Sunday 5 December 2021

The sweetest repeat - 2021 premiership celebration in review

It's unfortunate that every new post from here will push the one about the Grand Final further into the archives. It would have been appropriate if I never posted again, leaving that post at the top of the page until the very moment humanity is wiped out like the dinosaurs. But bad luck, you're stuck with me, so let's have one more post relating to the most interesting thing ever to happen in the month of September before this chapter closes. I'll still be up for any form of chat that involves us winning a 13th premiership. Or if you want, chat about the other 12 - they're all part of the lead-up to us doing our block in epic fashion on that lovely night in Perth.

Two and a bit months after winning the thing, Victorian fans finally got to celebrate the 2021 premiership with friends/family/an empty Row MM (delete as applicable). It was certainly unique, surely no other team has ever gathered 35,000 people to watch a replay, much less 10 weeks after the event. As much as I'd always dreamed about the wild scenes on a Sunday after a Grand Final win, this would do as a replacement. And for the first time in about 110 years, all the players at a premiership celebration were sober.

Knowing that we'd collectively spent more than the annual budget of Uruguay on merchandise since September, the club showed tremendous restraint by making tickets to the event free. Even $5 for adults would have passed without complaint, but the did the polite thing for a fanbase that missed the biggest game of most of our lives and threw the gates open. This also allowed a few people to get in wearing merchandise of other teams, which helped remind Melbourne fans that there are currently 17 loser sides who aren't reigning premier. Long may it stay that way.

It helps when you've got the jolliest crowd since a Hare Krishna convention, but this most glorious of family days was handled perfectly. Really, if you're at the celebration for a premiership ending a 57 year drought something amazingly drastic is going to need to happen to make you complain.  Even entry was quick, despite predictions of delays as people battled to prove their vaccination status and work out how to use a mobile to get through the turnstile. It went off without a hitch - where I was anyway.

This baffling, government-enforced entry condition caused some confusion, especially for people like me who were up with new technology until about five years ago and now just want everything to stay the same. Not surprisingly, when the app you were checking in on proved your vaccination certificate (unless you're one of the people carrying a fake printout from, there was no need for the digital wallet to open. Please don't write in with an explanation of what that means, I couldn't care less. 

After that it was smooth sailing, finally given the opportunity to book a level four seat again I refused to take my assigned spot in Row C and went straight for the back row. Sadly, the mystery Cluedo passage between Olympic Stand and the Ponsford was locked so I couldn't sneak over to where I really wanted to be. Still haven't set foot in my home ground since the day Oscar McDonald kicked a goal and we limped to a sad defeat against Collingwood in front of a putrid crowd. A bit has changed since.

At first I felt like a nuffy sitting there watching a two-month old game for the umpteenth time, but the mood of the crowd won me over. It was just genuine happiness, and sitting in dear old Row MM offered a box seat view of people having a wonderful time. As far as mass gatherings around the Melbourne CBD go, it sure beat cockheads waving placards on Bourke Street. 

Forget nonsense like Dance Cam, this was genuine, unashamed joy from relieving the greatest evening in the history of sports. It was like going to wrestling, everyone knew the result was pre-determined but got into it anyway. Self-consciousness was officially out when people cheered Neal-Bullen and Brown having the first two shots when everyone knew (or did they? Perhaps not everyone's a rolled-gold nutter like us) they were going to miss. Good, otherwise you may as well have skipped to the point where we were 19 points behind and enjoyed the freewheeling carnage from there.

I'm not going into great depth on the game itself. We've seen it enough times that we know in advance when Brian Taylor is going to say something stupid - it usually coincides with him speaking. If you're new to this, and god knows there's never been a better time to get involved, the full match review of that deelightful night is one of 16 years worth of insane ramblings in our archives. What I will say is that the 100-7 finish is just as good on the 20th replay as the first, and that Jackson was incredibly stiff not to get votes. Given my time again I might even slot him in for three and nudge Viney out with the greatest of regrets.

We might have saved time and fast-forwarded through the bathroom break second quarter, but keeping the game at full length meant there had to be some sort of half time break. I could have done without the Russell Robertson All-Stars singing Boys Light Up (which he tenuously connected to the footy club, despite it being about rooting), but people aged 6-10, and every woman over 50 seemed to love it. Mind you, this was such a frisky crowd that you could have set 9/11 to music and they'd have started dancing. At least I saw this one, unlike the real half time show, when I was sulking in another room with a spontaneously bleeding nose and a central nervous system teetering on the brink of collapse.

I've only cried with happiness once in my life (guess which day that was?) but nearly had a teary again when the crowd went nuts for the Mad Minute. Had to hold it together a second time when Neale Daniher arrived, battling his coight off against an ultimately unbeatable disease. Made me think about Jim Stynes, who did likewise for as long as he could while the team swirled down the toilet in front of him. Fans of emotion were also well served by the Nathan Jones/Neville Jetta tribute at three quarter time. I wonder if Nev had to ask new employer Collingwood for permission to don the MFC polo. His career change was politely ignored, in case people without decorum ruined the solemnity of the occasion by booing the Pies. 

Then it was back to the replay, and the 30 minute victory lap of a lifetime. Brown's goal at the start was very good for my health, if we'd even gone close to blowing that lead I'd have been killed by death. Now that you know what's going to happen it's funny listening to commentators talking about how we were home at 40 points up with 15 minutes to go. It would have taken something remarkable to beat us from that position but I'd still have shit my shorts if Footscray kicked the next goal. They did eventually get one in the last quarter - we got nine. I've never seen anything like it and never will again. The second half should be a walk-up start to every Grand Final marathon until the year 2100.

The virtual siren was followed by a recreation of the post-match from Perth, only with all the bits involving Footscray cut out. Sadly, border restrictions meant we weren't able to hire the Mayor of Perth as host then forget to pick him up from the airport. In his place came Garry Lyon, a sensible enough choice, until he turned up with the most unruly pile of paper notes you'll ever see. 

It was farcical watching him try to deal with these unstapled, possibly handwritten sheets that were threatening to waft into the crowd at any moment. Maybe that's why he did the crowd-pleasing gag about Basil forgetting to call on Goodwin, then had to be told by Tom Sparrow that he'd skipped Bayley Fritsch. Gaz took this in the right spirit, calling himself a dickhead. If the Mayor isn't willing to do similar I'll be happy to step in. 

The low key highlight, other than Lever dangling his kid off the stage by the arm in the most NQR fashion, was Jake Bowey (called 'Jack' by Lyon, surely a subtle gag about Basil doing the same thing) appearing in front of a crowd at the MCG for the first time after winning his first premiership but before playing in a loss. He could retire now and still be treated as a hero by Melbourne fans for the rest of his life.

Once Goodwin had finally made his thwarted Grand Final night speech (hardly "I have a dream" stuff but he's won a flag and I haven't so carry on), the cherished premiership cup arrived via a queue of ex-players going full fan nuff, and was handed over by David Neitz and Neale Daniher to much acclaim. And, err, that was it. For me anyway, other than a heroic Ed Langdon-esque run to catch a train. Pretty banal finish to an otherwise wonderful event. My only regret was not 'accidentally' running into Anthony McDonald and thanking him for winning me a $1000 Harvey Norman gift voucher on that 2004 Fox Footy game show. When that's the extent of the misery you've had a pretty good day.

Next year
The dear old AFL, who'll ask for repayment of $3 million they spent to keep us alive in 2013 if we're not careful, are going all out to make sure the memory of the Grand Final is shoehorned into every aspect of the new season. Not only are they making us play the Bulldogs in Round 1 of AFLW (a competition where, after four seasons, we'll still never have been fixtured against perennial slop side Geelong), but are starting the men's competition with a replay straight off the bat. They'll probably make us play them in the pre-season too. Footscray fans should seek an injunction on the grounds of mental trauma.

Wasting a Grand Final rematch on the opening round is bad enough, then you find out they've scheduled it on a Wednesday night. I know Richmond/Carlton is consistently a horrible season opener, but the solution is to piss one or both of them off, not to plonk a game the night before and pretend like you're doing fans a favour. Having said that, I'll be there (figuratively) walloping myself to a standstill over cloth going up a flagpole. It would be mad not to.

Commerce Corner
Any enterprising capitalist would have taken a shitload of books and sold them from a rug outside the MCG on Sunday. I'm nothing more than an out-of-his-depth amateur having a crack, so you'll have to pick up last-minute Christmas gifts for the Melburnian in your life the old-fashioned way. Support your local bookstore for this one, see if Amazon can on-demand print the other in time. All profits unashamedly go to me, but will ultimately find their way back into the hosting costs for Demonwiki or on buying memberships with guaranteed Grand Final tickets I'll never be able to use.

Final thoughts
This was a nice way to end the period of post-flag euphoria. The joy will never depart, but I may not watch the game again in full as many times during the rest of my life as between September 25 and December 5 this year. I can't see how my supporting life can ever be as frantic again as it has been since 2007, but I'm willing to go with the flow and see what happens next. Besides, when we win the next 11 flags one of them will have to be nearly as exciting as this one...

Wednesday 27 October 2021

2021 End of Season spectacular - 🏆 Victory lap edition 🏆

On the scale of things I never expected to do, reviewing a premiership season sat alongside climbing Mt. Everest and having the ARIA #1 single. The first two can get stuffed, staying alive long enough to see Melbourne win a flag is my greatest achievement.

Some of you were privileged to see it in person - legally or otherwise - the rest of us should just be happy to be on the same planet at the same time. Why we had to break our long, painful, premiership drought in Perth isn't important now. 'How' is worth thinking about at length. 

But first, as we're meeting in an official capacity, please remove your premiership cap (or, thanks to Australia Post, any available substitute) and rise for the national anthem:

[IMPORTANT NOTE: RIP to the YouTube account containing the video of Ricky May singing the anthem really badly. I once downloaded it just in case, and when I find where it was saved will restore to its rightful position in this post].

Lucky I've been recycling the same format on these end of year posts for about 10 years, otherwise I wouldn't know where to start. Now that our lifelong quest for a premiership is over everything will be different. One day there will be generations of fans who were too young or too not yet alive to fully appreciate 25 September 2021, but if you're old enough to read this you're old enough for it to remain a positive memory until the day you croak.

Five years ago, I included an apt line from Bertolt Brecht on the back cover of The Great Deepression, "the man who laughs has simply not yet heard the terrible news". Now I'm a bit sad for the people who really will be born later and never experience our joy that night. There could be more flags, and they'd all be welcome, but none that can match the feeling of this one - even from the other side of the country. And if they have to wait 57 years (or longer), I've got mine and nobody can take it away. 

So, where do I pre-book a Soylent Green ending? The final act will be a replay of the last minute of the third quarter. James Brayshaw being the last voice you hear is a small price to pay for going out watching the greatest moment in the history of sports. Until then, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to find a greater high than the moment Oliver capped off the mad minute. Give me all the sex, drugs, rock and roll I can handle, none will come close.

Welcome to the new dictionary definition of 'If you get it, you get it'. Plenty of droughts have been broken this century, none in such a mad fashion. Everything between Sydney by four points and Geelong by 119 would have been great, but none featured the same rollercoaster of emotions as this. I'd have been more likely to die at the exact moment Leo Barry took his mark, but the Swans hadn't just blown a four goal lead, then climbed back from the edge of a cliff before unleashing the blitzkrieg of a lifetime. I'm not going to punch on over who enjoyed their flag more, but nobody's going to win it under circumstances like this again. It was once in a lifetime, and thank god for that because a repeat might have killed me.

It all started on a sunny afternoon in late January...

2021 AFLW season in review

Round 1 vs Gold Coast - The Many Moods of Melbourne 
The first COVID related fixture change of the year left us playing the eventual wooden spooner, instead of a scheduled game against the eventual premier. Which was helpful. Seemed alright at the time, and the AFLW season turned out pretty well, but you'd have been less enthusiastic if you knew the Suns would finish 0-9.

Round 2 vs Richmond - I've got a Tiger by the tail
In a rare 2021 scenario, the game was played between the scheduled teams, at the scheduled venue, on the scheduled day at the scheduled time. In a nine game season, a 2-0 start was welcome, even if it was another uninspiring win against traditionally shithouse opposition. With the 'Rona starting to take hold again there was, for the first time, speculation that the season wouldn't finish. And as we discovered in 2020, do everything you can to finish the men's comp but stiff shit for the women if things get tricky.

