Sunday 28 July 2019

You'll never walk again

For about five minutes on Saturday night we were on the verge of saving football from itself. Leading Australian rules theorists Gil McLachlan and Steve Hocking were in attendance, but not even those serial seekers of change could argue against the entertainment value of our first three goals. Before the Saints had gone forward once we'd launched a series of lightning strikes reminiscent of early German victories during the invasion of Russia. Like that campaign we didn't put the opposition away, leaving them time to regroup, turn it into a war of attrition and send us home in tatters.

By the end I was ready to wave the white flag and let the AFL do whatever they like with the rules. If they can find a way to make a game between two sides this bad look like the 1989 Grand Final I will nominate them jointly for Australian of the Year. Maybe if it turned into an AFLX style pinball wankfest where every game ended 152-146 we'd fall arse backwards into success. It would be hollow to finally win once the game was entirely stripped of its essence but as I enter the stage of my life where I'm patiently waiting for my first heart attack quantity is becoming more important than quality.

Considering the game took place under a roof and with every natural element that might affect skills removed it had an argument for the worst spectacle I've ever seen. The theory that there aren't enough good players to go across 18 teams got a huge boost. Except that we were no good when there were 12, 15, 16 or 17 teams either. However, between the introduction of West Coast/Brisbane and Adelaide we made finals every year, so 14 could be the magic number. It's just a matter of not being one of the four clubs to get the arse to make that happen.

Speaking of 14, that was how many more points the sides put on above the season average, thus making the the game a better value contest for selling ads than one between good teams that finishes with both sides in the 60s. I wonder if that compensate for people turning off in droves after seeing 19 consecutive turnovers.

When multi-billion TV rights deals are successfully renegotiated, let the record show we facilitated two more airings of that QLED ad. You know the one, where the guy supporting Generic Blue Team does the worst fake supporting since John Howard greeted a penalty in the 2006 World Cup by leaping to his feet like he'd just seen a 30 yard piledriver into the top corner of the net. I'm pleased we can provide joy to long suffering TV executives, because after nearly five months of trying not to drop my bundle I'm feeling violated.

After half seriously challenging the mid-table Bulldogs and premiership contender Eagles this was the decider for me. Either we built on the positives from those performances or we gifted victory to a team we were perceived to have rocketed past at the end of last year. It was the latter. Not without a fight, but a pretty low grade one. Like those videos where cruel people pay a couple of winos to throw haymakers at each other in a parking lot.

It was obviously too much to ask for when our forward line includes a 300 game player running down the clock and a converted defender out of necessity but I had this sick fantasy about running riot and kicking a (relatively) massive score. This was based on nothing except blind hope. Like waking up one morning after months marooned on a desert island and thinking "today is definitely the day I'm going to be rescued". At the end of the day you're still sitting there on your own talking to a volleyball.

Nevertheless, even if a big win was beyond us I still thought we'd something worth leaving the house for. I didn't even get to fulfil my fantasy of seeing Braydon Preuss play live for the first time, and now things that were worth treasuring last year like the disco blue jumper and playing at Docklands have been discredited by their association with this contest.

Actual victory meant little but I still craved it, partly as a reaction against the tremendous success of caretaker coaches in 2019. My theory that the benefits of sacking a coach are not sustainable for more than a couple of weeks is in trouble. Maybe this is another football idea that has been poisoned by following Melbourne - Hutchison, Riley, Viney and Craig won eight games between them; Shaw, Teague and Ratten have more than that since Round 11.

Like a roulette player who is convinced a colour has to come up because it hasn't for a while I thought we'd be the ones to nuke the caretaker fairytale. Nothing personal against Brett Ratten, after his fondly remembered stint as midfield coach in 2004 I wish we'd found a way for him to replace Neale Daniher in 2007 or that Carlton unnecessarily sacked him earlier so we could have had him post-186. It could have been Shaw, Teague or Alan McConnell for all I cared, I just wanted to play spoiler.

