Sunday 31 July 2022

Funny/Piss Funny

There's plenty to be said for flying to the other side of the country and rebooting your premiership defence by holding the locals to a pitiful score. But after 33 years of watching footy, I've discovered that some of the most satisfying wins are when umpiring causes an interstate crowd to lose their mind. You can't help but enjoy the pure innocence of people who usually 'convince' their team to an advantage losing their mind because things go against them for once.

A night of enjoyable niggle was kicked off by the well-known pugilist Jake Melksham, who ensured a salty atmosphere by snatching a 'comedy' Luke Jackson to Freo jumper waved by some poon probably more interested in TikTok engagement than recruiting. Melk probably didn't need to do it, but it was hardly an Oceans 11 heist given that it was returned to the same nuffy to have another, equally humourless go after the siren. Now I hope Jackson goes to West Coast and all they're left with is $120 of ruined fabric.

This incident will fit nicely into the movie script I'm writing about Melk's year. It's just the sort of sensitive tear-jerker the Academy Awards will love - player who has previously been doped with unknown substances by another club is in the twilight of his career, finds his career at a crossroads, spends a lot of time playing on shit suburban grounds, misses a famous Grand Final triumph, breaks his hand punching lippy teammate for being rude about it, sets the appropriate atmosphere for double chance saving game by grabbing jumper from dickhead in crowd, holds his spot through finals, then kicks the winning goal in the Grand Final. 

I'm already planning the final scene - he and May accidentally run into each other during the post-match celebration, and with fans behind them going absolutely bonkers Steven turns and says "I always knew we'd win one with you". They embrace and laugh as we pull back to an aerial shot and credits roll like the end of Lethal Weapon 2. 

We've all had a good old fashioned sook about umpiring, but I speak from years of experience in saying nobody else is at fault when you kick 5.9. I knew last week didn't represent the real Melbourne but could only stretch my belief as far as coming out on top in an arm-wrestle. Putting the opposition to sleep with a savage strangulation seemed a step too far. We got an assist from inclement weather and one of the worst forward lines ever fielded by a prospective premier, but you'd have to be the most purple-clad lunatic alive to argue that the result and margin weren't fully deserved.

You may remember roughly the same Freo team ending the most popular winning streak in history via a thunderous 70 point turnaround earlier in the season. Justin 'brother of' Longmuir obviously had fun because he wheeled out all the stuff that worked well that day. This meant the much anticipated (?) rematch between May and converted defender/Kingsley aspirant Griffin Logue. The original attempt to tag a key position defender with... a key position defender was short-circuited by May's concussion, but now we know it would have ended in our man still doing pretty much what he liked while theirs offered some of the stinkiest set shots of the season. Out of respect for May we won't declare it a 'knockout' win, but should we cross paths in the finals I don't think they'll bother trying it again.

Unfortunately this also meant another round of Oliver being tagged into the ground. Congratulations to James Aish, who prompted thousands to say "I didn't even know he still played" at their first meeting, but has gone where thousands of others have failed and cracked Clayts' code. Bad news for Oliver's Brownlow prospects, but good news for Petracca and/or Viney, freed to run riot all night. Good luck stopping the #1 prospect, but if you haven't got a plan for #2 and #3 you're rooted. 

Have I told you lately how much I love Viney? He might have donated one of their few goals with a loose handball, but 30 minutes later he was setting up goals with a Robbie Flower impersonation and you're ready to propose marriage. A reminder that some people were happy to give this man to Geelong for nothing a couple of years ago....

I love making judgements based on disposal efficiency (even knowing that the number is pointless because it doesn't take the situation into account), but if you base everything on his numbers you're missing the point. Just over half his disposals were 'efficient', and only one in four kicks, but the ones that came off were delightful and important. Maybe I'm willing to forgive everything because he's club royalty, but I'll engage in a knife fight on a city street to defend Jack's honour.  

In an additional midfield pisstake we threw the Brayshaw into the centre bounce for the first time all season and his 're-signed for a motza energy' had them scrambling too. He was very good again, proving to be a man of all positions. May as well throw him forward if things ever get dire.

