Sunday 25 August 2019

The battle of who could care less

The circle of life is complete. From five wins in a freefalling 2007 to five wins in a freefalling 2019 we're back to where we started this long, strange journey to the bottom of the ocean. But while the pain of this thwarted season will live inside us forever it can't hurt you anymore. Let's dip into the weedkiller bath of misery one last time, then roll 2019 up in a carpet and roll it into the Maribyrnong River.

Of the thousands of people who'll be happy to see the back of this year, Simon Goodwin will breathe the biggest sigh of relief. Last year he was full of Wolf of Wall Street references, this season he's looked more like Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant standing there with his joint out hanging out, crying like a baby as his life goes to bits. I lost faith in the coach during the last few weeks but am glad he now gets to thump the reset button and return next year to try and prove this year was the fluke and not 2018.

It's scant consolation, but we weren't bad for a second last placed team. Our record was certainly shithouse, but it was a step up from other classic 17th placed sides like Melbourne 2013 or Melbourne 2014. And while last week was a white flag waving surrender, there were seven games before that where we were a red-hot chance with 30 minutes to play before displaying the finishing skills of a teenager about to get his end away for the first time. It would be obscenely simplistic to say we could have won all of them, finished 12-10 and played finals, but there's something to be said for staying alive for so long in so many games despite playing in a way that almost made the two goal a week less 2014 seem exciting.

Of course, the end-of-season vibe (if not the ladder position) would be a lot different if we'd suppressed our self-destructive urges for another 90 seconds and beaten North. It wouldn't have scrubbed the stink off a dreadful year by any means but would have at least given us a positive note to end it on/sweep some of the ill-feeling under the carpet. Instead, we threw it all away yet again and lost for a 17th time this season. Why in god's name would you follow anyone else?

What a shouse season it's been, almost from the moment somebody tripped over the plug and cut off live coverage of the first pre-season game. That day I wrote:

I don't really think we're going to win the flag, but what I took out of this is that we're not going to be shit. 

Wrong. Never, EVER trust the pre-season. 24 games and nineteen losses in all competitions later it seemed appropriate to end it all (so to speak) exiled from the mainland of Australia, in an off Broadway dead rubber at ground that acted like a glorified Casey Fields, tormented one last time by a team that's been treating us with contempt for years. I feel like a real poon for imagining on fixture reveal day that this would have major finals implications.

Worse than ending another wasted year was the expectation that North would apply an exclamation mark by clobbering us. Having kicked one and 22 goals in their last two outings I was ready for more of the latter, especially in light of our limp and lifeless concession against the Swans. Even though our backline has been reasonably heroic in the circumstances I still expected the Roos to carry on the carnival atmosphere displayed against Port. It ended somewhere in the middle, they only kicked 13 and Ben Brown went from 10 last week to losing the Coleman Medal, but for our part we continued to make scoring look harder than open heart surgery, packed it when unexpectedly ahead in the last 90 seconds and lost.

To say I had low expectations for this game would be an understatement. After five hours' sleep I woke up five minutes before the first bounce and didn't even bother to get out of bed until half time.
What I saw wasn't too bad, but what a depressing comedown to be satisfied watching us cling to a side we finished well clear of last year.

Mind you, would anyone trust us to beat North no matter what circumstances the clubs were in? We snapped the famous 17 game losing streak in Round 3 last year, but haven't played them since our ever so brief glory era began a few weeks later. I'm not saying a lot has changed in nearly two full seasons, but that day 10 goals came from Bugg, Garlett and Kent combined. There was also no Hogan, Jetta, Kent, Oscar, Tyson or Josh Wagner, leaving us one short of half a new side. The only constant was Gawn being our best player.

As much as I thought we were going to get thrashed, losing by under a goal wasn't much of a surprise. It feels like my entire adult life has been losing thrillers to North. Shortly before my 18th birthday they beat us by a point and over the next 20 years have done us by one again, seven, one yet again, 10, five, four and now five again. The last three have all been at Bellerive, leaving us 0-3 at the ground with an average losing margin of 4.6 points. Add it to the pre-season game we lost by three and nobody can deny that Melbourne in Tassie = instant entertainment value, but at some stage I'd like to come home with a win.

There's not much competition, but the first and third quarters were probably amongst the best we've played all year.  The first featured disposals hitting targets all over the ground and the third delivered goals (relatively) galore. That these came when we were kicking into the wind is an indictment on a side full of Casey players who should be used to dealing with weird breezes at regional grounds. Still, not a lot was learnt about what's going to happen in 2020. Fritsch will play forward and Frost should swap salaries with Lever but otherwise it was just your standard last round dead rubber where a bad side plays with the sort of freedom they won't be allowed in Round 1.

When I say Fritsch will play forward, he'll certainly start there. Who knows how long until we jump at shadows and start shifting players around. His new status as our most dangerous forward was confirmed by a screaming contested mark right in front of goal for his first of three. Have I told you how much I love contested marks? For me they're second only to goals as the most honest stat in the game. Even better when somebody combines the two. Sadly the success of that play encouraged us to keep roosting it forward, even when Fritsch was vastly outnumbered or neither Preuss or Gawn was down there to take advantage. Suffice to say, while we did pull down more marks inside 50 than North there were no more one-on-ones at the top of the square.

A lot of things about our 2019 season are strange, but what about being in the top eight for marks inside 50 but second last in the competition for goals. We all know our inside 50s are pus, but how badly are you going when you can put the ball in somebody's hands in front of goal that many times and either kick points (us, St Kilda and Fremantle are the only teams below 50% for goalkicking this year) or get nothing at all. Inside 50s on the whole are a swizz, but last year was (in parts) a win for the brute force theory of "if you get it down there enough you'll score", this year not so much. Especially without anyone at ground level or players able to stop the ball flinging down the other end at warp speed.

Also from the world of statistics - in Round 16, 2008, Simon Buckley had 10 bounces. This year Christian Salem led our entire side with 10 and we had by some distance the least number in the competition. But who needs run when you're all in on contested possession eh? Wonder if they're regretting not having a shot at Andrew Gaff yet? Suppose it doesn't really matter how they move it if they're just going to finish the chain with a careless kick inside 50 anyway.

The surprise outbreak of precision kicking and four first quarter goals were welcome, even if you suspected the North players weren't taking the game entirely seriously. Conceding a real DemonTime special on the siren to a player that had 0.0 for the season was not. It was not the last time we'd concede in the final 90 seconds of the quarter. Not even the second last time.

When they got the first two goals of the second quarter I thought we might have lost interest and rolled over. Moves that would have seen us investigated if draft picks were on the line like Spargo in the backline suggested we had already, but he wasn't all that bad. I would rather scoop my eyeball out with a spoon than see him play there in Round 1, 2020 but it's nice to find somewhere that his 30 metre kicks can come in handy.

The expected capsize was kept at bay when we held them goalless for the rest of the term. Frost was doing an excellent job, Hibberd was more lively than he has been for 75% of the season, and Lever was doing everything right until it came time to kick and he disposed of the ball like he was battling a flesh eating virus. If his ankle needs surgery I've go no earthly idea why we were bothering to play him in a slopfest like this rather than getting on with the chopping and gouging, but who am I to question such a successful club? Maybe he doesn't need any surgery and he's just a shit kick.

Hunt started two behind Petracca in the race to be the leading goalkicker (some race...) and made it interesting with our only major for the quarter. That was as exciting at that contest got, neither man got another one and Truck held on for a win even he'd probably struggle to describe as satisfying. Petracca didn't kick any, but was very good playing further up the ground. He must do more of that next year. I'm sure somebody will cover the 22 goals.

That goal got us to half time on level terms, at which point I thought I'd better get out of bed, fire up the Megawall, and try to watch one win on it this season. It wasn't a complete waste of time, by watching the end of the game in a standing position I was able to express my displeasure physically by jumping up and down, throwing things and scaring children.

An odd third quarter followed. One, chockers with Melbourne trademarks, including randomly kicking a quick burst of goals that we couldn't replicate anywhere else, then going to sleep for five minutes and giving them all back. It was pleasant while it lasted and had a better mix of goal types than we've seen recently. Wagner burnt a defender off with speed to walk into an open goal, Jones, Maximum x2 and Melksham all kicked set shots, and Fritsch's third came from a 50 metre hoist that he probably wasn't even aiming at the goals but caught on the wind and floated through. We'll take them wherever we can at the moment.

The run of goals left us 15 points up and I foolishly started fantasise about notorious Anti Fun League figures like J**d, Lloyd and Wilson sooking about players expressing even the remotest enjoyment at winning. We didn't give them anything to work with, now they'll have to focus on Ken Hinkley doing self-conscious coaching box novelties after finishing 10th when he should have been boiling himself in oil.

Just when you thought a side full of VFL All-Stars, star players who have been disinterested for weeks, busted veterans and makeshift forwards might be onto something North kicked the last three of a surprisingly potent 11 goal term and the margin was back to a point. We were lucky to hold that, with their second DemonTime shot only scoring a point. After conceding twice at the end of quarters you'd think we'd have learnt our lesson by the last quarter wouldn't you? Nah.

North had the momentum, but courtesy of Melksham inadvertently stepping on an opponent's head we had a one man advantage and the use of the breeze. What could possibly go wrong? Funny you ask. Remember the last time we played there? Round 19, 2017, sitting a game and 6% inside the eight and needing a to firmly entrench us in the finals race. There we were, six points down against a 4-13 side and kicking to the same end where we'd piled on six goals in the second quarter. We took the lead midway through the last quarter, lost it late, then kicked two points that would have successively won and drawn the game. Still went into the last round with our finals destiny in our own hands and... well enough about that.

We've known for years that Melbourne can't play for shit against sides with a reduced bench. This year proved that we're no good in the rain either and it's been confirmed that we're also the worst side at kicking with the wind that has even breathed oxygen. We're not much chop at last quarters either, this was the fifth time since Round 9 that we've led at the last change for four losses and a total of 5.23. Across the season we've been outscored by nearly 30 goals in last quarters - worst in the league - so hooray for Darren Burgess forcing people to run up and down sand dunes but how about investing in top quality shrinks as well? We've been mental for years, even for large parts of 2018, so it's about time they tried something different and invested in psychologists, mindfulness gurus, meditation experts and astrologists.

