Sunday 30 August 2020

Heist society

Considering it's a shortened season Melbourne must be nearing the record for how many times a team's prospects can be revived. We're like incurable heroin addicts who have been brought back to life about four times in 12 weeks. I've been as guilty as anyone not employed in clickbait media of swinging from optimism to misery at the drop of a hat, and with a minute left last night I was high on the tightrope and wobbling, ready to plummet into total 'give up and play the kids' despair.

Instead, we held on to win, and with a wide-open draw ahead of us it's now our finals spot to throw away. Which probably means we'll do just that, but for now I'm just happy to be alive and once again trusting the mythical 'process'. It might only last a week, only the most positive would believe that this the encouragement we need to go straight, but being upright and breathing is better than the alternative.

Suffice to say, I didn't hold out much hope of winning here. Playing in Alice Springs wasn't going to do all that much for us, and after watching Footscray twanging out of the backline unchallenged all last week I fully expected the Saints to do likewise. But when you think about it with the benefit of hindsight, was that really what lost us the game against the Dogs? No doubt it cost a couple of goals, but in the third quarter we barely got the ball forward enough for them to use the rebounds against us. Either way, the more times you let a side go forward at warp speed the more likely you are to concede, and we addressed the issue to the point where you could almost see the life-force ebbing away from St. Kilda's half back runners when they got the ball and looked up to see a wall of Demons in front of them. Even if we'd lost this would have a been a positive and I'd have to find something else to whinge about.

Speaking of the Alice Springs, have you noticed that no matter who we play in the Northern Territory, they always have more fans? I understand South and Western Australian teams having big followings due to geography, but even St. Kilda would have been surprised at the pro-Saints frenzy that erupted last night. There were only 1917 people there but about 80% percent of them seemed to be mad for Moorabbin.

Is there no respect for our various contributions to territory footy, including Mark Jamar being interviewed while seated on the ground, Sam Blease high fiving the crowd, Jeremy Howe wiping blood on an opponent, Jayden Hunt's monster torp and sending Don Pyke off the deep end? Obviously not. Well, stiff shit for backing the wrong horse here, hope following the Saints offers all the benefits that their east coast fans have been enjoying for the last 50 years.

While I didn't agree with all the changes, at least there was response to throwing it away against the Dogs. They were the sort of inclusions - including the reintroduction of the Much Maligned Express, Oscar McDonald and Josh Wagner - that make people say things like "this game was lost at the selection table" (wherever the table is currently located). Unless you win, then we just keep quiet like we had no qualms whatsoever. All of them played their role, and though I prefer some of the players on the outs (especially Fritsch and Lockhart, maybe Bennell) if we're going to have a proper crack at the finals, every man who came into the side did his job.

I thought there might have been a late change. The PervoCam shot of a topless James Harmes de-taping himself while having a casual chat with Old Comedy Moustache Lips immediately before the bounce implied somebody was on the verge of late withdrawal. I know emergencies have to be ready to go at short notice (e.g. Hannan last week), but considering how long the pre-match ceremonies went for it seemed telling that he remained ready to go until the very last minute. Harmes was never spoken about again (though he always remains in my thoughts) so I guess they were just being extremely cautious in case somebody cooled down during the ceremony and blew a hammy before the bounce.

For the first few minutes the only way any of our players were going to injured was from the backdraft of an opponent turboing away from them. Their ball movement out of defence look very ropey for us, which makes our response even better. Like the Dogs, they were dashing around with free players everywhere, always threatening to find somebody a mile free inside 50.

Luckily for us they couldn't take advantage, blowing a pair of good opportunities to kick the first goal. This time we were the suckers being given the even break, but I still thought they only way we'd win would be if the Saints kicked 2.24. The only problem with that was still having to find 37 points of our own, which has not always been a certainty. All's well that ends well.

Petracca continues to be the explosive character of our dreams. Last night was nowhere near his best performance, but he was still pivotal to the result. In the week where everyone's punching on about player ratings, I'm on the side who believes you can play a crap game and still kick four goals (see Kent in Hobart, the goals were welcome but he was otherwise shite). This was in no way a crap game, but he contributed in a different way to how you'd expect. One day he's going to combine both halves of his game and put on the best performance you've ever seen.