In the end St Kilda fans went home with the horn and I was the one slinking out of the stadium with my hope for the future hanging by a thread. Literally anything could happen but I don't see how May, Melksham and McDonald (Triple M) alone propel this team back to where it finished last year. The coaches are either going to have to wrench significant improvement out of the players we've got or pull off canny recruiting moves to fill gaping holes and address the ticking time bombs. That I've got more faith in the short term future of our backline than midfield is obscene considering how last year we were practically on our knees thanking the football gods for delivering us an untold bounty in the middle of the ground.

Of course there is the school of thought that you shouldn't draw comparisons with 2018 because our month of glory that started and ended in Perth was nothing more than a middle of the road team getting on an unsustainable run before crashing back to earth. There's something to that, if you look at the losses in the second half of that year you'll see many of the hallmarks of the 2019 troubles. Throw in a raft of injuries and the rest of the league working out exactly what we were going to do from Round 1.

After this weekend I've gone off Goodwin. There was enough of a side on the park last tonight to beat the rag-tag collection of off-cuts, kids and people with none-more-MFC names like Doulton Langlands. If we'd just gone down for a lack of tall forwards I'd have almost understood, but the shambolic skills on offer, and the way we spurned an armchair ride by the best ruckman in the competition was deplorable. He can throw a couple of assistant coaches in the sea at the end of the year, but it's been more than three months since he wanted to be judged on current performance rather than blaming our troubled off-season, and under that criteria I declare it a failure.

This is not to say I want to commit ritual sacrifice and fire him on the spot. After a week of trying to patiently explain to people why we can't just shut the NT deal off without completing rooting the club's finances (see also $2.8 million going with the pokies) I can't justify paying out three years of somebody's contract just because we've had a single, nightmarish season. On the other hand, scrounging for cash to pay off the last two years could be tempting if we're at anywhere near this level of chaos in 12 months.

For now I'm not happy, but I will give him the benefit of a hard reset at the end of the season. New assistants, new recruits, a step back from the cult of contested possessions, and then let's judge a coach in his fourth year with (we hope) a trouble-free run into the pre-season.

Of course, the coach can only do so much. He can't kick the ball for them when they're hestitant, or tell players not to handball straight to their opposition inside 50. For all the piss taken out of Casey Fields as a venue to develop players, this game took place in an environment that couldn't have been more conducive to football and we had 8/22 players with disposal efficiencies of 60% or less. Consider how many were dinky one metre handballs to a teammate (whether they wanted it or not) and weep silently about how badly we played. If you saw the game you don't need the numbers to tell the story, it probably seems surprising that only eight players registered a percentage so low.

The whole thing was just dire. You can't expect much out of a Round 19 battle between also-rans and plummeters but the contest was nearly comical at times, with both teams desperately trying to give the ball to each other. One of our key issues is players trying to make the ball somebody else's responsibility but in this case we cranked that up a notch, regularly bypassing teammates and letting the Saints have the ball to see if they'd kick to one of ours in a better position.

It was like there was a gentleman's agreement to keep the scores close by any means necessary until halfway through the last quarter then may the best team win. That team was not us. With the game in the balance our fuse fizzed and we couldn't go with a team moved to knife the coach two weeks earlier because his side was not only losing but being boring as batshit in the process. Now the dead cat was bouncing like a ball off the concrete Docklands surface, showering the losers with shit as it arced over their heads.

For all the times we've been blown out of the water in a first quarter I've also seen the old kick a few goals before the other side show up then lose scenario a few times. Even then, the game that came to mind as Petracca hit a lovely corkscrew kick from a pack to make it 18-1 was (trigger warning for Jake Lever) the Bulldogs game we won from the same position last year. It came under different circumstances, mostly that we'd just spent five weeks wiping the floor with terrible sides and scoring an average of 133 a week, but same idea - one team has everything go their way for a few minutes, does well to capitalise, then falls to bits when the other side get a kick.