There was a great opportunity to get the all-important first - and in our case probably last - goal of the final quarter. Preuss fulfilled fantasies I've been harbouring all season by taking a massive pack mark pretty much in front of goal, then proceeded to take the piss by hitting the post. Based on previous experience I knew that wind or no wind we weren't going to have another six goal quarter so every shot was crucial. What a waste. He had another respectable performance around the ground but is no chance of a game in Round 1 next year unless he kicks a bag in the pre-season or - god forbid - Gawn goes down. Send either Weideman or Petty to intensive summer ruckman school and they can do the same job Preuss does but provided a bigger threat in the forward line.

That was the first of seven behinds, and we proceeded to dominate the next few minutes in every aspect other than scoring before North got a goal on the break. After that we got plenty of the ball but disposed of it like Mad Monday had kicked off in the three quarter time huddle and conceded another. Even our one goal for the quarter was from one of those questionable ruck frees where neither man knows which way it's going until the umpire points. I thought his luck would run out at two set shots, but he nailed it and the gap was back to a point.

Still didn't think we were any chance of overcoming them, all day their forward line seemed far more likely to break out and kick goals. We got more scores out of nowhere than most weeks (for the first three quarters anyway) but confidence was low that we could outscore North by a point or more by the end. I hate being right. Not that we didn't have chances, with Fritsch and Melksham both missing snaps.

The misses were frustrating, but it did give us the lead with time rapidly running out, giving us the chance to put on a double-tough defensive performance and hold them out. Yeah right. Any Melbourne fan who says they thought we'd hold onto a one point lead after a day of conceding late scores is a lying swine. Sometimes you get lucky - Wingard dropping the mark or whatever the hell happened in the last minute against Gold Coast - but most of the time you can guarantee we'll do something stupid and lose in a thriller.

First there was Jones charging out of defence, signalling that he was going to hoof the ball down the line where Gawn was lurking, then changing his mind and kicking it to a North player in the middle of the ground. It was a shame, because to that point he'd played one of his better games for the season. Almost everyone had a horror turnover on the day but given the context of the game you'd slaughter a less beloved player for doing the same thing so it's only fair to point out what a tremendous cock up it was.

That was bad enough, then there's the multiple ways we cocked up their winning goal. Allow this helpful demonstration to explain:
How typically Melbourne to have four players surrounding an opponent, one who can't lock down a tackle, and three who stood there like statues waiting for him to get off a handball. Then the ball finds its way to the bloke who was goal side of the three free men. He was kind enough to leave some drama in it and have a flying shot instead of just kicking it Brown on his own at the top of the square but the result was the same.

When we entered the last 90 seconds less than a goal up I already expected to lose, so anything we got from here was a bonus. Given we'd had the advantage in centre clearances all day I was ready to win the ball then lose via an out of control fire hose style kick straight to a North defender. Instead our midfield went back into their shell at the wrong time, North bolted forward, I let out a primal howl and a point went through that confirmed for the 17th and final time this year we couldn't win.

Considering we'd chucked the game in a few seconds of madness, bursting from one to the other in a few seconds to grab a draw would have been a touch hollow. In a sick way I was still into it, thinking that if we were going to be miserable we might as well take some North fans down with us. Now we've lost I'm also upset that we didn't get the club's first ever draw in the final game of the season but at the time it was all about ruining somebody else's day.

Spite or no spite, when Frost - whose no man's land shenanigans for the Higgins goal shouldn't detract from another animal defensive performance - gathered the ball to kick-in with 45 seconds I wasn't thinking about a share of the points. My confidence was dented even further when he did the flattest torp ever and it was punted back at him by 76 year old Serbian grandmother lookalike Jared Polec. It fell short, Frost marked it in front of goal, tried to thrash another long kick that was only marginally better this time, and we somehow won the ball back at ground level.

Petracca did a lovely turn in traffic and hoofed it long to Fritsch, about the only man likely to take an overhead mark in the circumstances. He gave a good account of himself at full extension and the ball bounced out to Neal-Bullen, who dashed inside 50, opted not to try a tricky kick over the top of a defender to Melksham and went for it himself. Even though the result meant precisely FUCK ALL in the long run I still had my heart in my mouth as it landed and smacked right into the post in a way he couldn't have done deliberately in a million attempts.

ANB has been the victim of some shit for not passing to Milkshake, but imagine the anti-Bullet sentiment if he'd tried that and botched it. Not like he was kicking to a player on his own in the square, there was still a defender in the way and he probably (and rightly) though the siren was about to go so made the split second decision to take the responsibility himself. I'm not going to hold it against him, the way we've gone forward this year it's lucky he didn't run out the clock looking for a teammate with four defenders covering him. Melksham also played a part in the game-losing goal with an ill-advised spoil on Frost so I could do without the 'woe is me' hands in the air even before the ball had landed.

For failed last minute kicks at that end of the Hobart ground it didn't have the emotional impact of Billy Stretch's flying shot in 2016. I didn't know it was after the siren until it missed and threw myself from one room to another as it missed. There wasn't any need for that this time around but the poster still caused me to shriek like Ned Flanders when he saw the purple drapes. In the heat of the moment my brain didn't care that the game had no impact on anything. It probably also confused snatching a draw from behind with winning and thought coming out equal would have something to genuinely celebrate. Now I realise how stupid this would have been and am accordingly disinterested.

You couldn't have written a more appropriate way to finish our season than blowing a lead with a minute left, then having a maligned player blow a chance at redemption. The only way it could have been more apt would have been for Melksham to get the pass and have his ACL explode running into an open goal.

On the day I hated that we had victory in our hands and threw it away but 24 hours later it feels like any other dull but not totally embarrassing last round defeat. Like North 2010 or North 2014. Everything can eventually be traced back to a loss against the Roos. If there's a way to lose a game from 1-127 points we've done it against them at some point since that fateful day in 1990 when I walked into the MCG for the first time and came out after a 21 goal loss. Right then I should have known that this lifestyle wasn't going to end well.

Then Jakovich turned up, kicked 11 (against who else but North?), and my life was changed forever. Some might say for the worse, I say keep feeding me this slop until I burst.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Sam Frost

Apologies to Brayshaw, Harmes, Lewis and Stretch.

Final standings
Thanks to Max for removing any controversy by confirming a very worthy win in the Jakovich with a five vote performance. Winning the best and fairest was probably a thrill but this must be an even greater rush. Congratulations to for Clayton Oliver, now holding two wins and a second in the last three years, and to James Harmes for consecutive third place finishes.

So, after 15 years a big player has finally taken the title. Until now Cameron Bruce (2008) was the tallest at 190 centimetres. The minors were already long decided, with Salem doing most of the damage in the Seecamp early in the year before May put in a strong charge, and Hore getting home in the Hilton despite not registering a score since Round 10. The Best Finals Player will not be awarded this season.

56 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player and the Year and Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
49 - Clayton Oliver
32 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
21 - Jack Viney
19 - Bayley Fritsch, Jake Melksham, Christian Petracca
15 - Steven May
13 - Angus Brayshaw
11 - Marty Hore (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Nathan Jones
8 - Jayden Hunt
7 - Sam Frost
6 - Michael Hibberd, Jay Lockhart
4 - Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner
1 - Jordan Lewis

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It would be easy to hold ANB's flubbed shot at the end against him. Maybe if it was to win the game I would, but for a draw? Meh. Instead let us pay tribute to his lightning crumb in the first quarter. I think he's already been gifted an actual Anal Bullet for a weekly prize this year but why not have another one? Start a collection.

That leaves Marty Hore as the winner for his intervention late in the Gold Coast game. Seems like a lifetime ago since we took until the last second to beat a team that were early in an 18 game losing streak. It was no McSizzle at Subiaco, but still a memorable inclusion on an honour roll along with Salem, Jones, Watts, McDonald and Hannan.

We won and go undefeated again. Much love to the Demon Army for their commitment in following this awful organisation around the country. Someday this war's gonna end. Dees 21-1-0 for the season.

Next Week(ish)
After a year off, the AFL has reintroduced the September Exhibition Series. If I was any more excited I'd shit my shorts. To the surviving eight clubs we say...


I hope everyone has a good time and that the final is a GWS vs Stefan Martin slopfest that ruins the spectacle for Victorians.

For the once again long suffering Melbourne Football Club, it's back to the cycle that has made us such a success in the 21st century. First we delist, then we trade, then we draft. As long as this is not followed by 'and then we watch everyone go down like nine pins again' we should be able to enter the new season with hopes of a revival.

Conspiracy Corner
Dwayne Russell is to be taken about as seriously as Boris Johnson, so when he claimed a Tasmanian team was on the way in 2023 the gut feeling was that he was talking out of his firestarter. Then Caroline Wilson joined in on similar lines, and for all her sour anti-Melbourne sentiment you have to respect that she's got more leaks than a Collins Class submarine so maybe there's something to it after all. If Gil's last ditch effort to be remembered fondly is to give into pressure for a Tasmanian team I'd suggest minnow Victorian clubs should watch their backs.

The good news is there's no chance of anyone being relocated. They're already going to be managing Hobart and Launceston factions, as if they're going to want a vocal group of mainlanders complaining about things as well. The bad news is there's no way the AFL will carry an uneven number of teams for long, so that means either adding or subtracting another side. There's no way they'll split GWS and Canberra, and third sides in Adelaide or Perth are fantasy stuff, so that means by fair means or foul there will have to be a net reduction of one amongst the existing Victorian clubs.

Merging two traditional teams would create chaos, so I'm suggesting the best result for the league would be to take a financially necked Victorian side and merge them with Gold Coast (who we assume will still be dismal in a few years), instantly creating a finals contender by fusing their lists together. The question is which of us, North, St Kilda or the Bulldogs will have the financial tap turned off by the AFL and be starved into agreeing to go.

