Tuesday, 10 May 2022

15 love

When you're a middle class suburban dickhead it's hard to understand why rich, talented and successful people fall off the rails. How, you wonder, can anyone go to pieces when they've got all the riches in the world at their disposal? Halfway through the third quarter here I discovered the sporting variant. Through no talent of my own except 33 years of staying power, I've wound up following a reigning premier that has won 15 games in a row, and the pressure is surprisingly immense. 

Amanda Heard might have shit in Johnny Depp's bed because [reasons], but I'd hate to see what she'd have done when we briefly looked like torching a near 50 point lead. We've got to lose again eventually, I'm just heavily invested in it happening under fair and reasonable circumstances, not as the result of a miracle comeback or earth-shattering upset.

I'd rather go on a Tinder date with Squeaky Fromme than live through the #fistedforever years again, but there was a lot more scope for carefree self-depreciation when wins came by surprise. Now I've got the greeds for endlessly hoarding wins. Maybe the big run won't properly be appreciated until it's over but I'm willing to wait and find out. For now, it felt like another in a long line of professional, solid wins, in a decade we'll look back at another component of a streak that has now reached the all-time list.

Tell you who doesn't go for fear and self-doubt, Jake bloody Bowey that's who. The man who has played every game of the great run, and who now outright owns the greatest winning start to a career in MFC history. Jake Spencer, Dean Terlich and Jimmy Toumpas also won 15 times, it just took them a combined 100 games. At a time where we need relief at the Bowza, I reckon he'll get more write-in votes at the election than some official candidates.

Even if Bowey finishes his career below 50%, few will be more closely associated with this era. The mere mention of his name will transport you back to a magical time. I'm not waiting, every time he touches the ball I think flag. I've never been one for taking it a week at a time (see various versions of the Bradbury Plan), but as he got within range of a record that none of us had ever thought about before April 2022 I found myself desperately wanting him to break it. Doesn't hurt that we all win when he does, but even though he doesn't get a medal, and the club doesn't get premiership points I acted as if it would be final proof that everything is awesome.

It's appropriate that Jake became the undisputed owner of that hotly contested (?) record on the same day 2011 survivor Tom McSizzle played his 200th game, uniting both the shit and shit hot eras of our recent history. McDonald was the first MFC debut after 186, and if you want to feel old please review the list of who he lined up with - and against - that day. Between players who were Melbourned and Gold Coasted you've got two full class actions there.

Think of all the water under the bridge since 28/08/2011, both in football and life. They were the years when I'd do anything unethical or immoral to go to games. Engagement parties avoided, family reunions dodged etc... And here I was on Sunday afternoon in or around the CBD, available at the perfect time to cart my arse to the MCG for the greatest show on earth and... pulling out due to fatigue. If you kept the same hours as me you'd be worn out too. Still, of all the midlife crisis content nothing gets me down more than a waning commitment to seeing every game live at the best time to be a Melbourne fan for 60 years. 

There were extra pangs of regret when Level 4 of the Ponsford was open (ironic if my whinging complaint helped then I didn't turn up) but not surprisingly they were absent when the final siren went and I didn't have to cart myself hither and yon to get home. It was also nice to dodge Dwayne Russell shrieking like he's on a plummeting plane. Fox Footy treated this interesting game with top four implications seriously and sent Anthony Hudson, unlike the AFL fixturing it with the respect usually given to Hawthorn vs GWS in Launceston.

I still treat every goal like a gift from the gods, so was thrilled when Pickett swung the door open with crumb after 30 seconds. Even when our man Jake's kick inside 50 landed in the middle of all available targets things are going so well for him that it sat perfectly to be scooped up and slammed home. This was good, but I've seen plenty of games in a previous life where we'd snatch a goal out of the middle and things looked wonderful until the other team got a kick. We're supposed to be patronising towards North's current plight, but I remember getting the first against them, then conceding 22 of the last 25.

