Sunday, 26 March 2023

Hello darkness

Since discovering that Footscray are actually a steamy puddle of piss, last week's festival of entertainment doesn't seem so exciting. The first instinct after our follow-up flop against a better side is to evacuate baby with bathwater and reach for the Veil of Negativity but I'm not going into full misery mode yet. Just like Round 1 didn't prove we'd win the flag, Round 2 doesn't mean we won't. Sit back and wait for more evidence before curling up on the floor and crying. 

No team is immune from shit losses, but if there was any reason to relocate to a desert island until 2024 it was potential major injury to the greatest ruckman known to man. We won't appreciate Gawn's contribution until it's no longer available, and for 24 hours there was the prospect that we'd have to do that for the rest of the season. Instead, in a result that's shit but as good as we could have hoped for in the circumstances he'll only miss a quarter of it. You know the situation is grave when people are falling about in glee about at our most important player getting a 4-2-6 diagnosis.

As discussed endlessly during the Gawn era, it's not the rucking that makes him so good, but the general marauding around the ground, making trouble in both forward and defensive 50 and providing a reliable get out of jail target to kick at around the ground. Sure we've got a handy alternative, ex-All Australian ruckman who we're practically being paid to take but while Grundy might be good he's not Gawn good so I hope we've got an alternative strategy in Max's absence. And if Grundy goes down then form a prayer circle, because we then have the biggest gulf in quality ever recorded down to a pair of kid ruckmen who have played zero senior games in any competition.

It would be convenient to blame the Gawn Debacle for our overall inability to make a contest of this, but sadly the rot was clearly on from the first bounce when the midfield were vapourised. I've seen them beaten before, but Brisbane reduced them to a pile of ashes. Most sides won't be able to do the same, but I'd still like to reverse course ASAP before a long term trend emerges. So first we couldn't get the ball at the clearances, then our best player departed, the forward line couldn't get close to hopelessly optimistic long kicks, even if they brought it to ground there was nobody to crumb it, our small defenders didn't know where the opposition was most of the time, one of the key pillars of our backline had his worst game since debut, and even the generosity of Brisbane in putting about five set shots out on the full couldn't save us. It was a shit night, but the Lions would have thought the same about both games against us last year and look how that turned out in September? There's 21 more games to go, everything is probably going to be ok.

Maybe we should have thrown responsible adulthood/dignity out the window, played into the media narrative that we've got a death rivalry with Brisbane and punched on. Problem being that the way we were going nobody would have been able to catch anybody to brawl with. I don't buy it being presented as an Israel vs Palestine style rivalry based on one evening of spicy controversy. To the disappointment of Channel 7 and neutral sickos, both sides treated the occasion professionally instead of acting like dickheads in a pub. Which is good, as much as I'm into personal issues in footy, come up with something better to argue about. Zorko is not my kind of guy but he said something NQR, everything got sorted out via some "what about me?" moaning, Brisbane got their revenge in a game that mattered and normal people moved on.

The only serious physical contact in the opening quarter, and the only time our midfield got near anybody, was Viney cannoning off Oliver and through Gawn's lower leg. That was the end of Max for the night, and at the time god knows how long after. To the distress of morons like Grant Thomas (reminder: sacked after his side blew a five goal lead against us in the finals), a 31-year-old man simultaneously at the peak of his powers and approaching the end of his career, with a history of serious knee injuries, and the burden of leading a side expected to contend for the flag, went to the rooms looking sad. On Saturday morning somebody told me - with a straight face - that they didn't think he was setting a good example in the rooms, as if the other 22 players were seeing the same thing that this peanut was on TV. These people vote. 

Who knows how things would have turned out if Gawn stayed upright, but the signs were already suspect. Last time at this ground we went straight out of the middle and set the tone with a goal, this time it happened to us, and all that kept it from getting out of control early was the combination of  loose kicking into 50 and Lever getting in the way most of the time. McSizzle got a goal via their defensive blunder, but in a throwback to his early days as a forward we said thanks by letting them reply straight from the centre. Just one repeat stoppage in the middle would have been great (and, you know, if we don't let this in straight away the course of history changes so Gawn's not in the exact spot required to be crippled a few minutes later. Mind you, maybe something worse would have happened to him later in the game) but all night the ball went up, came down and exited stage left/right to Brisbane's end.

