watch - The front page of the pre-season edition tried to convince us that the game had gone 'global' based on two games being played overseas. New Zealand, and especially South Africa, failed to adequately fall in love with these token practice matches and would eventually be disposed of in favour of 'markets' with billions of people and just as much frenzy for Aussie rules.

Inside there are 'none more 90s' ads for Troy Dans' Outback Adventures, a Newman/Hunt 3AW call team and Optus Vision. Optus' number was 12 30 12, which I don't understand as a format even having been alive in this era. As part of the rigorous research for this post I called and it is no longer connected.

Ansett Cup Quarter Final vs Western Bulldogs
If the Swans win felt like a half-pace victory against a team who weren't all that concerned with winning ("Ahh, there's an idea" said Roos), things started to get a bit more real a week later. I had no chance of getting to Waverley on a Monday night aged 16, so sat at home and watched us touch the Dogs up in the last quarter. Some lovely crumb is met with Sandy Roberts' colour commentary "now there is Mr. Rigoni saying here's what I can do!" By Round 2 he'd said something even weirder than the time he introduced Leanne Cock.

This was also the era where goal umpires were halfway between the formal hat and white coat days and the modern era where they dress like school crossing ladies. It is also clear that as yet no effort or care was being taken in the application of field umpire numbers.

Ansett Cup Semi Final vs St Kilda
Back then people considered pre-season games so important that they'd let you serve suspensions in them, which was good news for David Schwarz after getting a week for striking against the Dogs.

Apparently I couldn't get to Waverley on a Saturday night either, but at least that meant not having to travel back after a six goal loss. The trade-off for avoiding a trip into Zone 2 and the extra fiver for the bus from Glen Waverley Station was missing the last appearance of the Cockatoo-Collins brothers in the same side. The same senior side anyway.

Allegedly elsewhere in pre-season, here's Garry Lyon in a tie that surely wasn't even fashionable then cracking a topical for the 90s gag at a Rising Star ceremony about getting "a drink card at the Tunnel" to polite laughter from the kids.

I suspect this was actually from post-season but the editors have used creative licence to stick it in at the start for the purpose of dramatic narrative.

If you'd recently emerged from a coma and were handed this video to catch up on the season that was you were shit out of luck by the 11 minute mark, where they show the song being sung after the Adelaide game with a Channel 7 "THE FINALS" watermark in the bottom left of the screen. We'll get to that.

Round 1 vs Fremantle
After a promising pre-season, including excuses for losing to the beaten grand finalists in our last game I settled in front of the telly on a Sunday afternoon expecting to whomp the Dockers like we had in the final round of '97, only to turn a two goal quarter time lead into a 23 point loss. Because I was young - and of course there is NO WAY I'd ever melt down over individual results these days heaven forbid - it was a crushing blow. That it was 32 degrees and the players were roasting was no consolation.

The only real highlight they could find for the video was Schwarz burying a player with a brutal tackle, then running out to open his angle and kick a lovely goal. Because I was too young to be paying close attention in '93 and '94 (and to be fair was starting to waver in my interest in '94 even as we were rolling towards a prelim) the version of Schwarz I remember most fondly is the bulky post-knee(s) comeback. Yes, I am aware that he would have been the next Wayne Carey if he'd stayed fit, but he didn't so this will have to do.

For fans of goal umpire costumes, here's the real version with a tie, but without the fancy experimental stripe from the pre-season.

Obviously they weren't going to focus on any Carnival of Hate stuff on our video, but I don't recall there being much animosity towards Jeff White. Probably because there were only 18,000 people there, with vast swathes of empty seats visible on the bottom deck of Subiaco.

To me this is Freo's finest era, wearing their best jumper (rather than the 3D abortion that they wore in the rematch) and still with the real Heave Ho theme song. All it lacked was Phil Gilbert, given the arse at the end of '96 after 14 games. When I found out we'd got some bloke called Jeff Farmer in exchange for him leaving I was shattered. Stupid child.

Footy Record watch - Alongside an unappealing offer to watch Dharma and Greg, the photographers were lucky enough to catch a pre-Demon Matthew Bate hoofing into a pie even less appealing than a Channel 7 sitcom.

Elsewhere Jeff Fenech was pictured holding up one of those unpleasant faux leather club jackets that you still see people getting about in now, and Wayne Jackson was moved to write a full page propaganda article to calm fears that the league was abandoning Victoria in favour of interstate 'markets'. Which must have come as a surprise to Fitzroy fans.

After a reminder not to shake your baby, there's a feature on the launch of the "AFL's official website on the internet (". I remember what the internet was like in 1998, and they're claiming to do reasonably advanced stuff for the day like updating scores and 'basic stats' every 20 seconds during a game. In a shameless suggestion from the days where we were only discovering the joys of losing your house at Crown, they promise that one of the options available on the website in the future would be 'gambling'. Until about 2010 that meant gambling on whether any of the pages would load properly.

Round 2 vs North Melbourne
This is where the love affair really launched its comeback, on the MCG against one of the premiership favourites and with us nearly stuffing up a monumental lead.

The addition - possibly for the first time - of a running score in the top left of the screen was bad news for Jeff White as the first highlight was him taking a strong mark 20 metres out from goal only for the next passage to show us in front 1-0. Goals were not long coming, and White turned the clock ahead to the era of dinky, pressure free tap-ins from the square to convert not long after. By the next goal to Farmer - again running into an open goal - the score box had been banished. I wonder if it was there on the TV the whole time but the editors lost them working off master tapes.

After the best part of four years without seeing us dominate a team in person I didn't expect it to happen here, but by half time we were seven goals ahead. It's a good thing I was there, because the other option was a Live and Kicking era Doug Hawkins on special comments. As Shaun Smith made Glenn Archer look stupid in a marking contest the best Hawk can offer us was a jovial "Oh ho ho ho ho. No!"

I know they'd paid good money to lure him from Channel 9, but this was like playing him in the ruck. Any commentary box where recipient of Geoff Edelsten's dirty money Gerard Healy is the sensible one has problems, but in comparison to Hawkins and Sandy Roberts insisting on calling both White and Farmer "Jeffrey" at every opportunity he was the least worst option.

Sandy's greatest (?) moment came as the ex-captain kicked his second and Roberts puts a weird foreign accent on to say "Garry Lyon! Go Garry Lyon! Yes!"

At least he shut up after it went in and let the camera concentrate on Gaz adopting a Crows style power stance before being mugged by Jeff Farmer. And the on-screen scores with a mind of their own are back, now featuring the time remaining.

Then from the dizzying heights of the first half (the narrator even called us 'unswerving', surely the last time that term was ever used in the English language) we almost threw it away. I'd felt terror over footy games before - most notably when the Swans ended their 500 game losing streak against us in '93 - but the only earlier time I recall being this tense live at a game was as Essendon mowed us down from 47 points behind in 1992.

There is every possible chance that after my unnecessary optimism going into Round 1 had been harpooned that I may have lost heart and drifted away again if it went badly. No doubt if history maintained the same course and we made the eight I'd have jumped back on the bandwagon, but it would have been a long way back to there from 0-2.

Here's something to show the kids, proof that once upon a time even after they installed a fuck off massive video screen at the MCG every score was still manually updated by some bloke with numbers on giant cards. They won't believe you.

The margin was down to a point before Lyon went into the middle and wrecked a North player with a violent tackle that set up Farmer to dance through North's defence (while spoilsport Hawkins yells "too far!") and kick the steadier.

The goal I can picture myself seeing from the bottom of the Ponsford even now is Schwarz taking a handball with his back to goal and wheeling around to hit a VICIOUS snap. It had such force and fury that somebody in the commentary box is even heard clapping in the aftermath. I bet it was Doug.

What drama there was in the middle of the quarter had been snuffed out, and we went on to win by an easy (in the end) five goals. Note the lady on the right in one of Daryl Somers' old jumpers, and the child on the left with a foam finger shaped into an offensive gesture.

I'd never sung the song in my life until this day, but after the game some kid next to me who was about the age when I first started watching was so eager that I couldn't help myself and joyously ended it with a high five. If you remember being touched by a strange man at the football in the late 90s we'd love to hear from you. It would also be interesting to know more if you were the kid I high fived.

Back on tape, footy's loose attitude to the media in that era is demonstrated by Daniher doing what passes for a press conference standing up with microphones shoved in his face and no sponsor logo to be seen anywhere.

