Sunday 21 May 2023


When we were the first AFL club to temporarily rebrand under an indigenous name it didn't require fantastic imagination to see other sides following. It took two years, but here we were with the main event in any arena in the world clash between Narrm and Yaartapulti. Invitations probably not extended to the Port Adelaide fans who racially abused Eddie Betts, racially abused Eddie Betts, and racially abused Eddie Betts.

I'm too broken to get involved in social issues, but it seems like a harmless enough thing to do. Somebody else can draw up a list of actual benefits, I just like anything that simultaneously annoys Sky News viewers and creepy suburban white people who go all-in trying to look progressive by angrily berating commentators for calling teams their original recipe names. I'll be calling them Port here, safe in the knowledge that nothing I do will alter the course of race relations in Australia.

In the week where the AFL endorsed The Voice (I never thought it was any good after Delta Goodrem left), I thought Channel 7 might go for a bit of gravitas in the commentary box and give Brian Taylor a rest. In the end, the man who can't say ethnic names without adding Joe Dolce Musical Theatre style accents was saved by the network's blatantly obvious attempts to avoid saying team names at all for most of the night. This must have confused casual viewers who don't follow week-long builds to special rounds and saw the ad break scoreboards reading 'YAR' and 'NAR'. They must have wondered when 'WTF' were going to show up. In memory of this game they should make the options on the referendum ballot paper YAR or NAR. 

Playing theme songs in indigenous languages also belongs in the "what harm does it do you?" file, but I'd have preferred if they'd waited until Port fans rose for enforced community singing before playing a version of Never Tear Us Apart in the local language. Sing along to that you dickheads.

No matter what politics you're into, or what your club is called this week, we're all united in wanting to tip the couch over because of kooky free kicks. After we lost a lot of people were optimistically trying to pin it all on the umpires, but the home fans got the first chance to sook up. You've got to give the people what they want, and as we previously discovered when they charged the fence waving middle fingers like they were going over the top in World War I, Port fans absolutely live to yell shit over the fence. I just complain on the internet, neither option is likely to have an impact.

As Chandler lined up on such an obscure angle that he tripped over a white plastic chair while trying to find the right spot to kick from, he was saved with a 50 for some questionable off the ball bumping of Gawn. In a footy fan inkblot test you either saw the most pissweak contact ever to be penalised, or a genuine free for blocking the player's run. Regardless, the bit where the umpire told him to stop doing it and he carried on anyway is where my sympathy went out the window. It kicked off another night in the long, occasionally successful history of Port trying to brutalise Max. Like Round 1, 2019 it worked pretty well so I don't know why the rest of the league hasn't joined in. 

That freebie was as close as we got to another goal for the following quarter and a half, as Port proceeded to do us over in every corner of the ground. Everything looks good when you're kicking shit out of the competition's worst teams, but this didn't bode well for beating enough good teams to finish top four. Somehow we nearly - any probably should have - won, but only after playing 10 minutes of good footy all night. It's not a fatal blow, and there's every chance we'd beat them in a replay next week, but after being comfortably touched up by top sides like Brisbane and Essendon (Is this right? - realism editor), I wouldn't blame you for getting nervous about where the season is going. There's a lot of confirmed and alleged top eight sides on the horizon in the next few weeks, it's going to be misery central if we don't beat most of them.

The administrative free kick crackdown continued with a forensic investigation of Clayton Oliver's lightning quick/dodgy (delete as applicable) handballs. Less controversial was the free after Pickett's latest unrealistic attempt at a screamer. Soon he'll have been penalised more times for nearly winning Mark of the Week than Jeremy Howe has been. It looks spectacular but never works. Last time Pickett plundered Port for six goals, this time he got one in the middle of our third quarter outburst but was otherwise unseen. He wasn't alone, on a wet night suited to ball meeting ground our anonymous small forwards had less crumb than Hoover HQ.

For unclear reasons, Angus Brayshaw started the game without his helmet. He got through the opening minutes without being concussed into retirement, but just as he put it back on everything went sour. Port had players standing on their own everywhere, while we looked as likely to kick a goal without umpire help before half time as Hawthorn. Helpfully, as we could see the rain chucking down Channel 7 showed a rain radar that indicated there wasn't a drop anywhere near Adelaide Oval. It was looking like the Essendon game on the same ground, but of a much higher standard. That's strictly for neutrals, all I'm interested in is coming back from South Australia with zero premiership points out of eight. 

