Sunday, 28 June 2020

No repayment, no interest

As far as accurate predictions go, my suggestion that 3.1.COVID 19 wouldn't cause any more issues this season puts me into Lou Richards Kiss of Death territory. We didn't even make it to the next game before - once again - Essendon ruined everything.

But did they really? Nobody can work out how their player caught the big one because they're not entirely certain if he had it or not to begin with. There's no point waiting for the full story if you're a footy fan, so for a few hours we just assumed that either club or player had been tremendously negligent and that we should be handed the four points automatically.

Having no idea what Conor McKenna does in his spare time, I was comfortable waiting for more information before sending a four point invoice to AFL House. However, it would have been nice of somebody in our administration could have blown up just a little bit about the circumstances. Even if they didn't believe what they were saying I'd have loved a Bartlett, Pert or Mahoney to do a bit of flag flying about it being bullshit that a game was called off at such short notice. I wasn't looking for Jeff Kennett style stream-of-consciousness, open letters on the website that were possibly written in the middle of a stroke, just a bit of controlled jostling to let the fans know they were alive. Instead they sent an email soliciting donations. I guess we're even more firmly jammed on the AFL's tit than ever now so there's no chance of creating controversy.

Arguably Essendon should have been able to work out who McKenna had been in close contact with and DQed them (or as it turned out 'him', when they found a fringe scapegoat to put in quarantine) so the game could be played as scheduled, but alas no. A National Panasonic Cup style midweek fixture was quickly ruled out, leaving us with a date to play the Bombers at some unknown point in the future where Patient Zero (as in, he had zero Coronavirus) will inevitably have 42 touches and kick six out of defence.

In place of a game that meant as much as any of them can in this one-step-above-AFLX exhibition season, we played an intra-club game. Cue as many jokes about Melbourne being guaranteed victory as Essendon finally having a positive test. The only thing we learned from this was that Harley Bennell's maximum is currently two games in a row, forcing him to sit out this week to ensure his calf doesn't explode like a defective airbag.

Not that it mattered when he wasn't going to be picked anyway, but we assume the second week of Charlie Spargo's suspension for breaching the protocols was still served even though we didn't play a senior game. Given that he was allowed to play in the scratch match against Carlton, within the period where he might have caught the thing if he'd touched the wrong surface during his jailbreak I'm not sure they were taking the sanctions too seriously anyway.

Eventually we got to play Geelong, who lost to Carlton by about as much as we'd beaten them by, leaving nobody any the wiser about whether they're still any good. I struggled to get excited, save a brief flash of emotion when Nev got dropped, on one hand upset but on the other knowing that he's probably turned the wrong corner in the last 12 months. Other than that, the extra week off did wonders for my flagging interest in the league. While I've still technically 'watched' a few games since Carlton, none have made it out of the muted picture-in-picture box in the corner of my screen while I watched something I was legitimately interested in.

In retribution for stuffing us around for a week, the Melbourne Football Club set out to destroy football as a spectacle, standing back and letting the Cats chip the ball around for 78 minutes while standing in an orderly queue to be the man on the mark and watch it moved on to the next opponent. Not the first time it's happened, not even the first time it's happened to us, but you could hear executives desperately trying to trade next week's game in the same slot to Foxtel for any Gold Coast or Port game they could get their hands on.

That Geelong's festival of dinky kicking finally failed deep in the last quarter with the game on the line and gave us the chance to rip off an unlikely win should only be a concern for Chris Scott. It doesn't detract from the fact that we had no counter to the simplest tactic ever invented. Hopefully, lesser teams are inspired to try the same thing against us and it ends in tragedy. Knowing our luck Mr. Connection and Learnings will probably give it a go and we'll register a record number of turnovers.

I was about 40 minutes behind the live play due to my daughter's birthday party, and there were few rewards for the wait. I did everything right, pausing just before the bounce ready to go when I was free from social duties, only to be presented with a first quarter of such tedium that you may as well have been watching paint dry. Surely there isn't a neutral alive who sat through all of this unless they were paralysed or under heavy sedation. I've never been one for spectacle and whinging about the state of the game but this was so bad the AFL should have intervened at quarter time. They should have made Essendon rush to the ground so we could start playing them instead.

