Sunday 29 July 2018

Attempting reentry

In the blood frenzy of sacking Jack Watts, Simon Goodwin unwittingly contracted the role of scapegoat for everything. That's not so unusual for a coach, it's just that our last two either deserved it or followed somebody who deserved it. Whether he can coach a finals side or not is still up for debate, but he's been great for content. Earlier in the season we got two weeks out of a casual Wolf of Wall Street reference, and when he compared us to James Bond this week, Demonblog Towers went off like Air Crash Investigation hearing about a controlled flight into terrain.

In having to justify why he didn't have several players executed in the wake of the Geelong capitulation, the coach suggested that 007 might have been a gentleman but he was also a killer. I've been an advocate of Gentlemania in football ever since Jimmy Toumpas deliberately sought out his opponent for a handshake in his first pre-season game (mind you, look what happened to him), but not sure I followed his line of thinking. Bond was more of a well-dressed mad rooter than anything. He also got his best gimmicks from a kindly old man, which could mean a comeback for Neil Craig.

Given the deep psychological trauma inflicted on me by the result at Kardinia Park - and as much as I kept it inside after Sunday it slashed my soul - any old gimmick would do to lighten the mood. I hoped Sam Frost would win the game by sprinting towards a pack like an out of control circus animal, leaping over the pack to deliver a key spoil, then ripping a red and blue parachute before floating gently back to earth...

... instead he won a free kick, played on behind the umpire's back, ran about 35 metres at warp speed without being pulled up and turned it over. But who's worried about that now? Especially after a night where the Homebrand backline did a fantastic job of holding Adelaide's key forwards quiet, then built a fort and grimly defended the lead for the last 10 minutes. It must have been a lot easier in medieval times when you could just pour boiling oil on your enemies. Had we lost I may have quibbled with the free kick and goal in the last two minutes from Frost's optimistic attempt to run through their forward line, but we didn't so all clear.

If last week was Geelong doing their impression of classic era Bond narrowly escaping a laser up his jaffas, this was like the hard to watch Pierce Brosnan era where you just wanted them to get to the end quickly. There was some enjoyment had, for the third week in a row we put on an exhibition of the game in the third quarter that you could package up and send overseas to get people interested in the sport. It's just the other three that had us dangling above a shark tank by our fingertips, thankful to the Crows for not being capable of putting us away.

The first half pointed to bad things, we were led to expect a fiery reaction to the Geelong debacle, but as far as I could see we were so focused on the last 10 minutes that nobody remembered to turn up at the start. The increasingly tired looking Gawn tapped to Adelaide players, Harmes tagged Sloane and kicked like he'd broken his foot as well as his hand, and as usual three of our players ran to every ball-carrier and left half a dozen opponents free on the outside. We spent so much time camped in the Adelaide backline trying to keep them out that it was a minor miracle to be less than 10 points down at quarter time.

Our standard operating procedure is to go inside 50 dozens of times for no reward, which was off the table when we couldn't get the ball across half way, much less close enough to aimlessly boot it into attack. Adelaide in Alice was a rare occasion where we killed a team in the first quarter and they stayed dead, and that season best 7.1 blitzkrieg seemed like a lifetime ago here. That day we barely let them hold the ball long enough to put our tackling to the test, this time they were walking through jelly-handed efforts with contempt. One Crow in particular regularly tripped the light fantastic through half a dozen players like he was coated in oil. Like most things, this improved later, before the rain came and the contest was reduced to nothing but tackling and the Chinese water torture slow drip of Adelaide goals.

Then there were the crab-like attempts to mark, keeping us from getting any sort of rhythm going. It always seems silly to have gone off like a pork chop when you come back to win, but at this point I was ready to borrow Don Pyke's kidnap bus and drive the team as far away from Melbourne as possible. There didn't seem to be any way to lift the weight off us long enough to play our natural game. Somehow we still scored 90 despite spending the last term under siege. Thank god for third quarters, a few years ago we came back after half time playing like the team talk had been given by a mime and now it's our best quarter. Since Round 6 we've kicked five goals in a third term nine times, with a couple of fours as well. The second half defence is not so good, but one issue per season please.

If Adelaide's early dominance had continued I'd have bitterly pointed to the incident which gifted them their first. Bayley Fritsch blundered by picking up a ball he should definitely have run out of bounds, only to be immediately buried in a tackle, hauled over the line and pinged for deliberate. The decision was very much a 'how the locals like it' IGA job, but what was he doing picking it up to start with? Because I've enjoyed the time he's spent playing for us I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was desperately trying to find a way to get the ball outside 50 and start something positive.

After three goals the prospect of an interstate stranglewank was on the agenda, or a total interstate collapse like the ones we used to put on regularly at Football Park. Take some time now to reflect on what a graveyard that place was, during our great losing streak we played there in four finals seasons and were regularly humped senseless. Then Adelaide Oval opens in the mid-table mediocrity, no finals (yet?) era and we've had four wins and lost two thrillers in five seasons. It looks like it would be a nice place to go if the locals didn't show up.

Our belated response was textbook ball movement reminiscent of a finals team, it's just that most of them do it for four quarters a week instead of in random outbursts. Neal-Bullen hit a perfect pass from the boundary to Garlett in the corridor, who shielded the mark perfectly, then flicked it to Tom McSizzle storming inside 50 on a long run out of defence. He ran back with the flight waiting for it to drop for an eternity, took a high risk bounce and slotted it to get us back in the mix.

We should have been back out of the mix shortly after, but for an easy set shot hitting the post. It was not the last time an unnecessary interface of ball and woodwork saved us. Despite that we'd settled things down and stopped looking like everyone was suffering post-traumatic stress. Jordan Lewis was the unusual second goalkicker, profiting from a smart Melksham handball to kick on the run from 50. It was about 20 metres more than I thought he had in him, and to prove it wasn't a fluke he did the same thing from an identical spot in the third quarter.

On the occasion of his 300th game, Lewis picked a good night to rip out his best performance of the season. After copping significant shit this year - plenty of it from me - this was the perfect demonstration of what he can do under the right circumstances. Still think it would be prudent to pull up stumps at the end of the season, but I'll have more of this in the next four to eight weeks if he's offering. Meanwhile, did he deliberately call his kid 'Hughie Lewis'? And if so are the other two collectively 'the News'? (NB: for more MFC related references to the original Huey see the very poorly constructed Facebook Comment of the Week #20).

Those goals turned the momentum in our favour, but for no further reward before they kicked an steadier straight of their arse from the boundary line. This third goal from a forward 50 stoppage was a downer after battling our way into the game, but given how many times we've dug out of similar holes to get back to within a goal I shouldn't have been concerned. But I was absolutely shitting it, with one side of my brain watching the game and the other doing live ladder predictors to work out what we'd have to do to get in after a loss. The answer was plenty, an extra four points now was vital to make sure we were playing to avoid dropping out rather than relying on a 2016 style Ultimate Bradbury of unlikely results to go in our favour. West Coast stitched us up by going to pieces in Hobart today, making this win even more important.

The late seven point play got us back within 10, a staggeringly good result considering how they'd battered us at the start. It was a higher stakes version of the Port game where we mangled them for five minutes then conceded a last minute goal that gave them life. This time we got the full seven point play, with McDonald delivering the traditional reaction to his set shot accuracy being highlighted on commentary, before Oliver set up Fritsch for a goal after the siren. Of the two consecutive quarters featuring a post-siren goal this was certainly my favourite.

I wanted to believe that we'd cherish our second life and go on from there, instead we were straight back into trying to extract the ball from defence. We're so devoid of playmakers down there that if Gold Coast can get four centre clearances to begin the quarters next week they may be able to play out a nil-all draw.

The Fritsch goal was cancelled out in the opening minutes, before Frost gave away another via a downfield free and goal courtesy of a vigorous bump to the back of an opponent. It was a reasonably soft free, made up for later by Hogan getting one 10 times softer, but I'd argue that you're not going to do yourself any favours bumping a forearm squarely into an opponent's back while he's looking in the other direction. Everyone knows he was well aware that Frost was there and was trying to block his run but as marketing wankers say 'the optics' were not good.

Back to 20 points down again and having to dig ourselves out of a near autoerotic asphyxiation scenario for a second time it took a towering mark at the top of the square by Melksham from a lovely kick by Sir Neville Jetta to keep us alive. Nifty also set up the next one, catching his old rival Eddie Betts holding the ball in the middle of the ground, allowing Petracca to lob a long kick towards McSizzle in the square. His goal won us the quarter but only narrowly, after pulling off a Reverse DemonTime® in the first term we almost gave it back in the dying seconds here. The 'Hall of Shit MFC Spoils That Cost Goals' is unlikely to ever find a better contender than Jayden Hunt in the first quarter of Round 23, 2017 and while this one was on the wing it still directly contributed. Some random Adelaidian who I'd never heard of until last night missed from the forward pocket and we retained hope going into half time.

Turns out there was no reason to be afraid (at least until the last quarter), if Gawn was actually tired it didn't show in the second half. There were none of his usual towering marks forward or back, but he started to dominate the ruck duels and continued to play like a midfielder at ground level. Maybe he broke through the fatigue barrier, maybe it was Oliver, Brayshaw and yes indeed even Dom Tyson operating at high capacity below him, or maybe I was just reading the situation badly to begin with. This combination eventually broke Adelaide, but we had to get through a nervy few minutes first.