That day we recovered, and behind a gargantuan effort by Nifty Nev held Footscray to four goals for the rest of the match. This time a team only going slightly better than us got an opportunistic win against opposition going like a busted arse.

Whoever played Fools Gold by the Stone Roses before the bounce had the right idea. Not only was it the closest a footy ground has ever come to my all time ARIA Top 40 chart, but what more appropriate tune for an audience of fans who haven't seen a flag since well before man landed on the moon. Music to take drugs in a field to was far more appropriate than giving away Grand Final tickets in the half time quiz, which at a St Kilda/Melbourne game was about as insensitive as spraying asbestos into a cancer ward.

All three of our opening goals were attractive in their own way. First Viney banging a perfect kick to the lead of Fritsch, who couldn't maintain the level of his goalscoring heroics from last week but must not be taken out of the forward line for the rest of the year. Then Petracca running an opponent under the ball and taking advantage of it squirming out of his opponent's hands to set up Lewis, who nearly stuffed up a point blank snap by taking an hour to put the ball on his boot, before completing his hat-trick of involvement in all three by kicking his pearler off a step for 3-0. He couldn't stretch it across three quarters, but apart from Gawn who could? In an all-around distressing exhibition of the sport I was happy enough with how long he strung it out.

Things were looking up. Just like they were in the first quarter against Port (18-1), Richmond (24-13), Gold Coast (20-7), Adelaide (39-24) and Carlton (22-0). You will note that we lost the first four in that list. Conversely, of our five victories we've been behind in the first quarter against Hawthorn (15-29), Freo (13-25), Sydney (34-20), only leading Carlton, and Gold Coast who are the new University. The Stranglewank has been an insider gag for years but is there seriously something wrong with this lot that means they only focus when faced with adversity? I can only imagine how the club psychologist is going. You know when a big truck breaks down and they have to bring in an even bigger truck to rescue it? Like that.

Then St Kilda turned up and we recoiled in fear for 20 minutes. Both teams were doing a series of things Jeffrey Dahlmer would consider horrendous but the Saints were the ones (eventually) capitalising. From the total domination of the opening minutes it now looked like boys chasing slightly bigger boys trying to get a kick. The only reason their run of goals didn't stretch past three is that they're no good either. Perhaps like last week we needed to concede more before waking up. Recovering with a pair of Reverse DemonTime goals through Fritsch - courtesy of a smart handball from Petty - and Smith with a crashing park mark and a perfectly taken set shot - was welcome but created a false sense of security.

The Smith mark was a thing of beauty. What I don't understand is how for the other 99% of the game he barely got in position to jump at a ball coming inside 50. And god knows we put it down there enough. I'd love to sit with a coach and review this game to understand whether it was St Kilda's defence, where he was running to or where we were kicking. He's more than capable of playing as a forward, and should certainly stay on the list next year, but like Weideman just needs to find himself where the ball is more often. Or we need to find them. Either way the next midfield and forward coaches need to spend more time with each other over summer than their families. I'd say give the jobs to a married couple but by the time they're finished it will end in divorce court.

All the emotion poured out in the last 15 minutes, but the second quarter was arguably our worse. The midfield is the only part of our team that hasn't been decimated by injuries this year and they were squashed unrecognisably flat for half an hour. Even with that advantage, and the ball living down their end for the first few minutes St Kilda were equally slapstick and let us get the first goal. What a goal it was too, with Corey Wagner's neat finish the only thing saving the whole thing from having the Benny Hill music slapped under it.

First we saw a kick to the unnatural drugs vs unnatural hair duel of Jake Carlisle vs Jordan Lewis, and because Lewis isn't a key forward and shouldn't be asked to become at this stage of his career he ran straight into Carlisle's back. It was one of the clearest free kicks you'll ever see but consider it payback for that one Gawn was swizzed out of last week. Then Petracca did everything to shimmy and dance through a pair of defenders before deciding the third one was a bridge too far and handballed into the ground. He got another chance when a defender did a ludicrous high, looping pass to a teammate with Truck ready to pounce on him, before he turned it over to Wagner for the snap and goal that restored our 19 point lead.