Tactics will depend on available players, but whatever the paid experts at St Kilda saw in the review of our last game they missed the bit where a) you try to stop Ed Langdon having a million touches, and b) your best chance of catching our backline out is to get the ball down there quickly but not recklessly. Their effort was unquestionable but back with a comical lack of patience. Bad news for next big thing Max King, whose two goals came as third quarter consolations on either side of May battering him in every contest while teammates blindly hoofed the ball in his general direction from 60 metres. 

The squeezing of life from the opposition at one end usually translates to scoring at the other, but we like to keep things interesting. For instance, try to pick the quarter where we win the game in 10 minutes of glory before cruising to the final siren in Rancho Relaxo mode. But it's the small things around that that make the difference, in this case Harmes' Wayne-esque efforts at keeping the ball alive to set up Spargo. It was the same spot where we eventually cost ourselves a goal by unnecessarily doing the same thing against Hawthorn, but there was a big difference between blindly knocking the ball back into traffic and disposing of your closest opponent before using acres of space to kick towards a free player in the square.

Two goals to nil means nothing, and it's not like we were steamrolling them. In every aspect other than scoring, the Saints were fine. Having two good rucks helped calm Gawn down, and they were perfectly competitive around the ground, the problem was the attacking with blind optimism that usually ended with the ball pinging back the other way. Usually via the wing where Langdon was enjoying freedom of movement after a snap one week lockdown.

Without ever being truly great, the quarter just got better and better, and before you knew it we were basically five goals up. Pickett missed a couple of chances, but you win some and lose some with players who sometimes go so fast they don't know what they're doing until it happens. Strangely, after a red hot start he didn't get a touch when we were running riot in the second. Nice to have depth.

After doing so well to restrict them to a couple of shots and no goals, all my warm and fuzzy feelings went straight out the window when we seemingly gave a goal back in the red hottest of DemonTime. It was a fair bet that a mark at the top of the square with seconds left was going to end in agoal, and as I was watching on a quarter and a half of delay there was no time to waste. As ball hit Tim Membrey's boot I dived for fast forward to start catching up. 

The last thing I heard was Anthony Hudson saying something like "hold on a minute", assumed he was referring to their belated comeback in an attempt to stop viewers turning off, and scanned straight to the start of the second. I only realised he'd flubbed it when they were still on 0.3 after the break, rumbled by the video replay for kicking into the man on the mark. What makes it even more remarkable is that unlike future Hall of Famers like Jack Riewoldt, Lance Franklin and Josh Kennedy, Membrey has kicked more goals against us than any other opposition. Didn't get one here though, and I'm a bit sad not to have seen it live.

If you were a St Kilda fan and survived the 2009/2010 Grand Finals you're probably immortal, but I'd still have been wrecking inanimate objects when McDonald found Brown in acres of space for the opening goal of the second quarter. You get the easiest shot in history to bring the margin back to under four goals, stuff it up, then almost immediately let one in at the other end. You'd be ropeable. I loved it.

This prompted the Saints to finally kick a goal, which we responded to with the next four. This was our contractually obligated nuclear blast of the week, opening an ultimately matchwinning 45 point gap. At that point we looked absolutely irresistable, McSizzle got two milestone goals to slowly edge closer to the one goal a game average we've been craving for years, on either side of Brayshaw kicking a pearler from the boundary, and Brown doing some plus-size crumb. Christ knows where Bayley Fritsch was, but it didn't matter. You'd never have guessed that we'd concede the next five and would be forced to find a settler at the end of the third quarter to ensure things didn't get ropey. Though if you're of a nervous disposition like me there might have been some suspicions.

While they conceded defeat on Langdon patrolling the wing like he was travelling by helicopter, the Saints finally decided to stop going forward like maniacs and it changed the composition of the game. Now we were under some pressure in defence. Most of the time it was turned away, but now they were getting serious opportunities. On the topic of backmen, a word for somebody who isn't one but is doing a decent job of pretending. 

