Friday, 23 June 2023

Down highway, down toilet

The fun never stops at Demonblog Towers, so as soon as I recovered from the Peruvian Llama Disease that caused so much trouble on King's Birthday, it was straight into COVID protocols. Next stop the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis to have the immune system tested Mr. Burns style. Once upon a time barely leaving the house for two weeks would have been a dream (in fact, I achieved a personal best of about 90 weeks across 2001/2002) but it's giving me the shits now.

Even in the best of health, at this advanced stage of life I'd rather explore the sea in an experimental submarine than go to Kardinia Park on a Thursday night. If the Cats eventually do the honourable thing and have a decade-long death spiral I'll turn up just to wave two fingers about and make some off-key comments to the locals that will in no way come back to haunt me in the future, but until then I've done my bit.

It's easy to say after things have gone bad, but I don't know why people were so convinced we'd win here. Collingwood was the sort of epic fighting win that you should be proud of, but it hardly came off as a breakthrough that was going to triumphantly carry us towards September. We're in a flat spot of not being either extremely good or very bad, but relying on keeping the opposition scores low enough that they can be covered by a half-functioning forward line will backfire occasionally. 

It didn't help that Oliver was still out, going through the unique absence progression of hamstring > infected blister > more hamstring > [conspiracy theories]. Lucky we've got attention-seeking coves with 19 Twitter followers to give us the real scoop about what's going on. We're much better with him in than out but he isn't the sole factor being winning and losing. The ball still gets forward one way or the other, it just dies a thousand deaths inside 50 and he's not directly influencing that. Sure, you bring him back and Petracca can go forward more often but in the last few weeks we've had a million scoring opportunities, and only won against Collingwood because of a heroic defensive effort that kept them under cover long enough to shamble through a winning score. Which was ace, but as this showed it's not sustainable every week.

Now that nobody except the captain was around for the pre-186 'stay in Geelong' fiasco involving Dean Bailey's credit card, I didn't mind them going down a day early to prepare. I did think it might tip the opposition off that you don't think you're a chance of winning without gimmicks, but surely not. Certainly wasn't an issue for the first three quarters. Maybe depart the bus from Melbourne half an hour later next time so players don't reach their "I'd really like to be at home right now" realisation at three quarter time.

Even before it started raining I got a bit of "here we go" when we had a couple of half-baked forward 50 entries for no reward, only for them to go down the other end and pluck one from the arse, hard on the boundary line. After coming back from the dead against the Pies I wasn't going to let one goal shake me, but at this stage it doesn't feel like we're equipped to take on sides kicking unexpected goals from zany angles. 

This might have been cancelled out straight away, but for Smith snapping into the post from right in front. At that point I was cursing his inclusion but I'll reluctantly admit that he had a very good first half before being sent to try and stop Tom Stewart intercepting everything. Maybe instead of trying to negate the guy you're booting it at every 10 seconds, think about another way to go past him. Is this overly simplistic? I know less about golf than footy tactics, but if you can hit it a maximum of 200 metres and there's a big fuck off water hazard 190 metres away do you try to carry it or go short, then hit your next shot over it. This would have required something resembling a half forward line, and the next players in line to find some space inside 50 so it is perhaps a bit optimistic.

Regardless of what happened later, it was nice of the commentators to focus on the close results between these sides at Kardinia Park rather than the apocalyptic beltings. In reality there's only been two genuine thrillers, it's just that they both ended with goals after the siren. If you'd asked me pre-match which of the two previous matchwinners would have more shots for the night I'd definitely have picked Gawn, but he never went close while Zac Tuohy got multiple opportunities to make us think "why couldn't you have kicked like that five years ago?" 

I'm right into the novelty of Gawn/Grundy but it does diminish the enjoyment a bit if neither is scoring. They both pulled down some good relieving marks around the ground, but if our ruck combo was Gawn/The Spencil we absolutely would have consulted the weather report and given somebody the night off via suspicious late change. For a club going around with satanic branding we don't participate in the dark arts very often.

When they got their second via a fluky bounce that could have gone anywhere I was awake to the possibility of being beaten entirely by novelty goals. If you had any faith in us taking advantage, Jeremy Cameron being knocked into next week by a teammate shortly after should have helped. Channel 7's new policy of not endlessly replaying gruesome injuries is noble, but it works better for somebody with a compound fracture than a concussion, leaving viewers thinking he was at the stage of live-saving CPR for a few minutes.

Other than the impact on Cameron's head, the worst bit was that you if it was an opposition player who'd cleaned him up going for the ball they'd be suspended, but the rules specifically say it doesn't count if you accidentally clobber a teammate. I wouldn't suspend Rohan (I'm of the reckless opinion that players are hardly being forced to play Russian Roulette by the Viet Cong, so they should accept risk of accidents) but it proves that you can't consistently police non-malicious collisions. 

In the end, having one less tall on a wet night when we'd just reunited my all-time favourite defensive combination probably helped Geelong. We're more vulnerable to run than hefty booting of the ball to talls (except when they're Essendon ruckmen you'd never previously heard of), and so it turned out. Meanwhile, we took a midfielder off and stuck with forward tactics that continually asked Pickett to try and win one-on-one marking duals with the ball dropping on his head.

That break in play did lead to our first goal. Fritsch did the Maximum style booting into a construction site, and by now we'd at least stopped them scoring. Not only is that stand being built on government money, they must be using government workers too because it's taking longer than the Airport Rail Link. The greatest set shot of all time happened nearly three years ago and the thing is still a big concrete shell. For all the money being put into redevelopment for a stadium that will never host anything more important than the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony we should all get to drop in and wield willow at the new indoor cricket hub.