Round 3 vs North Melbourne - Home Alone
Finally, a win against a good side. Shame nobody was there to see it, as Lockdown IV: What The World Is Watching saw the gates slammed shut. The lack of background noise inspired our lot to pile on six goals in the second quarter. Which was great, until we conceded four after the break, leaving us just one point ahead at the last change. All was well that ended well, as the competition's glamour team was dismissed, putting us in an excellent position to be left high and dry if the season was called off.  

Round 4 vs Footscray - Can't buy a thrill
Crowds returned in time to see the Bulldogs took advantage of injuries, variable breezes, and an opposition kicking the putrid final score of 2.12 to get their season going again. Shortly after, it stopped again and they finished eighth. Bad kicking was bad football, as were bad handballing and bad defending. Not our finest hour, but better than the following week.

Round 5 vs Collingwood - Dead end street
The sense that we could do the impossible and miss the finals from 3-0 in a nine game season came to life at Victoria Park, where we kicked one goal, leaving us 3.20 across the previous fortnight. It was a long way down from the side that was kicking goals for fun against North a couple of weeks earlier. All of a sudden we were in more trouble than the early settlers.

Round 6 vs St Kilda - Pearce them off
With the season hanging by a thread, the prospect of a coach sacking only kept at bay because AFLW drama doesn't sell newspapers, and a forward line operating like an Albanian automobile, we had a go at something different and sent Daisy Pearce forward. This worked a treat, and after starting the season in full decline as in defence, she was given a new lease of life. A rampant win was only soured by pulling up at three quarter time instead of delivering a tremendous, percentage boosting thrashing. 

Round 7 vs Adelaide - From woe to go
It's one thing to beat St Kilda, now our wonky forward line had to kick a winning score against the 5-1 premiership favourites. Or not as it turned out, with the backline giving us a taste of things to come in the men's season by keeping the opposition to 15 points. Our 6.7 still wasn't all that convincing, but better than scores of 37, 38 and 40 in the next three wins. It was a strange season.

Round 8 vs Fremantle
- Flying high again
The AFL's COVID powered wheel of fixturing stitched us up a treat, putting on three games against top sides to end the year, while other sides in the mix for a top six spot got the chance to dismember the league's rubbish. Throw in the coach being absent because his wife was about to have a baby, and we looked scant chance in Perth. In the sort of weird game you only get in AFLW, Freo went three quarters without a goal and could have been considered unlucky to lose. But they did, and for the first time ever we made finals without an assist from the season being shut down midway.

Round 9 vs Brisbane - Melbourne AFLW, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?
The job of qualifying was complete, now it was about showing we were serious by turning over another finals bound side. That we did (though they had the last laugh by winning the flag), with another assist from our very good friend 
(ultimately, a flag winning one) the novel Coronavirus. This time a late breaking virus outbreak in Queensland meant Brisbane's players were confined to one floor of their hotel on arrival, which can't have helped their mood. Also, the hotel was in Glen Waverley, which is a few luxury steps down from the New York Hilton.

Qualifying Final vs Fremantle - When you're hot, you're hot
By now we'd played the Dockers' women twice and men once so I was getting fairly sick of them. Like the men's game, this one took place without Daisy Pearce, who'd gone down with a knee injury against the Lions. Freo wasn't taking too well to our repeat meeting either, going three quarters without a goal again. This time there was no thrilling near miss, falling 15 points short. They were out, we were a game from the Grand Final...

Preliminary Final vs Adelaide - Interstate of Disaster
... and that's where we stayed. The cover version of the 2018 men's journey was complete, storming into the Prelim on a wave of momentum, then running out of petrol at the first bounce. Like the West Coast (yay)/West Coast (boo) doubleheader that year, the Crows weren't falling for the same trick twice within a few weeks. After briefly toying with us in the first quarter, Adelaide realised there was no resistance coming and got on with things. The margin was only 18, but kicking 1.9 - and most of that after Adelaide went into self-preservation mode - was a flat end to an otherwise enjoyable season.

AFLW Defender of the Year

It's a triumph for the Emerald Isle, with the vastly improved Goldrick joining 2015 Prymke Plate champ Heritier Lumumba and countrywoman Laura Duryea (retrospectively) as overseas-born award winners.

Name for new award (other years given retrospectively) pending. Give it a couple of years to shake out and we'll apply the honour to somebody deserving.

5 - Sinead Goldrick
2 - Gabrielle Colvin, Sarah Lampard, Casey Sherriff
0 - Libby Birch, Meg Downie, Chantel Emonson, Sarah Lampard, Lauren Magee

Honour roll:
2017 - Laura Duryea and Katherine Smith
2018 - Katherine Smith (2)
2019 - Harriet Cordner and Meg Downie
2020 - Libby Birch
2021 - Sinead Goldrick

AFLW Rising Star Award

Another new award that I'd forgotten about until it was time to write this post. On paper there wasn't much competition for rookie on our AFLW list, but ultimately the women got twice as many votes in 11 games as the men did in 25. 

McNamara had a very good opening season, until she was knocked to buggery in the opening minutes of the prelim. Won't turn 20 until after next season, so we look forward to a glorious future if the AFL resists forcing us to trade her to one of the 213 new expansion clubs. 

3 - Eliza McNamara
1 - Alyssa Bannan
0 - Megan Fitzsimon, Lauren Magee, Krstel Petrevski

Honour roll:
2018 - Tegan Cunningham
2019 - Tyla Hanks
2020 - Casey Sherriff
2021 - Eliza McNamara

Daisy Pearce Medal for AFLW Player of the Year

Paxmania reigns supreme again, eclipsing Nathan Jones 2012-2014 for the longest winning streak in a main award. The final margin suggests a romp, but it didn't come without a strong mid-season challenge from Tyla Hanks. The legend couldn't be stopped, and won handily. Not hard to be the best player in team history after five seasons, but future generations will have to go a fair bloody way to beat her record (to date) of four wins and a second.

36 - Karen Paxman
27 - Tyla Hanks
21 - Lauren Pearce
20 - Lily Mithen
10 - Kate Hore, Shelley Scott
8 - Maddie Gay
6 - Tegan Cunningham, Eden Zanker
5 - Sinead Goldrick
4 - Daisy Pearce
3 - Eliza McNamara
2 - Gabrielle Colvin, Sarah Lampard, Jackie Parry, Casey Sherriff
1 - Alyssa Bannan

Honour roll:
2017 - Daisy Pearce
2018 - Karen Paxman
2019 - Karen Paxman (2)
2020 - Karen Paxman (3)
2021 - Karen Paxman (4)

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance

In the year I introduced this award, and let's be fair it was initially just an excuse for the gag name, we played one NAB Cup and three practice matches. Four games was enough to sensibly come up with a winner, two just caused a massive logjam at the top. Still, fair group to share it, hardly two rookies and a delisted free agent.

There were supposed to be three games this time, before COVID cost one. While it seems ludicrous declaring an overall winner when nobody could score more than 10 votes but here we are. Spare a thought for the Demonblog budget, we've got to pay for three plates now. Also for Kade Chandler, who almost got as many votes as times he was the unused substitute.
7 - Max Gawn, Steven May, Christian Petracca
4 - Jake Lever
3 - Kade Chandler
1 - Ed Langdon, Clayton Oliver

Honour roll:
2008 - Aaron Davey
2009 - Cameron Bruce
2010 - Brad Green
2011 - Colin Sylvia
2012 - Nathan Jones
2013 - Nathan Jones (2)
2014 - Jeremy Howe
2015 - Heritier Lumumba
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Jesse Hogan, Jayden Hunt and Clayton Oliver
2018 - Max Gawn and Christian Petracca
2019 - Max Gawn (2)
2020 - Bayley Fritsch
2021 - Max Gawn (3), Steven May, Christian Petracca (2)

2021 AFL Year in Review - part one

Practice match vs Richmond - The carnival is back in town
After the various pandemic related shenanigans of 2021, things were looking up. Cricket had pretty much gone off without a hitch, and nobody really cared that tennis didn't, so we settled in for a new campaign and... err... watched an early morning YouTube feed. A handful of people tried to watch through the fence at Casey, presumably because their internet had failed. You'd be mad to get excited by such a frivolous, throwaway game, but ultimately the formline of a comfortable win against a strong side held up pretty well.

AAMI Community Series match vs Footscray - FFC vs FFS
The break from restrictions and regular fixture changes lasted about eight days, leaving this as the only official pre-season game on the calendar. Bad news for AAMI, missing a week of promotion in the year they took over from companies like JLT and Marsh (me either), who nobody had ever heard of, throwing their money down the drain. As a nervous person always expecting the rug to be pulled from under us, I declared the Dogs premiership favourites (close) and suggested we'd be lucky to scrape into the eight (bit wrong).

Round 1 vs Fremantle - Mainly happy returns
Other than being assigned seats so random it was like they'd come out of a barrel, the long-awaited return to live games in Victoria went off with our a hitch. After a year on the couch I was willing to go along with everything they wanted. For about two weeks, then I spent the rest of the year whinging. On-field, we won with the absolute minimum oomph required against a travelling, injury-ravaged, mid-table side. Any Round 1 win is a good win. Hard to see us adding the next eight as well.

Round 2 vs St Kilda - A cat couldn't scratch it
After remaining respectfully sceptical of Simon Goodwin throughout 2020, I was ready to finally give in to public sentiment and turn on him halfway through the second quarter. We pulled up just before stacking it, narrowly pulling ahead at half time. Pickett kicked an unreal goal from inside a phonebooth, and we won by 18 points. Turns out the Saints were decidedly ordinary, but we weren't sure about that at the time.

This exchange is still remembered fondly, even if Goody kicked Jones to the kerb about three weeks later. 
Another week, another win, and another comeback from a semi-hopeless position. Even at 3-0, there was still nothing to suggest we'd contend for the premiership. For now I was just happily working towards being a fringe finals side. Significantly more excited, Kelli Underwood, declaring that "they" called him "Slick Fritsch", a nickname that would have gone down a treat on Grand Final night if anybody else in the media joined in. Not the stupidest idea, they've all adopted Dwayne's bloody chaos ball, why not this?

Round 4 vs Geelong - Be still cat
Finally, something approaching a statement win. The margin wasn't huge, but considering some of the rubbish we'd put out against the Cats over the years it was more than enough. It was especially impressive because a) we put in our best performance in the wet for years, and b) most if was without Steven May, who'd been assassinated by the recklessly swinging elbow of Tom Hawkins. I still wasn't ready to queue for finals tickets, not yet knowing that the queue started on the other side of the country, but this was the first time I seriously sat up and took notice.

Round 5 vs Hawthorn - High five
This was a strange day out. An unbeaten team struggling to get rid of flotsam, Mitch Brown beating Ben Brown into our forward line, Gawn running around taking contested marks like a madman, and a last quarter rampage from out of nowhere that carried us to what a comfortable win. In reality, it was anything but, not firing until we'd endured a goal in the first 20 seconds of the last quarter, and some bloke dropped a sitter in the square that would have given them the lead. Everything after that was fun though, and I wasn't going to turn back a 5-0 start for the first time in christ knows how long.

Round 6 vs Richmond - The Nathan Jonestown Massacre
The night we discovered that 2021 was real and spectacular. The scope of Richmond's decline wasn't quite clear yet (and they could very well roar back to life next year for all I know), but overcoming a rocky start to run away with an easy victory in front of a pandemic adjusted big crowd, showed that we were something approaching the real deal. The other item of interest was Nathan Jones' 300th, much celebrated because he'd climbed through 50 layers of shit to get there. Unknown to him, the finish line was just around the corner, but it was nice that he hit the rarest of MFC games milestones on the night we were confirmed as pretty bloody good. Evening ended with a farcical trophy presentation where the host didn't get told the winner before she started talking.

Round 7 vs North Melbourne - The last shall be first
First we announce our arrival, then we line up against an 0-6 side with the chance to go top of the ladder and spot them a four goal start.  The good guys got the job done, but not without some serious fretting about winning all those games then flopping face-first as favourites. North's youthful enthusiasm ended in the third quarter, and Bayley Fritsch got his party started with six goals (also getting away with smacking a bloke in the head with his forearm), but it was nothing more than four much-needed points in the bank.

Round 8 vs Sydney - Eight the hard way
If you're going to wobble, you may as well do it while winning. Especially against another top side. Mind you, since a five win run to start the year they'd lost to Gold Coast by 40 and beaten Geelong, so who knew what sort of opposition would turn up. In the end we got something in the middle, and they hung around like an unflushable nugget until halfway through the last quarter. It was hardly convincing, but you'd have been insane to turn down an 8-0 start. Forget premierships, I was still worried we'd find a way to miss the finals.