Mind you, the quality of play wouldn't have been as bad if we a) could create and hit targets within range of goal, or b) were in any way effective at stopping the opposition soaking up the limited time available by kicking to loose men. On the inside 50s, the bit that should be bagged up as evidence of what we've had to endure the last couple of years is when Jayden Hunt did as good a lead as you're ever going to get in modern footy and had the ball kicked to the turf a metre ahead of him. No wonder he proceeded to do bugger all for the next two quarters, I'd have given up after that too.

Geelong were not much better. The level of care and attention afforded to the game was demonstrated by somebody leaving a cone on the Southern Stand 50 metre line. If I was Christian Petracca or Clayton Oliver I'd be reading the small print on my cone-tract and trying to get to a club where my talents won't be spunked up against the wall. Seeing them in conversation before the last quarter reminded me of The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa are talking about what they're going to change their name to. Maybe go together and send for everyone else when you get there. I won't come, I'd rather sink with the Dees than win anywhere else, but some will be saved.

Equally well thought out were our attacking moves, with McSizzle completely off the boil and Fritsch butter-fingered when he did get near it. After keeping Carlton scoreless in the first quarter of our last start (and look how that nearly turned out?), and Essendon on 0.0 for a week, we went within uncomfortable range of our own score free opening term. The only upside to the day's generally terrible football was that Geelong's pissy chip kicks wasted so much of the shortened quarter that they only had time for one goal, a poor return considering our backline spent most of the first quarter playing like they'd just met.

Well, they only had one goal until Melksham gave away a pointless and stupid 50 that cost us a second late. The chances of 16 vs 16 next season were already increasing by the minute (and at this stage I've lost interest in arguing, do what you like with the rules - and why do you always have to remove players in twos, why couldn't you have 17 vs 17?) but it would have been a great opportunity to act like the game had only just started and pretend that rancid quarter never happened. Instead, ill-discipline gave away the first of multiple DemonTime goals, leaving us in a slightly deeper hole than we needed to be in. We are still patiently waiting for the Milkshake to turn up in 2020.

Otherwise, it was more of the usual - Gawn and Oliver by far our best, and the limpest looking forward line since season one of Roos. This week I need to waste some of my valuable (?) time and watch one of those 2018 games where we ruined teams to understand what the difference is. It can't just be as simple as not having Hogan or a Hogan-esque forward. For christ's sake we kicked 146, 159 and 146 in three consecutive weeks, something was going right. Then again, a month before that we got 48 and 56, so maybe everything being completely random as if being determined by a higher power with a spinning wheel is just the price of following Melbourne? We've already had 'lose a turn' twice this year, any chance of hitting JACKPOT at some point?

It felt like the margin should have been six goals but we were still alive. Not that I fancied our chances of taking advantage, I'm so used to being tormented by Geelong it's hard to fathom that we once (and once is all you'll get) toppled them in a final in front of 90,000 people. Between all the thumpings, the after the siren goal, and playing keepings off, it's no wonder we've beaten them once home and away (or in this case, just away) since the #fistedforever years began.

There's going to be a heavy focus on what an awful game this was and why it means we'll never be any good, but a quick word in support of Michael Hibberd. I wasn't sure I wanted him in the side but it was the best game he's played for ages. Also Kysaiah (never Kozzie) Pickett, who nearly did half a dozen awesome things but they all failed to come off by a slender margin. Nevermind, worth it just to get another game into him before he goes off his tits next year. We're losses to Sydney and Freo in the next three weeks away from a complete 'play the kids' system that should land Jackson an extended run too. If he wants practice clutching at kicks way too far above his head the seniors would be the best place to get it.

For all the shit I've hung on his disposal Brayshaw was also very good. All for naught but much appreciated nonetheless. It's a simplistic analysis but he looked like one of the few who knew what they were supposed to be doing, otherwise there was a lot of headless chicken panic that makes you wonder how we blundered into being so close at the end.

I'm sure it was dumb luck rather than a defined scoring end, but it was Geelong's turn to go without a goal in the second quarter. Fritsch got the first - Coleman campaign not going anywhere fast - and the best part of 16 minutes later Brayshaw added the second, leaving us with the game delicately poised at the break, and Channel 7's ratings going down like a light plane on fire.