Enjoyable result aside, this was anything but a classic game. It still had so many small moments of enjoyment that I wish there was time to take in the whole replay and not miss any. Alas, my sliver of spare time was taken up finding the right Lethal Weapon clip so sorry if your favourites missed out. Leave a comment, and if it's not about unlicensed medical treatment it will live forever under the post.

Some people, probably the blind community, loved Freo bringing back one of the worst jumpers in history. Forgot NRL players running screaming from pride jumpers, I'd have invented religious and cultural reasons to get out of having to wear it. This Microsoft clip art monstrosity was rotten when Tony Modra kicked 10 and hasn't gotten any better with age. On a barely related note, the Dockers celebrated the opening of Perth Stadium with a jumper that looked like it was being pelted with an apocalyptic meteor shower. Which is odd.

We joined the retro round fun by clobbering a team at Perth Stadium, and the ground itself put on a tribute to 'Death Valley' era Docklands. It was patchier than a teenager's face, with large parts of the ground the same luminous light green as an indoor cricket pitch. I haven't seen a Perth ground in such bad nick since we played a pre-season game there immediately after an Adele concert and The Spencil kicked three. It is still, based purely on our last six appearances there across both genders, the best ground in Australia.  

Despite many outing themselves as malakas by buying that dreadful heritage strip, Freo fans were still comfortable howling at umpires like they were war criminals. To be fair, they might have had a point with our first goal. After we'd opened with three behinds, all that looked like being wiped out x2 when the Dockers had the ball right in front of goal. There Petty absolutely infringed against an opponent, but we got away it, and rocketed down the other end to drop the ball on Pickett right in front of goal.

It was good that Kysaiah got that, because earlier he'd risked being cancelled for ignoring a free teammate to have a ping. Sure, he's built his career on having shots from ridiculous positions but let's get moral about him not stopping while hard on the boundary and trying to square the ball to a teammate with three defenders on him. Apparently, at one of the pre-match breakfasts, Goodwin was raving about how happy they were at Fritsch selflessly trying that pass in the final quarter last week. I don't get it, but he's the premiership coach so I'll take his word for it. Bayley later kicked a goal from pocket that he could easily have tried passing, but because it went through nobody cared.

Pickett had another successful night in front of goal, extending his run to 11 goals in three weeks after a mid-season dip, but returns to Melbourne $1000 poorer after being fined for staging. This is a bit embarrassing for everybody involved, but I won't lose any love for him, as far as I'm concerned premiership players are a secret society who can do as they like. It does set up the comedy angle of a lifetime next week when he's paid a contentious, game-winning free after the Pies bloke who leaps into tackles like a Mexican cliff diver has gone unrewarded all night. Weird, cultlike Collingwood people who figuratively and literally have nothing else going on could actually come over the fence if this happens.

Despite having Oliver and Gawn reasonably well covered, Freo floundered enough to let us get the first three goals. I'd love to have got excited, and would ultimately have been right, but considering what happened last time we played them (much less against every other team we've been that far ahead of this year) left me confused about how to feel. Nobody's going to ever turn down a start like that, but our vaudeville approach to holding leads still had me sweating.

At first, a few us would have been nodding our heads and going "ahh, that's what I thought was going to happen" when Freo got the next two. In order to temporarily balance the umpiring ledger, the second came courtesy of Hibberd being done for below the knee 'contact' when he was reaching for the ball and the 3D person clattered over him.

In another throwback to the Grand Final, once the opposition went alright for a bit when they settled down and stopped looking terrified. There was also the added complication of Lever hobbling off with an ankle injury. Returning professional substitute Kade Chandler must have got a bit of a spring in his step, thinking he was about to play 3.5 quarters in the seniors for once. Turns out Lever had just rolled it and was able to return, leaving Kade to keep playing David Brent style vibe merchant on the bench, pumping up his teammates as they came off.

Nobody's career has been slaughtered by the medical sub rule like Kade's, and this was one of four times where somebody was half-crocked, but not enough to have to come out of the game. His reward was to fly back on a red eye flight then play for Casey hours later. I still have absolutely NFI if he can play AFL, but I've got sympathy with him flying around the country like Charles Kingsford-Smith just to sit on his arse all night.

