Friday 21 February 2020

Friday night filth

Imagine a competition where a side called Melbourne is a big enough wheel that they get two Friday night games in a row? Against all odds here we are. By the end both Channel 7 and Foxtel were dragging the thickest possible red marker through our name and condeming us to the graveyard shift forever. A week after lighting things up in the wet, we responded by putting on a real slopfest in the dry, arguably the most disappointing performance in the three years and three weeks the women have been playing competitive games.

Back at Moorabbin for the first time since we were royally humped in a lightly attended (e.g. probably unattended) 1996 practice match against Sydney, the return to a traditional ground was celebrated by our traditional move of taking the ball straight into our forward line (via a Saints player kicking out on the full comically) and doing everything create a goal other than putting the oval ball through the middle posts. Pretty fundamental aspect of the sport as you'd probably agree, but you'd never know it from watching this.

Other than one flying shot from Goldrick for a miss all the early pressure was for nowt. Kate Hore, who was in everything and nearly our best player, got a set shot on target, but having learnt their lesson from the Bulldogs leaving the square empty last week, St Kilda sensible had their ruck in place to touch it through by the barest of margins. We were obviously the better side, but having wasted all those chances, conceded a dopy free kick in front of goal by flattening somebody having a wild ping from the pocket and gifted them the opener. Where had I seen this before? In a competition where goals are at a premium giving them away like that should be punishable by having to walk home from Casey.

A week after not even reluctantly coming to the concusion that we might win the flag came the correction that I deserved for being positive. There is no sillier thing to do as a Melbourne fan than think you're turning the corner, because you will undoubtedly be met with a fist. The lack of a functioning forward line is the Achilles' heel of this team, you can't rely on goals from random midfielders ever week.

We were in such disarry that when Hore won another free kick within range, it was wasted by Cunningham trying to get involved by taking the advantage with a wild snap that hit the post. After getting away with a similar incident earlier in the season, the umpires weren't falling for it again. I can half understand where she was coming from given Hore's set shot record, but a wild flying shot from 30 metres out was so low percentage that it was almost below zero.

If you ever wanted a quarter to explain Melbourne AFLW that was it, domination in every aspect of the game, and a huge scoring shot advantage but barely anything to show for it. You'll just need to cut out the bit at the end where we unexpectedly got a goal, Shelley Scott lobbing through a set shot from distance that evaded everyone. Kelli Underwood called her a former Dairy farmer, which means either she or Jason Bennett were wrong, and I know who I'm backing.

The second quarter was much as you'd expect with a superior side with a pox forward structure kicking into the wind. We had the ball down there enough, just no bloody idea what to do with it. At the other end St Kilda were being turned back at every opportunity by our defenders, end result near complete tedium.

Our case wasn't helped by Guerin and Goldrick coming off injured at the same time. The Irishwoman going into triage as the medical staff tried to work out whether Guerin was our fourth ACL victim of the year. When people say they want this to be more like men's footy (the standard of which they complain about every week), they didn't mean having a Melbourne list with top to bottom injuries. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and maybe this will be the encouragement we need to #releaseTex and try something different in our misfiring forward line.

We had the better of limited opportunities, but didn't look likely to score from air or ground. Then, after 11 minutes St Kilda had their first real chance and goalled. Pardon my French, but Jesus Fucking Christ. A day before the men start I shouldn't have been this frustrated watching Melbourne. Having not fired a shot in any atmospheric conditions I reckon it's time that Tegan Cunningham belts somebody again, that was clearly what made her happy. You can't blame the conditions every week, she's been poor all year, and with nobody else likely to take a mark within 20 metres we're relying heavily on generating goals from the midfield.

In three weeks Cunningham and Newman have zero goals between them, it's not going to get us far. And it's a tremendous waste of having somebody like Paxman in the midfield. Her kicking into our attack is like Al Pacino offering acting tips to the cast of Fat Pizza.

At half time the Saints were both lucky to be a point ahead and unlucky not to lead by about three goals. With two players less on the bench we'd have an unconvincing excuse for losing, but the discerning viewer would point out that we necked ourselves in the first quarter when everyone was fit. No further goals followed. At all. At one point Paxman got sick of everyone in front of her playing like they were blindfolded and tried to do it herself, but even the greatest player in the history of this club can't work miracles.

'Cringe' is an overused term, but watching our nuffy forward play slowly strangle any chance we had of winning comfortably (or at all as it turns out) was giving me the shits. When Cunningham marked and tried to steer one through only for it to drop into the square I nearly threw a computer peripheral. This was when we had 'the wind', and while it was hardly a Casey Fields hurricane special you have to ask what's going on when players can't make the distance from that far out and a light zephyr at their back.

