Monday, 8 July 2019

Survivor Series

Unless you're Geelong or Kevin Rudd nobody thinks of 2007 fondly*. Especially when it comes to football. I recall it as the middle period of internet broadcast technology, where you still had to listen to lo-fi radio commentary through a website but still thought that was pretty bloody good compared to the days where you were shit out of luck anywhere beyond the Melbourne metropolitan area.

That was my lot last time there was a Melbourne/Carlton game I didn't see in person, listening to Ricky Petterd quite literally bust a lung on a computer barely running Windows 95 in a Thai internet cafe with headphones so unsanitary I was lucky not lose my hearing to an eardrum eating virus.

Since that day we've had a cavalcade of memories both good and bad. From their shameless tanking in the last round of '07, to winning by the ton for the first time in 15 years via Jamar's five, the pro-Viney headband extravaganza after 186, that Pedersen goal, losing to them while they were in crisis in 2015, seeing the Mighty Ducks Finish go up in smoke the next year and 2017's Lewis/Neal-Bullen clock management scam.

Now, 12 years later the internet has further enhanced our lives. Not only have services like Google News Archive, Trove, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube and *ahem* Demonwiki made life worth living, but live streaming technology saves you from a fate worse than death if you can't be at the game. What a wonderful world. I've spent a lot of time in the last week watching games from the early 1980s and realising how much better the field looked without a 50 metre arc, but imagine going back to before mass bandwidth internet. For me, that would be hell.

In Round 14, 2007 we won comfortably (apparently I had such contempt for the reading audience that there wasn't even a real report) so there was no need to get overly excited. In contrast, my actions yesterday would have had me banged up in the Bangkok Hilton. There was also blasphemy by the boatload, as the lord's name was taken in vain several dozen times.

I can't help it, watching Melbourne does uncomfortable things to me physically and mentally. It's my version of people's personalities changing when they get on the piss. It wasn't always like this. With the exception of saying mean things to an old man during Round 2, 1999, punching buggery out of a seat in 2000 and yelling "fuck you!" into the face of a lippy St Kilda fan in the 2006 finals, I was generally quite calm before 2007. It wasn't until 186 when I really flipped out.

In our eventual 2065 Australian Robot Football League premiership review this game will not rate the slightest mention. In isolation it was nothing more than a crisis-averting win where we slipped on a banana skin, did a full flip and landed unsteadily on our feet. But for those of us who saw it live it was a finish only slightly less bonkers than Gold Coast. After that game we ranked all the close wins since 1990, and this would have ranked very highly on the 'insane finish' scale. It wouldn't get past mid-table on the overall list because there was no real importance attached to the result, but if you still didn't nearly haemorrhage from every orifice when Hannan's shot stopped on the line check your pulse to make sure you're still alive.

Let's get the caveats and exemptions out of the way first. No they didn't have Charlie Curnow or Cripps (by the end all the crips were on our bench), and yes a ruthless team would have taken advantage of their bumbling, Three Stooges footy to be so far in front by three quarter time that we could have had zero last quarter rotations and won. Firstly, cry me a river about injuries, and b) it's well established we're about as ruthless as a chihuahua in 2019 so you'll just have to take it for what it was.

It's not like we were at full strength either, lacking the most colossal ruckman in the game. Luckily  we had a more than capable backup in the form of internet sensation Braydon Preuss. I don't know how close Gawn came to playing, but not picking Preuss in the first place felt like a hamfisted plot to fool Carlton into thinking he might. I'd have had them both in the original 22 then pulled Gawn for Kyle Dunkley at the last minute. Maybe they really contemplating running Max around all day on a dud ankle in a meaningless game without a proper backup to try and prove... something. I'd much rather it be a poor attempt at disinformation than a reckless scenario like that.

Unlike Juice Newton II, John Meesen, Free Ricky Petterd, and all the other players we've launched hurt feelings internet campaigns for in the past, Preuss' much awaited appearance was a raging success. He beat an accomplished ruckman in the middle and did all sorts of Gawnish stuff around the ground. Shame his chance had to come because of injury, but considering how well we're going this year it's understandable that a guy we specifically set out to trade for in the off-season can't get a game right?