Angus Brayshaw's disposal is about as heart in mouth as McDonald's used to be (and didn't we all love the Sizzle paying tribute to where he's come from with an old fashioned ludicrously optimistic kick that across the ground?), but his ability to find the ball, and courage to get in the way of it on ground or in area is brilliant. He remains one solid blow from major concussion issues but throws himself into everything. The coaches would love that stuff so much that I could see him leading the B&F at this stage - and not just as a Chris Grant style rort to make him feel bad about leaving. If our salary cap is screaming so loudly that somebody's got to go, and it ends in round one compensation I can live with that. Even if the AFL has one of its unpredictable changes of heart, scraps compo picks and leaves us empty-handed I'll have no grudge against a premiership hero. He is also welcome to make all that irrelevant, take a fair wage and be part of something special for the next few years.

After 45 minutes of rubbish forward delivery not even remotely befitting an unbeaten premiership side, we calmed the farm with a goal plucked directly from the arse. Brown marked a touched kick, then wheeled around like David Schwarz 1994 and snapped it through anyway. There can't be a team in the league that marks as many touched kicks as us, it happens about five times a week. At least in this case the player on the end was aware enough to get on with things, and surprisingly nimble enough to make his 

At the time it looked like weird goals were all we'd get, because the artfully crafted, sensible ones had dried up. You do wonder how we can turn into a merger of Hawthorn '89 and Essendon '00 for a few minutes every week, then go back to making goals look more complicated than splitting the atom. You can't get away with it forever, but as long as the band is tuned up by September I'll cop a few random losses midway through the season. But for god's sake not just yet.

In a scenario slightly more realistic than Bob Random mysteriously going down for Richmond when they needed fresh legs, a real injury allowed the Saints to throw Marcus Windjammer on for the last quarter. I wouldn't know him if he knocked on my door, but at this point of Success Stress Syndrome (if it's not a real thing it should be), anybody could be the assassin who ends our run. On the day when Bowey and McDonald's milestones drew two decades together, being turned over in dramatic style by a fifth game sub would been an unwanted flashback. 

Sadly for windjammers everywhere he goalled with his only kick but couldn't inspire a dramatic coup Meanwhile on our bench it was feet up, tracksuit on, crosswords and a nice cup of tea for Toby Bedford, who achieved the goal of all young footy players - being the unused medical substitute more than any other play in club history. I think Bowey's got him covered in a game of rock, paper, accomplishments.

With our returning 'cron victims showing no signs of flagging, a 28 point lead three quarter lead should have been safe against opposition who'd just played in tropical slop.Instead of treating this as a sign we were going to win without exiting second gear I convinced myself a great comeback was still on the cards. Because I am, at heart, a panicky idiot. The sort who celebrates a failed bounce because if runs two seconds off the clock. Plenty of time for that during this game, with the ball flinging off at all sorts of angles. At one point Max did his famous 'thump it forward anyway' trick, which was not nearly as much fun as when it annoyed a bald man.

Looking for any excuse as to why the best team in the competition might go to pieces against a side made up 50% of finals calibre players and 50% who might get a game at West Coast if nobody else was available, I was heart in mouth when they got the first clearance. Like so many other times recently, an opposition attack worked in our favour, leading to a quick first goal that should have killed the game. Ironically it started by nearly killing Ed Langdon, who risked pulverisation to go back with the flight and defuse a centre clearance. Next thing you knew Fritsch was wandering through defenders with the ball in one hand like a rugby leaguist before snapping over his shoulder from close range.

After a year of doing enough across the middle quarters then easing off, dishing out a little dollop of wallop to a title aspirant would have been welcome but I was happy enough to put down an unbridgeable gap and float to 15-0 atop a big fluffy cloud. When the Anal-Bullet lined up for a shot not long after I was ready to clamber aboard nimbo cumulous and call it a day. He hit the post, they went down the other end for two in quick succession and even if nobody else in the world thought they were a chance - even the St Kilda players - I did.