Footy Record watch - The State Library's collection uses the Sydney edition to represent this round, including a "Special Guide to Australia's Greatest Game" with who else on the cover but Plugger. The people of New South Wales probably cared less about the greatest game and more for this dick joke, a concept we ripped off a decade later for that Christmas video where you nearly saw Mark Jamar's balls.

There's not much point going on after that, but for the sake of gender equality a feature on the "I'd Like To See That" commercials reminds us that they paid second division supermodel Christy Turlington big bucks to fawn over "Men who score every few minutes". Sex, goals or drugs - all valid options. Especially if you were Wayne Carey.

Round 3 vs Brisbane
In 1998 I was still at least pretending to be a functioning member of the community. Three years later I practically refused to leave the house for two seasons, but even at this point opportunities to watch on live TV instead of carting my arse to a stadium were welcome. For most everyone who was around in '98 this game meant one thing - Craig Smoker running riot.

Alongside latter-day betting company shill Matthew (never 'Matty') Campbell slaughtering Brent Grgic's name, the SPAM ad on the Gabba fence reminds us of the looser, more simple days where shit sponsors like Mitani Chicken Salt and 'Bananas' could afford to advertise on national television.

Also of its day is a passage of play where by current standards Neitz would have been paid a free in the marking contest, then draped himself over a Brisbane player's back in a way that would 100% have been pinged now. Both were let go and Neita sets up a goal for Junior McDonald with an intelligent tap. I usually flinch at the suggestion the game is not as good as it used to be (because people have been saying that since about 1862), but watching that again makes me wonder if they have a point. At the other end there's an ad for Yakult, which as a drink would be inferior to blended Spam.

It was a great day for novelty goals, including one hefty kick on the run from Steven Febey, Robertson leaping in the air to shin one through from a foot out, and Neitz hitting a perfect 60 metre torp. In a typical Melbourne response to opening a significant lead, the margin was reduced from six goals to seven points in the last quarter, before a Brisbane player clattered into Smoker's back and delivered a spray at the umpire which would now be seen as overly demonstrative and end with him crucified outside AFL House. The lad with the huge future kicked straight over the dickheads waving Subiaco style 'Messages on Hold' signs behind the goal, and for the second week in a row we'd withstood a strong challenge after blowing a comfortable lead. Smoker then got his fourth courtesy of Jason Akermanis randomly punching him in the back of the head.

Getting out of a first three rounds with two interstate trips with a pair of wins was a positive, especially considering this was our second of three games played in heat and humidity. So far my comeback to the sport was progressing quite nicely.

Footy Record watch - $2 still seemed like a reasonable price at the time, and more so when you're offered an article where TV stars reveal their favourite team. Next to the bloke from Blue Heelers (Hawthorn), some easily interchangeable Home and Away starlet (Sydney) and the long forgotten host of shithouse game show Hot Streak (Carlton) Andrew Daddo leaps out of the footballing closet and revealing himself as a true believer.  Whatever 11am was I wish I'd watched it in support.

His answer to question 2: "What is the most special thing about barracking for your team" is still relevant two decades later.

There's also a timely article about how Brisbane have hit the big time. Obviously it was written in advance, and even after losing the first two (with plenty more to come) the editor just though he may as well print it anyway. They're also they're bullish about the future of Stan Alves'. Oops.

Round 4 vs Carlton
Given everything from my high school years that I've forgotten (including 50% of the kids in class photos) it's ridiculous that I not only remember sitting in my bedroom listening to this on the radio, but exactly what I was during the third quarter.

Forget sniffing glue and fornicating at 16, I was playing a tennis game on an NES emulator. At least until the last quarter when the footy got hairy and I lost the ability to multi-task. I'm sure there were times when I listened to a game on the radio but this is the first I remember doing it and being so nervous that a vom felt imminent.

By this stage I was almost old enough to break away from my mum's policy of not taking me anywhere other than the MCG and briefly Waverley, but my debut solo trip wasn't going to be the Princes bloody Park.  Apart from not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with drunkards in a urine splattered relic of a ground, I did miss seeing several key moments. Some may opt for James McDonald kicking what on repeat viewing looks suspiciously like a point but which ultimately was the match-winner, or the dual injuries to Stynes and Neitz - I'm still more interested in Marcus Seecamp belting Brad Pearce around the chops on the quarter time siren.

You should obviously watch the entire 150 minutes of Hotter Than Hell, but if you're time poor why not just skip straight to the Seecamp incident? Note the umpire's general lack of concern about the brutal assault, which was offset by the tribunal dishing out a three week ban.

Next best on ground behind McDonald, Seecamp and first gamer  Nathan Brown looking like a member of Hanson is the narrator for his "Melbourne let Carlton open a three goal lead midway through the last quarter. Normally that would have been enough... Not this year thank you!" At the opposite end of the scale is the B-team Channel 7 commentator who helpfully clarifies that with 20 seconds left and a margin of two points Carlton "don't want a point, they want a goal".

Footy Record watch - By now the ads are just repeating themselves, including 'The only soup you have to remove your mouthguard to eat' and the big men flying Ansett. At least for now. We do get the traditional "oh look, foreign people are watching footy. Aren't we great?" article, including the revelation that Anthony Hudson and Tim Watson would re-record Footy for Idiots commentary for overseas markets, including budding AFL hotspot Liechtenstein.

Round 5 vs Port Adelaide
The absence of Stynes for the first time in 10 years - having failed to overcome a broken hand by rubbing crystals and bat piss on it - and Neitz was not a major hindrance considering Port barely turned up. Neither did anybody else. I can't remember where we sat, but I suspect from this shot that the Ponsford Stand was shut. A terrible, Docklands style move that the MCG hasn't been insane enough to try since.

Stynes' absence was also good news for Jeff White, free to become the #1 ruckman and banging in four goals along the way. But nobody's here for that or the Pizza Hut ad on the fence, we all want Peter Landy's call of the Shane Woewodin goal in the third quarter. Landy's "Still Woewodin, STILL WOEWODIN. KICK A GOAL SON!" captures it perfectly, whereas Sandy Roberts would have said his name in a wacky ethnic fashion and Bruce wouldn't have been seen dead doing this game in the first place.

Two goals in the last minute of the second quarter helped knock Port off, and though they hung on for a while never seriously threatened. At my first ever live Power experience the full horror of their theme song struck me. How did they eventually get the jumper right but never attend to the rancid tune? Victory removed any danger of having to listen to it again, and suddenly we'd won as many games in a row as all of 1997.

After Daniher's impromptu hallway press conference against North, the marketing department made sure there was a giant LG backdrop this time. Due to the camera operator shaking like a leaf we got a good look at it from all angles, as well as somebody waving a piece of paper in front of the camera. I miss the era before everything had to be ruthlessly professional.

Footy Record watch - Nothing of interest here, not even a thinly covered Sydney penis.

Round 6 vs Sydney
Speaking of Sydney players being humiliated, you'd have thought if the run was going to end anywhere it would be the SCG against an unbeaten Swans side. But no, the football gods were smiling, with Tony Lockett a late withdrawal due to either virus or not fancying playing on a soaking wet deck.

Much to the disgust of the old people behind the goals we kicked four goals in the early stages, and with Hopgood tagging Paul Kelly into the ground, the Swans could do no better than 1.6 in the second quarter to reduce the margin to two at half time.

Kicking towards the octogenarians again in the third we added four quick goals, only conceded one and the game was comfortably won (albeit not Chris Sullivan Line confirmed) by three quarter time. The juggernaut continued, and it looked like we may never lose a game again. The old duck with the massive scarf collection wasn't happy. Dry your eyes on the 1933 flag love.

The final margin was only 19, but the result was never in doubt after half time. Farmer kicked the sealer as Smoker went off clutching his hand after being clattered in a marking dual, and after seven goals in month was never the same.

From a new angle in his kitchen that provided a clearer look of the kettle and what appears to be a pair of washing up gloves, Todd lets slip that there was some pre-season talk amongst the players that we might be 0-6 at this stage. Which is a blow for the theory of positive thinking.

In my early viewings of this video I always wanted to know what the papers on Todd's fridge were. An invitation to Jay's birthday party? Now 20 years later I think it's a shame that a four year old Jack isn't seen running through the background chucking toys and creating chaos.