It was ace. Problem is he'll never get to do it again once Maximum comes back. We all want Gawn to play until his 52, but imagine if Preuss realises he's never going to be #1, whacks in a trade request and ends up at a club where he can be THE man. Today seemed to demonstrate he can go four quarters easily, and that blowing up like the Hindenberg in pre-season had more to do with it being a 35 degree day than his own fitness concerns. He looked exhausted by the end, but at the same age Gawn was also finishing games like he was about to die.

In other news, because I watched with people who don't take this rubbish nearly as seriously as me, it was pointed out that his website profile photo looks like somebody wearing an old tyme comedy moustache. Now I'll never be able to gaze at his photo without thinking of him as old moustache lips.

The sad thing is that until McDonald was injured Preuss was probably going straight back out of the side anyway, because there is clearly no appetite at coaching level from playing his as a forward. I wouldn't be surprise if they give him the boot next week anyway and try a like-for-like surname swap by playing Oscar McDonald at full forward.

Even if sanity prevails when Max returns, Weid/Preuss is a pretty weird forward combination. I'm hoping that BP's brick shithouse physique creates contests that allow Weid to float in from the side and take grabs. They had better make the most of it, I can't imagine the coaches offering a second chance if they're not competitive. Weideman especially needs to get amongst it. I stand by my theory that you just have to play him for the rest of the year no matter what - especially without McDonald - but my resolve wobbled yesterday when he was generally naff.

To say this was an unusual game would be an understatement. We went in with half-decent form, but supporters everywhere (myself very much included) were terrified of the Caretaker Coach Effect carrying Carlton through another week. Usually replacements preside over a few weeks of vastly improved footy, and rope journos into speculating that they might get the job permanently before everyone else twigs about what they're doing and the team slides back into filth.

It's a bit more advanced when we do it. Both Greg Hutchison and Mark Riley started with wins but were back in the doldrums two weeks later, Todd Viney started with a big loss, then dragged us through the last five weeks without disgracing himself, and even Neil Craig had three solid weeks and a win as stand-in captain of Air Farce One before we resumed kicking four goals a game and damaging the AFL's brand.

This was week five for David Teague, so I had high hopes of the effect fizzing just in time to save us from dropping to 17th. They certainly came in on a high, winning last week in a finish that (finals implications aside) nearly equalled Tom McDonald at Subiaco for white-hot lunacy. Marc Murphy standing like Steven Seagal in a gunfight, ducking and weaving bullets before straightening up and shooting Freo between the eyes was nearly the best non-MFC thing I've seen since Mark Williams choked himself with a tie.

At first it looked like Carlton had run themselves to a standstill in Perth, but I had major issues trusting any sort of lead against the sort of Stranglewankin' team that has twice came back from five goals down to win, and once to fall agonisingly short in their last three games. Especially when we're notorious for doing everything right except putting the ball through the middle posts. The actual gulf in class between the sides meant nothing, I had The Fear.

We proved to be the superior footballing outfit in the opening minutes but since when has that ever meant anything to us? In summer, the women can't put a side away, and in winter the men often have the final punch ready before half time but fail to throw it. In addition to a raft of psychologists, we need a sick building syndrome consultant to check the AAMI Park air vents. Whatever toxic forces are at work they don't seem to affect Melbourne Storm players.

In their home game the Blues went out of their way to be as charitable as possible, turning the ball over at every opportunity and leaving acres of space for us to work in. That's not always a good thing, sometimes our players see excessive space and become unrealistic about their capabilities. Chief offender yesterday was Bayley Fritsch. Like a lower profile Travis Johnstone he's like a roulette wheel, there's a near 50% chance of his kicks being either awesome or absolutely dreadful. It was a little bit ahead of the ledger yesterday, but best of luck pulling that off against sides that can defend to even the barest AFL stand.

