Sunday, 2 June 2019

(I Just) Died In The Arse Tonight

Within a few minutes shortly before the bounce I discovered there's a televised sport called cornholing, then felt on the end of one when late replacements swapped Hore and Salem for JFK and the Weid. I hadn't expect to win with the original team, so neither of the changes annoyed me in isolation, it's just that going in two defenders short felt like tempting fate.

At first I was fuming that they couldn't find a defender to put on the plane if Hore was in doubt and Salem was coming back from an extra week off with concussion. Then I realised that Petty was hurt last week, Lever declared himself unavailable, Lewis was suspended and May hadn't played since Round 2 so we were hardly flush for options.

With my key goal for the rest of the year being to avoid thrashings I was concerned that without Jetta's usual strangulation job on Betts, and both Taylor (never Tex) Walker and Josh Jenkins having had the piss taken out of their performances all year that somebody would run riot and kick a bag. After last week's mighty struggle to score who'd have expected our counter to playing without a backline would be to score at a 2018 rate? At least for the first half, before going down to agonisingly slow defeat by adding 3.12 in the second half.

Do we have an official ruling on the 'illness' that caused Salem to be withdrawn? You can't tell the difference between James Brayshaw being serious and doing FM radio blokey bullshit so I'm suspect about his claim of "gastro during the warmup". Surely not. If that's what the club has gone with they've got to be covering up something about his concussion symptoms. What are the chances that everything was going well up to the bounce and an MFC fourth quarter suddenly started dripping down his leg shortly before the game. How did he make it so close to the first bounce if he was in that state? Lucky we had a squad full of other players prepared to shit themselves on a national stage.

Don't know why I was so scared of Adelaide, like Melbourne 2017 they're inconsistent mid-table mediocrities who will probably have a few stupid losses that just keep them out of the finals. This should have been one of the defeats that they look back on in anger later in the year but it still puts them well ahead of us.

It wasn't so much them I was worried about, but our forward line ceasing to exist like last week and kicking another sad score like every game in Darwin from 2012-2017. Last year we were also horrifically inaccurate (13.24) but the opposition were so shit we couldn't help but win by heaps. So much for the theory that playing the Darwin game first would be better for us. And at this time, just a reminder that if the NT deal is still worth $1.2 million that it was the difference (one off profit from sale of Leighoak aside) between us making $500k and losing $700k. Nobody outside the Territory likes this deal but it is a sad necessity - especially without a permanent Queen's Birthday home game and disposal of the pokies.

Considering how far our scoring has fallen in the last year I didn't expect a blistering Alice Springs 2018 start, or to kick more than three goals total, so was pleasantly surprised to emerge from the first quarter with 6.3. Sure we also conceded 4.0, but considering how our defensive stocks were going that was to be expected. We were even given a leg-up by Rory Sloane going off never to return (possibly in protest at Brayshaw calling him "Rorza"). You'd think in a hot environment having an extra player all night would help, but that doesn't reckon with us being the worst team in the history of footy at taking advantage of opposition misfortune.

The good times started with a Garlett miss that I cursed at the time, but opened the door for his motivated performance in years. Which is not saying much but still welcome. He did something stupid in the last quarter but who didn't? He might have realised his time is rapidly running out and thought he better have a wholehearted bash. It was welcome but doesn't change my view that we need to move on at the end of the year. Somebody will try and draw a link to indigenous round, to which I'd counter that this round seems to go over two weeks and he was rancid in the first half of it. His later goal from a set shot was great, the dropped mark in the pocket when the game was on the line was not. I'd love the opportunity to move on, and would like to think within the next few weeks Hannan will be up and running enough that we can.

The most astonishing part of the first quarter was Petracca accurately kicking a set shot. Let's see more of that. Unfortunately he felt so internally conflicted at doing this that he then gave away a ridiculous 50 that led to Adelaide's first goal. He had an ok night, but the quicker they can develop a tank (CLICHE) and find him a spot in the midfield the better, because an uncharacteristic run of successful set shots aside he is in no way a forward.

Sadly on this night I learned that contested marks are as good a barometer as inside 50s or hitouts. As much as I pretended they were some secret formula that would lead to success we won the count in a canter and lost because we couldn't convert. Then again, no stat except behinds is going to be worth a damn when you kick 1.8 in a tight last quarter. Marks inside 50 were also discredited, as we had a season high 18 but wasted them at a record rate.

