Thursday, 8 April 2021

Retro Review - Round 6, 2004

To me, 2004 seems like it was yesterday. That we're drafting players who were barely alive at the time exposes the fact that it wasn't and I'm just getting old. For Melbourne fans it was neither the best of times or the worst times, but certainly confusing.

From the arrival of Neale Daniher in 1998 until 2003 we had been one of the most inconsistent teams ever to lace up a boot. In his first season (more on that here) Daniher took a side largely made up of the reigning wooden spooners to a Preliminary Final, before that was seemingly exposed as a fluke when we finished the 14th the following year. Which made qualifying for the 2000 Grand Final even more unlikely, at which point we reacted to our best finish since 1964 but immediately dropping to 11th. 

Turns out we were only good every second year, a phenomenon confirmed to exist despite no scientific evidence as to why. In 2002 we were one memorable collapse from another Prelim, and at 2-1 early in the following season it looked like Daniher and Co. had finally cracked the consistency code. Then we finished the year 3-16, albeit with some suspect capitulations late in the year that allowed us to take advantage of an overly generous priority pick system.

I'd come back to the game full time in 1998, and after six seasons of this my nerves were shot. The club was also discovering that being crap every second year didn't help, bleeding money from every orifice and barely improving our membership numbers from 2003 despite missing the prestigious Wizard Cup final by a point.

That pre-season form looked like a swizz after losing the opener to Hawthorn - who hadn't won a practice match of any sort - by 49 points. A year earlier we beat them in the first game and death-spiralled to the bottom of the ladder, this time it was their turn, winning just three more games and avoiding the wooden spoon by 1.0%. They then drafted a pair of kids called Franklin and Roughead and won every trophy under the sun.

In early 2004 everything revolved around 'f' words. And not the usual ones. For us it was form, finances and factions, with shadowy figures still punching shit out of each other over Joe Gutnick's departure three years earlier. As a Hail Mary attempt at unity, a cavalcade of club legends were invited to parade around the ground before Round 2. Not invited, former CEO Ray Ellis, given the Tijuana when a projected 2003 profit turned into a $2.2 million loss. I'd like to hear Ray's side of it but I'm sure his calculations didn't foresee us going from a semi to 15th.

If we'd lost that Friday night, the same people who'd linked arms to sing Kumbaya would have probably ended the night gouging each other's eyes out. Thank god then for David Neitz, who united the MFC family in the most unlikely way, by kicking nine in a thumping win. We soon discovered that Richmond was the only side in the league worse than Hawthorn, but on the night the win was all that mattered.

Turns out, the draw was very kind to us, offering up future 14th place finishers Footscray next. A 10 point win wasn't much to write home about, but it was better than the alternative. It was the beginning of the end for Dogs coach Peter Rohde, whose post-MFC coaching career fared poorly in comparison to say... Al Clarkson.

After our 2003 swan-dive nobody was relaxing over a 2-1 start, before a dead-set rooting of the previously unbeaten Port suggested this latest revival might be real. It was real enough for us to flop into the finals, while Mark Williams regrouped, won the flag and celebrated by choking himself with a tie.

After four games in a row at the MCG (the sort of fixture free kick we'd never get now), the feelgood factor was officially welcomed back with our first interstate win since late 2002. 

It was our only game against Sydney at Stadium Australia, a match that was meant to be played annually, until they realised Collingwood drew better crowds. We did, however, win a cheap and cheerful commemorative cup, which is either next to the 2018 AFLX Pool B championship in the 'it'll have to do" wing of our trophy cabinet, or was left in the domestic terminal of Sydney Airport. As you can see, Brad Miller was thrilled to be involved.

This, at last, brings us to the MCG on Sunday 2 May, 2004. Standing in the road of our fifth straight win was a Carlton side stuffed to the gills with recycled players, a reaction to their disastrous 2003 season. This was as bad as it got for them in 2004, Denis Pagan's recruiting pyramid scheme helped deliver 10 wins, before it all came crashing down and ended in a pair of wooden spoons.

