Monday, 6 June 2022

The Brown note

Ever since Ben and Mitch Brown ended up on our list together, top men at Demonblog Towers have been working on novelty headlines for the unlikely event of them playing together. On Saturday night Brown O'Clock finally struck, was not Golden Brown, and all leftover gags about their surname have been confined to a warehouse Raiders of the Lost Ark style, never to be seen again.

It's tempting to go into Crisis Special mode, but I'm remarkably relaxed about our predicament. Mostly because my emotional state has been permanently altered by a flag, but also because we weren't playing like a side that was going to keep winning forever. Every year people try to pretend the last unbeaten side won't lose a game, and every year they look silly. Losing two in a row is shit, but it's not like new life has been discovered on Mars, we lost two and drew one in a month 75% through last year and didn't lose another game for nine months, this is hardly fatal. 

Now we're in a position of either learning valuable lessons, or being reduced to a very good side that randomly turns greatness on when you least expect it (e.g. in finals) but occasionally shits the bed when least expected. Mind you, we've barely played four quarters all year, and wobbled unconvincingly past Sydney in 2021, so losing to them is not the seismic shock some want it to be.

Just because we never reached "if it bleeds we can kill it" levels of mysticism doesn't mean you retrospectively write off the big 17 as irrelevant. Some were against shit teams but three were great finals wins, just because you're not Essendon 2000 doesn't mean you can't be very good. Having said that, look how they went the next year...

Like Freo, I can handle losing but not after blowing a substantial early lead. I haven't trusted any margin below the Chris Sullivan Line since 1992, but a fortnight of Stranglewank losses is a bit much. For once a coach can have credit for his Plan A, any chance of going on with it next time we're that far in front?

But, other than spending five goal margins like drunken sailors in a Tijuana whorehouse, are we any worse off than last year? At half time of Round 12, 2021 the blockbuster crowd of 3772 at Sydney Showgrounds saw us 20 points down against a Brisbane side that had won seven in a row. That night we got nine of the last 12 goals and won easily, this week we kicked two goals in the entire second half. There's your simple difference. May's absence doesn't help, but we still kept the Swans to a score that any decent forward line should cover. 

When we looked like going down to Brisbane I was getting my "premierships aren't won in June" excuse ready. Fast forward a year, things are a tiny bit grim, and the same cliche applies. Even with injuries out the wazoo compared to last year, if we beat Collingwood (and that's a significant 'if' at the moment) our record will be the same after 13 rounds. That means there's a real mid-season slump yet to come, so don't waste your energy on the unusual scenario of losing two in a row. 

When things go wrong I'm usually the equivalent of Panicky Idiot #2 in a disaster movie, pushing women and children out of the way to get off the bandwagon first. After the Hawthorn/Footscray games late last year I'd have bet my house we weren't going to win the flag, and that ended with Angus Brayshaw smoking cigars in the middle of Perth Stadium so I'm not making that mistake again. I didn't think we were a clear premiership favourite in the first place, so I'll keep my expectations in a tight band between 'hopeful' and 'quietly confident'. 

Unlike last week, you can't write this off as an aberration against opposition who got on a tremendous roll. This time we blew the lead, put the brakes on, briefly looked like recovering at the start of the last quarter before falling into quicksand, botching numerous chances, and eventually being run down. The last two goals came through contentious decisions but you get what you deserve - again - for not putting teams away. 

One obvious comparison to the Freo game is that we built the (seemingly) winning margin while the other lot missed chances left, right and centre down the other end. Seven days earlier I thought we'd punish them, now I've got trust issues. Didn't mean I didn't almost fall out of my seat in joy when Gawn kicked a snap so hard the ball nearly disintegrated like a bird sucked into an plane engine, but the possibility of them running down the lead was front of mind. As it should be for everyone, the best policy when following Melbourne is to expect the worst and hope you'll be surprised. Just like the good old days.

There's not much worth reviewing from this game, but I'd like multiple angles of the outright glee on the Anal-Bullet's face when Petracca's pass hit Langdon's teet for the second goal. Even before Ed, complete with rib protection so bulky it must have skirted the bounds of legality, converted ANB was as happy as a dog with two dicks. And he has every right to be, for somebody who survived having shit hung on him every week for years, he is a key contributor to the side. It's nice that he got so much joy out of the success of others. Bet he wasn't doing much smiling two hours later.