His first major contribution was a cannon of a set shot from outside 50, the sort you're more confident in him kicking than one from 20 metres out directly in front. It was a perfect response to the Saints missing two far easier shots. They did get the next one, but otherwise the rest of the quarter belonged to us. Somewhere a switch was flipped that completely shut down their run, leading to visible frustration from players who'd obviously come in thinking they were going to fill their boots with cheap possessions. About time we properly frustrated somebody other than the fans.

That man Petracca was responsible for the second goal as well, with an assist from Viney's chip to the top of the square and St. Kilda's defence for not reading the multiple tells of what he was up to before pulling the kick. It was a blow to the minutes old theory that you'd rather Petracca kicking from 50 metres than 20, and all of a sudden we had the Saints on the rack. Didn't understand how, wasn't going to complain.

When Gawn drifted forward and marked 30 metres out directly in front things were getting tasty. Of course because he had one high profile miss from a similar spot that was all the commentators could talk about, just minutes after calling Petracca's kick from close range a certainty when he's missed plenty of times from the same place. Maximum stuck it up them by converting and it was on. Three goals straight, and for once we were punishing somebody else for being wasteful inside 50.

Whoever at Channel 7 played Fools Gold after that has quite the sense of humour. We nearly paid the gag off by letting St. Kilda plow straight inside 50 from the bounce. To say I was ready to crack the shits at immediately wasting a goal we'd worked hard for would be an understatement, the neighbours were about to think there was a murder going on. The defence held firm and all was well with the world.

Given our record of conceding late, I firmly expected to leak the softest goal in the history of Australian Rules football during the last minute. For the second week in a row we turned the old DemonTime cliche on its head (temporarily anyway...) by kicking a goal of our own. Melksham had another up and down game, but his contribution here was wonderful, getting rid of an opponent by faking to go one way, then dropping what would be called a perfect inside 50 kick on Weideman if there wasn't an even better one coming soon...

... which was early in the second quarter as Salem gathered a loose ball and instantly hit a scorcher that probably left a mark on Mitch Brown's tit. The man who has now escaped the Phil Egan Club for one gamers showed that he might be a handy inclusion for the rest of the year with our fifth successful set shot from five, another from distance and obscure angle.

We had their number to a near-ridiculous degree. Hanging shit on the coach is the second most satisfying thing in footy behind winning, but as much as you can argue about in-game moves there is no doubt that whatever plan we had to stop their run worked beautifully. After last week's Demon Trampoline disaster that's a big win for Mr. Learnings, and for the second time in a row the best connection on the ground was opposition midfielders kicking to our defenders.

It was good having May and Lever intercepting everything that came near them last week, but the problem was all the times they never got near it because the ball rocketed from defence to Footscray's medium sized forwards. This time we blocked off the escape routes and made them kick to contests, slowing down their attack and forcing them into Melbourne-esque panic bombing to outmatched forwards. There stood the million dollar combination of Lever and May (now figuratively as well as literally), readily accepting donations.

St. Kilda's 2020 forward line is hardly Lockett and Loewe, but they've given us trouble before, and now with a next big thing goalkicker I expected them to test us. Apparently not. We benefited from some peg-leg set shots early, but otherwise it was a knockout win for the backline. There were the contractually obliged nervy moments, and I'm still not convinced Oscar (once again promoted to the head of the McSizzle syndicate) is third tall in a finals team but generally well done all round. Even the lesser lights like Rivers and Wagner were very good. Josh is my second favourite Wagnii but if he can keep it up for the next few weeks this could have been a career-saving performance.

The star of the show was, again, Steven May. I don't think any one man could have saved us last year but it does make you wonder how things would have been different if he'd stayed fit. I'm just glad that he's in red-hot form and condition now and we're starting to see the benefit of the contentious Hogan trade. Whether it pays off in the long-run nobody knows, but after a wasted first year he's been a star this time around. If they all stay fit I reckon he'll finish a close third in the Bluey behind Petracca and Oliver, and has to be in contention for the All-Australian shortlist at the very least. At this rate they'll be able to hold both events at the same time over Skype from the Virgin Lounge at Sydney Airport.

