Sunday, 6 June 2021

Dees go to 11

Given that entire 100 game careers start and end within nine years, it's no great revelation to say that a lot can change in that time. It's been that long so I first planned to use this headline, as we were plummeting towards an 0-11 start in 2012. There was even a Tufnel-referencing Facebook Comment of the Week video (before all the comments became about political correctness by defeated men who look like the cast of Don's Party), thankfully rendered obsolete by an improbable Round 9 win against high-flying - in all senses of the word as it turns out - Essendon.

Now all these years and multiple false starts later we are widely acknowledged as the best team in the competition, will end another week as premiership favourites, and the headline can be revived for good rather than evil. We stuffed up the chance of using it for an 11-0 start, but rumbling two premiership contenders in consecutive prime time fixtures will do as a consolation prize for losing in Adelaide.

That this is only the third time we've gone to 11 since 2006 is a cause for national shame, but at the moment our past indiscretions are irrelevant. To people who matter anyway, I'm still troubled by results from the early 90s. As one sage individual put it on breakfast TV over the weekend, nobody's ever won a premiership in June. But, offensive interventions by the footy gods aside, we've never been in a better position to have a go. The best thing is that for everybody playing out of their skin there things that can be improved. By christ(ian), is this really happening? I need to go back and read some Neeld era reviews to avoid getting ahead of myself.

Despite this uncharacteristic outbreak of optimism, I assure you that spiritually I'm shitting through the eye of a needle. There's no way people who have seen a flag feel like this, but when every chance could be your last, the pressure to finish the job is excessive. God knows how St Kilda fans survived those Grand Finals without being carted off to the funny farm. Better them than me, but maybe the true meaning of life won't become obvious until we too have pissed away a golden opportunity at immortality. Alternatively, do a Footscray/Geelong 2007 and get the hard work over in the Prelim before cruising to victory in the big one. Right now I'll take a repeat of any Grand Final winning scenario from 1898 to 2020, up to and including it being played at the Gabba or Waverley.

Against a side that had won seven in a row, I was prepared to make excuses for defeat. Unless we ran up the white flag and conceded 30 seconds in like the Port game last year, a loss would have left me exactly where the previous Friday ended, considering secret Bradbury Plans to make sure we wouldn't finish ninth. Now, via a ropey first half, I didn't see a farce, now I'm a believer.

Having to pull back leads against the good, bad and ugly of the competition is going to backfire on us eventually, but there's no better feeling when it comes off. 20 points is just short of stranglewank territory but there's still a rush from dicing with death before finishing in ecstasy. The final margin was similar to that against North, but the emotions are poles apart. Running away from the wooden spooners elect was a relief, dismantling a premiership contender who looked to have cracked our code in the first half was several million times better. 

It means nothing unless there's a repeat in September but we've now beaten 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and the reigning premier. The only sides in the eight unconquered are Port, who didn't demonstrate any of their famous flakiness while walloping us last year, and West Coast who we don't play until Round 21. Can I mention again that a) things are shaping up very nicely, and b) I'm not psychologically coping (NB: in a sporting sense, this is not a real-life cry for help) well with that.

Like the jumper 'clash'/empty stadium conundrum last week, who knows what would have happened if the game had been played as scheduled in Alice Springs. Maybe we'd have won by more, maybe we'd have lost by 187. The difference this time is that while most of us went to bed happy to get the points in any state that would have us, the Chief Financial Officer was probably having to be restrained from throwing himself into the shredder over the loss of $700-800,000. The people of Sydney were slightly more receptive to our charms than when 1000 of them combined turned up for last year's two game stand at Fortress Showgrounds, but with the yet to be disclosed crowd stuffed on one wing I don't think the gate receipts are going to cover much more than our Minibar bill. 

When the league dragged their feet on announcing the fixture for this week I held out some hope that we'd adopted Mafia tactics to convince the NT government to let us in. More likely they're happy that they didn't have to pay for Alice Springs to get more mentions in the Victorian media than the other 51 weeks of the year combined. No doubt a later game's going to be moved there, we'll get paid anyway and everyone will be happy. Obviously, the authors of the Fat Chance Report, calling for an AFL team in the NT, were so busy printing copies at Officeworks that they missed the news, releasing it on the same day that the game meant to showcase football in the territory didn't happen. The league is currently scrutinising this proposal before filing it next to Los Angeles Crocodiles.