After minutes of building towards their first goal, one of Port's many free-range forwards finally converted after marking in acres of space. They had another uncontested mark within range straight after, but you couldn't blame the other defenders for not expecting Rivers to turn the ball over with a shithouse kick. For once these misses left us as the sucker being given an even break, and a six point quarter time margin would have been positively generous under the circumstances. Enter North Melbourne's equivalent to Scully, who launched himself into Viney's tackle for a free, goal, and more realistic margin.  

It seems the difference between draft evaders is that this one is good at footy, not just long distance running, and he spent the night beating our brains in. Not as badly as the elven Zac Butters, who our coaching staff treated as seriously as the kid of the same name from South Park. At some point on his way to 40+ touches, a shitload of clearances, and two goals I would have thought - call me naive - that we'd have sent someone to stand near him. Maybe they did and he just ran away from them.

For most of the second quarter we were on the other side of the fixture against Port early last year, where they were the ones who couldn't kick a goal even if it meant saving the life of a busload of orphans. Being the top scoring team in the competition is bullshit considering who we've played, our forward structure isn't working. Then again it wasn't working for a lot of 2021 and you know what happened there.

Just as we were on the verge of going under for the last time, Fritsch assisted his own goal by giving away a free, then somehow having the ball come back to him 20 seconds later. Then he got another, things were looking interesting again, and some clapped out ex-player who only just had more games than Bayley kicked goals in a Grand Final got upset. Well done nearly getting the words right.

This was quite the endorsement in a game where we had three players reported, Oliver whinging after giving away the most obvious marking interference free kick ever, and another prematurely shhhing the crowd. Not entirely sure what Bailey did wrong, but previous evidence suggests men of prime age for a midlife crisis are often triggered by his wonderful hair.  

Goals were nice, but we were only being kept in it because they couldn't kick straight. 30 seconds after the second Fritsch goal they had another shot via uncontested marks from forwards. It missed, but while I'm not saying other clubs have worked out our previously world-leading defensive structure... well, that's exactly what I'm saying. When the ball went to a contest May was tremendous (others disagreed, feel free to compile your own votes) but quick forward entries left us flaying about with NFI who was supposed to be on who. With everyone twigging that you don't madly bomb the ball to Lever he was removed as a factor, and I think Channel 7 were thinking about trading our remaining games to community television. 

You'd never have convinced me we'd soon build a 17 point lead to waste. Under the circumstances, making it to the break just 14 down was a minor miracle. Then, as it started pissing down again we took to the challenge of water worse than the RMS Titanic and gave another goal up. Or, more accurately, it was given up by the umpire who applied a liberal interpretation of 15 metres to a hack kick out of a pack. This is the sort of stuff people point out when claiming we were dudded, I say we turned this deficit into a solid lead so who's fault is it really. Then, finally some good luck via a rare centre clearance, and an even rarer inside 50 mark to McSizzle, who until this point had been McFrozen. It helped that he shifted the defender via a tremendous grab on the jumper but we needed all the help we could get. 

Now it was our turn to hang around like a bad smell, just close enough that anything could happen, but not showing anything that indicated the 180 degree turn the game was about to take. A lot of the revival was to do with the return of Christian Petracca, who'd done so little in the first half that you wondered if they'd gambled and lost on his rolled ankle. I don't know whether it was just going back into the heart of the midfield or a half-time dose of elephant juice but he returned like a million dollars.

Within a few weird minutes we'd pulled off the rare Reverse Stranglewank and gone from 24 points down to the lead. I was considering a Yartapullti myself when Hunter kicked an NQR goal from the pocket reminiscent of Langdon against Essendon last year. Next thing Grundy's being taken out of a ruck contest, and we're three goals up. His Tom Bugg style mockery of the crowd didn't turn out so well. I still don't know what to think about Grundy, he's played some good games and provides a different option to Max but does seem to offer the defensive pressure of your late aunt Agnes. For now, Collingwood's still paying him to play for us so I'll concentrate on the positives. 

This is where I made the always fatal mistake of starting to believe we might win, and just when you thought it was safe to come out of your secure underground bunker we gave away another free on the three quarter time siren. Nearly cost us against Gold Coast, almost certainly did here. I don't blame defenders for giving away frees when chaos is swirling around them, but any danger of trying to keep the ball away from their end in the last minute? 