Lewis got his carbon copy second to tie the scores, then with clearances for the quarter at 7-0 within the first few minutes, Melksham picked the ball up and in one action kicked from 60 metres out, watching the ball bounce in multiple directions before getting it right on the last one and giving us the lead. Now we were not only in the game but bossing them, like a cover version of the Adelaide Oval 2017 game where we completed the Stranglewank then piled another seven goals on to make sure of it.

This time we had to surrender the lead once more via a defensive fiasco where three players jumped at the same ball. They all did very well last night allowing for the odd horrific blunder so I'm prepared to give them this one. Still not convinced by Joel Smith, I love his athleticism and enthusiasm but suspect that any team with serious aspirations would be playing him unless they absolutely had to. Nevertheless, the record shows that their three key forwards got one goal between them and even that was from a free, so no harm done.

The riot started in earnest when the Crows bloke who'd been so slippery earlier fluffed a simple kick going back into his own 50, Garlett bounced it around like a basketball for what seemed like an eternity, then flipped it out to Fritsch for the finish. On replay you will note kindly that a shepherd by the Anal-Bullet gave him the time he needed to finally gather and create the goal. This is why shepherding is a good thing, not just trying to get into open space to get a kick but actually working for your teammate. In this case result = goal, which should be all the evidence you need that it should be done more often. Next step is to eliminate everyone being pulled to the ball carrier like a magnet, only to leave multiple players free to take the ball.

After Fritsch came Kennedy-Harris getting his snap right this week, Petracca setting up McDonald's third, and Garlett booting one after perfect front and centre CRUMB to extend the margin to about where it was at the same point last week. If I had to be reminded of what happened of that night I'm glad it was for the right reasons and not for completing another epic choke.

In a sign that things were really going our way we finished the quarter with an outrageously bad free to Hogan, and he was having such a rotten night it was the only way he'd get a shot. I'll be buggered if he's 100% fit, and he added to whatever's ailing him by rolling his ankle shortly before this. Given he was hobbling around like the elderly I had genuine concern that he'd collapse in the middle of his excessive run-up, but he lobbed it through from right in front and the margin was over five goals. This was going to take a fantastic fuck up to lose from here. Where have I heard that before?

At three quarter time Mrs. Demonblog emerged from hiding and asked the traditional question "are you winning?" I didn't even want to say we were five goals in front out loud in case it contributed to jinxing it. As she went to bed I assured her that if noises of pain and anguish broke out we were probably throwing the game away. Suffice to say that she, the neighbours, and the people who measure seismic activity heard plenty more from me over the last 30 minutes.

This time kicking the first goal of the last quarter would have been as good as hitting the Chris Sullivan Line before the break, especially with pissing rain rapidly approaching the Adelaide Oval. Not that we can play the wet to save ourselves, but six goals would have been enough of a barrier to run out the rest of the game in a series of endless stoppages. Instead we let the first in within a couple of minutes, much to the delight of the commentators who were barracking hard for the narrative of us imploding again. The stoppages saved us in the end but it was far too close for comfort.

As the rain bucketed down and locals struggled to cope with plastic ponchos, we were still winning in the middle of the ground but unable to land the killer blow. Melksham had a chance to make the battle for survival less nervy by converting one of our few half chances, but he missed from the pocket and the Crows stayed alive. The difference between them and Geelong is that last week we conceded 8.0 to end the game, while Adelaide battled the conditions for a not quite good enough 3.7.

To the surprise of many Tankquiry era Demon fans, Kyle Cheney is still going after all these years. He's still only 28, but is sporting a haircut that makes him look about 13. We traded him (while he was in Hong Kong airport on way to the infamous Shanghai Surprise game) for the pick that later became Tom McDonald and you'd have had long odds that they'd be playing against each other eight years later. Speaking of the McDonald family going forward, there was a surprise cameo from Oscar in the last quarter. He's four games short of the night Tom opened his account against North, but this rank set shot from 40 metres out directly in front confirmed that he won't be following his brother's lead and becoming a breakout forward star any time soon.

Kidnap mastermind Pyke obviously thought we'd spend the whole night bombing the ball forward and parked Kyle down there to mop up a string of endless kicks. It would have worked a treat too if it wasn't for us either a) not being able to get it down there, or b) running straight them for goals. He came to the fore in the last quarter when we were just hacking the ball forward to get it anywhere other than Adelaide's forward line. The uncontested nature of his touches stopped him from qualifying as a Kyle Kingsley, but he was giving us all sorts of trouble. Until they were desperate for goals in the last couple of minutes and he was still parked down there waiting to have it kicked at him while we used Fritsch to do the same unchallenged at the other end where it mattered.

Melksham's miss was nearly the first step to me ending the night with a fork jammed in the toaster, because the Crows went straight down the other end for Betts to hoof through a goal like he was playing in the dry. The weather might have been our friend at first, but now they looked like the only side likely to score in it. We got away with murder multiple times, including two other misses from the square before the big one at the end. As the endless stoppages went on I was watching the clock run down at glacial speed, a few seconds here and there at a time as they continually threatened to blow the game wide open with another goal. We were still effectively three up when Frost tried to escape by foot and conceded a goal, and battled away to the last 60 seconds before handing them an opportunity on a platter.

Good guy Betts must have realised that another five goal capitulation would have caused a triple figure death toll, because he gathered the ball from one of the 230 last quarter stoppages, turned towards an open goal and defied the laws of football by putting it into the post from point blank range. About time somebody else lost a game by doing something amazingly stupid. This followed on from another Adelaide player missing a sitter from the square earlier when he kicked straight up in the air. If there are football gods they've done fuck all for us in my lifetime, so as a football atheist I just had to put it down as a ridiculous, inexplicable moment of good luck.

If he'd kicked it we'd still have been in front but wobbling like an overloaded lifeboat and vulnerable to another after the siren incident. Imagine how few people would have turned up to see us play Gold Coast next week if we'd lost from five goals up in the last quarter again? More people would have put their foot through their TV than would be in the MCG stands next Sunday. Now we might not go to that game entirely comfortably, but can leave the house without being subject to open ridicule.

You'd like to have thought that even had Betts converted we'd have sludged out the last 50 seconds, but it's more likely somebody would boot it straight down Cheney's throat from the centre bounce and allow them another chance. Best that he missed to take that off the table. We survived the kick-in (not sure how, I'd spun around shrieking as it hit the post and landed face down on the couch) and could now be sure there wasn't enough time for even us to concede two goals.

After 15 minutes of trench warfare I'd have been satisfied with running down the last minute, but with the Crows desperately pushing forward for one last heave we managed to nick an exclamation mark goal on the counter. Neal-Bullen finished it to wrap up one of his better games, and I've got no idea what a 'pressure point' is unless a pissed Fev is involved but he had 84 of them. I understand this is a good thing.

The greatest water-related survival story since Tony Bullimore was complete and relief was obvious both in my loungeroom, where I was making a scene second only to the McDonald winner at Subiaco, and in the coaches' box. Goodwin unloaded some of the tension from last week by going right off, and who can blame him? The underrated highlight of the finish was the absolute contempt of AFLX premiership coach Stone Cold Craig Jennings to the emotional reaction of his boss. You could say he didn't appreciate the stiff whack to the head, but he wasn't offering a cracker one way or the other before that either.
Victory wasn't without some moments of skull-crushing tension, and I've woken up with a cracking headache today from clenching my jaw so tightly, but mission accomplished. Thanks for nothing West Coast you secessionist slurpers of Satanic shlong, but one way or the other the circus remains open for another week.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - James Harmes
3 - Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Angus Brayshaw
1 - Jordan Lewis

Serious apologies to Tyson, The Brothers Sizzle, Frost, Jetta, Melksham, Petracca and Gawn

And the Hamburglar firmly sets his eyes on the prize, opening a two game lead over Maximum and necking the challenge off absolutely everybody else unless we play a minimum of two finals. Elsewhere we're confident that McDonald can't catch Gawn and reach the 10 hitout per game qualification mark for the Stynes so Max can have that now. There's also massive news in the Seecamp, where the much maligned Lewis has drawn level with Jetta, who could probably fill my car with cement and I'd still forgive him. They're the original Odd Couple.

52 - Clayton Oliver
42 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
--- No hope beyond here without at least two finals ---
24 - Jesse Hogan
--- Three finals needed for a share of the lead---
17 - Tom McDonald
--- Four finals needed. Fat chance ---
16 - Angus Brayshaw, Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - James Harmes, Nathan Jones
--- Officially done for ---
11 - Jake Melksham
9 - Christian Petracca
8 - Jack Viney
6 - Neville Jetta (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jordan Lewis (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I've got some love for the second Fritsch goal just because of ANB's shepherd, but I'll have to go for Melksham's long bomb. It's not like he knew it was going to take several zany bounces within two seconds, but it was worth it for the pick up on its own. He's got a vast collection of weekly prizes, so in this case we'll just wish him well that he escapes South Australia without running into one of their many hundreds of local serial killers.

Spargo still leads overall for the dance extravaganza and finish from the boundary against Geelong.

Considering how they've got about 150,000 fans it's disappointing to see that the Crows still can't put anything up that looks like it was made by adults of sound mind. In contrast to their primary school rubbish we were so excited to have somebody play a 300th game for us again that we put out a very nice commemorative Lewis effort. 19-0 for the year, and not much competition in the way of a perfect season.

Next Week
I suspect I'm not the only one who finally calmed down 15 minutes after the final siren and thought "shit, what if we lose to Gold Coast?" This would have been a significant concern under any circumstances, much less having just watched their score slowly creep to 44 against Carlton. On paper there is no chance in hell of Gold Coast winning, but I'll need a few flags before I ever go into a game 100% confident. If we could kill them off early that would be ace.