Things were going unusually well, three and a bit goals up and opposition ball movement being maliciously strangled. Then Real Melbourne turned up. To be fair, the first goal of the end of quarter trifecta was unlucky. Even after they'd broken through our midfield with an NRL style chip 'n chase we would still have gotten away with it, except that as Viney grasped mid-air for a loose ball the face of Laughin' Ed Phillips got in the way. You had to pay the free but it was about as unlucky as a player could be to concede.

I could handle letting in one goal, it's got to happen to us eventually, but when we found ourselves deep in defence with 50 seconds left alarms were going off in my head like there'd been a bank robbery. We had the chance to escape when Nathan Jones got control of the ball, which was a good thing, then he tried to thread the needle with a sideways kick and put it straight down the throat of an opponent. Which was less good. No player has been around for as many of the gimmicks I've introduced on this page, and he must have tensed up, instinctively known we were deep in DemonTime.

Jones has been through so much trauma that abusing him is like berating a natural disaster victim, so I'm prepared to accept that he was trying to work it out to the wing where Langdon was running riot. That made sense, but considering he must have known the quarter was almost over it was probably time to be conservative. 5/10 for imagination, 0/10 for execution. Whoever does the AFL website highlights must be a long-suffering Melbourne fan, they show him winning the free then cut straight to the St. Kilda bloke having a shot. All it lacked was a couple of seconds of SCENE MISSING. This time there was no reprieve from NQR goalkicking.

This tremendous cock-up was good news for Channel 7 keeping viewers through the half-time break, but interrupted Rankine Wankin' style foaming over the number of times Max King had flown for a contested mark and not come down with it. There's no doubt he's an exciting prospect, but there's no Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry. A word of caution for Saints fans, it's all looking good now but I was there when Hogan kicked seven against you (and missed an eighth from point blank range), now he's a defender who can't get a game for a struggling team. Nurture your young stars properly.

After an otherwise very good quarter the Viney free and the Jones debacle were a blow, but not as much as the spectacular pisstake of letting them charge straight out of the middle for another goal, cutting the margin to two. I fully expected us to use the remaining six seconds to concede a free and two 50s so they could get another before half time. We survived the centre bounce, but it was a deflating way to go to the break when we'd had control of the game for so long.

To our credit, bundles remained undropped, though we did briefly give up the lead when Oliver handballed straight to an opponent in front of goal. For the first three quarters it was not his night, but he certainly came good when the game was on the line. I'm willing to overlook the odd disposal disaster when his sixth sense handballs have gotten us out of so many sticky situations in recent years.

After getting lucky with opposition injuries a few times in recent weeks there were two occasions where it looked like we were going to lose somebody for the rest of the game. Angus Brayshaw briefly seemed dead after having a knee stuck through him during a marking contest, and considering he may as well have had the cartoon Xs over his eyes my first thought was that he'd been smashed in the head. Turns out it was only his upper back and he returned after regaining his senses. After a few good weeks it wasn't his best game but I'm still satisfied that he's coming good right when it counts.

Next to go was Hibberd, who rolled his ankle in a marking contest and hobbled off as if completely crocked, interrupting these two guys who were busy loading a box. Must be strange working for a footy club, putting on the colours, being around the players whose moods swing hard on the results of the game and not even seeing it played because you're occupied packing a crate.

Before then we'd grabbed the lead back, with Jones ironically taking advantage of nutso disposal in defence to set up Petracca's third. "He owes them one!" yelled Luke Darcy, which was true in the context of the night (though he probably owed two), but during his career we still owe him about 50 goals and several years of his life back.

That carried us beyond the point where we would have won if they did kick 2.24. Unfortunately their remedy to that was to walk a goal in from the square to go back in front less than a minute later. Our response took a lot longer, but it was pretty when it arrived. Also one of the great Seconds from Disaster goals, created by Lever baulking at the top of the square and walking through three forwards to clear the ball. If he'd been caught we'd be pouring immense quantities of shit on him now, but it worked a treat. Tomlinson recovered from a dropped mark on the back flank, and set up Hibberd to drop a perfectly weighted kick into Weideman's path, who gathered and rolled it through to calm the nerves. Hibbo's reward was to crock his ankle about a minute later.