Rumour has it that underground betting markets in South East Asia are doing huge business on which quarter every week we'll turn up. Like St. Kilda, this week's winner was the first. Unlike St. Kilda we did chuff all after and paid for it. While they were torching chances at one end we had Jordon kicking running goals, Jackson snapping from the pocket, the aforementioned Gawn ball-burster (with, it must be noted, a very nice handball assist from B. Brown), and Fritsch making it five to nil shortly before the break. So far, so good. I didn't expect to win by 120, but you'd hope that a 26 point gap offers enough buffer to get you to the siren in front. Even we couldn't give away goals quick enough to be behind by quarter time, but the lead was gone by the half.

If the definition of a Kingsley is being turned over by a player who has never previously done anything, it's debatable whether somebody who has kicked seven goals in a game can be eligible. The Ronke Tonk Man has done bugger all since, but when he was subbed on in the first quarter I was worried about a career-saving haul. He barely touched it, instead we saw a rare Brent Harvey Society induction, where a player winding down a successful career enjoys one last day out at our expense. 

Lest we forget Brent (never 'Boomer', sometimes ***** *******) waiting until his 412th game to beat us with a career best haul of six. Now Sam Reid can keep Brent company at branch meetings, after kicking three and generally giving us the shits all night. There was a local Kingsley touch, he'd only kicked less goals against one other side in the competition, now here he was stepping neatly into the position vacated by Lance Franklin's suspension. 

Considering Franklin's iffy record against us, maybe it would have been better if he played, May or not. One Sydney fan I workplace mingled with claimed he was happy when Franklin's appeal failed, because they were too one dimensional with him. Wish I'd known that last week, I'd have been outside AFL HQ like one of those cockheads at the Johnny Depp trial dressed as a pirate. In the end, the AFL might have done Sydney a favour, Reid and next big thing McDonald booted six between them. This despite a heroic effort from Harrison Petty, who probably turned up injured, then had to go off with knee trouble, before momentarily doing his shoulder then returning to get involved in every contest imaginable during the second half. If fit he's an adequate May replacement, that's far from our biggest issue.

Despite keeping the score to a manageable level, Petty and to some extent Brayshaw were the only highlights in defence. Lever wasn't intercepting anything, Hunt may as well not have been there, Bowey has gently rolled into a wall over the last few weeks, and the idea of throwing Salem straight in after nine weeks out was optimistic at best. He got plenty of touches but was nowhere near his old self. Better for the run etc... etc... but one warmup week in the VFL wouldn't have hurt.

Reid's late goal, which came much to the wide-eyed disgust of a returning Adam Tomlinson, barely survived 30 seconds into the second quarter before being wiped out. Somebody was probably throwing a tantrum about starting Jackson in the ruck, but if the ball is going to ping straight down to Gawn for a goal I'm into it. Better judges than me will ask how a gigantic ruckman got service like that the Browns couldn't get near it inside 50 all night. 

I don't know if it was all the delivery (much of which was shite), or them not being in the right position, but the number of aimless long bombs that landed in the uncontested hands of a defender was offensive. Even if you don't mark, at least be there to make them earn it. There's no crumb if the ball is instantly being hoofed back over your head, and you won't win a Wheel of Umpiring free if you're not in the contest. Until three weeks ago this was the Ben Brown method, getting into the contest and scaring defenders into giving away frees. Now he's not getting anywhere near it, and as McDonald's foot has allegedly fallen off we'd better either work out a way to get him going or look for a credible replacement.

For once against the Swans we kept the guy who looks like Justin Trudeau quiet, but it only took 20 minutes of the old 'team effort' to be in front. It didn't help that Petty was on and off the ground like the runner with his various injuries. We can survive without May (see Final, Preliminary), removing his understudy left a lot of the remaining defenders doing things they didn't want to be doing. You will note that while Petty was on the ground we barely conceded goals from anything other than frees. Bit redundant saying about it about a premiership player but I reckon he's ace.

We finally stopped some of the rot at the end through Fritsch, but things had come a long way since ANB was smiling broadly, Viney effortlessly walked through opponents, and Pickett did a combo fend-off/spinny move thing to escape a pack. Now it was a real game, and after what happened last week I was shitscared about what was going to happen after half time. 

Curiously, and in a massive up yours to Channel 7 for putting us in an important timeslot, we won the quarter one goal to nil. You can blame light rain, gutsy defensive efforts or farcical forward entries, but as far as the host broadcaster cared that was one ad break in 30 minutes. No wonder they've put Essendon on the next two Friday nights, it fulfils their key criteria of a popular team that is likely to be involved in a lot of goals, and whose fans will provide great NuffyCam content. We're 0-3 on that front, so once this run ends it'll be back to 4.40 Sunday for us.

