Friday 14 February 2020

The rain it raineth every day

With rain fanging down from arsehole to breakfast across the Greater Melbourne statistical area, the prospect of an old school Western Oval style slopfest loomed large. Middle aged and worse men everywhere were nearly doing a tendon pre-writing forum posts about how awful it was to see women splashing about in such dire conditions. Sadly fans of dead-set carnage and seeing players slide for 20 metres trying to gather the loose ball, prospects of a quagmire fizzled out when the belting rain slackened off to a light drizzle by the opening bounce.

I watched said bounce on a 15 minute delay due to the youngest W member of my house running riot around the house. Asked if she wanted to watch the girls play footy she replied "no thank you", which was admirably polite but I think final proof that she won't be lured into following my disastrous obsession with the Melbourne Football Club via its women's side. The closest to interest was a run-in when Aliesha Newman was on screen to ask "why is that lady wearing a mask?" like she was some sort of Lucha Libre recruit and despite the fact that you could clearly see her face. I suppose when you've got two Irishwomen and an American on the same ground anything is possible.

Even though the Bulldogs didn't look convincing against St Kilda for the last three quarters I still thought they'd do us a mischief here. Apparently not, we had one of our easier wins in the 3.25 seasons of the competition. It took a while to get value for dominance kick away, but to say the Dogs never looked likely would be an understatement. For a side stacked with quality players they looked well off it.

Against all odds we kicked the first goal without first having seven inside 50s for 0.3 then conceding a goal on the break at the other end. And a bloody delightful goal it was too, with Newman running onto a loose ball inside 50 after a neat set up by the diamond duo of Pearce and Paxman, then throwing a handball to Emonson to whack it through from 40 metres on the run.

Don't know why any defending team wouldn't just plant somebody on the line and try to cut off kicks that don't go through at half post height but the Bulldogs defence was MIA. Ours, on the other hand, was carving their forwards up. When it wasn't Libby Burch stitching up her old teammates, who responded by trying to biff her at every opportunity, Daisy Pearce was tremendous across half back. If you were going to pick a female player to kick 30 metres for your life you'd have her, she is safe as houses. Over that distance I'd have her over a few of our male players too.

While there was no $cully style angst from Footscray fans for the return of Burch her old mates took up the mantle and spent the first half trying to batter her. At least in the rare times when the ball went into the forward line. They should have revved up the surprisingly good in the conditions live audience by playing her scathing half-time interview before the game. She basically said the Dogs were falling apart last season, she'd had enough, and how good it was to be at Melbourne. You know the sort of interview, the same one almost everyone who has left us in the last 10 years has done five minutes into their new career.

On-field Burch was the female version of everything you want Jake Lever or Steven May to be, blowing her opponent to bits in picking up touches left, right and centre. For the rest of the game after thinking that I was waiting for her to suffer the inevitable serious injury.

Speaking of ex-MFC players, for all the footage of Nathan Bourke going off his nut on the sideline and endless coverage of Robert Murphy as their runner I assume you were equally as shattered that Sam Blease is no longer an assistant at the Dogs. Between their last coach getting the arse and Bourke being appointed he briefly occupied the top job and I feel we're worse off for him no longer being involved. It's not to say he doesn't know footy or he wouldn't have been involved in the first place, but a man with a 100% strike rate of being pictured looking like he's just beamed down from another planet is just what an emerging league needs. In the unlikely event that we sack Stinear I'm going to start a petition to hire Blease.

As the Dogs went to water more opportunities followed. Hore reverted to her 2019 goalkicking form with a miss, then the kick-in went straight to Shelley Scott who missed as well. Hore had another opportunity shortly after, and while she missed the lot from 20 metres out on a slight angle it ended up working well for us. She can claim an assist as Zanker stood up mightily after a marking contest to bring the ball to ground and allow Paxman snap the second. To be fair I was not expecting this.