Round 9 vs Carlton - Channel 9/0
Now that you know how it ends, let's be ruthlessly honest and agree that this was a shite performance. We did enough to beat ordinary opposition comfortably, via kicking a ton of missed opportunities in the last quarter, but nothing suggested our hot start would translate into long-term success. I could sense that a loss was coming, but surely not until after playing the reigning wooden spooners...

Round 10 vs Adelaide - The recession we had to have
... or just when we played the reigning wooden spooners. I don't what aged worse, our defence being blown open, the shithouse umpiring decision at the end, or Tex Walker being hailed as a hero. Was still one of our highest scores of the home and away season, which confirms that it was just a flat-out strange night. Randomly struggling against a shit side was hardly an anomaly considering what happened against Collingwood and Hawthorn later, but perhaps without it we wouldn't have rumbled a pair of premiership contenders across the next fortnight. 

Round 11 vs Footscray - Bouncing back
Back to an empty Fortress Docklands, where our response to the Adelaide debacle was James Harmes kicking a goal so quickly that Channel 7's fake crowd noise machine hadn't yet warmed up. After Adelaide unexpectedly scored heavily against us, restricting a contender to eight goals was reinvigorating. Featured Tom Sparrow coming on as the most token medical substitute in history, replacing a concussed Ed Langdon with about 50 seconds left in the last quarter.

Round 12 vs Brisbane - Dees go to 11
The first half of the year had been spent regularly climbing out of holes (keep that in mind, it becomes significant again later), and at half time in the unusual surrounds of Sydney Showgrounds we were in all sorts. Just as our top four hopes were about to swirl around the S-Bend we hit the accelerator and ended up winning unexpectedly easily. Strange things were afoot at the MFC.

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award

From the few good seasons we've had, it's clear that the best thing for a high-scoring Hilton race is for the side to be so putrid that shitloads of young players are given their chance. 
None of that this year, with the winner playing every game (albeit with a few appearances as unused sub), with only three eligible players making an appearance.

Despite falling slightly out of favour at the end of the year, it's a deserved win for Double J, who went close to votes a few times at the start of the year. He couldn't stretch it out for a full season, but there's never been a better year to be in and around the side. The emergence of a literally unbeatable Jake Bowey added some mystery to the competition, but it was still not a banner year for statistical fanatics.

Important historical note, even with the post-premiership Truth and Reconciliation Commission pardoning of all the people that have screwed us over the years, we will not be derevoking the 2010 award. The original winner will have to get over it while lying on a bed made from money. 
2 - James Jordon
1 - Jake Bowey
0 - Kade Chandler

Honour roll:
2005 - No players eligible.
2006 - Matthew Bate
2007 - Michael Newton
2008 - Cale Morton
2009 - Jack Grimes ($4)
2010 - [REVOKED]
2011 - Jeremy Howe ($30)
2012 - Tom McDonald ($8)
2013 - Jack Viney ($5)
2014 - Jay Kennedy-Harris ($15)
2015 - Jesse Hogan ($4.50)
2016 - Jayden Hunt ($50) and Christian Petracca ($10)
2017 - Mitch Hannan ($15)
2018 - Bayley Fritsch ($4.50)
2019 - Marty Hore ($8)
2020 - Trent Rivers ($40)
2021 - James Jordon ($30)

Demonbracket X

Eight months before a panel of distinguished voters/'how did they get here' randoms unanimously awarded him the Norm Smith Medal, Christian Petracca was named the #1 selection of the fans in a landslide Demonbracket final. Solid bookends for any season.

The good news is that the Twitter-only voting format, and subsequent 2000% reduction in admin work, reignited my passion for the concept and we'll be back for version XI next year. Hard to see how one of Oliver, Petracca or Gawn doesn't win, but I wouldn't rule out Steven May going close.

2012 - James Frawley d. Nathan Jones
2013 - Tom McDonald d. Mitch Clark
2014 - Nathan Jones d. Jack Watts
2015 - Nathan Jones [2] d. Dom Tyson
2016 - Jack Viney d. Nathan Jones
2017 - Max Gawn d. Jack Viney
2018 - Neville Jetta d. Clayton Oliver 
2019 - Clayton Oliver d. Neville Jetta
2020 - Max Gawn d. Clayton Oliver
2021 - Christian Petracca d. Max Gawn

Welcome to the family

Last time we won a flag you could travel to Ceylon, East Germany, Rhodesia, South Vietnam or Upper Volta. It’s been a while. In that time we’ve been dragged through muck from pillar to post, tried voting ourselves out of existence, and had worse luck than anyone except St Kilda or Fitzroy. Drag out any reference material in your house that pre-dates 2021 and write our name in the premiership list.

Happy memories
Turns out that a large part of the premiership afterglow is the little moments that neutrals won’t remember, but which will be burnt into your brain forever. These include, but are not limited to:
  • Basil forgetting to let the coaches speak
  • Various cup related shenanigans - e.g. Hibberd piss-bolting off with it, and Brayshaw/Gawn conducting an on-field interview.
  • Jako swearing on live TV
  • Gawn atop Tomlinson's shoulders in the nightclub
  • Petracca trying to do an AFL360 interview in the back room of a pub with people randomly walking in throughout.
  • Insert your own in the space provided [                                               ]
Luke Dunstan
Arrives on a free transfer from a tragic club just in time to hear all about what a good time we had without him. Bit unlucky, but better than not having a job at all. As usual I don't know anything about him, even after playing against us 10 times since 2014, but I'll take your word that he can get heaps of the ball then spray it like a fire hose. Sounds like the perfect candidate for a redemption story. Or just a reasonable insurance policy against injuries.

Tayla Harris
Key off-season AFLW recruit, who shouldn’t be expected to perform miracles (after all, she did nowt last year and holds a career average of under a goal a game), but will add strength to a young forward line. I still get annoyed when that Colgate ad shows her playing for Carlton, which, proves there’s a level of pettiness that even winning a flag can't eliminate.

Draft picks
IN: First round, second round, and third round picks this year. OUT: a different second round pick, and next year's first. Based on recent results, who am I to argue? 

The grand old flag…
Maybe they’re waiting to visit Bags O' Flags after lockdown, but I've never needed to see a piece of fabric more. It’ll look the same as all the other ones, but for the first time in my life our bloody name is on it. Melbourne. Premiers 2021. I will never get tired of seeing that written/sewn/spraypainted/dripped in blood. It's NQR to say 'we' when you didn't have anything to do with the result, but in this case the 'we' stands for everyone who went through an absurd degree of humiliation waiting to be vindicated. 

Now, 'we' have this:

And anyone who doesn't like that can blow it out their arse.

Wished well in future endeavours

Austin Bradtke
While Luke Jackson might argue, ruckmen usually need a few seasons to get going. Which is shithouse luck for somebody who gets one full season in the VFL before it’s effectively cancelled for the next two years. Doesn't help that the best ruckman in the game and the next big thing are ahead of him in the queue. If he doesn't get re-rerookied Bradtke will have to decide whether to follow dad into basketball, mum into tennis, or [long list of Melbourne players] into premature retirement.

Darren Burgess
Vale BurgessBall, a philosophy of physical fitness that I was never quite convinced actually existed. Maybe it had nothing to do with us running away in a Grand Final but it can't have hurt. He's exercised the Scott Thompson option to go back to Adelaide, leaving somebody with the fantastically 1920s name of Selwyn to carry on his legacy. Wilbur and Ethel are presumably not far behind.

Kye Declase
There's not getting a decent run at it, then there's being drafted mid-season, shortly before the only competition you've got to develop in is shut down. Departs with fond memories of the greatest paid holiday to Western Australia of all time, and I'm sure they'll look at giving him another go in the pre-season if we've got any room on the list.

Marty Hore
Not many players have played 14 games in one season and never been heard from again. In my time Robert Pyman holds the record with 19 in 1997, but otherwise Craig Ellis, Ben Kennedy and Craig Turley are your lot. The common thread is usually injury (except for Kennedy, who they just lost interest in), and Hore was unlucky to miss two full seasons with burst quad and equally burst knee. At one point I thought he'd be the new Neville Jetta, now they'll probably end up in the same backline at Collingwood VFL.

Neville Jetta
... and speaking of Nifty, it's farewell to one of the great revived careers. Arrived as a 'medium forward', but everyone expected him to start kicking goals out of his arse just because he was indigenous. For five years he didn't do that, mainly balancing his career between a shitload of losses in the seniors and wins while in exile at Casey. 

Nev's great revival came under Paul Roos, who successfully recast him as a defender. Soon the rocky early years were forgotten and he became one of the most beloved figures of our recent history. I'll always fondly remember his willingness to fly into contests against much bigger men - or several - despite being one major concussion from oblivion for about the last 100 games of his career. Has moved into a coaching role at the Pies, where we hope he does extremely well while the club falls to bits around him.
Nathan Jones
Since 25 September I've discovered that there are practically no regrets about winning a flag, but it feels like we've moved on quickly from the man who put a god-awful club on his shoulders for years with scant reward. I'm as guilty as anyone, going from dreams of building a tribute statue, to one of Clayton Oliver with his arm outstretched and a brass Luke Jackson going boonta in the background.  

On the day he was drafted, as I drove towards Albury well under the speed limit so SEN's signal would hold out until our first pick, nobody could have predicted how his career would pan out. Fancy being drafted to a side that had just made the second week of the finals, then going close to playing in the most losses in league history. If he'd known that I might have found him on my way home, running across the Hume Highway trying to get run over. 

After seeing so much horror, and carrying so much dead weight that he would have been forgiven for walking away from the club/game/country, it was an appropriately #fistedforever finish to be within touching distance of playing in our breakthrough flag but not even in the ground when we won. Never let what happened while he was watching on his couch detract from his contribution to the long, painful lead-up. May he enjoy 100% joy in whatever comes next and never have to pay for anything in the vicinity of a Melbourne fan again.

Jay Lockhart
The worst timed knacker injury in history kept him out just long enough for us to move on, and our magical run with injuries left him out in the cold. Showed some promise as a defender in early 2020, but ended the year in the hub equivalent of the reserves, and probably won’t get another spin. Still, as far as MFC careers that fizzed after 22 games go, a last official act of going on the piss with premiership-winning teammates beats what happened to Rod Keogh and Jack Fitzpatrick.

Money spent on Grand Final merch
Most of the clothing is so ugly it should be sold out the back of a car at the Caribbean Gardens market, but we were still moved to drop hundreds/thousands in all the excitement. Christ knows where any of it actually is though, I think mine is currently halfway down the Panama Canal. 

Aaron vandenBerg
Handy player in his day, but has been around so infrequently over the last few years that I can't even remember the fun fact about how many possessions he had in that NEAFL game. We’ll always have a) his winning cameo at the end of 2018, b) the time in 2016 he tried to kick a goal and was pinged for deliberate, and c) increased health insurance premiums from all his treatment.

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

After six years of thumping, challenge-free victories, Maximum finally got some competition in the form of Luke Jackson. At one point the race got very tasty, before Maximum brought home title #8 in style with his dual demolitions of Geelong. 

The more I watch the Grand Final, the more I think Jackson was unlucky not to get votes (two time winner SME is still wandering around Perth Stadium wondering WTF happened at the end of the third quarter), suggesting the trucking good times should carry on long after Max has moved into a lucrative media career.

29 - Max Gawn
21 - Luke Jackson 
0 - Austin Bradtke, Majak Daw

Honour roll:
2005 - Jeff White
2006 - Jeff White (2)
2007 - Jeff White (3)
2008 - Paul Johnson
2009 - Mark Jamar ($3)
2010 - Mark Jamar (2) ($1.50 fav)
2011 - Stefan Martin ($30)
2012 - Stefan Martin (2) ($12)
2013 - Jack Fitzpatrick ($50) and Max Gawn ($45)
2014 - Mark Jamar (3) ($5)
2015 - Max Gawn (2) ($10)
2016 - Max Gawn (3) ($1.80 fav)
2017 - Max Gawn (4) ($1.25 fav)
2018 - Max Gawn (5) ($1.10 fav)
2019 - Max Gawn (6) ($1.50 fav)
2020 - Max Gawn (7) ($1.05 fav)
2021 - Max Gawn (8) ($2)

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

There was a time when people were ready to fight in the street over trading two first round picks for Lever. We'd been through so much that there wasn't much willingness to wait and see what happened, or consider that we might have used the picks on rubbish anyway, and when he had a rocky start there was a lot of muttering about how we'd blown it. Then, just as he got going after a few weeks Lever's knee blew on the thinly veiled concrete surface at Docklands, costing him back 12 months of playing and 18 months of development time. 