This was more of an indictment on Geelong's premiership chances than ours. We don't have any, they have the safety of years of continued success to believe in. Good luck beating decent teams playing like this. As they say in the classics, you can't play Melbourne every week.

How did we respond to this opportunistic half time lead? Naturally by conceding a goal early in the third quarter because we didn't have anyone adequately guarding the line...

Geelong then kicked another two unanswered, while we tried gamely to impersonate a professional Australian rules football outfit. I was barely moved, there were a few abusive comments directed at the TV but I remained firmly planted on my arse the whole time. Standing up to watch used to be my thing, leading to great moments like leaping out of the room as if escaping assassination when Billy Stretch missed in Hobart (not even knowing the siren had already gone) and double fisting (so to speak) the ground and yelling "YES!" repeatedly when Sizzle kicked that miracle goal in Perth. I can't rule out getting aroused at some point before Round 17 if we blow another seven goal lead, but this was just going through the motions.

If I was one of the sensible people who walks out on TV games when things become too depressing those goals would have been my trigger point. Instead, I took advantage of the earlier party to load up a plate with cake and eat my limited feelings away. Had the same option been available in 2012 I'd probably weigh 200kg by now.

Petracca temporarily saved us with a piece of delightful crumb, before we conceded another classic Hello Melbourne goal. In a game where chances were very much at a premium, with 91 points the lowest scoring game aggregate since that Queen's Birthday when we kicked 3.10.28 and still only lost by five goals, it was a terrible one to concede.

I can't even be bothered going back to confirm my suspicions that it was Joel Smith, but with the ball loose in the forward pocket whoever it was clearly shovelled it out of the pack instead of pushing it over the line. And how did we celebrate getting away with a blatant throw that would have given them a shot from a tricky angle in the pocket? By conceding a mark at the top of the square for a certain goal. There was indeed a feeling in the air that you couldn't get anywhere:

That was bad enough, leaving us needing to pull back a three goal margin on a day where we'd kicked an average of one a quarter. It could have been worse if they'd got full value for catching L Plate defender Lockhart holding the ball in the dying seconds. Another DemonTime special was narrowly averted when the kick failed to make the distance, punched away by Max Gawn with a look on face like "why do I bother turning up?"

It meant we were still an outside chance. Despite playing like a busted arse for the last six quarters this would have left us 2-1 with a game in hand and you just never know do you? Well, if you follow Melbourne you probably do know. Even if we'd won here we'd probably have given it back against [insert shit side here] because we've been typecast as comedy figures. Expecting us to become realistic contenders is like nominating Blakey from On The Buses for an Oscar.

To be fair we weren't all that bad in the last quarter. They were down one player, a defender having blown his collarbone in a game of man vs manlier against McSizzle, but what of it? Imagine being the team that slaughtered themselves all summer to be as fit as a fiddle then saw 16 minutes of playing time slashed off every match. It was never going to be factor. What might have worked in our favour was old porcelain head Dangerfield being forced off by a collision with Hibberd at the first bounce. We only got five minutes of respite before he was back to torture us. Somewhere Jack Trengove caved his TV in, probably seriously injuring his foot.

When Hunt got an early goal via a nice finish from the boundary line you thought maybe we were a chance. At least until they carved us up from one end to the other, eventually finding old nemesis Tom Hawkins a mile free on the lead to restore the lead. At this point I thought all they needed to do was kick the ball from side to side for 10 minutes and we wouldn't get anywhere near close enough for long enough to mount a challenge.

After McDonald finally ran at the ball and marked overhead for the goal that cut the margin to single figures it was hello to the sort of good old fashioned footy fuckup that we'd have done 20 seconds in the first quarter if we'd tried to play sneaky. The kicking to-and-fro finally broke down, setting up Brayshaw to cut the margin to less than a goal with two minutes left. Still wasn't moved to rise, just shuffling forward a bit on the couch out of hope that we'd all get a good laugh at Geelong's expense for throwing away the unlosable game. Imagine the paper over the cracks if we'd won, I can just imagine press conferences and interviews featuring the word 'brave' in every other sentence when everyone in the world would have known how badly the Cats had stuffed it up.