For now all was well. As much as the makeshift defence looked terrified whenever the ball went near them, you couldn't fault the way we moved the ball when it came out of defence. For a lot of the quarter we even looked like a proper footy team. The problem was that practically everyone except Clayton Oliver had their best quarter of the night. Forget what happened later, Weideman's return was much appreciated. I'm a mad keen McSizzle fan, and he was just ok here, but how good were Weid's marks up the ground? That's why we let Hogan go - or were going to play him as a defender. I'm worried for McDonald's place in this side - now the defenders are coming back he can't go there, and if he's not kicking goals how much do we value his ok but unspectacular other contributions?

Based on years of evidence about how we go after a high scoring first quarter the freewheeling, high scoring extravaganza didn't seem sustainable. Given we've kicked the equivalent of four six goal quarters less than 30 times since 1897 it obviously wasn't going to happen in Darwin of all places - where we've now scored over 100 three times in 10 starts. For us to get 24 goals this year we'd need 213 inside 50s and a tear gas canister to go off in the opposition huddle. Under the circumstances I was thrilled to get three more half time, in what passed for free scoring this year and must have had Channel 7's ad department jacking it for the first time since the Clive Palmer money stopped coming in.

My suspicions that we wouldn't be able to go on with it seemed justified early in the second when some bloke with a twirly 1800s ties-women-to-railways moustache set up a forward 50 contest where Oscar shit it and gave away a free in front of goal. Thank god we've got defenders back because he played like he'd seen a ghost. You don't want to pile on in circumstances like this but it was a Gillies-esque defensive performance. I'd have preferred to have seen Steven May play while he was still over .05

That we didn't concede more was a credit to the defence as a whole (for instance: Frost's epic rebound 50, flinging his boot at the ball while grappling with an opponent and hoofing it 30 metres downfield), and to the Adelaide player missing a sitter here. Soon they started hitting them from everywhere while we began shooting on goal like blindfolded.

The misses didn't just come in the last 30 minutes - we went from 11.5 to 12.16, and missed chances like Hunt taking a great grab in the pack then inexplicably missing from close range. Stuffed up a sitter last week as well, which is a comedown from the glorious weeks where he looked like he couldn't miss. Never mind we've always got McDonald (didn't get near a shot of any variety) and Weideman (oh dear).

Fans of fringe players doing wacky things would have enjoyed Kennedy-Harris kicking into the man on the mark, mowing him down with a strong tackle to win the ball back, then nearly kicking it over his teammate's head with the next pass. He's not ratshit awful but just lacks the extra gear to be a best 22 player. You could have said that about Harmes a few years ago and he's gone supernova since but I don't think there's much hope for JFK - which will be a relief for that bloke who cut up his membership in protest about him getting a game two years ago. Hopefully the scissors were taken away from him before the last kick or he'd have exercised the Tom Wills option.

Having started this page while living in the most rudimentary of studio apartments you'll understand how pleased I am that Demonblog Towers XI has something approaching a home theatre room that's about as big as the entire first Towers. In theory this is great for plugging the screen into a computer and watching games in luxury, except I'm not coping well with the brave new world of online streaming.

On debut against West Coast the Megawall provided flawless picture quality all night. This time the second quarter was spent cycling between High Def, Standard Def and No Def. It left me yelling more abuse at the TV screen than the umpires, Channel 7 callers and our forward 50 entries combined. When Garlett got a goal from the square it almost didn't register because I was so busy calling the National Broadband Network a bastard.

Like the wind at Casey Fields, the Wi-Fi was in my favour for the first and third quarters then went to shit again in the last and left me watching into a three bar disadvantage. I was starting to get used to the quality of the image changing every few seconds but thank god it recovered by the end and didn't buffer with the ball in mid-air off Weid's boot or I'd have rejoined Foxtel on the spot.

For all the shit hung on certain members of our backline we did hold the Crows to one goal in the second quarter, and against all odds and human decency opened a five goal lead. Due to the psychological distress of the last quarter I can't reconcile how this happened and won't be watching any highlights or footy shows to find out. It's not like we were playing particularly well, with the exception of Gawn grabbing everything that went near him it was your true team effort. We even did it without Oliver, who Adelaide sensibly decided to tag after he'd ransacked them for 16 touches in the second quarter. He barely had any in the third and we still carried on building what should have been a match-winning lead.

