Friday 8 July 2022

The Spoiler

The staff and management of apologise in advance for the least complete review of a home and away match for about 15 years. This is due to a) the lead-up to a hated Thursday night match giving me the shits to the point where I didn't even want to watch, b) losing, and c) the biggest technological stab in the back of a generation just as I was starting to get into the spirit of things.

To cut a shorter story than usual even shorter, we failed to resurrect the spirit of Brisbane, sliding to a loss by a flattering margin that unswept everything that went under the rug two Thursdays previous. Even a win wouldn't have convinced me we were closer to a flag than that morning, but defeat leaves our top four hopes hanging by something only slightly more robust than a thread.

It was great to have Gawn back in the centre bounce, getting the first tap and... watching the ball fling towards Geelong's goal for what should have been the opener after 15 seconds. Somewhere The Weid was smiling, remembering how his brave efforts to stop the Crows running away with it last week helped us win the clearances. His reward was a trip to Geelong, unfortunately to play in an oddly fixtured VFL game 24 hours after the main event. It's probably fantasy - and happy memories of 2018 - to say we could have done with him in the forward line instead of sitting on the couch. 

As we discussed last week, hitouts are the worst way of judging a ruckman's worth. The around the ground stuff makes a difference, and the package reintroduction of Max and Jackson helped us get more big men to contests around the ground. Shame they didn't do much when they got there, with Gawn having a red hot go all night with little impact. It was his first mark-free game since 2018, and second since 2013. I'm sure everyone got the same "my mate painted Max's house and his foot is still rooted" email, but after this I can believe he was painkillered to the eyeballs. For what benefit in Round 17 I'm not sure, especially with his soon to be ex-protege coming back at the same time. Jackson didn't do much either, certainly nothing that would add to the enormous wedge being thrown at him.

Suffice to say that a pressure game didn't suit us. We wobbled to the line last week, thanks mostly to the midfielders who treated their opposition with contempt but you can't play Adelaide every week. This time the 'crash through or crash' approach usually ended in crash. Either a player - often Jack Viney - would rely on his natural aptitude for barging and come unstuck, or somebody - in one notable case Jake Bowey - thought he had far more time than he did and was mown down like prey in a nature documentary.

After the near miss in the opening seconds we recovered to go two goals in front. As predicted a few weeks ago the blown leads are slowly descending from a high of five goals against Freo, and should be down to just kicking the first goal next week before throwing in the towel. For all our crimes against disposal, highlighted by May playing as if he was waiting for Hawkins to elbow him in the head again at any time - it's not like we weren't doing similar to them. My favourite bit was the delightful chase by the Anal-Bullet that stopped them streaming through the middle. 

The difference was they had a forward line with so many prongs that the big two could afford to take the night off, while we were left heaving it to defenders 40 metres out and watching it boing the other way like a rocket. Tom Stewart would have been shattered at missing out on the first ever 50 touch game by a backman. It's not like we were playing to either their strengths, but Pickett and Bedford aren't helping by barely getting a touch. After the false start against Brisbane where it looked like a smaller forward line was the next big thing we're back to looking desperately short of a forward target to stand alongside Brown and crack open space for Fritsch.

After a hot start Brown didn't do much but marked everything that came near him up the ground in the early minutes. Which is fantastic, especially in a week where a half-fit Max had three players jumping on him in every contest, but makes you wonder what they expect to happen when our most likely forward target is standing with the ball on the wing. It was back to classic Jesse Hogan where he was simultaneously our best marking target at half-back, wing, half-forward, and inside 50. 

There was a sense that we weren't going to be able to string this out for four quarters, but I had the same feeling against the Lions and look how well that turned out. We just never got the same psychological break as that night. Brown kicked a goal from an outrageous angle, but they responded with an even zanier one where the good Guthrie was practically standing outside Ripper Roasts (bonus local reference for Geelong readers) when it went through. On the other hand, our old mate Zac Tuohy wasn't as successful from a set shot without the game on the line.