The centre of Australia may have been replaced by the back blocks of Sydney, but we finally got to wear the jumper and it was a corker. It's not my place to interpret the meaning, but as good as the front was, the back was spectacular. One day a team is just going to adopt a full-time indigenous jumper, and I'd be happy if we got in first and permanently adopted this as the rear of ours. It's even handily designed to fit the sponsor logo at the bottom AND offer space to sell another spot at the top. Given we've already been involved in this good news story, being the first club (?) to have an indigenous presence on the jumper every week would be fantastic. If it's a step too far for us, I offer the idea free of charge to Gold Coast, who must eventually get serious and stop dressing like a McDonald's franchise.

If we had to play anywhere for free, the Showgrounds were the next best option. No tremendous cash payment, but a flawless record against neutral sides. To be fair, we did only wobble past Gold Coast before tonking a rotten Hawthorn, but it's a great leap forward compared to earlier games there against GWS. Remember starting underdogs against an 0-17 side and giving them their only win of the season? It's better if you don't, leave the historical misery to me and concentrate on what's good right now.

The difference in our third National Pandemic Cup match on the ground was that we were playing a top team. This promised to be a daunting challenge, but so did last Friday night and we handled that without any major drama. This time there was a serious challenge that left us having to execute another high-risk comeback, but the end result was the same, a (relatively) stress-free last few minutes, another four points, and further confirmation that players you already knew were good are very good indeed.

In scenes reminiscent of Round 1, 2019, the other side started playing angry and we looked spooked. The majority of them couldn't maintain the rage after half time, but in the opening minutes they were the most aggrieved Queenslanders since the man from the succulent Chinese meal. Like that fateful Port game, the primary assassination target was Max Gawn. They should have sent a better hitman, merely winding him with a big bump before he recovered to play his best game since Hawthorn.

Brisbane's attempt to unsettle us with biff backfired when pissweak high contact 60 metres away saw Fritsch gifted the opening goal from the top of the square. When I'm elected to replace Steve Hocking players will be able to do that all day without sanction, but for now, stiff shit and thanks for the six points. Channel 7's fake crowd flipped out over this and continued to go nuts for the rest of the night. After employing a subtle, inoffensive backing track last week, they cranked up the digital excitement to levels not seen since Laurie Lawrence in Seoul (P.S - I vote we adopt Laurie's "stuff the silver, we come here for the gold" as our slogan for the rest of the year). 

Seems they only went for the quiet option last week before it would have seemed silly to play frenzy.mp3 in an empty stadium. Which is a shame, because with the entire audience parked in the same part of the ground they'd have got a decent authentic atmosphere by turning off the soundtrack to AFL99 and letting the live crowd tell the story.

We've got a few players that could handle themselves in a scrap, but after a brief flirtation with serious niggle under Roos, it's not really our go anymore. Not that it needs to be, but if anyone was going to see the red and blue mist it was Steven May, holder of multiple suspensions for whacking Brisbane players. After hitting one of them at the first available opportunity in a pre-season game (and not to open old tribunal wounds, but bullshit that was worth a week) he's shown admirable restraint, but the old fashioned aggro is still bubbling away under the surface.

If he was ever going to flip out and start distributing shirtfronts again, it was in a first half where it looked like our league leading backline had finally been rumbled. The commentators were keen to act like they were witnessing the end of a brief but glorious era of defensive dominance, but I would suggest letting the ball fling down there at pace was to blame. Compare to the second half, when Brisbane was reduced to attacking on our terms and their forwards couldn't catch COVID in a quarantine hotel.

In 20 years people will be watching clips of Pickett crumb on the YouTube equivalent, but the low-key most exciting thing about this year is watching the opposition lose the will to live when the ball is locked at our end and they have no idea how to clear it. They could sell behind the goals footage at Club X and there'd be a queue around the block. Forget spoils and one percenters (still haven't worked out what they are), when this comes off it's a work of art. Takes some work though, requiring us to get the ball down our end, the forwards to make a contest, and everyone to combine in an animal defensive effort when the ball hits the ground. Then if they still get it we stick up the Berlin Wall and dare them to break through without turning it over.

We were not near our best early. None of McDonald, Weid or Fritsch (gift goal aside) was seriously contesting marking duels, and further up the ground Oliver was being relatively well covered. So if the forwards weren't going to take pack-busting marks the next best option was crumb. In this case, from the unlikely source of Max Gawn. Given that he's the fourth tallest man ever to play a league game, his gather and kick in one motion was probably one of the most nimble finishes by such a huge man in AFL history. Hard enough to do when you're a regulation crumber, nearly bloody impossible at 6ft 8.

That had us ahead by seven, but the lead was tenuous. Eric Hipwood - who provoked a great May/Frost stoush in 2019 - had already panicked Lever into giving away one goal from a free, and when he marked in a better spot I had visions of him kicking a bag before dashing off to impersonate Rafa Nadal at a tennis-themed birthday party. He hit the post and kicked another 0.3 by the end of the night. That was retrospectively good, but when he and Daniher were grabbing everything that came near them and some other bloke was kicking goals out of his arse from all angles it looked like their forwards were going to more damage than our misfiring forward line could cover. In the end, we somehow nearly scored 100, and the purported 'best attack in the league' (didn't we just play them last week?) only got to 75. I'm almost at the point of trusting the process but years of mental scars aren't going away in three months.

Nearly 10 years after Baileyball was run out of Melbourne, it returned to haunt us in the shape of crumb king Zac Bailey, whose four goal haul against Richmond a fortnight ago is the only thing stopping him from being instantly nominated for a Kingsley. Just our luck to swat away a team where every second person has the first name Bailey last week, then run into somebody with it as a surname having the time of his life. His second was the sort of lucky goal worth it's weight in gold, sitting up for him to boot out of the air for their second in a row.

While we were under siege, only offering a Weideman shot for no score at the other end, there was one moment that should be blown up to the same size as Father Ted kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse and displayed as an example of what's right in 2021. This Spargo highlights package is much deserved, but watch the mark in the second clip for an example of getting your team out of jail.

At that point we were down seven contested marks to nil and being pushed around like lightweights. I won't claim it turned the entire game, given that we were still shite for another 30 minutes, but it was a brilliant, brave grab. I've been sitting on the screenshot of Gawn saying "poor Spargs" ever since that ill-fated pre-season documentary, but there is no need for it this year. He's not doing anything that will be noticed outside the MFC bubble - though the above tweet should help - but is quietly putting together a very good season. 

Spargo is not Dustin Martin, and nor should you expect him to be, and will still have up and down games due to being 21-years-old, but when he gets the ball his decision making is off the charts. You watch on TV and scream at them for not kicking to a loose player then realise they probably couldn't see him from ground level. Charleston sees them. Hopefully I joined his fan club early enough to get a membership number in the top 10.

Also from the role player playing their role to perfection files (might need to workshop the name), Anal-Bullet has been important too. I'm not qualified to explain why, but the vibe is good. His disposal efficiency on Friday night was not, but I'll allow more latitude for a sprayed handball in close or a quick kick from a pack than a flat-out, pressure-free shank. Brayshaw and Petty have both been tarred with that brush, but were very good again. The bucket-handed Petty is especially promising as the third defender.

After 15 minutes of being second best I could almost handle going into quarter time two goals down, so allowing Hipwood another shot deep in DemonTime had me reaching for the pen to start writing us off. He missed, and I put the sharp object down, but when they got a goal 40 seconds after the restart things started to look grim again. Our reply was one for the defensive rebound fanatics, with a loose kick from a centre break falling into Lever's arms, and after a free to Gawn, Lachie Neale was caught holding onto Petracca's arm like he was trying to clamber into a lifeboat. Maybe he was getting ahead of his duties on Brownlow night and trying to hand the medal to this year's winner now? 

According to James Brayshaw, who looked sensible compared to BT for a while, Petracca had "explosive wheels to get this trip". Is there Channel 7 mode on Google Translate? Yes, he's got a burst of speed that you could describe as 'explosive wheels' if you didn't want to use normal words, but unless he was expected to run around the man on the mark and sprint to 30 metres out before kicking it's hard to see how this was relevant. Instead, he just kicked a conventional drop punt, paying tribute to Matthew Bate by launching from right on top of the Telstra 5G logo.

So now we were back to where we started the quarter, which wasn't such a bad place to be. Enter Petracca again, reminding us after a couple of weeks of mass-frottage over Clayton Oliver that he's also one of the shit-hottest players in the game. Without him the next goal probably doesn't happen, using the famous explosive wheels to dash onto a loose ball, swatting off a tackle with contempt, then launching a long-distance handball into the middle of the ground. Harmes and Sparrow also did brilliantly here, both were standing in space and calling for it, but the moment it went towards Sparrow, Harmes took off around the back to be next in line, setting up Fritsch to pick Jordon's pocket at the top of the square.

It felt like the game was turning in our favour, which is why conceding the next two goals gave me the shits. Lever didn't like the blatant block that allowed them the first one, but more power to the guy who took advantage of the fact that you've just got to make it half look like you were legitimately trying to be in the contest. We should do more of it - see Brown and McDonald against Sydney. The second goal was less controversial, as important as he is Salem has still not recovered his earlier form and was nailed holding the ball right in front of goal.

In an outbreak of goals from the middle, we got this one straight back, before they quickly restored the 20 point lead. It left us back where we started from, but at least we got to hear Brayshaw scream "Lukey Jack!", the strangest thing a commentator has called a Melbourne player since "Slick Fritsch". Is it too much to ask that blokey bullshit be confined to the radio where it belongs? In the same way everyone with a mullet will look back in 20 years and realise their horrible mistake, future generations are going to piss themselves laughing at us for allowing the biggest sport in the country to be called like this. 

I was still not over my outrage at the official record of this important match being sullied by a future star of the competition being referred to as "Lukey Jack" when Brisbane was down the other end kicking the reply to the reply. How you can pay advantage 10 metres ahead of where a ruck free happened when nobody yet knew who had done what I'm not sure, but advantage that man Bailey again and sorry to my neighbours, who may have heard the phrase "for fuck's sake" shouted at top volume. The old blood pressure was peaking off the charts when we spent the next couple of minutes desperately trying to stop them kicking another.

We're not Essendon 2000, there's going to be more than one loss this year, and better against the good teams now than in September but I was still feeling a bit flat. The margin was not insurmountable, but it seemed likely that even if we got our forward line going they'd score enough to hold on. What, as usual, do I know?

After a first half where he'd barely gone near it, Tom McDonald started the second as he meant to go on, kicking what seems like one of our rare goals from a forward 50 stoppage. Somebody will find a stat that disproves this, but it just feels like we don't get as many of these as we should. For the first few minutes there was 100% sizzle content on offer, including him deploying a mysterious goo from a yellow tube on the front of his jumper. Presumably it helps marking, and that's what's responsible for his improvement this year either every player in the league should buy in bulk. Now wait for the AFL to ban it.

On a rare off night for his set shots he missed another chance, but was directly involved in the next goal, courtesy of off the ball shenanigans with Dayne (surely not a real first name) Zorko. Add him to the list of people who, like Toby Greene, are such amazing heels that they become good for football. Never underestimate the impact to the culture of the game of players that you tune in just to see lose. Ask Richmond fans, who have won everything under the sun but are still shirty about the time Tom Bugg shhhed them. The competition needs more of it, but don't be the dickhead who takes things too far and gets arrested.

Other than being a general pest, Zorko's contribution to the angry atmosphere was needlessly delivering a forearm smash to McSizzle off the ball, giving away a downfield free that led to a crucial goal. Sizzle risked a reverse by throwing him to the ground, then unusually yelled abuse in his face before offering a hand to help him up in the same motion. I wonder if he subconsciously realised that he was risking a reversal so tried to take the heat off with a spot of Gentlemania. "Trying to work out who's been reported," said Brayshaw, who I now regret ever saying nice things about. Do you reckon maybe the guy standing the mark of the free kick? When Brian Taylor of all people has to explain what's happening to you something's gone horribly wrong. 

As far as on-field skullduggery goes, it was a step-up from Lachie Neale making this NQR face at Melksham after a spot of manly jostling in the first quarter. Very undignified from a Brownlow Medallist but enjoyable nonetheless. At the other end of the success scale, let's also have more Rhys Mathieson, who invited ridicule by referring to himself as Brisbane's 'barometer' during the week only to be relegated to substitute. Much shit was hung on him but perhaps he had a point, they won when he was playing and lost after he was dropped.

While the rest of our side play the Showgrounds like the Field of Dreams, it's not been a happy hunting ground for the Milkshake. Last year he managed to find one of the 250 people in the crowd to have an argument with, and battled to five touches on Friday. Might have had something to do with the role he was playing, maybe he is just regrettably continuing a slide that's been going since the injury against Gold Coast two years ago. He got the last laugh on Zorko here, it's less certain whether he'll still be in the side for any September rematch.

Pickett's goal, intercepting a handball and rolling the ball through a crowd, reduced the margin to less than 10. Given our response last time we got that close I wasn't ready to buy-in yet, but all the signs were there. We were back to playing like 2021 Melbourne and Brisbane were as helpless as any of the other sides kindly offered a lead before being run down. Except they kicked the next goal, seemingly confirming all my dark suspicions. Of course it had to come through Zorko, whose joy at getting one back lasted all of 30 seconds. We romped out of the middle, Petracca snatched a ball out of the air and flirted with tripping over his feet for a millisecond before banging through a monster goal on the run. Stiff shit Dayne, enjoy writing a cheque for $2000.

It didn't take long for the next to arrive, a touch fortunate given that Harmes nearly botched a quick handball, and ANB only just got the ball to boot while being swung in tackle. That led to more Spargo gold, intelligently tapping down to McDonald, who scooted through and cut the margin to a point. Now even if we lost I could be satisfied that we'd had a red hot go. Brisbane did get another goal, but again we didn't let them keep it for more than a minute before responding. We missed a pair of chances to take the lead late, but had done a fantastic job to get going again.

After a month of half-paced, wobbly at best final quarters, I wanted to believe that Burgessball (a much more popular form of 'ball' than the forwards on the half-back line model employed by the original Bailey) was going to strike again. If we kept playing like the third quarter superior fitness wouldn't be needed, it was just a case of whether we could convert enough chances to outweigh the inevitable at the other end. What seemed inevitable anyway, in the end they only got one more goal, and that was a low-key garbage time job that Charlie Cameron couldn't even be bothered to celebrate with a half-arse, sad motorcycle rev. All he had to do was raise the hands a little higher and hold them closer to his face and it would have resembled this popular GIF:

As it often did on the night, all the fun started with Gawn. Oscar McInerney has done as well as anyone ex-Casey, except possibly Bayley Fritsch, and played in as many finals as our entire club in 15 years but he was brutalised in the ruck contests all night. Here Maximum got the party started by gently dismissing him at the opening bounce and heaving a long kick to Pickett. This time his set shot was bang on, the lead extended to seven, and I was simultaneously buzzing and bricking it at the idea of having to defend another narrow lead.

After a couple of half-chances that might have got the Lions back into it, McDonald's next was a thing of beauty. For goals created via handball out of the backline this was a better team doing their cover of Salem sinking Essendon in 2014. Oliver, Lever, Petty, Neal-Bullen, Sparrow, Rivers and Hibberd were all involved in phone booth style congestion, before Jordon broke into the clear and set up ANB's second effort. He roosted it to McDonald, who nearly knocked it past the defender and ended up goalside, before gathering, ignored Petracca yelling at him for a pass, spun out of a tackle and kicked the goal. Trac was still complaining until he turned around and realised it had gone through.

Everyone who had a hand in it deserves credit, but the finish was class. Taylor Walker might have something to say about it, but I haven't seen anyone come back from the dead like this since Weekend at Bernies II. 

Unlike 2019s less ambiguous Corey Wagner heatmap, McDonald's was an inkblot test for how much of a sicko you are. Either you see a protein powered bicep or an upside-down cock and ball. 

A minute later ANB, Petracca and McDonald combined for another goal. It was clear that Brisbane had given up, a ball rolled to Sparrow's feet at the top of the 50, and without an opponent for miles he could afford to fumble, take a handball from Weideman, run around and thump it through from 50. With eight minutes to play we could easily have given away a 20 point lead, but had the pedal firmly stuck on the floor looking for the exclamation point goal. Spargo and Petracca both missed before The Bullet got reward for a fantastic last quarter. I'm dutybound to point out that this passage of play also involved Spargo fending somebody off.

When the Weid had another go right at the end I so dearly wanted him to kick it. Was hardly going to be the feelgood equivalent of Harley Bennell on the same ground a year ago (and how well did that end?) but I wanted something to go right for him. He'd already been stooged once in the last quarter when a touched ball landed perfectly for him directly in front of goal, and even though I'd already crossed the floor to the Ben Brown Party mid-match, it still would have been nice for Sam to get one. It's hard watching somebody's confidence bleeding everywhere while everyone else is in the midst of a glory era. Then he kicked it out on the full.

You can't fault Weid's effort, and there's a sense that it's going to click eventually, but goals from marks inside 50 are crucial, so I'm going with the guy who has a proven history of taking grabs and kicking straight. If that causes Sam to leave so be it. I want him to stay and be a dangerous forward like he was for a few weeks last year, but we've got a red hot chance to win a flag, so a week after suggesting mutually beneficial trades, now all we are saying is give #50 a chance.

His miss was about as disappointing as the last quarter got, which proves how enjoyable it was. I'm not going to pile in on anyone for not believing we're going to win the flag, but it's delightful how the great unwashed are switching from patronising us to actively disliking our presence at the top of the ladder. Let them hate so long as they fear.

2021 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Christian Petracca
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Charlie Spargo
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Tom McDonald

Apologies to Harmes, Jordon, May, Petty, Rivers and Sparrow

Leaderboard
Oliver gives up a sliver of his lead, but still holds a commanding gap at the top. If Petracca outscores him at this rate it'll take another 10 games to catch up. I can't see it happening but it'll be fun to watch. Alternatively, he could go for the biggest win in history, the 27 vote Nathan Jones landslide of 2012. He won by 21 the next year, so even though he's all but been forgotten now, anyone caught disparaging his overall contribution will be thrown from a window.

In the minors, Gawn not only strengthened his lead, but Jackson has lost eligibility due to being down to a 9.3 hitout average. I'm not willing to declare a provisional winner yet but we can't be far away. Nothing for the defenders or the rising stars this week but there are serious discussions underway about whether the Hilton will be awarded by the committee's discretion if no eligible players score votes. This means I'll have to go back and make an arbitrary decision about 2005 as well. 

32 - Clayton Oliver
23 - Christian Petracca
19 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
16 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
15 - Tom McDonald
12 - Jake Lever
11 - Kysaiah Pickett
10 - Steven May
8 - Luke Jackson
7 - James Harmes, Ed Langdon
6 - Bayley Fritsch
4 - Charlie Spargo
3 - Angus Brayshaw, Michael Hibberd
2 - Jayden Hunt, Adam Tomlinson 

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Week
You get plenty of nominees in weeks where the set shot is all but abandoned for goals from open play. As much as I loved Gawn supersize crumb, McDonald's storming run in the third quarter, Pickett's intercept, Petracca's in the third, and Neal-Bullen's sealer, but it's hard not to give it to Sizzle for the handball fiesta and Truck burning snap. Usher the kids from the room, pour yourself a stiff drink, and enjoy this in all its glory.

We've already given Tom a shitload of meat in weekly prizes this year, but have some more. Bring it home on the plane and let's see if we can plunge Victoria into another biosecurity disaster. As good as this was, I'm still on Pickett vs St. Kilda for the overall lead. 

Crowd Watch
I've been off Channel 10 ever since they lied about the afternoon repeats of Prisoner coming back after the 1996 school holidays, so can't think how I ended up watching their Friday night news. I thought their reporter's claim that the AFL had wheeled Kevin Sheedy out to do the promotional rounds during the week improbable but it turned out to be 100% truer than Chanel 10's voiceover in 1996. Sheeds even invented something special for the occasion, telling bemused rugby leaguists that "It’s an AFL mid-season grand final and I don’t know whether Sydney people understand that." So there you have it, make room in the trophy cabinet alongside the AFLX Group B title, we're the mid-season premiers. 

And though he was probably continuing his vendetta over not getting our coaching job in 2008 and punting Brisbane home, Sheeds turned up, and according to a Demonblog correspondent "said bugger all to anyone; but diligently marked all goals and behinds in the Record". I reckon the pen was pressed with a tinge of despair whenever we kicked one.

Next Week
In a major improvement on 2020, Queen's Birthday is going to be played. Unfortunately, instead of 70,000 at the MCG, there'll be two men and a dog watching at the SCG, waiting for King Wally Lewis to go down the Big Freeze slide. I just hope that whatever the New South Wales government has paid to host that plenty of it trickles down to us.

In a world where our biggest wins at Sydney Showgrounds are against Hawthorn, Brisbane and Gold Coast, nothing's surprising anymore, but the distance between our games at the SCG against teams other than Sydney must be some sort of record. It started with Essendon in 1904 (locals half-interested), then Geelong in 1981 (locals half-interested), and now Collingwood in 2021 (locals ?). See you there again in 2062 after the alien invasion. Could also be the next time we're this good, so cherish it while you can.

For a few years we went into Queen's Birthday with absolutely no chance of winning, and based on the respective ladder positions of the sides you'd like to think this is our opportunity for a guaranteed four points. Even before Collingwood beat the Crows I wasn't going to get comfortable, now I'm left hoping they've gotten it out of their system and will show up ready to be plunged back into horrible reality.

There are people paid more than me (e.g. anything above $0) to work out how to best use footballers in a structure, and it is their duty to get Jack Viney back into this side without persecuting Sparrow or Jordon. The only way I'll accept the latter is if he's 'managed' as a first year senior player, but that hardly seems necessary on a 10 day break. Instead I'm chopping Melksham and let them sort it out. 

More obviously, to me if not the selectors, is Brown. If we were playing for mid-table mediocrity (see Carlton or St. Kilda) I'd say just keep playing Weideman and see what happens, but we're over the halfway mark of a season where we're 99.9% guaranteed to play finals and are neck deep in the race for the top four (if not top two). We've got to find our preferred combination down there soon. Besides, imagine the odd couple of 0% meat and 100% meat forming the tall forward division of a premiership team? Catering at the victory party would be shithouse, but what a story. If we can't get Brown going at full pelt - and he looked pretty good against Sydney - then it might just be a case of picking whoever provides the best blocking for the rest of them.

IN: B. Brown, Viney
OUT: Melksham, Weideman (omit)
LUCKY: Nil
UNLUCKY: Everyone at Casey who can't push a case for selection.

(UPDATE - One week out of the limelight and I immediately forgot Ed Langdon. Apologies to Ed. Obviously he comes back in. Christ only knows who for, I spent enough time trying to work this out the first time, I've got no life force left now).

After the Adelaide debacle I'm going back to an evidence-based approach, thinking we should win but waiting for confirmation that there will be no huge letdown. I did not like our old recruiting target Jamie Elliott kicking six against Adelaide, let's hope shown his hand and we'll be ready for him. Same goes for the rest of them, half of who are so obscure they can only be identified by dental records. This is the new Melbourne, we've changed, choff, choff, choff, I'm still going in with the self-defence technique of believing it could go either way.

Sale of the Century
After a couple of weeks rest from shameless plugging of my new book, I've unwittingly wandered into a media circus. After 16 years of carefully trying to hide my face, you may have seen me talking all things Dees on the Channel 9 Today Show on Saturday morning. If you missed it stiff shit, but be assured I didn't make a dick of myself. Also, good timing that it's the first time in 20 years I've only got one chin.

I think that's as far as TV appearances go, but look out for a few radio spots in an attempt to capitalise on us being the hottest team in the game for the first time since about 1964. Should you not be into lining Amazon's pockets, there's a list of other online retailers here. As far as I know the hard copies are still on track for shops in about a month, and not on some ship that's been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Borneo. Wait for the epic stitch of bookstores still shut and books locked in warehouse. Anyway, buy now or buy later, you'll have a whale of a time, and in the unlikely event of a flag this year I'll come around to your house with a texta and amend the title. 

Final Thoughts
If you've still got an office to go into, I suggest ordering a fan of an inferior club to kneel before your feet at 9.01am on Monday. There's no possible way that can backfire.

2 comments:

  1. How are we going to keep all these guys within the salary cap or physically prevent them returning to their home states?
    I knew about Sizzle, but Max told us after the match that ANB was also shopped around at the end of last season. Disappointing that we did it, even more surprising that no clubs picked them up, even the struggling ones.

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Crack the sads here...