For now, the Blues were doing alright, with a 2-3 record and a last-start 49 point win over West Coast. Having held the Eagles goalless in the first half their backline must have thought they were doing pretty well. A week later the same men were being restrained from grabbing the overhead wires at Jolimont Station after enabling our first 100 point win since late 1993. We wouldn't do it again for another 14 years. Between them we lost by the ton - and once nearly the double ton - nine times.

Despite the statistical significance of this game I'd never seen a minute of it before now. I bought the DVD during Name A Game's final, desperate 'looks like we're stuffed' fire sale about seven years ago, and even after uploading it to YouTube a year ago have only just come to a loose enough end to sit down and watch. And what's the point in doing that without also taking excessively in-depth notes?

As this world class mauling was taking place I was technically at work, though with the statute of limitations likely expired along with the company that employed me (RIP), I can admit to listening to most of it on the radio while sitting under a tree in Royal Park. By 2004 it was too late for setting the VHS, and not early enough for DVR recorders, Foxtel IQ, YouTube highlights or just flat out pirating a copy off a Torrent site, so I just moved on with my life. Would never happen now.

While we went into the match with a perfectly sensible side (the most obscure participant is probably future West Coast premiership player Steven Armstrong), Carlton's is one of the most eclectic selections you'll ever see. Any analysis of a 17-year-old side other than your will reveal a few players you've forgotten but this is ridiculous. Their cast of imports included Jordan Bannister (ex-Essendon), Brett Johnson and Glen Bowyer (ex-Hawthorn), Barnaby French (ex-Port), David Teague and Digby Morrell (ex-North), Heath Scotland (ex-Collingwood) and Nick Stevens (ex-Port, future abuser of women). Homegrown talents include Justin Davies and Jonathon McCormick, both of who I have not the faintest recollection of.

The shambolic state of their list is usually blamed on the draft picks they lost for rorting the salary cap, but they didn't do themselves any favours trading their first three picks in the 2001 draft for Corey McKernan and Justin Murphy (another abuser). Once they got caught fiddling the books an 'any living organism' recruiting policy was introduced, best demonstrated by Pagan dragging a shot to buggery Mick Martyn to exactly 300 games. Sadly Mick's departure at the end of 2003 removed both a rich source of comedy for opposition fans and the last living link to when Allen Jakovich kicked 11.

Today's coverage comes courtesy of original recipe Fox Footy. Your lead commentator is Clinton Grybas, assisted by Wayne Schwass (who hardly gets a word in), with a surprisingly upbeat Gerard Healy doing special comments and Tiffany Cherry on the boundary.

Here, with the future Row MM taking shape behind her, Tiffany predicts how much chance Carlton players have of retaining their dignity.

The legend built-up since his death suggests Grybas is the great lost caller who would have saved us from today's BT inspired nonsense. Based on his occasional breaching of 80% on the Dwayne Russell scale during this game I'm not so sure, but I would prefer him over everyone employed by Channel 7 not called Jason Bennett. Clinton does accurately predict the result from a Melbourne perspective, saying "This is going to be a great match".

While 2004 turned out to be a (relatively) successful year, it was played with one of the worst jumper logos ever. The blue Demon makes this outfit look like it was bought from Victoria Market. Also, iPrimus was also a massive let down after several glorious wearing LG. 

You don't want to hang too much shit on coin tossers in case you get in Eddie McGuire level trouble, but the civilian in charge on this day absolutely launches it. Who knows what would have happened if Neitz or Camporeale (deputising for an injured Kouta) had copped a 20c coin in the eye before the first bounce. He flipped truly, allowing us to kick with the wind.

Maybe that's why Lance Whitnall mysteriously starts the game in Carlton's backline, setting up our first goal by missing a half-volley, allowing Neitz (inexplicably called 'Nicholson' by Grybas), to set Miller up for the first.

After 10+ years of recalled bounces, it's jarring to see play go on after one skews away at a zany angle. With his opposite number too far away to do anything about it, Jeff White punches the shit out of the ball. He was always very good at that. You wouldn't want to try the modern tactic of not contesting a stoppage against him, he'd just wallop it 30 metres forward. As an alternative to the brute force tactics of Jamar (referred to in absentia by Healy as 'J'Mar' as if he's a rapper) and Gawn, the sight of a ruckman leaping like an Atlantic Salmon gives you fuzzy feelings about Luke Jackson's future.

