Thursday 6 August 2020

Heat melts cube

For a side that has slipped on more banana peels than the Marx Brothers, playing a 0-9 team having greatest ever on-field crisis seemed like an excellent opportunity to throw off any lingering dignity and retake our position as the AFL's Comedy Club. This had all the elements of disaster, including an uncharacteristic mid-week blast from an otherwise low-key president, and a fake stat about Matthew Nicks playing to avoid the worst start of any coach in league history.

Purists were never going to line up for it, but between Adelaide's dismal form and us waving the white flag after 30 seconds against Port the game held perverse interest for the community. A midweek game between two abysmal sides (them currently, us historically) couldn't have been scheduled any better than at a time where everyone in metropolitan Melbourne was legally required to stay home. Surprised it wasn't transferred to free-to-air TV to raise the spirits of this otherwise rooted state.

There were a few ropey moments, but by the end all the laughs were on the Crows, who went to water in an almost identical fashion to the pre-season game at Casey. That was six months ago, back when only bat connoisseurs had anything to worry about, but seems a lifetime now. For all we've been through across four states since, our fourth quarter rampage was even more savage this time. The cast of characters is vastly different though, that day Brown, McSizzle and Jones kicked three goals each. In the real stuff they've got five in 10 games between them.

It's also difficult to comprehend that Wednesday night was the first time we'd played in front of a bigger crowd than the 3015 who went to Cranbourne that day. My review was called 'What could possibly go wrong from here', and though I was referring to football it turns out the answer was 'everything'. Almost everything anyway - one thing they can't pin on us is losing to a winless team several games clear at the bottom of the ladder. So that's something.

Like the replay of 2011 with a less tragic finish that we mooted last week, a week of crisis was followed by an unexpectedly substantial win against the Crows. Back then it was the fans engaging in mass hysteria, this time the President joined in. Fair enough too, it's about time our administration cracked it about something. They can't have a go at the AFL or we'll be relocated to Okinawa, so we have to spray our own. He complained about it in the gentlest language possible so I couldn't see anything to get upset about. The claim that we don't just hand out games to anyone was incompatible with some of the sides we've sent out in the past, but that's not his fault. If we'd lost it might have become an issue, but under those circumstances he wouldn't have been able to get a word in for all the other people queuing to hang shit on the coach.

Somehow a side that has never won fewer than seven games in a season or finished below 14th (I can't even imagine it) find themselves creatively bankrupt for the first time in their lives. For mine, the start of their demise wasn't the secret service torture camp, it was when they adopted an away jumper that looked like a $5 bottle of wine (get yours for just $109.99, if you're stupid). Compare to our clash strip, which brings to mind a line rackin', supermodel shaftin' Studio 54 party atmosphere. I know which I'd rather wear.

Better fashion choices aside, there was still a high degree of danger for us. One thing in our favour was that the Adelaide Oval holds no fear. The Crows could have lost every game for two years and I'd still have been convinced they'd beat us at Football Park, but we're now 5-4 at the Oval. We'll find out for sure on Sunday, but for now Fortress Adelaide looks like the new Fortress Sydney.

Our previous record at the ground was no comfort before the bounce. I spent the day torn between the idea that we should win and the prospect of looking like clowns if we lost. My greatest fear was giving the Crows a start that let them get their confidence up. After last week's lightning surrender, the last thing we needed was to lose heart early. Our midfield came good and practically won the game for us, but when Gawn got the first tap and it was immediately pounced on by Adelaide players I thought we were in for another night of disgrace. Fortunately, the Crows are no good, and soon the ball was camped at our end. Or as 'camped' as you can be when one hurried kick after another is repelled with the greatest of ease.

Just when it looked like we were to contribute to the intercept possession world record, Luke Jackson and his un-Melbournelike outer suburban mullet floated majestically across the back of a pack for a strong mark and goal. No matter what he does with his hair, it's better than the bird's nest that Oliver is cultivating but they can both get curly 1970s perms if they play like this every week.