Then, because life as a Melbourne fan was not meant to be easy, came the natural correction. It was a bit like the West Coast game in that we'd fired our best shots and couldn't go on with it, but on this occasion we also flubbed half a dozen excellent chances to win.

The margin was already back to 14 at three quarter time, and when they got the opening goal of the last term my guts were in more disarray than Christian Salem's. Coincidentally by the end I also felt like dropping a brick on my head. Unusually we steadied straight away, and even more curiously it was via Garlett kicking a long set shot. After that anything should have been possible but that's where the goals ended and the artless, panicked attempts at scoring began.

Even after two quick Adelaide goals we still had the sort of buffer that meant one goal might have killed them off. Tim Smith had a go, taking a solid mark then looking at the ball like it was made of ice before missing, the otherwise excellent Harmes snapped into the post from close range, Garlett dropped his sitter in the pocket, and the next thing you knew we were behind.

Adelaide tried to keep some mystery about whether they'd run over the top of us by missing a couple of chances of their own before grabbing the lead for the first time all night. At this stage the neighbours probably thought there was a murder underway. There was, but it was happening on a footy field in Darwin.

Almost straight after going behind we had a chance to grab the lead back, with Maximum missing a long shot. Better the ball was at their end but I had zero faith that we were going to find a way to kick a goal. More likely we'd turn it over inside 50 and watch the Crows fly down the other end to win it. We got neither, with 30 seconds left Wagner launched a hit and hope kick inside 50 that made its way through a pack and straight into the arms of the Weid.

If you believe in supernatural shit you might say we'd spent all our luck on the Hawthorn and Gold Coast finishes. I don't buy into the occult, as tempting as it is after following this club for 30 years, but when he clutched the ball 40 metres out directly in front for what was going to be the last kick of the game the first thing I said was "he's going to miss".

Of course he was, what else are you supposed to think when a usually accurate set shot kicker has the ball in those circumstances? That's not our go. This club is more about defenders roosting long bombs from 50 and ex-defenders shinning the ball into the post. If you made me bet my house on a Melbourne player converting from that distance I'd probably have gone for Sam, and I'd be writing this from inside a cardboard box. Of course last year when a Geelong player did the exact same thing AND had the added pressure of kicking after the siren he drilled it.

As my body temperature rose to incredibly dangerous levels the kick pulled left, I let out a dramatic noise and collapsed on the floor, getting up only to try and turn the computer off before I had to either hear about it from the stooges on Channel 7 or see a joyous Adelaide player. There was a quick 'just in case' look to confirm that I wasn't having hallucinations before a farcical 30 seconds of angrily trying to shut off the coverage and failing. After that I just curled in a ball on the floor for a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and Sam.

Thinking about other heartbreaking losses of recent times, obviously the Kardinia Park fiasco last year was worse because of the huge finals implications but this just made me feel sick. Given the choice of two shit sandwiches I'd rather win a game off our own boot but lose one off the opposition's. The difference between the two was that as bad as the Geelong loss was I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so after a brief fence kickin' tantrum there was no time for reflection before escaping. That's why I suddenly felt like chucking a duck halfway home. This time - even after having to stifle my disappointment after receiving a conduct warning from Mrs. Demonblog halfway through the quarter - I could go straight to wallowing in misery.

I'm retrospectively even angrier at both us and GWS for the fourth quarter last week. Congratulations on banging through goals left, right and centre when the opposition has given up, try doing it when it counts. It meant stuff all for the season because we'd still have been more chance of going to Mars than the finals but I was fuming at the lack of leadership and poise that cost us.

In Perth you can blame the umpires for squibbing in the face of 50,000 people yelling at them, this was entirely, without a doubt on us. And unless you're a vulture who preys on the misfortune of others you'll know that Weid was just the one left to pay the cheque for sins of his teammates. Could have and probably should have kicked this but don't let it define him. Ironically if he hadn't marked it there would have been less focus on him and we'd have lost anyway.

Last night I was flatter than a tack, but by this morning I'm almost entirely over it. Football season is the best time of the year but still, let's get through the next 11 games with as many highlights as possible then never speak of 2019 again.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
--- several timezones ---
4 - James Harmes
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to Fritsch, Hibberd, Brayshaw, Garlett, Weideman (sob) and Stretch.