I'm instantly ruling Footscray out given that they've just been gifted $18 million dollars by the state government in the ownership of the Western Oval. Between that, the flag, the geographical territory and more government sponsored dollars for playing in Ballarat I suggest they are almost unfuckwithable.

Of the other three North would be the most financially vulnerable if their Hobart deal disappeared (and if they'd had the same decade as us they'd already be playing home games in Western Samoa), but nobody is safe. If the 'It's time' factor for Tasmania is real you wouldn't want to be the team going to the AFL with cap in hand in the next few years. In theory the MCC relationship should save us but I bet if they were offered the chance to put on more Essendon, Collingwood or Richmond games they'd go "gee, that's terrible, sorry to see you go" and wave goodbye to us. And there's nothing more naive then the idea the league can't go on without a team called Melbourne.

Also in North's favour is that they've learnt how to live with pokies, while we're about to have to fill that financial void. If the Tasmanian deal is vital to them, we'd be left like heroin addicts scrambling for change in a payphone if the Northern Territory ditched us. Now you hear that Gold Coast is 'in discussions' with the NT about adding Darwin to their recruiting zone, and how far after that's agreed do you reckon they'll be playing games there? In isolation I'd be into this, goodbye sweaty Darwin and a one-off game in Alice Springs but there's another $600,000 a year out the door. Next thing you're asking the AFL to cover a shortfall in funds, they decline, say "well it looks like you're going broke, but there is one way we can save you..." and the next thing the club is being shifted to sunny Carrara.

There's a provision in our constitution that any merger has to be voted on by members (no mention of relocations mind you), and obviously at the moment it would lose by about 99%, but after a few years of being kneecapped, briefed against to journalists and starved out until it's presented as the only way to preserve some of the club's identity it might get a better hearing. Mind you, even South Melbourne fans voted against moving to Sydney so the VFL just rescheduled all their home games there instead.

This is all tremendously far-fetched, but what I'm saying is don't take it for granted that we'll plod along as an unsuccessful, moderately supported club forever. If the 8000 new members this year meant an extra million dollars in revenue then do your bit to cover for the people who pull out. Don't withdraw your financial support out of spite, buy in at the lowest level if you must but do something. The club is bigger - and more important - than any playing list or administrators, and the last thing we need is trouble from supporters flouncing off because the footy is bad. Fight, fight, and fight again.

Next year
Appropriately Jordan Lewis was chaired off by Max Gawn and Nathan Jones, two men who have made the carrying of players into an art form. Sadly their prospects are now heading in opposite directions, the Maximum for Captain campaign is reaching critical mass while this season has seemingly sucked out all Chunk's remaining life force, leaving him looking like he'll struggle to get a regular game next year. I am very keen to be proven wrong about this.

Based on this list, here's how I'd handle our remaining of contract players.

RE-SIGN
- Chandler, Dunkley and C. Wagner (another year on rookie list)
- Frost (a must)
- Jones (I can't imagine a world without him. One year guaranteed only though)
- Lockhart (did enough)
- Stretch (always going to be a depth player but he can kick so worth hanging around)

DELIST
- Keilty (should have been given more of a go, but playing him in defence at Casey was basically the concession that he was done for).
- Kennedy Harris (handy enough as depth so I wouldn't riot if he survived for another year but just never seems settled anywhere in the side. Also I've only just discovered there's no hyphen between Kennedy and Harris. Better six years later than never)

RETIRE
- Lewis and Maynard (confirmed)
- Garlett (gave us great value for money but is shot now. Must look to the future)
- T. Smith (does alright in the AFL without excelling so I'd keep him at Casey as an option but is said to be ready to pull the pin due to injury)
- Guy Walker (shoulder shot to buggery)

So, not accounting for any unexpected player departures via trade that creates six vacancies on the senior list, which is a good number for drafting and bringing in players from elsewhere. I wouldn't be able to pick Ed Langdon out of a lineup if he robbed me in the street but he's apparently on the way. He looks like somebody who has pulled the hair back so far that it's going to cause a major injury to their forehead but I won't hold it against him. I'm told he's quick (though he only had as many bounces as Salem) but his kicking is ropey, which should see him fit in perfectly.

Now we've confirmed Fritsch is a marking mid-size forward our other pressing need is somebody to put forward pressure on. Goals are a bonus. I'd almost be ready to play somebody purely as a defensive small forward to try and set up opportunities for others, and if he gets a goal a game himself that's a bonus. Easier said than done but having somebody down there that will put the fear of god into opposition players whenever one of our inevitable useless long bombs is brought to ground would be good.

Realistically you can draft and recruit whoever you like, none of them are going to win a flag until they wise up and demand a trade to a decent side.

Final thoughts
So, that's another wasted decade. Like the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s before it, the 10s have delivered nearly bugger all. In a red-hot battle between bullshit periods it's narrowly beaten the 1970s by one finals appearance to nil. They lost by 190, we lost by 186. They won two wooden spoons, we morally should have had about three. Some of you have lived through both decades and I have the deepest sympathy for your plight.

Remember 2010? When we were an outside finals chance with three rounds left and looked like things were finally turning around. Imagine going back in time and telling yourself that we'd make precisely ONE finals series in the next nine years. Old you would vigorously shake new you's hand, say "thank you very much for saving me from years of misery" and get on with doing something worthwhile with their life.

We're all hopeful that next year will see an instant resurrection, but there won't be any solid proof of which season was a fake until late March 2020. That's six months to do any sort of mystical voodoo shit available to try and get us going again. I think we're a 5-10 side at heart, but then again I believed 2007 was an anomaly and we followed up with two wooden spoons. The difference is this time there's a hint of science behind my optimism, not just blind faith. I patiently await the truth being revealed.

So, as we wrap up season 15 (!) of Demonblog, thank you again to everyone who has indulged my shenanigans on here, Twitter, Demonwiki and elsewhere. I'd probably be writing this for my own sanity even if nobody was watching but it's heartening when people take an interest. I'll be back with the end of season 'spectacular' sometime before December 31, but in the meantime I bid you farewell.


Saturday 17 August 2019

Friday night and the gates are low



During the original #fistedforever decade I did many a terrible thing to be at Melbourne games. Left sick family members at home, declined to attend a family reunion because there was a practice game on, refused to attend both engagement and birthday parties, and walked out of work in the middle of the day to attend the post-tank Freo game in 2009. Two years after that decade was declared closed - via the Round 22, 2017 debacle - the reward for sacrifice was a long-awaited finals appearance, two of the best Friday nights of my life and the adrenaline rush of going to Perth for a Prelim. Now the arm is back in up to the elbow and the swelling of my heart 12 months ago turned out to be the prelude to it turning black.

Which is a convoluted way of admitting that I chickened out of going to the MCG last night. Adam 2007-2016 would be horrified and we'd probably end up trading blows, but life changes and so do your priorities. Back when I was a conventional Monday to Friday worker it felt different, even when I knew we'd lose by scoring at pre-World War War I levels the game on the weekend was still something to look forward to. This week I arrived feeling like I had an obligation to go just to defend a criminally low attendance figure. And I didn't even end up doing that. For shame/for sensible decision.

It wasn't going to be pretty, slogging home for an hour on Friday morning, having a few hours' sleep, then going back and forth to the MCG on a train that stops in every bloody suburb under the sun. I tried it for the Essendon game earlier in the year and the experience left me ratshit for about four days. So when the teams came out and it became clear the club wasn't taking this game seriously neither would I. All the shame of squibbing it was well out of my system by half time and I regret nothing.

Once my 12 year odyssey of being available for every game in Victoria ended it's become a lot easier to consider watching in the comfort of my own home but it would be cynical to pretend this outbreak of cowardice had nothing to do with our position on the ladder. Of course if there were finals implications I'd have been there on no sleep if that's what it took. There was a last minute crisis of conscience when I woke up after four hours' sleep and still thought I had to be there, but thankfully a test run to the supermarket in pissing rain where I operated my trolley like a drunk driver was the final straw. I bunkered down at home and, unlike our season, died with dignity.

I had major issues with selection, and it felt like you could hear a tank revving somewhere in the distance. Somewhere between the release of the weekly injury report and selection Oscar McDonald had a nervous reaction to kicking a goal by pulling up sore, Petty went with him, and Hunt was flat out turfed without even the courtesy of a fake injury. They may as well have sent it out with a button to push and listen to the sound of a tank revving.

Imagine being Declan Keilty, sitting at home knowing the AFL opportunity you battled so hard through so many games on cow paddocks is almost over but you still can't get a game even with all the other tall forwards out. In theory the wet weather would have worked against him, but he's played about 100 games on the windswept tundra of Casey Fields so I dare say he might still have been worth a go instead of fielding a NOBODY/NOBODY tall forward combo.

Concerns for Declan's feelings aside, and safe in the knowledge that Preuss is now firmly typecast as a 'break in case of Gawnmergency' ruckman, I wasn't entirely against the idea of an all small forward line. After all, it's not like playing talls has done much for us this year. I just don't understand why you'd flick Hunt, after playing him in defence last week, for a game where we could have done with a zippy player at ground level. I'm all for giving Chandler his opportunity but don't know why we also needed to play Spargo, who hasn't fired a shot this season in any competition. I'm sure Goodwin was keen to win but it also felt like he wouldn't have been too downhearted if we lost. Until we were slowly strangled in a way that made us - and by extension him - look stupid and he was left looking bereft.

The only hope of winning - if you were into that sort of thing - was that Sydney has been no good for weeks. There was a stat before the game that they were in the worst five weeks for clearances since that stat was introduced. If you're coming into this post blind and don't know what happened next you've obviously never watched Melbourne play.

Because the Swans are a generally successful operation on a bottom six gap year they looked at the weather, realised there was no point in feeding a young ruckman to Gawn and chose to go without one. Compare to the Richmond game where we sent Preuss out in conditions that were first slippery, then just plain wet to slide around like a giraffe let loose on an ice rink. It's one thing to be a team that's no good, it's another to refuse to take a competitive advantage.