Now, we all love Daisy, but even if you take out the year off it would be difficult to argue against Paxman being the greatest ever Melbourne AFLW player to this point. Both have won flags galore in the state leagues but it would be criminal if we don't have at the very least a decent bash at one while they're still going around.

More important than the goals or the ongoing deification of Paxy was the revelation that former dairy farmer Shelley Scott has returned to her career as a bovine milk extractor. Which means after a year away it's finally time to bring this back, and best of luck to anyone under 40 or over 50 understanding what's going on...

Paxman's goal was given back in a classic Stynes-esque moment of rule confusion when Goldrick was caught holding the ball then looked like nobody had told her what to do next, trying to give the ball to the umpire, and having it fall on the floor because he was already midway through pinging her for a 50. She should get a grant from the AFL and Channel 7 for helping improve scoring.

I assume they had taught her this fundamental of the game and that she just forget in the heat of the moment. Let it not detract from an otherwise excellent performance. Before that, and for the rest of the game she continued to be very good. Her kicking was better than anyone with two games total experience playing the sport could be expected to deliver (albeit with significant Gaelic experience), and she was animalistic in tackling to the point where she's a 100% certainty to get suspended before the end of the season for accidentally knocking somebody out.

It shouldn't count, but technically the penalty delivered Footscray their first inside 50. Until then they'd been unable to breach our defensive wall, and the gift goal didn't encourage them to start. After the frantic start we settled down as well, though Newman had a shot for a miracle goal from the pocket in the dying seconds and was unlikely to find a defender in the way. Good to see the Dogs taking notice of my earlier advice - in a post that had not yet been written - and getting somebody back there. It was rushed through, but let the record show clearly that from a rotten angle Newman had the ball dead on line, and if it had taken a novelty bounce and gone over the defender's head it would have been goal of the year.

The second quarter was a bit more the wet weather experience I'd been expecting, with the ball trapped in the middle of the ground, and the rare inside 50s usually falling apart when a forward was expected to mark a cake of soap over her head. In an ideal world you'd probably have taken one of the tall forwards out late and put in another small, but when we literally have two players available outside the matchday squad there's not much scope for tricky moves. We had plenty of opportunities but lacked the killer instinct in front of goal. If nothing else, all the points created a two goal lead that the Dogs looked incapable of reeling in. Still, dangerous to get complacent when you're a Melbourne supporter.

Rain began pelting down again after half-time, making it clear that one or two more goals and the game would be over. We missed a golden opportunity for the first, with an assist to wacky umpiring. Zanker was paid a free, and even though Emonson - high on life after kicking the first - played on and missed running into the open goal it was called back so Zanker could take a set shot. I assume the umpire thought that confusion over whether it was a free or not put her off, probably not his call to make. Especially at the point where she put boot to ball and risked it being a 50 if the whistle had been in the other team's favour.

Her kick had the same result as Emonson's (at least she didn't miss everything and leave us a point worse off), making it nine scoring shots to one. She missed again straight after, a quick snap from the pack wasted after another cracking run out of the midfield by Pearce. We were dominant everywhere other than the scoreboard. If we find a cannon-legged marking forward before Daisy and Paxman retire they will make her look like the female Tony Lockett.

The much-needed goal to put the game away came from an end-to-end move that ruined Kate Hore's big moment of being interviewed on Channel 7 midway through. You have to take these opportunities where you can get them, I got interviewed by Lou Richards for the Wide World of Sport in 1990 and have never been invited back since. She was mid-sentence when Casey Sherriff ran onto a long ball into space inside 50 and [insert soccer reference here]. She didn't waste her time bending down to pick the ball up in the conditions and just thumped it off the ground to extend the margin to 20. On a night where tall forwards were slim to no chance of marking overhead, finding alternative goalkickers was welcome.

