Monday, 25 February 2019

The Cardiac Club

On paper the world's greatest expansion team should have beaten us easily like they have everyone else so far, but I held some hope based on a) the ease of the Brisbane win last week and perhaps more hopefully b) Northern Tasmania not coping with warm conditions after barely ever playing on the mainland of Australia. For the second time this season we faced an interstate team at a warm, windy Casey Fields and fell agonisingly short of victory. This may be a familiar feeling to you, we've now lost seven games in three years and five of those have been by less than a goal.

In trying to slay what has been built up as an unbeatable machine I'd like to have got off to a hot start, and indeed like most weeks we attacked early for no reward. You did get the feeling we'd have scored against a lesser team, but North were set up well. Even when excitement machine Aleisha Newman grabbed a ball of the pack and had a quick shot around the corner there was a 'goalkeeper' in the square to stop it.

The early difference was with the quality of set shots by the forwards. Special K spokeswoman Mo Hope goalled from a free (this becomes quite the trend) with a 40 metre set shot, while down the other end we had a player standing roughly the same distance out with a light breeze in her face and she had to try a short pass that came to nothing. After our record setting marks inside 50 tally last week it was back to struggling to create set shot opportunities, and again most of the marks came too far out for anyone to do anything with them.

With marks inside 30 metres absent it fell to Cat Phillips to create her own opportunity by first smothering, then converting on the run for her first goal since the 2017 Freo avalanche. Despite this, and keeping them without another goal for the rest of the quarter, North always looked far more likely to score while we were back to making forward movements seem overly complicated. Getting away with a 6-7 quarter time deficit was welcome but didn't feel sustainable.

North looked more likely to score, while we reverted to our good opposition stance of making forward movements look overly complicated. Got away with a 6-7 quarter time deficit, but it didn't look sustainable. There wasn't much in the way of loose footy inside 50, Zanker did a great job as a second ruck but couldn't get the ball in her hand forward. Neither did Cunningham at first, though she came good later in both kicking goals and punching opponents in the guts.

The second quarter started with Lauren Pearce's latest Max Gawn (or if you prefer, the next big thing Braydon Preuss) impersonation in the middle, but we lost the centre clearance and the female Kent Kingsley, Mo Hope inadvertently set up a goal with an ambitious shot that fell short into the arms of a giraffe like forward thrilling wearing #60. She got two in a row, and when we blew a golden chance at a goal by stuffing up a snap from the top of the square I gave up all hope and started to work on the Ms. Bradbury Plan.

Googling AFLW ladder brought up a page that implied the conference system had been abolished,

But sadly no, sanity has not prevailed and the real thing was elsewhere, confirming that we're still going to miss out with a record that would probably win Group B.

Also from the AFLW website, the birth of children described in terms of how exciting it will be for supporters. Presumably Daisy and Mr Daisy are very happy with this development as well.

I was already piecing the plan together when Cunningham turned up to take a couple of inside 50 grabs and kick a goal that cut the gap to five. She celebrated with a casual jab to an opponent on the ground that the match review panel/individual will definitely go her for out of spite at their suspension from last week being overturned.

That glory didn't last for long, a series of bullshit frees marched North to the square for their reply. A margin of 10 at half time wasn't insurmountable if we got a run on, but you felt (rightly as it turned out) they had enough to keep us at bay - including one defender who was getting in the way of everything we tried. Our control of the ball was good until it got to the half-forward line, then it was all out guesswork and hoping for the best.

We finally had to make a goal of nothing, with Newman on the end of some silky ball movement to fly through the middle of the ground and roll it through an unguarded square. Next thing you knew Tyla Hanks kicked one off the outside of her boot, we were in front, and my half time investigation of the fixture to see how we might fall into second place seemed premature. Then straight out of the middle Mo Kingsley wound up with another set shot, now has more than 25% of her career AFLW goals against us and the advantage was lost.

The last quarter was watched with a significantly high degree of difficulty, on a moving train full of nuffies going to an Eminem concert. I avoided being held up for my phone by a man in a yellow tracksuit long enough to see us half stuff up and half be rorted by a serious of mystifying decisions. It started well enough with Newman's second goal, but we failed to put them away.

After 3.5 quarters of thumping each other both teams were flagging when Paxman gave away an unnecessary 50 with the ball in our forward line, and next thing it was down the other end with #60 getting one of the all time great BULLSHIT in the back frees for the go ahead goal. The only explanation I have is that something happened off the ball but the callers didn't notice because Kate Sheahan was talking the greatest degree of special comments bollocks since Malcolm Blight and Leigh Montagna was constantly correcting himself from saying "ruckman" like he was going to be frogmarched from the stadium for lacking gender awareness. If his peripheral involvement in one of the most prominent footy sex scandals of the century isn't enough to DQ him from calling women's games I don't think grappling with preferred terminology is going to get him the sack.

The goal left us with three minutes to find a response, which was about as likely as the Reverend Fred Nile leading the Mardi Gras. We were partially responsible for our doom, but not helped by a series of bullshit free kicks in North's half of the ground. Ironically our chance at going forward was kept alive despite the ball with ball in hand stepping so far over the boundary line that she was nearly at Cranbourne Station.

It came to nothing, we lost, and it's not only all or nothing for our remaining three games but we're into the familiar role of having to hope for other teams to fall over in front of us. Strange as it may seem, before this year we'd actually won more games by less than a goal than we'd lost.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
Despite almost beating the top team it was a pretty flat performance for voting purposes. For instance it was nowhere near Paxman's best game but still hard to leave her out of the top two because of a lack of other convincing options. Your views may vary, start your own blog.

5 - Lily Mithen
4 - Karen Paxman
3 - Lauren Pearce
2 - Tegan Cunningham
1 - Aleisha Newman

The plot thickens at the top, as Pearce puts some space in front of the surprisingly flat O'Dea but concedes one off her lead on Paxman.

17 - Lauren Pearce
13 - Karen Paxman
9 - Elise O'Dea
7 - Lily Mithen
4 - Harriet Cordner, Aleisha Newman

2 - Tegan Cunningham, Tyla Hanks, Eden Zanker

Ms. Bradbury Plan
Our last three games are GWS (win), Bulldogs (win?) and Adelaide (win??), and any losses will consign this plan straight to the tip but assuming we keep our destiny at least partially in our own hands by winning we want:

North to win every week and finish top unbeaten, starting with Adelaide next week. If the Crows win then shut the gate. Would be nice - but unlikely - for Adelaide to lose against GWS as well.

Equally unlikely is the Bulldogs beating Freo next week. If they do that then lose to us they're probably out of the race anyway, but losing to Carlton in the final round would make sure they were dead and buried. If the Dockers win against Footscray then they must lose to both Geelong and North. The latter I can see, but they would start favourites against Geelong.

As long as North beat the Crows I can see it coming down to the last game again. And we all know what's going to happen there...

Crowd Watch
I know they're in Cranbourne, but I'm sure a kid in the background of that kick was drinking Woodstock. Turns out not far from the truth:
Next Week
GWS should be nothing more than a speed bump, but I'm still not over that shambles of a defeat in the first season when they were 100% no good. Now they're at least competitive so anything could happen. Should win, must win.

Final thoughts
It's becoming increasingly obvious that this team is destined to fall heartbreakingly short at every opportunity, until the point where there's a full compliment of 18 teams in the league and winning a flag becomes as difficult as the men's competition. At least North's success means they'll neuter the four 2020 expansion sides to make sure they're not too good too soon, but the premiership window is still shrinking. Time to turn to any sort of unhanded and potentially illegal tactic short of injecting the players with Mexican greyhound racing drugs.

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