Playing without a ruckman could have gone two ways. Either Gawn and any of the midfielders would do their impression of Jamar/Moloney vs Adelaide 2010 and combine for 19 clearances or Maximum could battle his heart out all night to win taps against an opponent only half interested in contesting then watch the ball swept away by Sydney players anyway. Thus it was. He'd win the tap and either his teammates were standing in four different postcodes while a Swan dashed through to grab it, or they'd know exactly where it was going and would instantly tackle a player the moment it hit his hands.

Not for the first time this year if I was Max I'd have withdrawn my labour. By the end he was on the bench looking so despondent that I wanted to send a Telecom Herofax assuring him that it wasn't his fault and point out that if he's not captain next year we should have our licence revoked.

That's how I felt about Nathan Jones in 2013. Now, after five years in the top job it is my sad duty to inform you that Chunk is starting to look even more like that beloved elderly relative who you know is about to snuff it. They had a half arsed go at my suggestion of playing him forward and he didn't get near it. Then he went back and didn't do much there either. I can't cope with seeing this and hope they spare him the trip to Tasmania so he can huddle down with his manager and consider whether the one year contract we offered is really such an insult.

Somebody else who shouldn't be on the plane to Hobart next week is Jordan Lewis. Not because of his performance, which was serviceable, but because if you're going to retire then what's the point of postponing it until some bullshit off-Broadway game instead of going out with a bang on a Friday night? Unless he doesn't think he's retiring, which would be either incredibly delusional on his behalf or negligent on ours.

Channel 7, likely already sour about being lumped with this putrid contest, would certainly have appreciated Lewis making this his last game because it would have a) given them a storyline to run into the ground and b) provided bonus viewing figures from sentimental Hawthorn fans. If he doesn't know he's going he won't like the replay, featuring the commentators talking about his impending retirement like it was a dead certainty. As of a few days ago my understanding was he was ready to pull the pin but it seems like strange timing to me.

There was even less reason for neutrals to hang around when we conceded three quick goals at the start. The first was a warning shot to our midfield, with Aliir Aliir beaten in the ruck, then starting to avenge his surprise defeat to Preuss earlier in the year by setting up a goal. He wasn't going to be tied down to mind a tall forward all night this time. Firstly because we didn't have any, and secondly because he was given license to roam hither and yon, either setting goals up or dropping back to mop up the sort of inside 50 kicks that were already lazy when we had key targets but became downright criminal without them. Bayley Fritsch must have been thrilled to be back in the forward line, he took a few contested marks last week and suddenly they're expecting him to take grabs like Tony Modra.

The next two goals came of dropped marks, spoils that went straight to a Sydney forward, and Melksham missing a snap that set off the most inaccurate night for a Melbourne forward since Shannon Byrnes (remember him?) kicked 1.5 against Gold Coast six years ago. I'm not holding it against Melksham, he might have got the majority of his goals from frees but was the only man who looked even remotely likely to get near it in the forward line until Frost's Pearl Harbour level surprise cameo in the last.

I cherish Melksham's contributions to our forward line and understand that players have to engage in furious, Shane Warne-esque spin when speaking after limp defeats, but I could have done without him pissing down my leg and telling me it was raining in this interview. Using raw inside 50 numbers as a justification that we were doing something right is an insult to the intelligence of supporters. Please subtract the number of aimless long heaves that go straight to a defender, roll over the boundary line, or leave what we have left of our forward line competing with multiple defenders at full extension and get back to me with that number. Everything else he said was fair and reasonable, but the inside 50 is the biggest myth in football and people who trade in it can't be trusted.

When Milkshake's shot rolled to the left it brought back uncomfortable, confusing memories of the same thing happening in the Prelim. Like that game we were only a goal down in the first quarter when his shot bobbled wide, and neither time would it have helped us in the long run. It's just that back then the stakes were a little bit higher than the chance to avoid finishing 17th. You'll see that number crop up a few more times before this post is over. After the final siren next week everyone who isn't being delisted, sacked or traded should have it branded on them like The Scarlet Letter so they're never allowed to forget how much of a drain this season has been. Usually I'd say write it off and start fresh again next year, but not in this case. Hire the people who mentally tormented Adelaide to constantly remind them of the number 17 wherever they go.

So, there we were 18 points down against the only team in the AFL that we've beaten by that much this season. Farewell to any lingering guilt about not going. Remember beating them at the SCG, thought the ship was righted, Preuss would kick 40 goals and things could only get better? It wasn't, he couldn't and they didn't. That was the last game I saw on TV at the old Demonblog Towers. Now I've upgraded to a house with a Channel 7 style Megawall, on which I've watched six losses out of six.

Even that win only came after spotting them a Stranglewank start, but 22 points may as well have been 222 for the joy it sparked at the time. Now, unless something BONKERS happens next Saturday in Hobart it will be our lowest winning margin in a season since winning one game by one point in 1981. In years with multiple victories you have to go all the way back to the wooden spoon year of 1978, where the best of our five was by 21 points and also came against the Swans. It prompted coach Denis Jones to celebrate by stomping on leaflets calling for him to be sacked. Presumably he didn't sign a three year extension before the season because a game later the leaflets got their way.

Just as it looked like we might do something stupid like lose by 53 there was a brief Melksham-led revival where he kicked a pair of goals. I don't know how, given that the ball was being moved towards him at a glacial pace that allowed Sydney defenders all the time they needed to block up our short forward line. The plodding ball movement explains why we launched precisely none of our goals out of defence. Then there were the kicks straight to Sydney players, handballs that missed the targets by metres, what must have been a record number of missed tackles and a lot of players who looked like they didn't fancy it.

In some ways I can't blame them for having scant interest, but in many others I can. You can waffle on about elite training standards and what goes on behind the scenes all you like, but there are about 44 hours a year when players are expected to be fully on. I don't care if they spend the week injecting heroin into their eyeball, I still expect them to show up and have a bash. This was meek surrender to an opposition that wasn't much better on paper but had spirit coming out the yin yang. Which is why they'll probably win flags in the future and (spoiler alert) we won't.

I'm used to turnovers and not being able to defend them, but what shit me more than anything else was the contrast in attitudes of players who didn't have the ball. This is not a 2019 problem, we have refused to block, shepherd or help the ball carrier in any meaningful way for years, but look at the little things Sydney players were doing to help their teammates and ask why we can't do the same. It's dishing a handball and backing into an opponent to clear space, or simply throwing your arms out to create a barrier between ball carrier and tackler. Not bloody hard but rarer than hen's teeth for us.

Instead they did exactly what they have under every other coach, buried their teammate with the handball then stood back, not far enough for a return handball into the space, but far enough that the guy with the ball is left boxed in, usually hard on the boundary line, usually ending in an ineffective kick or it going over the line. I know our obsession with contested football is on its last legs but this has nothing to do with that. The Cult of Contest is responsible for opposition players standing on their own outside a pack but it doesn't impact a player's capability for defending his teammate when they have the ball. It's every man for himself around here and I hope they send them all to another bricks-on-the-head military training camp in the off-season.

When we were holding firm at three goals to four behind at quarter time I might have been convinced that we could get it together and win if the total scores were kept low enough. Then Frost was nabbed for the lightest of contact in front of goal 30 seconds into the second term and I thought "ahh yes, I know where this is going". If I was a drinker I'd have poured a double. Of floor polish.

The most curious part of the second quarter, and with nothing else on offer perhaps the entire game, was a dispute between Clayton Oliver and Bayley Fritsch. During a goalless quarter, with another to follow, Fritsch did well in traffic to put the ball on Anal-Bullet's chest with an intelligent kick, provoking Oliver to throw his arms out like he'd been horribly wronged. Fritsch then responded with an open arm gesture that all but said "I hit a target inside 50, what else do you want?" It was strange, and as long as other clubs don't steal our airtime by disgracing themselves even more severely again this week it should get a run in the media. I'd love to know the truth but I suppose if the club does address it they'll just lie.

Somebody will accuse me of hypocrisy after I treated Steven May berating Frost in Brisbane as one of the highlights of the season but the difference is he was having a dig at something that cost us a goal, this looked to the naked eye like moaning over a situation that still ended with us having a shot. I need a different camera angle to see if there was a player on his own in front of goal that provoked the Hamburglar to go off his tits, but as far as I could tell Fritsch did everything he could to pull the ball out of a contest and connect with a target and that's good enough for me. I reckon Oliver just wanted the handball so he could have a shot. We have a lot of players who are fully up themselves. Which isn't a bad trait for footy players when things are going well, but time to reign it in a bit when you're 17th going into Round 22.

Maybe Oliver was bemoaning the decision to kick it to ANB, who converts set shots like Petracca after drinking a tin of Haymes Paint. He duly missed, but at least the bullet got a point, unlike Oliver, who had a chance to show them how to do it a few minute later and rolled a shithouse shot across the face of goal for nothing. Somewhere Bayley Fritsch was 50% laughing and 50% dying inside.

Prospects for this game were so low that even the Channel 7 CEO resigned before it went to air. By the end of the second quarter when nobody had kicked a goal for 25 minutes and ad revenues were dropping to levels 10 Peach would be ashamed of his successor had to be coaxed in off a ledge.

The game was left in a holding pattern where both sides were too inept to score goals and I thought our backline did an alright job under the circumstances. Frost, Hibberd and Lever all had their moments, though Salem looked like he'd rather be anywhere else and Hore was having flashbacks to being in the VFL. Of course when a team did finally kick a goal with eight seconds left it was not us. I was on such a high at not going to watch this abortion live that it didn't affect me. In fact the validation of my cowardice gave me a bit of a rush, like a soldier going AWOL then discovering his entire unit was wiped out in an airstrike.

Based on the second quarter you already knew where this game - don't forget, against opposition with six straight losses - was heading, but for those who stuck around after half time there were even fewer highlights per square minute. Kade Chandler did about as much with the ball as expected but should get credit (and a game next week) for a gutsy defensive effort, Fritsch made two spectacularly ill-timed attempts at mark of the year, and in the last quarter Frost turned the clock back to Round 6, 2016 when he took his escaped circus animal act to the forward line. Worth a go considering he and Lever are the last tall forwards on our list who haven't played in attack at some stage this year. Didn't end in goals but for the first time all night it created some energy inside 50.