Maddie Gay joined in the party straight after, taking advantage of a nervy defender falling in her back to finally sink a set shot and an unexpected thrashing was on the cards. The resulting ball-up indicated the Dogs were over it and dying it to get to three quarter time, letting us sweep straight out of the centre and into attack. Unfortunately for us, and Channel 7 who could have snuck in another ad, nothing came of it. Down the other end Burch was presumably telling her opponent, "told you so."

By reasonable community standards the game was over, now what I wanted was for Footscray to go the whole night without a score they'd earned themselves. Sadly right after expressing this opinion publicly they got their second goal. That cut the margin to 20 points, and my gender neutral MSDS kicked in. It was all a bit close for my liking. Shelley Scott should have had the reply straight away, from an arguably pox shepherding free, but continued to partially undo all her other good work with another peg legged set shot. She is excellent at getting to the ball, but in a league where goals are at a premium missing shots from inside 30 metres is death. Except in this case, when the opposition has already been throughly battered into submission. It will come back to haunt us eventually, as it has numerous times in the past.

The miss didn't matter, the clock was adequately run down (which is not hard when it never stops) and a much easier than expected victory was complete. The only downside was Ainsley Kemp joining the black death injury plague and seemingly doing her knee at the end. Via some confusion where they said she either didn't have an ACL or had one that didn't work properly anyway it looked like she's injured herself severely. One of the trainers leading her off seemed to be having a good old fashioned laugh but I assume that was just gallows humour. Shithouse news for her, maybe good for those of us who are dying to see Tex Perkins dragged off the emergency list and planted in the forward line.

Now that the good teams have been beaten we just have to avoid a fiasco against the dud sides and should be right in the finals mix. Male players, I'm not sure how much you care about this competition (and to be fair, many of them don't give a rat's arse about the AFL proper unless it impacts them directly), but if you're going to take anything from AFLW please note how opportunities are created when you knock over a pair of finals contenders to start the season.

2020 Daisy Pearce Medal Votes
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Libby Burch
3 - Daisy Pearce
2 - Shelley Scott
1 - Maddie Gay

Major apologies to Goldrick, Hore and Lampard. Lower level apologies to many others.

8 - Libby Burch, Karen Paxman
5 - Kate Hore
3 - Maddie Gay, Daisy Pearce
2 - Shelley Scott
1 - Harriet Cordner

Goal of the Day
The first one please, the set up to get it forward was delightful, Newman's hands were A+, and even though the Bulldogs players had all pushed up the ground like their team was going to kick a real goal in the first three quarters, Emonson finished it perfectly. Plenty more of that please.

Banner Watch
The Bulldogs' effort was pretty standard, only that they've given up on doing funnies now. Some would argue that they never started. Special live correspondant Jonny Foreigner (crazy name, crazy guy) got in touch to declare the Dees "squeaked" out the victory. The Dogs seem to be doing the old GWS move of using 0 instead of O, which is an additional penalty on top of the curtain.
Media Watch
No graphic required when we remind you that Jason Bennett should be exchanged for one or both of Dwayne or BT. Sorry AFLW fanatics, it's either eight games here or 22 games in the regular season so you'll just have to put up with it.

Next Week
First wind, then rain. Any chance of playing in normal conditions? Another Friday night game seemingly rules out evil heat, and we assume that the new Moorabbin won't be a sprinkler assisted slagheap, so we just might get a regulation contest unless it pisses down again. On the strength of this performance we should beat St Kilda's brains out, but if anyone's going to doing something tremendously NQR at the banana skin it's us. I don't dare try and predict team changes in AFLW but given that Cunningham is two weeks with zero goals time to unchain Tex and send Zanker further up the ground. Dees win, hopefully by a lot.

Final Thoughts
I'm not getting ahead of myself on finishing top two yet, but it's an encouraging start. Given that we scored 55-60 three times last year I'd like to see what we do on a day where it's dry and doesn't have gale force winds going north, south, east and west. That we've won in difficult conditions twice against good sides, and in dominating fashion here, is a credit to everyone involved. Now let's wallop some of the slurry and set ourselves up for a decent crack at this competition.

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