Other than the final score I deliberately didn't research what happened in this game before watching it, but while the ease of that first goal seemed like a giant flashing DANGER sign for the Blues the landslide is slow to arrive. They even cancelled the opening goal, courtesy of Adem Yze being clobbered in the middle of the ground to the complete disinterest of all three field umpires. This prompts Whitnall to forget his recent blunder and taunt Yze. One of them went on to a promising coaching career and the other was last seen hanging around the Broadmeadows greyhounds.

Another 2004 trend that looks ancient now is how much mischief you could get up to after a mark. For instance, Al Nicholson knocking the ball out of Whitnall's hands, before running off with it after the whistle, before Brad Green unconvincingly pretends he doesn't know who he's supposed to give the ball to. These days Lance would have been paid so many 50s that he'd have been kicking for goal on Punt Road Oval.

While, refreshingly, there hasn't been an unnecessary cut to either of the coaches in the first five minutes, we do get the ever-popular sight of a player receiving instructions from a phone straight out of the Telecom 1992 range. 

The message might have been 'kick it at Fevola's ankles', because that's what happens when Support Australian Hip Hop era Fev gets on a perfect lead for no reward. After kicking six the previous week, he has a much more difficult time of it against late inclusion Nathan Carroll (replacing Clint Bizzell). After seven losses to start his career, Chopper is great in his first win, only partially aided by the Blues kicking towards Fev as if blindfolded.

In 2004 commentators were still amazed by players kicking around the corner for goal. Who knows what they'd have thought of Harry McKay doing it from 30 metres out directly in front last week, but considering the sexual ecstasy Grybas reaches when Neitz does it from the boundary, the Fox Footy box may have required emergency window cleaning.

Neita's goal made it 14-7 with 12 minutes to play in the first quarter. For now there were no pointers to the orgy of violence to come. We were regularly going forward but had several opportunities break down because they knew we were going to kick it at Neitz every time. Once we sorted that out it was on for young and old. First cab off the rank was Cameron Bruce, pocketing a clever kick around the corner by rolled-sleeves era Yze for his first of plenty.

That prompts the first cross to a coach, still from a safe distance rather than the graphic closeups they're subjected to now. For Melbourne, the Reverend was joined by Brett Ratten, Choco Royal, Leigh Newton (strange spot for the media manager to sit but what do I know) and blokes yet to be identified:

This is also a time where interchanges were so infrequent they could still be tracked via on-screen graphics. Except this is the only one they show all day, probably excited that for first time in AFL history a Barnaby replaced a Digby.

If anything prompted us to rise up and kick seven shades of shit out of the Blues it was their painfully bad forward 50 entries. We developed an alternative to Neitz, they spent four quarters booting it at Fev and expecting him to play like John Coleman. After their second consecutive blind hoof to a defender, the ball rocketed down the other end, where Aaron Davey's fancy footwork pulled the piss out of multiple opponents before setting up Bruce's second. It was, at last, starting to look ugly.

What better time for our first cross to the Carlton box. Here's Pagan, a looming Sticks and a kindly old grandpa embracing technology while Denis is still grappling with the analogue option.

The romp came on at an enjoyable speed, with Bruce setting up Ben Holland in so much space that he could have walked the ball to the line from 40 metres out, instead gently lobbing it through like a training drill. I know he was much-maligned, but leaving a key forward in this much space suggested Carlton's defence was no good. Bring back Mick Martyn.

With the margin out to 26, and still six minutes to play before quarter time, the crowd was understandably going boonta. 

In a desperate attempt to stop people switching to episodes of Allo Allo on UKTV, Healy tried to convince us that despite the scoreline Carlton hadn't been bad. This, like any suggestion he was going to stay at Melbourne in 1985, was a bald-faced lie. They'd been bobbins, with only long hair/long sleeves Ryan Houlihan and Fevola showing even the slightest resistance.