If you like turnovers we had plenty ofto offer. Players big, small and medium were merrily gifting the ball back to the youngest side in the competition (and please do remember that next time we blame having a young team for being no good), then watching it fling back over their heads unchallenged. Sydney has so many players you've never heard of it would be a good place to hide people in the Witness Protection Program, but last night they all took a number and patiently waited their turn to pad the end of season highlights video. It was a full team Kingsley.

We haven't had a suspension since the pre-season so I don't want anybody to start now, but would a light melee have been too much to ask for? $1000 is a high price to pay to show you're still alive (ask fines record holder Nathan Jones, who is thinking about the well-being of his family and is about to complete his first season without a fine since 2011) but I'd appreciate somebody assuring us that they're still alive and feeling the burn, not just robotically going through the motions.

All the agro was provoked by triumphant Swans players rubbing it in, once after a goal, then at three quarter time as Oliver did the time-honoured move of arguing with an opponent while walking away rather than getting right into it. Poor old Channel 7 lingered hard before going to ads, hoping it would kick off. Me too, imagine one guy out of 22 thought "ahh fuck it, let's go" and ran into punch on. Instead they all just trudged off to listen to a coaches' address none of them cared to hear then came back to plod listlessly through the last quarter as well.

Seven tried to get something out of their investment by tormenting us with clips of the Geelong and Hawthorn finals. As if that's hurtful to Melbourne fans, we all know how far we've fallen, the clips only serve to remind us of better times. I'd rather have pressed red for 30 minutes of highlights from those two games than watched anything from the end of 2019. You know you follow a shit club when the "we'll always have..." moments are from Round 22, an Elimination Final and a Semi Final but Kent against the Eagles, Hannan against Geelong and Gee God Boy Wow will be remembered long after 99% of the bullshit that's been served up this year. I appreciated the reminder. Why not take time out to watch all of them again now?



(I never noticed until now that BT says, "Kick is a big kick of the ball". Bring back Dean Kick)





Enough of the good times, back to our present nightmare... Actually no let's watch those videos again.

I'm not ruling out the impact of injuries, especially with our Best 22 down to about a best 10 by this stage, but compare to our first Friday night game against Essendon, where we defended as if drunk but still scored over 100. I can understand a makeshift forward line not doing similar but the midfield - with the exception of Gawn - was so far down on where they were at earlier in the year it's not funny. As they're the only line that hasn't been ransacked by injury I have to assume they're just tired, battered and mentally frustrated.

As Sydney realised they were playing an easy touch and started to build a decent margin, the only hope for keeping neutrals watching was to constantly cut to Goodwin Under Pressure Cam, where he sat looking just like a bloke stuck in a confined area with a group of people who know they're about to be sacked. He should have told all of them - including the departing Stone Cold Craig Jennings - to have the night off and used injured players as scab labour. The Sizzle Brothers might not have experience doing [whatever assistants do on matchday] but unlike 75% of the people crammed into that box they'll be at the club next year. I think they will anyway, the way things are going they're just as likely to demand a trade to Gold Coast and join a team with a brighter future.

It was by some distance our worst performance of the season. The margin at Kardinia Park was bigger, but against far better opposition. Margin isn't everything, even the GWS game was more disappointing than that but covered up by them letting us kick meaningless last quarter goals. This was comfortably below both of them, the two Richmond games and either St Kilda defeat as the on-field low point of 2019.

If nothing else the mystical value placed on Friday night games should finally bring down the thrashing from the press that we've deserved for weeks. At last the people who have rallied around the phrase 'irrelevant' might have to try and analyse what's wrong instead of relying on cliches to explain why they haven't bothered to investigate.

If you are going to have a crack at explaining Melbourne 2019 try not to make a dickhead of yourself while you're at it.  Yesterday morning I had the misfortune of getting in the car just as old Melbourne sympathiser and latter day spouter of SHITE Mike Sheahan was potting us. For a man who spent so many years at the coalface of footy media his ludicrous theory was that we've escaped scrutiny because no journos care enough to 'help' us with scathing articles. The only reason I kept listening was in case white-coated medics invaded the studio and carried him off to a funny farm.

Maybe Simon of Jolimont should write in to Jon Ralph like he's Dr. Phil and beg for the media to give us a kicking. Alternatively, in the world of clickbait where you can write any old controversial shit, rack up a few thousand clicks and make money for your employer, somebody could sit at their desk, think, "gee, there's something weird about going from a Prelim to 17th, I'm going to do some research and write an intelligent, well thought out article everyone in the game will want to read". I'd be happy to do it under an assumed name but they might have to edit out all the dead giveaway phrases like 'fisted forever', 'farceshambles' and 'circus music'.

I expect there is still coaching, planning and preparation going into this side but either it's falling apart the moment the opposition turn up, the players can't execute what they're being asked to do, they hate each other behinds the scenes, we're carrying a bunch of lazy shits or all of the above. Other than a few key exceptions the moment the ball is bounced our players look like a bunch of anarchists doing whatever they want. Sadly this spirit of free expression is mostly expressed by handballing the shortest possible distance to a teammate or blindly kicking the ball down the ground and hoping for the best.

It's humiliating that for the third time this year we started the last quarter threatening one of our worst scores since 1980. We narrowly got away with it again, leaving the 3.16.34 against GWS in Round 21, 2014 as the most recent entry on the list. Five seasons since we scored 34 or less, there's something to celebrate. Just before you plunge a knife into the toaster. In this case we didn't even get to reduce the margin, but crucially we did kick two goals to take our tally for five. Or as the mathematically minded might like to see it, two in three quarters.

The first was a real charity job, with a Swans defender wandering backwards until he walked it through for a point and being pinged for deliberate. It was probably the right call, but as somebody who believes you should be able to freely rush behinds whenever you want (except from kick ins, thank you very much Joel Bowden for ruining it) it still made me uncomfortable seeing a team pay full price for doing it. However, as the fan of a team that hadn't kicked a goal for an hour I was more than happy to take a priority free. Maybe the Swans player was taking pity on us, like that night we were 61-0 down in the second quarter against Geelong and a defender 'accidentally' fumbled a mark on the line.

A couple of minutes later ANB converted a set shot (!), we had two in a row and the margin was back to 30. Not like Frost was going to kick six in the last quarter and engineer a famous comeback but I would have been as satisfied as possible under the circumstances if we'd kept the margin to five goals. Sadly, the only five goals on offer was our total, with no more added. One was kicked, it just didn't count. The players didn't want to be out there, Goodwin was left calling Lifeline instead of the bench, and the TV didn't even bother to cut to people doing their block in the crowd after frees because they knew nobody left could muster up enough passion to be argumentative about umpiring.

With the margin approaching 50 there was very little piss left to extract until Stretch kicked our one attractive goal of the night but lost it due to Fritsch lightly touching a defender who was about to jump into the post of his own accord. That was bad enough until Sydney sprung off the Demon Trampoline to walk into an open goal at the other end 20 seconds later. The bladder was now officially empty. Oliver was beaten to a shot after the siren by about 0.1 seconds but what difference would that have made? He was about to argue that he'd marked before time ran out when he hadn't, then had a moment of self-awareness, realised it didn't matter a bit and got on with his life.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Nobody deserves votes, and any award that also has to consider Swans players (newspaper awards, coaches votes, Brownlow) will have no room for anybody on our side. For what it's worth I tend to agree - for once - with the top four as offered in the AFL.com.au report except Viney over Oliver due to better ball use. I say this because of the major impact these votes have on the overall tally. If I'm going to be dragged into controversy I'm taking the lost Healy brother Jonathan with me.

5 - Jake Melksham
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Max Gawn
1 - Michael Hibberd

Major apologies to Lewis and Lever. Next level apologies to Frost and Stretch. Special mention to Chandler for tackling like a bastard.

Leaderboard
Another battling performance against the odds leaves Maximum in the catbird seat approaching the tremendous cock up that will be our last round game. The Jakovich has a proud history of going down to the wire, with the result only decided before the final game four times in 15 seasons.

2005 - Travis Johnstone beat Russell Robertson in the last game
2006 - Brock McLean likewise jumped Cameron Bruce in the last game
2007 - Nathan Jones won his first Jako by leaping James McDonald and Brad Green in the last game. 2008 - Bruce split a tie with Green in the last round
2009 - Aaron Davey held on to beat Brent Moloney after neither got last round votes.
2010 - Green entered the last round a vote in front of James Frawley then made sure of it with a BOG
2011 - Moloney passed Sylvia in the last round.
2012-2014 - Nathan Jones smashed everyone in his path and had it won well before the end of the year
2015 - Jack Viney held off McDonald and Bernie Vince by scoring five in the last round
2016 - Jones grabs his fifth title, leaping Max Gawn courtesy of capturing votes in a putrid final round performance.
2017 - Clayton Oliver goes into the last game four ahead of Michael Hibberd then neither scores

... and last year Oliver walked it again. This time he'll need to deliver 2016 style heartbreak to Gawn if he's going to take his third title. Otherwise it's going to be the breakthrough win for a big man after years of podium finishes.

In the minors Marty Hore now cannot lose the Hilton under any circumstances. He may have to share it if Jay Lockhart returns for an improbable best on ground performance but he can do no worse. Congratulations Marty from the entire team at Demonblog.com.

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

Crowd Watch
Not that I did anything to help, but I had grave concerns that after a day of pissing rain the crowd for a match between also-rans would fall short of the last sub-20,000 Friday night crowd at the MCG. By the sounds of it Sydney fans are to thank for boosting the figure to a still ordinary 23,700. There's nothing more suss than a round gate figure so feel free to treat it with scepticism. Apologies to Gary Pert for not making it 23,701, come around and paint a yellow streak down my back.