Considering the two last quarter fadeouts and playing in the rain, it might be a good thing that Casey had one of the 19 VFL season byes this week. But at the same time who's going to mess with a winning formula? I'm going to opt for minor changes, bringing in a quite literal fighter to provide a touch of niggle. JFK wasn't terrible by any means, but I just think that Bugg has more steel about him for what we're about to go through. Otherwise let's just hope they all remain well rested, and that whatever's ailing Hogan's ankle isn't terminal. I'm not keen on resting anyone because "it's only Gold Coast", but should he not be able to play for legitimate purposes I'll take Tim Smith to try and clear enough space for McDonald to kick 19.

IN: Bugg,
OUT: Kennedy-Harris (omit)
UNLUCKY: Hannan, T. Smith

The All New Bradbury Plan

The plan lives for another week, and now that Adelaide are finished it's a race for 5th to 11th. That's four who will make it and three who won't, and I'm still not convinced we're in the first group. The terrifying thing to consider is that North's win over West Coast today actually opens the door to winning 13 games and still finishing a full four points out of the final, and if that happens I will 100% self-harm.

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 - Collingwood, Port Adelaide
Likely to make the eight, usually still want them to lose - Geelong, GWS (↑) and Sydney (↓)
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other - Hawthorn and North Melbourne
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win against higher - Adelaide (↓) and Essendon
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Nil
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray, Fremantle, Gold Coast and St Kilda

Your Round 20 how to vote card:
Richmond d. Geelong (of course now that we need Richmond to win at the MCG they'll stop)
Essendon d. Hawthorn (it would keep the Bombers alive, but I'll risk it for the greater good because we need Hawthorn to beat Geelong later)
Brisbane d. North (if they win this on top of beating Hawthorn twice I'll put them in the Hall of Bradbury)
Adelaide d. Port (I'm just invested enough in the chance of Port stacking it that I can stand to keep the Crows barely alive for another week)
Collingwood d. Sydney (only because they're a game further back, we could still get something out of a Pies loss)
Carlton d. GWS (your 'fat chance' game of the week)

Around The Grounds
Not only did we win a crucial game that kept us neck-deep in the finals race, but Carlton's win over Gold Coast also handed us back the moral highground of living through the worst season by a team anyone cares about since Fitzroy. Fancy Blues fans thinking they had it worse than us in 2013 just because they'd won one less game, well now they've stuffed that up and will need to lose 10% in their last four games to even launch a challenge on the Neeld/Craig fiasco.

Speaking of Neeld, he's spoken in-depth about his tenure for the first time ever. I've not listened yet, but based on this article I'm expecting a load of old bollocks. He's trying to take the heat off wrecking Trengove's career, and has the strange quote about the older players that he "needed to be stronger in making my own mind about people initially". Who was he listening to then? Assistant coaches, CEOs, Ouija boards?

P.S - I've retired the old column name for stats, facts and figures due to it being a bit NQR. It served us well.

Hamfisted Forever

Imagine how much trouble we could have been spared if the Antichrist Football League had just introduced 6-6-6 positions (as opposed to the 6-6-6 finals), instead of fannying about the sham process of 'considering' all these other wacky rules. We'd have all been upset for a bit then probably realised it makes chuff all difference as long as you're not trying to defend a lead in the last 30 seconds, now they've made such a tremendous hash of the process that there's no trust left and even their puppets in the media are starting to nervously back away. That is the ones that aren't being handed brown paper envelopes with rules leaks in them.

Mission accomplished if they were going for the Donald Trump play of creating so much chaos that you're satisfied when the changes don't end in Armageddon. After all the bonkers stuff, including Malcolm Blight suggesting putting sandpaper on the ball so it would be easier to pick up because he's a moron, the starting positions don't seem so bad. I'm still not sure how this helps once the ball has cleared the centre, but obviously it's just swinging the door open for all sorts of other wacky shit. Like a goalsquare that pokes out so far you feel it may be compensating for inadequacies elsewhere. Apparently the Frankensquare is awesome because you'll be easily able to hoof the ball into the middle of the ground. Where the other team will have set up a wall because they know where it's going to go, for about 15 minutes until players realise that they should kick short again. Only this time there won't be the white-knuckle drama about them kicking it out on the full. Welcome to football for idiots.

The highlight of the week was the admission by Channel 7 errand boy Gil McLachlan that they were thinking about trialling the new rules in meaningless end of season games. Good on him for telling the truth, but the public reaction showed why real politicians haven't done that since about 1921. For a billion dollar organisation with delusions of taking over China they often seem to be run like a Thursday night indoor cricket comp in Dingley, but it would be a fitting end to a season they treated you like a moron for watching. I saw one suggestion that if the changes are inevitable you may as well trial them, but that takes the remarkably optimistic view of the trial being fair. It's like saying the North Korean election results indicate landslide support for the regime.

As we prepare for spectacle to be forced down our throat like foie gras, a reminder that you might have zero power to influence the league but you can choose to piss off your AFL membership and sink the cost into a premium MFC deal instead. Transfer your loyalties from an organisation that treats you like an idiot to one that's actually grateful for your business.

Final Thoughts
For the second time in five years I pulled out of plans to go to the Adelaide Oval and missed a famous victory (see also Round 7, 2014). It allowed me to retain my dignity and not sit in the crowd wearing a garbage bag, but makes it almost certain that when I do finally break my now eight season interstate game ban and go there we'll be mercilessly stuffed.

Future misery can wait, for now the dream of a finals berth before a) I'm stuffed for watching every week and/or b) they ruin the game with bonkers rule 'adjustments' remains in our own hands.  Diamonds may be forever, but any more games like this and I'll die of a heart attack by Round 23.

The Melbourne Football Club will return in 'Potential Banana Skin Game'

Sunday 22 July 2018

Respect the clock and tame the punt

Melbourne fans, just when you think you've been abused in every possible way along comes a defeat like that - after the siren, in a finals eight pointer, from five goals up, deep in enemy territory. It wasn't defeat on the scale of the 1987 Preliminary Final, but they did both involve an Irishman.

If that's the end of our season - and it will be - what a way to go. I'm struggling to think of a loss in my supporting life that ranked so high for both importance to the season and soul crushing disappointment. The famous Round 6, 1992 was a bigger choke but it was in Round 6. Petterd vs Collingwood was more explosive but without long-term implications and the St Kilda time management debacle in 2015 came during a placeholder season. Even the rollercoaster 2002 semi was polite enough to end in a decisive normal time win for the Crows instead of tearing our heart out and dangling it in front of our eyes before we died.

It's hard enough to come to terms with losing after the siren, without also having kicked the first goal of the last quarter to take a near 30 point lead. Those too young to recognise the Chris Sullivan Line may have found its spiritual replacement in the Tom McDonald Line. Even when what should have been the killer blow goal went in I wasn't prepared to relax. We'd held their best midfielders all day, and a defence held together by sticky tape had played well above itself, the team that briefly became famous for conceding large runs of goals was always vulnerable to a spectacular collapse. Then there was the 'two weeks after Darwin' theory, which I invented but didn't seriously believe until looking into it further today. Nine lost last quarters, in a row where we kicked an average of 1.8 goals and lost by 15 points.

2018 - went to pieces in the last quarter against Geelong and lost a thriller (Last quarter -25 margin, 3 goals)
2017 - went to pieces in the last quarter against North and lost a thriller (-4, 2 goals)
2016 - went to pieces in the last quarter against West Coast (-12, 0 goals)
2015 - won after kicking one goal in the second half against Brisbane (-2, 1 goal)
2014 - lost a thriller against Port (-1, 2 goals)
2013 - lost to the 0-17 GWS (-24, 3 goals)
2012 - went 48-2 up against Gold Coast a minute into the second quarter and lost the rest of the game by four (-5, 3 goals)
2011 - went to pieces in every quarter against Geelong and lost by 31 goals (-44, 2 goals)
2010 - went to pieces in the first and last quarters against Geelong and lost by 41 (-22, 1 goal)

This result is so toxic that it's even ruining games where we got paid a million and won easily. In fact it's even gone back in the footy time machine and wrecked the one point win in Round 20, 2005. How am I ever supposed to enjoy Geelong (courtesy of Matthew Egan, who now works for us and must have thought "christ, not again" at the siren) losing after the siren without remembering when they won? Arise the 2000 Semi Final vs Carlton, elevated as of now to my #1 day at the footy.

The worst thing about the result - other than the inevitable extension of our finals drought - is that the two minutes of madness at the end ruined what would have been one of the all-time great victories. Weathering a comeback like that would have only added to the legend, but instead here we are contemplating looking like idiots yet again. By definition it was an 'honourable' loss, but on the third narrow defeat to a contender this year (+ a dishonourable to the Saints), honourable losses can piss off.

Even without Jack Viney and with Michael Hibberd struck down with injury during the week, a win in the Valley of Death was not out of the question. This year they've lost to Sydney there and barely fought off Carlton, so I was less scared about the venue than any time in recent history. Forget the stadium, the fans and the umpiring, they were all taken out of the equation and for the second time this year we had victory over Geelong in our hands. After Round 1 I took out my frustration by punching, this time it was kicking, and if we somehow land a final against them it's odds on a headbutt will be in the mix.