It might be the week where our near four year Rising Star drought breaks, but when you consider what a nomination did to some of our best and brightest perhaps it's better if he putts away quietly in the background without anyone noticing. I liked his performance last week, I loved it this time. He didn't string it across four quarters but who cares? We're not used to efficiency but got great value for his five touches and Weideman's seven, not to mention both doing some lovely off the ball stuff that don't generate stats.

Appropriately, at the ground where Tom McSizzle launched his surprise, mid-career run as a key forward, the Weid/Jackson combination probably ended it without him. Can't guarantee they'll deliver every week but the promise is there. There's still an argument to rotate McDonald through if we need to stretch a team, but he's only had on really good game in a year and a half so it's hard to justify keeping him in the side as a forward.

Weid's contest on the ball now is exactly what Tom gave us two years ago, sadly for my fellow Sizzle fan club members it's time to look to the future. But I can't let it go, forget hotel quarantine, let's have a governmental inquiry into what went wrong with him. It can't just be the absence of Hogan, he kicked four goals in front of 90,000 people without him. I was ready to get back on the beers for the first time in years when he reached a 1.00 goal a game average now it will never happen. Not with us anyway. Assuming he doesn't want to be a spare parts player and we don't want him as a defender, I reckon he's still got a bit to offer at a club that doesn't kick into the forward 50 like drunks. I'd prefer he comes back and sticks it up me by kicking a couple of (relative) bags. We should arrange with Collingwood that he and Cox both play and it can be a tribute to the day they kicked 11 between them on Queen's Birthday.

Before and after Jackson's goal, Langdon (destined to find increasingly more tragic ways to miss goals until he's waited longer for one than Jamie Shanahan) and Viney both missed chances. We were threatening to put the game away in the opening minutes, just we did against Carlton. Remember killing them off never to come back?

Naturally, the result of this early domination was the Crows kicking a goal from one of their first inside 50s. I was already nervous about our backline, featuring Tomlinson as a ring-in defender, and the sight of Lever being caught one-on-one and hanging off his opponent like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver nearly caused hyperventilation. They all did pretty well in the end, especially my new BFF Steven May, but it was an inauspicious start.

You'll never catch me hypocritically moaning about fans getting upset about young players pissing off to other clubs for big money, so I was very disappointed at the reaction of Crows fans to Lever's return. Even this free kick - in all senses of the word - only got a smattering of boos. No placards, no banners, nobody dressed as money. Very disappointing. Maybe the 30,000 who were locked out were the ones who'd have made a proper ruckus. The best revenge is living well, but like us in 2012 if you can't do that the second best thing is to be really spiteful.

After our hot but wasteful start, the next few minutes of the Crows outplaying us not welcome. Suckers were being handed an even break, and even though we've run every game since Carlton out well the margin for error was getting frighteningly small. Not in real life, but in my damaged, paranoid mind we were hanging off the edge of the cliff by our fingernails.

With Gawn manfully battling injury, the midfield stepped up to do their bit. They learnt some lessons from when Petracca flayed them in pre-season, but that only opened the door for Viney and The Hamburglar to go troppo. Oliver especially, who stepped straight into the Designated Destroyer role. Imagine being the people who wanted to trade him after a couple of weeks of ropey kicking. Everyone's going to have ups and downs, he is still hands-down better value than anything you're going to get from the draft. It helps when you play rotten teams but in addition to his usual handball masterclass he also threw in a handful of Petracca-esque turbo sprints out of the pack, and there was nothing they could do to stop him.

Credit has to go to Gawn for playing on with the very painful sounding torn back muscle. Insert your own Nathan Jones 2013-2014-esque joke about it being caused by carrying people. It stopped him from dominating around the ground as much as he has in other games but under the circumstances it was a commendable performance. Also a welcome throwback to the days where players went down with mysterious issues like Diptheria.

If you believe that we've matured to the point where an injured player on the other side doesn't actually reduce our chances of winning, ANB murdering some innocent kid with a deadly sling tackle should have improved our odds. You don't want to win that way blah blah blah, but the Bullet will certainly pay a heavy price at the tribunal. He wasn't deliberately trying to bounce the guy's head off the ground like a basketball, but it was about as reckless as you're going to get.