Even our unheralded players were lining up to have a go, with Nicholson storming (as much as  possible) through the corridor and setting up Simon Godfrey. If he'd landed it there might have been a repeat of the '98 Blues game when a pissed bloke climbed the fence and staggered towards the huddle to have a chat with David Parkin. Sadly his kick was smothered, and Carlton fans were free to keep dreaming of a memorable comeback.

Their first attempt at a revival was foiled by future Rising Star winner Jared Rivers. Sure he beat the worst field of nominees ever, but until injured every five seconds the sky looked the limit. Witness, for instance, the sixth gamer running back against the flight to spoil Fevola, after a lead that had flummoxed Carroll. Neither Rivers nor Carroll were beaten many more times for the afternoon.

Carlton briefly threatened, including forcing a flying goalkeeper save from Nathan Brown that Fox didn't bother to replay. This prompted our runner to come out, dressed in the sort of all-yellow tracksuit popular with heroin addicts at this time. Whatever he said worked, via a wonderfully weighted Travis Johnstone kick coming out of defence we were soon inside 50 again. 

A wild snap by Holland led to a brief, spirited debate on the introduction of four goal umpires, as if that was going to solve anything. Dutchy's next attempt at doing something spectacular saw him fling his boot at a bouncing ball in the pocket, only toe-poke it straight to a defender. Redemption arrived seconds later, winning a free at a boundary throw in, then a 50 from confirmed cockhead Nick Stevens, extending the margin to 30 points.

That was all for the first quarter, with one more kick on the full by Fev the closest anyone went to changing the 39-9 scoreline. The added bonus to building such a strong early lead was imminent rain, with some doomsday preppers in the crowd already donning garbage bags. The lights came on at quarter time but there was never any more than light drizzle, leaving people in ponchos both looking and feeling ludicrous.

One of the joys of watching old games is dated advertising signage. This game came in the period between fixed hoardings and today's digital signage wankfest, offering a scrolling selection of companies that have either gone bust or changed names. National Bank hadn't yet become 'NAB', Metlink told us to 'enjoy the ride' (while we rode Carlton like Might and Power) and Tattersalls were very keen as mustard for us to 'tip online at'. So desperate that they spent $2.3 million on advertising during year and only pulled in $2m of revenue.

This attempt at a national footy tipping competition offered big money prizes and weekly payoffs for picking all eight winners. To which Australia said "that's nice" and went back to playing in the work comp, causing Tipstar to lose $9 million across its first three years. I did my bit, loyally submitting my tips every week and finishing high enough in the final field to feel a bit smug (nobody else cared, and as it turns out there were only 21,000 people playing), but not high enough to win money. However, I didn't go home empty though, pocketing a DVD player for the highest finish at my local newsagent. 

In an early sighting of Gil McLachlan, the AFL's then GM of Commercial Operations planted his head in the sand and said "... the numbers are not necessarily where they might be, but I still think it's been successful". Somehow the competition soldiered on until 2007 before being mercifully put to sleep. Tatts didn't even bother to renew the domain, and it is now occupied by what appears to be an app for betting on Japanese cycling.

Your chances of losing a game from this far in front at quarter time are pretty slim, but we'd be just the sort of club to have a crack. Suspicions that a hot gospel address by Pagan might fire up his team were justified when they spent the first few minutes of the second term hammering towards their goal. Problem was they only had one forward and we knew it. The future Casey Scorpions superstar did nearly kick goal of the year, sticking his foot under a loose ball in the pocket and trying to lift it through the big sticks, rather than just punting it off the ground. Carlton fans went wild, not realising for about five seconds that it was a point. 

The resistance ended in the most slapstick fashion possible, a mid-air collision by two Blues allowing Davey to whisk the ball away and kick a goal on the run. Down the other end, courtesy of Yze booting the ball out of Adrian DeLuca's hands like an NFL kicker, we learn that DeLuca did a pre-season at Melbourne in [year not mentioned]. Considering how badly he kicks this it's a surprise we didn't offer a five year contract. This took the Blues on 1.5, and DeLuca had barely finished pondering what went wrong before the ball was down the other end as if shot from a cannon, for Bruce's third.