As much as I'd like him to get a chance, I'm happy that none of Lever's ankle issues, Salem's rearranged nose, Hibberd's dicky hamstring, or Jackson staring blankly at a doctor (not sure if concussed or that's just what he does) were enough to take them out of the game. What rotten luck to not only be stuck in a selection queue behind half a dozen premiership players, but to also be at one of the few clubs in the league that's not rorting the sub rule blind.

Despite being stereotyped as Mr. Tracksuit Time, this was the first of Chandler's four sub appearances this year where he didn't get on the ground. Still, two full games in 10 career starts is a bullshit way to see your career go past. Maybe he'll get a go - either with us or elsewhere - turn out to be no good and look back fondly on pocketing match payments for a couple of years based on potential. We should find out by loaning him to a shit club for a year, then getting him back when he's got more experience. I'd just like to see him play against non-VFL opposition, at this stage I'm not even sure what to do expect when he does play, other than killing a West Coast player. Had the ground been in the same state that night, his chasedown tackle may have caused an actual fatality.

The hot start had - seemingly - fizzed out a lot earlier than last time. Enter Fritsch to keep his feet superbly after a marking contest and reestablish the two goal buffer. We could have had another if the quarter went 10 seconds longer but no need to be greedy, I was just happy to be ahead. Also would have been a great last goal because the ball bouncing directly into Pickett's hands 15 metres from goal came directly from another unpaid free that had fans screaming.

We might have let in two quick goals, but it was not the same calibre of game or opposition as last week. Playing the Bulldogs under a roof promoted the sort of free and easy atmosphere that doesn't suit us, a jungle warfare slog in the rain was more like it. Freo responded by not kicking a goal for the first 28 minutes of the second quarter, while we while we went back to doing what we liked.

About their only success in that time was the other Brayshaw (not to be confused with the other other Brayshaw or the bloke who speaks nonsense on Channel 7) mowing Jackson down with a tackle. Somebody probably thinks the following 'cop that you bastard' head rub will make Jacko think twice about joining the Dockers. As far as ridiculous reasons for turning them down go, it would be second only to the person who booed him for...  not signing before he's legally allowed to? Possibly a Melbourne fan getting in early. Or a Freo fan who doesn't want to spend a fortune on him when they've already got the bloke who looks like Dan Aykroyd after sucking on an air hose. Justin Longmuir, make sure there's no hard feelings by giving us your Brayshaw. We'll let the third one play at Casey if that helps. 

Inflatable Aykroyd also provided a highlight by walloping Petracca in the back. There wasn't much in the blow but I enjoyed Christian's indignant yelling at him like a displeased parent. 

If I had the chance to yell abuse at Dan it would be about Caddyshack II

As much as I used to enjoy the Media Watch segment, there's not much unique shit left to hang on Channel 7. This time they spent about five minutes on Whisperin' Brian Taylor speaking in hushed tones about life after Jackson as if he was about to die of a serious illness. People defend this clod on the ground that he brings 'colour' to the call. That colour is brown.

As the margin ticked towards what it had been that time at the MCG, I was left mentally bargaining that we'd still win because a) there was more on the line now, b) May was still out there, and c) it was set to bucket down again at any time. Their forward structure was so bad it's hard to see how they could have caught us without seriously injuring several defenders but I've seen losses to worse from further ahead before so there were no grounds for relaxation.

It was briefly back to 'annoy the fans' mode when a mammoth rundown on an indecisive Viney ended in him getting a high contact free. This was a case of a technically correct decision that I don't morally agree with - if the impact of the tackle is somewhere else on the body and an arm gently wafts across the shoulder you should reward the tackler. In this case it was good because we got to laugh at angry fans. The man Alan Richardson would have kicked for his life missed from right in front anyway, so no harm done.

There was so much different about this game than our earlier collapse against the Dockers that it was almost stupid to draw comparisons, but I still thought "here we go again" after conceding in the last 30 seconds. This came much to the tremendous delight of this fellow. I'm with the guy on the left of screen, refusing to get excited about one goal when you're six down.

That left me a bit uncomfortable through half time but I was still as confident as I ever am that we'll win. Which by community standards is still not very confident. The backline had done very well but you couldn't rule out Maggie Taberer and friends getting on a couple of fluky ones, while we'd been kicking them from everywhere until now so who knew if that could go on forever. Would have nice of the Weid had got any sort of disposal. Last week he kicked three goals when we delivered the ball to him on a platter, this time he couldn't get near it no matter how hard he tried. For those of us who've defended him it was... not good.