The tension of whether we'd blow the lead or not - and unless you're mentally broken like me there was no suggestion that was ever going to happen - was temporarily interrupted by some world class handbags at 20 paces action between Oliver and the less likeable Jones brother. The footage is like one of those 'what colour is the dress' wankfests, only instead of finding out what side of your brain is dominant it will demonstrate how much of a Melbourne nuffy you are. No doubt there was contact to the chest, but he probably didn't need to go down like JFK in Dallas. 

The good news is that Jones' passive aggressive whinging at him was 100x more fun than Jack Riewoldt sooking about Bowey allegedly diving. I'd also be more inclined to punch on for the Hamburglar's reputation if he hadn't gone down like Ricky The Dragon Steamboat at Wrestlemania III that time against the Eagles. It made me uncomfortable, but anything that annoys opposition fans is a good thing. Let them hate so long as they fear. The afters also took the heat off him setting Langdon up to be flattened in the first place. 

St Kilda fans had been going spare about the umpiring all day, and not without justification at times, so after the Jones incident it was delicious when we killed them off for good via Pickett giving it maximum Dial-A-Duck in a tackle. It's no coincidence that things started going better for us when we introduced these sort of murky shenanigans into our game. If it's good enough for everyone else there was no point trying to be so pure we practically levitated above the ground.

The payback for this was lesser small forward Jack Higgins turning up for the first time all day and having his back barely pressed on by Petty 99% of the way through a tackle. It's been a while since I've whinged about these frees, I don't care how technically correct they are, if it's not dangerous and the ball has already been wrapped up then it should be treated as an occupational hazard of playing a sport involving tackling. But it creates goals, which help ratings, which will allow the AFL to sell the broadcasting rights to AnotherBloodyStreamingService.com for a mint so good luck changing anything. Apparently, dissent was fine again though, including the St Kilda bloke inviting the umpire to review the scoreboard without penalty. Now, I know nobody expects consistency but... wait, I'm just getting an update here.... actually that's exactly what they want.

Once Harmes lobbed through a couple of the junkiest junk time goals ever seen I was ready to call time and go home with the points before somebody got injured. Then they cut to Lever hobbling to the bench with obvious leg concerns. It came so late that Bedford wasn't even woken up, and far too late to be a factor in the game. Might not help in future weeks, I'm sure he was doing an exaggerated funny walk at the end but still looked like somebody wandering into an emergency department and saying "million to one shot doc..."

So, nothing to complain about here. We might have gone on from the eight goal lead and buried them, but after 15 (fifteen) wins in a row I'm not going to moralise about they happen. We've got a fair distance to cover before qualifying to polish the boots of the Norm Smith era but there are some parallels - a forward line that shares their goals around, and a lot of very good players who will all get Brownlow votes but ensure that none is dominant enough to win the Brownlow. Somehow they've both only won this many games in a row once each. These are delightful times.

2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Angus Brayshaw
4 - Steven May
3 - Ed Langdon
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Christian Petracca

More apologies than most to Harmes, Jordon and Pickett

Not sure 'any other player' has ever scored one of these awards but Angus Brayshaw is now a red hot chance of a Seecamp boilover. However, if you're betting on shadowy mid-season markets based in the Cayman Islands be wary of him going back to the wing/midfield when Salem returns and being disqualified. Otherwise, no new vote getters again, and only the slightest increase in Oliver's lead. There are many, many games left so plenty still to play for.

21 - Clayton Oliver
16 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Ed Langdon, Christian Petracca
12 - Steven May
9 - Jake Bowey (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Angus Brayshaw (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Luke Jackson, James Jordon, Jack Viney
3 - Ben Brown, James Harmes, 
2 - Alex Neal-Bullen, Harrison Petty
1 - Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Sam Weideman

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
There's a few potential winners here, none worthy of dethroning the current top three but very enjoyable nonetheless. Apologies to either of the contributions by Pickett or Brown, and Rivers nine ironing his kick home, but it's the coveted five votes/Davey nomination for Brayshaw. For the weekly prize he wins a new helmet. To claim please sign this piece of paper where I'm definitely not holding my hand over the bit showing it's a new contract.