It's on. With half the season played Max now stands over two full best on ground performances in front of Oliver. The Hamburglar is perfectly capable of mowing that down if he's not being tagged into oblivion but the ball is firmly in Maximum's court. Not a cracker of change in the minors due to the withdrawal of the leaders in both live second division award. Meanwhile I'd like to apologise to Corey Wagner for giving him a vote last week because now he's had two 1s and been dropped both times.

33 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Clayton Oliver
21 - James Harmes
18 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year),
14 - Jake Melksham
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney
7 - Jayden Hunt
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Billy Stretch
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Jay Lockhart, Corey Wagner
1 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Tempted not to hand this out as a passive aggressive punishment for all the misses, but Jones' goal furthered my theory that he'd be a handy forward so I'm giving that the nod. So much the better that it came from Hannan doing the worst kick from the pocket of all time and the ball dropping on a Crows player's face.

The weekly prize is a bottle of Peter Jackson Bald Head oil, to be applied liberally whenever his nude bonce loses its sheen. Hore vs Gold Coast retains the overall lead.

TV stations have zero respect for teams running through the banner at the best of times, and I missed them both. Twitter tells me our side had a double sided tribute to race relations that featured impeccable kerning and centring, none of the usual search terms bring up a shot of the Crows effort but you can be sure it would have lost anyway. Dees 10-1-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch
With a group of ex-players on a trip to the game, most of who were probably off their face after a week of sinking bulk piss, it's a shame nobody got excited and jumped the fence to punch on with Michael Long as revenge for the 2000 Grand Final. Now that Troy Simmonds is a guru I can't see him on a footy trip but imagine a masked figure jumped the fence and shirtfronted Long then tore off the mask to reveal it was him. Talk about matchday experience.

Next Week
In the battle between sides that lost to a late, late shot on goal (and let me remind you, in our case not entirely because of it), we go into Queen's Birthday against Collingwood in an angry mood. No matter what changes we make hat's not going to end well. I thought the same for both the Adelaide and West Coast games and we nearly won but after a week of people mistakenly identifying this as our Grand Final like the Anzac Eve game doesn't exist they will fist us up to the elbow.

With a record low 10 Melbourne listed players on offer (and they only reached double figures thanks to the mid-season draft) Casey were not surprisingly shithouse against a side coached by my hero Choke Yourself With A Tie. Nevertheless, reports suggest that May was an almighty figure in defence so he's straight in.

Lever almost played this week before missing the 2s game but I'm not concerned about that or sticking him, May, Hore and Frost together for the first time. All I know is that Mason Cox - who is one star prelim turn away from the Kingsleys - dicked us last year and I want insurance against that happening again. Collingwood would be mad not to pick him again after that. Instead I expect they'll rush Lewis in after a week off for belting somebody in a pointless VFL match and Cox will kick nine.

As for the rest, if fit Salem and Hore obviously come straight back and I'm working hard at pushing Preuss in a week where the Weid came back and Smith was pretty good, but I would just appreciate some proof that the selectors have some interest in him. Also gives Max a hand when he's inevitably double teamed by a double ruck attack rather than Smith/McDonald/Weideman who can all gamely contest a stoppage but ultimately have no idea what they're doing.

For the outs, Wagner and Kennedy-Harris depart because they kick in play like the rest of our team kick for goal in a tight game, Spargo goes because he might have played the closest thing to four quarters in his career but still barely caused any damage, Smith exits with apologies just because I want a big, bald, mad bastard in the side, and Oscar's streak of games without a goal can be halted at 70 for as long as it takes for May and/or Lever to injure themselves again. Shouldn't have to wait long.

IN: Hore, Lever, May, Preuss, Salem
OUT: J. Wagner, Kennedy-Harris, O. McDonald, T. Smith, Spargo
LUCKY: Garlett, T. McDonald
UNLUCKY: Everyone else who is capable of playing

Comparison Corner
After the Gold Coast game we ranked all the six or less point wins since 1990 to decide which one was the best. I was going to do the same here but a) just want to finish this post and get as far away from this game as possible and b) didn't realise how many times it had happened. What about I work on it in the background and post next time we lose a thriller? Won't be next week.

Final thoughts
This sums it up:

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