The idea that we might add another attendance record to the classic all-time lowest crowd at Docklands had me curious about how deep down rock bottom is for Friday night games at the MCG. Turns out pretty bloody far. Even we can't challenge these. If we ever do you can be sure liquidators will be visiting the next morning.
  • 6396 - North vs Brisbane 1992
  • 7611 - Fitzroy vs West Coast 1988
  • 8634 - North vs Brisbane 1989
  • 9235 - North vs Sydney 1989
  • 9377 - North vs WCE 1990
  • 9739 - North vs Sydney 1992
If I'd attended instead of being a poltroon even I wouldn't have bothered going all the way to Row MM, so this could very well have been me. Thank christ it wasn't. Instead I went to Row Fuck All, nobody took footage of me and I went to bed without any regrets.
To those who did attend, thank you for your service. It was a tremendous waste of your time but your bravery is the stuff of legend.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Good thing you can't take bets on this competition because I'm going to do something unprecedented and give the goal of the week to a non-score. It's not Stretch's fault that the umpire was fooled by minimal contact, so even though the six points were thieved I'm giving him the nod here. If you don't like it contact the Blogging Ombudsman.

For his prize Billy wins the sweet release of a delisting so he can get on with his career away from this derelict organisation. With one to play Marty Hore still the overall leader and good luck doing anything worth beating him.

We respectfully used the run-through side for the Frank Adams tribute (six flags. 6 flags. VI flags, 六 flags, ๖ flags) and saved the other side for an attempt to flog Scotch whiskey. Swans effort had a weedy font and peeling numbers. That'll do for a win. Dees 20-1-0 for the season.


Channel 7's commentary is so putrid that if you compiled an audition tape and played it for somebody who didn't know any of them it would be thrown in the bin within a minute.

We all know that BT's professionally playing a buffoon but Bruce McAvaney is like The Simpsons, sullying great memories of the 1990s with every new broadcast. Recently seen peaking to near sexual ecstasy over the progress of a horse, his catalogue of rhetorical questions is bad enough without also plummeting to the point of doing snow gags. It's like seeing a once great performer reduced to the theatre restaurant circuit.

Matthew Richardson is somebody worthwhile that has fallen in with a bad crowd so I'd rescue him if the commentary box caught fire. See also Daisy Pearce, who wanted to use her boundary riding role for good and discuss tactics but had to wait for some wanker in the box to stop talking about seagulls first. Otherwise I'll have Jason Bennett as my #1 pick, plus Hamish McLachlan and James Brayshaw if I can contractually bar them from doing Triple M style macho bullshit. No thanks to Carey, Basil, 'Darce' or Leigh Matthews, and Cameron Ling can be pushed out to sea on a raft.

And shame on the Melbourne fan who willingly participated in a cheeseboard gag with that hipster prick from the QLED 8K Lounge segment. It's already the only thing on Friday night more awkward than 'Hame' looking at the camera like "I can't believe I'm doing this" while talking to the Auskicker of the Year, and when the cheese angle was floated she should have refused to participate. What a shame if you were ejected from the 'lounge' where you're just sitting watching the game normally but with some fancy TV placed conveniently at your feet to 'watch replays' on. They should put me in the lounge, the QLED would probably end the night on 0K with a boot through it.

Next Week
The worst season since the last dismal one (and by this stage the prospect of landing Roos was even starting to take the stink off 2013) reaches its sad conclusion next Saturday afternoon. Remember when the fixture came out and I was outraged that the AFL would leave the fate of prospective finals teams hanging on last round games in Tasmania and Ballarat? Well, one out of two wasn't bad. At the time I was probably hoping that we'd have already sewn up a top eight spot and the North game wouldn't matter. That it does not, but not for the reasons originally expected.

Unless Gold Coast is going to win their last two games by about 250 points combined we can't go up or down the ladder from here, so win, lose or draw it's 17th for us. Our third time finishing next to last since there has been 18 teams in the competition, equal with the Suns. The legacy of failure clings to both organisations like poison gas. Let's merge.

Meanwhile, it's going so well for Casey that in the same week they announced an upgrade of the facilities their turf has been declared such a biohazard that the VFL game has been shifted to Frankston. A team controlled by Melbourne playing a home game in Frankston must be conflicting for the people who trade in stereotypes about us being posh. I care not for what happens and don't even know who they're playing against, I just want to make statements. Whether anyone will be listening I don't know. The 'ins' are just there to replace the 'outs', not the other way around.

Brayshaw needs a reminder that he's not immortal. It's one thing to get the ball 20 times a game but when 10 of those end in blind, stupid kicks that go straight to opposition players or nobody at all what's the point? I don't fault his endeavour in having eight tackles but there are plenty of fringe players in the side who have had as many and been chopped. If he sooks up and demands a trade then get on the phones and start selling. More likely he'll say 'thank christ' and go home to get an early start on Mad Monday. None of this will happen, the holiday camp atmosphere will see him picked next week, where he will play the same game he has 10 times this season because there are zero consequences.

Spargo should never have been in to start with, especially in some weird defensive role when he's pushed off the ball with the greatest of ease. And Salem has been half-arsing it for weeks so he can join Brayshaw in being publicly crucified. More controversially, I can't keep picking Jones. We should let him out of an interstate trip as part of his long service leave entitlements. If it was good enough for Oscar McDonald and Harrison Petty to have mystery injuries it's good enough for a future MFC Hall of Famer. It's also because I can't take seeing his career die in front of me any more this season. I want to believe he can come back strongly next year - and I'd probably sign that one year deal at 9.01am on Monday - but it's started to become genuinely tragic watching him over the last few weeks.

Coming in is Hunt, who has been ordinary recently but was still tremendously stiff to be dropped considering the state of our forward stocks. And Petty, who is presumably going to be fit again after 'pulling up sore'. May as well give Double J James Jordon his debut as well, and finally I reckon just give Gawn the day off and play him at full forward with Preuss doing the 95% rucking. This will probably backfire when Maximum bursts his knee trying to poke his foot at a loose ball in the square.

Even if it wasn't for the variable winds of Bellerive Oval I'd say we were going to lose, but with that in mind here's to us kicking 0.4 with the wind in the first quarter and going down by 67. A side that kicked one goal in a game last week is going to end the season filling their boots and it won't matter a shit. Goodwin would want to keep it tight though, otherwise there will probably be a Kickstarter to raise money for his payout.

IN: Hunt, Jordon, Petty, Preuss
OUT: Brayshaw, Salem, Spargo (omit), Jones (fake injury)
LUCKY: Dunkley, Kennedy-Harris, Lewis, Neal-Bullen, Wagner
UNLUCKY: Old no hips Maynard to complete the 1-1-1 set, Lockhart and Keilty

Final thoughts
I've entirely lost confidence in a comeback next year. Which is silly because the lineup today is nowhere near the lineup in Round 1 next year but trust has been completely eroded. Until somebody can prove otherwise I'm going to assume that we'll be shit again next year. And the year after that. And right through the 2020s. And after I die. And until an asteroid does all surviving Melbourne fans a favour by knocking the planet for six.


Sunday 11 August 2019

Longshot kicks the bucket

Maybe it's to do with the sports teams I follow but Facebook has become convinced that I'm troubled and started serving up endless ads for weighted therapy blankets. Apparently you lie beneath them and they relieve stress. We should sell them in the Demon Shop, I'd have draped one over my head at half time and pretended I was at home listening on the radio.

Obviously the football was no good (but when has it been this year?) but our bank balance suffered another dark day, with the lowest MCG crowd for Pies game since 1985. Back then people were at the end of their tether after 20 years of underachievement, this time they were voting with their disinterest on the most disappointing death spiral in recent history. For the second straight week it was only the away game goers of popular clubs that kept the crowd above 30,000 and there seemed to be about 35 Melbourne fans in the ground. Sadly for me, many of those who did turn up congregated in the Ponsford Stand, leaving me irritated by both sports and human contact.

The attendance was also affected by predictions of apocalyptic weather conditions. I don't suppose you can sue the Bureau of Meteorology for making bad predictions any more than you can sue your footy club for the cost of flying to a prelim that they lose by 11 goals but the expected carnage didn't come close to eventuating. It was certainly cold, like it has been in August for my entire life, but the predicted tornadoes and sheet lightning were absnet. In fact, the first half was largely played in bright sunshine. Try telling that to the players who must have assumed it was pissing down ice rain so hard they'd lost feeling and disposed of the ball accordingly.

It certainly had nothing on the conditions in Canberra on Friday night, where for the first time snow fell during an AFL game. Didn't that set off strugglers around the country, with their sides needing surgical repair after using the words 'Melbourne' and 'snow' to fashion an innovative gag. Like the time the Bombers banner told us to go to Mt. Buller in April it just went to prove that comedy is not some people's go. I haven't been near the snow since about 1988 but even I know you wouldn't get far trying to ski these conditions.



Were we really all alpine fanatics who cracked half a bar thinking about chairlifts this would be the sort of thing to get the blood pumping.



Or for the more adventurous...



I'm comfortable with being stereotyped as rich (sadly incorrectly in my case) but feel free to fact check your gags instead of going off like Pavlov's dog whenever snow, cheese or Range Rovers are mentioned.

Now after being wounded by two unexpectedly low attendances in a row we've got a Friday night game that seemed like big business at the start of the year but will now struggle to reach NRL crowd proportions. Hanging shit on Gary Pert is a national sport but if we turn a profit after this without having to import ecstasy from Amsterdam he'll be alright in my book. 

I note from this interview that the membership jump is being credited with putting an extra million in the bank, which might just compensate for the bath we're taking on the last three MCG games. I heard rumour (from somebody who reckons they got one) that we were handing three game memberships out to anyone who'd take them mid-season but I'll trust that the sums add up. In the same clip Pert also becomes about the eighth consecutive CEO to think he's going to get all the holdout MCC/MFC fans to buy a second membership and makes the revolutionary suggestion that we'll make money if we start winning. Which is hardly a stirring, Winston Churchill-esque call to arms.

Maybe the Anzac Eve and Queen's Birthday home games will make up for the loss of all the newcomers who thought they were signing on for success and will now flee as if from a burning building. Bless those of you who've bought a membership for the first time this year and helped clean up some of this mess but buggered if I know how what we're going to do when the pokies money is turned off. That might be where the MFC Pyramid Scheme reaches its conclusion.