Footy Record watch - The Brisbane edition of the Record gives us John Northey on the cover, and the absurd claim that he keeps confounding the critics when his side were 0-5.

In an unusual newcomer to the ad market, a faction of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union cynically holding a small child aloft suggested you 'put workers first' and 'Corsetti last'. Voters may have been confused when there was nobody called 'workers' on the ballot paper, but Google suggests Corsetti was dismissed in a landslide. There's more industrial relations chat later, with sacked waterside worker Peter Bedford inviting us to get to a rally at Trades Hall and hang shit on John Howard. We will be doing that later in this post.

Round 7 vs Richmond
When you're on what passes for the ride of your life, the eventual letdown can feel worse than if you'd just done as expected and lost to everyone. Perspective and appreciation come later, at the time you just want to kick bins. Which is precisely what I did while walking from Gardiner Station to 1/40 Osborne Avenue, Glen Iris on the way home. Unfortunately excess consumption of MCG food on my then rail thin physique caused untold internal damage, and as the bin was kicked I partially shit my shorts. What a low moment both for the 1998 season and my life in general.

All I remember about the game itself was that for the first time our forward line was referred to as 'much vaunted' in a sarcastic way when they couldn't score to save themselves. Not one of the tall forwards took a mark, and Russell Robertson's entire contribution to the day was giving away a free kick. Outrageously, after a limp first half we put on a three goal to nil burst in the third quarter that got us ahead at three quarter time, making the post match reaction an extra degree sourer when we followed that by letting in eight goals to one.

It was no way to celebrate Viney's 200th (who regrettably isn't called upon for comment about the pissweak effort of teammates in his milestone game), but the narrator's suggestion that it was "the most forgettable of games" fails to take into account the upcoming slopfests against Geelong and St Kilda. For fans of Press Conference Watch, Daniher was back to giving his thoughts in what looked like a corridor but it was captured by the same unsteady cameraman who was probably being buffeted in the ribs by somebody from 3LO.

Footy Record watch - Nothing much for us, except the first ad for Live and Kicking. They suggest it's 'very different very soon'. And was very quickly axed.

Round 8 vs Collingwood
My mum's boss was a Melbourne fan, so for a couple of years whenever they couldn't find anyone important to sink free bulk piss in the Olympic Stand we'd get a call-up. This was my debut, and because nobody gave a rats about responsible service of alcohol in 1998 they were quite happy to serve me beers with no questions asked. What could possibly go wrong? Especially when I was drastically underweight and had a recent history of intestinal issues surrounding footy games.

Before we get to me light-heartedly making a flange of myself for the amusement of people twice my age, there's a look at training. Joe Gutnick turns up sans Israeli commando bodyguards for a gander, Steven Febey enjoys big laughs about suffering a concussion against the Tiges, and a supplementary list era Cameron Bruce in #55 unloads a handball to Matthew Collins.

I'm pleased to say that the afternoon didn't end in me barfing on the back row of fans outside the box, probably because having barely ever had a drink before I was well pissed long before what it would have taken to make me spew. Most people remember this vital win for Shaun Smith kicking five and a surprise combination of Travis Johnstone and Brent Grgic turning the Pies over, I wouldn't recall anything until the last quarter - even Travis Johnstone kicking four - if it wasn't for this tape.

Firstly, as somebody who has worn a balaclava, a Mexican wrestling mask and a formal MFC blazer to footy games for comedy value can I pass on my appreciation to whoever decided to bring a pirate flag along.

As Grgic's name was further butchered on commentary, a gun Daniher move to swing him forward paid off with 12 marks. Grgic is probably more harshly treated by history than is deserved, but we still spent the next three and a half seasons patiently looking at our watches and waiting for him to do similar again. He later went to Geelong and exercised the ex-MFC player option to have his best game against us.

The corporate box action started in earnest deep in the last quarter as we were hanging on to a thin lead and one of the Rocca brothers had a shot. Whether it was from a mark or a free I don't know, because despite having 2.5 hours of tape to fill it's not thought important enough to qualify for the video. I was sitting in the front row of the box, went "Noooooooooo", fell to my knees and started lightly headbutting the heavily padded wall half for comic value and half because I actually was distressed. As the kick sailed towards goal I poked my head just high enough to see it hit the post and fell back to the floor in celebration. I'm a completely unreliable witness, but was convinced for years that the ball had actually landed dead on top of the post. Realistically it probably just hit it high up but my depth perception was shot.

We held on to win, and I was so merry/blind that I opened the window of the box, climbed onto the ledge (NB: the boxes in the Olympic Stand were practically level with the seats, I wasn't hanging over a void) and stood there thought I was leading the assembled Demon faithful in the Grand Old Flag. I expect they were so excited that they didn't need a plastered underage drinker to inspire them to go right off, but I was comfortable with my actions.

The sponsor logos were back, and after that minor hiccup the previous week Life was officially Good again. No sponsorship has ever worked on me as well as this, I'm still buying LG products 20 years later.

Footy Record watch - With a post-injury Stynes on the cover to celebrate his 250th game sales should have rocketed. This was good news for Seven's attempt at throwing a hand grenade under the Footy Show juggernaut via excessive promotion for Live and Kicking. It was certainly live, but as the ratings showed, nobody bought Dunstall as being fun.

What I don't understand is why they put it on at 9:30. I'm not across the Seven Network's scheduling from 1998 to know what the lead-in show was, but surely the opposition succeeded in spite of their timeslot, not because of it. Here's a sample of what was on offer, glorifying some turkey who became 'famous' for being caught on camera yelling at players. Riveting. Thank christ they didn't get footage of me singing the song on the windowsill.

Round 9 vs Essendon
And now, four of five weeks where we revert to a 1997 style rolling shambles and make it look very much like the winning streak was a colossal fluke. After the Collingwood win, the first meeting of Daniher and Sheedy got plenty of press. It was even an excuse for a mid-week pissup lunch at the Bentleigh Club. If this banner is not required once we've sold the place I want it. They can keep grandmas curtains though.

The day was also dedicated to the 1948 Grand Final teams, and we get a topical score-check in the same format as the rest of the matches on the tape. Technically it was the 1948 VFL Grand Final Replay score on display, but who's counting?

A historical victory and the Resevers were as close as we'd get to a win for the day, starting well enough to be a point up at quarter time, before conceding five goals to two in the second quarter to be 18 points down at half time. We kept it to that at the last break before a repeat of the Richmond game when we stopped dead at three quarter time. In the post-Collingwood press conference Daniher had made a point of how he'd demanded the players didn't fade in the last quarter again. Must have forgotten to follow up on that.

Footy Record watch - At last, an edition from one of our games. And if that wasn't enough for you there was also an interview with Gerard Neesham. I would have 100% ignored that, rolled this up and whacked it on the seat in front of me a few times until the newsprint wore off on my sweaty palms. Speaking of sweaty palms, the Swans cock gag gets another airing.

Round 10 vs Adelaide
This was the day we signed the lease to move from a flat in Glen Iris to one in Hawthorn East, which is not something I'd remember except that the landlord we were signing on with loved a chat. I was politely looking at my watch every five seconds to indicate to mum that the first bounce was rapidly approaching and that I'd very much like to either go home or tell this dickhead to put the TV on.

I made it just before the bounce and soon wished we'd stayed out.  Unless you were 'Wodewodin', the debuting Daniel Ward (replacing the retired Brett Lovett) or Mark Bradly there was not a cracker to be said for it.

We slowly ebbed away across the first three quarters, before caving in during the last and losing by nearly 10 goals. By now I'd started to come to terms with losing again, and was not nearly as upset as I had been a few weeks earlier. No underclothing was harmed in the making of this defeat.

Footy Record watch - Two in a row from Dees games, this time giving us a taste of South Australian culture. Despite that, not one story about a serial killer. For the sort of people who like that sort of thing there is a 10 page report on the state of NSW-ACT Football, which surprisingly doesn't suggest bringing in a second team and gifting them a shitload of draft picks.

Round 11 vs Hawthorn
The exception to an otherwise turdular few weeks, and in a major milestone for me the first game I ever went to solo. Just before we moved off the Glen Waverley line it was back to VFL Park for the first time since about 1993 and the place was just as shit as it had been several years earlier, with pissing rain adding to the Eastern European atmosphere. Fun fact - when Waverley shut down I jumped the fence and 'acquired' a copy of the handbook for operating the scoreboard. That it was lost somewhere is one the great regrets in my life.