As far as famous tackles in Melbourne/Adelaide games go it had much more skull-cracking potential than the infamous Trengove vs Dangerfield porcelain skull incident. What this had in comparison was Dermott Brereton, the commentary equivalent of a whirling dervish, saying "they make them with hard heads in Crib Point" as the victim was being carted off in a state of disarray just so you knew that he knew where Crib Point was. It was the usual self-indulgent rubbish that footy commentators love and broadcasters are too scared to rub out.

I trust that ultimately Dermott knows what he's talking about, but the bizarre tangents he goes on make him sound like he's slipped his moorings. He would probably have gone alright as a coach with a full week to explain himself to players but for the same waffling reasons I never tried 200 word match reviews he's not suited to special comments.

Given the right environment he'd be interesting to listen to, every week after On The Couch they should clear them out, dust the leftover misery off Healy's chair and just let Derm talk to the camera for an hour. Nobody to bounce gags off, just pure footy chat. The only human interaction will be a shock collar that the producer can set off if Derm deviates into off-colour anecdotes about 1980s Frankston. 'Derm' also told us how Darcy Fogarty knew what Lever would do from when they played together, even though he was drafted a month after Jake was traded to us. Maybe that prime time TV show isn't such a good idea.

Worryingly, even though we looked the better team we couldn't take advantage. It took a bit of classic slapstick comedy to get us going again, a Fritsch kick bounced towards the square, where Viney grabbed it on the bounce, leaving vandenBerg and an Adelaide defender to plow into each other like runaway trains while he walked it to the line.

When Weideman buttered up (I have no idea if I'm using this cliche in the correct context) from a marking contest and snapped another we had a two goal break. That was fine, but as any observant Melbourne fan understood, the clock was rapidly ticking towards 1:30, our version of two minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock.

Just when you thought you'd seen us concede every possible category of DemonTime goal, a unique fiasco occurred. We've used the last 90 seconds to concede one goal, multiple goals, and goals immediately after kicking one, now you can add ending the quarter with ball in hand directly in front of goal and not even having a shot. It wasn't even an ill-advised play on just as time ran out, but an outbreak of unnecessary niggle by AVB. The shove was hardly brutal, but it was reckless when his teammate was about to have a shot.

I don't know how late an umpire can pay a free (e.g. if you make like Derm and run through the opposition huddle surely they don't get to line up for a shot on goal from the wing), but given that they've basically got no power to do anything other than report after the siren, is it that hard to wait for the ball to cross the line before engaging in manly jostling?

Melksham would have been bleeding to have a goal taken away from him in a contract year. I'd have haemorrhaged if we'd lost a thriller. Losing a goal after the siren is about the only time you can realistically claim a missed chance changed the course of a game. I can't blame a four point loss on the guy who runs into an open goal three minutes into the first quarter, because his teammates had the rest of the term to make up for it. This was a yes/no proposition. Maybe the extra six points might have caused us to take our foot off the gas and Adelaide would have kicked the next 14 goals? Unlikely.

The highlight of the incident, the match, the season, and perhaps any time back to the mid-1980s was Brereton's offended reaction at vandenBerg's actions. Presented for the historical record are his verbatim comments on the incident.

"That's not something that's been going on for years that we're clamping down on. This has crept into the game. There's... and we can we talk about yesterday and if it's better or worse whatever. It's... it's... err... players didn't do it, there was a respect for players. You would do it.. err... would look at them, you bump them whatever. You didn't do stuff like that. This has crept into the game. You've got to have respect for your opposition. You don't have to denigrate them to this level."

And here's Dermott showing respect for Rayden Tallis' head:

It wouldn't last, but early in the second quarter it looked like we'd broken them. Within a minute Petracca stormed the 50 and missed, then some May - Fritsch - Weideman liquid football ended in The Weid's second. When Umpire Ross Emerson followed the grandest traditions of the Adelaide Oval and no-balled the Crows ruckman for not bending his arm enough, Jackson got his second and there was a premature sense of relief. As relieved as you can be without the Sullivan Line being breached.