If you're a believer in Burgess Ball you'll have been confident that we could ride out the last quarter against a side full of run, but scores were too close for comfort. After relying almost entirely on talls + Petracca it wouldn't have taken much to put us away if the small forwards didn't belatedly come to the party. We were also vulnerable to any number of flubbed kicks straight to opposition players.

At first it looked like Hibberd was finished, much to the confusion of James Brayshaw, who declared he was "moving well" at the last break immediately before going down the race again. Hibbo did eventually return, presumably with so much juice in him that he thought he was back at Essendon. He would have thought they'd injected a hallucinogenic if he went on The Age website after and saw...

If you're a football purist the last quarter wouldn't have been for you. But if you're a football purist would you still be watching? It was one goal each and a lot of midfield toil and struggle, but when the goal came what a ripper it was. Again, nothing for purists, but fans of both Melbourne and comedy were well looked after.

Winning is good. Winning controversially is better. Also gives an out to the other side, who can claim they were robbed no matter how dubious the evidence. What was ultimately our winning goal had it all, a lovely Oliver kick to Petracca in a one-on-one (the commentary buried it as 'one on three', even though two of them of them were nowhere near the contest), him arguably marking it, then throwing boot to ball in a tackle, watching it seemingly going through for a point before taking a Shane Warne-esque bounce (appropriate, given the number of ads for his 'smell of middle aged desperation' fragrance during the game) towards the goal.

The same bloke who'd spent all night trying to find a free target upfield desperately lunged at the ball as it reached the line but didn't get there in time. Also key in this sequence, Petracca's wounded look when they went to the replay as if he knew conclusively it had gone over the line, and the woman behind the goals going absolutely off her nut at the umpires for not just paying it and repeatedly yelling "that was a goal!" And it was. So says the official record anyway. Provide conclusive proof otherwise.

For once technology - or a lack thereof - paid off for us. So did the old methods, the goal umpire who was hovering right over the top of the play said it went through. Lucky he did, because the collection of camera angles on offer for the review were never going to end in anything other than 'umpire's call'. Made up ever so slightly for that review debacle that may have cost us in the Brisbane game. I say 'may', because like that night it's a leap of faith to assume that just because one decision went against you that the rest of the game would have panned out the same way.

We'd probably have flubbed a kick to a free play against the Lions and scored nothing, while St. Kilda may very well have taken the point and booted the kick-in straight to a forward 20 metres out. It certainly doesn't follow that they get their last goal in the exact same circumstances and go in front. They might have gone coast-to-coast then kicked three in a row out of the middle and won in a landslide, we'll never know but cheers to whoever decided not to install goal line cameras in Alice Springs because "what are the chances it will be important?" There's still time for this to rebound on us, the AFL is rushing Jim's Electrical to Cairns to install the cameras, where it will no doubt cost us the game.

I've been a Brett Ratten fan ever since he was at the helm of our surprisingly good 2004 midfield, but his comments that Dougal (?) says he touched it weren't very helpful. Of course he touched it, the debate was where. The man who followed his successful year with us by coaching an Eastern District League second division side was otherwise magnanimous about the incident, admitting that it wasn't the deciding factor in the result. More power to him. If a St. Kilda flag wouldn't leave us marooned firmly to the bottom of the historical Laughing Stock League I'd want him to win one.

It left us 10 points ahead with six minutes left, far from enough to get comfortable. After spending the first three and a bit quarters on the couch, under a blanket like the elderly I was on my feet for the finale, taking care of my nerves by maniacally pacing the room. There's a small - fortunately sturdy - kiddy table right behind the couch, and at one point I walked across it. No idea why, it was just in the way of my pacing. I'm bad enough in close games that don't mean anything, let alone season-defining thrillers.

Two minutes later my concerns were proven correct. I was nervous that after thumping them in the air all night the game would end with a key position goal. By our previous standards against the Saints it was more likely to be some cheap goal out the back, but at the time all I could think of was the irony of Max King finally pulling in a grab and kicking a goal to roll us.