Even if you didn't know what was going to happen, the narrator's order to "just sit back and savour the moment" implied that good times were on the horizon. Instead of one moment, we get several goals in a row. The highlight was Jeff Farmer kicking goal of the year. For years I was convinced that Woewodin's was better, but am willing to concede now. Especially considering how the Wiz was robbed out of Mark of the Year. He already had two for the quarter when for some reason he found himself at half back, kicked short to Anthony McDonald, kept running to take the handball, sprinted down the wing, passed to Garry Lyon, ran through to get another handball, took a bounce that nearly ended in disaster, and with Kevin Bartlett about to spontaneously combust on commentary kicks off-balance from 55 metres on the run and watches it bounce through.

It was an eventful afternoon for Farmer, who also belted Shane Crawford in the head in frustration after dropping a mark and got three weeks.

The fans went wild in the wake of the Farmer hit, not just because he'd assaulted Crawford but because Hawthorn were so inept they converted the free from the high hit into a goal by The Ox

Apparently the verdict left us "seething" and contemplating an appeal, which is strange when the footage quite clearly shows Farmer clubbing him around the back of the scone.

Daniher celebrated by holding his press conference in a Swedish sauna, and somehow I left Waverley Park in the rain on a bus and got home by Tuesday.

In 1999 a mate convinced me to attend a rally outside Parliament House intended to save the ground from the bulldozers. I couldn't have cared less if they knocked it over immediately, but he was cracking on to a girl who was keen to go so I thought I'd help swell the numbers. It was the only swelling on offer as she later chucked him for the photographer that took the iconic shot of the Round 22 Jeff Farmer screamer.

The highlight of the rally was the host introducing John Brumby as "the next premier of Victoria", and me going "HA!" in the second between him finishing and people applauding. Waverley duly remained unsaved, and as much as Docklands gave me the shits for years I think we can all admit that unless you live in Upper Ferntree Gully it is a better option.

Footy Record watch - Here it is, the greatest moment in Record history

Round 12 vs Geelong
Given that my first MCG match ended in John Longmire kicking 14 of a 20 goal win, I'd already known trauma. And while 'tits up' would be redefined by Geelong in Round 19, 2011 this still felt like a tremendous blow. I didn't see a second of it, having signed up to do the 40 Hour Famine to impress a girl (for fucks sake). Thus after spending the night at some Charlie Church event (which should have further indicated that I'd go home hungry AND empty handed) I got home early in the morning without any sleep, wavered in my commitment to the cause, went to bed and woke up in time to listen on the radio.

What I heard displeased me, with the Cats nearly a hundred points up at half-time and us going within a couple of minutes of a goalless half. By then I'd already decided that the international kiddies were getting paid anyway and had wandered off to the kitchen for food. Unlike a certain other Geelong game either we managed to claw back some respectability (or they pulled the pin) and 'only' lost the second half by a goal. This was in no way a consolation, and suffice to say the Hotter Than Hell highlights are not much more than Jamie Shanahan belting somebody, Schwarz doing a hammy and Troy Longmuir kicking his first goal.

Footy Record watch - Hard job following an excited Travis, but Caroline Wilson gives it a bash with an article about "a pretty, blonde occasional model" TV host called Elyssa Elliott (me neither) who'd been given the Tijuana by Channel 7 eight weeks into the season. Caro then recounts how Rex Hunt belittled her during a stint as a boundary rider, which is followed a few pages later by a three page feature talking up Rex like the toppest of blokes.

There's also this ad for Corey McKernan's footy themed birthday party venue in Glenroy, which Google Maps suggests is now a variety shop wedged between El Toro Pizza and Coin Launderette.

Round 13 vs St Kilda
A second consecutive red-hot debacle, but this time I was present for it. Not only in the ground, but stupidly sitting in Row A on the bottom deck of the Ponsford being pissed on from a great height all day. The Carlton fan who'd lured me back to the game just over a year earlier was with me, and I don't know why we chose to suffer rather than adjourn to one of the 15,000 other spare seats in the same stand.

At one point when the ball rolled to the fence and Andrew Thompson bent down to pick it up my mate yelled "Go the Blues" at him and he looked up at us like we were the biggest dickheads on the face of planet earth. And he was probably right.

We went home soaked, having seen the Dees improve on the Geelong game by a measly 10 points, and as Carlton kicked a goal in a frantic last quarter against the Dockers he got excited, jumped up and down and caused a picture to fall off our wall and smash spectacularly. It was by far the most interesting thing I'd seen all day, even better than Daniher's press conference where he referred to "G. Lovett" like he was reading his name off a teamsheet.

Footy Record watch - Non-MFC figures I'd like to interview. 1) Choke Yourself With A Tie, 2) Karen Phelan, the "AFL Internet Manager" in 1998. In the days where you still had to tell people to put www in front of web addresses, Karen presided over what was "No 1 on the top 100 most-visited sites in Australia", and she said "one of the things that has been suggested is a chat room". Bad idea Karen.

Round 14 vs West Coast
The good times were officially over, out of the eight and wearing a percentage of 85.5 like a millstone. Which would have been bad enough had we not been off to Perth to play the third place team. Defeat here, as much as we'd have expected it, would have dealt a near fatal blow to our top eight hopes.

Adding to the carnage of a team that was already missing Farmer, Schwarz and Shanahan, Jim Stynes was out again - having waited years for injuries to get him he found them all arriving at once as a subtle hint that maybe it was time to start winding things up. Instead we took five players with less than 10 games' experience (including a rare sighting of Donald Cockatoo-Collins) into battle, overhauled a 10 point half time deficit and won comfortably. Completely bonkers, and rightfully remembered as one of the great wins of the last 30 years.

It was the coming of age of Russell Robertson, a man who'd been drafted, delisted and re-drafted as a rookie in his first months on the list. In his ninth game he kicked four to prove there was life after Neitz and Schwarz. Mark Bradly and Cockatoo-Collins kicked a goal too, but both only played one more game before disappearing. If West Coast fans had a local version of the Kent Kingsley Club in 1998 its phone lines would have melted down.

At least when Tingay finished them off they could have been satisfied at having been buried by quality. He then did some much appreciated Hulk Hogan shit in celebration.

Even Stinger flexing his 24 inch pythons wasn't enough to send the locals home seething, there was the Eagles defender who took an uncontested mark 40 metres out, fell over as he attempted to handball, and watched the ball roll pathetically to Robbo for his fourth.

The worst thing about Subiaco was the corporate shills holding Messages on Hold banners, and even after this they were still waving them enthusiasticlly. After that I'd have thrown mine over the fence like a frisbee and copped a life ban.

Despite being a practically grown man just over a month short of 17-years-old I greeted the final siren by enthusiastically jumping up and down on my bed. The editors of the video were still so pumped several months they credited James McDonald with four goals and demoted Robbo to three. Now that he's such a big wheel that the on MFC hold messages (as opposed to the Messages On Hold) are him commanding you to sing the Grand Old Flag he should get them to redo the video and set the record straight.

Footy Record watch - Forget sketchy union elections, a real one was on the way and that meant Justin Madden topically claiming "A GST on football, John Howard would like to see that!" on behalf of the ALP. This is not a party political broadcast, especially given that it was the last election I wasn't old enough to vote in, but retrospectively the $1.50 extra Howard was going to slap on the generic "chips, hot dogs and meat pies" was nothing compared to what the ground caterers were preparing to do to you. Open a Royal Commission into that Madden you goose.

Round 15 vs Western Bulldogs
Obviously after that win we were going to finish first with a percentage of 300 and never lose another game. And yes, we did win three of the four quarters the next week against the second placed Bulldogs but not the one that counted. This is the only game of the season that I'm not sure about where I was or what I was doing. It's possible that I was at Princes Park, but may be confusing it with an even more unsuccessful visit in '99 where a Bulldogs fan threateningly demanded I take my jumper off. If I had done it the my bright white skin would have blinded him long enough for police to arrive.

I'll just have to assume that this was another day spent listening on the radio, without the same exciting finish as the Carlton game. All I can take out of it - other than more footage of Nathan Brown with that spectacular blonde hair - is that Garry Lyon kicked his 400th career goal with an ill-advised attempt to play on, narrowly avoiding being brought to ground in a tackle that may have shattered him into a hundred pieces.