At last, the big root was on. Every time they went near their 50 it was an invitation for us pull off a hot knife/butter interface going the other way. My memories of Travis Johnstone are unfairly clouded by his last couple of years but he is sublime here, with a beautiful kick through the middle setting up future escapee Scott Thompson for our eighth in a row. 

The 46 point lead is celebrated by sending out a water carrier with the most unprofessional, bootleg number you'll ever see. Carlton fans should have celebrated by calling Metlink on 131 638 to see what time the early train was leaving.

If there was any difference between the quarters, it's that in the first Carlton could get the ball inside 50 before it was flung the other way at terminal velocity. Now we weren't letting them get past half-forward. Even Godfrey got to have a set shot, and while he kicked it out on the full from directly in front, the escape only got as far as Jeff White. He set up Holland, and in a great moment for fans of player stereotypes Dutchy missed from here:

"Occasionally those sort of things come back to haunt you," says Grybas. Better six points than one, but when you're 48 points up midway through the second quarter a lot more is going to have to go wrong than that. Clinton then starts calling Andrew Walker '1AW' at every opportunity, working an unpaid plug for his radio employer into the call. Bet you Luke Ottens wouldn't have been offered the same treatment.

To make up for Holland missing the unmissable, Davey kicks the unkickable. Most players would be accused of plucking a similar kick out of the pocket directly from their arse but if anyone knew what they were doing from that sort of weird angle it was him. Clinton plugs your chance to see it again on 'The Winners', before talking about their old Foxtel 'Digital Sports Active', where you could press red for different camera angles, or more importantly switch off the commentary and just listen to crowd noise. Given that Foxtel has about a quarter of the subscribers that they did then, this might be an idea to lure people back. No point for games involving Dwayne, you'll still be able to hear him going off over the effects mic.

In addition to the thumping on the scoreboard, it's nice to get a nostalgic wide shot of the Olympic Stand. It was on death row at this point, but men of a certain age will appreciate the ingenuity of toilets where the glass had been carefully broken so you could have a slash and still see the play. 

I'd like to think I wasn't fretting about giving up this lead, but fears would have subsided when Russell Robertson sliced a pass off the side of his boot backwards only for Green to turn it into a goal anyway. If that counted as a goal assist you can never take the stat seriously again. The fans at the ground certainly weren't taking the idea of a Blue revival seriously, greeting their first goal for an hour with a hearty bronx cheer. This arrogance nearly backfired on us when they flew inside 50 from the bounce and... kicked out on the full. Goodbye comeback, goodbye Carlton.

This was another opportunity to practice our lightning transitions, quickly turning their last gasp at respectability into another goal. It was Green again, working his opponent away from a rotten Godfrey kick that went nowhere near its intended target, before slotting another on the run. For his part in the goal Godfrey was rewarded by being dragged.

Given that they'd stopped showing interchanges sinch Morrell/French, I've got no idea who came on for him, but assume it was Phil Read, who played up to stereotypes by being involved in a manly jostle while the teams went off at half time. 

At 77-17 down, and in an era where you had to work hard to be fined for wrestling, the Blues players were probably happy to stay on the field and away from Pagan for as long as possible.

Sensing blood, the Fox Footy cameras hone in on the Carlton race, where they were offered various degrees of feedback. One nutter in a hood is hanging over the race yelling what looks like abuse, while this lady launched a futile attempt to keep their spirits up via clapping, banging the fence, and (much to the delight of the players I'm sure) patting them on the back. These days she'd have been on the Facebook page demanding a spill of the board.

Safe in the knowledge that even we couldn't blow a 10 goal half time lead (and double safe in the knowledge that this happened 17 years ago and we know the result), our prospects of a massive victory are further assisted by Carlton's Trent Sporn succumbing to a foot injury, probably acquired trying to kick one of his teammates at half time.

