Tuesday 11 October 2022

Cruelty to animals

If you're going to play in a competition with only three good teams, best to be inside the tent looking out. A lot has been said, not much of it complimentary, about how bad the expansion teams are but it must be hard for fans of foundation clubs like Carlton and GWS (come on, be polite) to be watching dripping, rancid slop after seven seasons. It's not like they've been rubbish in the meantime, both have made finals, and via one of the worst competition structures ever devised the Blues even made a Grand Final. Now both are shite, but I didn't expect the Bulldogs to join the party with such relish.

Unlike the last time we pummelled a team called Footscray, it's unclear if there was any angst over a song that never made the Australian top 40. What we got instead was a pre-match address from Dogs coach Nathan Bourke that rivalled Adelaide's power stance for summoning up mystical spirits, standing in a circle of players holding hands and saying Melbourne "don't deserve to break this bond" or similar. This is probably the sort of nonsense all coaches do, but it's high risk letting the cameras film it in case the results goes tits up. See, for example, Mark Neeld's address that inspired us to keep the margin against Essendon to just 148.

To be fair to Bourke and his players, the bond took a while to stretch beyond breaking point and explode all over the south eastern suburbs. Given that they were kicking into the wind, (at Casey of all places...), a scoreless first quarter where the ball was permanently camped down our end isn't as bad as it sounds when you consider how many opportunities we failed to capitalise on. The dam wall burst eventually, but not before a few scary moments where it looked like we were going to leave in the game for as long as possible.

Judged purely on territory occupied, we were so dominant that the United Nations should have been invited to mediate. Which might have been a moral victory, but did nothing when our best scoring chance was Harris and a defender co-marking the ball. Apparently the same defender then disappeared into outer space, because the next thing you knew Paxman was heaving a handball to Tayla on her own at the top of the square. Consistent with her regular approach, she kicked the absolute buggery out of the ball, to the point where the goal umpire's life probably flashed before his eyes.

On the subject of Carlton not being any good all these years later, how good was it to get her on the cheap in the original multi-team MegaDealand land possession accumulation machine Purcell at the same time? I don't care what sort of controversy was going on behind the scenes, she was very good last year, and other than the week off via unnecessary suspension has been better this time. 

All at our end for nothing better than Harris and a defender co-marking the ball. That defender apparently then disappeared into outer space because the next thing you know Paxman was lobbing a handball to Tayla standing on her own at the top of the square. Consistent with her regular approach, Harris kicked buggery out of the ball, to the point where it might have killed anyone who'd been standing in the way. Given that Harris seems to have been around forever, you may also have missed the bit where she's only 25. Several years more of this sort of thing please.

If nothing else, we now had six points on the board. There's been a lot of games this year where that score would have won the game, but I spent the first two and a half quarters waiting for a Bulldog response that never came. While you were waiting in vain for them to turn up, or for our ruthless streak to kick in, most of the fun was in what could be heard in the effects mic. When a kid (?) was caught screaming "SHE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE IT!!!" I was desperately hoping that somebody would be caught saying something offensive. Sadly not, or Channel 7 realised and lowered the sensitivity of the microphone before losing their licence.

When we gently chipped around an absent backline to set Harris up 40 metres out, with the wind, and without much angle, I had glorious visions of her kicking double figures, but this time the kicking of cover from ball went wrong, landing it out on the full. And that was as close as we got to another, on the rare occasions the Dogs got the ball to the right of screen it was instantly turned away, but we toiled away for just one more scoring shot. Inside 50s are the worst stat of all time, unless they help support your point, and 12-1 for a seven point lead was a bit wasteful. As always, it brought back memories of the time we get Freo to none in the first quarter and still lost.

In a win for the people who hatewatch AFLW for political reasons, AAMI are apparently donating $10 for every clanger this season. Their Chief Financial Officer would have winced every (admittedly rare) time Footscray got the ball from here, because they had absolutely no idea what they were doing. Ellie Blackburn should be on the phone to Nathan Jones for advice on how to deal with a sore back from carrying an entire team. Alternatively, having had her fun with the Dogs and winning a flag she should come home to where it all began. 

Concerns that we'd wasted what kept being talked up as a savage wind (but didn't look like one on TV) were heightened when the Dogs were having a shot 25 seconds into the second quarter. Long term viewers of any gender of Melbourne weren't surprised that the player who'd previously kicked one goal in 23 games landed it. "Oh shit" I thought, the Bulldogs said "that'll do us" and didn't get another for the rest of the day. 

From here, almost every highlight involves us slowly tormenting the Dogs until they collectively lost the will to live. For one good thing that didn't lead to a goal, let me reiterate how much fun I'm having watching Blaithin Mackin. At one point she ran down the wing taking bounces like Travis Johnstone, then set up Harris to pull down a tremendous one handed mark. Alas, this time Tayla's 100kmh style failed, with a quick play on and long bomb missing. 

Who knows if she played on because the wind would affect the set shot, or if she would have gone at that speed under any conditions, but I was still nervous about a comeback. Especially because we'd started pinging away madly at the allegedly wind-affected end of the ground. Finally the umpires did their bit to get us going, blatantly ignoring Zanker fiercely shoving an opponent out of the contest, ultimately leading to Hanks giving off to Bannan running into an open goal.