Speaking of dreadful kicks, have you ever seen us try to score a goal? The first quarter may have delivered four, but was also full of players saying "no you first", "no you first", "no I really do insist" and trying to get somebody else to have the shot. After five minutes of pressure where did everything other than kick goals, it took converted forward Liam Jones to give converted defender Tom McDonald a hectare of space and the first decent shot of the game. Which McSizzle proceeded to kick out on the full from close range.

If you'd told me then he was going to equal his personal best of six in a game but not play again for the rest of the year I'd have only believed you about the latter. Next thing you know he's taken advantage of spectacularly inept defending to go into quarter time with three under his belt. It was quite the turnaround, but the poison mist of #fistedforever wasn't far away.

The third goal was the best, the sort of quick kick out of pack that we've been dying for this year, but it lacked the comic value of his second. We were pressing so hard that even Hibberd got forward for a point, only for the seven point play to come off courtesy of it being kicked in right down Tom's throat.

For now we not only kicked goals - even if it took a few tries - but immediately went back into attack after. For much of the quarter the Blues didn't look like getting anything, to the point where I was tempted to see who we last held scoreless in a first quarter but thought that was tempting fate a bit. Turned out to be St Kilda at Waverley in Round 10, 1994, and we haven't done it on the MCG since 1964.

Even allowing for Carlton's recent comebacks I couldn't foresee a way that we could (on the assumption that all our players ended the game upright) ease up enough to lose. Then we gave suckers an even break, let them get it out of their defensive 50, Marty Hore became the first domino to go down when he burst his collarbone and it was on. They got two of the last three goals, even the unbelievably maligned Levi Casboult was kicking accurately and we looked a lot more vulnerable at 30:00 than we had at 20:00.

Two goals to nil in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter restored some calm to my innards. We were still not playing like a finals team (which is lucky, because we won't be one), but seemed to be holding them at enough of a distance that their spirit would eventually break. In a way it did, but at the same time we were shedding healthy players at a rapid rate without setting up enough of a buffer to insure ourselves against a storming finish.

The slow-moving rot began when we executed our most famous move, wasting a Tom McDonald goal within 30 seconds, before ending the half peppering shots for no reward. The main culprit was Anal-Bullet, who had 0.3 and looked tremendously ropey around goal. He wasn't alone. Only making it to the break 25 points up despite undoubtedly being the better side seemed a prelude to disaster.

We were ahead in every aspect of the game. Lewis was tagging Murphy into the ground, Preuss was beating Kruezer, and the backline had their counterparts smothered. I still felt uneasy that we weren't double the margin in front, and that even one player short on the bench it was asking for them to have another go at us.

For the third time we started a quarter in an excessive hurry to get the game over with. McDonald got his fifth, and enjoyed the rare feeling of seeing it not only come back our way after but going through for consecutive goals. This is where the bitterness kicked in. At this point we still had 21 fit players and were cannoning towards a score over 100, then proceeded to spend the rest of the quarter handing goals back to the Blues almost immediately after getting them.

The sorry tale was:

  • 03:53 Hunt begat 05:12 Silvagni, which made me upset
  • 08:53 Weideman begat 10:01 Silvagni, which made me angry
  • 23:53 Petracca begat 25:42 Casboult, which caused me to rip my headphones out and hurl them as violently as you can when they're still connected to the computer
  • 27:19 McDonald begat 30:14 Setterfield, but at least we held out for a couple of minutes. To make up for lost time the Blues then replied to that goal by going out of the middle for another shot.

Amidst the carnage a new Kingsley emerged. Jack Silvagni has plenty of pedigree, but has so far done bugger all. After avoiding Dylan Buckley we've finally been caught by a father/son Blue. The man currently holding the worst win/loss record in the competition (9-44) went at it like he was almost anybody else in his family and will be taking his seat at the annual dinner alongside Klassic Kingsley Daryl Gilmore, who played one game for Carlton and kicked 3.1 against us.