The sense of cruelty was further reinforced by Bruce's fourth, marking a crappy, floaty kick that could have been cut off by any number of defenders. Then he got another and it was started to feel disappointing that we 'only' won by 105. Hot Karl Norman was having a torrid day, and Bruce extracted further piss by unnecessarily booting the ball from the square into the second deck. This formed part of an exciting couple of years for Karl, who was robbed by a teammate, then showed up to training off chops after a big night out with the same teammate, got a Rising Star nomination a few weeks after this, then only played four games in 2005 before being dropped for good. Footscray asked invited him to pre-season training the next year but he didn't turn up.

In another entry for the 'It's not their day' file, a gilt-edged chance for Carlton's third is lost when Ian Prendergast first drops a mark, and is then inadvertently kicked in the face once he hits the ground. As Ian is now a lawyer there will be no further mockery of his misfortune.

Daniel Ward is not a lawyer, so I can say how much I hate his piss-tipped hair. In 2021 most sensible people have stopped doing this to random patches of their hair and instead decided to reintroduce the mullet, which makes a urine streaked barnet look much better in comparison.

He might have been wearing a golden shower on his head, but Ward helped set up one of the goals of the day, roosting a long kick down the middle for Green to run onto, contemptuously dash away from a trailing opponent and boot on the run from 50. This sets off one of the biggest reactions from the crowd yet, and at 97-17 put our all-time record winning margin against Carlton into play. Not much of an achievement considering it was a) only 81 points, and b) dated back to 1897, but welcome nonetheless. 

After 10 scoreless minutes the Blues finally got a score of some sort. The storyline was obviously how bad Carlton were going but Heath Scotland was still poorly treated by Grybas calling it like the miss of the century when he was on an angle with players in the way. 

I don't think Heath is going to get an apology from Clinton now but I'm willing to officially absolve him of any blame. Unlike these two young Melbourne fanatics, reminding Carlton of their misfortune while sitting behind the lead singer from Korn and a Blues fan contemplating which bridge he's going to jump off.

While Scotland can finally enjoy his freedom 17 years on, he was still guilty of aiding and abeting our next goal. Here Jeff White plucks one straight from the Big Book O' Footy Party Tricks by picking up a half volley and casually booting it through from the pocket. The carnival atmosphere then continued with a free to Neitz at the top of the square, for his first kick since the opening quarter. I'm retrospectively upset that from 109-18 with 9.25 left in the third quarter we didn't challenge our all-time record 141 point win.

You can tell that AFL tactics hadn't gone down the full chippy, dinky kick route yet because Schwass - allowed to get a rare word in after a goal - says our +62 possession count was "equivalent to having four to five extra players on the field". Now a team can have that and it all it means is that they've got NFI what to do with the ball.

With the sun showing up for the first time all day, we continued to pile on the pressure. After a barren afternoon, as part of a barren season where he'd only kicked one goal, reigning Best and Fairest winner Robertson was the next to have a go. 

First he punished himself for a miss by trying to tear his lower jaw off, before getting it right at the second opportunity. That sixth goal to nil for the quarter extended the margin to 97, prompting one Carltonian to offer this verdict on how things were going:

The commentators refer to Fev's 'dirty day', but could not have had any more of a bash with zero help from anyone. He's getting a bit sooky, but so would you playing as the lone forward option of a team playing like the Laurence Angwin All Stars. As a bonus for fans of all persuasions, here he is midway through saying "oh fuck" while in close proximity to Phil Read's buttocks.

Takes Carlton long enough to open their account for the quarter, but it is at least a quality finish. Anonymous since his early trash-talking, Whitnall takes advantage of Carroll being assassinated in a contest to slot it from from a tight angle.

Whitnall's emergence from the witness protection program reduced our chances of crossing the 100 point barrier before three quarter time. For about 15 seconds. And who better to get the instant reply than his old mate Yze? Then, straight out of the next centre bounce Ooze is rebounding from half back line, and I'm inspired to watch more old games to remember him, Johnstone, White etc... at their peak.

