Sunday 27 February 2022

Animosity International

People who want to play the AFLW season at the same time as the men, spare a thought for those of us who foolishly committed to doing match reviews of every game. Even this brief crossover between both competitions is cooking me. That's after just three games in seven days, imagine how I'd go trying to keep up a schedule of twice a week posts all season? 

Besides, for the first time since we played the day after Phillip Walsh was killed, current events had flattened me to the point where watching footy seemed frivolous. I'm sure you'd have to go back to about 3000BC to find a time before one civilisation was terrorising another, and insert list below of all the other rotten things that happen around the world every day but the situation in Ukraine has flattened me.

I lived through the televisual spectaculars of Gulf Wars I and II, but for the first time the side I'm going for will probably lose. Not without the heroic battle of a lifetime, which was bad news for all the softcock governments waiting them to tip over in 24 hours so everyone could get back in bed with Putin (who, let's be honest, looks like the sort of guy that would rub himself on public transport) ASAP. Anyway, this isn't but all that somewhat explains where I'm at. Bit of a step down from only slightly guiltily cheering Russian helicopters being blown to bits, to going for second spot on the ladder. So, I know nobody's particularly clamouring for these posts, but please keep my perilous condition in mind while reading the half-arsed content that follows.

Not that I wasn't up for a spot of Saturday night footy, risking our lengthy winning streak at the world's worst venue in a genuine top of the table clash. We're not the best technical side in the competition, but you can never fault the effort. Occasionally (e.g. against Adelaide) that's not enough, but it did us well here. In fact, as far as weekend night games go it ranks right alongside the Saturday Night Special against the Crows last year, and suggested that perhaps if Jupiter aligns with Mars we could be in with a shot of winning the flag. Mind you, if it comes to a finals rematch against North we'd want to do a bit better than last year's prelim debacle. 

It was a marquee match, in a marquee timeslot, and via liberal distribution of free tickets by the City of Casey, our best home crowd of the year. Shame that the venue itself is still a dog. Wouldn't you know it, there was a bit of wind about. With no other option available I'll roll with the propaganda about thousands of migrants being enticed into following us (even if there's as much evidence of that as AFLX exciting overseas markets) but I bet a few turned up on a freebie this week and wondered if the council couldn't just put up a bloody wall or two. God knows how Melbourne Storm played there the other week, every pass would have carried forward or gone 20 metres in the wrong direction. Probably impolite to complain about wacky weather when you're called the Storm.

If there has to be a violent wind to one end of the ground that all but cancels the prospect of a good game, best to kick with it first. Via a kid enthusiastically lobbing the coin into the air, we had first use of it. The toss was so irregular that some club presidents would probably have charged the centre circle carrying an injunction against the match going ahead. But Hawthorn aren't in the competition yet.

At first, it seemed like we'd waste our first go with the advantage and be left hanging on by our fingertips for the next three quarters. The one dimension of our forward line is bloody ace, but Harris couldn't get near it early and we were left booting the ball inside 50 and seeing it fly straight back. We did get some benefit at the other end, with what should have been a certain North goal unable to break through the gale and holding up enough to be rushed through on the line. 

If the AFL cared anything about this competition beyond their public image they'd refuse to sanction games at this place, we might win there a lot but playing there is the death penalty for spectacle. At one point Bannan snapped from beside the point post, the ball carried a couple of metres towards the square, then floated back to where she'd kicked it in the first place. It was the equivalent of when the wind plays havoc with goalkeepers, except that happens once every 20 years and this happens several times a fortnight. 

Enter Kate Hore, who couldn't. have given less of a shit about the variable, often diagonal winds and booted the opener from a set shot. Mind you, she's usually a bit wonky under those circumstances so maybe the raging breeze helped drag it back on target?   

We might not have had full benefit without the administrative 50 that gifted Paxman our second. Soon after North were cheated by weather again, with another close range shot holding up as if it was battling against Hurricane Katrina. It didn't bode well for us kicking anything into it, especially in a year where we've almost entirely replaced crumb with set shots. In complimentary conditions (e.g. at almost any other ground) this is a good thing, especially with a full forward who has been pulling down marks like pre-knee Ox, but seemed destined to fail here.

In circumstances like this, arsey goals should count double, and of course after a quarter of being denied obvious ones, North celebrated their turn kicking to left of screen by plonking through their from a bizarre angle.

It was about this time when I reached peak depression about world events, and though I kept watching not much was registering. It was good how got a second goal from a 50, especially under the ludicrous circumstances of a player thinking it was going her way and throwing the ball to a teammate. Despite what we'd seen in the first quarter I had faith in Harris' booming leg to break the wind barrier. Her goal sense continued to be spot on, starting the ball in *consults local map* Tooradin and watching it violently swing back for a valuable one before half time.

When Harris got her second in the opening minute of the third quarter, via one of the softest marking contest frees ever (which is ironic considering how often she gets away with trying to bulldoze defenders in the same circumstances), it looked like we were on the way to a lead that would defy even the zaniest of winds in the last quarter. And then we didn't kick another goal for the rest of the night. There was a moment of high drama when Zanker temporarily looked like she'd busted something in her leg, but she seems to have survived to put on another random BOG performance in about three weeks.

The last quarter was non-stop siege, and we held out for five minutes before they kicked another arsey one from the boundary. All credit to our defence, who stood up under barrage for the rest of the night, not just keeping them goalless but without any further score. 

At 10 points the difference, the old two quick goals trick remained a possibility, but by never letting the first in we didn't have to test ourselves against a second. With 75 seconds left, Goldrick accidentally kicked the ball over the line but the North player tried so hard to get the quick goal that she fell short and got nothing, much to the delight of the guy standing next to the effects mic who thought every tackle was worth holding the ball.

In the words of that old Wogs Out Of Work ad (young people, do not cancel me, this was a real thing), "It was really good". Unlike this post, which should be put on a raft and floated out to sea.

2022 Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Lily Mithen
3 - Maddie Gay
2 - Lauren Pearce
1 - Tyla Hanks

Apologies to anyone who has read this far.

It is, to a degree, back on at the top. 2022 Paxman is not 2017-2021 Paxman, but she's still capable of - as the kids probably say - cutting a bitch. Advantage to the Bunnings spokesperson for now, but things are interesting again.

21 - Tyla Hanks
17 - Karen Paxman
11 - Libby Birch (LEADER: Defender of the Year)
10 - Lauren Pearce, Eden Zanker
9 - Tayla Harris
7 - Eliza McNamara, Lily Mithen, Eliza West (LEADER: Rookie of the Year)
5 - Sinead Goldrick
3 - Maddie Gay, Sarah Lampard
2 - Casey Sherriff
1 - Shelley Heath, Kate Hore, Daisy Pearce

Goal of the Week
They were literally all set shots, so it's hard to go past the one where Harris mastered the elements into the wind.

Next Week
It doesn't get any easier, running the Border Security: Australia's Front Line gauntlet into the Republic of Western Australia to play Freo. No doubt players will only be allowed fresh air three minutes before the bounce and will be forced to wear hazmat suits. I think we'll lose but am open to raiding the points and getting out before secession kicks in.

Final thoughts
I barely had initial thoughts.

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