Fast forward to the present and nobody cares what he cost, because ever if it looks like a minor royal from the late 19th century and talks like a three cartons per day smoker, Jake has just put together one of our great defensive seasons in a premiership year. Much love also to the men around him, specifically May and Petty, who helped form a steel-trap defence only seriously challenged by Hawthorn doing fluke kicks along the ground for want of anything better to do. 

38 - Jake Lever
20 - Christian Salem
19 - Steven May
9 - Harrison Petty
5 - Jayden Hunt
3 - Michael Hibberd
2 - Adam Tomlinson
1 - Jake Bowey

Honour roll:
2005 - Nathan Carroll and Ryan Ferguson
2006 - Jared Rivers
2007 - Paul Wheatley
2008 - Matthew Whelan
2009 - James Frawley ($22)
2010 - James Frawley (2) ($3.50)
2011 - James Frawley (3) ($4)
2012 - Jack Grimes ($7)
2013 - James Frawley (4) ($2.80)
2014 - Lynden Dunn ($25)
2015 - Tom McDonald ($14)
2016 - Neville Jetta ($13)
2017 - Michael Hibberd ($16)
2018 - Christian Salem ($20)
2019 - Christian Salem (2) ($4.75 fav)
2020 - Steven May ($11)
2021 - Jake Lever ($8)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year

Pickett's confined spaces masterclass against St Kilda survived 21 weeks, and he claims for a nomination from the finals goal from the pocket against Brisbane, but match-winners will always have a special place in my heart. How, then, can you go past Gawn kicking the clutchiest of clutch goals in Geelong? The kick that swung the door open for us to enter September with a distinctively un-Melbourne swagger.

The Petracca dribbler which kicked off our mad minute in Perth was more instantly important, but Gawn to battle against the crushing weight of history. It sent us towards the finals on a high and we never looked back. 

I still can't watch without thinking that somehow he's going to miss - especially when his original run-up is interrupted by the siren - so we best have another look to make sure:
2021 Nominations
Round 1 - Ed Langdon
Round 2 - Kysaiah Pickett
Round 3 - Kysaiah Pickett (2)
Round 4 - Bayley Fritsch
Round 5 - Max Gawn
Round 6 - Alex Neal-Bullen
Round 7 - Bayley Fritsch (2)
Round 8 - Tom McDonald
Round 9 - Tom McDonald (2)
Round 10 - Clayton Oliver
Round 11 - James Jordon
Round 12 - Tom McDonald (3)
Round 13 - Clayton Oliver (2)
Round 15 - Tom Sparrow
Round 16 - Bayley Fritsch (3)
Round 17 - Tom McDonald (4)
Round 18 - Charlie Spargo
Round 19 - Kysaiah Pickett (3)
Round 20 - Max Gawn (2)
Round 21 - Ben Brown
Round 22 - Bayley Fritsch (4)
Round 23 - Max Gawn (3)
Qualifying Final - Kysaiah Pickett (4)
Preliminary Final - Max Gawn (4)
Grand Final - Christian Petracca

Honour roll:
2014 - Christian Salem
2015 - Nathan Jones
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Tom McDonald
2018 - Mitch Hannan
2019 - Marty Hore
2020 - Christian Petracca
2021 - Max Gawn

All-time nominations (2014-2021)
19 - Christian Petracca
16 - Jeff Garlett
8 - Tom McDonald
7 - Max Gawn, Jake Melksham, Kysaiah Pickett, Jack Watts
6 - Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Jayden Hunt
5 - Jesse Hogan, Nathan Jones, Dean Kent, Bernie Vince
4 - Clayton Oliver, Cameron Pedersen, Jack Viney
3 - Jordan Lewis, Jay Lockhart, Alex Neal-Bullen, Christian Salem, Charlie Spargo
2 - Angus Brayshaw, Chris Dawes, Mark Jamar, Braydon Preuss, Dom Tyson
1 - Oskar Baker, Sam Blease, Ben Brown, Chris Dawes, Jack Fitzpatrick, Sam Frost, Marty Hore, Matt Jones, James Jordon, Ben Kennedy, Ed Langdon, Jay Kennedy Harris, Heritier Lumumba, Oscar McDonald, Ben Newton, Aidan Riley, Tom Sparrow, Corey Wagner, Sam Weideman

2021 year in review – part two

Round 13 vs Collingwood - A farce to be reckoned with 
Undoubtedly the worst part of the season, where we lost millions of dollars by playing Queen's Birthday in Sydney (shortly before they got shut down by the big one too), around the same time we missed out on the annual Alice Springs windfall. All of that would have been bad enough on its own, without another collapse against shizen opposition. Accepted wisdom is that the Pies played out of their skin because their coach had resigned, but clearly it was because our forward line was badly misfiring, leaving us vulnerable to opposition kicking any half-decent score. I was a touch worried.

Round 15 vs Essendon - Saturday Night Lever
The mid-season slump was temporarily halted by a battling win over mid-table opposition. It doesn't take much to make Essendon fans see conspiracy theories, but a bit of wacky umpiring had them rushing the umpires like Trump fanatics attacking the Capitol. We won, but it didn't encourage you to start putting money away for impulse merchandise purchases in late September..

Round 16 vs GWS - Misery is the best policy
After this, I was all but running through the streets ringing a bell and crying "the end is near". Premature considering they were still in the hunt for finals, but it all seemed like a Candid Camera style set-up to make us look like idiots for getting excited by the 9-0 start. Since then we'd been tickled by wins against top four contenders, lost to bottom four certainties and I didn't know what to think anymore. I haven't seen a live game since, and it went so well I probably never should again. 

Round 17 vs Port Adelaide - Uphill skiing d. Downhill skiing
I didn't know what sporting pressure was until the last two games of the year, but until then this was as close as I got to freaking out and hiding in a mineshaft until it was over. A promising season badly on the turn, in front of the full Friday night national audience, against a side that had proven incapable of beating the best. Now to work out if we really were in 'the best' or only good enough to make up numbers in the eight. Turns out we were - though this wouldn't be proven for another few weeks - and a professional performance saw us home, much to the disgust of some locals:
Round 18 vs Hawthorn - White light, dead heat
Just when you thought we were back on track, our top four campaign hit the skids again with an unexpected draw against a bottom four side. I was left distraught, thinking we were about to throw away 9-0, limp into the finals and get knocked out in the first week by Essendon.

Round 19 vs Footscray - The plot sickens
Our second top of the table game against the Dogs without a crowd, and the sequel was not as good as the original.
At this point I'd have thought us more likely to win the French Open than an AFL premiership, and reacted accordingly, thinking about a concession speech for our premiership tilt and wondering where to buy a white flag. In retrospect it wasn't so bad, but felt like death at the time. You can go through the archives, find my comments in the aftermath and mock me now for not having faith but after about one good performance in six weeks I was entitled to see a bit of tits up in our future.

The COVID crisis that saved our season, where a flight to Queensland was pulled up short and sent home, leaving the game to be played the following day. Cue a Suns side whose life force had ebbed away weeks earlier being forced to travel at short notice and realising about halfway through the first quarter that they'd forgotten to pack their will to live. With Jackson and Brown building nicely towards the finals, we finally pulled off the violent beating I'd been waiting for since Round 1 and never lost again.

Round 21 vs West Coast - Living on the end of a lightning bolt
Where the weirdest season got even weirder. Winning confirmed we'd finish top four, but not until building a near unbeatable lead, missing the chance to put them away early in the last quarter, going off for a 40 minute lightning break, then having to withstand a furious comeback that left me with my supporting life flashing before my eyes. Thanks to Harrison Petty for saving the day with some of the most egregious timewasting in VFL/AFL history, and to the umpire with a box seat view who let him get away with it. Any Perth-related frustrations were later taken out on Geelong and Footscray.

Round 22 vs Adelaide - Going through the emotions
Now that the double chance was certain, it was a matter of making sure we got our choice of venues (anywhere you liked as it wasn't in Victoria or New South Wales), and ideally finishing on top. With an all-star clash against Geelong on the horizon we just needed to beat the Crows to enter the last round with our fate in our own hands. Easier said than done considering what happened earlier in the year. Again, it took far more effort than it should have, but we held our nerve long enough for them to run out of youthful enthusiasm. Ended with Bayley Fritsch kicking the most ludicrous run of quick goals until the next week. 

Round 23 vs Geelong - Delta Force
Most years it would be hard to beat the excitement of coming from 40 something points down to win the minor premiership with our first winning kick after the siren in history, but just over a month later this would have been lucky to tie for second as the most ludicrous thing to happen in 2021. No matter what happened next, never forget how wonderful this night was.

When you're playing for top spot, shipping a bunch of quickfire goals out of the middle was far from ideal, but felt like the natural progression in a long list of Kardinia Park debacles. Then the locals clammed up (other than Dangerfield, reported to have been literally dripping with gastro), we dragged it back within a kick, got a 50 that the umpire wouldn't have dared pay with a hostile crowd present, and the unlikely attacking combination of Lever/Gawn combined to set up the famous kick. 

That was all very nice, especially the Geelong players looking accusingly at each other, but the pre-September 2021 Melbourne script would have piled an extra layer of misery on us by having him miss anyway. You know what happened next. Cue wild scenes at the ground, in my house, and the worldwide fluctuation of internet capacity as the kick was watched on repeat. 

You can't overstate how important Maximum's kick was. It wasn't as breathtaking thrilling as his prelim antics, or immediately equal to the Grand Final rampage, but without it maybe neither of those things happen. We might still have gone the long way to win the flag, but it wouldn't have come in the same glorious, iconic fashion. Fair way to end the year for somebody who did two knees and once got in trouble for having a smoke in his car on the way to training.

Qualifying Final vs Brisbane - First we take Adelaide...
The forgotten final, a perfectly decent, grown-up performance that will always pale in comparison to the insanity that followed. Felt like gold on the night, especially after Channel 7 debuted that terrifyingly presumptuous montage about breaking the alleged Norm Smith curse. The almost all-MFC build-up felt like a level of disrespect to the Lions that would make us look stupid in the event of a loss. Fortunately said Lions were warming up for the game not watching TV and did their very best to keep the fairytale finish alive. We carried on as you'd expect first to against fourth, earned the express route to a Prelim, and got a week off to fret about Geelong taking revenge for the grand finish in Round 23.

Preliminary Final vs Geelong - Just win baby
Nothing will ever beat the torment I went through on Friday and Saturday of Grand Final weekend, but this lead-up went close. Not only were we playing to go into the Grand Final as favourites for the first time since 1964, the legacy of the Kardinia Park comeback and Gawn's golden goal were both on the line. If this went wrong we'd never be able to watch it again without thinking about their old age pensioner side taking revenge when it really mattered. 

Max took us in his arms, quietly whispered "don't worry, everything's going to be alright" and unloaded one of the all-time great finals performances, dynamiting what had looked like a competitive game with a five goal haul that helped build an insurmountable lead. Both he and everyone else ran out of goals in the last quarter, keeping the margin to 'just' the most we'd ever beaten Geelong by since first playing them in 1860. Turns out it was a taste of things to come.

Grand Final vs Footscray - Everybody loves a happy ending
Spoiler alert. This goes tremendously well at the start, sour in the middle, then turns into pound-for-pound the greatest explosion of footballing power ever see. I'm not going to get deep into my feelings on this, because the trauma detailed in the above match review captures the moment far better than memories from a month later.

What I will say is that there couldn't have been a more Melbourne way for the first two and a half quarters to go. Teased by a hot start against a side which completely failed to come to terms with the extra week off, going within touching distance of putting the game out of their reach before they settled down, then having success snatched from before me eyes, leaving me on the verge of a meltdown.

Still don't know what the half-time entertainment was because I was too busy nearly having a stroke. An hour later I was considering a stroke for entirely different reasons, having just seen the most indescribably insane half of all time. It got within a goal of "oh shit" territory (which they could very well have had), before an eruption of such power and fury that replays should have this flashed on the screen just as Harmes' pass landed with Fritsch.

As Kevin Bloody Wilson might have said, "Six thousand tonnes of TNT, the noise, the blinding flash. The coach of Western Bulldogs said 'what the fuck was that?'"