Less than 24 hours later I'm still feeling the flat numbness that you only get from losing a thriller in heartbreaking circumstances. It may take until about Wednesday to decide how I really feel about the result, am I comfortable at stopping them from scoring freely for three quarters before falling in a heap or furious that we wasted early dominance, threw away a big lead, and provided acres of space to set up the match-winning goal? Odds on it's the latter but I might have to subject myself to a few dramatic AFL360 video packages and 'where are Melbourne at?' thinkpieces before being certain.

Forget Simon Goodwin and his press conference motherhood statements, the person I want to hear from is forward line coach Max Rooke. For the god knows how many'th time this season we had the ball inside 50 regularly at the start of the game but couldn't take advantage due to a barely functioning forward 50 structure. Hogan and McDonald are a killer combination just waiting for somebody to organise them, when we're not bombing the ball on top of their heads in a pack they're often leading to the same place or trying to out mark each other. At one point in the first quarter they both led at the same kick, which Sizzle got to first by running faster. He then missed from right in front anyway and I should have known my night would end in disappointment.

Then again, maybe it was the not particularly maligned because nobody knows what he does Rooke who influenced the decision to catch the Cats out for a while by trading panic bombing for precision forward entries after half time? It would have been interesting to raise that in the press conference, where questions usually have the depth of a fish pond.

Whoever altered the plan in the third quarter they got it right. After a first half where we tried to transfer Adam Oxley's intercept mark record to some otherwise unknown Geelong defender another third quarter blitz put us within touching distance of glory, and it came from changing the way we went forward. Like last week the result still wasn't near certain at the last change, and this time we got the much needed early goal but still lost. Maybe they had it right against the Dogs by waiting 15 minutes to start scoring in the final term? The fun never stops at the MFC.

Unlike our shambolic last start at Kardinia Park we were comfortably in the contest from the start, which is no surprise considering Geelong's team is all tip and no iceberg. No doubt they'll pull off some amazing recruiting coup and refresh their list but for now most of their better players were 30 or above and ours were generally under 25. The future is in place it just needs to be gently nudged along a few steps.

With Harmes tagging Selwood into the ground (before having a go at Dangerfield later, probably typecasting him as a tagger) and the homebrand backline doing a surprisingly competent job keeping the Cats at bay we had an early lead. It didn't last, because losing the stoppages to a side with a full forward who relishes the opportunity to crush us proved a bit more of a problem than the Bulldogs trying to kick into a cute, fluffy and irrelevant attack full of strugglers. There is definitely something to be said for keeping them at bay for so long, but what good is that for us now?

As with pretty much every other game I've been to live this year I saw the sort of warning signs that you only get from being at the ground. They're not always fatal, but teams plowing out of our forward line with free men everywhere (I guess the entire viewing audience got a look at how that worked in the last 20 seconds) and multiple players running to the same ball-carrier will be the death of me. There was at least one goal last night that came directly from a two-on-two situation where both of ours went to the same opponent, allowing him to flick the ball to the guy on his own with disastrous results.

By midway through the second quarter I was far more confident of winning than I had been before the match, it was obvious that Geelong are a barely better than mid-table mediocrity side. They were missing easy kicks, making stupid decisions, and if we were in any way ruthless with moving the ball inside 50 would have been right on top. Odds on they'll be blasted out of the finals ASAP but at least they'll be there while we're introducing thumb to arse on the couch.

Having the upper hand was wasted when they battled through our discount defence to get novelty goals like the cross from the pocket that was toe-poked through when we should have rushed it. Or Brayshaw being pinched on an administrative free kick for not knowing Dangerfield was the nominated ruckman. You'd think having just been nominated to, the umpire would have known to pay the free anyway but Danger made sure of it by putting on the greatest death scene since King Lear. It was followed by what might be Bernie Vince's last great Melbourne moment as he asked the umpire "what the fuck was that?" but was sadly the correct interpretation of a stupid rule. Was the world really a worse place when every man and their dog was jumping for ball-ups? No it was not.

That debacle was the only downer in a strong finish to the second quarter. Brayshaw didn't have nearly the free ride he did out of the middle last week, but did a smash and grab job to pinch a goal, Spargo kicked the sort of ludicrous roller from the boundary that would have caused a party in Dwayne Russell's pants if he was calling, and McSizzle took advantage of a stuff up in Geelong's defence to get another before the break. So far, so acceptable. We were only five points up at the half, but after another landslide win in the inside 50s at least we were starting to get reward for effort. We just got away with giving up a free deep in DemonTime, but in a result that seems a lot less funny now than at the time the kick after the siren went out on the full.

The game burst into a no zones required spectacular in the third quarter, after a half that featured tough and perfectly acceptable footy but would still have had Channel 7's errand boys at the AFL sweating due to the lack of goals. We conceded the first, but pulled it straight back from the next centre bounce in a handy throwback to last week. Even Petracca kicked a set shot, which should have been an indication that something weird was on the cards.

For the next few minutes it was goal for goal, plenty of opportunities for the viewers at home to watch that NAB ad and wonder if the woman commanding bank customers wouldn't be better used coaching our forwards. It appeared likely to go down to the wire, but I didn't see us racking up a big lead first. The run that set up the disaster started in wonky fashion, with Hogan and Anal-Bullet doing their best to stuff up an opportunity before it finally fell to Milkshake for the goal. Then Hulk finally got a one-on-one with a defender and make him look like a goose, before Gawn being knocked over off the ball caused 30,000 people who idolise Joel Selwood to erupt in tears of rage at the idea of a player going down easily after contact. A bootleg version of Catman was shown having a nervous breakdown on the big screen, much to the amusement of all.

Maximum was at his perfect range and converted, prematurely sticking his arms up in the air like he'd kicked the sealer. He then spent the rest of the game being hooted at by braying hillbillies before they had the last laugh. This goal set up a decent gap, before Garlett's second reversed the DemonTime curse and extended the margin to nearly four goals at the last change. This would take some sort of effort to lose, and we were up for the challenge. I wasn't confident yet, and even when McDonald got his third to make the margin nearly 30 there was far too much time left to breathe easily.

Things soon started to get wobbly, and the face of the demolition job was Tom Hawkins. He's been taking the piss out of ever since kicking four in his second game, and extended his beatings beyond goals by also whacking Bayley Fritsch around the scone at the end of the third quarter. Once they started winning quick breaks out of the middle at last he began dragging poor old Oscar McDonald behind him like a water skier. Eventually somebody realised the need for closing speed and switched Frost onto him, but by then the lead had already been cut to pieces. It wasn't all Oscar's fault, Hawkins started the last quarter rampage by disposing of Gawn at a boundary throw in, grabbing the ball clean and snapping a goal. You'd feel better about it if he didn't always save his best for us. Go on and have a guess who he's kicked a career best 46.8 against.

The Frost move quelled the rampage just when they looked like overtaking us and dashing off into the distance. Of all the Melbourne players you wouldn't want doing something to save your life, Frost running out of defence and having to hit a target would be mine, but his role in quelling Hawkins demonstrated why for the moment he has a place in the side. I'd much rather somebody with closing speed who can also make a reasoned decision about where to kick next, but without Hibberd or Lever what hope do we have of ever closing a forward down without him? The rest of our defenders are varying degrees of fine in one-on-one contests and with the loose ball but will be ransacked if forwards are allowed to lead off them. Responsibility falls across the board on this one, don't let the ball go down there at lightning speed to start with and make sure somebody else is there to get in the way of the leads.

Hawkins' sixth, and Geelong's fourth in five minutes, cut the gap to less than a goal and I was ready to go down in a crushing 10 goal avalanche. But then there was a momentary pause where they let us back into it. Melksham helicoptered a goal, before we conceded again. Still, the backline that had done so well to hold them until the last quarter was now in full retreat, with no sign of a leader anywhere to regain control. It was ok when we were forward - like Melksham helicoptering a goal or McDonald extending the lead to eight with five minutes to play - but we were suddenly very vulnerable to the ball going the other way. Next thing our old mate Hawkins was plucking the ball off the pack and kicking a seventh and it was back to two points the difference again.

My nerves were not coping, it's bad enough for your legs standing on concrete as it is without a thriller breaking out. Today my entire left side is in pain from the way I was standing and pivoting around in agony whenever something went wrong. This would have been indescribable torture in any game, let alone a season defining one where we were outnumbered by about 95% of the audience.

I'm not going to go off on one about umpiring, because yet again we had our destiny in our own hands and fumbled it but here's an ironic scenario - after rightly or wrongly cracking the shits all year about Lewis not going in for the hard ball he finally does and cops a slide tackle. The only surprise is that he didn't get pinched for below the knee contact.
Against my better judgement I confronted the replay of the last two minutes, and with respect to the Damien Barrett column that has no idea what the phrase means there were so many Sliding Doors moments that Gwyneth Paltrow should have kicked after the siren. In retrospect the course of the game had already been altered by the video review which cancelled a Geelong point, forcing us to kick in from the boundary instead of the goal square and robbing us of the right to lose the game in some other memorable way.

Any single thing that happened differently would have affected the game to the point where it most likely didn't end with a kick after the siren, including Kennedy-Harris burning Melksham running into the square alone and having a shot. It's easy to be critical after the fact, but even the way he stood just behind a Geelong defender inside 50 instead of running back into space for Brayshaw to give it to him might have been crucial. JFK might not have thought he could screw it around to Melksham (and we'd be slaughtering him 100x if the pass had been intercepted) but if he'd done anything else, or it had rolled out of bounds then things would have turned out differently. Still doesn't mean we'd have won but it would have helped.