Turning a clear breakaway from the centre into a shambling goal like that should have been the wake-up call that we weren't going to put the Saints away easily. Then we conceded the reply within a minute, failed to score for the rest of the quarter and somehow led by three points at half time. It's a funny old world. Some say cutting down on the impact of runners has hurt the game. I agree, if they're only allowed out there after a goal how are you supposed to drag everybody who deserves to be dragged? Mind you, we'd have needed an XL bench to remove everyone who needed dragging.

Anyone seen a promising youngster recently? It's almost three years since our last Rising Star nomination, and even Oscar McDonald has watched his career go up in smoke since. With respect to Bayley Fritsch missing eligibility by less than a month we haven't even had anyone hard done by since. There was a one-eyed move to get Charlie Spargo a start last year but like wondering who's going to win the flag that was nothing more than an attempt to stay involved in a competition that has no relevance to us.

I think we managed 15 rotations in one go during the first quarter when there was a malfunction at the junction at our bench, leading to players going on and off at a rapid rate and nobody having any idea what they were supposed to be doing. It was the same level of organisational disarray that saw Gawn arrive late for a centre bounce, fail to escape the square in time and give away a free. Later Harmes took so lining up for a set shot that he was called to play on and flubbed the kick. In some ways this is a professional sporting organisation.

Amongst a handful of players who have provided genuine excitement this year, the high octane insanity of Sam Frost has been memorable. He was in full effect here, doing his usual tribute to extreme sports by marking strongly, dashing off like a gazelle, thumping one of the most powerful handballs I've ever seen to a teammate then later dinking another one directly to the opposition, and falling over in front of goal. Relative to the number of his teammates who were dreadful he was still very good. Long live the lunacy. It will probably cost us as many goals as it saves but at least it's exciting.

The same cannot be said for Oscar McDonald. Who I feel bad for because people have been piling into him like he parks in the disabled spot, but I think after 72 games that it might be time to come to a mutual agreement that the situation isn't going to get any better. He's only 23 so it feels premature folding the cards on a career but if you're going to have zero attacking impact on a game you best be able to defend like a madman and he does not. Our other defenders make mistakes trying to take the game on and set up play, he gets the ball and waits as long as humanely possible before disposing, leaving every option up the field to be blanketed while they wait for him to get rid of it.

With one more year to play on his contract we probably should keep him just in case, but I want to be clear that I'd rather Petty go back into defence first if required. It's a shame Preuss was so bad last week because otherwise May's latest injury would have been a perfect opportunity to send Harrison back to where he's meant to be and park a gigantic bald man at full forward. I've been satisfied with Petty's forward play the last three weeks but surely that's nothing more than an enforced late season move and a potential emergency switch within games, not our long term plan to kick winning scores.

The midfield was located in time for the third quarter, which helped even though we couldn't string more than two kicks together without turning it over. St Kilda kicked 13 goals from intercept possessions, which is an indictment on everyone from our side. We were turning it over forward, back and centre and the Demon Trampoline was in full effect. Whenever we did one of our aimless, panicked kicks forward it would be turned straight over and whoomp there it was, down the other end within seconds.

When we took a relieving mark the next passage of play would either involve a hopeful long kick down the line, usually aimed at Gawn, a boundary throw-in or a shambolic turnover. Frost was the usual potent mix of good and bad, Lever rose above his Docklands PTSD to start well but kick like his ACL was still torn by the end, and Salem had a shocker. It's hard to have a barometer when you're usually rubbish, but if he's giving the ball up regularly you know we're in trouble. The more I think about it I reckon the Saints laid a perfect trap and we walked right into it blindfolded. For all the sour comments about them not being much better than us there is not even the remotest doubt in my mind that they were better prepared, wanted to win more and it would have been robbery if we'd got up.