Once you knew what happened it wasn't such a bad loss, 18 points to the new top team with Bradly and Anthony McDonald our top goalkickers. Even at that age I was probably only some weird corner of the internet moaning about how it was the beginning of the end for our season and demanding mass sackings.

Footy Record watch - What in the name of Dutch buggery were Cadbury Legends of the Game chocolates? Supposedly "soft, chewy caramels wrapped in Cadbury Daily Milk Chocolate and hard footy facts" with "great AFL moments to discover on each wrapper".  Australia failed to fail in love with thinly veiled generic choc that told you about Fred Fanning kicking 18.

Round 16 vs Fremantle
I do not remember one thing about the game itself other than us winning, but it still ranks as one of the most memorable days of the season for what happened earlier in a Reserves game at Punt Road. There would be social media outrage and mass suspensions these days, but as Carlton's David Hynes kicked in from the Brunton Avenue end, Hayden Lamaro yelled "KICK IT HERE HYNESEY YOU POOFTER", he turned around and did exactly that. It was probably the funniest thing I'd ever seen in my life to that point.

The other aspect of this game that had nothing to do with us winning, was that it represented the peak of the MCG's attempts to sell you the CD of Nothing Beats Footy at the MCG by playing it before the game, at every break, and then after the game several times while we were on the ground having a kick. Now it's credited to 'Jim Cadman', then they were trying to pretend that Voice Of The G was the artist of record.

In that clip you will hear proof that Bruce McAvaney was treating saying "special" like a gimmick even back then. It's actually not a terrible song, but I despised it at the time. Which is not so surprising when by Round 22 I'd heard it in my life more times than the national anthem.

The track formed part of a complex relationship with Voice of the G, previously seen as Col'n Carpenter's housemate in a disastrous spin-off from The Comedy Company, who we can now look back on as a competent announcer and match-day host but was then a figure of derision. Isn't what we need right now a Playstation Challenge featuring a racing game where nobody knows what button does the brakes so they spent 90 seconds crashing? Or later when an AFL game came out and they'd rope a couple of hapless kids in and we'd watch them finish on 0-0.

Also now available on YouTube for the first time (well, it was uploaded in 2012 but I only just found it) is Ultratune's classic jingle from before they got into sexism. I think this is a later version of the ad, but the song is the same.

By now we were probably beyond the "Video Ezy movie guarantee. Get it first time or get it free!" scoreboard ad era, so my perception is that every ad-break for the day would be "When your whole car's singing it's Ultratuned!" followed by the Herald Sun one that had "Loving you is easy 'cos you're beautiful" while the lady drove around with her dog.

Video evidence is available that some football took also place, as we got our revenge on the Dockers for that Round 1 loss. Even after our mid-season slump we somehow still drew over 20,000 people. Freo fans weren't contributing much, and nor were they acting appropriately towards Jeff White. If they'd had an ounce of self-respect they'd have been hanging over the fence waving bags of money at him.

The result was still in doubt at three quarter time, before first Garry Lyon capitalised on a bounce that slaughtered a Dockers defender to soccer through, then Farmer kicked a set shot from the boundary line. Freo had never won at the MCG, much less in their 3D Amiga jumper, and didn't start here. We just put off the humiliating of being the first team to lose to them there by a year.

This video reminds me of how much I liked Anthony McDonald. We're all fixated on his brother due to his stint as captain and tragic demise, but the older model was a key player in this revival. It doesn't hurt that he was also delightfully polite to me in the Demon Megastore one day.

In the latest Press Conference Watch news, you'll notice we'd replaced the white sponsor wall with a blue one. No wonder we were skint in this era, all the money was going on printing.

Footy Record watch - Just in case people were flagging on buying the Record at this stage of the season you're offered the chance to "Win AFL CD-ROM". This is a more attractive offer than Channel 7's Sheedy Unplugged program at 9.40 Monday night.

Otherwise this issue is a Hall of Fame of '98 ads - the Swans dick joke, don't shake your baby you dumb fuck and Justin Madden talks tax. It's left to Jeff Farmer to give us value for our $2 in the player profile, providing a topical World Cup reference by revealing his non-AFL fantasy would be kicking the winning goal for Argentina in the World Cup Final.

Round 17 vs North Melbourne
Since 1897, Melbourne has lost 23 times by a point and I've been there in person to see it happen against North three times. I'm not sure if this is better or worse than having been present for two 20 goal losses against them. The first of those came in 1999, in a week where I'd just been put 'on medication' after going completely bonkers and for the first and last time in my life sat at a thrilling footy game and went "eh, fuck it" as we lost.

In contrast, this was just your garden variety 10 goal thrashing, as we continued on an in-season version of the rollercoaster that would equally thrill and give us the shits for the next seven years. The Freo win put us back inside the eight by a game, but still with a putrid percentage of 89.4. Essendon lurked just behind us, and by the end of this round we'd been pushed down to ninth. All the benefits of that five game winning streak were being tossed out the window as all the top four contenders except the Eagles dealt with us.

By now my loyalty to the Ponsford had been confirmed, and it lasted until they knocked it down. It was still the middle or lower level as I didn't truly appreciate the free drinking and covert dope smoking (not by me let's be clear) anarchy of the top deck until 1999. I may have been dead set off my face for a few years here, but just the thought of those wooden Ponsford benches gives me happy memories. The makers of the video didn't have much love for the ground, flying directly in the face of the suggestion that "Nothing Beats The Footy at the MCG" and declaring the game to have been played at Waverley.

This rollerdoor also evokes feelings. Is my memory faulty, or did they just fling it open and let people in free for the last quarter? I certainly remember walking past it, most notably on the day that Farmer kicked nine in the second half in 2000 when I pissed as a fart, suggested Brad Green have a crack at my then girlfriend (she was keen, him not so much) and told Shane Woewodin he was going to win the Brownlow. Still upset at not getting a mention in his acceptance speech.

In front of a friends and family only crowd we stayed with them for three quarters before dying in the arse and conceding 10 goals in the last. For the second time in six months Marcus Seecamp provided a highlight with comical thuggery. He thumped North's Brett Chandler, then went to the tribunal and admitted that they were actually good mates and were going on an end of season fishing trip together. He still got two weeks. Which coincidentally was just how long we had to save our season.

Footy Record watch - I've written some long, ponderous sentences in my time but have never topped "The AFL Commission achieved the first step towards its objective of establishing a partnership with the Melbourne Cricket Club to consider options for the future development of the MCG following a meeting in Melbourne last week." Thank you middle management wankers.

It's also the launch week of the Every Heart Beats True CD - available from Sanity Records, Myer and the Melbourne Football Club for $29.95. Believe it or not kids, this was not an outrageous price. In those days we would often pay the equivalent of $49.38 for 'albums'. In my case not this one.

Round 18 vs Brisbane
Given that we were fielding a reconditioned version of the 1997 wooden spoon side, it's not surprising that a 14 win season only delivered a percentage of 102.7 and was short on thrashings. Talk about peaking at the right time, 16% of that came in the last five rounds.

Having missed Fitzroy's dreadful final two seasons during my exile, this side was a perfect mashup of the horrible Lions and the Bears from the early 90s that had so few fans that our cheersquad had to help hold their banner up. In an early sign of the psychological scarring to come later I still expected to lose. By now the confidence of the Record editor meant nothing to John Northey, who had long since been given the arse in favour of caretaker Roger Merrett. After a positive start under him they'd been whipped three times in a row, and I fully expected this to the day their luck changed. Wrong.

Apparently this was originally supposed to be played at Waverley, which is a) one of the stupidest ideas in history and b) probably why they got confused doing the graphics for the North game.

To the benefit of most it was moved to the MCG, where Jeff White took a screamer and I declared it Mark of the Year, not knowing that Winston Abraham and Bruce McAvaney had already conspired to thieve that award in Canberra a few hours earlier.

Kevin Bartlett missed the early game too as he also incorrectly declared that it could win the award. Forget the grab, what about the glee on Schwarz's face? Probably didn't hurt that we were 89 points up at the time.

Any fear of a shock loss disappeared when we finished the first quarter six goals up. As Lyon kicked one from a tight angle on the boundary, KB said: "great camera shot from Channel 7" which had to be a deliberately planted anti-Optus Vision comment because who the hell else would have been shooting it if not Seven? As the rampage continued, someone behind the goals deemed it 'Excellent'

When the margin was 66 at half time I was hoping for a coveted triple figure rogering, but Brisbane held on to what remained of their dignity by five points.

