Sunday, 10 March 2019

The show goes on

Today's lesson is as follows:



Footy is a strange beast. The game started with my daughter (who I'd exiled to another room with a laptop and Netflix while watching the first part of the doubleheader) declaring she doesn't like footy, and ended with her yelling at the TV along with me, before the siren went and she rejoined the Anti Football League because "they blow a siren". Easy come easy go.

Programming two Melbourne games in a row was a wonderful concept on paper, until I came out of the first game flat as a tack and suspicious of what's to come across the next 20 something weeks. To recover some sort of focus instead of spending the next two hours crying about James Harmes' finger, I took an hour's rest before tucking into this. Especially fully expecting further disappointment from the women playing to stay alive in a criminally unbalanced competition. I won't say memories of the fiasco against the Bulldogs last year still traumatise me, but they were front of mind from first bounce to last.

The game started with a classic administrative farce, as the Bulldogs tried starting two players on the ground who'd been listed on the bench. First an exasperated AFL official pulled one of them up, then realised a second was out there as well. Considering all the other pissweak things frees get paid for it's unusual that we got nothing for the Dogs trying to illegally sneak two players into their starting 16.

All that late re-positioning must have left the Footscray players uncertain about where they were supposed to stand, because within a few a seconds Aleisha Newman was running onto a kick over the top into space. It just left her too much angle to bend it back from, but what's a Melbourne AFLW game without blowing early opportunities? See almost the entire first quarter, including Kate Hore doing the first leg of her Earl Spalding routine for the second behind.

All the play was down our end, but following the usual script we wasted numerous chances to kick a goal. When you have a dominant ruck and a strong midfield it's doubling wasteful not getting the ball back into the middle so they can take advantage. Same goes for the men, and if we had an eSports team they'd probably spend their entire time going the wrong way through the last level of Super Mario and being told the Princess is in another castle.

With the Dogs marooned on 0.0 it was reminiscent of Fremantle last year, where we squashed them flat in the first quarter but didn't put the game away and lost. After kicking two points of her own, Hore set up Scott to spray one as well and we were 0.5. For first time viewers, they weren't feeling the pressure of having to maintain our percentage - because even after winning by a point it has been removed as a factor in last round calculations - this is how we play every week.

After being in everything early, Hore switched to creator for the first goal. She won a holding the ball free, then bombed it to the top of the square for Tegan Cunningham to walk through the defenders and take a towering mark. After watching the men try to do that exact same move several dozen times earlier in the afternoon it was nice that somebody finally pulled it off successfully.

That was the only goal of the first quarter, but an 11-0 lead was a decent platform to work with when a win was all that mattered. So naturally we conceded the reply within 90 seconds of the second quarter, and for all the whinging about umpiring it was from the most obvious push in the back since evolution delivered arms to humans. In another parallel between the genders I felt a lot more comfortable when we kept the ball as far as from the backline as possible.

Then a dumb 50 levelled the scores and I decided - as a coping strategy - that even after two narrow losses to sides above us we didn't deserve to make the finals. It's a generally good side that plays well most of the time, and there would have been no call to sack the coach even if we had lost, but when you miss so many scoring opportunities it's hard to consider yourself unlucky. As if telepathically transferred back in time by 40 minutes (including fast-forwarding through quarter time) this brief period of misery generated a goal, with Newman flicking a handball to Paxman for the lead.

Nearly conceding a goal the umpire missing a blatant throw out of the middle threatened to turn me feral again, before a strong saving mark in front of goal by Patterson stopped me in my tracks. The lead didn't last long anyway, they had a shot on goal that fell short and in the most traditional MFC fashion everyone missed rushing it through, allowing the Dogs player who'd been flattened by her teammate minute before to score from a mark, then clutch at her neck like she'd done it crippled.

Then with 30 seconds left (Lady DemonTime) the Dogs got their fourth goal from five inside 50s via further persecution from the Emerald Isle after Irishwomen gave us so much trouble last week. That must have been some kind of world record scoring ratio. Outrageously they had another shot after the siren, but we were saved from the goal that would have ultimately sunk us by a horrible shank.

Can't help but think the half time feeling in our rooms was "oh shit, here we go again". An atmosphere not helped by the Bulldogs carrying on unchallenged after half time and kicking the next goal too. It was a fine line between survival and disaster, with Maddie Gay's snap around the corner bouncing in the square and almost sitting up to be rushed through. For supporters of conspiracy we were also about 17-5 down in the free kick count.