This was our first loss by under a goal in two years, but that doesn't mean we won't be in situations where a bit of poise is required late in the last quarter. Don't be like that Carlton plonker who tried to waste time last year, kicked it over his teammate's head and let us win. If they'd beaten us with a kick after the final siren here it would have been karma for getting distracted by replays of Gawn at Kardinia Park several times during Friday while trying to finish the extra chapter for The Last Hurrah (consumers, I guarantee you it will be going in the mail this week).

Just before the last quarter started my internet tried to save me from what was to come by committing suicide. Better with 30 minutes to go, not 30 seconds. I was so determined not to see ads that instead of walking two metres around the corner to a TV I started watching on a phone instead. This came in handy when I could wave it over my head as if about to throw when Port got the early goal. They could have had another when Butters tried a silly, Harry McKay-esque around the corner kick when he'd almost certainly have kicked a normal set shot. Then he went back to racking up touches by the dozen while we stood around and went "blimey, Zelda's having a good night".

If they weren't going to do it themselves, we were there to help by mysteriously stationing the absolutely not-a-defender JVR in defence, where he reacted to light niggle by smacking his opponent upside the head. He conceded another later in the quarter, and for now, let's resolve never to let him into the defensive 50 again. Now the margin was under a kick and you could see where this was going. Best last quarter team in the competition or not, we were being run over. The big third quarter outburst looked even more ridiculous when you saw how difficult we were making clearing the ball out of defence look here.

Before we'd had the ball back over halfway again they should have been in front via somebody called 'Jed', which is on brand for a club that also fields a 'Willem' and previously gave us 'Dougal'. Fortunately, his kick was 'shithouse'. So was the next one, which ended as the most offensive goal assist of all time when it dropped like a bag of wet cement into the arms of a diving player in the pocket. Well done to him for reading the drop of the ball, but it was right place/right time that he was even in the vicinity. They all count.

It was either the rain or the influence of Lachie Hunter, but we must have broken the record for the most possessions distributed along the ground. It wasn't just the usual handballs but kicks too. Any more underground activity and we'd have had to move our club site to the dark web. Hunter might not be influencing us next week, suspended for a collision that could only be described as a bump under a "we'll show you for challenging the van Rooyen ban" interpretation. Shame, he was quite good. Certainly seems to get more of the ball than Ed Langdon now. I'd rather it the other way around, and maybe next week if he's not there we'll get the chance to see Classic Ed again.

Hunter isn't having much like with the tribunal, last week he was charged $1500 for running up to the boundary line and 'gesturing' at a Hawthorn player who was running past. I know the Tasmanian stadium deal is going tits up at a record rate, but the AFL will never find enough novelty fines to fund it themselves.

In the midst of all this, Jack Viney capped off his worst game in god knows how long by randomly introducing the studs-up slide tackle. After his Brazilian Ju Jitsu inspired submission hold on a Gold Coast player a couple of years ago, you can't say he's not open to new things. I can't believe he wasn't made an example of and suspended. Mind you, a tackle that was paid holding the ball against McDonald later turned into the Port player being suspended who knows what anyone was thinking.

McDonald got us the lead back, but it was going to be Grand Theft Football to win from there. They had us covered on every available metric and weren't going away. We had an opportunity from a 50 to Lever, which arguably could have been extended to 100 due to the player in front of him making zero attempt to get out of the way. Fat chance any umpire pays that at the end of a thriller with a 95% partisan audience - it's why Jake got the 50 at Geelong that eventually landed with Gawn, because the stands were empty and they were able to apply the rules without being spat on while walking to their car.

This attitude to officiating would have been popular with the commentators, who spent all night declaring that the free was there but shouldn't have been paid. It stayed at 50, Lever's kick came to nothing and we were all but rooted. I'd come to terms with it being our own fault by now, but was still open to ripping them off in spectacular fashion. After a few half-baked attacks came to nothing, our absolute last chance was from a boundary throw-in on the wing with seconds left. Good time for the umpire's arm to stop working, ending with a lame toss that gave Gawn no hope of a miracle flick over the back to a rampaging teammate. It landed so short he'd have been more chance of a rugby league style play the ball. 

That was enough for me. I'd been forced to the TV when my phone joined in the disarray by running out of battery mid-quarter, so I petulantly tried switching to something else to avoid seeing anyone celebrating the final siren. Unfortunately pressing + just went from 70 - Channel Seven, to 71 - another Channel Seven and I had to see Ken Hinkley getting his jollies. Managed to escape to 72 before the crowd could join in.

