Sunday 22 May 2022

Calm your Narrm

Cast your mind back to when things started to go tremendously wrong in early 2019 and the simple act of putting mean tweets on the banner was held up as an example of a footy club stepping out of its lane. "Why don't they practice how to get a kick instead?" etc... Even I was annoyed (albeit not until we'd lost) and I've absolutely, never in all my years been one for wild, knee-jerk reactions.

Now we're the hottest footballing commodity under the sun, and could get away with changing the name of the club for two weeks without the people who would usually get outraged about this sort of thing (i.e. recognising the indigenous community) having a hissy fit. Maybe it's just because I hang out with teal people, some One Nation fuck was probably apoplectic about it. I sure hope they didn't have anything else bad happen to them on Saturday (🖕).

I'll let somebody else discuss the social impacts of Narrm, but as a previous-life marketing wanker it was a triumph for whoever came up with the idea. It was unique, made us look like top citizens, sold merchandise, and even the broadcasters joined in wholeheartedly. For the purposes of getting away with it, we weren't hurt by part one of Indigenous Round fixturing us against a side who are - let's be fair - not very good. It's no reflection on David Noble, who was asked to pick a turd up by the clean end, but he's now one loss behind dear old Mark Neeld at the same stage of their coaching career. 

For a side everyone's always trying to shut down (and while I wish them good health, it would be terrible to leave Arden Street empty in the event of their relocation, and we do need an inner city base...), North Narrm still lack a Melbourne 2012/13-esque sense of chaos where you feel like the place could be shut down at any minute. There are still parallels with our rancid teams from that era - veterans doing their best to drag everyone along, promising kids who we just assume will be good after 50 games, and players who have no place being in AFL sides but are holding a spot until somebody better comes along. No idea if they'll come good anytime soon, but good luck with remaining solvent if they do a cover version of the #fistedforever years.

But enough about them, let's talk about a team that's won 17 games in a row. For those who like to calculate with Melbourne Maths, that's four 2014s and a 1981. The game wasn't pretty, and at one point the NAR on Fox Footy's scoreboard matched how I felt about it, but once again all was well that ended well. They can't all be classics, St Kilda bought out a DVD of their 2009 streak but they can't have all been rippers. In fact I know they weren't, because I remember us sludging our way to a six goal loss despite not kicking a goal in the second half. And it still made me want to "fill my pockets with rocks and walk into the ocean." Look, I was in my late 20s, staring down the barrel of a premiership-free life, watching St Kilda seemingly romping to one before us, and copped a $75 parking ticket for watching, can you blame me for being overly dramatic?

Now, 13 long years later we've won so many times in a row that people are starting to get bored of it. Not me, I sat through enough slurry that this will do me every week for the next decade if possible. Still, there was a point in the third quarter when even the surprisingly large Adam Bandt wing of our fanbase would have been getting ready to complain about wearing colourful jumpers instead of concentrating on winning footy games.

Of course, other than Tom McDonald looking more uncomfortable in long sleeves than any player in the history of the game, changing our name and jumper contributed bugger all towards taking three quarters to get rid of North. There were plenty of factors at play, it was nowhere near our best team performance, without crucial players, and plenty of others down on their best against a cohesive side playing with nothing to lose.

The massacres are more memorable, but we played plenty of games like this while rubbish. Effort helped harass superior opposition for a while, but without something bizarre happening there was never going to be enough in the tank to carry them through four quarters. The only upset from that era that would have gone remotely close to losing here was winless Melbourne vs top of the table Essendon, and that came with an assist from rain. No such luck for North under a roof, but they did enough to keep it interesting until the third quarter.

Obviously, it would have been nice to pay back some of the trauma the Roos inflicted on us during the misery years, but like last week you're asking for trouble by expecting bumper margins. I'm just happy to emerge from a fortnight of banana skin games in front by a combined 121 points. That's heaps more than our combined winning margins for some complete seasons, no need to be upset.

The good news - other than not having lost since July 2021 - is that we've successfully navigated our way through the flotsam and jetsam end of the ladder this time. As much as I'd give my left knacker for any 10-0 start, the real work hasn't started yet. But you can only beat who's in front of you, and this was as close to a win/win scenario as you're going to get when somebody wins by 50. We're undefeated, and they know they could match it with the premiers for an hour before the natural order was restored.