I didn't like seeing a 38 point lead early in the quarter turn into 30 by the end of it, but even with the otherwise solid Harrison (still not Harry, even if he asks nicely) Petty also out for the rest of the game with a concussion it still looked like we'd be ok. With McDonald beating Liam Jones like he'd stolen something I was convinced for the first time all year that as long as we just kept pumping the ball forward there we couldn't help but score enough to win.

Then, just as I was kicking myself at not being there for McSizzle's tilt at a genuine bag they cut to him sitting on the bench and out of the game with a crocked knee. How very Melbourne, bouncing back from adversity towards the game of your life before disaster strikes. It gave me nightmare flashbacks to Mitch Clark suffering rapid onset disintegration of the foot in the Carnival of Hate when he looked like plundering the Giants for 14.

What a weird week to be Tom McDonald. From the high profile fiasco against Brisbane, to announcing he was going to be a dad, to kicking out on the full horrendously, then booting six and at least semi-doing his knee. It's never a good sign when player and coach alike have to go out of their way to say "it doesn't look like an ACL". Bit of a difference between ending your season and losing half of the next as well.

Luckily it's been confirmed as 'just' a season ending injury, so he's got plenty of time to get away from the pressure and get both head and body right before next year. Maybe when he comes back he'll kick six and won't look up to see half of them going back to the opposition a minute later? Between this and Queen's Birthday I don't reckon any player in league history has seen two sets of six squandered so rapidly.

Not only did McDonald's absence for the last quarter ruin his chance at personal glory, it also left us in all sorts for rotations. 10 years ago you'd have parked Petty in the forward line, faced him towards goal and hoped he'd kick through the middle of the eight posts he was seeing, but now we're concerned about player welfare. Probably a good thing, but RIP one of the great traditions of footy.

Carlton might not be very good at football, but can count to one. After three quarters where they couldn't hit the ocean by jumping off a pier they recognised we were down to one rotation and went us like a hungry man attacking a cheeseburger. On a weekend where I tempted fate by not only discovering footage of the Chris Sullivan Line game, but promoting it to the public this went close to being our biggest three quarter time fold since.

The injuries were a ready-made excuse but I still couldn't handle losing from that far in front under any circumstances. It was a good excuse, even if we tried to play down the impact when Freo lost to us in similar circumstances. Carlton fell agonisingly short of pulling off their comeback, but for teams that left themselves in a cavernous ditch before making a run on a wounded opposition their storm home was of a much higher quality than ours against Sydney in similar circumstances last year.

Scoring nine points in the last quarter is right up our alley, but in this case there was no expectation beyond defending the lead. I'd love to have crashed through the 100 point barrier and delivered the crushing victory that we've waited all season for but this was purely an exercise in running down the clock.

It always felt like we were one goal from winning, but to get to that point we had half an hour like a boxer trying to hold on against the ropes in the 12th round. We'd have been knocked out by a better team within the first 15. None was available but it still went uncomfortably close to disaster.

When Silkingsley's first was rapidly followed by another, then a behind right after that I was shitting bricks. Almost everyone looked like they were about to expire before we'd even scored and I can't fathom how we even got it forward to kick a couple of points midway through the quarter. Unable to take any of our half chances the lead slowly dripped away, before Frost did something a bit silly and put a player on his arse right in front of goal to give away a free.

It might have tainted what was otherwise a red hot rebound defending performance, but to be fair the kick inside 50 was marked anyway. The problem was that it gifted them a certain goal instead of making Casboult kick from the simple distance and angle that makes him break out in hives. I was ready to concede defeat when they rushed out of the middle and went forward again, before thank christ a wild snap took a favourable bounce and was rushed through. More on zany bounces shortly.

Frost did Frost things again by taking a great contested mark, then chipping one high to Oliver that he never had any chance of marking, but from that ball hitting the ground came the match-winning goal. Still don't know how he fits in with Lever, and it would be nice if they spent more than 90 seconds on field together so we can find out, but I'll take the rough with the smooth on Frost. One day he'll unload some putrid kick in defence that costs us a game, and at that point I choose to focus on the fact that he's now inadvertently beaten Hawthorn and accidentally won us this game.