The Crows let out one last gasp and briefly made it interesting again. After Jones missed a chance to pour further misery on them, they took advantage of a wank-handed attempted tackle in front of goal to get what could generously be described as 'the steadier'. They also got the next goal, but luckily for us three more shots missed, and left us ahead.

Down our end Unfortunate Ed Langdon again went within touching distance of a goal, standing all on his own in the pocket only for the kick to fall short and leave him grasping at it until defenders got involved. Langdon was again up and down, mixing some decent run with some farcical kick. At one stage he had a string of clangers that made you wonder whether he'd become aroused by Ross Lyon's sacking and wanted to see if he could put Goodwin away too. On this night the battle of the recruits was advantage Tomlinson.

Langdon's wayward kicking was what we expected, but what has happened to Christian Salem? His allegedly laser-like kicking is approaching late-career Travis Johnstone levels of parody. I know we can't be an easy team for defenders to kick to, and good luck finding a defender who has played for us in your lifetime that hasn't sprayed the ball like an out-of-control firehose at some point, but it's a bit galling when even the ones that are supposedly good kicks do it.

The result of these late quarter shenanigans was a flimsy five point lead that wasn't going to stand up to any serious scrutiny. You felt we'd win but leave it so close that it could be lost in a couple of minutes of madness. Think Geelong, but with an Adelaide version of Tomlinson that you've never heard of sinking the winning kick. I had a topical 'Interstate of Disaster' headline on a gentle heat just in case.

Topicality was not required, but we had to work hard to put them away. The Crows had clearly shot their bolt and were begging to be put out of their misery but the fatal blow was delayed by 20 minutes. They barely looked like scoring for the entire third quarter, before predictably almost getting one in the last 90 seconds. It didn't help that their malfunctioning attack would have got more out of Tex Perkins than Tex Walker. Without any decent targets to aim at they were reduced to going forward via the same route every time. It was like watching Melbourne.

Not surprisingly we got wise to this predictable kicking and chopped everything off. Couldn't put them away but got the only goal of the quarter, with Bennell convincing Forward Fritsch to give off an opportunity from an obscure angle on the boundary line so he could bend through a ripper. Harley didn't do much but he's a pretty safe bet when he does get the ball. We're yet to find out if his best years are behind him, but for the bargain price of nothing he'll be handy until his leg drops off.

We were starting to get on top, but when Eddie McGuire claimed that Brayshaw's kicking had been "great" I wanted Fox Footy to shut the broadcast down until he could take a workplace drug and alcohol test. It was a ridiculous statement considering Gus' disposal had been so bad during the first half that he missed throwing the ball back to a teammate, but maybe Eddie can see into the future because Brayshaw had a much-improved second half. How much of this was due to them playing him in the guts of the midfield where he belongs, and how much was down to the Crows losing the will to live I don't know, but I'm not complaining. More of this please.

A 12 point three quarter time lead was both enough to think we should win and enough that it would have been embarrassing to lose. Not quite Dean Bailey overturning a 50 point gap for his first win but close enough. It would have been a pisstake if they'd kicked on to win after barely scoring in the third quarter, but given that we've already held one team to 0.0 and nearly lost this year you couldn't rule it out.

For the first time in years we got a bad bounce at the start of the last quarter in a tight game, wiping a precious seconds from the already shortened clock and bringing us that slight bit closer to victory. For a couple of minutes the game remained in the balance before we activated procession mode. It came with an assist from an Adelaide player, who was so bedazzled by Oliver's blistering performance that he forget the rules of the game and blatantly grabbed him at a stoppage right in front of goal.

You'd have been mad to get comfortable, which is where Weideman's third and another to Melksham came in. With Adelaide's forward strategy reduced to Melbourne style panic kicks forward, the game was so firmly in our grasp that the only way you could imagine us conceding another goal was from somebody doing something stupid. Enter Jake Lever, who like Brayshaw had come good in the second half but did the most hamfisted spoil since Jayden Hunt, Round 23, 2017 (I'm not yet over it) and gifted them one that kept it interesting. Not interesting as to whether they'd come back and win, but whether we'd be satisfied with the margin or scathing of a missed opportunity to put them away.