They needed two to win, and the first came from the exact sequence you'd expect - finally getting some run out of defence and finding a forward in space. King had been withdrawn to the white Bunnings plastic chairs by now, so it was Tim Membrey's chance to make it interesting. I feel bad for Oscar McDonald, who clearly had an "oh shit everyone's going to blame me" look on his face as he trailed in behind.

Having kicked 5+ goals in a game six times in his career, Membrey is far from a Kingsley kandidate but you'd be right to feel like he regularly stitches us up, averaging nearly three goals a game against Melbourne. After missing twice you knew deep down that he was going to get this one. Lo and behold straight through it went, leaving us four minutes to defend a lead that could be wiped out in the blink of an eye.

In real life I love swearing, especially when nobody's around all you can really go for it. All the classics, Fs, Cs, f'ing Cs. I just tone it down on here out of respect for people reading on their work computer (though that hasn't stopped years of ongoing references to the fringe practice of fisting), but in the last few minutes of a close game where there's nobody else around I'm like Malcolm Tucker on speed. Why do you think I don't want to sit near anyone at games? Imagine being forced to internalise this while there are kids three seats away? Fuck that for a joke, take me to Row MM and let's give it the full In Bruges treatment.

This was my last four minutes, walking the room and muttering dark, regrettable comments about players and umpires alike. It didn't get much cleaner than yelling "Miss it you prick!" as Membrey ran in, and the rest was frankly unprintable. My joy of life was not enhanced by them getting a free out of the middle and going forward again, only for Zak Jones to unload a kick into attack that was arguably worse than his brother's blunder at the same end. The only concession I'm willing to make is that Langdon may have touched it off the boot, but it cost them an opportunity to get in front.

Cue three minutes of intestinal distress, including May being outmarked for the first time all night by a ruckman, who was left shooting from roughly the same spot Petracca had goalled from in the first quarter. Rowan Marshall is apparently quite good, but he's not Petracca good. His shiftily darting eyes suggested he didn't have any confidence but he gave it a decent hoist, and for the splittest of seconds I thought it had evaded Gawn's punch on the line. There was never a suggestion it was anything other than a point but that's where I was at psychologically.

After a year of calling for Salem to kick in more, he randomly got the chance with the game on the line. He'd learnt from the end of the first half that this was no time for being tricky and he did exact what May would have done and hoisted it long towards Gawn. This ended in the ball going to ground, where Charleston Spargo paid off two weeks of meh performances with the tackle of his life, pouncing on a player who was about to walk into space and send the ball forward again. That's the sort of thing that will get you a game as a defensive forward even if you're not kicking goals.

Cue two minutes of scrap, scramble, and the Saints looking far more likely to kick the next goal. I was skeptical of Tomlinson as a defender but he continues to impress, taking another strong overhead mark to get us out of jail. Didn't last long, even though we got away with Brayshaw throwing a rugby pass out of a pack the ball was soon back down their end. A top drawer spoil by Lever and another ripping Spargo tackle failed to halt the progress of the ball, and with a few seconds left it was flying towards their goal again while I touched cloth.

We may have got extremely lucky, forget disputed goal umpiring decisions, a view of the replay shows that as the ball came off the pack it was heading right towards Marshall to presumably snap the winner, before taking a novelty bounce past him and into Brayshaw's hands. That would have been it if Mitch Brown's backwards kick to Langdon had been deemed 15 metres, but the umpire helpfully choosing that moment to get snippy about distance meant he just had to rip the kick forward and hope that didn't leave them enough time to rebound.

Most teams would be confident in stopping the other side going from one end to the other in the last 15 seconds, but even after a night of doing just that I greeted the free kick against Melksham on the half back flank with a stream of obscenities. There was no need to worry, our old friend Dougal (??) showed why players should never get to know how much time there is left by dithering on his kick and making sure we'd win unless somebody did the modern equivalent of Jim Stynes running across the mark and failed to run east/west at 180 degrees past his opponent without his arm in the air and a sprig of parsley behind his ear.