If you can stand it, here's the entire 'last two minutes', which they helpfully stretch out to the last 2.25 minutes so we see all the action:
With my heart threatening to pop out like Alien, the decisive moment came when that beautiful man Clayton Oliver showed why he should consider kicking more by landing an nerve-free pinpoint pass on Hunt 40 metres out directly in front. On the occasion of The Hamburglar setting up the winning goal in a Carlton game, I hope this guy had a fantastic day at the footy.

It was appropriate that the turnover came from Kade Simpson, who is in a neck-and-neck race with Nathan Jones to become the losingist player in VFL/AFL history. It helped him snatch a break on Chunk, leaving him 14 ahead, and just six short of Kevin Murray's all-time mark. There's two Kev achievements neither man will top, winning a Brownlow and going 0-34 as a coach.

Watching Hunt's earlier set shots gave me a greater appreciation of a set shot technique where he removes the glove and dangles it over his Steven Icke before running in. If you meet him after a game don't shake his hand until he's taken the glove off. Now I could barely look at the screen.

First I removed my headphones so I didn't have to hear Dwayne gleefully call the miss, then took a big step back from the computer. I don't think I was lining up to take a running punt at the thing, it was more of a coping mechanism, to be as far away from more late game set shot heartbreak as possible. Hunt has been reasonably accurate this year, but has done enough shithouse shanks and slices that unlike the Weid I didn't think he'd kick it. Which ironically made me more calm as he was lining up. When I die I'd like to donate my brain to footy fan research.

The distance also troubled me, but he hit it perfectly. It started right and flirted with cracking into the post before going through to muted, scared celebrations. From me anyway, Hunt was justified in enjoying his handiwork but the job was only half done. I always say a five point lead is a one point loss waiting to happen, but in this case it has never been more accurate. You had a half-dead side that couldn't stop conceding goals from the middle even when they were fit and I was supposed to believe we could hold out for 90 seconds? Not bloody likely.

Unusually, after a day of NQR centre bounces not being recalled, the umpire shat himself and threw the ball up. He'll probably blame the light rain, and if that's what contributed to us not just seeing it ping straight into Carlton's forward 50 then god bless the man. A lot happened in the next 100 seconds, including for the first time in god knows how long two time-consuming repeat stoppages.

On the third go Preuss lost the battle, but hitouts were shown once again to be a complete swizz by the ball dropping straight into Oliver's hands to go forward. This was good, the further away from Carlton's goal the better. Until Hannan was judged to have illegally contested a mark against two opponents where the ball only narrowly escaped his grasp. What exactly did he do wrong? The Carltonian at the front went flying forward, but he didn't push off him with hand or boot, and the ball only narrowly missed his hand so it's a bit harsh to say he jumped too early.

I was too close to a stroke to notice at the time, but check out Hannan's carefree attitude to throwing the ball back to his opponent. It was one of those where the bloke could have conned a 50 by half extending his arm and letting it fly over his head. See Jared Rivers at the SCG, Round 4, 2006.

I came to when they moved the ball towards the wing, sensibly trying to stretch out a tired team before launching a kick inside 50. At least that's what the first guy was thinking, before his teammate ignored a simple kick to a teammate 20 metres away, who had another on the 50...

... to aimlessly hoof it into a crowded middle of the ground. Carlton fans should hush up about umpiring and remain as bitter about this moment as we do over blowing that St Kilda game in 2015. From that it was back to a contest, and via tough contests from Jones and Viney, Lewis was able to give off to Preuss for a big, "get this ball as far away from me as possible, I'm knackered" hoof down the ground.