It was a shit game to lose, but you get what you deserve only playing for 10 minutes. It's not the fault of rebranding as Narrm, wearing an indigenous version of the disco jumper, rain, civil war in Sudan, or the umpires. We came back from barely touching the ball for a half to have a three goal lead, then blew that with Bowey injured, Hunter suspended, Grundy getting away with doing pretty much what Sparrow got rubbed out for last week, Viney carving a player in two, and retaking the lead before losing to an arsey snap. 

After the first half we shouldn't have been in a position to win anyway, but nothing shits you more than having an unexpected victory dangled in front of you then snatched away. But since bleeding profusely from the nose at half time of the Grand Final I've been trying to avoid an early grave by not going totally off my chop over footy. So after some unprintable comments directed towards the TV in the dying seconds I tried to move on quickly. Let the people who are paid to worry about this stuff work out where we go next, I'm declaring a Demonblog zen era. And if that lasts until the end of this month it will be a miracle.

2023 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Steven May
4 - Lachie Hunter
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Trent Rivers
1 - Bayley Fritsch

Apologies to Oliver and nobody else.

The unprecedented amount of joint leaders makes the leaderboard look like shit, so gentlemen please sort the votes amongst yourself in the next few weeks to reintroduce some sanity to proceedings.
36 - Christian Petracca
26 - Clayton Oliver
11 - Brodie Grundy (JOINT LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Max Gawn (JOINT LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Viney
8 - Kade Chandler
7 - Jake Lever (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Steven May (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Trent Rivers (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Lachie Hunter, Ed Langdon, Kysaiah Pickett
4 - Michael Hibberd
3 - Jake Bowey
2 - Ben Brown, Bayley Fritsch, Harrison Petty
1 - Tom McDonald

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Nobody's ever going to beat Marty Hore as the most unusual person to be nominated for this award, but Lachie Hunter goes close. He gets the nod for the sodden snap from the pocket that made everything seem like it was going to turn out ok. I can't think of a weekly prize that doesn't draw direct reference to the time he created road havoc while pissed so it's best just to move on. Even though it'll continually remind me of losing, I liked it so much that he's been promoted to second on the seasonal leaderboard.

Season leaderboard:
1 - Christian Petracca vs Gold Coast
2 - Lachie Hunter vs Port Adelaide
3 - Kade Chandler vs Footscray

Next week
Never mind that we nearly won here, I reckon we're a week away from breathless 'are they finished?' chat from Klickbait Kane Cornes. All of a sudden we've got Fremantle after their early season wobbles and it's going to be a lot more interesting than you'd like. Good thing I - surprise - can't go, because I'd probably get into a punch up with people booing Luke Jackson. Good luck working out which version of either team will show up. I'd like to think we'll win but my confidence is wobbling.

Ironically, in the week he was meant to come back from suspension I'm resting JVR. No hard feelings, come back ASAP but for all his effort he can't impact games for long enough at the moment. Now that we've lost a step in the double chance race time to temporarily sacrifice development and reunite the Flag family. I'll assume Bowey won't play, saving McVee for another week, and will keep Jordon as sub to see if he can break Sam Blease's record of being involved in 12 substitutions. There might be some movement to put Jordon back on the wing, I'd rather park somebody completely random out there and see if it spurs the return of the old Ed Langdon.

Apparently Oliver's also having hamstring scans, so if he goes we may as well play Howes, Woewodin, and Petty in a wheelchair for all the good it will do us. I'll assume it's just precautionary and give my fourth inclusion to Laurie and let him play a full game. Instead you can almost be certain they'll pick Melksham. I'm also expecting the anti-Brown sentiment to continue with Joel Smith being picked ahead of him. On watching that Gawn footage again today I completely forgot that he was in the side at the end of 2021.

IN: Brown, Harmes, Sparrow, Laurie
OUT: Bowey (inj), Jordon, van Rooyen (omit), Hunter (susp)

Final thoughts
The Fortress Adelaide Oval days are over, one order of learnings and connection please. If anyone thought the machine was running at full speed on the back of thumping wins over rotten sides they were delusional anyway so I look forward to this being the wakeup call that makes everything ok. Or, if you prefer, the opening ceremony to a tits up disaster.

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