Nobody's been a bigger Tom McDonald fan than me, right down to covering for his one shot game last week by trying to claim it worked to free up Brown, but he did absolute nada after that goal. It didn't help that he was now required to act as our backup ruckman too, a job that he did well when Maximum was crocked a few years ago, but I was nervously adjusting the collar watching him here. I don't blame him for being outmarked in defence for one of their goals because he - previous career as a defender aside - shouldn't have been down there in the first place, and John Coleman would have struggled to pull down some of our bullshit forward 50 entries but he was nowhere near it. I'm sticking with him for now but he may want to consider pushing Jacob van Rooyen down the stairs this week.

That goal came as part of the rush that realistically finished us off, and while we had bad luck conceding one via the player diving into a tackle neck first that's what happens when you keep the ball inside 50. The longer it's there, and the more stoppages that you create, the more chance somebody will do something technically suspect and cause a free. This is why inside 50s are such bullshit, we were racking them up by kicking straight to defenders, while they were turning one into several chances before eventually scoring.

A four goal quarter time deficit wasn't enough to make me run up the white flag. Brisbane had given that and plenty more back in Round 1, and we've scored in bursts enough to know that it could happen again. The problem with this forward line was that Pickett was paying the recklessness tax on his couch and Melksham regrettably did chuff all as sub. It was one thing to come on when the Dogs were in disarray last week, but he had 3.5 quarters to show something here and didn't go near it. It was all part of the disappearance of the fringe, who'd done so well last week but floundered here - with the exception of Chandler who was very good again.

We didn't look any more likely to kick goals after quarter time, but at least now Brisbane weren't banging them through from every point on the compass. When Brown finally got one 10 minutes in I thought it might be the start of something big... until they cancelled it out a couple of minutes later x2. This was not good viewing, we were so flat across the board that I spent almost as much time trying to work out the order of votes as the rest of the post combined. Oliver gets in by default because nobody else was any good, but while he broke the tag in the second half and got a lot of possessions he was barely seen when the game was in the balance. And the less said about his putrid inside 50 kicks the better. Put 'metres gained' in a bag with inside 50s and throw them both into the sea. Calculate the metres from effective disposals only or don't bother. He is a great man but this was not his finest evening - which makes the votes even more ridiculous so keep this is mind if the Jakovich ends in a thrilling finish.

Fritsch's goal right on half time brought the margin back to 20, and even if it felt like we should have been twice as far behind you never knew. Then, after patiently sitting through the break you found out that you really did know when they went back to kicking novelty goals from close range. From there the game was well and truly over, and while we pulled off a couple of lovely looking end-to-end goals there was no follow-up and Brisbane soon went back to doing as they liked.

The ultimate insult was Joe Daniher taking advantage of Steven May's late absence to bang through four goals before three quarter time. Usually he kicks 1.5 against us but this time he could have applied a blindfold and booted it over his head from over the fence and they'd have gone through. It was that kind of night, and as if Harrison Petty wasn't having a rotten enough night he was seen hobbling off with an injury before the last change as well. He came back, much to the regret of the "boo feelings" manly men in the crowd, but while he usually steps straight into May's role and does well this was not his best night. But it wasn't anyones, so let's just get one with our lives. Daniher started missing again in the last quarter, but that was no help to us six goals down and not even the remotest chance of launching a Miracle on Grass comeback. 

As far as losses at the Gabba go, this wasn't as bad as the one that made Glenn Bartlett crack the shits (not without some justification it should be said) and set off the chain of events that lead to flag first, lawsuit second. This time the opposition was different, there were more than 323 people present, the light tower was flammable, and there was a belated fruitless comeback. The only other similarity to Round 9, 2020 was commentators talking absolute BOLLOCKS. There's never been an audio demonstration of junk time like Brian Taylor trying to wrap a two part birthday shoutout to Ron Barassi around Matthew Richardson's random fun fact about Shaun Grigg's Grand Final hitout with neither acknowleding what the other was saying. No wonder the power gave up, it was probably offended at being used to broadcast this shite.

Then, just as I'd had enough the Gabba lights joined in. With a power surge that made the TV screen look like the ground had just suffered a direct strike from a nuclear missile the future home of the Olympics was plunged into darkness. It wasn't all bad news, Brian Taylor's microphone stopped working too. Shame he didn't get an ECT style jolt and come back as a functional commentator.