We won by enough that you couldn't help but be happy. Not overjoyed, but something a bit more than satisfied. I don't know if a top team would have folded so violently, and some of our NQR play in the first half would have been punished by a halfway competent opposition, but the force of the landslide at the end made it worthwhile. You can only beat who they put in front of you. We got the appropriate margin, wiping out all the percentage losses from the Port game, leaving us level with the card at 100% with a game in hand.

The party time phase included Forward Fritsch thieving a mark (and probably a Rising Star) off Jackson befpre kicking the goal, a well-deserved second for Viney, and another junk time special to Fritsch from a beautiful pass by Petracca, allowing him to scoot into an unguarded goal. Poor old Adelaide (and isn't it nice to have a side you can legitimately look down at? Even better when it's one that has never known our pain) had given up. If the game went another four minutes have no doubt we've had got at least two more. In the famous words of Father Todd Unctuous,

The last quarter looked like a lot of games where we were rubbish and hung off the coattails of the opposition for a while but couldn't establish enough of a foothold to win. The tide will turn for them, and I bet a lot quicker than the decade it took us. I wish Matthew Nicks looked like more of a wanker so I could take pleasure in his woes, but he seems quite cuddly. Not sure you'd rub his bald head for good luck at the moment, but you'd certainly slap it Benny Hill style. As the Crows are no longer a threat to our league position, the staff of wish him well for the rest of 2020.

So bad luck to the neutrals and media ghouls who were flogging themselves into a frenzy at the chance to chase Goodwin out by the weekend. Also, sucked in to the section of our fans that were secretly (not so secretly in some cases) hoping we'd go tits up so it would fuel their agenda. Whether he's the right man or not (and once we're in Stage 9 lockdown you'll have time to take in the full 225 page Demonland thread on the subject, after which you will never want to interact with a human again), no coach is getting sacked from inside a hub unless he drops his board shorts and takes a shit next to the hotel swimming pool.

I'm willing to discuss alternatives at the end of the season if it comes to that, but there's no point now. Besides, imagine knifing a coach with two seasons left on his contract (even if you can get away with only paying part of it), then going to the AFL cap in hand and asking for pandemic money. They would be well within their rights to deduct anything spent on payouts. I have many questions and concerns about where we're going, and am still not happy about Goodwin putting his foot on a man's couch in the To Hell and Back videos, but unless some seriously weird things happen across the next eight games I'm going to trust the process, even the bits I don't agree with, any decide which camp to join at the end of the year.

That's all to be debated in the future, for now we're winners again. I harbour doubts that it would translate to playing any half-decent side but you're only as good as your last match. Do it again next time and I may even crack a smile.

2020 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year 
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Sam Weideman
2 - Steven May
1 - Christian Petracca

Major apologies to Gawn, Hibberd, Jackson and second half Brayshaw.

With a minimum of 40 votes left to play for, the Jakovich race has realistically been reduced to the big four. Petracca holds a decent lead, but lost ground to Oliver and Viney. It is, as always, a midfielder's medal. No defender has gone close since McDonald 2014, and May will have to be content with an increased lead in the Seecamp. That's still a competitive race, with the hot/cold Salem and always warm Hibberd within one BOG of the lead.

The Hilton is also up in the air, the red-hottest race you'll ever see with the leaders on such low scores. Jackson was very unlucky not to join the party this week, and Sparrow could still take advantage of the 2020 rule changes (anyone with four games or less at the start of the season remains eligible) to nick it. Watch for some complete random like Austin Bradtke to play the last game, not be in the five worst of a thrashing and snatch the most remarkable victory in the history of the competition. Certainly a far cry for Kyle Cheney banking five votes on debut.