In a sign of bad things to come they moved the ball from kick-in to the forward 50 untouched, only for Sam Frost to do the most Sam Frost thing of all time and beat Hawkins for the mark, gather and run through multiple forwards before blindly roosting it forward. It landed in the middle of two Geelong players and came back towards our goal as my heart threatened to seize up. There's no way I was going to die at Kardinia Park so I willed myself to keep living at least until we get back to the MCG. Sizzle Jr took a good relieving mark and went wide to Petracca on the wing with 90 seconds left. He turned around casually, walking back to take his kick while wasting as much time as possible before aimlessly hauling it down the line.

Thanks to Microsoft Snipping Tool, here are the options ahead of him. I partially blame whoever the circled player is for running towards the numbers on the boundary line instead of providing an option to kick to. Truck is not off the hook, he had the loose player ahead of that too and probably at least one player behind the ball who he could have gone backwards to. The long distance VGA resolution of this screenshot doesn't reveal who that is coming off at the bottom of screen, but other than injury is this really the best time for them to be running off with their back turned? He could have turned back and provided an option across the ground.

Petracca's emotions after the game showed that he knew how big of a cock-up his long kick was, and it unfortunately detracted a bit from what was an otherwise good performance. His tears were in contrast to Bernie Vince having a laugh with his mate Dangerfield, which never goes down well in the wake of a farcical defeat. Truck is copping all the blame, but the ball going over the line inside our forward 50 with 1.13 left was not the worst result, except for Gawn running into a Geelong player and being forced off under the blood rule. I don't know if it was deliberate but Maximum ambled off to the other side of the ground without the slightest bit of urgency, time-wasting tactics that would work a treat at the World Cup but don't do much here when the clock is stopped.

Tom McDonald is not a bad option as a backup ruckman, and he did as well as possible in the circumstances, setting up Jones to deck Selwood with a shirtfront. The ball eventually spilt to Garlett, who recovered from falling on his arse to either have a shot or deliberately hoist the ball to the top of the square. From the vision on the replay it looks like he could have gone to Spargo in the middle of the 50, but as with Kennedy-Harris he'd have been crucified if it didn't come off. The ball dropped in the square, McDonald was ambushed, it was punched through for a point and I think we all knew what was coming next.

I watched the last few minutes of this game like I was on a three-day ice bender so had absolutely no idea that we actually went inside 50 again after the kick-in. My fritzed out memory had them winning via an end-to-end transition after the point. Losing from a fruitless inside 50 where the other side extracted the ball and headed into attack effortlessly is even more on-brand. The amount of free players they had running forward was bullshit, and my most sincere congratulations to the Geelong bloke who parked himself in front of Oscar McDonald with no interest in the contest and provided Tuohy the one-on-one contest against Jetta. Maybe Oscar could have played up the block and hoped for the best, but fat chance any umpire is going to pay a free against the forwards in front of a full house. It is, like IGA says, 'how the locals like it'. Having Jetta as the last line of defence is another great Melbourne way to lose, the only surprise was that he didn't end up trying to contest against Hawkins.

When we fail to recover from this it will be the third time in four seasons Tuohy has helped tip us over at the end of the season, having appeared in both Carlton's 'shock' wins against us in 2015/16 before deserting the sinking ship. I knew he was going to kick it, not just because we're fated to be a tragic organisation until the end of time, but because there was no angle and it was far enough out that he could just kick through it normally. Why couldn't we have got the horrid after the siren shank they did against the Bulldogs a few weeks ago?

My research suggests it's the seventh time (for six losses and a draw) that we've been toppled after the siren. We should probably exclude the Jordan McMahon one because most of our fans loved it, but the ledger in the other direction is one measly draw in 1935. Opposition fans, the fact remains that whatever miserable statistic you can find about your team we've done something worse.

Not surprisingly my initial reaction was anger, violently kicking a small wire gate and going off on a rant about how much I hate going for this club. I may have also delivered a tragi-comic "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo" as it went through. As two other Melbourne fans fell out over whether or not complain about defeat, a deep sulk descended for about 90 minutes. Suddenly while driving along the Western Ring Road the gravity of the situation hit me and I nearly hurled. The next available stop was a McDonalds car park, and unlike one of their patrons my dinner stayed unheaved. The rest of the trip was just pure misery and silent recrimination about adding yet another humiliation to an already towering pile.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - James Harmes
3 - Bayley Fritsch
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Tom McDonald

Apologies to Jetta, Lewis, Jones and Smith who might have had the last spot.

It's advantage midfield again as Oliver retakes a huge standalone lead, now Maximum has to claw back five votes against the hottest player in the side. The Hamburglar has already surpassed the total votes of the 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2017 winners and equalled the 2006 and 2016 scores. The mountain left to conquer is the 2012-2014 Nathan Jones hat-trick scores of 56, 48 and 54 respectively.

In the minors Spargo could technically upend Fritsch with four slamming performances in a row, but that's not going to happen until he can master more than one big quarter a week. Amongst the defenders, Nev still narrowly leads with Lewis, Oscar, Salem and Smith his only remaining challengers in the absence of Hibberd.

47 - Clayton Oliver
42 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
--- No hope beyond here without at least one final ---
24 - Jesse Hogan
--- Three finals needed ---
17 - Tom McDonald
16 - Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - Angus Brayshaw, Nathan Jones
--- Four finals needed. Fat chance ---
11 - Jake Melksham
10 - James Harmes
9 - Christian Petracca
8 - Jack Viney
--- Officially done for ---
6 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
If nothing else from this game, we get a new clubhouse leader in the competition. Charlie Spargo's nifty sideways steps then outside of the boot dribbler from the boundary line pushes ahead of Tyson vs Essendon. Which in a way is a shame because unless somebody tops it in the next four weeks we'll have to relive some of this game and become depressed all over again. For the weekly prize the 35-Year-Old Man wins a session of Botox injections.

Even if our cheersquad hadn't put together a very nice banner to commemorate Melksham's 150th (even if about 120 of them meant fark all), it would not be difficult to rumble an opposition who dredged out the hoary old 'exorcise' line again. The non-run through side of ours said 75% of kids think gambling is normal, and I hope they all bet heavily on the Cats at three quarter time. 18-0 for the year.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
Every time I go to Kardinia Park I'm reminded of why Row MM is the place to be. You can either pay through the nose for a seat or stand on a terrace where almost everyone is pissed off their face by quarter time, with locals acting like wankers because they've got the numbers (and a successful team) and many of our fans making arseholes of themselves while in full siege mentality mode.

Of all the places to stand I ended up wedged between a row of our lot yelling out not even remotely amusing gags (presumably the same numpties I ended up in a slanging match with last time we were there) and a provocative local who was fully off chops and getting worse. Being an idiot who needs a reminder to get as far away from other fans as possible I couldn't help dropping a few sarcastic comments to the Geelong nuff and wound up in a classic footy argument. My problem is that I'm a low-blow verbal fighter and can't help but jump straight into deeply personal stuff. He had his revenge with "I've seen my team win three flags" chat, and as there was no footballing comeback things were said that I'm not proud of. And to be fair I got a couple of ripper lines in so swings and roundabouts.

Between that minor verbal skirmish, one of the Melburnians behind us suggesting that he was going to "smash" someone, and the prospect of a close result my instinct was that the place was ready to blow and moved elsewhere at the half. With not a single copper around (though apparently they did a token walk through at three quarter time), the thin line of law and order was represented by a couple of security guards who nobody was taking seriously. I'm not surprised that the tense circumstances of the finish caused things to kick off:
Pretty tame stuff unless you were the bloke kicking people in the head while they're on the ground, but while bulk piss is on offer to all and sundry this shit will just keep happening. It's probably never stopped happening, we just see it instantly now instead of passing on tales of disorder through the generations. The idea of segregating fans and banning alcohol is NQR, but do they really need to let people buy four beers at once? Seeing two people come back with eight and run through them in less than a quarter explains what causes the biff. It's all well and good to hang shit on soccer fans for belting each other, but there's not much room for the moral high ground when 'we' have pisswrecks engaging in disorganised fisticuffs.

Maybe everyone was drinking heavily due to the rancid cover band that played before the game? I was certainly considering gouging my ear drums out when they came back at half time. It was the most distressing thing to happen midway through a game in Geelong since we were 110 points down. Somewhere in the City of Greater Geelong there was a pub missing somebody doing sub-karaoke versions of every 'rock' standard in the book other than Wonderwall. What works in a small room full of pissed people at midnight didn't translate to an arena with 30,000 drunks and I started to get an idea of how the people who saw Meatloaf at the Grand Final felt.

After that musical wonderland there was a marching band (featuring a saxophone player who kept breaking out of formation to high five people hanging over the fence) and an ex-player ringing a bell. Shame they didn't have a meat raffle, I'd have eaten uncooked British Beef after the siren.

Next Week
It's all on the line against the Crows in Adelaide, where we don't need a recent 90 point win to know that we're the far superior side. Stand by for the gates of hell to tear open if we spend four quarters racking up inside 50s and somehow still lose. After we beat them last time and Lever Fever erupted I nearly booked to go, and thank christ sanity prevailed because if I can't handle a Geelong crowd without getting into snippy arguments then it's hard to imagine leaving South Australia alive. Godspeed those of you who are making the trip, may it be as comfortable as possible and end in glorious victory.