If the umpire thought it was too wet to bounce 20 seconds earlier he'd have been embarrassed seeing the way Preuss' kick went *BOING!* off the turf, over a waiting defender's head and straight into the hands of Mitch Hannan. Ironically, after only being in that situation because of a loopy bounce he was then stitched up by an even more obscure demonstration of the magic and mystery of the Australian Rules football.

The competition may be going down the shitter, but when you've got a sport that's so variable the ball could have taken an extra rotation and brought the house down, but instead stopped dead under the watchful eye of David Rodan you're onto a winner.

I'll cut Hannan slack in that he was probably rooted by this stage of the quarter (shout out to "we should reduce rotations so players get tired" wankers), but I think Mitch started to hear the Titanic music again and missed Brayshaw running into goal to his right. Easy for me to say, and after slaughtering various players for not taking the responsibility earlier in the game I don't hold it against him. One more turn of the ball and he'd be a hero. Also in his defence is that he didn't know how much time there was to go, and the game clock was well over 30 minutes so he might have made the safe decision not to handball and look like a peanut when the siren went.

The ball's handbrake stop left Brayshaw sprinting towards the line to try and make a contest. Considering his lung was probably about to do a Petterd he made good ground to get a boot somewhere near it. Going back to do frame-by-frame analysis after the game is pointless so I choose to believe he actually did force it through with his foot rather than it being rushed. Either way, it was a closer run thing than some of the tripe they review.

I hate video referees with a passion BUT if they have to exist this was a good time to get them involved. In the Saturday game between Gold Coast and Richmond there was a 30 seconds interlude while they tried to work out if the ball had bobbled 1mm out of a guy's grasp as he crossed the line, but here the game was in the balance and we just got back on with it immediately.

I'd like to think if they cut to Tom McDonald on the bench at that point (and why not, considering they almost missed the Brayshaw chase prematurely going to Hannan for a reaction shot) he'd have been doing the "I want a replay" gesture. Earlier he did that and the umpire actually fell for it, calling a review that he was never going to do off his own bat.

All's well that ends well, but the wasted time looking at close-ups from zero definition cameras, checking Snicko, and consulting the time of sunrise in Abu Dhabi would have give us time to set up behind the ball and make sure they couldn't dash from one end to the other. Instead a point was the almost the worst result. Sure, it meant we almost certainly couldn't lose but it also left Carlton dashing out of their backline, against a side approaching the finish line like this...

Brayshaw was sucking in so much wind from the chase that he nearly inhaled the Carlton cheersquad, so he wasn't going to put any pressure on the kick-in as it flung past him and up the Southern Stand wing. This was traumatic enough for me, I cannot imagine how I'd have gone from my normal seat, watching the ball coming towards me like a uncoupled train rolling down a hill.

I chucked the commentary again after the ball stopped, because if I heard Dwayne roll out of any of his set piece lines at that stage I'd have slandered and defamed him to the point where he'd own my house. Lucky, because 24 hours later when I hear him say "no time to review it" I want to punch on. You dickhead, how else is there going to be a review after a point?

Anyway, off the ball went down the wing, this time obviously kept away from the guy who thought booting it into the middle was a good idea the last time. They took full advantage of our fetish for players running off their opponent and leaving a free man behind them, setting up one last heave inside 50, where we were nearly on the end of the rudest draw of all time.

In a defence regularly under siege from the centre, Steven May had been so dependable that I wanted to reincarnate Cameron Clayton's 80s nickname and call him THE SAFE. But as he went to ground the not as good McGovern threw a desperation boot at the loose ball and thank the footballing gods it cracked into the near side post. This was all happening too fast for me without commentary and I almost shat myself as ball met boot.

We still had to negotiate seven seconds of a kick-in without doing something unbelievably stupid. I paced nervously as May went to put the ball back into play, trying to shout something about him playing on into the pocket and running around until time expired but was no longer capable of using the English language. It wasn't even a good idea, obviously just hoofing it a mile away from goal was the best way to get to the siren.