That was all the fragile visitors could stand, the next thing you know West's mowdown tackle was advanced to point blank range by a 50 and the wind could officially rack off. The ball went straight back down our end and we piled on an endless supply of behinds from every possible angle. Things were going so strongly in our favour that even when Hore didn't make the distance from 30 metres it still found Daisy in the pocket. She opened the angle more than any player in the history of the game but sliced it in off the post, leaving the door arguably ajar for us to be run down after half time. Remember, at this time it wasn't entirely clear how badly we were going to tonk them off the park.

The captain's miss unexpectedly led to carnage for her teammates, setting up the loose ball that Pearce (L) and Paxman clobbered heads over. Tellingly they were able to do this because there was no opponent within the same local government area. Paxman was left dripping blood like she'd just been run through a woodchipper, and my nerves about a collapse were not helped by the prospect of playing two short for the second. Had it come to that I'd have grudgingly had to accept that it was better that the game was being played in spring and not a 38 degrees summer afternoon. 

I'm not one to question the decision of qualified doctors but I've got no idea how Paxman was cleared to come back. Having to wear so much tape around the head that you look like something found in King Tut's tomb was one thing, but it's a miracle if she passed the concussion tests. Pearce did too, but in her case we opted to play safe an leave her on the bench for the second half. At the time both of them could have had fractured skulls for all we knew, so it was comforting when Zanker steered one through after the siren to extend the lead to 26.

I was reasonably confident we weren't going to lose from here, but you never know. Which is why I enjoyed Harris' ridiculous goal off the deck so much, especially as she was in the middle of being pushed over when the boot connected. Thanks to the umpire for doing us another solid by missing Bannan putting her opponent in a headlock about five seconds earlier.

Any Footscray fans slogging their way through what was now an obvious defeat would have considered doing anything else when they marked 30 metres out and failed to score. It was as comprehensive as you like, and if we hadn't already thumped Carlton and would presumably do the same to GWS, they were playing as badly as any foundation club could be expected to. And will probably still play finals, when under my Eddie McGuire-esque radical plan they'd be flat out trying to avoid relegation at the bottom of Division 1. We took an additional litre of piss out of them when Hore's centering pass from an outrageous angle skipped through for a goal.

Things were getting very bleak for Mr. Circle of Trust Nathan Bourke, and with former interim Dogs coach Sam Blease (yes, this actually happened) probably ready to launch a coup against him he chucked the magnets in the air. Forwards went back, backs went forward, Footscray went nowhere. To be fair they did kick two behinds for the quarter, while we whopped on another four into a breeze that I now believed to be fictional. 

The first FU of our 15 minute victory lap came when Goldrick decimated an opponent in a tackle, bedraggled players forgot to give the ball back, and Bannan ended with a mark and goal. She got the next one as well, taking advantage of the opposition all but left the ground. And why not, when Kayo informed me that the World Indoor Cricket Championships were also being played in the area. 

We almost conceded a goal, but their mark in the pocket led to no score after the player tried to kick about nine metres backwards to a teammate, who was subsequently wrapped up and didn't even get a shot off. There was a rare bit of good news for them at 52 points behind when what looked like a Purcell goal was called touched off the ball, then the pummelling resumed when Duffy kicked the next one anyway. 

It was all good fun, narrowly pushing ahead of Freo 2017 and West Coast 2020 as our second highest score/biggest win. Those wins both felt more savage, this was more death by a thousand cuts. It's not that the Dogs weren't having a bash, they were just methodically dismantled by a better side.

2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Tayla Harris
4 - Tyla Hanks
3 - Olivia Purcell
2 - Eliza West
1 - Sarah Lampard

Major apologies to Bannan and Hore. Other apologies to Mithen, Paxman, Zanker and pretty much everybody.

Nothing for fans of random players this week, but the top of the leaderboard is becoming a battle royale of epic proportions. With at least four games to play this could go anywhere.

18 - Olivia Purcell
17 - Tyla Hanks
14 - Tayla Harris, Karen Paxman
12 - Eliza West
8 - Lily Mithen
5 - Eden Zanker
4 - Maddie Gay, Kate Hore, Sarah Lampard (LEADER: Defender of the Year)
2 - Libby Birch
1 - Lauren Pearce

Goal of the Week 
As much as I enjoyed the lightning toe poke by Harris, we'll pretend Hore meant to have her flying shot from the boundary. But we won't pretend enough to alter the top three for the season? 

1st - Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 
2nd - Tayla Harris vs Carlton
3rd - Kate Hore vs Brisbane

Next Week 
There's more mid-table mediocrity on the cards when we travel to the Gold Coast on Saturday night. The Suns are only in the eight because Footscray's percentage collapsed like a Russian bridge, so with any luck they'll do the Dogs a favour and let us win by a massive margin again. You'd think we'd win easily but stranger things have happened. We'll be wearing the pride jumper, and in the words of Bill Hicks, if this bothers anyone I recommend you looking around at the world we live in and shutting your fucking mouth.

Final Thoughts
Fair way to celebrate a contract extension for Mick Stinear. And who'll ever say no to whipping the Dogs in any format?

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