Appropriately the last kick belonged to Dean Kent, who I otherwise wish nothing but the best for, but he ran out of time and we held on. It didn't end in the same dignity-free scenes as either of the 2017/18 Perth wins (falling to the floor and pounding it while orgasmically yelling YES! YES! YES! after McDonald's goal or taking off around the house with my arms aloft like I'd just won the Olympic 100 metres after the Kent-powered finals-clincher), but was right up there with other times I've thought my central nervous system was going to pack it in.

I could simultaneously be amazed that we'd won and understand how it happened. It wasn't Grand Theft Football but it was at least shoplifting. It was uncomfortable being under siege for the last couple of minutes but there were plenty of heroes in a backline and midfield that deserved credit for helping save the points. If you're still looking for similarities to 2018, it was the Crows at Adelaide Oval where we rebooted our season by holding on in the face of a furious comeback. That year we slaughtered a lowly side the next week, then choked against Sydney a week later - this time we get to play struggling side Sydney so anything could happen.

St. Kilda would be entitled to wonder how they did everything but win it in the dying minutes. I invite them to review the final quarter of our last game in the NT, where we blew a 16 point lead by kicking 1.8 and missing a goal with 10 seconds left. That's hard times. This was a double tough gutsy win, not nearly as much fun as the time we tore post hostage crisis Adelaide limb-from-limb, but better than coming back from five goals down to beat Gold Coast. It's happened a lot later in the year, but like those wins it's also critical for our chances of playing finals.

I can understand players getting excited under the circumstances, and the carnival atmosphere was topped off by somebody later to be revealed as Greg Stafford accompanying the theme song by going hell for leather on a bin lid. Forget Darren Burgess joining us from Arsenal, with a technique like that Stafford might get a job with the Houston Astros. Some miserable cove like J**d will have a problem with it, I'm happy for a coaching group that has been defamed weekly for the last two years to let off some steam by acting like they've joined Stomp. I wonder what the bonkers woman who jumped the fence for a chat with him that time thought of it.

The siren coincided with the news that they'd flushed the loose turds out of our water supply (yes, interstate readers, this was a real thing) and it was safe to go near the stuff again. Which is lucky, because if we'd let in a late goal I was going to waterboard myself. I still expected it to come out of the tap in lumps so chose not to toast victory with a glass of Yarra Valley Water's finest. The shits were not to be had in any fashion last night.

2020 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year 
5 - Steven May
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - Ed Langdon
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Christian Salem

Massive apology to Viney, narrowly tipped out of the last spot by Oliver's final quarter heroics. Regulation level apologies to Gawn, Lever, Rivers, Tomlinson, Wagner and Weideman

Gawn is the only one of the big hitters to miss out this week, but by virtue of kicking goals, goals and more goals Petracca stretches his lead to eight and will be difficult to catch, especially if there's more than four games to play... if you know what I mean... wink, nudge etc...

No further movement in the minors, though Rivers would probably win on a countback if you made me choose between him and Pickett. Not how it works though, and we're looking at the first draw since Hunt/Petracca 2016. Now there's a pair of careers heading in opposite directions. And I'm reasonably confident May won't be caught in the Seecamp, so he's been handed provisional winner status.

39 - Christian Petracca
32 - Clayton Oliver
25 - Jack Viney
21 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Steven May (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
--- No hope without one final ---
14 - Ed Langdon
10 - Angus Brayshaw
--- No hope without two finals ---
9 - Christian Salem
6 - Michael Hibberd, Sam Weideman
4 - Jake Lever
--- No hope without three finals ---
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), Adam Tomlinson

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Though his mortar shell set shot in the first quarter was both technically better and entirely indisputable, you'd be mad to go past Petracca's match-winner. Sure it only went through courtesy of an obscure bounce, and we'll never know if it fully crossed the line before being touched but that's not important now. It will cost it the clubhouse lead in the yearly prize, but that's not a massive issue for Truck because he was already in front for that steamroller goal out of the middle against North.

For the weekly prize he wins a one-on-one Daytona USA lesson in the entertainment room of the Cairns Motor Lodge (which is not a patch on Rockhampton's Porky's Motel) with leisure technician Bayley Fritsch.