In another 30 minute block of toil and struggle, Fritsch was our saviour again. While other players rack up disposals for the sake of it, he has a ridiculous goal per disposal ratio. Shame about the massive shank when things were hot in the last quarter, but given how poor we've been forward recently I'll throw rose petals in front of anyone who contributes three goals every week.

It was still anyone's game at three quarter time, but I had deep suspicions about how long we could hold their forwards. Petty came back with so much strapping that he may as well have borrowed Langdon's rib protection while he was at it, and was trying his heart out to keep us going, but we needed goals to make sure of it. Enter Gawn, who got the first again. It helped that the defender was lured into a proper contest for once, shat himself, and gave away the free. Some more of that would have been good. Then we didn't kick another goal for the rest of the night.

The general misery of losing is one thing, but it's unfortunate that defeat means Gawn's performance will quickly be forgotten. We've seen a few massive efforts in losing sides over the years, and this was at the top table. After a night of being beaten from pillar to post in contested marks around the ground (that old chestnut), Maximum took it on himself to grab everything that went near him. He patrolled up and down the ground pulling down everything that came near him like a magnet. 

Nathan Jones' red and blue tinted special comments would have been giving Swans fans the shits, but there's never been a more appropriate pundit to cover Melbourne's captain risking serious back injury by carrying 21 teammates. Sure, Max missed what would have been a vital goal from the pocket but he was probably missing having some mutant Essendonian yelling filth at him over the fence. Just taking a mark in the forward line instantly puts him ahead of most of our list, no matter the result. If we'd won he should have been chaired off the ground.

Given how things had gone since half time another goal might have been enough, but from there we made scoring look more difficult than flying the space shuttle. Gawn's goal was quickly wiped out, and they almost got another straight after that. Cue 20 minutes of them slowly overhauling the lead while we put on a horrendous show of attacking. The footage should be sent to all junior clubs in Australia to show them what not to do. I will give credit to Mitch Brown, who spent the night trying his heart out despite knowing it could have been his last game. If Muppet Labs (where the future is being made today) could splice his competitiveness with Weideman's age and natural talent we'd be laughing. 

Somehow we got to the last six minutes ahead by a point. I had a sick fantasy about nobody scoring from there, allowing us to cling on to the sleaziest win of all time. The way things were going it might have happened, if not for a free against Bowey that embarrassed the code. Still, the umpire's red hot guess about a hole wouldn't have been an issue if we'd already kicked a decent score. The kicker had such shifty eyes that I was hoping he'd stuff it up trying a pass, then the bastard lobbed it through from 50 like he'd meant it all along. I'd have put my foot through the wall if we hadn't just spent 10 minutes scrambling to find goals as if blindfolded.

You never know if somebody might have scrambled a lucky one off the back of a pack, but it looked like we could have played until midnight and not come away with an artfully created winning goal. The umpires did their best to give home fans something else to complain about with another controversial free. Sadly, the way the rules are Langdon probably did technically infringe against the guy who leapt under his knees. Refer to years of previous whinges about how it shouldn't count if the contact is incidental or initiated by the victim, but I blame the league, not the umpire. 

We were still an off-chance if they missed, but the Swans picked a fine time to start kicking straight, leaving us with the fattest chance of kicking two in a minute to snatch a famous one point victory. We didn't come close, setting off open pisstaking season for fans of teams who didn't just win the flag. Considering what happened at this stage last season it's a risky tactic, and I hope to end the year with my arm stuffed halfway down the throat of our critics. 

Hopefully the ingrates who were getting bored with winning every week are enjoying an outbreak of chaos. Still top of the ladder, so I suppose we've got that going for us. Meanwhile, after winning 17 in a row under Scomo, we're 0-2 since he got the arse so I might follow Luke Darcy into the Liberal Party

2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 – Max Gawn
--- It’s been a while since the top vote getter was so far ahead of everybody else that he was practically operating on another planet but here we are ---
4 – Jack Viney
3 – Clayton Oliver
2 – Ed Langdon
1 – Harrison Petty

Apologies to Brayshaw, Fritsch, Jordon, Neal-Bullen, Pickett and Petracca.

Considering the disarray this page has been in recently (thank you anonymous tipster in the comments for a couple of saves), I thought it prudent to do a full review of the leaderboard. I can confirm all scores are correct. That means Oliver is now more than a game clear at the top and well on the way to his fourth Jako. No alterations to the minors, but I'm one game off declaring Gawn the provisional Stynes winner. Predictions of Jackson giving him a scare have gone south, Max remains almighty.