Regardless of how relatively well it was going on the scoreboard, they were the better side. Didn't mean they needed to be for the rest of the night, we could have absorbed their best punches and run over the top. Alas no, and funnily enough just as they beat us Chris Scott didn't need to fall back on excuses about his players battling Japanese Encephalitis.

The second quarter was much of the same, only without us kicking the first two goals. Nobody got one at all for 10 minutes. The closest we came was Gawn juggling a mark onto the post before playing on and hoofing the ball over the construction site as hard as possible. Hope it didn't catch a sprocket on the way through or that'll be another $100,000 on the bill to taxpayers.

All my biases were confirmed when Geelong finally got the first, before Oliver responded with a lovely set shot. With our backline - early comedy bloopers by May aside - holding their biggest hitters, everything was still up for grabs if we kicked a decent score. We did not, but kept things interesting until half time by immediately cancelling their next goal within seconds. All of this played out against the backdrop of the home fans braying like escaped mental patients over the umpiring. The good news was that they could be on the wrong end of every 50/50 decision in the book and we still weren't in any position to capitalise.

Halfway through the third quarter we were still hanging around like a bad smell when the moment arrived that I've feared since internet streaming became a thing. After years of pausing games in the middle and coming back to keep watching as if live, Kayo, buffered for a second, said "fuck you", then leapt straight to live coverage of the post-game show with the final score in the top left corner of the screen. It saved me an hour of watching lame attempts to reel in a better side but I still blew my top. 

Should have known their recent price rise hadn't gone towards the customer when last week skipped back to the start of the coverage with three minutes to play. At the time I thought how bad that would be in the dying seconds of a thriller, but never considered that it would ever go forward rather than back. Chances are I'm going to have to pause games again in the future, now I'll sit there shitscared of the same thing happening. I suppose the safe option is to stop the coverage entirely, then choose 'watch from start' and manually skip to where I'd left it, but how can that be trusted either? What a rotten way to live.

Tell you what though, given that I saw the Kardinia Park comeback in the same circumstances last year, they picked the right time to dud me out of seeing the end of a game. The flag would have eventually been fair compensation, but if I'd missed the end of that game effectively live I might have set fire to something.

I already knew which direction the game was going so being stitched up out of seeing the last quarter and a half annoyed me far more than the actual result. Ultimately the final score is just a number, it's about the experience of getting to that point. If I didn't go through that the game may as well have been Round 6, 1974 for all it mattered to me. Could have saved a lot of time over the years as an "I saw the scores, how did we play?" token fan but opted for the lunatic route instead. Somewhere along the line I ended up responsible for a bunch of people and occasionally have to prioritise them over some kents kicking a footy.  

Anyone with a sliver of professionalism would go back and rewatch the missing bits for the sake of the review, and had we won I certainly would have. This probably makes it the first full quarter for premiership points that I've not seen a minute of since walking out of Kardinia Park at half time in 2009 after failing to dress adequately for arctic conditions. At least that day I listened to us going gently to death in the car on my way home and filed a convincing report. This time I'm just phoning the rest in based on what others have written. Apologies, but if you knew my general state of disarray you'd understand.

Seems like I didn't miss much, they continued to hold us at arms' length while we never got enough of a flow to get back in front. I'd have been infused with all sorts of false hope if I'd been around for the two goals at the end of the quarter that cut the margin back to 12, and would have been genuinely upset at getting back to single figures midway through the last before collapsing like Italy in World War II. But because I had the final score sprung on me by surprise it didn't hurt all that much. Apparently Selwood kicked Oliver's thumb off, so that'll probably come back to haunt us.

This guy certainly enjoyed it, though not sure who he was aiming it at when there were about 45 Melbourne fans in the ground. Good luck to him, by local standards it's a positive sign that he's not transitioning into a cat Maureen Ponderosa style. Must be odd to go for a team that's good every year but hasn't won bugger all for a decade. If you'd asked one of them which team's future they'd prefer in 2012 I wonder if they'd take never being shit or emerging from misery for one flag.