I wouldn't have either James Brayshaw or Luke Darcy in my SuperCommentary team, but watching a Channel 7 game without some bloke shouting like his jompers are on fire was refreshing.

You can only imagine what the end of this would have been like if their alleged #1 team had been involved, with Big Turd saying things like "next goal wins" and prefacing either ridiculous or patently obvious statements (but never anything in between) with "I reckon".

This would all be bad enough, except that on the victory lap after one of the great commentating careers, Bruce McAvaney has decided he has to try and keep up with this nonsense. It's like a social drinker trying to take a raging alcoholic on in a drinking contest. Regain some dignity Bruce, for your own sake ask them to place you in Channel 7's version of the Witness Protection Program and work with any other commentator.

As for the coverage we were watching, there wasn't much wrong. They hit their quota on lingering shots of the crowd and telling us 200 times how much the people of Alice Springs loved being able to watch footy (I don't expect the Cairns crowd to get the same level of patronising coverage), the only thing I had an issue with was an over-reliance on using the picture-in-picture to show live play while a replay took up the main screen. And good on them for not bringing a goal-line camera.

Next Week
Imagine kicking off your September campaign at 4.40pm Thursday in Cairns. We've gone further north plenty of times, but it feels like years of gags about being forced to play in an exotic timeslot on the Spratly Islands have finally paid off. Fine timing for all you pricks 'working' from home, some of us will be forced to engage in an afternoon of 'special projects' to watch. Which will be fine if we do the right thing and win against a Sydney side that has been ordinary all year. Here's to getting the Swans that could only beat Adelaide, Hawthorn and North, not the one that mysteriously belted GWS.

Two weeks ago Sydney kicked 2.7.19, and have the biggest cast of players you've never heard of since season 1 GWS so you'd be in a murderous mood if we lost. But deep down would you be surprised? As it's located in the disputed region of Western Sahara, there's no social distancing requirements at Kingsley Manor, and Kent is currently wondering whether he can get all of (consults *AFL Tables for names*) James Bell, Zac Foot, Colin O'Riordan, James Rowbottom, Dylan Stephens, Jackson Thurlow and Sam Wicks in at once.

We'll find out when they tear us a new ringpiece on Thursday afternoon, but are these real people?
For those of my vintage (middle-aged but still in control of most bodily functions), this may bring back memories of International Cricket on the Nintendo, where they couldn't afford the rights to real players and had to come up with a squad of soundalike knockoffs.

Surely all these fictional people can't fire at the same time, so I can't bring myself to think we'll lose but there are too many variables to be truly confident. For one, I'd prefer to know that the side picked this week isn't the one they expect to take to the finals. In the world of football cliches the axe can only swing after a loss, and I bet they won't dare make the sort of changes they would have if St. Kilda had rolled through a late goal. I propose changes not once, not twice, but thrice.

No idea what role Hannan was playing but I didn't fancy it. If he's not inside 50 I am not interested. I'm very interested in Pickett, but he needs a week watching nothing but review tapes to try and get his attempted highlights/actual highlights percentage into double figures. And the vandWagon has blown a tire in recent weeks so he can have a rest too.

Replacing them:

Fritsch - given a reprieve from the air hockey table after being dropped for somehow turning up late for training while in a hermetically sealed hub. I reckon they secretly chopped him for offering bugger all forward pressure but we should (SHOULD) get a lot of forward 50 opportunities next week and he's a proven commodity for finishing them.
Harmes - after Wagner did well in defence (probably due to being a defender), bring him back as a midfielder. Is in no way the same player as AVB but I have faith he will offer more both offensively and defensively.
... and Bedford is the next closest thing we've got to a small forward if Pickett goes out, so let's give him another bash.

Was close to Bennell in for Jones, but despite the high profile cock-up I'm still seduced by the romantic aspect of him being in the side. For one more week at least. NFI what to do if Hibberd doesn't play - Lockhart doesn't seem a like-for-like swap but might have to do. Whoever it is, it won't be Double J James Jordon. I thought he might get a go at some point until he crushed a finger between dumbells and had to have plastic surgery to correct the damage. If he gets caught up in the 2021 list reduction massacre the permanent deformity will be a happy reminder of his time away with the Dees.