Just as we reduced the margin to six again there was almost another goal line stuff up, with only the barest of touches rushing the ball when nobody had thought to jump at it. This turned the game, creating the opportunity for Eden Zanker to kick the best set shot in the history of Melbourne AFLW, from 40 metres out on the boundary. This left us one point behind at the last change, and we were set for the most terrifying thing of all for followers of this side - a close game.

Anyone who thought Zanker's goal would be a team lifter was temporarily put back in their box when the Dogs got the first of the last quarter. If we could repeat our dominance of the first quarter we might have overtaken their seven point margin in behinds. The first two legs of the behind powered comeback were completed, handily leaving us five behind and a chance at pulling off the ultimate footy steal, the sort of turnaround that makes you think whoever decided it would be six for a goal and one for a behind was a promotional genius.

In the same 'all or nothing' situation against the Bulldogs last year we were the ones in front until the late goal, and thank christ the script was reversed here. Cunningham's strong mark was one thing, but she's a 50/50 proposition from a set shot so I still had heart in mouth until she delivered the stone cold finish to put us ahead.
Now it was our chance to do a cover version of last year and blow the lead. Via Junior repeating that the umpire was "a wanker" when I got excited and yelled it out, the Dogs went forward and camped the ball in their forward line until the last minute. I couldn't imagine any scenario in which we didn't concede a point, draw the game and get eliminated from the finals race a week early. The team had alternative ideas, pulling out a double tough defensive effort that kept the Dogs at bay, and like Brisbane 2009 we weathered the storm, extracted the ball from the precipice of death, and were actually storming into goal when the siren went. Well bugger me that was unexpected.

Footy is good because the close finishes have so many variables that you don't get in other sports. Obviously a soccer team scoring two goals in injury time or basketballers sinking threes on the buzzer are good, but instead of trying to rope internationals into playing AFLX they should just cut up the last two minutes of every game decided by under a goal in the last 15 years and airdrop them over Shanghai.

We live to fight again.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Elise O'Dea
3 - Tegan Cunningham
2 - Maddie/Maddy/Maddison Gay
1 - Lauren Pearce

With either one, two or three games to play it's bad news for those who hoped a ruck would win one of the major awards for the first time. Paxy hit the lead, still plenty of time to play (we hope) for Pearce to topple her.

19 - Karen Paxman
18 - Lauren Pearce
13 - Elise O'Dea
9 - Tegan Cunningham
7 - Maddison Gay/Lily Mithen
4 - Harriet Cordner, Aleisha Newman
3 - Bianca Jakobsson
2 - Tyla Hanks, Kate Hore, Eden Zanker

Ms. Bradbury Plan (updated Sunday afternoon)
Consistent with the rest of the rushed, ill-thought out, and poorly researched posts of this pre-season I initially thought our percentage would  mean an in vs out game against the Crows.

If I'd done my maths I'd have discovered that we needed Adelaide to beat GWS by as little as possible today to keep their percentage within range. Consistent with our game against them, the Giants kept it close for a while before toppling over like a ferry in a typhoon. Now we've got to win by 5-6 goals, which is simply not going to happen.

Even if it does a draw in the Roos/Dockers game would put both through, and in a low scoring competition wouldn't that be something worthy of referral to the newly formed Sport Integrity Australia? After all they will play after our game and know exactly what needs to be done...

Meanwhile, over in the infamous Conference B, Geelong are top with a percentage of 74.2. Good on you AFL.

Next Week
After a week indoors where players were able to hit spectacular long range goals, it's back to the variable breezes of Casey Fields for our latest attempt at making the finals. On the form of the last two weeks beating Adelaide is unlikely, but we've got right up for two big games against Freo and North before falling just short so I'm not ruling it out. After winning by the narrowest of margins here you can pretty much lock in a heartbreaking defeat.

Final Thoughts
Put the Zanker and Cunningham goals at either end of the 2019 AFLW highlights tape. When set shots like that are going in regularly even the hate-watching wankers will struggle to find a problem with women playing (semi) professional footy.

1 comment:

  1. Around 26 points. That's how much we need to beat Adelaide by. 26 huge points.

    7.13.55 to 5.0.30 Has a nice ring to it, no? Or we play the game of the season and flog Adelaide only to have the effort null and voided by a "convenient" draw in WA.


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