Kicking into said wind in the last quarter didn't help, but it also wasn't strong enough to stop us if we could - god forbid - create an opportunity so close to goal that it wasn't a factor. Instead we horrifically botched a kick in the middle of the ground that led to the Saints nearly opening the quarter with a goal and were left desperately trying to extract the ball out of defence. This wasn't our worst AFLW performance (arise, Collingwood in Alice Springs when Mo Hope became the first female Kingsley) but it was the most embarassing considering what happened last week.

We barely held the lead for the first seven minutes, before conceding the exact kind of goal that I crave more than anything while watching this side. A long kick to 40 metres out on an angle, the forward throws her opponent out of the way to mark and thumps a set shot goal through from distance. Even with the breeze advantage it was a ripper of a kick. Meanwhile at the other end we can't kick set shots from 20 metres out. Retain Kate Hore, sack the rest of the forward line, give us the Tex Perkins fill-in player experience we so desperately want.

Even at five points down in the last two minutes it felt like there was more chance of peace in the Middle East than winning. Sure, somebody might have shambled one through, or even converted a set shot, but it would probably have been one of the worst win in the history of this club in any grade - Fourths, Under 19s, Reserves, Men's seniors, women's seniors and the Little League.

We never got close, one kick that landed 20 metres out and was rebounded and it was over. The Saints had executed the perfect smash and grab counter attacking victory, and we'd executed the traditional shock loss to an average side that will ultimately keep us out of the finals. After only losing to good teams last year, this was a throwback to classics like GWS in season 1, Fremantle after holding them to zero inside 50s in the first quarter AND Collingwood in season 2. That's just what this club does.

Throw the tapes and our forward strategy into a fire and move on to next week. And never, ever trust a team playing in red and blue again.

2020 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Kate Hore
3 - Elise O'Dea
2 - Maddie Gay
1 - Daisy Pearce

Apologies to Burch, Cordner, Emonson and Sherriff

It's lonely at the top, and with five to play the gap is increasing. Every chance that this is renamed the Paxman/Pearce Medal in the future.

13 - Karen Paxman
9 - Kate Hore
8 - Libby Burch
5 - Maddie Gay
4 - Daisy Pearce
3 - Elise O'Dea
2 - Shelley Scott
1 - Harriet Cordner

Goal of the Week
Thank you for your hilarious observation.

A joint Pride Week banner means a DRAW, leaving us in the unusual position of one win, two draws, no losses. Next have a Forward Pride match and let's try and turn our numerous opportunities into a decent score.

Media Watch
I was hoping for a Libby Burch style sour half time interview with Cat Phillips where she denounced us for not supporting her frisbee ambitions. Sadly she was all class, resisting the urge to throw prime time hand grenades. There was obviously no animosity because Melbourne players spent the night kicking the bloody ball at her.

Meanwhile, Kelly Underwood thought Meg Downie was Meg McDonald for the whole first half. She said it so confidently I thought Meg must been got married during the week. Later Downie got a mention, but only when getting Casey Sherriff's name wrong. Would still rather hear her than Dwayne straining his O-Ring 30 seconds into the first quarter but it was not a night for the audio scrapbook.

Next Week
Another Friday night, at the unfriendly viewing time of 5.40pm. I would very much like you to be a guest reporter. If you want to take on the challenge, please get in contact via email (demonblogger AT, Twitter (@demonblog) or just come around to my house. Otherwise I'll be providing rudimentary coverage at best.

After years of being crap, Collingwood has been half decent this year so this could go either way. If we turn up with the same forward plan as this week and again rack up a thousand inside 50s for no reward I'll gently spew up. Let's just assume we'll lose and be happy if it doesn't happen.

Final Thoughts
I'm a strong AFLW advocate but this was dreadful viewing. If we're not actively looking to recruit a cannon-legged forward like the one that got the Saints over the line then we should hand back our licence.


  1. Nice to see from an SM Hellas point of view, ex-South championship winner Caitlin Greiser score that long range bomb.

  2. Good news for your #releaseTex campaign - I can confirm she was down at Moorabbin in full MFC tracksuit with the rest of the (mostly injured) players.
    Also Libby's surname is spelt Birch (sorry to be a nitpicker but she's copped quite a few mentions the past couple of weeks!)

    1. Holy crap, awful form on my behalf. Apologies to Libby and her friends and family, will fix from here.


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