Thanks to a Carlton player doing the lightest, most pointless kick away of the ball ever May was given a 50 that took him up the ground and confirmed victory. I'd have understood if the guy had viciously launched at the ball in frustration and skittled half our cheersquad, but it was almost like he thought he'd want a new footy anyway and helpfully moved the old one of out the way. That'll teach him for being helpful.

Even with no realistic way for Carlton to kick a goal I was still pacing around nervously waiting for time to expire. Anything could still happen, most likely May taking half a step off his line, being called to play on without realising and somebody catching him holding the ball. Alas, by the time he was called to play on the siren was about to go, we lived to tell the tale, and with a solid piece of wood in front of me I opted for a reverse Roos, thumping it from a standing position then sitting down and trying to take in what I'd just seen.

It was the Reverse Stranglewank. The fifth time since that became a recognised statistic in 2014 that a 24+ lead has reduced to less than a goal (or worse) before winning. For those keeping score at home, the records are now:

Wank For: 7 wins, 10 losses
Wank Against: 5 wins, 4 losses
Total Wank: 1965-2019

Which means now the rarest result in these circumstances is us blowing a four goal lead and losing. This doesn't mean you should start being confident when we set up a lead. Never trust anyone wearing red and blue.

Carlton supporters blamed the umpires, especially this person, who is working harder than the Essendon fans who wanted to sue over Rampe climbing the post. Of course because we won they're all massive sooks. Unlike the West Coast game where we were 100% in the right and only pure incompetence by the officials cost us victory. Don't leave yourself in a situation where the umpires can be considered the difference in the first place. They got a couple of contentious ones, but so did we. We'd probably won easily anyway had it not been for the injuries, but give me four points (in either sense) and I will drape myself in them like velvet.

You'd be well within your rights not to celebrate a win like that, but it's not like we collapsed with 22 fit players, two defenders and an intact full forward. We weren't much chop before that either, but I'm still proud of the fightback from a disappointing position. They could have easily gone behind, thought "what's the point" and given up but battled it out like the fringe preliminary final team they are at heart. It was grim, it was gruesome, and it was grisly, but it was four points that kept one of our few underlings below us for a bit longer so...

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Tom McDonald
3 - James Harmes
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Sam Frost

Major apologies to Hunt and Viney. Other apologies to Fritsch, Jones, Lewis, May, Preuss, Salem and Petty until injured.

It is most assuredly on. Maximum's absence offered a gap for Oliver and he burrowed through to slash the gap to just over one best on ground. Harmes isn't going away either. The Seecamp race is all but over. With his nearest competition now crocked Salem is your provisional winner. Hore is also in trouble for the Hilton, now having to defend a five vote lead for as many weeks as he's out.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Match-winning goals always get a special boost, so Hunt obviously wins. Especially in light of the Weideman incident in Darwin. This requires apologies to Petracca twice. For his first goal, but also the one where he turned his defender on the boundary, ignored being tripped and still kicked it. If we did consolation prizes he'd get one. Instead, Jayden goes home with all the gold, and the weekly prize of a enduring adulation for kicking a clutch-as-all-buggery goal.

Hore still leads overall, because when he kicked his miracle goal I still had hope for the remainder of the season.

It's hard to beat our banners because they're so lovely, but please note the anti-curtain sentiment on this:
I don't know if a player has ever taken notice of what they're running into, but I appreciate that it's BREAK THROUGH and not 'gently pry open a curtain in case you hurt yourself'. That's the sort of sentiment that gets me going. On the other side, the Carlton cheersquad are too busy sooking over Jordan Lewis clocking somebody to put a picture of theirs up so stuff them, I'm not going out of my way just to judge what was probably a rotten effort anyway. Dees 14-1-0 for the season.

UPDATE - I'm told their banner had a curtain that players ducked under (?), and featured a cheese gag. It's a step up from hackneyed snow gags, but still lame. Better to be red wine quaffing Stilton eaters than... well pretty much anything else really. May the rest of you continue to eat lukewarm sausage rolls from Aldi.