Due to finally being captured by the famous health and safety protocols, I was shafted out of one of my rare live appearances. Double stitch up in that it cost me a spot in what was by far the lowest ever crowd between Victorian teams at Docklands. This would have gone nicely alongside being part of the worst attendance at the Fortress full stop. Instead, for the first time in history I watched parts of a game with all three other members of my family. This ended in tragedy when Melksham slaughtered a kick into the 50 and my reaction caused the one year old to burst into tears. Oops. Suffice to say 2/3rds of the co-viewers swiftly departed, leaving only the older kid, who has spent 12 months waiting for a repeat of my tantrum after losing to Adelaide.

If North has anything going for them it's decent tall forwards, so it helped that for the first five minutes their teammates incinerated every kick towards them. They had opportunities but shizen delivery played right into our hands. Teams break down going forward against us so much that you've got to give credit to our award winning system, but it doesn't hurt having the holy trinity of Lever, May and Petty down there when the ball arrives. Only May is playing at anything like his level from last year but they're still a formidable unit.

When McDonald got a free at the other end (opposition fans, commence whinging) it seemed we'd punish their wasteful delivery. Alas, tugging at the sleeves like he was wearing a jumper made of poison ivy, the future Liberal Democratic Party senator for Victoria kicked off our odd day in front of goal by missing what he would usually eat for breakfast. He still ended up with three, continuing the slow road to a career average of one goal per game. Even he's not as invested in reaching that mark as I am for him, though I fear without a few tremendous Lockett-esque bags time might be running out. Still a long way since that 'magical' night where he kicked his first two in quick succession against North and we were happy just to score over 80 once for the season.

I had some sympathy towards North for the free that led to our first goal. Langdon was caught in a mid-air tackle, and because he landed on his back it was somehow deemed a free. Not the opponent's fault that Docklands is a thinly veiled concrete surface with snooker table style green felt stretched over the top. NFI what the tackler was supposed to do. Could have let go of him mid-air, which a) goes against the instinct of tackling and b) could have ended with Ed landing on his head. It was a bullshit free but I wasn't going to turn back the shot on goal. With his headband popped off by the impact Ed converted. Turns out his ribs popped too, and he was soon substituted out of the game. I don't want to be a "game's gone" type, but if the North bloke even gets a fine for that then the competition should be shut down. In fact, do shut the competition down - it means we'll go out as the last ever premiers, on a 17 game winning streak.

This stroke of good luck encouraged us to go on and... concede the next two goals. While I had every faith in grinding them down before winning comfortably, we still didn't need to offer any unnecessary hope. We certainly weren't playing well, other than Oliver hoovering up possessions at a near record rate, everything else was just meh. Still shat on how we used to play, and by the time Rivers was gifted a 50 for the most self-destructive post-free return of the ball you'll see this year you felt things were tilting in our favour. Until we immediately gave the goal back. And what a reply, if this was Kangablog it would have been a clear goal of the week, with the charismatically named Zurhaar absolutely barrelling through Brayshaw before scooping the ball up and thumping it through from 40 metres. 

There may have been a technical push in the back but refer to previous 'the game is not as good as it used to be' sooking. I'm comfortable with big bastards barging through opponents. You can't trust the umpires to adjudicate it the same every time, but as Booker T used to say - don't hate the player, hate the game. 

Fritsch burying his opponent with one of the great forward pressure tackles should have been all we needed to run away with it, and had Petracca not unleashed the worst set shot of the season just before quarter time they might have been demoralised. Trac's set shot shots have been rank this year, but he remains a handy player in every other aspect. His kick was only marginally worse than Brown's at the start of the second term, forming part of his good old-fashioned mileston game shocker. He's got runs on the board but this was by some distance the worst game he's ever played for us. Unlike the club itself, you can't win 'em all.

For a time we lost the lead, and like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin I was left holding on to my belief that Simon Goodwin's Narrm Smith system would ultimately get the job done. In another great umpiring moment we got a leg up from McSizzle being gifted the pissiest marking contest free of all time, and some of the handful of North fans present were ready to climb over the fence. But you can't blame everything on umpires, while we were playing about four short collectively between all the players miles down on top form, the Neeld Principle holds that a shit side will eventually do something spectacularly stupid. And here it was: 

The kick came off the boot so badly that it's lucky Fritsch was paying attention or he'd have been knocked flat on his arse, allowing the defender to regain his dignity by gathering, stepping over the corpse and getting on with things. It reminded me of my youthful indoor soccer days when you'd get a free kick in a tense game and would just hoof it at maximum speed into the wall out of spite - except he didn't mean it. 