28 - Christian Petracca
21 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Viney
20 - Clayton Oliver
11 - Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
7 - Christian Salem
6 - Michael Hibberd, Sam Weideman
5 - Ed Langdon
4 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Jake Melksham
1 - Mitch Hannan, Jay Lockhart, Kysaiah Pickett (JOINT LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Trent Rivers (JOINT LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year 
Sure it was a tap-in from the line, but the vaudevillian lead-up to Viney's goal made it my favourite. I've run out of inspiration for novelty prizes so he'll just have to accept my good wishes. Salem against Gold Coast retains the clubhouse lead.

And now, the main event of the evening. For comedy value you'll never get a better commentary team than last night. It was like an unhinged Fringe Festival performance where neither audience nor performer knew what insanity was coming next.

Any scenario where David King is the voice of reason should instantly set off alarms that something is wrong. Likewise, when Adelaide director Mark Ricciuto lovingly cradling the plums of his old side doesn't even make the top three NQR performances you know you're onto something.

At least Ricciuto's concerns related to a club that was involved in the contest, unlike Eddie McGuire, whose only frame of reference involves Collingwood. It would be like putting me on commentary (and for anyone who says "as if you could do better", I'm willing to have a go) and getting four quarters of references to Darren Cuthbertson. You could almost forgive him the Weideman family chat that he's done every time he's ever seen Sam play, but it didn't stop there. Victoria Park, Jock McHale, Brian Taylor as a full-forward, any Pies Chat was possible. It got so ridiculous that I was expecting half-time to be 20 minutes of him reading from Pants: The Darren Millane Story.

I'd have thought dual-club player and premiership winner Heritier Lumumba would get a mention, but for some reason that wasn't amongst the talking points. Also failed to mention that Adelaide kicked as many goals as Essendon kicked in the 1990 Grand Final but did fit in the obligatory mention of teenage thuggery in the northern suburbs.

Like a footy version of Hard Quiz, every caller came ready to talk about a subject dear to their heart. Dwayne Russell played the hits by saying "if you've just joined us" before the first bounce and declaring everything "big", but was also required to provide expert opinion on any topic relating to South Australia. Not only did we get a potted history of Adelaide's private schools, but a pronunciation lesson for a Germanic surname. It was probably bloody riveting stuff if you lived in Hahndorf.

After a gag about the German bloke sounding like a classical musician, Dwayne actually said something half clever about us having a pair of Wagners. Eddie couldn't leave well enough alone and had to get the last word in, mystifyingly pointing out that there was also a Keays playing. I assume this meant the late singer and Demons man Jim Keays, but younger viewers must have been baffled.

On any other night the performances of Eddie or Dwayne would have taken three votes in the BT (Bollocks Talking) Medal, but everyone had to form an orderly queue behind Brereton, whose aforementioned waffle about Crib Point heads and football's gentlemanly past were enough to see him clear at the top of the leaderboard. The only surprise was that for the first time ever he went through an entire game with McGuire and neither mentioned drink cards.

I'm sure if we'd lost I wouldn't have enjoyed this performance as much, but under the circumstances, it was 5/5 and I definitely would listen again. They should put the highlights on Spotify so future generations can enjoy them.

P.S - The best commentator was the Melbourne fan who was yelling WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEID into the effects mic after his goals.

Next Week 
Final margin notwithstanding, we probably shouldn't dwell on this result for more than a day. Especially considering there's another game on Sunday. By the time I press publish the teams will probably be out.

Much to the united joy of 2007-2008 Caroline Wilson and Jeff Kennett, it's Melbourne vs North Melbourne in Queensland. [UPDATE - They can both get stuffed, we're actually playing in Adelaide]. Based on North being reasonably crap and us clambering back to mid-table mediocrity we should win, but who would dare make a solid prediction at the moment? Now that Ben Brown and his quarter-long run ups are finished for the year I sense the Majak Daw comeback tour ending in a seven goal extravaganza before he never kicks another in his life.

Had we lost I'd have wanted to go ballistic on the changes (because having nine players out worked well for Adelaide), but the problem with loading the shotgun and checking to see if the manufacture of white sheets is an essential service is that there's very few players in reserve that I'm excited to see. We'll have to give some randoms a go soon but the cupboard is seemingly bare.