They're all made to look a bit better by Carlton's 0.0% pressure rating. Steve Hocking would touch his dong if he saw the way we moved the ball around a series of opponents playing like their feet are stuck in concrete. And considering some of the 'celebrities' who have followed Carlton over the years that was a live possibility. Sadly, our tilt at a record sis further affected by another consolation goal to Whitnall on the siren, leaving us a still not inconsiderable 123-31 in front.

So often games like this peter out in the last quarter - except when we're the ones 92 points behind and the other side goes for mutilation. These teams add another 10 goals combined. The first fell to us, as Holland does much better this time, even with a plastic bag flapping at his ankles and the tantalising offer to save money with Primus Clubcall. 

In the interests of research, I called 1300 789 665. It's still Primus but I didn't stay to discover if they still give 7% of your monthly phone bill to the club. According to 'David Neitz' in the press release, players had already switched. "It's great to know that if we're on the phone to each other talking tactics, we're helping the Club in more ways than one!" somebody in the Primus marketing department said.

We that this game ends in a huge margin, but watching 'live' it's still annoying when the score is continually dragged back from the precipice. This time by Camporeale, who allegedly had 20 possessions but had barely been seen since the coin toss. "That's a highlight!" lies Grybas. 

Somehow Carlton's one goal streak leads to conversation about historic big wins - Schwass kindly chooses to ignore his part in North's 127 point win over us in 1990, but Healy is always there to remind you of how badly Melbourne have done, talking up the 1979 Fitzroy schellacking. He undersells the Lions, crediting them with just 30.30 when they actually kicked (*sob*) 36.22.238. He did, however, correctly remember being dropped the next week, missing us bouncing back to win by five goals. If the Pakistani cricket team did that...

Our next goal should have come via one of the most underrated reckless acts in recent history. Matthew Lappin sees a handball gently floating towards him, and instead of taking possession he boots it out of mid-air, almost taking Brad Green's face off in the process. 

All that saved Green from the same fate that befell Jeff White on the same ground 18 months later is Lappin collecting ball marginally before skull, ensuring all the contact to Brad's face came from his shin. Still an obvious free kick, which makes it so unusual that after a lengthy period of non-deliberation the whistle goes... to pay a mark to the player on the end of Lappin's wild kick.

Further proof that the umps had lost interest came in the form of Wheatley reacting to an innocuous push in the back - which we'd already been given the free for - with a clothesline. The umpire further ruins Campo's day as stand-in skipper by lecturing him that there was no reversal because "you had the ball" as if that made any difference.

At one goal apiece halfway through the quarter, Clin Ton suggests that both teams would be happy to call the game off and take a 92 point margin. Bollocks they would. Carlton maybe, but what side is going to get that far in front and not want to drive for 100? Obviously not schooled in the Kerry Packer method of talking it up no matter how bad things get, he then says "we're treading water here on Fox Footy".

White tried to get things going with a shot on the run from 50, but after kicking on the full he does the classic footy move of pointing at something to try and take the heat off your mistake, before giving up the facade and raising a hand in apology. It was left to the closest thing we had to another ruckman to put us back on the verge of the magic margin. A boundary throw-in lands at the top of the square, where Holland swiped the ball out of mid-air and thumped it through.

In another piece of period umpiring, the advantage rule obviously wasn't fully implemented yet, because two seconds after the whistle went for a free to Armstrong, Robertson casually and wastefully tries to snap the goal from 45 metres only for it to be brought back for Armstrong to have another go. Only, he had such clear disinterest in taking the shot that the Fox cameras switched to Ward five seconds before he 'spontaneously' took a handball. While his kick missed everything, Holland marked it in the pocket, proceeding to hit the post and leave the margin dangling on 99. 

We have never won a game by that margin and weren't starting here, but it took a bit to get going again. Finally Houlihan, still the only effective Carlton player, delivered a decent kick to Fev, and to the boos of sadistic Melbourne fans he reduced the gap to 93. When Davey put on turbo thrusters to immediately set up Armstrong - much more interested this time - for a reply 20 seconds later Fevola must have wondered why he bothered getting out of bed.