Pickett got a real one straight after and that should have been enough for the Roos to give it away. To their credit (patronising?) they wouldn't go away, and midway through the third quarter it was an uncomfortably Round 10, 2021-esque. A year to the round since our winning streak ended against inferior opposition because we let them stay in the game too long it looked a chance of happening again. The margin was less than a kick and I was sweating up a treat. Of course they barely scored from there, but how was I supposed to know that at the time? Win as many games in a row as you like (no, please do), I still reserve the right to be nervous about losing in farcical circumstances.

After a horrid day, Brown's best contribution was the mark and kick that sat perfectly for Bedford to run into an open goal. It was either super-sub Toby's first or second touch after being on for a quarter and a half, but a good one. Minus style points for the celebration, where he booted the ball into the upper deck then fell on his arse after getting too close to the fence. Clearly too much to ask for a stadium to provide a non-deadly surface all the way around. Or in the middle of it if the number of players going arse over tit was anything to go by. Bedford also did a ripping chasedown tackle later, which unlike Chandler's infamous one last week didn't end in fatality and suspension. Poor old Kade, I thought two weeks was horribly excessive but he wasn't considered important enough to launch an appeal over. 

While all this was going on, Oliver was finding the ball wherever he went. 45 touches may have only been one better than his previous best, but given that we lost that game by 80 this will do me for the highlights tape. That was also the night we had 70 inside 50s for six goals, proving it the most useless stat in football. Didn't stop the callers here flogging themselves over how many we were having. Mind you, these were the same people giving fun facts about Greg Wells not getting a Brownlow vote after having 48 touches in 1980, in an era where the league didn't reveal votes for individual matches.

After Bedford's goal, the boa constrictor style strangle job was on. It wasn't pretty, but certainly effective. Even Melksham, who I'd been very unkind about earlier, cropped up for a nice goal from distance. They got two more points, we put on four last quarter goals and won by 47. Talk about not hitting top gear, I think we just pulled the handbrake off and rolled down the hill. What it means for the future I have no earthly idea, but we're 10-0, four games clear inside the top four and unless you're my immune system or Scott Morrison, things are going quite well.

2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - Tom Sparrow
2 - Steven May
1 - Bayley Fritsch

Apologies to Dunstan, Lever, McDonald, Rivers and Spargo

Oliver has been stitched up royally by this voting system, his five was so far ahead of Petracca's four that it's not funny. Bad luck, we've been doing it this way since he was eight-years-old (!?) so he'll have to wear it. In the minors, May extends his lead on Brayshaw to a full BOG, and the yet-to-commence Hilton remains the most shambolic award in AFL football.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Not a great collection this week, certainly nothing that's going to challenge for the podium. Against all odds, and with apologies to Pickett's set shot, the Milkshake wins our weekly nomination for this:

I haven't got it in me to come up with a weekly prize, but whatever it is he's going to have to collect it in Cranbourne.

Current podium: 

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

Next Week
Freo at the MCG will test the theory that how we play against shit teams doesn't have any bearing against contenders. Worked pretty well last year, but considering how many times the Dockers have dicked us on our own ground I'm not taking anything for granted. We may very well lose, leaving everyone's mate Jake Bowey with just the equal second best start to a career, but I'll try not to put my head in the oven over it.

At the time of writing it doesn't look like Ed Langdon came off too badly from being powerslammed on concrete so I'll assume he plays. Likewise, if Jack Viney's hamstring has remained at 'awareness' (cliche) level and not torn off the bone before whipping around and slicing his ACL off he automatically comes back in for Dunstan. NFI why they picked Melksham in the first place so he's got to go. I know it's not like-for-like, but let's finally give Bedford four quarters instead of dragging him along every week just in case. 

Still hoping for Laurie to get a game, but refuse to engage in the stupidity of giving somebody their debut as a medical sub, so either he plays instead of Bedford or waits for another week.

IN: Bedford, Viney
OUT: Dunstan, Melksham (omit)
UNLUCKY: Laurie, Weideman

Final thoughts
Not for the first time, but because it got a surprise run on the election coverage later in the night may I say with the utmost sincerity...


  1. my favourite part was when you repeated the same sentence about Norf being the new 2012-13 Dees (4th ad 5th paragraph). Keep up the great work and lazy bastard publishing without checking Super.


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