Americans are mad for giving recognisable names to sporting moments, and what happened at the end of the third quarter should be known as The Minute. I appreciated retaking the lead from 19 points down, but what came next was the most enjoyable 45 seconds since my first sexual experience. Petracca rolling one through from the boundary like Peter Daicos was one thing, but when Sparrow got one from the next bounce, (with an assist to McSizzle treating a defender like a vaccine mandate on the line) then Oliver chipped in for another before running away with his arm aloft like Alan Shearer the foundations of my house were under more stress than during the earthquake.

God knows what the Dogs were doing, but with 15 seconds left they almost let us get out of the centre again, and we'd scored another I might have died from excitement on the spot. No need to be greedy, it was already the best thing I've ever seen on a footy ground. And after about 750 views over the next month, probably the only passage of play I've seen more than Jako's scissor kick against North or the Alan Partridge calling Liam Jurrah highlights.

I've always been fond of Bill Clinton's promise to be there for his supporters "until the last dog dies", and it finally came true in the last quarter, with each Footscray player's will to live shutting off one-by-one, until they were nothing but target practice. God it was fun. Which is probably why the second half has been streamed more times across the world than Squid Game.

The only problem was the entire quarter yet to play, and with the veil of negativity cutting off airflow to my brain there was still a tremendous level of fear about cocking it up. I knew that you'd have to do something amazing to lose from four goals ahead at three quarter time, against a team who'd just been mercilessly destroyed in one magical outburst, but after all we'd been through, would there have been any better way to confirm our status as the game's most unlovable losers by coming this far, then capsizing with one hand on the cup, never winning a premiership, and leaving me to die looking like this:

There will still be plenty of reasons to go out old and sour, hated by family and strangers alike, but none caused by missing a flag. Nerves were quickly settled by lovely, zanily numbered, looks like her from Arcade Fire, Ben Brown, and the procession continued unabated. We'd broken them, and it was magnificent. I ran outside and screamed, and when there was absolutely no way to lose unashamedly cried my eyes out.

Bit rich to say this after shunning human contact for years, but I partly feel cheated at missing out on the chaotic, mass outpouring of public joy Fever Pitch ending. However, if it had been possible then maybe we wouldn't have been the ones enjoying it. Go with what you can confirm happened, and the fear/terror/joy/astonishment I went through at home that night will still occupy a special place in my happy memory Hall of Fame. Not surprisingly there hasn't been one random nosebleed since. Nor have I had a truly good time, so maybe that night ruined me forever. Totally worth it.

Garry Lyon Medal for Finals Player of the Year

A decade ago you wouldn't have known if we had any 'big game players', because we weren't in enough big games to find out. 12 months ago I hated triumphant Richmond fans for taunting us over not picking Dustin Martin, now I'm prepared to face Moorabbin and offer thanks that they didn't draft Petracca.

He's been 'good' for years, but Petracca's ascendency to the top table began by walloping the Crows in that pre-season game last year. Via a pair of All-Australian campaigns, and a contract that should keep him at the club for the rest of his career, the hard work paid off with a Grand Final rampage for the ages. After four votes in the first two finals - behind Oliver and Gawn respectively - this was enough to carry him to a comprehensive, well-deserved victory.

While we're at it, recognition please for Jack Viney. He came back from foot death to win the award in 2018, and has done the same (via an unnecessary suspension) to run second here, polling in all three games. There was a time I refused to believe that players could be 'made for finals', but the evidence in his favour is overwhelming.

13 - Christian Petracca
8 - Jack Viney
6 - Clayton Oliver
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow
1 - Ed Langdon, Christian Salem

Honour Roll:
2005 - Not awarded
2018 - Jake Viney
2021 - Christian Petracca

2021 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

Given our record with high draft picks, eyebrows were raised so far when we took a punt on Oliver that they almost flew off the top of the head. Obviously a super talent from day one, it took him a season to get into the swing of footy club life, but has been near unstoppable since. See, for example, the first Geelong game, when they tried to stop up with some bloke who'd tagged opponents into the ground in the early weeks. Oliver said "that's nice" and went on with his business, dragging his minder around all day like he was on a rope.

Retrospectively, you can see the moment we picked him as when it all started to turn good. There's a bit of luck in everything - he might have had 17 concussions in his first year and retired - but pick four for the man who made Mooroopna famous would have been value at twice the price now.

64 - Clayton Oliver
61 - Christian Petracca
38 - Jake Lever
29 - Max Gawn
22 - Tom McDonald
21 - Luke Jackson 
20 - Christian Salem
19 - Steven May
13 - Bayley Fritsch, Kysaiah Pickett
11 - Jack Viney
10 - Ed Langdon
9 - Angus Brayshaw, Harrison Petty
7 - James Harmes, Alex Neal-Bullen, Charlie Spargo
5 - Jayden Hunt
3 - Michael Hibberd
2 - James Jordon, Tom Sparrow, Adam Tomlinson
1 - Jake Bowey

Honour roll:
2005 - Travis Johnstone
2006 - Brock McLean
2007 - Nathan Jones
2008 - Cameron Bruce
2009 - Aaron Davey ($8)
2010 - Brad Green ($4)
2011 - Brent Moloney ($9)
2012 - Nathan Jones (2) ($3.50)
2013 - Nathan Jones (3) ($2)
2014 - Nathan Jones (4) ($3.50)
2015 - Jack Viney ($15)
2016 - Nathan Jones (5) ($8)
2017 - Clayton Oliver ($35)
2018 - Clayton Oliver (2) ($3.25 fav)
2019 - Max Gawn ($9)
2020 - Christian Petracca ($6)
2021 - Clayton Oliver (3) ($6)

Next season
Thinking about the community madness at the end of Fever Pitch led me to watching it again for the first time in about 15 years. Frightening how much of myself I recognise in the main character that wasn't there when I first read the book/saw the movie in the late 90s. There's a bit at the end, where he says "We still see each other all the time. And I still love them, and I still hate them. But I have my own life now. My success and failures aren't necessarily linked up their theirs. That's got to be a good thing I suppose." 

Never thought it possible that I could reach that point, but also never thought we'd actually win the bloody premiership. But don't think the small matter of flag and a midlife crisis will spell the end for this page, I'll be back for everything starting with the 2022 AFLW season and ending with rising sea levels turning the MCG into a swimming pool. Might just not take it so seriously. Let's see how many weeks into 2022 that lasts.

Final thoughts
In addition to his earlier comments, our old friend Brecht also said, "how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat from the starving?", and while at this moment I couldn't give a continental about the feelings of anyone outside the MFC bubble, may all neutrals get to experience this feeling once in their life.

Who knows when the joy will wear off. Hopefully never, and even after our turn at the top has eventually ended, we'll bond over how close things came to disaster on that most glorious of nights, recite the exact order that the goals were kicked, and laugh at how unreal (in all senses of the word) it was. And on the occasion where we finally become the team to chase:

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Everybody loves a happy ending

On the afternoon of Saturday 19 September 1964, 13-year-old old Melbourne fan John Gleeson was dragged from his seat during the last quarter of the Grand Final so his dad could beat the traffic. After listening to Neil Crompton's famous premiership winning kick on the radio, Gleeson's father said "Don't worry son, there will be plenty more of those in your life." Wherever you are now John, I hope you were seated comfortably 20,827 days later when, and I can't stress this enough, THE MELBOURNE FOOTBALL CLUB WON THE 2021 AFL PREMIERSHIP. 

If I'm dreaming, be a dear and stick a pillow on my face so I don't have to wake up to a world without this:

To say I never expected to be writing this post would be an understatement. Christ, three years ago I tuned in for the final of AFLX Group B in case Melbourne never won anything else in my lifetime. Despite all available evidence, I felt the same way about two months ago, before our maddest ending to a season ever culminated in a Grand Final so baffling that scientists will still be studying it in the year 2525.

Now that the 9-0 start has been proven legitimate in the strongest possible way, I feel bad for not taking it more seriously at the time. And for my faith wavering between the losses to Collingwood in Round 13, and Footscray in Round 19. When the book is written about this premiership, as it must be (NB: not by me), let the record show that the revival started with our unnecessary trip to Queensland. From that point we never lost again, ending a 57 year quest that has involved 20 coaches, hundreds of players, a couple of serious attempts to merge us out of existence, and god knows how much torment for several generations of fans. 

I've got so much fondness for the snap lockdown that led to us being blocked from playing at Carrara that I'd invite Queensland's Chief Health Officer to the premiership reunion. Last year she needed police protection from COVID denying lunatics, now she'll need it when I run at her in the street yelling thanks for helping to deliver a flag. You see, I'd had a theory for weeks that we needed to get the bloodlust up pre-finals by thrashing somebody. 

Maybe we'd have thrashed them in the originally scheduled game and history would have turned out the same way, but getting a look at demoralised opposition shifted around the country on a few hours' notice can't have hurt. We treated the empty seats of Fortress Docklands to our (then) biggest score of the year and never looked back. Our blockbuster comeback at Kardinia Park, and Gawn's famous goal after the siren also played an enormous part in getting us where we are today (reminder: AFL premiers), but off a rotten few weeks I'm willing to make the case that it never happens without walloping the Suns first. That was Jake Bowey's first game, now he's a premiership player. What in the world is going on?

Taking advantage of the Suns' misery led to other great moments in 2021 Melbourne history, like the Perth Stadium lightning round, and Gawn's rampage in the Preliminary Final, but all of them would have been hollow if we'd made it this far and finished without a flag. In time you'd still have appreciated how well this season went, but there'd be a bitterness about getting to the last hurdle and stacking it that didn't exist when we were knocked out as underdogs in '98, '00 and '18. I don't know what it would have been like to lose as favourite, and don't know how I'd have coped. Never mind, not an issue now.

Unlike 2000, when there was only ever one team we'd play in the Grand Final, there were cases for either Footscray or Port Adelaide being the opposition this time. It was easier to find reasons why each would lose - the Dogs barely looked convincing beating Essendon or Brisbane while spending a month travelling the country, while Port was due an unexpected faceplant in the finals at some point. In the end both theories had some validity, Port flopped a week too early for it to benefit us, while the Dogs might have thumped them, but were about three quarters away from running out of petrol. Wish I'd known that just after half-time on Saturday night when I considered sticking my head in the dishwasher.

In every other year until this one, you found out who your Grand Final opponents were and played them the following Saturday. This time they made us wait an extra seven days to start as premiership favourites for the first time in nearly six decades. For me, this was just another week to survive. I was determined not to get all this way then be in a coma when we won a flag, driving like a grandmother all week just to make sure. 

Mentally, I knew there would be stroke-inducing tension by the 25th, so tried to pace myself. This was easy for the first few days, investing my energy in the white-hot buzz from the Prelim. Who had time to worry about a game two weeks away when you had to watch the video of Gawn's goals with alternative commentaries a seventh time? That got me another 84 minutes closer to the game.

After a few days, the excitement of flogging Geelong began to fade, and thoughts turned to the main event. I knew the rollercoaster drop feeling would hit eventually, so keeping it at bay for as long as possible was my only coping strategy. There was nervous anticipation, dread, and the daily quest to find a paper copy of The Age for my Grand Final archives, but also a bit of "is that all there is?" The extra wait was to blame, the closer we got to the 25th the more I started to think about it, causing me to clam up and pretend it wasn't happening. That didn't work very well.

The feeling of "we could actually do this" terror kicked in on Wednesday when I realised nobody was seriously tipping the Dogs. Tellingly they were all picking us by tiny margins, suggesting they secretly thought it could go either way. That's where I was, thinking that we should win, but not that we were a significantly better side. It felt a bit like walking into a trap, where everybody who says you're going to win waits until you don't, then turns on you like it was the result they'd always expected.

Not for the first time this year all's well that ends well, but the expectation of winning, coupled with the endless talk of drought-breaking was doing me no favours. The idea of being taunted with the most elusive prize in the game before it was snatched away - possibly never to be seen again - had me in pieces.

The stress I went through between Wednesday and Saturday would seem frivolous to outsiders, but this wasn't some fly-by-night bandwagon job. A premiership was literally the last thing in my life that I wanted in 1989 and hadn't yet acquired. As I got older that list soon expanded to include money, success, fame and glamour, but this full stop to my childhood remained elusive. Now we were closer than ever, but still a chance to go our whole lives without seeing a flag. This century Brisbane, Sydney, Geelong and Footscray broke long droughts at the first go, while St Kilda went as close as possible without winning then sank like a stone. Guess which path I expected to follow?