Only 16,000 bothered to turn up - somehow bringing in 4k less than the Freo game, but those who watched at home would have regretted their decision when they realised that this was on offer. Even then he was probably trying to change the rules, and feeling a void in his life that would eventually be filled by fawning over Nic Nat.

Notice also that the score is always in the corner for this game. Either it's just good timing that the highlights captured it, or it was a late season decision by Seven. It was a good move - there was a better version with a black background but at least this was a start.

Given that they never show the ladder on this program you'd be forgiven for thinking that we were higher than ninth, but even the big win had barely put a dint in the percentage gap Adelaide, Essendon and Richmond held on us and our future was still up in the air.

Footy Record watch - For the sake of political balance, after the weeks of being hectored by Justin Madden the Prime Minister is the headline act in an article asking politicians about footy. Howard says "as a patron of the AFL, I am an impartial supporter of the game", suggests he goes to games "as often as I can" and recalls fondly "a fightback by Essendon during the 1984 Grand Final". Or at least whoever wrote the response for him did.

Round 19 vs Carlton
Despite four less wins they'd had a better percentage than us a week earlier, so it wasn't a ridiculous stretch to think that they might give us some trouble, but the Blues had never recovered from McDonald's dodgy goal at Princes Park, and we had the pleasure of sending one of their supporters absolutely stark raving mad in the return game.

David Parkin could have done with a win, I unexpectedly found myself in the Drunks and Social Rejects standing section at the bottom of the Southern (I represented the latter) and Carlton fans were baying for his blood. I'm not into religion, but sometimes things happen for a reason, and this rare excursion into a different stand paid off handsomely when an eight sheets to the wind Blue decided to climb over the fence and head towards the huddle at quarter time to make helpful suggestions. In the same security lax era where a naked man could make it to centre wicket during a one dayer, this wobbling pisswreck made it to within 20 or 30 metres of Parko and co before being led off for an afternoon in the drunk tank.

I don't know why he was so upset at a four point deficit, if he'd hung around to see them cop seven goals to nil in the third quarter he'd have been running at the huddle with a stick of dynamite. He was also lucky not to be around for one of Lyon's goals in second quarter, coming after Schwarz tried to take on multiple tacklers, dropped the ball with impunity and allowed Gaz to soccer through. Stephen Silvagni's objections were duly noted by the umpire laughing at him:

The Ox's day got better after the half, thumping home five of the seven goals in the third quarter blitz. Lyon got his fifth too and we were enjoying the benefit of playing with key forwards who weren't injured every five seconds.

The crowd loved it, and so did I. Less impressed was Neale Daniher, who greeted the final siren with none of the excitement the director hoped for. All that shot needs is a speech bubble above his head saying: "it's only Carlton".

This was around the time of my birthday, so I assume this is when I got my first jumper since the one that started with a 31 for Rod Keogh in '91, then easily transitioned into a 13 by the end of the season. Following the tradition of supporting players who'd only play a handful of games which began with my #54 Brent Heaver jumper in 1990, I opted to slap a #1 on the back for Jamie Shanahan.

It seems stupid now that you'd adopt a defender as your favourite player in this era and ignore Seecamp or Ingerson, but I think it was partly the fantasy of being the only person on the bandwagon when he kicked his first goal. He never even got a point for us. He had one set shot from about 40 metres out where I had my heart in my mouth for a monumental moment only for him to either kick it out on the full or fail to make the distance.

By mid-1999 I'd gone off him and decided that to hitch my wagon to Darren Kowal. Unfortunately the number had been ironed on too well and would only half come off. Kowal was never honoured and ended up delisted at the end of the season anyway. Jamie, if you're reading I'm sorry. The jumper stays in my collection to this day as a reminder of the folly of trying to pick the number off.

The purchase of the jumper also allowed me to get around Year 11 school camp looking like a right tit.

Footy Record watch - This is the first time we see this classic ad, featuring Gwen Jenkins lining up at full forward for Richmond. With that sort of recruiting it's no wonder they were shit in Round 22.

Lucky readers of the New South Wales edition were given the once in a lifetime chance to "Win a Footy CD". If Gil McLachlan could go back in time he'd stick a corkscrew in the head of whoever let that go out without referring to the game as 'AFL'.

Round 20 vs Port Adelaide
Finally, the game that put us over the top and into the eight again. Even better that it came via a win at Football Park, which was rare then but would come to look a shitload rarer 15 seasons later.

The glory days of fit forwards ended as soon as it had begun, with General Soreness Lyon one of three late outs along with Glenn Lovett and Bell Post Hill's favourite son Brent Grgic somehow this didn't affect us too badly. We were rubbish in the first half, but as Port weren't much better the damage was restricted to two goals at half time.

The sort of good old-fashioned coaching rocket that would get you reported to Worksafe these days inspired the troops, and a six goal to two third quarter won it. The score box was gone from the top of the screen again, so as we mounted a comeback Drew Morphett had to helpfully say: "if the Demons can get another goal they'll be within a kick". Channel 7 might have had a point here, imagine how much less 200db hysterical tripe Dwayne Russell would unload if he had to give score checks during the call?

The red hot form of Schwarz, Lyon and Farmer across these weeks was doing nothing for David Neitz. The future club record goalkicker and AFL Hall of Famer had five touches and went scoreless. His time would come very shortly. He did lay the shepherd that allowed Darren Kowal to put us in front, so that was something.

Viney added another shortly after, and future Palmer United Party Senate candidate Doug Hawkins contributed to the call by going "ho ho ho" as it went in. Did he last any longer in the commentary box than Live and Kicking? To be fair the next highlight includes him analysing how we got on top, which puts him a step ahead of the buffoons Channel 7 employ now.

Footy Record watch - At this stage of my life I'd never been any further west than Kryal Kastle, but if you were in Perth you could listen to PMFM 92.9's Grill Team every Saturday morning from 9am to 10am. Catch Adrian Barich, Guy McKenna, Shaun McManus and a lady called Jane Marwick who looked like she was being held against her will.

Round 21 vs Sydney
Just when you thought wacky fixturing was a modern invention, Christ only knows why we were playing on a Monday night. This was a good thing on two fronts, for one it meant a win would confirm us as finalists. We still had a sub-100 percentage, but with West Coast and Adelaide playing each other in the last round we couldn't be dislodged. In fact, toppling the Swans would leave us a red hot chance of finishing in the top four.

Almost as importantly, because they couldn't find anybody important who was mad enough to go to the MCG on a Monday night (which is surprising considering the NQR timeslot drew 52,000 people) we were off to the corporate box again. This time I was measured in my drinking in order to avoid making an arsehole of myself.

The one regret to being inside on what was probably otherwise a witches' tit cold night was losing the chance to run on the ground when Tony Lockett kicked his 100th. He got there in the end via a dodgy free kick, but despite kicking four was otherwise well held by my man Shanahan. It would have been a great night for Jamie to unexpectedly go forward and kick a bag Tom McSizzle style but alas no. We had to settle for Sad Tony refusing to celebrate while being engulfed by randoms who were clearly not Swans supporters.

I cared not for Plugger, but when are you ever going to get that opportunity again as a Melbourne fan? Or any fan, because I guarantee you after a half-hearted attempt to keep people off when Franklin brought up the ton next time somebody does it (post-knee jerk rule changes) the potential for personal injury and damages means they'll have security guards and rozzers in massed troop formations like they're about to fight World War I.

It was going so well that we set up a goal via Seecamp and Ingerson linking up in the middle, then Neitz got rid of his opponent with the greatest of ease for one of his three goals. This woman had the right attitude to be a Melbourne fan, still looking concerned even after one came in the last quarter with the game all but won.

We won surprisingly easy, thanks to moments like a Swans player having his kick-in pinched by Woewodin, who kept running and goalled without breaking stride. You will not be surprised to learn that Sandy greeted this by saying Woewodin in an unusual way, then added "whoa ho!" to compensate for the absence of Hawkins.

The final blow came courtesy of Robertson intercepting a handball, wheeling around from 40 metres out and taking advantage of a wacky, Shane Warne style bounce to roll it through.

In the crowd somebody hoisted a banner simply reading 'USED CARS', which is either an obscure joke about a player, the most poorly focused guerilla advertisement in the history of planet earth, or it had been half inched from an actual used car dealership on the way to the game.