The quarter was notable for the sudden appearance of Tim Membrey, who kicked three goals. There's a bit of Kingsley talk about him, but I can't with good faith induct somebody who's kicked five goals half a dozen times but only once against us. The good news is that the Kingsleys are open source so you're free to add him to your list.

It was starting to look grim, and maybe I wouldn't have gone off so much if we'd just died on the spot there and lost by six goals. Thanks first to James Harmes for two goals (about the only kicks he had on target), Petracca for intelligently making the most of a ground ball to soccer it through from a pack, and the combination of Jake Carlisle and an umpire - one who lightly touched Harrison Petty around the face during some jostling and the other who got overly excited and gifted us a double goal.

This was the second time Carlisle had been victimised and Saints fans were getting a bit of a persecution complex about the umpiring by this stage. Bad luck. Try playing in the Melbourne backline and discover what disappointment is really about. Of course, after that metaphorical and literal free kick we proceeded to give the goal - and the lead - back instantly. I was still calm and vowing not to get excited no matter where the result landed. That lasted about 15 minutes.

When Oliver kicked the first goal of the last we were back in front, then Harmes added another and it started to look like the big steal was on. But if you steal something worthless is it still theft? We lost and regained the lead once more before giving it away for good. It was all over when we conceded a high tackle to somebody who brought the contact on himself trying to shake himself out of a tackle (to be fair it was hard to complain about the decisions at this stage) and surrender followed shortly after.

If he weren't such a jovial man with a firm devotion to the team ethos and hopefully the 2020 captain, Max Gawn would have walked off at this point. He'd worked his guts out all night but found there wasn't 21 fully operating hearts to go around the rest of the side when it mattered. Not since Nathan Jones 2012/13 has somebody carried so many teammates atop his shoulders only to have them piss down his back

Speaking of Jones, I have grave concerns for his future. He's still contributing, but it's like when you're a kid and you realise for the first time that a beloved grandparent has passed the point of no return. One day they still seem full of life, then they slowly begin to lose it, and next thing you know they're being discovered sprawled across the living room floor in a pool of piss.

I still don't understand why we're seemingly locked into playing him behind the ball. First Vince, now Lewis - it's becoming the new MFC retirement lounge. Give the man a chance to kick goals, he's been pretty bloody good at it over the years, and the way we attack nobody will be able to tell the difference if he makes a meal of the job. He'll likely be there next year but I won't be able to stand seeing him with the football equivalent of tubes up his nose and will want to smother him with a pillow to end the suffering. There is legitimate talk that it would be good for him to join Gold Coast and help prop up their stocks for a year. Looking at it dispassionately they may be right, but I could actually cry if it happens.

Meanwhile, after he's spent the best part of a decade being the face of our shortcomings did we really need to send him on the Sunday morning misery circuit? Any other leaders who could be wheeled out to run through the old cliches and give poor Jonesy a break?
After being so keen to burst St Kilda's bubble before the game I was strangely calm when it sat at under a goal the difference midway through the quarter. By this point I was resigned to losing another thriller and realised that it wouldn't bother me. No matter what happened - kicks after the siren, time keeping fiascos, Gawn being pinched for another howling decision in the square with 0.01 left - I wasn't going to leave upset. Then we capitulated like the sad old slappers we are and I was left like this:

We had contributed to such a bottom four game that I wasn't going home with joy in my heart even if we won. It would have been a good night for the players to choose not to sing the song if it came to that. When we were still ahead was pondering if I'd ever seen a worse victory, but would have been satisfied to see us lose while fighting to the death. Instead we just rolled over and died, letting a nothing team barely operating in a forward direction (which is preferable to the way we're going) dominate us for the last five minutes.

Funny the games that set you off. As bad as we were I was quite happy to continue my propaganda campaign about the extended 2020 pre-season, but the last few minutes turned my temperature up to the point where I was ready to blow. And if that's what it takes to get a flag I will.

Usually it's when you get within a kick and lose a close one that a vein in the forehead pops and you make a cockhead of yourself in public but this was the exact opposite, The further we went behind the more I wanted to denounce everyone and throw myself down the stairs. Thank god the crowd was so spread out that the only people within hearing range were also sad, loner middle-aged male Melbourne fans so they didn't care about hearing all the big hitters being wheeled out.