My fear of losing a thriller was so severe that I'd rather they beat us by 10 goals than a point. Even in years where we started with no chance of making the Grand Final without 16 other teams being disqualified, I thought hard about how painful it would be to get within touching distance of glory and come away empty-handed. After finishing top and qualifying via the #1 most glorious performance of all time (now #2), defeat by any margin would have been tough, but a close loss may have left me frozen in front of the TV for the rest of my life, staring ahead in a vegetative state and occasionally mouthing "why?"

Maybe that would have spurred us to win in front of a packed MCG next season, and The Perth Debacle would be look back on as another pothole on the worst road in Australia. But I didn't fancy waiting 12 months to see if we could avoid injuries, COVID-22, other teams getting better, or just plain shithouse luck. None of us are getting any younger, and having made it in such bonkers fashion, we had to win or I was going to drop my mental bundle like a bowling ball off the Rialto.

It wasn't just that experts, randoms, and betting companies alike thought we were warm favourites, it was the way neutrals were coming from everywhere to go for us. We didn't owe these carpetbaggers anything, but I still had one of my favourite quotes on hand just in case: "Don’t worry, boys, we'll weather this storm of approval and come out as hated as ever." I hope they'll fondly remember their night as Melbourne fans a fraction as much as I did.

The closer we got to the game, the closer I was to cracking. Not sure how I'd cope with actual life problems, but none of them would have built up for 32 years. On Friday I was driving to the shop to pick up newspapers that I never read (and which would have been delivered straight to the yellow bin if we lost), and an attempt to relax by listening to Magic 1278 almost ended in a road accident after Midnight Train To Georgia made me weepy. What that had to do with anything I don't know, but that's where my head was at. This came after several days with Regulate by Warren G stuck in my head, leading to much walking through the house and yelling "Regulaaaaaaaaaaators. Mount up!" at my bemused family. Not the effect Death Row Records intended, but I'll always associate it with premiership week as much as the Grand Old Flag. Appropriately, our second half was the biggest rescue job since Nate Dogg arrived with sixteen in the clip and one in the hole. 

Much of the internal damage was caused by the idea of winning. Because that made me think about what would happen if we didn't, and never made it back to this position again. For the rest of my life every Grand Final, or mere mention of Footscray Football Club (trading as Western Bulldogs), would remind me of failure. They needed some sort of fan assistance hotline where you could ring and speak with a counsellor trained in sporting grief.

At around 11:00 on Saturday morning, I was in a brief panic lull and watched messages of support from ex-players. Probably shouldn't have done this until after we win, because it set all my waking nightmares off again. There were 180 contributions, but surprisingly nothing from Luke Beveridge (1989-1992). Wonder what he's doing these days?

Once the coverage started, after I'd already gone close to spewing a couple of times, Channel 7's constant playing of the Norm Smith Curse montage didn't help the tension. No sane person thought Norm was stooging us from beyond the grave, but it provided an easy way to explain the many and varied horrors the club has suffered. There were probably similar video packages before Footscray and Richmond won flags, but it still felt like we were being set up for mockery. Never mind that the Dogs were a very good team, if we'd lost here the legend of our failure would have grown over the years to the point where it was like Hawthorn 1988 lost to Fitzroy 1996.

The pre-game show had me at such a heightened stage of potential vom that I relaxed by turning over to Rugby League, where a team called Melbourne was busy losing as favourites. Maybe when the side with our name that usually wins flags ran aground it mystically cleared the way for us to take their place? Over at Channel 7, somebody thought we were the same team.

In a further edition of "I'm not into omens but...." my baby did a big old spew right down the back of the Grand Final t-shirt about 30 minutes before the bounce. Didn't feel right to take it off, so I just covered up with the famous Schwab Shield era MFC blazer and carried on. Under the spew shirt I had a second, non-footy related one. It was the same worn to the first date with my now wife, on the day I proposed, the morning of our wedding, and to the birth of both children. It's not that I thought it was going to bring me luck, just that there aren't many more great life events it could play a part in. After this, I might visit the United Nations with it on, and see if world peace breaks out.

To balance the omen ledger, pre-match entertainment featured the INXS version of Theme from Finey's Final Siren. I'd heard that song so many times after rancid losses, it was only right to hear it before a momentous win. That was a timely distraction from being traumatised by the build-up. By 19:00hrs AEST I was emotionally demolished to the point where I considered having the ultimate happiness hedge of $1000 on the Dogs. The first reason it didn't happen is that I'm a tightwad, but secondly it felt wrong. I've never bet against us before, and it seemed like an act of gross cowardice to start now.

A few hours later the savings were invested into a lot of unneeded premiership merchandise. Selling an entire year's worth of the stuff in the lead-up and flogging the Bentleigh Club for $23 million wasn't enough for us, and the email trying to get more money out of us came about 10 minutes after the final siren. I wouldn't have even waited that long. This went down a touch better than the famous 2017 finals ticket guide, and we flogged another two years' worth of merch over the next 24 hours.

It was always my intention to follow a flag by rolling into K-Mart at 9am the next morning and buying everything in sight. For the joy they'd just given me, ordering directly from the club seemed right. I didn't want the in-joke friendly cheese board, and there was no point buying the knives because I'd just pulled the one marked 1965-2020 out of my back, but everything else was fair game. Even the ugly hat that I spent $40 on but probably won't take the tag off. Despite some ideological concerns about the Herald Sun I went on to buy the premiership poster x5. One to be framed alongside my '64 WEG poster, god knows what I'll do with the rest.

Finally, after a 15 day wait that felt like 15 years, it was time to meet my maker. Just before the national anthem I needed a quiet moment and stood in the backyard with my eyes closed, doing something resembling the 2017 Adelaide power stance. Bit dramatic, but I'd never thought so much about a game in advance and needed the last bit of silence before mayhem commenced. I was so scared that if you'd offered me another 35 minute lightning delay I'd probably have taken it. In the end, the longest barren chapter in our history ended with a final score of Melbourne 21.14.140 d. Footscray 10.6.66. If only those raw numbers told the story.

There was a theory that the extra week off would be bad for us. Cobblers. We'd gone through the exact same program between Brisbane and Geelong, it wasn't a new thing. The stakes were higher this time, with more off-field distraction, but players and staff both had experience getting to the start line in peak condition. Part of the warm-up was a full-contact training session the previous Saturday, leaving us all on edge for a random injury. I never thought Charlie Spargo rolling his ankle would cause me so much stress, but here we were. He got over it, nobody else was hurt, as far as we knew May's hamstring was intact, so what was there to worry about? Answer - everything. 

Conversely, after travelling around Australia like Bourke and Wills for a month, the Dogs had no idea what to expect from their first week off since early June and were so nervous in the early minutes that you could practically see their knees knocking together. Flubbed handballs, botched kicks, dropped marks. It was great, as long as we took advantage. Not that we were flawless, but our mistakes came in much less dangerous positions. Even when we stuffed up a handball on the half-back flank it was followed up by four players running at it and Salem knocking an opponent over.

At the other end of the awed/overawed scale, I was mad for Jake Bowey. Any danger of the slightest bit of nervousness playing a Grand Final in your seventh game? We've had players win flags without a loss before, but not often. Francis Vine on debut in 1926, Alby Rodda going 9-0 in 1939, and Don Cordner 2-0 in 1941. None of them with the same weight of expectation from millions of people watching. From 1900-1964, only 10 others did it within their first 10 games. Imagine the letdown he's going to feel when we lose some bog-standard Round 3 match. Even losing a Club X Community Shield game in Bonnie Doon could set him off. For the first time in my life, one of ours will be able to dry their eyes on a flag.

Their first great defensive cock-up, a weird short kick that went straight out on the full, gave Neal-Bullen the first chance. I've seen the Bullet kick them from a similar position, and while his kick around the corner died on the line, making them shit themselves in defence this early was a good sign. Brown missed as well, offering early uncomfortable memories about the weeks where we kicked ourselves out of the last game against Footscray.

If you're the sort of person who just answers B) when they don't know the answer, you'd probably have correctly predicted that Petracca would be the man to get us going. It was born of more pressure, and one of Salem's many delightful kicks in the first quarter. In the spirit of Gawn against Geelong, he marked, but played on anyway and ripped a shot around the corner from 50. I won't say it settled me, but it was nice to get any sort of break. The lead was lucky to hold, after Josh Schache qualified for Port's version of the Kingsleys, he briefly threatened to go back-to-back, but his snap had the power of a Daihatsu Charade, setting up old Corey Weightman to have his mischievous face slammed into the post. Because it was a Grand Final nobody cared to check if he was concussed.

When Sparrow set Fritsch up for the second I was simultaneously thrilled and concerned. There's losing, there's losing close, then there's losing close after giving up a lead. More on that later. 

We had to concede eventually, but Footscray did their best to delay it, including a horrendous kick to a forward leading with miles of space. Not many Grand Finals have been won in the first quarter, but if there's ever been a time to destroy a side early this was it. Instead, Fritsch got touched up in the square for no reward and they withstood a short period of pressure before getting their opener. It came from just the sort of situation I feared, a loose ball bobbling around in front of goal. Naughton (didn't do much) and Tim English Muffins (likewise) weren't our concern, they just needed to bring the ball to ground.

Despite that, things were going rather well. Our pressure and run out of defence had been great, and we'd already found multiple free targets inside 50. Now we just needed scores to make it all worthwhile. Enter Kysaiah (maybe, just this once 'Kozzy') Pickett, who worried a pair of defenders so much that they flubbed an exit from defence, leading to a Spargo goal. In my heightened sense of awareness, I momentarily thought Charleston had hit the post rather than the goal umpire and let out a tremendous yelp. It was only a few seconds later when nobody had said anything that I realised he'd actually kicked it.

I was too mentally cooked to notice, but I didn't see much reaction to the Mayor of Perth's call to clap poor, disease-ridden eastern folk like we were their World Vision sponsor children. He later presented a premiership medal to 'Jack Bowey' and forgot to invite the coaches to make speeches, continuing a legacy of farce dating back to West Coast 2017, when he confused Tom McDonald with the guy that played Lou Carpenter on Neighbours. People had no time for patronising gestures when they were busy working out how we were going to stuff the early lead. More so when another horrible blunder let us in for a fourth, and a second to Fritsch. The best bit was that after the Bulldogs bloke dropped the ball he could very easily have made up for it with a tackle but was too busy cracking the shits at himself while Bayley casually wandered past.

It was getting real, and as Brown snapped around the corner I nearly jumped on top of the couch. He missed, as did Langdon a couple of minutes later, and it was getting to the point where we were either going to win or look like cockheads for losing. 

So far we'd stopped any of their star players doing damage. The closest the Bont had got to the action was Petracca 'accidentally' whacking him in the head, and other than Daniel racking up cheap kicks in defence, nobody was particularly prominent. On the other hand, all our fringe players were making a huge contribution. Michael Hibberd might have been watching from the stands if Joel Smith hadn't done a hammy, now he was winning one-on-ones inside 50 like a boss.

The midweek earthquake (readers from the future, it was all happening in Victoria) revealed that a lot of people have security cameras inside their house. I'd have gone viral if you could see the way I acted during this game. Shifted by the lack of an internet broadcast to the boring old TV for the first time in three years, I prowled behind the couch, muttering darkly. The extra roaming space of the loungeroom was needed when the Bulldogs roared back into the game after quarter time, I started aimlessly walking around in circles and swearing like an ice addict after four days without sleep. 

Things would have been a lot more comfortable if we didn't concede 40 seconds in, or two minutes after that. Both fell to Adam Treloar (who practically admitted during the week that he remains haunted by losing the 2018 Grand Final at Collingwood so somebody best check on him after this), and both from pressure on our tall defenders. Now Footscray had swapped panic disposal for dinking the ball around unchallenged, getting the ball to ground inside 50 where they could do the most damage. 

In the midst of all this Steven May looked like his leg was about to fall off. Turns out his hamstring was pretty bloody bad after all, but they didn't disclose just how bad until after the game, giving him the option of playing if he felt like it. Seemed to work alright, maybe we should have forced Cameron Bruce to play in 2000? Maybe Goodwin also chose not to look at the medical report, because starting Jordon as sub under the circumstances was ballsy. I suppose picking Smith would have given away that something was wrong. I wanted Hunt, allowing us to pull off a pace-adding substitution rort with sore Spargo. If we didn't do it I was sure Beveridge would. And he might have if the game hadn't disappeared in the blink of an eye. Still must have thought about stomping on somebody's foot in the three quarter time huddle. In the end, neither sub was required, despite a gallant attempt by Harmes to feign injury in the dying minutes so Jordon could play. 