The Swans were beaten, but can be agree that as Melbourne failed to draft Freddie Clutterbuck when given the chance, that Rowan Warfe remains one of the most satisfying player names to say in the history of the sport?

Defeat harmed Sydney's top four chances (at least until they won the next week and finished third), but at least none of them had their plums caved in by Garry Lyon like this goal umpire.

The umpire was wearing a black arm band for a fallen comrade before the blow, and would have kept it around after for the complete destruction of his sperm count.

Footy Record watch - Nothing screams 'late 90s football' like the Vivid brand (shortly before the internet got big and a porno company eclipsed them in the search engine rankings). How did they end up with one male model doing perfectly sensible things, and one being so over the top wacky? Pull your head in mate.

The same zany bloke returned to act the goat in Round 22, adopting an early version of the Blue Steel pose for West Coast, then going off chops in a Collingwood turtleneck. It was an accurate portrayal of what life must have been like under a Tony Shaw coaching regime.

Round 22 vs Richmond
Or the most triumphant, hilarious day of my supporting career. At least until the Tigers won a flag and retrospectively ruined my enjoyment of it.

Everything had already come up Melbourne that weekend, with St Kilda's one point loss to wooden spooners Brisbane on Saturday night giving us the chance to pass them for fourth. Conversely, Richmond had it all to play for. They sat ninth, but could dump Essendon with a win. In fact, with Essendon's 10 point loss dropping their percentage to 0.3 less than the Tiges they could have even lost by say 90 to 94 and still got in on about the fourth decimal point. Footy fans would have to wait another 20 years to see a team stuff up their finals chances in the last round and be bumped out by a minuscule margin. You'd have thought after we did them a solid here, the Bombers would have been nicer to us in the 2000 Grand Final but no.

This was the day Richmond finishing 9th went from a historical curiosity to a meme, and how the nation laughed until 2017. Seeing grown mean having a big teary sook at the end was one of my most cherished footy moments until all Tigers jokes were forced to cease. Still, I can go back in my mind to 1998 and enjoy it all over again.

Due to the size of the crowd it was a rare outing in the top deck of the Ponsford, giving me perfect line of sight to Jeff Farmer taking what should have been his award winning towering mark in the first quarter. Let the record show that Anthony McDonald kicked it to him, if this post achieves nothing else let the proclamation ring out that he was bloody good. Nobody thinks he wasn't, but that's because nobody thinks about him at all. He also won me a $1000 Harvey Norman gift vouchers as the home viewer on a quiz show on Fox Footy in 2003 or 2004, part of which I used to buy the desk this post was written at.

A special comments man that I can't recognise tries hard to get Jeff up by saying "that could be Cadbury's Mark of the Year" but the panel preferred McAvaney going off his tits over Abraham instead, and they should still be ashamed of themselves. As a silent protest against Farmer not winning, the video then goes troppo, rewinds a few seconds and plays the aftermath of the grab again as if live.

We enjoyed the first quarter the way I expect Collingwood fans did Round 23 last year. There's something sadistically underrated about seeing a side with it all to play for psychologically falling to bits. When Matthew Febey kicked two in a minute they should have evacuated to the Royal.
Much like that 2017 Collingwood cock-up, there was the brief hint of a comeback before they were stomped again. This bloke loved it. In an understated way.

This was the first half of a purple patch for Neitz, five here and six the next week after a season where he'd been handy (33 goals from 14 games would have led our goalkicking a couple of times in recent years) but unspectacular. He and Farmer each kicked five, and the phrase 'carnival atmosphere' has never been more appropriate.

Brendan Gale was carted off injured looking miserable, not consoled by the fact that he'd be coming back 20 years later as a Grand Final winning CEO. We won in a landslide, finishing a game ahead of the Crows in fourth. We had 20.5% less to our name but that was good enough for the double chance. At least I think it was, give me a few minutes to research the McIntyre Final 8 system before the next post.

In the meantime, entertain yourself with some Footy Record watch - The Brisbane edition offers "details on all Lions end of season functions". So you can get down and throw some cans at them for stinking the place up.

In a feature that went within one game of being relevant to us there's a run-down of the Grand Final day entertainment. Disappointingly the resume of national anthem singer Rob Guest fails to mention his stint hosting Man O Man.

Also on the bill were a duo of such "significant individual careers" that it had to be explained that they were the performers of the song "seen before every Channel Seven live football telecast". I suspect it may have been played before delayed telecasts too, but that's being pedantic.

For those of you that went out for a kick/durry at half time of that Grand Final somebody called "Michael Cristiano", who may be a cunningly disguised "Michael Cristian" has uploaded the performance to YouTube. It's not much, but it shits on a year later when a fake Russian cosmonaut 'crashed' onto the MCG, staggered onto the ground, said "I'd like to see that" and pissed off back to the theatre restaurant circuit.

Qualifying Final vs Adelaide
Right, so 4th wasn't an automatic double chance but it would have needed us to lose to the Crows and for the top two sides to lose to 7th and 8th. You'd be stiff to go out under those circumstances, but what a stupid system. The current way is much better, or at least it will be until they do something stupid like adopt 6-6-6 fixturing or start having 14 teams in the finals.

When North put Essendon out on Friday night we into the second week no matter what. That meant at least two weeks of refusing to attend Year 11 classes on Monday morning because I was at the Arts Centre Ticketmaster queuing for tickets. Or Ticketek, or Bass, whatever it was called. It wasn't much of a stretch, by this point my commitment to education was on a downward spiral towards the following February where I walked out of one school on a Tuesday, started at another on Thursday without telling anyone and ran down the clock for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, what about this fiasco. Jack Elliot loses a bet with Joe Gutnick about us making the finals, wears the jumper and pays a grand to the Royal Children's Hospital. Which is all fine, but did nobody think to give Gutnick a jumper with the right sponsor?

If you needed any indication of the size of the Richmond frenzy a week earlier, the crowd for a final was 15,000 less than had turned up a week earlier. Adelaide fans were probably saving themselves because they thought they were going to make the Grand Final. We sure put an end to that didn't we?

It's fashionable to claim that beating the premiers once means we should have won the flag, but if there had been a rematch three weeks later there's no way they'd have sent Andrew McLeod to be hammered by Jeff Farmer again.

The Wiz continued his hot form with three first quarter goals. Much to the delight of absolutely everybody in the stadium with half a brain, but especially for Derryn Hinch in the middle.

It's also unlikely that had Tony Modra survived the Prelim that he'd have been battered as comprehensively by Shanahan a second time, but until advanced computer simulations are developed to help us we'll just have to assume that a dual premiership winning coach would have learnt from his mistakes when it really mattered.

It was an extremely satisfying afternoon, almost five goals up at quarter time and never letting it get closer than 22 again. In other news, go back and listen to the special comments on this game and develop an appreciation of how much Peter McKenna sounds like SEN Hall of Famer Chris from Camberwell. They must have had helium on tap in the Channel 7.

Everyone who's ever watched a game of footy has been wheeled out to give their views on how to 'improve' it in the last couple of years. Watching these games I'm enjoying the aesthetics of there only being one circle in the middle and ruckman contesting the ball no matter how it flies away from the bounce. It's a scientifically proven fact that people think the best era of footy was the one they grew up with, but I'd be satisfied with just pissing off the extra circle and bringing back the deliberately rushed behind. What I've also learnt from watching 1998 footy again is that the umpires were unbelievably lenient on holding the ball.

It's rare that you ever get all your top players going at the exact same time, but this was a clinic forward, back and middle. Even Jeff White was roosting 60 metre goals, then setting one up (via an outrageous push in the back) for the man who the Herald Sun had referred to as 'Leon Chelly' earlier in the year with a vicious, Mike Tyson-esque punch from a ruck contest. The piss-taking continued with Farmer doing a volleyball shot on a loose ball to create a Schwarz goal.

While all this was going on, Neitz was racking up six goals. There were no Crows fans anywhere near us, so we just enjoyed the spectacle of taking the piss out of a top team. That bloke with the massive binoculars from early was back and loving it too. "That's not Joe Gutnick" adds Sandy Roberts helpfully.

This man would definitely have benefited from sitting my seating philsophies. If you're sitting at ground level and still need binoculars to see what's happening on the other side of the ground why are you sitting there in the first place? Unless you're in the military or hunting deer, can you even get binoculars that massive anymore?