It was not to be, but we did get some great chances to nick it. Given a leg up with a 50 that carried him out of defence, Salem didn't bother with the two men he had deep towards goal, instead kicking to the pocket, where our ratio of successful marks/goals is about 1/1,000,000. In his defence, our long kicks to the square are only slighly more likely to come off, and he must have known that if it went through for a point they'd just chip it around until time ran out. Which they did, but not before getting a decent scare.

Somehow everything came up Melbourne, temporarily anyway, and a desperate toe poke intended to get the ball as far away from goal as possible landed with Adam Tomlinson. It was written all over his face that he didn't think he could make the distance but like Salem, he would have been aware that kicking it short would have made him look as much of a goose as Viney neatly passing to a Carlton defender when that game was on the line.

I don't think any of us can hold it against him for missing from outside 50, but it should be noted that we've now had three narrow losses (I'm not sure you can call this 'heartbreaking') against the Cats in three seasons that have featured somebody trying to win the game late off their own boot. We've missed twice in regular time, they've beaten us with a kick after the siren from a defender. If I use that Hello Melbourne graphic too many times Channel 7's going to pursue me for royalties. Might be the only profit they make out of footy this year.

As unlikely as it would be that we'd win a game in these circumstances (which is what made Hunt vs Carlton last year so enjoyable), Tomlinson gave it a whole-hearted go. When the ball started to come back towards the goal I got a second wind and was ready to go full BT and fall to ground yelling "Can't believe it, can't believe it. CAN NOT BELIEVE IT." It would have been the most daring heist in this city since the Great Bookie Robbery. All's well that ends as you'd expect it to, with the ball hanging left for a point and the Cats never even remotely looking like committing a kick-in disaster.

Instead of breaking out into unnecessary celebration I just went "eh", turned the screen off and moved on with my life. Even this therapy sessions is just for the historical record, I don't need to get my anxiety out by mashing the keyboard because I don't have any. Believe me, I'd have taken the win gleefully but we got what we deserved.

As much as I'm trying to pretend this season is meaningless I'm more upset about how we lost than the actual losing. Surely the coach passed on some instruction about the chipping wankfest that wasn't followed - if not I'd be entirely off him right now. He's still not going anywhere, especially in a week where they've had to go for the old names on jumpers cash grab to try and alleviate a sliver of the deep financial shit this season will leave us in.

One of our many problems is we've splashed millions of dollars and some sweet draft picks to try and plug holes in the side but have never been able to buy leadership. I have much respect for everything Jones, Viney, Gawn etc.. have done under the crushing weight of being associated with this club but top of the administration to the bottom of the list there is nobody I'd be confident of in a crisis. Plenty of fine soldiers, nobody you'd trust to organise the evacuation of Dunkirk.

2020 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Angus Brayshaw
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Michael Hibberd
1 - Jack Viney

Apologies of varying sincerity to Petracca, Langdon, May and Pickett.

9 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
8 - Christian Petracca
6 - Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney
4 - Angus Brayshaw, Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
2 - Ed Langdon, Michael Hibberd, Christian Salem
1 - Kysaiah Pickett, Trent Rivers (JOINT LEADERS: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I lied about going back and finding a retrospective winner against West Coast. I think Pickett did a good one so I'll give it to him. Petracca gets the nomination again this week, but in three games have we kicked any really memorable goals? I don't think so. Somebody do something interesting before we all find something better to do.

If there was ever a game that BT's rambling stream of bollocks couldn't detract from this was it. On the plus side I don't mind Hamish McLachlan when he's not doing awkward interviews with primary school kids. Against the odds, not much to whinge about on this front.

Conference Corner
In English football, the conference is where you go when you're not good enough to be in the league anymore. For us it's where you learn nothing new about what went wrong, because a variation of the same tired shit is trotted out every week. I don't bother to watch the whole thing, so I'm just relying on how the MFC Twitterist chooses to paraphrase his answers but it was a smorgaboard for the snarky this afternoon.

Goodwin: Our squad hasn't played a lot together so we will continue with this group.

Which is shithouse news for Jetta and Jones, but probably the right way to go after two games of selection table slaughter.

Goodwin: This is what the season is going to be like. 

There are going to be a lot of tight games + the team's that can endure the longest will come out on top.

How about aspiring not be dragged into close games every week? You're still allowed to win a game by six goals when the quarters are four minutes shorter.

Goodwin: We had our chances inside 50 + we didn't execute our fundamentals well there.