Anyway, now that your boss has walked past you reading this at work and seen stock footage of somebody racking lines my work is pretty much done. You wouldn't want to talk about the actual game would you? Let's touch on it briefly.

Even though the Pies have had almost as big an injury crisis as us and have been in wobbly form for weeks there was still very little chance we were going to win. Especially with an attack consisting of Harrison Petty at full forward, Oscar McDonald at centre half-forward and nobody at small forward. The mediums were well represented by the surging Fritsch, Petracca looking excellent in the two quarters he wasn't MIA and Melksham, who started to find touch again in the second half after six quarters of struggle. Which was nice, but I bet there has never been a side that's done anything without either good talls or smalls. Despite this every bit of trade chat involves midfielders who have never kicked more than three goals in a game. We should get a priority pick and be forced to use it on somebody who can apply a basic level of forward pressure.

The strangest part of the day - until one of our last quarter goals - was going into quarter time with the only goal on the board. The Pies were moving the ball better, winning the midfield battle, and Grundy was beating Gawn but they couldn't convert a goal to save themselves and went to the break on 0.5.5. They might have missed a couple of dead set sitters - though we also had Maximum failing to make the distance from 35 metres - but a lot of the credit for not cracking under the relentless pressure went to the defence. They all had a hand in it but the general was my new (well, new in red and blue) footballing crush Steven May. He played a mighty defensive quarter and later paid for it with a serious injury. 

At the other end, you'd accuse Petracca of showing off in front of his basketball friend but he's been playing blinding first quarters then disappearing all season. Shame he missed two set shots because otherwise it was almost the best he's played this year. To be fair to him, in a sinking ship Matt Jones and Dean Terlich in the B&F top five sort of way he has been one of our best and his finishing position in the Bluey will give a hint as to whether the coaches agree. 

In the competitive race to be the best swimmer on the Titanic and win our goalkicking award, the weird return of Jayden Hunt to defence gave Truck a leg up, before each ended with one goal and left Petracca two in front with two to play. Thankfully they've both reached Chris Dawes' eye-wateringly winning tally of 20 from 2014.

The cavalier attitude to survival at the end of this long, painful season was best exemplified by Angus Brayshaw going out sans helmet, ignoring the fact that one solid blown to the bonce might destroy his lucrative sporting career. Better to be put out forever than go through two more weeks of this torture I suppose. He came to his senses and put it back on soon enough, but whether he deliberately didn't wear it or just plain forgot was a fair metaphor for our haphazard season.

While we were torching our limited chances - all from set shots - with wonky kicking, the Pies were going agonisingly close down the other end. May saved one with a desperate lunge, and Brayshaw touched another through. Unbeknown to the live audience there was a minor scandal when it looked very much like they'd reviewed the wrong piece of play. Fortunately the AFL was there to clean up any misunderstandings, throwing Fox Footy under the bus and saying they'd shown the wrong vision. Which is sort of plausible if you try hard enough to believe... Either way I've rarely seen a player so adamant that a ball came off his hand so I'm pretty sure he did touch it. Didn't help in the grand scheme of things.

These near misses contributed to the game being goalless deep into the first quarter. Before Petty's mark/free combo I was expecting Gil McLachlan and Steve Hocking to scream onto the ground in police cars and stop the match while they implemented a series of immediate rule changes. Little did I know that later on Saturday, Essendon (under a roof) and North would reach the midway point of the last quarter on one goal and the Roos wouldn't make it beyond that. Makes you feel a lot better about being a Melbourne fan doesn't it? Perhaps not.

When we got the first goal of the second quarter as well it still wasn't like we were going to win, but less than 1% of your mind must have wandered to something beginning with "if we can keep the total score under 50..." I respect our backline's courage under fire but even that was too much for them. When the animal level of pressure we'd started the game with disappeared so did the Melbourne Football Club and the Pies kicked seven in a row. It was difficult to get upset when this was exactly what I'd been expecting from the first bounce.

My gasket blew in the last 15 minutes against St Kilda, nothing short of a cataclysmic failure or serious injury can hurt me now. Every half-hearted attack and every awful turnover that fed an opposition score was just more of the same shit we've been seeing for weeks. Champion Data never responded to my query about whether we were the worst side ever at conceding goals immediately after kicking them so I doubt they'll get in touch to confirm that there's never been a worse side at defending turnovers.

If anything was going to set me off it would be registering a tremendously low score. Fritsch kept our one goal a quarter average up but we still weren't out of the woods at three quarter time. Petty and McDonald tried their guts out but they couldn't lead the line in a VFL game let alone against a genuine top eight side, even with Jordan Roughead put forward because there wasn't enough challenge for him in defence. Somehow we took twice as many marks in attack as they did, turning what must have been a recent record for us of 12/43 inside 50s into marks. Shame about the peg leg kicking and the total inability to generate goals from any source other than set shots for three and a half quarters.

Five of the marks inside 50 went to Fritsch, the equal most for the season along McSizzle Sr against Carlton (and look what happened to him). He spoiled the effect a bit by liberally spraying shots but under the circumstances I'm happier to concentrate on him looking like a serious aerial threat - also taking three contested marks - than what he did after. 

If we turn up next year with the real talls back and Fritsch is somehow demoted to being a defender again I'll crack the sads in spectacular fashion. For mine - pending any recruitment coups - he's an automatic selection alongside McDonald, Melksham and Petracca (as a mid/forward). Weideman is a likely, leaving one spot available for A. Small Forward. If we can get the ball down there effectively that's a combo that can do some damage. Enough damage to qualify for the eight I have no idea. Would also be nice to have some depth in the tank for when one/all of them fall over.

This season has had more indictments than the Supreme Court, but having to consult the list of lowest scores I've seen in person twice within 20 games is nearly the most damning. Like the GWS game we started the final term on 26, two behind the clubhouse leaders R18, 2013 and Queen's Birthday 2014. I sat through those twin abortions in the belief that it would be many a year until we scored such painfully low totals again, now after one fluke year we're right back in the shit. It's good to be alive.

We weren't likely to score less than two, but given five months ago we opened the season with last quarter nada in bright sunshine it would have been appropriate to do it again in the wintriest day of winter. Never mind, there's still time for the ultimate bookend if we kick into the wind in the last quarter in Hobart. Against a North side that just kicked 1.8.14. Even we've not done that since 1908.

Just as Brody Mihocek had four goals to our entire team's three the Pies thought that if they weren't going to have a percentage booster they may as well get to the end without further injury, offering bugger all for the last 20 minutes. For the second time at the MCG this year we capitalised on superior opposition putting their feet up to finish with a margin that looks good on the historical record but we all know should have been significantly higher. The tide turned when Petracca re-arrived after a couple of quarters off for the sort of snatch-and-grab interception and running goal that teams usually score against us. It was quite a way to kick our first non-set shot goal of the day but about two hours too late for it to matter.

The only downside from the last quarter - other than sitting through the two that came before it - was May's latest injury. If you'd told me he was going to miss the rest of the season I'd have had my house on a frustrated shirtfront, instead he capped off a Gawn-esque game of rock solid toiling for zero reward by blowing his hamstring on the landing from a spoil. Of course he did. 

Thank god the security guards had just completed their first ever lap around Row MM and departed because when he hit the ground and clutched straight at the hammy as if shot I unloaded a string of the finest curse words the English language has to offer. If my feet weren't frozen solid I'd have kicked something. The Pies fans sitting uncomfortably close would have heard every bit but didn't flinch - they must hear some remarkable things every week. He was disconsolate, and even though my hammies were intact I wasn't far behind. Depending on how bad the damage is there shouldn't be any effect on his pre-season but it still felt like the universe was sticking two fingers up at us.

Thank god then for the moment that made it all worthwhile (in a way), when Oscar McDonald broke the fourth longest goalless streak in club history, finally kicking a major in his 74th game. Nobody except the McDonald family and I care about this - though on replay I'm pleased to hear Anthony Hudson blow a comedy gasket in celebration - but it was still something to tell the grandkids you were there for. They won't give a shit but tell them anyway.

The record wait is Don Williams at 95 games, and Bernie Massey didn't get any in 99, but behind them and Harry Parkin (85/0) sat Oscar's 74. So if you consider that we were playing our 2419th game of league football it was legitimately a statistically momentous occasion. It took him 14 games longer than his brother to get one, gathering a bouncing ball that sat perfectly, fending off (!) a defender, and hooking the goal on the left. I'm such a sucker for unusual moments that as he turned to kick it I took a gigantic breath, scared that he was going to miss and never got another chance. Who said there's no place for sentiment in football? Oscar, we've had our issues but I promise to remember this moment forever even if nobody else does. 

He can thank Hunt for flubbing a sliding chest mark, the Collingwood defender for being so disinterested that he wasn't close enough to tackle him after it was dropped, and Hunt again for dinking a little kick around the corner to set it up but once he got the ball he did quite well. Unlike Sizzle Sr and Petty you can settle down on him becoming a permanent forward. The other two quickly showed natural aptitude for playing forward, while this might have been a heartwarming moment but it looked very much like a one-off special.

The last goal of our belated, low-speed comeback fell to Maximum, which was some reward after putting in his usual whole-hearted effort but lowering his colours to Grundy. We'll just have to console ourselves with having the second best ruckman in the competition. Which is better than having the 17th best everything else. 

When he marked inside 50 I had worries of a miss that would leave him open to ridicule from stupid people, and given his kick at the start I had no faith in him kicking it, but with the pressure off through it went. That cut the margin to three goals. Which was outrageous. Not half as outrageous as it would have been if Corey Wagner hadn't flubbed a chance from the square to make it an even two goals with 90 seconds left. There was zero chance of us getting those goals and enforcing a humiliating draw on the Pies but it would have made their inability to put us away even more amusing. 