IN: Bedford, Fritsch, Harmes
OUT: Hannan, Pickett, vandenBerg (omit)
LUCKY: Jones, O. McDonald, Spargo
UNLUCKY: Bennell, Lockhart

The Return of the Bradbury Plan

It's back in our hands now, which if anything is even scarier than having to fight from behind. Even if you got yourself into a difficult position, missing from a weaker position means you can unconvincingly claim that it's not what we did but what everyone else did to us. Now we get to look like buffoons if we miss out with what looks on paper like an easy draw. I'll wait to see what happens next week but bless whoever sent us to Perth for Round 1 so we get to play Freo in Cairns instead of at home.

Luckily a day of Dougal (???) style dithering has meant I can factor in Carlton/Collingwood and Gold Coast/North before publishing. Feels odd to be going through all these permutations after 13 games but here we are.

For all the ridiculously premature talk on the TV coverage about Carlton being finished by the loss they are still a threat. What this does is make their next game against GWS huge. If they win they're still in the mix, but significant percentage behind us and stuffs up the Giants. This is what Bradbury life is all about, you've got to look into the future and see potential impacts on the Plan. And people who say "you shouldn't be relying on other teams losing" clearly have none of the mental scars you get from following Melbourne.

As for Collingwood, they have a difficult draw but I'm all but conceding a spot to them now, leaving us in a battle for eighth. Nothing's certain but I think they've done enough to be finals cannon fodder.  Finally, Essendon's draw against Gold Coast and Hawthorn's massive collapse on Friday night can piss right off. The Bombers should be removed as a factor by playing West Coast, Geelong and Port in the next three weeks but I do not fancy playing them in an in/out game in the last round. I want them to be practically begging the AFL to allow a walkover so they can send their dispirited players home.

No threat to us, win everything - Brisbane, Port, Geelong, Richmond, North, Adelaide, Sydney, Hawthorn
Could be dragged into the race so may as well lose to non-threats - St. Kilda (↓), Collingwood (↑)
Likely no threat, can do us favours by beating other mid-table teams - West Coast, Fremantle (↓), Gold Coast (↓)
Outside threat. Beat some mid-table teams, lose to everyone else - Carlton (↓)
Big threats, lose everything until further notice (matches between them to be decided on a case-by-case basis) - GWS, Essendon, Footscray

And your cut-out-and-keep guide until the end of Round 15. Given that we're the fourth game of the round it's all subject to change:

Adelaide d. Hawthorn - strange game to get an interest in, but I wouldn't mind the Crows getting some confidence up before playing GWS and Carlton.
West Coast d. Essendon
Richmond d. Freo - just to make sure the Dockers are dead, hopefully with their morale shattered
Carlton d. GWS
Brisbane d. Collingwood

Have at it sports fans. Willing to accept alternative plans that cover any intricate details I've missed. And if you haven't had enough permutations there's a ladder predictor to go sick on here.

Final thoughts
The coping strategy about this being a throwaway season was lie told by the head that the heart doesn't believe. It is a throwaway season but I still desperately want to make the eight. We can play finals - for the first three weeks it doesn't matter if I can't be there and we're still not good enough to make the fourth so it won't matter - and use this as a springboard to 2021.

There are still too many holes to be confident that we'll be a guaranteed finals side next year, but barring another off-season from hell I'm reasonably confident that we won't be any worse. The good news is we'll never have had a shorter off-season before finding out which way it's going to go, in what we hope is a proper length season with regulation quarters and players not flying around the country ad nauseum like Charles Kingsford bloody Smith.

Anyway, see you on Thursday for "yeah, I told you this season was bullshit. It's ok if we finish 9th by 0.1% again" style misery.


  1. Brilliant read again Adam!! Thoroughly enjoy living vicariously through the usual Melbourne torture at end of quarters and end of games!! Especially as I'm usually trying to have a restless nights' sleep by reluctantly checking the scores on my phone every 20 minutes!! Such a joy that the Sydney game starts at 1.40am central US time this Thursday!!!

  2. Forgot to sign off on the previous post!!

    Best regards,
    Tony Davis
    Minneapolis, Minnesota


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