The four points can piss off, it had nothing to do with that, it was seeing safe as houses and fringe players alike lay down their guns. Like Hawthorn and North Melbourne, St Kilda owned our soul for the best part of a decade, now after three wins in two seasons we've gone back to them treating us with contempt while they whirr around lower mid-table for the rest for eternity winning as many flags as us. Which is a number somewhere between -1 and 1.

At the siren the downtrodden Saints fans who'd seen seven wins since Round 1 went bananas like they'd just seen something significant. You're free to celebrate win in any way you like, but I'd have thought this was best handled with a quick fist pump, possibly staying for one round of the song (but not singing it), then going home happy to have seen a win, not blowing your lid like you've beaten anyone good.

So, now that we're a game and percentage behind Carlton with four weeks to play it's definitely a 17th placed finish. Tell me more about the TAC Cup prodigy who's going to instantly rescue us and make everything better. Or what package of riches we're going to get by trading it.

That is if we ever get the pick. You read it here first, but the stars are aligning perfectly for the AFL to give Gold Coast a priority pick at #2. Chances are they're going to lose 18 in a row to end the season, and the team directly above them is coming off a Preliminary Final. So, the argument will be that we've got a strong enough list not to be disadvantaged by going back from #2 to #3. And what are we going to do? Crack the sads with an organisation that could crush us like a bug?

What might save us is Adelaide hitting the roof about the future traded pick they've got coming from Carlton being devalued. We can only hope. Until it turns out that pick 2 is no good and pick 3 wins three Brownlows for the Crows.

In fact, fuck the draft. Let's trade the picks to Dr Phil Nietzschke and end our suffering now. What about retrospectively merging with Hawthorn? They can be called the Hawthorn Hawks, play out of Dingley, wear toilet colours and retain their existing club song. And I can break away from this disastrously addictive 30 year odyssey of waiting for the Melbourne Football Club (1859-2019) to win anything.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
--- By a tremendous distance only measurable by NASA telescope ---
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Sam Frost
--- Major struggle ---
1 - Jayden Hunt

Apologies of sorts to Viney and Petty, neither of who deserved a vote but could have got the last one in a raffle.

This is where life is unfair. If the voting system was about splitting 15 votes between as many players as deserved them, Max would have got 13 and two others one apiece. Now, his reward for playing a lone hand game is almost entirely negated by Oliver bobbing up in third. What it does is knocks out Viney, all but finish off Salem and clears out a near terminal gap to Harmes, but we're still not much closer to discovering the overall winner.

You may deduce that I think Maximum winning would be a wonderfully romantic result, but I can assure you that the integrity of this award is of the utmost importance and no electoral shenanigans will be entered into. If Oliver legitimately outpolls him by five votes from here then he'll win the award for a third time, but I will not waver from the task of assigning votes almost purely on the vibe.

No alterations in the Hilton standings, though Lockhart's dismissal to Casey was excellent news for Marty Hore, who is just hanging on. A reminder that under the current rules anyone who debuts from next week to the end of the season remains eligible to win the award next year. In 2020/2021 there will be a rule change so anyone who starts the season on four games or less is eligible. I don't think that would have altered any previous winners but I've got a whole off-season to work that out.

44 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
39 - Clayton Oliver
31 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
--- Abandon all hope ye below here ---
17 - Jack Viney
14 - Jake Melksham
13 - Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
10 - Steven May
9 - Nathan Jones
8 - Jayden Hunt
6 - Sam Frost, Jay Lockhart
5 - Bayley Fritsch
4 - Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Michael Hibberd, Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner

Matchday Experience Watch (incorporating Crowd Watch)
From the turn of the century to when they got dicked in that drawn Grand Final I had a tremendous vendetta against St Kilda based entirely on sitting next to their cheersquad in the '98 finals. I say this because I want you to know that I'm over it and hold no more ill-will against them than any of the other 17 clubs BUT the Saints put on the chintziest, cringe-inducing, community theatre level matchday program of any Victorian club bar none. I don't know what the interstate clubs are doing, but I guarantee you it has to be better than this.