Doubt and fear were starting to seep through when, after seven goalless minutes for both sides, they crumbed one to bring the margin under four goals. Hello again Fritsch, having another great night on his favourite ground, belting through a set shot from 50 metres out on a tight angle to restore some sanity to proceedings. It barely took a minute after the Dockers' breakthrough goal, which must have been deflating. Probably not as much as letting the Weid mark one on the line mid-wrestle with an opponent. It was his first and last disposal for the night, but at least that's good scoring efficiency.

Despite Salem going down with a temporary case of death, Freo had the attack power of Greenland's air force and couldn't take advantage. Just to prove everything was going against them, just as it started pissing down a defender accidentally toepoked the ball on the full in the forward pocket. This gave Spargo the chance to finally kick the goal from the pocket that he was cruelly denied by a squibbing umpire in Adelaide last year. It didn't feel right but we could even have crossed the Chris Sullivan Line if Gawn hadn't unloaded an absolute dog of a set shot at the end. Lucky for him it was only five minutes earlier that a Docker had put one straight over the line from 20 metres out so nobody will remember it.

Good thing we had it as good as won by three quarter time, because the last quarter was a slopfest. I don't know why them finally kicking the opener eight minutes in worried me so much, we were further ahead than we had been at that point in the Grand Final but there was still something worrying me. This was stupid considering that even when they got a goal they were still half our score with 13 minutes to play. Enter the resurgent Melksham, setting up Pickett to waltz towards goal in "stick that up your arse" mode to make sure of it by any measure. I'd like to think he was inviting Freo to take their Word Art jumper and get off our ground.

Things had deteriorated so far that Channel 7 switched from its "idiots speaking tripe" coverage to some weird unit necking a drink out of his shoe. People go wild for this sort of thing - and I'm astonished that the broadcaster didn't ruin the historical record of this match by devoting 30 minutes to the boundary umpire's mullet - but I think people like this and their supporters should be kept on the other side of the country by force if necessary. They can take BT with them, who wondered what you made of it all when a kick by one of our players towards the boundary wasn't paid deliberate because Freo got their first and took it out. In 100 years people living on Mars are going to watch highlights of old-school footy and PISS THEMSELVES at this poon being allowed to speak over the top of the peak professional sporting competition in the country.

The locals had already taken to throwing pissy little plastic cups at the ground in frustration (lucky old mate didn't fling his shoe), so it was good to throw in a couple more dodgy decisions to really get them going home with steam coming from the ears. First Lobb and his stupid Ginivan-esque hair being denied a mark in front of goal, then Spargo wandering so far over the mark that he was almost halfway through reacting to giving away a 50 before it wasn't paid. 

Even if Maggie T had kicked the goal on the siren it would have still been their lowest ever score against us. In a classic COVID quirk the previous record holder was when they beat us in Cairns in 2020, so you can only imagine how bad we were that night. If you believe the secessionists in attendance, the new record was due entirely to dodgy umpiring. If that's what keeps you from sticking a fork in the light socket go with it, we'll be over here trying to win flags again. God knows how successfully, but the dream remains alive.

2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jack Viney
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - Bayley Fritsch
2 - Angus Brayshaw
1 - Harrison Petty

Significant apologies to Lever, May, Melksham, Pickett. Some level of apology to many others

If other teams can find effective taggers for Oliver it could be on at the top here. Forget that, what about the potential controversy about Brayshaw picking up Seecamp votes as a midfielder? One week doesn't DQ him but the committee will be meeting if he starts in the middle again next week. Great news for fans of Steven May. No change in the other categories.