With May obviously nowhere near 100%, it was on the rest of the defenders to cover for him. In quarters 1, 3, and 4 they did a brilliant job. The other one, not so much. Fortunately, the majority swept the minority into the Indian Ocean, keeping them to a reasonably low score than we easily covered. And how. Didn't look much like that at the time though, and in a none-more-Melbourne twist, Naughton got only his second goal from open play this year to set off a round of "here we go", while we suddenly looked unlikely to ever score again. 

All that hard work in the first quarter had been reduced to a four point lead within minutes, and I was on the verge of hyperventilation. When Bailey Smith (crazy hair, crazy guy) hit the post from the next centre bounce my shorts almost became unwearable. That near-death experience proved crucial, we went down the other end for Brown's first. Given that he'd nearly missed the lot from his first set shot I was bracing for the worst, but he started his run-up in Bunbury and kicked as straight as humanely possible. "That's better" I said out loud, not seriously believing we were any more likely to win than we had been two minutes earlier.

I've whinged many times over the years about us having a good first quarter then doing nothing in the second, and that was our last goal before half time. Tell that to the captain, who booted what looked a lot like an accurate set shot to me, but was called a point. He may very well have missed, and knowing the Atari 2600 quality of the AFL's cameras they might not have been able to prove it either way, but given the occasion, I thought they'd at least have a token look before deferring to the umpire's call. 

When the game just carried on like nothing controversial had happened there was a slight part of me that was happy we'd been given something to whinge about for years to come if things went badly. Especially when the Dogs took the piss by going straight down the other end for a goal.

Under the circumstances, it wasn't anywhere near Lever's most dominant night, and as we started conceding left, right and centre, Adelaide fans who have been patiently waiting four years for him to fail must have thought they were quids in. We later removed this as a factor by taking the ball down the other and kicking a lot of goals in quick succession, but for now there were grave concerns that Footscray would be the first team to break through our backline since 2021 powerhouse Hawthorn. 

Speaking of Hawthorn, and residual bitterness towards ex-players, there was a bit of commotion when the retired players montage opened with Tom Scully (zero flags). I've tried to be polite in his retirement, but with nerves frayed there were some unkind comments made towards the TV. But now, as part of Demonblog's long awaited Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I would like to announce that Tom is officially pardoned for his crimes against the Melbourne Football Club. They can never be erased, but now his defection can be considered part of the road to a premiership there's no need to treat him like a war criminal anymore. See also Mark Neeld, Chris Judd, the umpire from the Adelaide game, and every other bastard who has annoyed us over the years. From here we'll develop some new vendettas.

I couldn't have contemplated winning in anything but a thriller from here. It just looked like all their good players had gotten into the game, with Bontempelli in particular going ballistic. They also got a cheap as chips free for a high tackle in front of goal. This wasn't consistent with the way the umpires had let everything else go, but was probably fair payback on Spargo for all the times he's engineered them in similar circumstances this year.

We weren't going down without a fight, but it just felt like they'd worked us out. Suddenly we were the ones fumbling and letting them escape from defence easily. I was feeling severely cheated, not by players who have done so much to make us look respectable this year, but for getting sucked into the idea that we might win. Like we used to say around these parts, the safest thing is to assume we'll lose - you'll either be right or surprised. 

Even if Channel 7 is the only broadcaster to deliberately choose their worst callers for the biggest game of the year, I was too wound up to get upset about them. Except when Taylor cracked his earthquake related gag about us being 5.9 and I yelled "fuck off you cockhead!" at the TV. I was more worried about a new version of the classic "who kicked five goals in the 1990 Grand Final?" joke. At that moment you'd have got better odds for peace in the Middle East than any individual Melbourne player kicking six.

Scores were level, but considering how things were going it made sense that an injured Bulldog went to the bench and made fist gestures. As far as I was concerned they may as well have been chockers up us to the elbow, and we hadn't even got to Mitch Hannan exercising his former player option to stitch us up. Spoiler - he never did. I still love him, mostly for the 2018 Geelong goal, also for doing stuff all here. The artist formerly known as The Stefan Martin Experience was a bit more prominent, but not much.

They got a DemonTime goal to end the half, and to say it had a negative physical effect on me would be an understatement. Double that with us nearly conceding again with 15 seconds left after May was denied an obvious mark. Had that shot gone through I might have kicked the back fence down. An eight point deficit was bad enough, prompting me to petulantly storm from the room, climb into bed and pull a blanket over my head. 

After a few minutes of brooding I decided to try and do something useful with the remainder of the break and put a recently washed doona cover back on. Cue 10 minutes of shaky fingers failing to get the thing in the corners, until I cracked the shits and started kicking it, nearly going arse over tit on tiles in the process. Concussion would have made the second half interesting. As I bent down to pick it up and violently chuck it out the room, there was a strange feeling in my nose, and I realised it was filling with blood. I've never had a random nosebleed in my life, and in conjunction with a throbbing in my left arm, could only conclude that I'd reached my blood pressure record. I've thought it was high while watching games before, but this scared me a bit. I thought I'd better try and calm down before the third quarter started, and achieved this as best possible by kneeling on a wooden bench seat and stretching out as if doing a yoga pose.

Given some of the margins we've come back from this year, you'd have been a knob for writing us off. And while I was open to the possibility of winning, every forward entry without a goal felt like one of the death by a thousand cuts. Fritsch missed a flying shot early in the third to leave us on 5.10, and it looked like we were going to be haunted by the inaccuracy that had given us the shits so much during the year. We'd only climbed above 50% goalkicking in the last two rounds, and had Gawn missed in Geelong would have been left on exactly 269.269. That made us the 15th most accurate side in the league, and amongst all the things I was stressing about, kicking ourselves out of the Grand Final was at the top of the list.

You'd think that when they got the first two goals of the third quarter I'd have been ready for carting out by men in white coats, but at 19 points down a strange serenity came over me. It was almost like the burden of thinking we might win was removed and I could just get on with being miserable. Sounds horrible now, but I can't have been the only one thinking like that.

The night peaked for Footscray when mini Caleb Daniel slung maxi Gawn over the boundary. It looked for all the world like Maximum's cult power had peaked in the Prelim, but you can't keep a big man down, and a few hours later he was doing this. Rumour has it 1900 premiership captain Dick Wardill celebrated in a similar fashion:

Lobbing a player to the ground after the ball has gone out of bounds, causing him to hit his head, would lead to a free most weeks, but Daniel benefited from both the 'size difference' and 'whistle away for a Grand Final' allowances to get away with it. Thank god he did, because from the 'maybe we wouldn't have made the Grand Final if it was played in Melbourne' file, we might not have outscored them 100-7 for the rest of the game.

What a ridiculous figure, the absolute living embodiment of Paul Keating's "beautiful set of numbers". To do it from the verge of oblivion, halfway through the third quarter of a Grand Final was surreal. In the time it takes me to drive to work we came back from 19 points behind to win by 74 - and you best believe I'll be thinking about that during every drive for the next few months. 

If the third quarter against Geelong was the greatest we've ever played, the equivalent 30 minutes from here was better. We were perhaps one good centre clearance from death and went on to the eighth biggest win in Grand Final history. It's scarcely believable that Round 23 would end the year as only the third most remarkable thing to happen to us.

Nobody could have guessed the quality of the party that was about to begin, but Fritsch was the first guest to arrive, finally kicking our sixth goal after a 40 minute wait. Even if a close finish was likely to be fatal I was just happy to keep in touch. His wonky set shots were a cliche last year, but he's been very good this season, and did the right thing when it mattered here - especially as we'd kicked 1.7 since quarter time. It was also set up with a lovely kick from Harmes, who made up for causing one of the earlier Dogs goals by bursting through a gap and sitting the kick perfectly for Fritsch's lead. You'd like to think that somewhere Kelly Underwood was beaming with pride when Slick Fritsch went back-to-back, pulling the ball off a pack to kick his fourth from the next bounce. NOW things were interesting again, with the margin back to seven points in the blink of an eye.

My wildcard prediction of Luke Jackson for the Norm Smith never stood a serious chance, but it was a decent nomination in spirit, because he had an excellent game, and was at the heart of the centre bounces that mattered in the third term. Probably helps to have the likes of Oliver and Petracca at your feet, but his contest when the ball hit the ground was super-important to get us back in the game. Literally the next thing you know, Petracca extracted the ball from the middle again, Brown kicked his second, the margin was back under a goal, and my breakfast, lunch and dinner were all about to come up at the same time. Even three days later, watching this part of the game gave me goosebumps.

I've had an up and down relationship with Angus Brayshaw, but he was so good on Saturday night. Not just in defending his wing but by marking a wonky, floating kick, then putting us back in front. Set shots are generally not his forte, and I tried to lower expectations by muttering under my breath that there was no way he'd kick it, but in a sign that everything was about to go our way he was ice cold. It was already game on, now we'd snatched the lead and a psychological advantage. 

I won't lie and say he's been my favourite player, but who gives a shit what some loudmouth on the internet thinks when you end the season looking like this:

See also Viney, who's been written on and off half a dozen times this year, but went off his nut in the finals. Suggests that there's life in him yet if he can avoid foot-related injuries for a bit.

There's probably a landfill in the western suburbs chockers with unused Footscray gear now, but at this stage the dump trucks wouldn't have known which pile of premiership merch to cart away. It was shaping up like a higher stakes version of the 2002 Semi against Adelaide, where the game started with one team in control, then the other seemed to have unlocked the door before falling apart. That ended in a 12 point margin. We did a bit better here, quickly going from 'could win', to 'might win', to 'should win', to 'must win', to 'rubbing it in', over a single unforgettable hour.

Nobody could conclusively prove if the third quarter last week was the best we've ever played, but bullshit if there's ever been a better minute than this one. Think of all the goals we've conceded late in quarters, then consider how we reacted to a premiership being on the line by taking scores from this:

to this:

I still have no idea how, and nor did the Bulldogs by the looks of it. Brown won't get as much credit as he deserves for starting it, bringing the ball to ground in a contest, then winning a free and thumping the ball forward. Not that he could have known Petracca would run onto a loose ball and casually roll it through from an obscure angle like he was pissfarting around at training. No pressure that you're in the last minute of the third quarter of a Grand Final, just do some tricks. What a man.

As one of the most conservative footy viewers alive that was more than enough for me. As they went back to the middle I said "just hold it, don't concede again", and would have been quite happy to get to the last break 12 points ahead. So would the coaches, who sent word to settle down, to which the players replied "no, we're right thanks" and went hunting for more. And boy howdy did they find more. The Viney/Oliver/Petracca combination ripped the ball out of the middle, Sparrow launched a shot from 50, and McDonald did some grappling on the line that also fell under the 'let them play' statute and suddenly the game had seriously tilted in our favour. Words cannot do justice to most of this game, but when Oliver added another 15 seconds later I may never have made a louder noise.

Even I had to admit we were in a winning position, but still spent three quarter time thinking "it's the hope that kills you". Had we lost from there I hope that would have been the theme for my funeral. Turns out it was never going to happen, but try explaining that to my central nervous system at about 9.30pm Saturday. According to the official program, the highlight of the last break in the biggest game of the year was the 'Chemist Warehouse Zorb Race', and anyone who was more entertained by that than the blitzkrieg they'd just seen us unleash should be shot into the sun. The crowd was so captivated that they never even did a Mexican Wave.

All I could think of as the fourth quarter started was "just get one". That wouldn't have made me believe in a win, but it would have moved the needle in our direction. Would also help to run some time off the clock. Suffice to say I didn't expect to get the first one after 30 seconds. Now we weren't going to do anything but win, and everyone knew it. Of course I did, but would still never have said it out loud.

It's appropriate that in the last game before Darren Burgess went back to South Australia, we did a Burgessball lap of honour on a side that had lost the will to live. Fritsch kicked the fifth a minute later, and even at a six goal margin - having kicked 9.2 since BT's HILARIOUS earthquake joke - I couldn't bring myself to publicly admit it was over. Because what if it wasn't? There was still 17 minutes left. Refer to the 2013 game when they nearly overcame an even bigger margin. You'd have to ask my psychologist why that should have anything to do with much better sides playing eight years later.