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

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Like Spargo winning Mark of the Week for something that led to a point in a loss, I don't particularly want to acknowledge any of the goals on a night where we were so poor in attack. The non-sour view is that the one Fritsch rolled in from distance was very nice, and the nearest thing to decent crumb all night so may as well pick that one. Apologies to the thumping Gawn snap.

Bayley's weekly prize is a gift voucher for another forward to contribute goals alongside him. Or a midfielder. Any bloody body will do, can't rely on Maximum playing six positions every week.

Current podium: 

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

The Wank Files
Reminder - a Stranglewank is defined as any game where a team goes 24 points up, then allows the margin to be dragged back to less than a goal. The name is derived from the popular practice of going as close to dying as possible while having a Sherman in order to heighten the sensation. See - allegedly - Michael Hutchence, David Carradine, and Her Majesty's Government.

Here's an updated list of all the times we've been involved in a near death experience - one way or the other - since Paul Roos took over. As you can see at the bottom of the table, we kept the blown four goal leads to one a season, stopped for three years and have done it twice in a row. Now that we're five years in the distance, gaze in wonder at rounds 7-11, 2017, where every game had a comeback one way or the other. Pure insanity, befitting a truly odd season.

  • Round 13, 2014 vs Essendon (-33 at 3m Q3, +1 FT)
  • Round 1, 2017 vs St Kilda (-24 at 4m Q2, +30 FT)
  • Round 8, 2017 vs Adelaide (-28 at 17m Q2, +41 FT)
  • Round 10, 2017 vs Gold Coast (-24 at 20 Q2, +35 FT)
  • Round 11, 2017 vs Collingwood (-28 at 9m Q2, +4 FT)
  • Round 3, 2018 vs North Melbourne (-24 at 13m Q1, +37 FT)
  • Round 23, 2021 vs Geelong (-44 at 18m Q3, +4 FT)
  • Round 11, 2014 vs Port Adelaide (-26 at 13m Q1, +10 at 17m Q3, -20 FT)
  • Round 15, 2014 vs Footscray (-35 at 11m Q2, +6 at 6m Q4, -6 FT)
  • Round 19, 2015 vs North Melbourne (-34 at 29m Q1, -2 at 26m Q3, -35 FT)
  • Round 3, 2016 vs North Melbourne (-42 at 20m Q1, -5 FT)
  • Round 10, 2016 vs Collingwood (-24 at 24m Q1, +5 10m Q2, -25 9m Q3, level 19m Q3, -25 FT)
  • Round 15, 2016 vs Essendon (-24 at 30m Q3, -2 at 17m Q4, -9 FT)
  • Round 7, 2017 vs Hawthorn (-27 at 29m Q1, -3 FT)
  • Round 9, 2017 vs North Melbourne (-26 at 31m Q1, -2 at 13m Q4, -14 FT)
  • Round 1, 2018 vs Geelong (-27 at 35m Q2, -3 FT)
  • Round 12, 2018 vs Collingwood (-26 at 19m Q1, -5 at 13m Q2, -42 FT)
  • Round 18, 2019 vs West Coast (-32 at 2m Q2, +5 at 2m Q3, -3 FT)
  • Round 7, 2014 vs Adelaide (+ 36 18m Q2, +3 FT)
  • Round 21, 2017 vs St Kilda (+39 at 10m Q2, +4 1m Q4, +24 FT)
  • Round 2, 2018 vs Brisbane (+25 at 27m Q1, +6 8m Q4, +26 FT)
  • Round 22, 2018 vs West Coast (+26 at 18m Q1, +6 17m Q2, +27 at 5m Q3, +3 at 15m Q4, +17 FT)
  • Round 16, 2019 vs Carlton (+38 at 27m Q3, -1 27m Q4, +5 FT)
  • Round 2, 2021 vs Carlton (+33 at 2m Q2, +1 FT)
  • Round 1, 2022 vs Footscray (+27 at 21m Q1, -22 at 12m Q2, +26 FT)
  • Round 18, 2021 vs Hawthorn (+27 at 20m Q2, +5 at 22m Q3, +/- 0 at FT)
  • Round 2, 2015 vs GWS (+30 at 4m Q2, -45 FT)
  • Round 9, 2016 vs Port Adelaide (+24 at 6m Q2, -61 FT)
  • Round 3, 2017 vs Fremantle (+27 at 28m Q2, -2 FT)
  • Round 18, 2018 vs Geelong (+29 at 2m Q4, -2 FT)
  • Round 11, 2019 vs Adelaide (+25 at 19m Q2, -2 FT)
  • Round 11, 2022 vs Fremantle (+30 at 23m Q2, -38 FT)
  • Round 12, 2022 vs Sydney (+26 at 26m Q1, -12 FT)
Next week
God help us all, it's an away Queens Birthday game with the Pies on the rise. Would be a fine time to issue a reality check to them but I've lost faith in our ability to wallop teams so the four points will do nicely thank you. If anything's certain it's that our success since the last time we played them in Melbourne (lowest crowd between sides for 30 years, Oscar McDonald kicks goal, virus-laden Wuhan bat not yet served for lunch) will lead to a heightened atmosphere. In order to avoid being kicked to death by opposition fans I might sit in the Redlegs area for the first time in three years. No doubt like Jack Watts Day, this will backfire when there's a corporate box full of pissed Pies supporters directly over my shoulder.