We just weren't efficient enough.

Journalists - are you allowed to ask supplementary questions? If so next time he says this ask what was done about it when we had chances inside 50 and didn't execute our fundamentals well there 12 months ago. Can't blame en masse surgeries and injuries now.

Goodwin: For them to take 112 marks in the game is a lot.

It's too many.

We've got to defend better for longer.

See earlier comment about what we're doing to stop it. Also, I think our Twitterist is the same person that writes the 'folksy' Daniel Andrews press releases.

Goodwin: They came with a plan + they executed it.

I'm sure he said a lot more than this but the person on the buttons has obviously had enough and knows not to look at their mentions tonight anyway so they've just left this delicate lob to the net sitting there for people to hook into.

Virus Watch
Now that the bug is back and people are snatching every roll of TP they can find, this is a good time to point out that if it gets me I want my ashes kept in storage until crowds are allowed in Victoria again (about 2025 at this rate), then placed in Row MM of the Ponsford Stand and angrily booted across the aisle when we lose a thriller.

Meanwhile, I'm not into Matthew Bate-esque Corona conspiracies, but it's hard to trust the testing if they're adopting the Jayden Hunt method. I think somebody's pulling an rib on him by saying that finger length has anything to do with how far they jam the swab up your hooter.

Next Week
It's Sydney, one of the few teams with a forward line as hilariously malfunctioning as ours. Get Paul Roos back to coach both teams at the same time and see if you can engineer a nil-all draw. In a season where we've gone bonkers at the selection table every week, it seems stupid to try and play it conservatively but I want to give it one more week before teeing off and dropping everyone.

Even after that important late goal I was set on dropping McDonald, but what's the point if we're just going to play Weideman or Brown in the same role and keep punting it long to Fritsch? Fair enough if Forward Fritsch took contested grabs like Petracca but we need to put him into space more. Hopefully by picking another tall it helps spread things out a bit. Weideman, Brown, the ghost of Fred Fanning, anyone will do. Alternatively, sacrifice Truck to full forward and let him get amongst it. Just don't do the same rancid shit that ends with us kicking six goals, many of them after the game is shot.

I feel bad not lobbying for the return of Jetta or Jones, but I suppose without the VFL the only place for Lockhart to develop is in the 1s. I'd rather Hore but he's crocked, probably for the whole season, so I'll give Jay another go even if he looks way off it. On one hand, I'd like to play Jones across half-forward, on the other I know they don't really care for his contribution so what's the point? Good thing we only go interstate for a week, if they carted us off for six weeks like the Perth teams he'd probably just say thanks for your time, it's occasionally been a blast and retire on the spot.

IN: Weideman
OUT: Hunt (omit)
LUCKY: Lockhart, T. McDonald, Melksham, Rivers, Smith, vandenBerg
UNLUCKY: Bennell, Brown, Jetta, Jones

Brace for another thriller, Sydney is just the sort of bog average team that we're likely to go close to. Might win. Probably won't. The good news is there are only 17 rounds of this nonsense before we go back to being teased with respectability over summer again.

Apparently we're now going to play Richmond this week because the Queensland government won't let them into the state. Which is strange because the Melbourne Storm just went to the Sunshine Coast. Changes the same, chances of winning reduced, even against a wobbly Richmond side. That's the third time we've had a game rescheduled in five rounds, must be a record.

Next Year
Have they worked out how future traded picks are going to work yet? On one hand, it's great for North if we do really badly this year but on the other, they've got to make a decision on a potentially very high selection with a sliver of an Under 18s season to judge players on.

At this stage of an already compromised season full of weird results my gut feeling is that it should be buyer beware, and stiff shit to the Roos if they inherit our pick two and use it on somebody in an iron lung. May as well, that's probably what we'd have done with it. Of course, they'll find some absolute gem that we'd never have picked in a million years because his dad didn't work as an international yacht broker.

Final Thoughts
Not sure I've ever been less affected by a thriller. Genuine chance to win against the odds and I was mostly unmoved that we didn't. I desperately want to get into this season, and my conduct at the end of the Carlton games shows that if provoked I can still go RIGHT OFF, but it just feels like a waste of time. Not giving up though, don't have anything better to do.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Connection & Learnings, just outstanding!!!


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