Every time I hear one of them call, a new leader emerges in the neck-and-neck backwards race between BT and Dwayne. I think Dwayne would be a nicer person in real life (though am willing to be convinced otherwise) but he's never done a completely unscripted one hit wonder like GEE GOD BOY WOW. In fact I don't think he's ever done anything unscripted, he's like a radio station where all the pre-scheduled classic hits are played by computer with no human intervention.

Taylor has the need to fill every second of the broadcast with total bollocks, but he wasn't the man who said "Dunkley took week off before mid-season draft so he didn't get injured, which you don't always see" as if the mid-season draft had been held at any time since 1993.

Whichever camp you fall in, let's just agree that it's offensive to see Jason Bennett at Arden Street - a ground where people let their dogs shit six days a week - while this travesty was taking place.

Next Week
Back to Fortress Shithole at last, the ground where we did our best work last year. Even on a ground where we play significantly better than the MCG we're not going to beat the Bulldogs playing like this. Our best hope is that they played themselves to a standstill beating Geelong and will turn up flatter than a plate of piss.

I won't be there again, and this is especially hurtful considering the game will be played a few hundred metres away. Fortunately I think I've mastered the art of watching at [redacted] so no major harm done. Still feels grubby not being there but it was about time I started living like an adult.

Thanks to our injury list (temporarily) becoming manageable Casey have had a bunch of AFL players come in and are winning accordingly. Good luck to their coach next week, he'll probably be over on the Casey Fields tennis courts trying to find fill-in players. I can't cop Lever going around on any more suburban grounds so he's back. Same with Jetta. He might have only played one VFL game but given that he's not expected to run all day it would hardly be on par with the ludicrous rush to bring Jones and Viney back for Round 1.

Assuming Lewis is rubbed out that's two defenders and one half defender/half midfielder departing, so I'm going to throw Josh Wagner in as the third inclusion. He's not Matthew Scarlett, but Oscar needs a few weeks out of the limelight so the other JW is it.

Dunkley survives because even if the pace was too much for him he knew where to go, so better to just play him now and get him used to AFL standard before next year.

I haven't even been to one token Casey game this season but understand purely off internet speculation that James Jordon is also doing well and might get a game by the end of the year. In case you're not already feeling over the hill he was born just under four months after the 2000 Grand Final.

IN: Gawn, Jetta, Lever, J. Wagner
OUT: Petty, McDonald, Hore (inj), Lewis (susp) [UPDATE - Lewis not only avoided suspension, but a fine, and even getting a mention in the report. Hope he sues the Carlton Cheersquad and ends up owning it]
LUCKY: Dunkley, Neal-Bullen, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Jordon, Maynard

I don't think we'll win but there's a chance. Best have a red hot go while we can, because after this we've got West Coast, St Kilda (who are rank but have made us look foolish twice in recent times), Richmond, Collingwood, Sydney and North in Hobart. Five wins is a rotten season, and six isn't much better, but seven somehow seems like eating a nicer tasting shit sandwich, so if we can get a minimum two out of the remaining games we can comfortably declare this a shithouse experience and get on with 2020.

If you're a draft pick wanker the good news is that we're no chance of climbing any higher than 15th. Of the sides tied on 6-9 above us, Hawthorn and Sydney are good enough to win consistently, while the Saints have reverted to type and will probably lose every game from here except the one against us. You'll miss this season when it's over. If you're immediately sent to Devil's Island when it ends.

Bradbury Plan 2019
Don't be foolish.

Final thoughts
As we know all the focus on 'improving' the quality of the game is driven by a desperation to keep Channel 7 happy in advance of broadcast negotiations. Turns out they only have themselves to blame. While good teams are keeping it tight enough to keep the total scores to levels not seen since Archduke Franz Ferdinand was alive, shit teams are blundering their way to scores well above the league average.

The solution is obvious, when choosing games for broadcast prioritise teams that play like they're drunk. Either the viewers are going to see a constant stream or ads or they'll die laughing while they wait. Channel 7, we're here for you.

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