Speaking of forwards who were prematurely rushed into a Queen's Birthday debut, there's a significant push for van Rooyen. Sure he didn't kick a goal in the VFL this week, but that's apparently no longer a KPI for our talls. Even in vastly different circumstances, there's no earthly way I'm risking another Wattsing. I'm sure this collection of teammates would do the right thing and belt the piss out of anyone who tried to intimidate him but I'd be more comfortable playing the Daw(es) brothers Majak and Chris.

None of that helps us find two functioning key forwards for Monday week. Looks like curtains for McDonald, which is shit because the last two weeks have proven our forward structure is way better with him. So what now? Either we stay in Brown Town and hope for the best, replace one of them with Weid (risking a repeat of him struggling to get a kick against the Pies last year), go a tall forward short and make it even easier for our sloppy forward 50 entries to be chopped off, or or do something completely off piste and unexpected that will either be lauded as genius or laughed at for years to come. 

If I can't have premiership winning combo McDonald/B. Brown I'm opting for neither. I don't know what's wrong with Brown but after three goalless weeks he's my human sacrifice. Instead, roll on the VFL All Star combination of Weideman and Mitch Brown. Professional people who run footy clubs aren't as nervy and weird as me so there's about a 1.5% chance of this happening in real life. More likely the B.Brown/Weid combo that failed so spectacularly against Freo. Here's to Sam having an ironic ripper against his grandad's old side. 

Otherwise, I'd like Rivers instead of Hunt. Don't care if it's not like-for-like, I want Riv and the other guy could do with a week off. Maybe play him up front, it's worked before. If not there's always Bedford, who was desperately unlucky to sit on the bench after playing his best game. I'd love to give him more full games but at whose expense? Haven't been all that keen on Spargo recently but I'll stick with him for now. Alas it's feet up on the bench and complimentary match payments again for Toby. And I'm almost tempted to chop Sparrow just for that BULLSHIT handball towards Oliver but fear it will somehow lead to the return of Melksham.

IN: May, Rivers, Weideman
OUT: B. Brown, Hunt, Tomlinson (omit)
LUCKY: Bowey, M. Brown, Spargo, Sparrow
UNLUCKY: Bedford, Hibberd

Maybe we'll win, maybe we won't. 'Darce' and I will be too busy running the state to care.

Final thoughts
Last time we lost two in a row was also against Sydney and Freo. So, now that we've done it again at the home of football, is Cairns officially off the hook? Time to get Preuss back and revisit the idea of playing him as a key forward in unsuitable conditions. Why not also throw May to full forward the next time we desperately need goals? On current trends this will be about 15 minutes into the third quarter, after a promising early lead has disappeared and the entire forward line has been sucked into a black - or if you prefer Brown - hole.


  1. It's won't be deesy under Albanese

  2. What a massive game from Max! He couldn’t have done much more to haul us over the line. With 10 minutes to go I still thought we’d do enough to hang on.
    Credit to Viney too for clean handling when plenty of his teammates were fumbling.
    3. Gawn 2. Viney 1. Brayshaw

    Setting aside umpiring decisions (throughout the match, not just the last two shockers) we missed gettable set shots. Sydney probably would have given up if we’d kicked one of B.Brown/Fritsch/ANB. More concerning is that a few guys appear to be playing with injuries. We just need to somehow get over Collingwood then wheel the team into the workshop for repairs.

    I think you mean our forward structure is better WITH McDonald.


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