Since I was radicalised by the 2007-2009 plummet, I must have thought about how I'd react to a premiership about a thousand times. I'm not the sort of person to get a tattoo, and the option of going on the world's biggest bender was eliminated when I stopped drinking five years ago, so my dreams had been reduced to joyously mingling with random strangers inside the MCG, molesting a player over the fence during the celebrations, then sitting down against a tree in Yarra Park and having a good old fashioned cry. One out of three wasn't bad. When Neal-Bullen's set shot went through and they showed Goodwin trying not to crack up I absolutely BURST into happy tears. That's never happened before, but this was when I knew our bizarre, often terrifying, journey was complete, and that the last 10 minutes were just there to provide a victory lap. 

You'd have forgiven us for calming down and enjoying the moment from there, instead we treated them to the biggest case of dog cruelty since Joel Monahan. I haven't mentioned any Footscray players for a while, and that's because they'd barely had a touch. Even when they did it ended badly, like the guy going for a bounce down the wing and having it bounce behind him, or running to scoring range inside 50, buggering it up and scoring nothing. On the other hand, everything we touched turned to gold. Langdon started a move in defence, then ran down the other end to have a shot. 

By reasonable community standards the game had been over for a few minutes, but this officially put us beyond the fabled Chris Sullivan Line. I might have overreacted a bit, I'd already thrown the blazer off in disgust at half time, looked dishevelled, still had baby spew still on the back of my shirt, and my hair is trending dramatically towards a bald spot, but who needs hair on your head? Not premiership captain Max Gawn.

The hits kept coming, first through McDonald, then via Salem sneaking forward to get involved. Because why not? The Dogs finally got one, but it was anything but a consolation goal, Beveridge looked like he wanted to charge onto the field and start throttling people. Imagine how he felt when we piled on another four goals just for laughs. It didn't achieve the dictionary definition of a stranglewank (for any new readers still going at this point, that concept is best left unexplained), but given that it was nearly three goals better than any other comeback from a comparable position in the last 20 years it's going into the wank files anyway.

Jackson got the next one, fair reward for his great night. How odd that after a season of misses we were kicking every set shot on offer at the most important time of the season. How very un-Melbourne.

To a crowd that was a combined 80% Melbourne/theatregoers looking for a good time, Gawn was more popular than 1986 Hulk Hogan. When he plowed out of the middle and when momentarily looked like pulling off a repeat of the famous running goal against Geelong, the crowd reaction might have caused Western Australia to slide into the Indian Ocean. He missed, but nothing short of a player spontaneously combusting could ruin the mood from here. 

Locals and visitors legal/illegal instead had to settle for Fritsch's sixth, the best haul by anyone in a Grand Final since 1997. And considering how much less goals were worth then, this was almost the equivalent of kicking 10. I almost started feeling sorry for the Dogs at this point. The players obviously didn't, pressing on to try and kick more. When you're hot, you're hot.

I don't know how many Grand Finals have ended with a kick after the siren (none of the ones I've cared about), but McSizzle’s mark with 10 seconds left didn’t leave the director much time to decide how to cover both the kick and the celebrations. After presenting the rest of the game like an arthouse film – including zooming in so far that you’d occasionally think players were handballing straight over the boundary line, only for it to land with somebody who’d been framed out of shot – I thought they got the balance right here, but it must have been a nightmare choosing what shots to cut to. 

They were probably hoping he'd just throw the ball in the air and walk off, but he was feeling it, and undeterred by the largest pile-up of men since Abu Ghraib a few feet away, McDonald steered through the cherry on top. It’s been quite the journey since the last game of 2014, when he kicked his first goal(s) in a loss nobody gave two shits about, to the casually pushing the margin past 70 points in a Grand Final seven seasons later. Nobody would have blamed him if he'd missed under the circumstances, but it was fun to lay the boots in one more time on the way to the podium. Nothing against the Dogs, things were just going that way.

Then it was time for the moment I never thought I'd see, the unbridled joy of players and coaches charging the field to quite frankly hump the bejesus out of anyone they could find wearing red and blue. By this stage I was all cried out and just wandered the room punching my arms in the air and repeatedly yelling "Yes!" Thank you to everyone who made sure the win was in the bag miles out, you may have saved my life.

Sadly, Choco didn’t produce a tie and pretend to choke himself, but he’s been involved in enough flags now that it’s probably old hat. If Basil had been Grand Final MC in 2004, Alan Scott would never have been told he was wrong. Also winning at the first opportunity with us, Adem Yze, casually rolling in after three flags as an assistant at Hawthorn to grab another one here. Enjoy him while it lasts, he’ll be in the mix for any 2022 coaching vacancy not filled by Al Clarkson. Never mind, he was part of this and we thank him for it. Hope it at least slightly makes up for 2000.

The novelty value of winning a flag (!) should have been enough for a lifetime, but I still got a kick out of seeing players who'd gone nowhere near the team as part of the celebrations. This happens every year, but other than when Simon Buckley was in the circle with Collingwood before ever playing a game for them, I've never cared before. Now you had Daniel Turner, who was just hanging around Albury having a kick three months ago, running around with people who had just become club legends. We may never see some of these players again (and indeed, delistings started two days later), but they will be seen as part of the celebrations forever.

And what celebrations they were. Petracca won the Norm Smith, everyone did the cutesy exchange of medals and hats with young kids, and Basil stuffed up the running order, before it was time for the moment that I'd always wanted to see live - the players going bananas. Hibberd running away with the cup, Viney doing snow angels in the confetti, and so much inappropriate touching of AFL players by the general public. For the next two hours I just sat on the couch in a state of shock, trying to comprehend what I'd seen. It still makes no sense now. Maybe once I've had the chance to watch all the TV shows, read all the newspapers, listen to all the podcasts and watch the replay again with eight different versions of commentary I'll be sick of hearing about it. Not bloody likely. I'll probably bring it up in every second conversation until the day I die, whether the other person cares or not.

Everyone involved in this flag will eat and drink for free in the presence of Melbourne supporters for the rest of their lives. The list of credits is so long that it should scroll for 13 minutes at the end of the premiership DVD. From those that left their mark on the place like Peter Jackson, Paul Roos, and Glenn Bartlett (even if his attempts to shaft an ultimately successful coach now make him look like Jock from The Club). To the coaches - led by Simon Goodwin - support staff, and people vital to the running of a football club who'll you never know the names of, that have been there for years. And to those who provided the cherry on top: Kate Roffey (the greatest first term president since George Washington), Adem Yze, Choke Yourself With A Tie, and god knows who else. You're all Demon royalty now. 

But it's the players you'll be able to name on your deathbed. Your choice to go via alphabetical order, team positioning, or just blurt them out as quickly as possible before you run out of oxygen. Jake Bowey, Angus Brayshaw, Ben Brown, Bayley Fritsch, Max Gawn, James Harmes, Michael Hibberd, Luke Jackson, James Jordon, Ed Langdon, Jake Lever, Steven May, Tom McDonald, Alex Neal-Bullen, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Harrison Petty, Kysaiah Pickett, Trent Rivers, Christian Salem, Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow and Jack Viney. Heroes one and all, with 23 different stories and 23 different endings, but one shared exclamation mark on the timeline that will bond them forever.

Plenty of other players contributed through the year, even if they didn't appear in a single game, and hard luck stories like Hunt, Melksham, Smith and Tomlinson will stay in our minds forever, but the men foremost in my thoughts were Nathan Jones and Neville Jetta. The greatest warriors of their generation, each falling agonisingly short of being involved. Both are now officially retired (and by the time I finish this post Jake Bowey probably will be too), and we thank them for everything they've done. 

Jetta is much loved - including Pickett unsuccessfully trying to hand over his premiership medal - but Jones will always be the main event. I love a Simpsons reference like nobody else, but having already become emotional over everything down to classic hits radio, seeing this on Saturday afternoon nearly put me over the edge. No idea who made it, but they whacked me right in the feels.

And lo the 23 heroes of Perth did do it for their valiant (ex)-leader. I know he'd have been both proud of them and gutted not to be there, but I hope he knows what he meant to us across all those years when the idea of Melbourne winning a flag was absolutely laughable. Somehow Jeremy Howe is now the last man standing from 186, and if he narrowly misses a flag nobody will care less. Forget getting Westralians to clap for Victoria, somebody should arrange for everyone who lives within 10km of Jones' house to stand outside going nuts.

So, thank you to everyone involved. And to all the fans who have kept this joint alive over the years. We've been stuffed more than once, and if you'd all given up the club would probably have been wound up by now. 

I'll go on next year, but things are going to be a lot different. Now that #fistedforever is dead, my entire gimmick is out the window. Come back next year for the All New Demonblog, where every mishap or disappointing scenario will be countered with memories of winning a Grand Final via glorious landslide. It's not say we'll be happy forever, but history can now be divided into BC (before cup) and AD (after Demon). They can torture us for the next 57 years, lose the Bentleigh Club money in a telemarketing scheme, and eventually relocate to Kuala Lumpur, but nobody can take the events of Saturday night away from us.

And, on as the curse is reversed, allow me to self-indulgently quote my own introduction to the best/worst timed footy book in history:

It's hard to imagine that if Smith had some supernatural control over the club's destiny, that he wouldn't have slung his old club at least one more premiership by now. Via merger and relocation respectively, the other clubs in Smith’s life, Fitzroy and South Melbourne, finally snapped lengthy premiership droughts in the 21st century. Isn’t it about our time, Smithy?

It was, and will remain so for a minimum of one full calendar year. Drink it in you magnificent bastards.

2021 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Christian Petracca
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Christian Salem

On a night like this, no apologies are needed. Everyone is wonderful, and I'd give every single one of them (even Jordon) votes if it wouldn't affect 16 years of statistical integrity.

Petracca falls narrowly short of already confirmed winner Oliver, but will just have to console himself with a Norm Smith. More importantly, he goes home with our Finals Player of the Year - which I've made the snap decision will be named after Garry Lyon. He contributed in finals throughout my formative years, and handed the cup over on Saturday. That'll do nicely. And despite a full tracksuit time experience, Jordon holds on to win the Hilton. Congratulations to everyone who took home a virtual trophy this season, I'm sure these are honours that will mean as much to you as playing in a premiership.

(NB: Updated vote count after an audit. Surprise, surprise I still can't count. Didn't change anything.)

64 - Clayton Oliver (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
61 - Christian Petracca (WINNER: Garry Lyon Medal for Finals Player of the Year)
38 - Jake Lever (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
29 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Tom McDonald
21 - Luke Jackson 
20 - Christian Salem
19 - Steven May
13 - Bayley Fritsch, Kysaiah Pickett
11 - Jack Viney
10 - Ed Langdon
9 - Angus Brayshaw, Harrison Petty
7 - James Harmes, Alex Neal-Bullen, Charlie Spargo
5 - Jayden Hunt
3 - Michael Hibberd
2 - James Jordon (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Tom Sparrow, Adam Tomlinson
1 - Jake Bowey

It's the segment that won't die, making a one-off appearance after being killed off by COVID before the start of last year. Well done to the WA branch of the cheersquad, with an assist from lovely Freo fans, for delivering the goods, complete with an image of Gawn looking like he'd just broken through the crust of the earth and was about to obliterate humanity. The Dogs' version was made just up the road from Demonblog Towers, featuring the same font as when they use to do 'humourous' gags about negative gearing. Not as good. Dees win again.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Week
He's won everything except the Brownlow this week, so it would seem stupid not to pick Petracca's goal with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. Usually you'd call that the end of the quarter, but in this case there was an absurd amount of water left to go under the bridge.

Having finished the season with more silverware than the Queen of England, I don't think he needs a weekly prize. A lifetime of admiration will have to do and fans trying to hump his leg whenever he walks down the street will have to do as a consolation.

Gawn retains the overall title for that goal in Geelong. It wasn't the prettiest of the season, but it was the most important. He misses, our path to the flag is a completely different one, and god only knows what happens. Now you can watch it, and quite frankly every goal kicked by Melbourne this season, on a loop and know it ended.

Final thoughts
In ancient Greece, the philosopher Athenodorus was working in a new house when he heard the sound of clanking iron shackles, and a ghost appeared, beckoning him to follow. Athenodorus followed the ghost outside, where it led him to a courtyard before disappearing. The ground was dug up the next day, where a long-buried, shackled skeleton was found. The bones were collected and buried in a real grave, after which the house was haunted no more.

At about 10pm on Saturday night, 57 years of hurt were finally laid to rest. Everything that happens from here will be a new story, shed of the baggage built up since 1965. Go and spread the word in your community, Melbourne supporters everywhere may now live their lives freely, safe in the knowledge that no matter what else happens, they have seen ultimate success. The ghosts will never bother us again.

In the immortal words of Christian Petracca: