Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Living on the end of a lightning bolt

Given how many years we were awful anywhere west of the MCG, we've had some important recent wins in Perth. From the McSizzle McMiracle in 2017, to the much-loved finals sealer a year later, and now achieving the top four Bradbury Plan with two rounds to spare, we've done everything except avoid being thrashed in a Prelim.

Our newfound ability to play in non-AEST timezones will come in handy when we have to go west again in a few weeks for the finals. Given our recent record on the MCG this might be a blessing in disguise, but every lockdown extension in Victoria makes it more likely the league will give up, pull the shutters down on our state, and shift September elsewhere. After spurning Perth's desperate, dignity-free attempts to win the Grand Final last year, it almost certainly means they're get it this time. So be it, we haven't come this far to get snippy about what grounds the finals are won on.

Before you can start anticipating/dreading (delete as required) an interstate Grand Final, you've got to get there, and whether this is a premiership calibre team is still up for debate. We will go in as vulnerable to a straight sets exit as anyone in an even season, so I'm not going to tempt fate based on a pair of wins against ordinary opposition, but history suggests a top four finish greatly increases your chance of winning it all. 

This time there won't be an all-conquering, seven wins better, Essendon waiting to figuratively and literally beat up whoever got in their way. In 2021 the top of the ladder features six relatively evenly matched teams, followed by the biggest collection of flotsam and jetsam since Brisbane made it (naturally, by beating us) with a 10-12 record in 1995. That means sides like Melbourne, very good but not great and with questionable depth, will rarely get a better chance to go all the way. And wouldn't you know, it's going to happen just as home fans can't watch live. That's great for our fans who unexpectedly have massive games dropped on their doorstep, but shithouse for everyone who has sat through decades of live cornholings, dreaming of being there on the day the stain that has affected this club for 50 years is wiped away.

Nothing is more important than removing that stain, so for the greater good I've come to terms with not being there if (IF) the unthinkable happens. Obviously there would be a degree of bitterness in not seeing it live, but the idea going around in minority circles that it's not worth winning if it doesn't happen at the 'G seems flat out bonkers. It's not about us. The club was here before I was born and it will be here after I'm dead, they can go to the ends of the earth to win the flag and I'll be making such a commotion watching on TV that it will affect local property prices. You're welcome to do what you like and still be invited to clamber aboard the bandwagon if we win.

None of this newfound (and probably temporary) optimism would have been possible without beating the Eagles. Even as West Coast sink into one of their rare mid-table mediocrity periods (a mark of their success - they've played finals 25 times since 1987, while we've played 25 since 1950), they still had enough talent to do us a mischief, just when results elsewhere had opened the prospect of both confirming a double chance and vaulting back to the top of the ladder. Of course many of us were worried they'd hold fate in their own hands and fumble it again. The recent scars run too deep - the end of 2017, Sydney 2018, and the disastrous trip to Cairns last year. Even if we'd lost here, beating Adelaide next week would have made sure of a finish no worse than fourth, but any Melbourne fan knows there's no guarantee of that. Best to seal it here instead of risking a fiasco.

Our cause was made more difficult by the late withdrawal of Tom McSizzle. Turns out his back complaint from last week wasn't just a minor issue played up as an excuse to rest him for a dead rubber quarter. Instead, after flying across the country and spending the week in a hotel playing Yahtzee he failed to make the start. Imagine how happy Sam Weideman was to hear that news, until he was stitched up by the weather. With rain during the day, and the prospect of more during the match causing them to play to the conditions and go without a second tall. 

We hadn't cared about wet weather yet in 2021, so when I checked the rain radar and there wasn't much about it made me worried that we'd snookered ourselves by trying to be clever. Turns out I won't be working for the Bureau of Meteorology anytime soon, because not only did pissing rain whip in off the ocean, it came with nearby lightning that caused the game to be shut down for half an hour.

To be fair, only parts of the game were played in the wet, but there were a couple of times when it was coming down like an absolute bastard. It still doesn't feel right that this suits us, over the years we've been comically bad in slippery conditions, but between Geelong, Richmond, and now this, some of our best performances have come in rain. The King of Condensation was once again Luke Jackson, who is incredibly reliable in slippery conditions for a kid that size. If this didn't convince the Eagles to add another layer of cash to the top of their dump truck offer to him then they should be expelled from the competition.

The game started without a cracker of a rain, and like a conspiracy theory dickhead I was taking this fraction of evidence as proof that I was right, lamenting that the lack of another tall forward was going to cost us. Fortunately, my new BFF BBB was more than happy to do it all himself, playing an excellent first quarter. The only concern was how we were going to convert his good work up the ground without any real marking power inside 50 (refer again to the case of McDonald and Nobody vs GWS). When he took his second or third mark beyond scoring range I was still panicking that we'd got it all wrong. Enter a hapless Eagle defender, who did something administratively wrong that had absolutely no impact on Brown but gifted him a 50 and certain goal. Thanks for your contribution.

Channel 7 bet heavily on Brown's usual massive runup and almost missed the kick while showing a full-screen replay, part of a night of experimental coverage where the director spent all night zooming in on the play so you couldn't see what was happening five metres away from the ball carrier. This is bad enough for any game, much less when you've got callers (one who is dramatically incompetent) watching on screens from the other side of the country. It got really weird when their boundary ride started giving updates from halfway up the stand. It really was dreadful coverage. I'd have puked if Channel 10's five minute warning was in play for this finish, but in every other way I'd have them back over this. Them, YouTube, Pornhub, Channel 9, Amazon Prime, VCE media studies students, anyone who doesn't treat the viewing audience like idiots.

It had been a good start, and considering how their two top forwards have about 1200 goals between them, we were making it hard for the Eagles to create genuine chances. Their answer was to thump a goal from a mile out, the sort of half chance that you can't do anything to stop but it still shits you to concede. After being handed the first goal on a platter, we had to work harder for the next one. This featured the Anal-Bullet setting up Petracca to kick the ball so hard and high that it set off the first of the showers. Plenty of players have gone tits up in milestone games, but this was one of ANB's best performances.

Shortly after the rain started, we did a very Melbourne thing and turned two shots on goal inside a minute into 0.0. Gawn kicked across the face (bad), but Brown marked (good), before missing the lot (bad). That was all a bit slapstick, unlike Neal-Bullen's first, coming as the result of your friend and mine, relentless forward pressure. When Brown threw stereotypes out the window to kick a towering snap, we were four goals to one up and things were progressing very nicely. I felt bad for Weideman, already carted halfway around the country to watch from the stands, then seeing the guy who occupies his position kicking goals like that. Brown didn't do a tremendous amount at half time but is there any doubt that he's settled the argument about which one plays in September?

All that was left for us to do was concede the late goal. Enter Josh Kennedy, who has been at it so long that Carlton's shameless tank against us in 2007 was his 22nd game. May is beaten to the ball so rarely that it's a surprise to see it happen, but I suppose if anyone's going to beat him it may as well be the second best forward of the last 15 years. What was truly upsetting was how Kennedy did a kick that could generously be described as flatter than a shit carter's hat but it still went through. I didn't like it, but as long as we kept them to a scattered series of half-chances they probably weren't going to kick a high enough score to beat us.

It was a good start, but despite our (relatively) lofty position I've still got trust issues about our ability to play consecutive solid quarters. And after two in a row during the middle of the Gold Coast game, this was a return to traditional values. All of a sudden we couldn't find a clearance to save ourselves, and they slowly overhauled our lead.

Blaming umpires for everything is lazy but I spent the quarter on edge while we were treated to a string of wacky decisions. Not quite as wacky as one that went for us at the end, but we'll get to that. Seemingly, deliberate (or 'insufficient intent' if you've done a course in talking bollocks) was the rule of the week, then they charitably ignored ANB belting a kick inside 50 with no hope of doing anything other than forcing a throw-in. Compare to the earlier Lever one when he tried to toe poke the ball forward, it came off the side of his boot, and was about 25 times less deliberate (or if you prefer, had 25x more intent). My favourite adjudication was a 25 metre kick deemed not 15, the biggest measurement disaster since 1628

There was nothing the umpires were doing to us that we weren't doing to ourselves, and as much as I was enjoying Brown playing a lone hand up front, it didn't seem like we'd get any sort of decent score when they knew every long kick was going to him. Haven't things already gone badly enough for the Weid without making him watch a carbon copy of the situation that wrecked him at the end of last year?

In for a cameo, literally because he'd barely touched it until then, was Pickett, who won a free by vigorously encouraging high contact in the style perfected by West Coast. With time expertly wasted by the defender declining to get off him (Harrison Petty stood at the other end and said "there's an idea..."), I was convinced that the siren would go mid run-up and he'd shank it onto Rottnest Island. Instead, ball met boot with a tremendous *WHOMP* and flew straight through, restoring a four point half time lead, and dead-set rooting anybody who had the Eagles in their half time/full time double.

The knuckleheads in the stands didn't like it, but do home fans like anything? The closest we've come to an Essendon-style umpire chasing rabble was against GWS, so there's a lot to be said for people acting like animals when they're part of the mob. Imagine the irony of West Coast supporters sooking about players ducking into tackles. The following evidence is best enjoyed from the bottom up:

In the same week a famous player torched his reputation with a racial slur, some peanut was prompted by this to go Pickett in a similar fashion. Just like somebody did last year. Usually, people who say "be better" are smug gits that should be ignored. In this case, there's something to it. Sensible people should be hurt watching Eddie Betts talk on the subject, but it still feels hollow trying to understand his pain from the whitest of white perspectives. Especially when deep down most of us know we've said or done something rotten in the past. Some people grow up and feel bad about it. Some get on the cans, start fake accounts and do their best to get a reaction. May they all have an absolutely shithouse time in life and perhaps find some perspective.

And now, back to happy subjects. Specifically, Melbourne romping to what turned into a match-winning lead. The rain reappeared, and so did we. I've spent far too much time already on this post so I'm not going to check if it's correct, but my hunch is we're very good at third quarters. This was another ripper, with none of the hesitancy of the second. Another ANB goal courtesy of Eagles defenders standing around with their thumbs up their unmentionables was a false start, and it took a few minutes to officially break them. When we did it was tempered by the vast numbers of Eagles players you'd never heard of, but was still grand old fun to watch.

At the centre of this was Melksham, previously written off by everyone except Simon Goodwin, and admittedly only prominent for about 10 minutes, but what a great 10 minutes. One set up for a Harmes goal, then two of his own. While we're gently walking back recent criticisms, a word too for Harmes, who has been up and down like the proverbial for months, but had a vastly better game here despite barely playing 50% of it. I was all in on Viney last week, but his two week ban for the entirely unnecessary neck massage on an already humiliated Gold Coast player means he can go to the back and the queue and wait his turn.

When the Milkshake's second goal was followed by a Gawn > Petracca > Gawn > Brown burst out of the middle I was, like an Optus Stadium patron, almost sliding off my seat. However, I haven't been comfortable with a 30-something point three quarter time lead for nearly as many years, and wasn't going to start just because the other team had scored 32 points in three quarters. 

The prospect of another round of savage rain didn't help my nerves either. Melbourne fans know the feeling, neutrals should pray they never have to. I still don't know when to feel comfortable about a last quarter lead between 7-46 points (the answer for 0-6 is never). Boffins at the Demonblog Institute are still working on a Duckworth Lewis Method using margin and time remaining to tell me when to relax, but I was certain that a goal at the start of the last quarter would have been a bridge too far for them. The way we've finished most games this year, I wasn't mad enough to think we'd romp to a massive win, but was happy to kill off the contest ASAP.

So when Harmes burst out of a pack and hit a perfect Fritsch lead barely a minute in, I thought this was our chance to end their resistance. In a return to the 50/50 Fritsch of last year he missed. This was followed by an opportunity from one of the worst kicks I've ever seen - and imagine how much ground that covers when you watch Melbourne. Words don't do it justice, just picture a player in the back pocket trying to pass 20 metres to a teammate and accidentally booting it into the first row. This would have been the perfect scenario in which to finish them off, but ANB couldn't cap off his great night with a third and the fatal blow remained unstruck. 

Everyone knows we love kicking points in the last quarter, but this was ridiculous. By the end we'd hit 49.72 for the season, and even that's skewed by ransacking Hawthorn for 8.4. There's no science to it, and it's not guaranteed to happen in any other game, but try calming the rational part of your brain down when the other side starts powering home, playing the sort of death or glory footy that only comes when the coach gives up and sets the controls to 'do whatever you like'.

In the end, we got the nervous finish I was dreading, but not before 30 minutes of pissfarting around waiting for lightning to clear. There we were waiting for a boundary throw in, wondering where our next behind was going to come from, when the umpire stuck his hands in the air (risking his bald bonce acting as a lightning rod) and informed players that the game was off until the storms cleared. This was good for the health of players, not so much for my stomach, which was already nervously rumbling like the engine of a Yugoslavian car.

It hardly compared to the sound and light extravaganza that halted Sydney/GWS 2014, or two AFLW games (stay for the people having a chat on the ground while waiting to be turned into Drummoyne Flambe), but they don't do this stuff for fun so there must have been serious lightning somewhere. You can't blame them for being cautious. Everyone will say "I played during Cyclone Tracy and it never did me any harm", but it only takes one unlucky hit for players to go down like nine-pins. Also, we're a half chance of winning a flag here, let's try and avoid losing players to freak accidents.

We didn't know how long they'd be off for, but the good news was that as the game had reached half time, if they couldn't resume the scores would stand. That was one element of the rules we could all agree on, how long they had to get things started again was a bit more sketchy. God forbid you get any clarity from the people who run the game, but one AFL document said 30 minutes and the other said 60. 

As if the league wouldn't have made us play no matter how long it took. Collingwood would have started preparing an emergency Supreme Court injunction the moment the game was suspended, ready to take the points a second after the deadline. We've recently lost $2 million in a fortnight, and will presumably do whatever the league wants and follow it by saying "please sir, may I have another". In the end, I'm happy enough that we won it on the field (not without severe touching of cloth in the dying minutes) but the dream comedy scenario would have been for the game to be called off and local only realising when they heard our theme song.

While Fox/Kayo viewers sat through 29 minutes of rumour, speculation, and several hundred looks at the live ladder, I'm led to believe Channel Seven's coverage was even more bonkers. With a lot of time to waste, we got endless shots of the teams milling around the rooms, where our players seemed to be taking things a lot more seriously that the Eagles, who were wandering around in Rancho Relaxo mode. Maybe that nothing to lose attitude is what helped them after the restart? That and us missing more red-hot opportunities to put the game to bed.

After all the hanging around, trying to work out if, when, and how the game would be restarted, it came back on with undue haste. When players left the rooms I thought there'd be several minutes of warmups, instead they ran to position, did the boundary throw-in that was about to happen 30 minutes earlier, and carried on like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

This quick restart must have been distressing to David King, who'd spent the last 10 minutes moaning about how somebody was going to do a hammy, and how he wouldn't even send Gawn out for the remainder because, apparently, "it almost doesn't matter to Melbourne if they win." On one hand, if you assume we'll beat Adelaide that's somewhat true, on the other, what a joylessly corporate way of thinking, like we'd have blown a five goal lead, shrugged our shoulders and flown home with a song in our heart, eager to play again next week. This from the man who once wowed us with this stat.

Usually when a game hits the 36 minute mark of the last quarter you're shitting it about a close finish, in this case we still had just under half that to play. This would have been another great time to put them away, but we missed another shot. After all this, losing from that position would have been more awkward than a Taylor Walker apology video. And didn't we give it a red hot go. Avoiding another shambles in the pocket, the Eagles responded to that point with a death or glory thump straight down the middle, and next thing you know it was down the other end in the hands of Josh Kennedy. 

Life wasn't meant to be easy, so even after the best part of a quarter off with injury, plus half an hour in the rooms, and evidence from the first quarter that he was kicking the ball like a concrete block, he put it through. "Here we go", I thought, hoping that we weren't really going. But we were, and how. After blowing two more chances, they got the second, and for the rest of the game we offered about as much value as Gold Coast after quarter time.

The ball went down our end a few times, but by now Brown had disappeared (though he did turn up for one important mark from a kick-in), and nobody else looked likely to replace him. Which naturally inspired us to keep panic bombing in there, hoping for a miracle. No such luck, and after Bowey made his first mistake in two weeks and was caught holding the ball 20 metres out, it was three goals the difference with more than enough time to storm over the top (in all senses of the word) and leave us looking like complete cockheads. I'm not going to hold it against him, earlier he'd done a Geoff Hayward style piroutte out of a pack that would make a grown man weep with joy.

Now I was swearing like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, ready to come up with some new way to measure blowing a seemingly impenetrable lead. You know all about the Chris Sullivan Line, we went within touching distance of the Jeremy Howe Line in 2013, this would have to have been the Lightning Line. Peter Hore may as well have run on and pulled down a goalpost for the effect that break had on us.

The closest I can get to relaxing is when there's less minutes left that goals required, but even that's not foolproof once you get below 12 points, because anyone cal rattle off a couple of quick ones. So when we shambled the clock down to 1.20 before conceding the next one I was absolutely convinced that the nine point lead was about to be swallowed up, leaving us looking like the flakiest side in the competition.

At this stage, the last thing we needed was the ball to rocket towards their goal again. So bless the man who made Mooroopna famous, Clayton Oliver for coming to the party with a vital clearance. He even guided the ball to Spargo, offering us the chance to dink around a bit and waste more time. Except we didn't. He was too far out to do the old "I'm having a shot, oh wait, I've changed my mind and would now like to pass" vaudeville routine, but surely there was a sideways or backwards option that would have burnt a few more seconds. 

I'd love to have known what happened next, but at this crucial point, the laptop that powers the Demonblog Towers megawall decided to offer me a Java update. And not via a pop-up, but by pushing the browser into the background. I haven't dived for the computer like that since the Weideman miss against Adelaide 2019. And this time it wasn't to thump the power button so I didn't have to hear the other side's celebrations. 

To nobody's surprise, in the few seconds that I didn't have picture - and was too panicked to take notice of the audio - the Eagles had turned us back and were powering towards their goal. Sure we could have won it via whatever Spargo did, but then we'd have missed out on some of the greatest niggle of all time. Nothing's ever going to beat the Adelaide game for an umpire squibbing an important decision, but with less than a minute left we got the next best thing. Enter Harrison Petty, now officially the bravest man in Australia for pulling off this high risk 10 seconds of timewasting.

It's got everything, unnecessarily rolling the player one way, then the other, coming up sitting over the ball, taking it with him between the legs (now this is my favourite bit, but at the time was where I started fearfully yelling at the screen for him to get up), then turning over so the Eagles player couldn't get it, propping himself up on the ball, slowly turning around, then delivering the slowest, most casual throw to the player he could. It was Acting Football League gold. 

Extra points for the umpire sitting through that performance, then telling an Eagles player who ran through the mark "you're delaying the game". I would like to buy the exclusive rights to this footage and have it played at my funeral. Eagles fans, you're upset now (just have a little boo, you'll feel better), but this will give you vital ammo in arguments about home-cooked umpiring for years to come. Just steer the other party away from all the other free kicks in the dying minutes.

I'll take the blind eye turned to Petty's shenanigans as part payment for the Adelaide Oval debacle. It's not like it would have left them kicking to win. They may very well have burst straight out of the middle, won it, and caused me to tip my couch over, but it wasn't as cut and dry as the Crows game. Mind you, look at Brown missing everything from the exact spot where we'd have kicked to win that game and you can see how it could have gone entirely Sticks Kernahan for us.

The last time we blatantly cheated like that Jordan McMahon won the game after the siren. This time they still had the ball, and we just needed to avoid conceding two goals in 40 seconds. Simple enough in theory, but my heart screamed otherwise. It's amazing what you can think of in a split second, and I don't think Kennedy had finished being spoiled by a teammate in a spot where he'd almost certainly have converted, when my mind was already going to them kicking one goal, then rorting another by starting a fight and falling over theatrically in the style of Matthew Lloyd vs Al Nicholson.

One of them tried getting into the spirit of the Wheel of Fortune umpiring by throwing his head back in a tackle, but thank christ the umpire was now having none of it, and even if George McGovern had completed his big leap at the top of the square it would have been too little too late for anything other than the nightmare free kick/double goal scenario. 

Thank god we weren't defending a lead of less than a goal, the hard work we made of the final minute (much less the last 16...) would have given me a medical condition. For comparisons to 2018, it lacked the joyful, comeback-destroying dagger to the heart of either Melksham goal (go on, watch all four again), and knowing that we'd play finals no matter provided a much greater safety net than the soul-shredding tension of throwing it away that day, but the siren - at the 58:55 minute mark - found me relaxing a ringpiece so tightly clenched it had nearly turned inside out. 

Friends, this season could go anywhere (up to and including not finishing), but it has still been historically significant. In most of our lifetimes, this is only the third time we've been top four - and even 1998 wasn't a guaranteed double chance due to the wacky McIntyre Final 8. That leaves one season where we've had a similar experience, and even that required a barnstorming finish after being sixth midway through the year. 

2021 hasn't always been pretty on field or off, but for all the doubts I harboured (and still do) about how it's going to end, you can't deny it's been effective. Time to bring it home. Let's get them before they get us.

2021 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Alex Neal-Bullen
4 - Luke Jackson
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Jake Bowey

Major apologies to Brown, Harmes and May. 

Oliver continues to slowly pull away in the race for the major prize. Petracca's in sight, but it would take something ridiculous to overcome an eight vote deficit at this stage. The confirmation that we have no more than seven matches to play also means the dreaded dotted line can be introduced, finally dashing the hopes of players more than 35 votes from the lead.

In the minors, Bowey has entered the Hilton race, but all the controversy is over the Stynes, where Jackson has drawn to a vote behind Gawn but also lost eligibility for dropping below the 10 hitout per game qualifying mark. There'll be riots in the streets if he finishes ahead and doesn't get the award, but blame the time Fitzpatrick snatched a share of the prize based entirely on performances as a forward.

53 - Clayton Oliver
45 - Christian Petracca
31 - Jake Lever (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
22 - Tom McDonald
20 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
19 - Luke Jackson, Steven May
--- Abandon all hope below here ---
17 - Christian Salem
13 - Kysaiah Pickett
9 - Ed Langdon
7 - James Harmes, Alex Neal-Bullen
6 - Angus Brayshaw, Bayley Fritsch
5 - Jayden Hunt, Charlie Spargo
4 - Harrison Petty
3 - Michael Hibberd
2 - James Jordon (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Adam Tomlinson, Jack Viney
1 - Jake Bowey

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Week
I liked the big Petracca thump in the first quarter, and have much love for Pickett's goal on the half time siren, but given that he's been unlucky to miss votes in the last two weeks, the consolation prize of a tray of plant based meat substitute goes to Ben Brown for his first quarter snap. Petracca is expected to do that stuff all the time, this is the guy who's only supposed to be able to kick set shots. Sure, the ball couldn't have bounced any more perfectly into his hands but I don't care. Pickett vs St Kilda still the overall leader.

The All-New Bradbury Plan
God help us all, there's no longer any reason to feel conflicted about Essendon beating Footscray, your top four plan is complete. Unless you just want to be spiteful towards the Bombers. At least no matter what happens from here we can't be the first team to lose to them in a final since... ourselves.

Given that there's as much chance of the MCG hosting the Winter Olympics as finals, seemingly the only thing to avoid now is playing Port away. But you can be sure that if fans are allowed in regional Victoria by then, the AFL will continue the 21st century trend of treating Kardinia Park like the holy city of Jerusalem and let Geelong play their first final at home. If you thought a few thousand damp secessionists having a moan was something, wait until you see how the locals react to that.

So, the first leg of the plan would be for everyone to stop getting the bloody Coronavirus sharpish, but as that's not available, and the government is unlikely to enter 'let her rip' territory just for the sake of footy finals, the best thing we can do is finish top two. Next, best would be to split second and third with the Dogs and play them at any ground in Australia.

After a weekend where almost all the big upsets went our way there's not much for Bradbury fanatics this time:

Hawthorn d. Footscray (fat chance)
St. Kilda d. Geelong (fatter chance)
Carlton d. Port Adelaide (fattest chance)

... and Collingwood d. Brisbane/North Melbourne d. Sydney. unless Geelong lose and we think there's a chance to get rid of them out of the four entirely.

Next Week
It's allegedly Adelaide at the MCG on Sunday, but if you don't think there's a chance that could change you're a sweet, trusting person. The way things have gone this year I wouldn't have been surprised if we'd landed in Melbourne and been told to go back to Perth for our next game. 

The first change is enforced, with Jayden Hunt sadly out for a month with an ankle injury. The poor bastard had just resurrected what looked like a faultering career and was playing pretty well, now he's got to sit on the sidelines wondering if there'll be a spot for him in the finals. 

Maybe it feels worse because other than Tomlinson we've had a fantastic run with in-game injuries this year. Even May only missed a week after Hawkins caved his face in. I suppose the natural alternative is Hibberd, who isn't getting his spot back from Bowey any time soon. With the wafer-thin depth available to our defence, the only other player who stands half a chance would be Lockhart, whose split knacker is no longer giving him grief. I'll stick with the more experienced man.

As much as Melksham played 10 minutes of glory, if McSizzle's back is right I want him back. You're not going to get away with trying to play with one key forward every week. And on the occasion of his 50th game I feel rude for saying it, but I just can't take vandenBerg. It's left field and insane, but I'm willing to give Jones the chance to stake a spot before finals. Otherwise, I can't see us resting players now. Of course if somebody else gets hurt there'll be revisionist history about how we should have made 12 changes, but it doesn't seem likely.

IN: Jones, Hibberd, McDonald
OUT: Hunt (inj), Melksham (omit with apologies), vandenBerg (omit)
LUCKY: Sparrow
UNLUCKY: Weideman, and everyone else who flew to Perth for seven days in quarantine with no hope of playing.

Not that it matters for the top four now, but it would be very Melbourne to come back from this stirring victory on enemy soil and fall over against the Crows again. They'd have fired up for playing Port in a week where their ex-captain made a dickhead of himself, hopefully all the emotion is gone now and they fold like a house of cards. We couldn't possibly avoid winning could we?

Final Thoughts
If things go as well as they could (and surely they won't), somebody more famous than me is going to write a good book about all the wacky things that have happened to us this season. Falling over the line to confirm a top four spot after nearly blowing a five goal last quarter lead due to a 30 minute break for mystery lightning will probably be in there somewhere.


  1. Life is never dull supporting the Melbourne Footy Club.

    One of the best games I’ve seen from The Bullet. Clean handling in the wet, speared passes to teammates, kicked 2 goals, even helped out in defence. A fine way to bring up his 100.
    Free kick count 28-17 in WC’s favour. Conveniently ignored by home fans.

  2. "live cornholings" is one of the best description of a decade+ of watching the Dees I've ever read.


Crack the sads here... (to keep out nuffies, comments will show after approval by the Demonblog ARC)