Finally, with five minutes left and nothing to play for other than reaching/avoiding the 100 point psychological barrier, it started raining goals. Who knows how many of the 38,799 crowd (sorry for not showing up and making it a round number) were still there by this point, but any Carlton loyalists who stuck around got to see their latest goal cancelled out by three from us in three minutes. First another from Armstrong, before Bruce finally put us over the magic margin with his sixth. 

Even with White and Johnstone packed off to the bench, the slaughter continued unabated. As we discovered that Grybas said "shorts it" years before Dwayne, Robertson set up a seventh for Bruce, making it our biggest ever score against the Blues - and that day we'd had to come from three goals down at the last change.

The most consolation of consolation goals fell to the Blues on the siren, reducing the margin to 'just' 105 points. On a weekend with three games decided by a point, this was our equal 10th biggest win in history.

Shortly after the Carlton fan who'd tried so hard to gee up the boys at half time was seen wiping her nose on her sleeve, we saw this classic banner, taking its place alongside 'BRUCE ALMIGHTY' and one that just had 'DEMONS' written on it in black texta:

For reasons unknown, the coverage then cuts to spycam footage from the rooms that looks like it's been installed by a pervert. Most of the screenshots in this post have come up in ND (No Definition), but this is about as bad as it looked on the original broadcast. I think that's Dipper on the left, but with this quality it could be Harold Holt.

The real cameras make it to the rooms in time for the song, belted out in front of a sign for 'Microsecure Technologies'. We're pleased to say this company is not only still trading (from the fictional sounding suburb of 'Humevale') but that their website looks like it hasn't had an update since 2004. Considering our age profile and the club's habit of dropping dead at the slightest provocation, the Le Pine Funerals sign on the other wall was more appropriate. 

The players don't belt out the theme as much as sign a slower, nearly reggae version, while we a) confirm that it was Dipper seen earlier, and b) Chris Fagan looks at Ben Holland like he's just squeezed out a jam tart.

And on that classy note, coverage for Name A Game customers comes to a screeching halt. We get one last shot of the Reverend triumphantly doing the rounds, alongside Neita, a future premiership player, and one of Flock Of Seagulls doing a live cross  

Finally, while 2004 Foxtel customers had the chance to press red for press conferences (any chance that feature now?), 2021 YouTube suggests I watch a video featuring Damien Barrett. Advantage 2004.

Watching this in isolation, you'd think this sort of defeat would send a cobbled together side into a death spiral, but the Blues returned to the MCG six days later to beat Collingwood. Which is amusing. Even more surprisingly we follow up this record score by losing to the Diamond Valley Under 9s, instead beating West Coast by 49 points, before our winning streak ended the following week at that classic MFC graveyard, Kardinia Park.

From there, the fortunes of the clubs diverged. Carlton veered between the outer fringes of the eight and 15th place before being officially knocked out of the finals race with a month to play. Just as their year ended ours peaked, reaching the top of the ladder after Round 18. Our form in unconvincingly beating last placed Hawthorn should have clued us in to it being a mirage, but nobody cared at the time. They showed the ladder on the MCG screen and due to having low expectations we all went wild.

Meaningless mid-season milestones were all we got, following summit with plummet, missing a double chances by losing the last four games, then being knocked out of the finals at the first hurdle by 8th placed Essendon. 

While it was all laughs at Carlton's expense in May, they had their revenge in Round 21. Desperate to rescue our free-falling season before a last round trip to Perth, we fell victim to a team buoyed by big name inclusions like Adam Bentick and Cory McGrath, losing by five goals. This time I meant to be there, before being stopped in my tracks by one of my worst hangovers ever. Christ knows how I went outside and made it halfway down St Kilda Road by tram before having to escape and spew on the median strip at Commercial Road. This was all the encouragement I needed to go back to the original Demonblog Towers and listen to the horror unfold on the radio. 

But in May 2004 that's all yet to come - and if either set of fans knew what was on the horizon would they have bothered carrying on? - so it's goodbye from us at the MCG. For Clinton Grybas, Wayne Schwass, Gerard Healy and Tiffany Cherry, I'm Adam 1.0. Cheerio and Go Dees.

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