Pickett is an obvious in but are there any other kids deserving of a game? Rivers needs another go at some stage but when was the last time you heard anything about Bedford, Chandler or Jordan? And Kyle Dunkley's ongoing existence is under question, I can't remember him being mentioned since the end of 2019.

And what about old moustache lips Preuss? If he can't get a go in Gawn's (eventual) absence he may as well pack up his tent and move on. If we go back to the 2017 plan and play McDonald in the ruck when Max is out you know it's over for him. We'll always have that magical goal at the SCG.

Speaking of the Sizzle, I know Goodwin has zero interest in him as a defender but I'd be having him there next week. Tomlinson did well last night but is that sustainable when we start playing good sides? I'd restore Tomlinson to the wing and play the Sizzle back. He's almost certain to have a three-way mid-air collision with Lever and May, and to do a turnover that makes people rip their hair out at the roots but the less times Lever has to play as a one-on-one defender the better. You can't deny we need a third string defender, so why go looking for one when there's somebody in the family who can do the job.

The sad news is that the trickle-down effect of these changes means there's no place for Jones. I feel like a traitor for saying it, but maybe it's time for him to put an arm around Nev, leave the hub and take an emotional road-trip back to Victoria. I see them in the back of a bus with Everybody's Talkin' playing like the end of Midnight Cowboy. In the gap between Round 1 and 2 I'd never have believed that I'd be writing both off before Hibberd, who continues to be very good.

If the short break means Bennell is rested I'll have Hannan back. Or Bedford. As it stands he is, along with Brown and Chandler, one of three players who have only played one career game for us. Considering we haven't had anyone finish on one since Michael Clark in 2002 - and think of the dozens of strugglers that takes in - you'd feel unlucky not to get another go. All three are presumably out of contract at the end of the year, and could be in deep trouble if list sizes are reduced.

IN: Pickett, T. McDonald
OUT: Neal-Bullen (susp), Jones (omit)
LUCKY: vandenBerg

The Stat Shack (formerly known by a since-retired politically incorrect name, incorporating Pedants' Corner) 
If you're getting your historical information from the Sunday Footy Show then you're beyond help, but based almost entirely on one ludicrous claim by their Twitterist, the idea that 0-10 would give Matthew Nicks the worst start of any coach ever became popular.

Even if you're not an AFL Tables fanatic you'd have to instantly recognise how unlikely it was that since 'coaches' became an official thing in the early 1900s, nobody had ever lost more their first 10 games. Excluding coaches who did eventually win a game Nicks could pull the plug tomorrow morning and still be better than four other coaches, including Alan McConnell (0-11 at Fitzroy over two caretaker stints), Vic Brown (0-13 at University) and Bert Sutton (0-18 at Hawthorn).

The king of the stat remains Kevin Murray, until a few weeks ago also held the most losses as a player. He was in charge of 34 games at Fitzroy for 34 losses. One week he went to play for Victoria and the caretaker coach delivered a win. You'd feel slighted.

Final Thoughts
It is, as always, the hope that kills you. As comfortable as I'll be with a competitive finish to the year that lands us 10th, I couldn't help but notice that if we won our game in hand we'd be in the eight.

I wasn't keen enough to put together a bootleg ladder predictor based on who teams are yet to play but am fairly certain that by the time we play again Port, Brisbane, Richmond, St Kilda (!!!) and West Coast will be all but certainties. Below them Geelong, GWS, Footscray, Essendon, Collingwood and Gold Coast play each other plenty of times so there's plenty of scope for us to do well for the rest of the season and still miss out. That would probably be a fair indication of where we're at, but if a Bradbury Plan should happen to develop I'll be ready to sign my name in blood to join in.


  1. Great post as always.

    I think we're actually playing North at Adelaide Oval though.
    Does that improve our chances?

  2. What I really like about Ed Langdon is the amount of pleasure he is getting out of playing the game and maybe even playing for us. He almost never stops smiling. Lights up the team.


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