I was already pushing it watching this while having to get up ridiculously early (including a 20 minute later start because Queenslanders think daylight savings kills cows), and knowing from the experience of the 2020 Melbourne/West Coast lightning incident that the result stands after half time if no further play is possible I literally said "fuck this shit" and went to bed. Unless there was going to be civil disorder I didn't see any reason to wait up to 60 minutes just to watch us lose anyway, so you'll appreciate how surprised I was to wake up a few hours later, check the score and discover we'd 'only' lost by 11. 

It's easy to scoff at this now but I'd have been balls deep invested in the comeback at the time, so it's better not to have been teased. The benefit will come when our fate at the end of the year is decided by 1% again, but until then I'll just wonder why this effort was a couple of hours earlier. As I'd rather watch the Mrs. Brown's Boys box set than review anything pre or post-blackout I'll just assume Brisbane lost interest, and let us get a bit too close for comfort but were never in any serious danger. It's more likely each goal would have made me increasingly more angry until it ruined the whole weekend. Now I can move on to next Saturday with my bundle undropped and hope this was an anomaly. 

2023 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jake Lever
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Kade Chandler
2 - Ben Brown
1 - Lachie Hunter

Apologies to Fritsch, even though I wouldn't have given anything below Lever if the format allowed it.

7 - Jake Lever (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Clayton Oliver
4 - Kysaiah Pickett
3 - Kade Chandler, Christian Petracca
2 - Ben Brown
1 - Lachie Hunter

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
The integrity of this award never reached any great heights, but I'm glad to have accidentally stumbled upon Chandler's post-blackout goal at the end via the MFC Twitter account. Ben Brown's rolling goal would have been a worthy winner, but for the weekly prize Chandler wins the Sam Blease Award for kicking a bunch (well, two...) of exciting goals at the start of his career.

Season leaderboard:
1 - Kade Chandler vs Footscray
2 - Jake Melksham vs Footscray
3 - Kade Chandler vs Brisbane 

Next Week
(Update from the future - I can't read a calendar properly and thought the game was on Saturday so I did end up going. False information kept for the historical record.)
Given that we've lost my last four live games it's probably better that I can't go. I thought I could, then found out just before publishing that a scheduling conflict had stitched me up. May as well hand my membership in at this stage. Regardless of Sydney beating us in finals, playing (in body if not spirit) the Grand Final, and starting this season well, I think this is still a toss-up. I'm hoping that if we lose it won't be in such a fashion that I'm the last person standing refusing to get upset and try to sack everyone.

Forget the weekend, all the action is at the selection table. Obviously if May is fit (and I choose to believe that if they flew him to Queensland he was close enough) he's in so fast it could have your eye out. Tomlinson hasn't done badly but the only hope of keeping his spot is that Petty's hamstring explodes in the dead of night. I'm into Disco Turner but not until a few weeks warm-up in the seconds. On a related note, nobody has lined up in their assigned position since 1994 but I see Joel Smith was shown as a forward at Casey. At this rate, he may end using his DNA assisted leaping ability to ruck.

I know re-recruiting The Spencil is a running joke on here, but even if he's well beyond it maybe we should have parked A.N Experienced Ruck on the rookie list just in case. Now we've got Grundy, and a Grand Canyon-style gulf in experience to project players so far off it that they're not even playing VFL yet. Verrall hasn't played beyond the SANFL Under 19s and Farris-White may not previously have kicked a footy since he was 12 for all I know, neither will play anytime soon. That leaves us with McDonald, who I remember doing an admirable job replacing Gawn in 2017 but didn't look anywhere near it here and has a foot that may fall off at any time. Otherwise, it's Brown and no thanks to that anywhere outside the forward 50 so why bother, just pick somebody else and find an alternative avenue beyond the big boot.

IN: Hibberd, Jordon, Laurie, May
OUT: Gawn (inj), Harmes, Melksham, Tomlinson (omit)
LUCKY: McDonald
UNLUCKY: van Rooyen

Final thoughts
Get the slopfests and major injuries out of the way now, finish the year at a million miles an hour.

1 comment:

  1. When the light tower caught fire I wasn’t the only Demons fan thinking “what an awful shame, the AFL will need to call off the match and the points will be shared”.
    The final 12 minutes reminded me of the lightning stoppage against West Coast. The team miles in front has little incentive to re-start while the trailing team goes for broke. Both leading teams were given a mild heart attack but hung on.
    As important as Max is, Pickett's absence was felt more.
    Well done to McVee keeping Cameron to 2 goals, neither of which could really have been prevented.


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