I've got no idea what I want from the changes. Casey won a thriller with five of the last six goals (sounds familiar) but the options are thin where we need them. There's no point to picking Tim Smith or Weideman, and as much as I think we could do with another tall defender I can't see Keilty or the converted Pedersen getting a start. That leaves us to pick from Hannan, vandenBerg (who has already been flagged as several weeks away), McKenna (no chance), Balic (highly unlikely), Bugg, Kent, Filipovic (not unless Gawn contracts polio) and Baker. Relatively slim pickings there. I can't take JFK so prepared to give Hannan (or perhaps Bugg) another swing at it. Otherwise I've got several candidates for the axe, just nobody convincing to replace them with.

Whatever happens we should win, but we probably won't. Because we're Melbourne.

IN: Hannan
OUT: Kennedy-Harris (omit)
LUCKY: Neal-Bullen, Tyson, Vince
UNLUCKY: Baker, Bugg, Keilty, Pedersen

The All New Bradbury Plan

There are weird things starting to happen at the end of the season - like Sydney losing to Gold Coast at home - but even having factored in us losing this week in advance I still reckon we're going to miss out narrowly after Round 23. If we don't win next week that's curtains, the plan will be closed for 2018 but for now...

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 - Collingwood, Port Adelaide and Sydney (↓)
Likely to make the eight, usually still want them to lose - Geelong (↑)
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other 
Adelaide, Hawthorn, GWS, and North Melbourne
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win against higher - Essendon (↑)
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Nil
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray, Fremantle, Gold Coast and St Kilda

For what it's worth, your Round 19 how to vote card:
Sydney d. Essendon (really can't see the Swans falling out from here, best kill off the Bombers now so they don't get any Richmond 2014 style lofty ideas)
Richmond d. Collingwood (can't see the Pies missing either but let's give them another loss anyway)
Brisbane d. Geelong
West Coast d. North (this is vital, if we win and North do too we're still in trouble. Biggest game for the plan since North vs Sydney in Hobart in 2016 before the official plan even existed)
Bulldogs d. Port
Freo d. Hawthorn

Was it worth it?
I left home at 16:00, and via a series of navigational errors got home at 00:45. So no.

Let the record show that from this point on I resign from games at Kardinia Park, the glory of two wins there (one of which has just been ruined 13 years later) can't compete with 20 years of horror. I'm too old for jousting with provincial drunks on a godforsaken concrete terrace, and will just have to wear being shouted at by Dwayne and BT in the future. It started with a thrilling loss in 1999, it ends with another in 2018. To Kardinia Park/Shell Stadium/Baytec Stadium/Skilled Stadium/Simonds Stadium/GMHBA Stadium we say:

Final Thoughts
Maybe I should welcome the enforced break from 110% insane emotional commitment next year, it can't be healthy to put so much into an organisation that consistently greases its arm and jams it elbow deep into your arse.

If nothing else I've found a prospective cover for the Great Deepression II (2017-2021)

Sunday 15 July 2018

Climb the ladder, make yourself famous

Melbourne Football club administrators rejoice, the Northern Territory is officially off the hook for 2018. We're $1.2 million dollars richer, won two games there by a combined 150 points and avoided a season-ending comedown on return to Victoria that would have unleashed carnage of biblical proportions. All in all, a pretty good seven days for everyone except Billy Stretch and Jack Viney.

There's something about toe injuries at this club, after Tom McDonald's 100 goal season was derailed by one in the pre-season, Stretch felt the #fistedforever sting immediately after reinvigorating his career, then Viney's went late this week. At least those three players know what the many fans who've injured themselves kicking buggery out of inanimate objects feel like. 

The St Kilda outrage has not been forgotten, so I was very worried about a similar disaster breaking out here. The tension was so high that when the news came through that Viney was out I was tempted to get back on the train I'd literally just egressed and go back the other way. This is what happens when you cut the cord and stop religiously going to every game, cowardly thoughts begin to creep in about watching on TV instead. Carrying on to the ground obviously proved to be the right idea, even if I was having serious doubts at half time. 

You'd have thought the obvious like-for-like replacement for Viney would be Dom Tyson, but he got a rude reminder of his standing when Mitch Hannan was picked instead. Why even make him an emergency if you're not going to use him to replace a midfielder? It was one in the eye to the people who assure me he's still got a big AFL future but just needs to go to a club where he can be the primary ball winner. I've nothing remotely personal against the guy but best of luck with that.

During week Wayne Carey offered him a chance at replicating his 2013 season, making the off-chops suggestion that Carlton trade their incoming #1 pick in a three player swap including Sam Frost and Tom Bugg. You thought he was doing a subtle 'Silvagni recruits GWS players' gag until the footage showed that he was being dead serious. The theory behind getting multiple players rather than pinning all your hopes on a single kid when your club is in disarray is reasonable, but the speed we would rush to sign off on that deal would only be matched by Blues fans invading Princes Park to demand an Extraordinary General Meeting.

While choosing an out of form forward to replace Viney instead of a midfielder didn't make any sense to the naked eye, it ultimately flung the door open to some of the most breathtaking centre square play you're ever likely to see. Between them, Gawn, Brayshaw and Oliver delivered the greatest centre bounce psychic connection since Jamar and Moloney poleaxed Adelaide in 2011. The trio did their best work in combination during the third quarter as we piled on seven goals in 12 minutes, banishing the fears of a second half fadeout wiping away the measly three point half time lead.

Victory didn't come easily until after half time, but at least this time against the Dogs we didn't have to fight back from a surprise three goal deficit in the first quarter. We did go one behind, with Harmes pinged for deliberate when he responded to a tackle 20 metres out by thumping a handball towards goal. If it wasn't so far out he'd have got away with it, but was so incredibly blatant you couldn't argue. I still think you should be able to concede a score whenever you want, but at the moment you can't so bad luck to him. It was the start of a ropey half for Harmes, but like everyone he burst into life in the second half, playing a decent role in the midfield. Though with the service Gawn was offering during the third quarter I might have had a centre clearance.

You couldn't fault Footscray's effort at the start, but I saw similar last Saturday in the rolling score updates of their game against Hawthorn. They managed a quarter and a half there before falling into a ditch, and not much longer here. It was clear that we had a better 22 players, considering the great vengeance and furious anger of the third quarter it's fun that we were still losing on all the main statistical indicators. In the end we only won centre clearances narrowly and were actually tonked in clearances around the ground. We even lost the inside 50s, leading to what was for us a super-efficient 29 scores from 52 entries.

Even after losing a goal via an over the top handball blooper by Garlett, we still recovered the lead via McDonald winning a free for falling over his opponent. It was an up-and-down quarter for McSizzle, later he found himself back in defence, had a nightmare flashback to the supposed horrors of the past and gifted them a goal. What a low moment for those of us ready to violently back his record as a defender, as if any backman who tries to make the play isn't going to stuff it up occasionally. For the rest of the game his old role was played by Sam Frost - who brings great closing speed and physical presence but you have to accept will do something insane at least once a game.

I was bleeding when a second goal not long after the McDonald blunder handed them a quarter time lead. There was a feeling people were about to go off on one if we didn't win, and those with long memories of Port Adelaide kicking a goal after a 'mark' that was held for about 0.1 seconds a few weeks ago nearly stormed the ground when Sizzle was denied a strong grab at the start of the second quarter. It looked - to sporting depressives like me anyway - that one of those days was on its way. By half time we'd marginally grabbed the lead, saved by Frost almost tearing his opponent's leg off in a desperate attempt to rush a behind, and Nifty narrowly running a bouncing ball through by the narrowest of margins. On the other side of the ledger was a hurried kick towards Hogan and four Dog defenders where they somehow contrived to infringe. Everything was pointing - falsely as it turns out - towards at best a slogging win that confirmed we didn't deserve to make the eight anyway.

After plodding through the first two quarters and expecting not much else, the pedal went down with some force after half time. Not straight away, we had to ride out conceding the lead at the start of the third term, and I could sense a nuclear reaction brewing amongst our fans that would wipe out all life for thousands of kilometres. It was reminiscent of the Essendon game that started that glorious mid-season run, a first half where all the usual scapegoats (Goodwin, Lewis, umpires, the people who tempted you into following Melbourne) were about to be burnt alive before the opposition packed it in and allowed us to win comfortably without even the lightest singeing.

I was hating on Lewis with a passion through the first half, but had to laugh when the usual 'he's ok with the ball but no good defensively' cliche was flipped on its head via a brave intercept mark followed by a suicidal turnover. The anxiety continued into the early stages of the third, where he did an impression of a traffic cone that should see him traded to VicRoads. Hopefully we read the small print on his Cone-tract and can void the last season by making him a coach or something. As much as I despise the "he's not going to be in your next premiership" line of thinking, we are beyond the stage of being desperate for mature bodies and need actual impact players. That doesn't mean we're good yet, but it's not like our defence has been functioning at top gear for more than about four weeks out of 17 so far this year so I'd much rather play somebody with a fifth of the career games who can be relied to put in the required defensive pressure every time.

I note that for all the bullshit that goes around about 'leadership' and the importance of these older players to lowly teams that the Brisbane Lions - well behind us in development for now - didn't implode when Luke Hodge pulled out yesterday. It's imperative that we use whatever draft picks we've got left, free agency or any other means necessary to get somebody who can be relied on to smash in every week instead of flitting in and out of the game. It's not like he's doing it deliberately, it's just that the wall is in the process of being hit and we're not going to get to the end of 2019 without it becoming a major problem if not attended to ASAP.