I'm continually amazed at how long Geelong has been up for. Given they've never bottomed out since colour TV was introduced it shouldn't be a surprise, but they just won't go away. You'd like to think their pyramid scheme recruiting of experienced players and lack of high draft picks will eventually end tragically but we were stitched up by the middle division here so who knows if they'll ever properly fall apart. Other than Scott looking like a cult leader who's eventually going to make all the players drink poison and a general disdain for Dangerfield's brand of comedy, I haven't got that much against them. Will still celebrate if they ever go tits up because everyone deserves to follow a trainwreck once in their life. 

Whether I saw it or not, it happened, and leaves us where we started the evening - one of several good but not great sides whose flag hopes rest on everything coming together in September. Not worth booking a holiday over the Grand Final long weekend yet but you might want to start thinking about it.

2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Due to The Fiasco, the following have been taken as a consensus from fan votes on forums. Because if you can't trust people on forums who can you trust? Next time this happens we'll be trawling anti-vax Facebook groups and learning which brand of oven cleaner you can stick up your arse to stave off COVID.

5 - Jack Viney
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Jake Lever
1 - Clayton Oliver

Apologies to nil.

Minor impact on Oliver's lead, but he still retains a comfortable gap at the top. I've seen enough in the Stynes, a five BOG lead is enough to make me believe Maximum is unbeatable. If Jackson can stop flirting with every club west of Oodnadatta he's welcome to try and prove me wrong. That will be a ninth win in this category for Max, and his eighth in a row.

44 - Clayton Oliver
32 - Christian Petracca
29 - Jack Viney
25 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
19 - Angus Brayshaw (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Ed Langdon
15 - Steven May
9 - Jake Bowey
6 - Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen, Harrison Petty
5 - James Harmes, Luke Jackson, James Jordon
4 - Tom Sparrow
3 - Ben Brown, 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
Nobody else is doing a version of this that I can steal, so despite doing nothing after quarter time I'm going to opt for Ben Brown's plus-size drop punt from the boundary line. For the weekly prize he wins a slab of broccoli, which we hope will help him recapture form. Unlike the AFL ladder, there's no change to the top three.

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

Next Week
Back to Alice Springs to play Port, who will likely have more support amongst the handful of fans in attendance. I wouldn't care if there were 130 present as long as we got paid the normal fee for turning up, and come home with four points. Because if we don't, and they're not going to be the same walkover as earlier in the season, things are going to get very ropey by the end of the year. 

You'd think that natural talent would see us right against at one of Footscray, Freo, Collingwood, Carlton or Brisbane in the run home but none are certainties so don't rule out a graceless flop into the bottom rungs of the eight just yet. Or worse.

I'm not committing to any major changes until I see Casey play, but we need a second tall to take the heat off Fritsch and Brown. Whether Weid has done enough to deserve the spot is irrelevant now, he's it by default and must be given a decent chance to establish himself in McDonald's absence. If he doesn't go near it for a month then we can draw the curtains and trade him for pick 300 knowing that we gave him a chance and tried to clear some space for the other forwards.

And as Oliver's crocked for a week minimum I suppose Dunstan comes in. Not like-for-like in the talent stakes, but just the insurance scenario that we recruited him for in the first place.

We just have to win don't we? Don't we?

IN: Dunstan, Weideman
OUT: Bedford (omit), Oliver (inj)
LUCKY: Bowey, Brown, Pickett, Spargo, Sparrow
UNLUCKY: Nil pending Casey result

The All New Bradbury Plan

If we do something stupid like losing to Port, the top eight plan could be relevant again. For now we'll concentrate on the double chance. So, without factoring in what happens in games that haven't been played yet it's...

Footscray d. St Kilda (could switch depending on results this week)
Adelaide d. Collingwood
GWS d. Brisbane
North d. Richmond
Geelong d. Carlton (the Cats are a lock, concentate on knocking the other contenders out ASAP)
Sydney d. Fremantle (reverse if you're on a top eight plan)

Hawthorn/West Coast and Essendon/Gold Coast are irrelevant in all senses of the word. 

Final thoughts
To ease my frustrations at the universe I used the surprise extra time in my evening to go for a walk. The moment I opened the door it started pouring rain. May as well just piss on me while I'm down here.

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