Oddly, for a season where the Veil of Negativity has smothered everyone we've only lost one game by over 45 points. This doesn't mean much when you consider we had twice as many in the home and away season last year, but we did also lose five times by 10 points or less and strangely enough didn't lose one game by between 11 and 41 points. This season we've gone down 12 times in the 11-41 bracket, and in our five recent losses against four decent sides and St Kilda the margins have been 8, 13, 19, 33 and 17. That we're playing so badly and still not being blown out of the water has to be a rare glimmer of sunshine for the coaching staff. At least those who haven't already found the contents of their office in a cardboard box outside AAMI Park. 

This is the only measure that gives me hope for next year. We've conceded 12.6 more points a game than 2018 and less than four more than 2017 with a sticky tape backline that has seen its best six together for all of one game, and with supporting forward pressure a Little League team would laugh at. It's the 32 points less a week up front that's killing us. Even that's misleading considering the six weeks of glory last year when we were tonking everyone. 

Given that our 12 wins in 2017 would probably have easily got us into the finals this year (that would be right), the 92.5 points per game of that season is probably a fairer comparison - which beats the 90.6 we're conceding this year.  It doesn't have to be all about talls, that year our top goalscorers were Garlett (42) and Petracca (26). You're not going to turn back the 81 combined between McDonald, Watts, Hogan and Pedersen but it just goes to show we don't need to be reliant on McDonald and Weideman to kick 50 each to put up a decent score. Where we're going to find the small forward who gives us the Garlett numbers again I don't know but it's vital that we address that deficiency. 

We've had the fifth most inside 50s in the competition, if anybody still thinks key forwards alone is route one to success they're off chops. Tall forwards provide marks and goals, which is good but requires some degree of structure and precision to get it to them in the first place. If you're not pulling goals out of your arse via other methods you deserve to finish 17th. Let future scholars of the game study the MFC 2019 as a cautionary tale of how not to set up a forward line. If I've had to watch this season from start to finish so should they.

For the second week in a row no sane person would celebrate beating a leaky boat like us as if it was a great win but the Ponsford Pies went right off. They were probably going off the 'feels like' margin of 77 rather than the real margin of 17. Whatever floats your boat I suppose, but the media troublemakers who derive sexual pleasure from torching our players for over-celebrating would have had conniptions watching the scenes of joy following a foot off the pedal, downhill slide against lowly Melbourne. 

Given the difference between us in Round 20 and the Elimination Final (remember those?) last year I'm not entirely writing Collingwood off based on this performance, but allowing the most makeshift forward line since Troy Davis stood next to Jack Fitzpatrick to get within 17 points is a written invitation for the good teams to knock their block off in September. 

At least they'll be there, and lucky for them there's going to be more drivel in the eight since Brisbane qualified with 10 wins in '95 so they should stay alive until the second week at a minimum. It doesn't point to premiership success but better to hold a ticket in the lottery than being wedged between Carlton and Gold Coast. Meanwhile we'll just shamble through the next two weeks, complain fruitlessly on the internet when the AFL give pick 2 to the Suns and go to bed hoping to wake and discover it was all a bad dream. It isn't. The horror is real.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Steven May
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Bayley Fritsch
1 - James Harmes

Apologies to Brayshaw, Frost and Kennedy-Harris. A couple of others might have scabbed a vote in the melee but none would have been deserved.

Leaderboard
It's on again at the top, with Oliver drawing to less than a BOG behind Gawn. I would hate myself for putting an award where Gawn lost after the way he's carried the team this year but these are the breaks. In the minors Salem is already home (but my love affair with May would have kept that award interesting if he wasn't suspended or injured every five seconds), and despite being treated with all the care and respect that you'd expect from the Melbourne Football Club, Hore is hanging onto the lead in the Hilton. If Jay Lockhart scores five in the next two weeks I'll eat my hat but if I can't rule it out the award has to be kept open.

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

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
If I wasn't filled with inertia I'd have moved almost anywhere else in the ground to get away from Pies fans, but it seemed appropriate to make my viewing experience as painful as possible. None of them were offensive, it's just that when you concentrate any area with all the same team's fans any semblance of rationality goes out the window and they act like a mob. All fans are the same, why do you think I avoid my reserved seat eight times a year?

After an MCG attendant tried directing me to the non-existent Row OO I spent the first couple of quarters in the mid-doubles due to having a guest. This still only got us two rows at best of freedom from people being happy. This offered me an uninterrupted view of the character who sat on his own but took up three seats via the biggest manspread in history and kept pestering the people on either side to give him high fives after every goal. I'm no prude but I wouldn't have touched him with gloves on.

The fun started before the bounce when it was still only half full and an old bloke leant over the aisle to say sarcastically, "pretty packed up here eh?" It was for a Melbourne match. Hope he enjoys queuing to take a piss every week. He then asked us to look after his stuff while he went to wait for his spot a the whizzer in what he probably thought was a reasonable time. What a win for stereotypes, sitting in a stand full of Pies fans and asking the 1% of Melbourne fans to protect your belongings from your own people.

As we recovered to a score that wasn't bad by our standards, the most humiliating part of the day was the introduction of Dance Cam. Fitting that you'd wait for a crowd full of opposition supporters that love chintzy bullshit before rolling it out. With any luck it won't even make next week let alone 2020. Appropriately the Melbourne kids they started with the camera on had no interest and they had switch to an away supporter to get any value for the sponsor's money.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
When we were on three goals from set shots I was almost going to decline to award a nomination. When Petracca kicked his nice intercept goal on the run I thought well at least we've found one. Then something bizarre, baffling and amazing happened. As it won't affect Hore's overall lead in the I can comfortably screw Truck over and let Oscar become the second man this season with a 1 career goal/1 career nomination ratio. Drink it in:
For his weekly prize Oscar wins a bootleg t-shirt from the Caribbean Gardens market saying I SAW TOM MCDONALD KICK 5 GOALS with TOM and 5 crudely replaced by OSCAR and 1 but still showing a picture of his brother.

I thought ours was a bit optimistic in describing us as having an 'awesome list', but I loved the red V jumper look at the top, so against a Pies effort where they were pulling off over doing some good in  the community at last that's enough for me. Dees 19-1-0 for the season.

Next Week
The worst Friday night game of the 21st century is coming. Depending on what happens on the night maybe the worst ever. Given that there will be such a sparse crowd it may as well be relocated to Princes Park the only way we're going to get a start in a marquee free-to-air timeslot next year is to be involved in so many goals for or against that Channel 7 executives receive million dollar bonuses. Let me just consult the state of our forward line.... Right, so it's Fox Footy games all round then.

Sydney has almost as many unknown, ordinary players as we do so winning isn't out of the question, but I can guarantee you this will be a tremendous slopfest devoid of any storylines of interest to neutrals. Neither coach is going to be sacked (sorry anti-Goodwin fanatics), the usually thrilling Frost vs Franklin dual is off due to injury, and both teams would probably be happy to just call it off and take two points each.

The difference is Sydney have pride as an organisation while embarrassment is a lifestyle for us so they'll probably be more up for a face-saving end of season victory. However, if they wanted to roll out the full 2009 MFC style tank they could drop below both Carlton and us with a 150 point loss. Imagine the goalscorers if we were to win a game by 150 at the moment? You may as well imagine all the people sharing all the world because the two are equally likely to happen.

The big question is whether we'll top the 19,178 crowd that turned up to see Modra wreck Jamie Shanahan's 150th by kicking 10 in 1999. If it weren't for a long range forecast that suggests a decent temperature and minimal rain I'd say no chance. I likely won't be doing anything to help. A last minute change of plans might see me there but I've already mentally factored in a TV viewing and tremendous guilt whenever they hang shit on the lowly crowd. (NB: since I wrote this bit last night I have had a surprise change of heart and am now planning to attend. Idiot)

Other than Hore, who was disrespected by not being selected in this week's team to start with, the pickings in the VFL are razor thin. Due to the rare scenario of playing the Casey game after ours they got 13 MFC listed players to pick from, split into three groups:

Depth players who aren't going to have a massive impact: Lockhart, Anal-Bullet, Preuss, Spargo, Stretch, J. Wagner
Kids who aren't banging the door down: Bradtke, Bedford, Chandler, Jordon
In the exit lounge: Maynard, Keilty

I wouldn't object to a wildcard selection of one of the kids, probably Double J James Jordon just to see somebody new being whipped like a dog. Also, Corey Maynard barely qualified for a hello game let alone a farewell one but I'd love him to achieve the statistically weird record of playing one game each in three seasons.

Realistically, all the changes are going to come from the top line. After another week dominating the VFL hitouts I wish Preuss was of some use as a forward so we could use him instead of an all-backmen tall forward brigade. Maybe pick him as first ruck and plant Maximum in the forward line all night? Too radical. Too big a waste of Max when he'll be champing at the bit to bounce back after a comprehensive title fight defeat.

Of the others I know what I'm going to get from Wagner and Neal-Bullen so happy to leave them out, but would like another look at Spargo before writing off his promising 2018 as a rising tide lifting all boats. Also, Baker doesn't show in injury reports but he looked ordinary when limping off the ground so if he's out Stretch is in.

IN: Hore
OUT: May (inj)
LUCKY: Baker
UNLUCKY: Everyone who isn't in the side already

Was it worth it?
For the middle two quarters certainly not. And not really for the other two either, but if nothing else we got to hold a team goalless for a quarter and see Oscar kick a goal so that's something.

Administrative announcement
After years of sitting on a massive stack of DVDs that I've either acquired myself or have had gifted to me, I've started uploading the bastards on YouTube. A lot of it is the old rope stuff you've seen a dozen times but there are some deep cuts that have never seen the light of day before.

If you've got MFC games on disc that you want to get rid of (win, lose or draw) please get in contact via the usual channels and I'll take them off your hands. I've also got a shitload of tapes. Which wouldn't be an issue if I hadn't got rid of my VHS and recording device about two weeks before they were donated. If you're in the northern suburbs and can do a transfer job on the cheap (e.g. $0) let me know.

For now, here's the last game of 2000. (Trigger warning for Scott West) Judge for yourself if Woey deserved the votes that won him the Brownlow outright.



Spoiler - no.

Final thoughts
Roll on 2020. Not because I think it's going to be any better, just that I'll be ready for disappointment again.