The game also gave us one of my favourite MFC shots, with  Chelly leaping into the triumphant arms of The Ox and simultaneously celebrating with Kowal with Grgic trying to get involved in the background. This must have been a cover in one of the newspapers, because I refused to take it off my wall until I moved out.

What we needed now was for Sydney and the Bulldogs to both lose so we got a free pass to the Prelim. The Swans nearly did the right thing but narrowly beat St Kilda, leaving all our hopes of the cheap route to the Grannie resting on West Coast beating Footscray. The plonkers lost by 70 and it was off to the Arts Centre on Monday morning again.

Footy Record watch - By this point we were so excited that we've had bought anything, you didn't even have to slap the shot of Farmer taking a screamer on the front to encourage it. The front page tipped the Crows to win, stiff shit front page.

Before poker became the 'in' game, there's an advertisement for a 36 player blackjack tournament at Crown - the only players mentioned are Dipper, Paul Salmon, John Barnes and Greg Williams. I would very much like to know who the other 32 were and see the tournament brackets.

Semi Final vs St Kilda
This was a famous day in my supporting life, launching a decade long vendetta against the Saints. It also ended with Stan Alves getting the arse for losing in the finals, a tradition we later continued with Grant Thomas. Bit harsh on Stan considering he got them to a Grand Final a year earlier, and nearly toppled the Swans in Sydney the previous week.

We would have to do with Garry Lyon, fit for the shenanigans involved with launching an AFL cookbook during the week but for playing competitive sports. He foolishly went on the next year, but at the time there was a sense that we had to win to keep his career alive.

As if we didn't have enough injuries worries to be concerned about, somebody let Todd Viney get in a touring car and fang around Sandown at maximum speed. 15 years later, at the height of the #fistedforever era, it would have spun off into a barrier and left him with a broken everything.

Even without Lyon I was still confident, the rest of the all star action attraction, somebody's going to end up in traction faction were still upright and confidence was through the roof. Sure they'd tonked us at our only other meeting for the year, but that mid-season dip felt like a long time ago.

Thanks to a ticketing stitch up I ended up in almost the exact same spot as that first Saints game, this time with only light rain falling instead of the full 'pissing down' experience but next to the St Kilda cheer squad. If you had a decent quality image to work from you could probably see me on the right of this shot, next to garbage bag clad poons having a terrible time as a goal went through.

This was an eye-opening experience, endless moaning about everything, racial abuse towards Jeff Farmer as if Nicky Winmar had never existed, and a vociferous defence of Barry Hall knee dropped a Febey. One out against the pack I only engaged in light verbal war with them, both sides escalating in attack and defence as the margin extended.

If you subscribe to the view that modern footy is terrible and that the sun shines from the arse of everything from the past, this game will be entered into evidence on behalf of the defence. We were 1.8 in the second quarter, St Kilda kicked 5.11 in the last three and it was nothing more than pure slop and slog. To prove that people were just as sooky about the state of the sport then, one of the highlights comes in halfway through a commentator moaning about only one of some sort of free kick being paid in an earlier game.

It was Farmer who did the business again, kicking three goals in the second quarter and setting Yze up for another to give us a comfortable break. The Wiz was also involved in the best part of the day, and even better that it happened five metres from my Saints friends. Schwarz played on from a free, ran around his opponent and bombed long at goal, it was going left, but Farmer knocked it back into play, then ran at it with his back to goal, pivoted and ripped it through violently out of mid-air. Even the goal umpire was smiling, while the people behind him flicked through their Big Book O' Racial Slurs.

They gave up in the last quarter, we piled on six celebratory goals to win by 51, and one year from a wooden spoon were off to a Prelim. Suck shit Monday classes, back to the Arts Centre.

Footy Record watch - Amidst ads for Ally McBeal and a furious denial by the AFL that Brisbane would go back to being called the Bears, there's a letter via the AFL website from a Mr. Theo Rousalis commending Melbourne's fightback. He suggests "the club was always known for its commitment to football and it was a shame that last year it suffered several setbacks and wasn't able to show its full potential". Seemed like a fake letter to me, so I Googled the name and we can only hope it's the same Theo Rousalis who is a poker player who was "shamefully beaten by a muppet" in 2007.

Preliminary Final vs North Melbourne
Lyon was back, but we would still have had to climb a massive mountain to win this. Jeff Farmer continued climbing, taking a huge mark in the opening minutes that wasn't up the Round 22 standard but still arguably better than Abraham's if you're willing to look at from a position of total bias. Neutrals were even excited, with one of the commentators declaring that it was the Mark of the Year, ignoring that for some stupid reason even if you take a Shaun Smith job you can't actually be nominated in a final. He missed the shot and we never really clicked into gear.

The golden run of our forward line came to a shuddering halt at the wrong time, with 12 individual goalkickers - including eclectic options the Febey brothers, Kowal and Seecamp. From just a point down at quarter time, the margin was eight by half time so a win wasn't out of the question. Scores were briefly level before North pulled away. The highlights suggest Darren Kowal was having the night of his life, so at least he got something out of it.

Despite the suggestion on commentary that North "had 19 players on the ground for three seconds" there was no time for a headcount, and we went in 21 down at three quarter time. It would have been a great time for the Footy Gods to deliver the payback for the Round 6, 1992 outrage against Essendon, but the closest we got was briefly to within three goals and I had to concede that it was over.

The last word on the season went to Bruce Avaney, who greeted a standard post-match handshake with "He's a good sport Garry Lyon" as if there was some chance he was going to headbutt Mick Martyn. At least the ex-skipper was a good bloke, with the greatest sporting run of my life since the Jakovich coming to a predictable, but still unwelcome end, I let my emotions boil over and made a Rex Hunt of myself by trying to lead the crowd in an offensive chant towards Wayne Carey. The only problem was that by the siren the middle deck of the Old Ponsford was about 90/10 in favour of North fans, and having just qualified for the Grand Final they just stared at me like I'd started noshing into a turd sandwich.

Footy Record watch - "Woewodin: tough name, great player". Really? Wait until Wonaeamirri turns up. There's a whole page on how to buy Grand Final tickets, which turned out to be useless but had we won I'd have stabbed somebody to get a ticket. Which is what it would have taken, because buggered if I was going to camp out all night like a hobo. This theory came back to haunt me two seasons later when I went to every game in Victoria then flat out refused to mingle throughout the night with footy fans to get tickets.

As the last man to appear in the player profile for the year, we find out that Adem Yze's dream dinners guests are Michael Jordan, Anna Kournikova, Patsy Kensit, Courteney Cox, Elle McPherson - and just when it sounds like an epic celebrity orgy is about to break out he mentions his fiance. Hope she didn't read it.

... and now that you're visualising Ooze and MJ porking the most popular female celebrities of the late 90s it's time to pull the shutters down on a grand season. A combination of prelim bitterness and a desire not to know anybody who supported the premiers saw me punt the Crows home in the Grand Final. In a rare twist, my support of a team helped them win. It must only work when you don't really care about the result.

The only significant loss at the end of the season was the retiring Jim Stynes, and at last we were on the up. The good times lasted until early 1999, Lyon and Tingay were already falling apart, in Round 2 we lost to a Tim Watson/Gavin Mitchell powered Saints team and I had to leg it from Saints fans after making a regrettable comments towards an old man. But that's a story for another day...

1 comment:

  1. It came up in the side bar and I watched it. A very skilled side, Jakovich thought the 1991 side was capable of giving any opposition a seeing to. The 1987 side gave us an excitement that has never been matched and would have beaten Carlton the next week. The flaw that led to that loss happened when Tony Campbell had a wild shot at goal on the run instead of passing to Robert Flower who can be seen going off in the goal square afterwards, something I had never seen him do before. What would have happened is that Flower would have marked the ball and as the ball went into the crowd the siren would probably have sounded. There is, of course, the small matter of the siren sounding before the ball got near Buckenara, hence the siren noise for the entire time that he lined up for goal and kicked the ball. I was listening on the radio and no one could understand why someone was given a free kick after the siren had sounded.
    Beating Hawthorn in 1988 would have been difficult and no team was going to beat Essendon in 2000 so it was a competition for second best.
    The 2018 side is very exciting but really strong oppositions may stop our free flowing style and make for an ugly spectacle.


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