The third quarter will quite rightly go down as a modern classic, but before the chaos came a few minutes of nerves. There "here we go" moment is legendary at this club, and when Dale Morris was picked out standing on his own for a shot at his first goal since 2011 I was suffering major gastrointestinal distress. Fortunately he kicked like somebody who has three goals in 246 games, but after three minutes of our tremendously ordinary attempts to get the ball clear they got the goal anyway.

If there was a footy time machine available I'd go back to:
  • Dallas Brookes Hall on September 16, 1996 to punch on over the merger
  • The day they decided to hire Neeld so I could pull the fire alarm before he signed the contract 
  • Draft night 2009 to warn everyone about $cully
  • The 1987 Preliminary Final to run on the field and across the mark before Jim Stynes did
  • ... and obviously any of the flags.
The Bulldogs may want to use their turn in the machine to go back and make Patrick Lipinski miss his shot on goal, because the immediate net gain turned out to be -12 points and the overall result was setting us up to run riot. Party time started with a monster tap from Maximum to Brayshaw, who went through Oliver to Anal-Bullet standing on his own inside 50. With his recent record from set shots who knows what would have happened if he'd missed, but he chose the perfect time to convert and set up episode two of the Gawn Show. The next centre bounce contest went from his hand, to Harmes, Brayshaw again, and eventually landed with Hogan for the second in a minute. 

This set up another opportunity for Max to treat his opposing number like the day he had 80 hitouts against Bendigo in the VFL, this time using Petracca as his conduit to get the ball to Brayshaw for a long kick towards goal. That the last two blockbuster clearances came without Oliver was a positive sign, even better that the second one ended with him recovering from falling over to pluck the ball of the back of the pack and thump through the third in 90 seconds.

Footscray finally devised a way to hold us up by openly scragging Brayshaw at the next bounce. You could have seen it from space, but obviously not from ground level because it went unpunished. This was interesting considering earlier in the game he'd got a centre bounce free from a non-controlling umpire diagonally opposite him and with half a dozen players standing in the way. They're just making it up. But you know, bring in some zones and people will just go off their tits for the competition like never before.

Nobody has done more for thrilling footy this year than us, and we continued to contribute by looking highly likely to concede whenever the ball went near our 50. Fortunately after the Dogs blew one opportunity we went down the other end for a fourth in quick succession. Petracca steamed through the middle and unloaded a gigantic torp to Neal-Bullen standing on his own. The wobbly nature of the kick meant it took a weird bounce and almost came unstuck but the Bullet got the ball to Hannan and we'd practically killed them off in record time. I've seen this sort of avalanche happen plenty of times before, but not often in our favour.

It was a thrilling burst of ruthless, unstoppable football which we hope to be dropping on the good sides sooner rather than later. Our issue is what happens in the other 100 minutes when we're nervously shifting the ball out of defence or panic bombing towards a jam packed forward line where everyone jumps at the same contest. Not to mention our old Achilles' heel of what to do when the other side extracts the ball into open space and can get the ball inside 50 quickly. For the second time this year the Dogs had plenty of opportunities running through the ground that died due to them having no competent forwards. For the rest of the year we have to take on Hawkins, Walker, the Adelaide Tom Lynch, Franklin, Kennedy, Darling and Cameron so it would be nice to stop sides breaking forward so easily.

Garlett got another after a bullet pass from Oliver, sensibly resisting his first urge to throw a dangerous handball to Hogan. Then came the #1 highlight of the quarter that didn't involve the holy trinity of Gawn, Brayshaw and Oliver. Melksham took the ball in the midfield and went through two Footscray players like he was skating on ice, having a bounce, then in a visually appealing spectacle gestured while still running at full pelt that he was going to dump it long. The Dogs defenders took the clue and both went to Hogan, then the second time gave away an unnecessary free when they had him outnumbered.

Milkshake is not only the greatest player in AFLX history, he'll now have to field an offer from Channel 7's Dancing with the Stars. Meanwhile the Bulldogs players involved are seeking advice from the Thai cave rescue specialists on how they can be dug out of the MCG turf.
Falling down across the half-forward line has been one of my many ongoing irritations for the last 12 seasons, and for that reason I put it to you that Melksham is the most underrated key to us going anywhere this year. Gawn, Oliver, Hogan, McDonald, Brayshaw etc.. will have a more direct four quarter impact, but when Milk gets into space he can be lethal. To the uncultured eye I can't tell if we need to play through him more, or if he needs to do more to get into a position to be played through. All I can confirm is that we look a lot better when he's going. Same with Garlett, who did his job admirably again. He didn't star by any means, but two goals and plenty of chase is at least breaking even with what we were getting from three tall forwards plus it opens space for Hogan and Sizzle.

The golden era of the massacre ended with Gawn doing his own roving at the next centre bounce, contributing to McDonald marking in the pocket for a seventh straight. He probably didn't have enough of the ball, but it made up for being ripped off blind earlier. There were still eight minutes left, and if it carried on like this we were going to trouble the score of the off-brand fourth quarter against GWS in 2013. Then we did our bit for making sure Dogs fans didn't take advantage of the NQR twilight timeslot by going out for a curry when we let them kick an easy goal.

If they'd followed their own side's third quarters all year they might have done it preemptively at half time, and when Spargo got the party restarted immediately after with another goal born from Gawn's plus sized mitts they were free to head out down to Irving Street and pick up an ounce. To keep saving footy it was then our chance to concede one straight out the centre, before Max (*swoon*) and Oliver combined to set up Sizzle for yet another chance immediately after the bounce. McDonald uncharacteristically missed everything, ending the slaughter quarter at eight goals.

Even after a run like that I'm eternally scared, and when the Dogs nearly got a goal late we were about six points short of adequate insurance against a fatigue debacle. When they pushed hard for a goal at the start of the last that would have cut the margin to 24 with plenty of time to go I was getting a bit sweaty and quite a lot sweary. After the goal frenzy of the third quarter, the fourth was back to the sort of game people ring up talkback radio to complain about. After a couple of near misses it took 15 minutes for Lewis to be gifted an administrative free for somebody running past without filling in the appropriate paperwork, and he finished off any concern about a comeback.

That was all the encouragement Bulldogs players needed to give up for the day, and the rest of the game was played out in a less than enthusiastic manner. Gawn couldn't be accused of slowing down, he even bumped somebody at the end in a way that half-looked like a jumper punch and made me shriek in terror. The day was going so well for him that at one point he even nutmegged an opponent by slapping the ball through his legs and running onto it around the other side, ultimately setting up a goal. What a colossal figure, whoever eventually replaces him as our number one ruckman is going to be treated like Matthew Knights following Kevin Sheedy.

By the end the Bulldogs were about as stern an opposition as the no-name Freo players, but let that not detract from the majesty of the final goal. The continually impressive Fritsch marked, kicked short to Salem, who went wider to Gawn, handballed to Hibberd running past and we were off to the races. He propped, gave the ball to Oliver, who went to Hogan, kept running, took a handball from Brayshaw, sprinted to 50 in turbo mode and drilled a perfect pass to Petracca for the goal. Everyone involved played their role perfectly, but if you don't love Clayton Oliver you're either deranged, that Carlton bloke or both. You can never be found out if you don't play on the same frequency as anybody else, he's like an unjammable radio signal.

The hurricane of destruction was memorable, but I'm still not convinced it translates to beating any of the top eight contenders. At least we're going to have plenty of opportunities to test it, after negotiating banana skins the last two weeks, five of the last six games are against sides either clearly above us or right around our level. Ever since the fixture came out I've been moping about how difficult the run home was, and with Adelaide and St Kilda as the surprise win/loss cancelling each other out this is precisely where I expected to be come this time of year. Somehow that ended up with us finishing 7th, a result that would seem mediocre to pretty much every other club in the comp but would leave me turning cartwheels down the street and kissing strangers. In the sage words of he who provided the official name of this page, please please please let me get what I want.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Angus Brayshaw
3 - Clayton Oliver
--- a distance ---
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Tom McDonald

Nice to have several apologies who might have made the votes on merit rather than just filling numbers - Fritsch or Salem could have made either of the last two spots but I opted for McDonald not just because of the goals but highly competent backup rucking that took the heat off Maximum until he could go bananas.

A great day for the leaders, with all the votes going to players already in double figures. The results from this week further the near certainty that your winner is either going to be Maximum or the Hamburglar. No movement in the minors, Fritsch was unlucky not to further extend his lead in the Hilton but managed to get through another round without any of his challengers (e.g. Spargo and nobody else at this stage) polling and remains a near certainty. Nifty still sits atop a low volume but competitive field of defenders.

42 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Clayton Oliver
24 - Jesse Hogan
16 - Tom McDonald
14 - Angus Brayshaw, Nathan Jones
13 - Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
--- No hope beyond here without at least one final ---
11 - Jake Melksham
8 - Jack Viney
7 - Christian Petracca
--- At least two finals needed ---
6 - James Harmes, Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis,
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
--- Three+ finals ---
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen,
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I'm keeping Tyson at Docklands in the lead overall, but this week's award goes to everyone involved in that last goal. It was capped off by Petracca, but the BOG in the process was Oliver. All of them get to enjoy dinner at the Lobster Cave in Beaumaris.