Current podium: 
1st - Langdon vs Essendon
2nd - Petracca vs Essendon
3rd - Pickett vs GWS 

Next Week
Alright, we're playing West Coast at the gloriously lowest ebb in their existence, will go in the reddest hot favourites, and some parasite bookmaker who wants free publicity will set the line at 99.5 points. In theory this means we should - and probably will - win, but settle down on predictions of apocalyptic beltings. It might happen, but plenty of people thought we were going to steamroll the Crows last year and look how that turned out. 

If you prefer a comparison with a happy ending, see MFC vs Essendon 2012. The Bombers weren't reigning premiers, but were pinging off the walls on Mexican harness racing drugs so a major munting was on the cards. Enter leading goalkicker Colin Garland, Sam Blease bursting his grundle, a bit of rain and what was to that point the biggest ladder position shock in AFL history. I'm not saying it's going to happen again but don't spend the week wondering which forward is going to kick 12. Sure, Essendon won our next meeting by 148, but we didn't know that at the time.

I don't think we're at the stage of arrogantly resting players yet, and hopefully never will be, but Lever was absolutely crocked by the final siren so there's no point carting him to the other side of the country. That's good news for Adam Tomlinson, who is better than 'break in case of emergency' but has the misfortune of being stuck in the queue behind some bloody good players. He lost his first 21 games (and let's not talk about the victim of the first win), once their careers are over he and Bowey should do a Yobbos Up The Guts style pub tour of Australia.

There's also some concern over Max Gawn's knee, and I know the most sensible thing to do is rest him but in the moment I'm terrified by this idea. Sanity will prevail and they won't risk him on what should be a non-event, but I reserve the right to nervously adjust my collar until it's proven not to be the decisive move that leads us into the biggest upset for years. The Sizzle proved a highly competent replacement for Gawn five years ago, but given that they preferred Weideman as #2 against Hawthorn I'm not sure the coaches see it the same way. Maybe that was an Yze thing? Either way, I'm ready to give Daw a spin. He's not going to be there next year, but this is no time to throw part timers in and assume everything's going to be alright.

IN: Daw, Tomlinson
OUT: Gawn, Lever (inj)
UNLUCKY: Bedford, M. Brown, Weideman

Here's to the memories of our last visit to Perth spurring on a great victory. I'll still spend the week quietly filling my shorts at the prospect of losing, but not in the same psychotic way as last year. Still can't hear Midnight Train To Georgia or Regulate without having reverse PTSD about how wound up I was that week. Have probably never been that stressed over several days than that in my life, which is a) a sign that things have gone pretty well so far, and b) a good explanation as to why I'm comfortable taking a slight step back now.

Final thoughts
Tracking BoweyMania on the records of boxers, Rocky Marciano has knocked out Jimmy Walls in 1949, Mike Tyson has TKO'ed Mark Young in the first round in 1985 and Floyd Mayweather has stopped Miguel Melo in 1998. But none of them won a world championship as quickly so they can all get stuffed. Hail to the chief.


  1. Brayshaw made some brave saves/marks and I thought his disposal was pretty good. Our best player on the day in my opinion. Clarrie warmed into his task as the match went on.

    There’s something to be said for row MM. The people in front of me kept standing every 10 minutes to get another beer, buy junk food or take a leak. They generally timed their musical chairs to coincide with the play being directly in front of me. Drop anchor at the bar and watch the match on the big screen if you must sink piss all afternoon.

    That’s the first time I’ve seen the half time competition runner get a 10 metre head start. It didn’t help the poor bugger with Oliver winning easily.

  2. I love the mention of the 2012 Bombers game. A friend invited me to a dog race night (their dog Bussy Rioli was having his debut run) and I wanted to go to the footy "just in case we win". He promised if I came to the track with him and we somehow managed to beat Essendon he would buy me a ps3


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