I once worked with a guy who came to a brainstorm session for a 3000 person Christmas party and suggested it be held "at the Casino". He then said we should book Spiderman to make an appearance, and when met with a mystified silence asked rhetorically "wouldn't it be great if we could get Chris Judd to come?" I reckon he's gone on to run St Kilda's promotion department.

I'm not here to suggest there's anything highbrow about dickheads in overalls spinning around paint cans then trying to kick a goal, and we all remember the one week Match the Emoji disaster, but this lot are off their face. They're also desperate to relate every piece of imagery back to the suburb of St Kilda despite fleeing the joint in 1964. Ex-Junction Oval tenants Fitzroy and us have a more recent claim to shots of people drinking coffees and waves crashing on beaches. The Saints should be forced to concentrate on iconic visions of the south east suburbs such as IKEA Springvale, dogging along the foreshore and home invasions.

They've given up on piping in a mournful, funeral version of Oh When the Saints Go Marching In and expecting the fans to engage in community singing like they're at a Port Adelaide game. Instead somebody's gone on a junket to an American college football game and has come back with the idea of a marching band. Oh christ.

It could have almost worked if it was done in the spirit of New Orleans, but instead looked like some Community Cup style hipsters playing a brass version of Kool and the Gang's Celebration in front of 7500 disinterested people. They marched about 100 metres around the boundary line, stopped and disappeared. I will never EVER take any shit for having one bloke on a trumpet again.

There was also some dreadfully acted comedy sponsor spot featuring Leigh Montagna and Seb Ross who was HA! HA! lost and trying to HEE! HEE! find his way to the ground. They had to restart it once because somebody hit play too early and it was interrupted by the marching band, meaning we saw Montagna's intro a second time and could appreciate that it was so wooden you could make a table out of it. Surely that was a one off and they don't play the whole package before every home game. If not, no wonder people were angry and the coach had to cop it in the neck.

The Saints cannot be blamed for something called 'Simba Cam', which the stadium used as an excuse to highlight people holding kids who looked far too young to be at a 7.20pm bounce footy match. It was all going cutely until one bloke who was clearly in an upper deck of the stadium was shown lifting his child up and thrusting it forward to the point where one bump and junior would have been doing his Jeremy Howe impersonation on the seats below. Instead of quickly moving on and saving the child's life they lingered for about 10 horrifying seconds. We assume the kid is ok but would like the Department of Human Services to drop in and make sure. They've also subjected a kid to following St Kilda, which is about as negligent and abusive as making them go for Melbourne.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
The game's pinnacle came with Petracca's inside out slice kick off a step to go three goals to nil up. It was beautifully hit, and just the sort of goal out of nowhere that we don't see often enough. For the weekly prize he wins the trade to Port Adelaide - the new Richmond for trying in vain to find happiness with our exes - which we're going to do in three years anyway.

I also enjoyed his toe poke goal in the third quarter, another win for creating a goal out of nothing. Please do not take this as an endorsement of playing him as a deep 50 forward again. He's best suited to a half-forward flank making lightning raids on the midfield and apparently kicking set shots from 50 that he'd spray from 15.

Marty Hore still leads overall. To rest of the season is so meaningless - and we probably won't kick any goals next week - you'd have to dob one over your head from full back to get past him now.

A rare tactical misstep by the Demon Army, leaving the motivational message on the non-run through side and instead displaying some flat reference to superheroes at Marvel.

The door was open for only the second away win in the history of this competition, and though the Saints efforts are too slick and seemingly industrially produced their message nearly scanned right, and they had a nice font. Then the players gently slipped through a concealed curtain like they were exiting the shower, leaving the top 80% of the banner unaffected so it could just be velcroed back and new letters applied ready for next week. With an extra curtain penalty for dishonesty it just gets us over the line. Dees 18-1-0 for the season.