Opposition cheersquads - I direct you to this week's banner as an example of how to expertly create a generic message of encouragement. The rhyme flows perfectly, the font remains the best in the business and the kerning is delightful. As for the Dogs, for all the complaints I had about the wonky flow of the 'humorous' messages done by that comedian bloke they are far worse off now. Even with him gone they're still keen on Os that looks more like a 0s. Dees 17-0 for the year.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
I was spirited into the AFL Members, where Bulldogs fans couldn't have given the faintest shit about the result. And why would you? I'd have sat there mentally replaying the Grand Final. Meanwhile, with no glorious triumphs in over 50 years to visualise, most of the Dees fans around me spent the first half hanging shit on Lewis. At one point one of them shouted "do you want it bitch?" at him (at least I think it was related to the play) after a marking contest, which even I think is a touch harsh.

Otherwise the only excitement was from seeing a 60-year-old man wearing a ridiculous jet black wig that made him look like an elderly member of the T-Birds from Grease, and from the people in the restaurant behind who got a close-up look of me hauling my bargearse over seats for a half-time panic feed.

Elsewhere, however, it was all happening:
These may have been the same children who serenaded the crowd at Jolimont Station with a rendition of the Grand Old Flag. Imagine the scenes when we build club HQ on top of the station and you can do that shit from a balcony above the platforms.

On to the entertainment, and let's be quite clear that Hogan's Highball is the biggest pile of shit since Match The Emoji. I understand that one bloke in a hundred necking himself (even after signing a waiver) was the end of the original concept, but why not do something new instead of a bootleg version of the same general concept? They've got overalls on, put them through a Super Mario Brothers simulation called Petracca's Plumbing. Even if part of the settlement was to replace the screamers with tepid chest marks why did the name have to change? I don't think there's going to be a complaint to the ACCC about calling contestants 'Hogan's Heroes' when they're not actually doing anything heroic.

Next Week
To our old nemesis Kardinia Park, where we could do with an outbreak of the spirit of 2005/2015 rather than 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2016. Last time the travelling Melbourne fans were bigger arseholes than the locals so the visit next Saturday night will be done under sufferance, knowing full well that I'll probably have a miserable time.

What will help my mood is if we walk out with the points, Geelong might start favourites but are in no way unbeatable. Even Carlton gave them a scare at home so I'm not completely ruling out a momentous victory. Nor am I expecting one, so watch out innocent motorists I'll likely be angrily swerving all over the place coming back up the highway.

Now that we've avoided the immediate post-Darwin comedown I'm on high alert for a delayed collapse. From 2010-2017 we were 1/7 the week after returning and 2/6 two weeks after. Even adjusting for the fact that would probably have lost most of those years no matter where we played it's still concerning. Guess what happened the last time we went to Kardinia Park two weeks after Darwin?

With Billy Stretch gone for the year and Viney now joining him in the toe recovery ward our already ropey depth is under severe stress. I was still scared of the Bulldogs pace, so I'm opting to pull the trigger on the "he runs quickly, that will cover up anything unpleasant" Hartung Manoeuvre and hand Baker his debut. Out goes Hannan, who wasn't terrible this week but isn't required in the forward line at the moment - get a runner in and let's try to get the ball inside 50 at a decent speed again. If we can replicate the quick entries from the middle in general play we could leave 18 blue and white piles of dust on the Kardinia Park surface. He wasn't in the best for Casey today, but quite frankly I wrote everything above before that game happened and am not changing my mind now.

Kennedy-Harris wasn't amazing, but did enough to get another go. Like a barometer for the whole team I'm not convinced he's going to keep it up against the better sides.

IN: Baker
OUT: Hannan (omit)
LUCKY: JFK, Lewis, Vince
UNLUCKY: Bugg, Tyson + Weideman and T. Smith who are no chance now that we've ditched the third tall

The All New Bradbury Plan

While Kylie Jenner is busily working towards becoming the youngest self-made billionaire ever, I'm dedicating the next several weeks to complex scenarios which end with the Dees playing finals. This was a tremendous week for the plan, with Geelong, Hawthorn, Collingwood and Port all losing. The problem is that Richmond screwing us by losing to the Giants might prove to be the most decisive result of the lot. Now the prospect of an in/out Round 23 game is right back on the cards, and I don't think I can handle that - I could almost handle Dunn and Howe putting us out last year but if Turncoat Tom comes back from injury to get one over us in spectacular fashion there may be civil unrest.

I've done two ladder predictors, the rolling one I've been keeping throughout the season and a completely fresh start. The rolling one has Round 23 being irrelevant to both sides unless a) we win three of Geelong, Adelaide, Sydney and GWS or b) Hawthorn lose to one of Carlton, Freo or Essendon as well as Geelong and Sydney in the next three weeks. The other somehow came out with it all being on the line against the Giants. Either way I'm more nervous than Alan Bond at the ATO.

Can win every week - will finish above us - , Richmond, Sydney and West Coast (↑)
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - Collingwood, Port Adelaide (↓)
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 against higher - Nil
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Essendon
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray, Fremantle, Gold Coast and St Kilda

Your how to vote card for Round 18:
Collingwood d. North (shelve your natural hatred of the Pies, this is very important)
Freo d. Essendon
Brisbane d. Adelaide
Carlton d. Hawthorn
Footscray d. West Coast
Port d. GWS (it's important that GWS lose, unless you can work up a theory that has Port plummeting to their death. I reckon they'll still make it easily so best screw over the Giants)

...and who gives a shit about Richmond vs St Kilda or Gold Coast vs Sydney.

Special feature - the 10 games for the rest of the season that are most crucial to the Plan. As you can see, it's the five other sides playing for the 6th - 8th that are the key. Obviously weird results like Hawthorn losing in Launceston would also be welcomed.

1. Round 21 - Hawthorn vs Geelong
2. Round 19 - North Melbourne vs West Coast (in Hobart)
3. Round 23 - Sydney vs Hawthorn
4. Round 20 - Hawthorn vs Essendon
5. Round 22 - Adelaide vs North
6. Round 19 - Fremantle vs Hawthorn
7. Round 22 - GWS vs Sydney
8. Round 21 - GWS vs Adelaide
9. Round 18 - Port vs GWS
10. Round 20 - Adelaide vs Port

Was it worth it?
In the end it really was. My commitment to 6.5 hour round trips (that is including game time, I'm not a complete lunatic) is wavering, but once the travel is done there is no better place to be. Even when we were a rock bottom that should have been torched for the insurance money I just loved going to the MCG. Not sure if 2013 happened again I'd be so enthusiastic, but there's still something magical about the place. Fortress Docklands might be easier for me to get to and bring out our best football, but it doesn't give me nearly the same rush as this joint. We just need to cap it off by winning the big one there, then I can semi-retire in peace.

History Wanker Corner
At the risk of being a miserable sod (and why start now?), it is my duty to rain on the hastily convened and not at all accurate celebration of 160 years of the Melbourne Football Club. They're working off the date of Tom Wills' letter to the paper suggesting a football code be developed to ensure a 'state of torpor' didn't creep over cricketers in the winter, which is like celebrating your birthday on the day you were conceived. When Ronald Dale Barassi was wheeled in for a photo opportunity three days later the claim had been elevated to official fake news status.

You can dispute the actual date that should be celebrated, but if it's not one of these three you're taking the piss:
  • 31 July 1858 - First scratch match featuring players connected to the Melbourne Cricket Club
  • 25 September 1858 - First game played by a team called 'Melbourne' vs South Yarra
  • 14 May 1859 - The day the actual Melbourne Football Club as we know it was formed.
The club has always been behind 1858, but for mine the real date is 14 May 1859. Before then it was people connected to the MCC appearing for a loose team called 'Melbourne', but from May 1859 they were playing as the Melbourne Football Club. For the sake of not causing a fuss I can wear 1858 and the 'Melbourne' teams but as the most comprehensive chronicler of club history since 1858 or 1859 I refuse to in any way participate in the fiction of 10/07/1858 being the anniversary of the club's foundation. Now that I've ruined the occasion, let me remind you that Demonwiki is your #1 source for information on seasons and players from the 1859 to 1896.

Misery Chat
Speaking out rock bottom outfits where they should salt the earth and move on, there's been a lot of loose talk this week about Carlton being the worst established side since Fitzroy 1996. Cobblers. I invite you to inspect the 2013 archives and tell me that a team with a six point better percentage than we had is worse simply because we won a single game more.

Wins are usually a fair tiebreaker, but like how two in 2013 were worse than zero in 1919 because we'd just come back from dying in the war please consider that we had a get out of jail last quarter rampage against a side who won one game (against us), and almost let the rubbish Dogs overturn a 40 point lead in the last 15 minutes. Throw in a pre-season Tankquiry, a sacked CEO, sacked coach and people falling out with each other all over the shop and Blues fans can be content with second place for now thanks. If they can get their percentage below ours circa 2013 by the end of the season I'll reconsider.

Final Thoughts
The two weeks where we failed to put Port away then turned in a shocker against St Kilda are likely to have their revenge on us at the end of the year. It's hard to fathom that we might finish in the positive two seasons in a row and come out of it with nothing to show but that's where we're heading. Since the top eight was introduced in 1994 the only teams who have missed with 12 wins (other than Essendon being sacked for cheating) were Richmond '94 and '98 (and haven't we heard about them ever since), Hawthorn '03, St Kilda '12, Port '15, St Kilda '16 and us last year.

So it's not unprecedented, but doing it two years in a row would mean we would deservedly take over Richmond's ninth cliche. For the love of god, Brisbane finished eighth in 1995 with a 10-12 record, is there no respect for a combined 24-20 over two seasons? We're on 10 now, and if nothing else happens will surely get to at least 11 against Gold Coast. Imagine winning another on top of that and still not making it? If that happens I'll eat plutonium.