49 - Clayton Oliver
40 - Christian Petracca
35 - Jack Viney
--- Can't win without two finals ---
26 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
23 - Angus Brayshaw (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
--- Can't win without three finals ---
19 - Ed Langdon, Steven May
--- Can't win full stop ---
9 - Jake Bowey
8 - Kysaiah Pickett
7 - Bayley Fritsch, Harrison Petty
6 - Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - James Harmes, Luke Jackson, James Jordon
4 - Tom Sparrow
3 - Ben Brown, Michael Hibberd
2 - Adam Tomlinson
1 - Toby Bedford (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo, Sam Weideman

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
As much as I enjoyed Fritsch's pick up, wheel around and snap in the first quarter It's got to be Spargo from the pocket. Partly for general degree of difficulty in pelting rain and the stage the game was at, but mostly because it furthers my belief that we were robbed at the Adelaide Oval last year. He wins a free round of whatever it is that he was caught breaking COVID isolation rules to do a couple of years ago. No change to the leaderboard.

1st - Langdon vs Essendon
2nd - Pickett vs Port (this one)
3rd - Pickett vs GWS

Next Week
I'm sure neutrals are positively quivering over defending premiers vs Collingwood side that has won 10 straight via so many fluky finishes that they've practically become an artform. It'll be a ball-tearer for everybody else, I'll be silently rocking in a corner until such point as we're confirmed winners - and that won't be while they're kicking in with 30 seconds left - and none of us has to hear from the several dozen Pies fans in our lives. 

It does promise to be massive. Both sides are confirmed finalists, but given that each plays alleged contenders in the last two weeks it could send the loser into a death spiral out of the four. We're used to rebuilding our season on the run, hopefully if we win it'll machine-gun their morale and lead to explosive decompression. All I know is that if Mason C. Ox has a third Kingsley level game against us I could self-harm.

Unless Jackson comes down with a Harmes style delayed concussion or somebody got Deep Vein Thrombosis on the flight back there shouldn't be too many changes. The bad news for Harmes is that his injury might come back to haunt him at the wrong time. We don't really need him to wither and die in the forward line, but Brayshaw was such a hit in his return to the midfield that there's probably no spot for him there either. He's a loveable character so I hate to do him a mischief, but he may have to bide his time with the unstoppable Casey Demons and wait for an opportunity. I love his joyful nature but we're trying to win a flag here.

Speaking of Bambi shooting scenarios, it feels hypocritical throwing the Weid on the scrapheap a couple of weeks after I said we should just play him for a few weeks and damn the consequences. That was before Melksham's career revival, and more importantly before Weid himself went from an average but profitable three goal game to getting one accidental kick. I'd like to find a way to keep him because I don't trust us to use Brown on his own, but whatever he does it'll probably be more than Sam did this week. It is 100% time for Weid to engineer a Chandler-esque move to a shit team where he can just play every week. He's not going to win the Coleman but there's a half-decent league forward in there somewhere. Probably time for us to move on though...

... and if we are going to move, the next cab off the rank in our post-Neitz quest for a home-grown full forward is van Rooyen. Last week I thought it was the time to play him, now I can see they're happy to only play one tall so he's not going to be picked to debut in front of 70,000 people with seasons potentially on the line. He kicked another five in the VFL today, admittedly against dire opposition, and would have already walked into lesser teams but if they weren't going to start the Bowey preparation this week I doubt it's going to happen after. See also Laurie. Either or both could get a run this year if things get drastic but should be kicking the door down to play Round 1 next year. Yes please on both counts.

I'm just going to be ridiculously optimistic and say we win. It would be rude for them to turn up properly now after barely beating rubbish sides for weeks. 

IN: B. Brown
OUT: Weideman (omit)
LUCKY: Neal-Bullen
UNLUCKY: Chandler, Harmes, Laurie, van Rooyen and all the usual suspects

The All New Bradbury Plan

Now that the top eight plan is officially shelved - and thank christ for that - we can concentrate on the four. This means more dead rubbers - so next week you can take Hawthorn/Gold Coast, GWS/Essendon, Port/Richmond and West Coast/Adelaide out the back and shoot them. All the action is in:

Footscray d. Fremantle
St. Kilda d. Geelong
North d. Sydney
Carlton d. Brisbane

I now think we'll finish fourth, ahead of Sydney on percentage, and play Geelong in the first week. Which is both terrifying and a good opportunity to get them just as the creaky players started to fall over.

Final thoughts
Everything is alright with the world again. Until the next loss when the sky will be falling again. 

1 comment:

  1. This is your funniest article for a while. Cheers man that was hilarious. Did you see Connolly’s latest Footyology article about Neeld’s legacy and it’s unexpected redemption arc?


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