Next Week
I thought West Coast would hump us unmercifully, but we clung on long enough to make the game interesting. Richmond, on the other hand, will touch us in a very uncomfortable place without any concern for our consent. This is going to get ugly, and the 250,000 replays of Sydney Stack killing Jack Viney will have nothing on the brutality they'll have on tape afterwards.

Last time against the Tiges we put in a memorable first quarter then went "that'll do", scored 6.6.42 and slowly ebbed away to a 37 point loss. If we got to 42 points again I'd be staggered. It's going to be a massive rooting and I'm glad I can only watch on TV rather than carting my arse to the stadium and being at the mercy of jubilant Richmond fans.

I know we're not going to make bulk changes because we never do but I'm proposing them anyway. Feels rude to chuck Baker and McDonald after one game but they were both terrible, Neal-Bullen has done chuff all this season, there's no point playing Lewis in this bullshit forward role if he's not going to be there next year so pack him away until our Friday night game in Round 22, treat that as a farewell, then save him having to go to Hobart for the last game.

Yes, that's right, in what looked like a much better idea before Round 1 we've got a prime time game coming up against Sydney. It may rival Melbourne vs Freo 1999 for the lowest ratings in Friday Night Footy history. There's still time for the AFL to reschedule us out of that as part of the Round 23 fixture reveal. I'd play it on Norfolk Island at 10am on a Wednesday.

Brayshaw needs to be this week's ritual sacrifice. Some of his disposal would get you kicked out of a country league where teams win by 500 points. I don't give a rat's that he finished third in the Brownlow, we abuse umpires for every other decision they make so it's ok to admit they were wrong here too. He was pretty good last year, and for patches of this season, but that bronze medal morally belongs to Oliver or Gawn. If his woes this year are from being played out of position either play him in position or stop trying to force round peg into the square hole and do something about it.

The ins don't fill me with confidence but it's about making statements now. Of the five inclusions May is the only one that brings me any joy, and I could in fact do without Dunkley, JFK or Lockhart but I'm buggered if I know who else there is available. Would have loved to finally give Maynard a third game but he's injured, missing his last chance and heading towards an imminent delisting.

I originally had Weideman in, then he was concussed 30 seconds into the VFL game. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. At first I didn't want to rush Melksham back but he got through the Casey game so why not. What's the worst that could happen to a foot? (Mitch Clark, Jack Viney...)

In reality I'll bet you the changes are May for Oscar and we just merrily go to our graves thinking there's some way that 21/22 of the players who just served up a steaming plate of vom might retain their dignity against a side winding up for a crack at the flag. Richmond by a shitload.

IN: Melksham, Kennedy-Harris, May, Lockhart, Dunkley
OUT: Baker, Brayshaw, Lewis, McDonald, Neal-Bullen (omit)
LUCKY: The Wagnii
UNLUCKY: Hore, Maynard, Dunkley, Preuss (sob)

Meanwhile, I've been watching the Casey game while finishing this post and can somebody explain the rationale between playing Preuss as the centre bounce ruckman in a dead rubber, against opposition a foot shorter than him? We know he can tap ruck, we have no problems with him tap rucking, it's that we want forward 50 marks and goals. It's a long time since Casey recruited Fev against our wishes, it is in almost every sense now our reserves side so why are they not instructed to join in the 2020 pre-season spirit? Give Bradtke his chance to be #1 ruck against diminished opposition, put four quarters of forward development into Preuss and if we lose who gives a rats?

Was it worth it?
No, no, no, and a thousand times no.

Final thoughts
The last word belongs to this lady, whose deadpan protest isn't really directed towards Nick Hind, but at the last nine months of supporting Melbourne. And so say all of us...

1 comment:

  1. Melksham has missed most of the season yet still leads Brayshaw in the votes. That tells the story. Why does Brayshaw keep giving away free kicks so recklessly?


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