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 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.

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

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.

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