Everything we were doing looked like a struggle, complete with some suicidal kicking coming out of defence, but the rest of the quarter went about as well as could be expected. They blew a few decent chances, and we finally found a goal out of nowhere via Smith (never said a bad word, I promise) to get out of it just nine points behind. I wasn't feeling it though, it just struck me as the kind of game where we'd toil to the ends of the earth for our goals and they'd rip them out of nowhere.

When it started raining I had visions of that weird six goal burst against Port, and for the first few minutes of the second quarter we brought that sort of spirit in every way other than the kicking of major scores. The ball was down there enough, but when it wasn't being picked off merrily by their defenders we weren't getting in any decent position to score. It was a good sign, but the execution was so bad I just felt like...

... and when they went the other way and looked like kicking a goal on practically their first entry of the quarter I'd have thrown something at the TV if I had enough energy. By the time we'd given them four opportunities before they finally converted, any sense of moral outrage had gone. Then we had our best period of the night, with two goals to level the scores and make things interesting again. Given that he'd done bugger all else, I was excited by Pickett just toebashing a goal through off the deck but not sure why it needed a shhh-like celebration midway through the second quarter. We've never done one yet that hasn't turned bad - even when we beat Richmond after Bugg's they went on to three premierships.

For the second game in a row Viney briefly looked like he'd blown his shoulder out of the socket before returning a few minutes later like nothing was wrong. There's been a spot of sooking about Tom Stewart niggling him while on the ground, but I'd advise you to grow a pair (or the equivalent) and move on. Usually when people say the game is going soft they're upset that you can't king hit people or do a racism but if you're dying to be outraged wait until somebody drops a Randy Savage elbow on a player being stretchered off.

I would have trusted a politician before our one point half time lead, but now that we'd got that far in a hostile environment, on a dud night for footy I was open to the idea of winning via another spectacular defensive performance that would make sure Channel 7 never wanted to broadcast us again. Can't be forced to play in the nonsense Thursday night timeslot if you're always on Foxtel [insert that meme of the guy who looks like Eddie Murphy but isn't tapping his head].

I don't blame the defenders for what happened next, if they didn't have to put up with the ball going down there at pace so often, or we'd put up any sort of decent score before the game was shot they'd have come out of it with a lot of credit. We just couldn't do the job at the other end.

Yet we still entered the last quarter with a seven point lead. Even with Chandler playing on after a free from 15 metres out and missing, somehow being deemed to have taken advantage even though he was halfway through trying to get rid of it when the free was paid. This was a particularly rancid quarter if you were watching for entertainment value, but we did enough to give ourselves a chance.

If it wasn't for 'Hame' doing awkward interviews with Auskickers at half time, I'd have thought they were commentating from a studio. Mind you, even after implying Grundy was rooted, and showing him on the bench with hood up looking no chance to return they didn't think to mention how unusual it was when he ran back on, straight past substitute Spargo. I don't understand how with all the technology they've got - enough to catch North going one over the interchange cap - we don't get an instant on-screen graphic when the sub is made. Instead you had to wait until they cut to a moist James Jordon donning a tracksuit in the back row to know what was going on. 

Jordon is now two clear of Sam Blease for involvement in most substitutions (including being unused), which I'm sure is exactly how he saw his career panning out. Not a lot else in common with them except they'll both end their career at another club, because there's no way JJ is going to hang around here being yanked on/off more vigorously than Peter North when he can go to a bullshit team and play four quarters every week. And the good news for him is that we delisted him once so he's a permanent free agent and can do as he likes. I don't know why we took him off in the first place, he wasn't having a great game but what part of a cold, rainy night where we were aiming most of our forward 50 kicks at Pickett anyway suggested that sticking with the same talls from the first bounce was going to help. 

Given how many goals we've conceded on three quarter time recently, the free kick in front of their goal on the siren had me about to blow up. Then it turned out to be ours, for some unspecified offence not captured or expanded upon by Channel 7. This caused Tom Hawkins to have an arms open, owl eyed whinge straight at the umpire. Shame we're not doing dissent anymore, because even if it wouldn't have got us close enough for a shot, paying 50 against him would have annoyed the same locals who earlier booed their hearts out over a ball being called touched, as if they had any idea what happened from the stands.

I was even less confident of this lead. It's one thing always expecting to lose, and good for your mental health when it happens, but I could sense a mile away that they had plenty of improvement and we were hanging on by our fingernails. Didn't mean it had to end this way, but I wasn't surprised. 

Now that we've killed off all the premature talk about accurate goalkicking, time to wind down the wankfest over being a great last quarter team. We haven't had a really good one since North Melbourne (Freo if you're being generous, for what good that did us), and that has no relevance to what's happening right now. Certainly didn't do us any good here, the rain stopped and so did we. 

You sensed evil was afoot when they burst from the middle for a point, and not long after scores were level via a goal from the keyboard player out of Sparks. Turns out the town was - you know where this is going - not big enough for both of us, because that was the cue to go absolutely tits up. Can I put in a word for Geelong's sensible forcing of the ball along the ground towards their forward line from centre bounces. This is a great tactic against us. Meanwhile we've got ruckman grabbing the ball out of the air and hammering it forward to be intercepted/rebounded. It's a good thing #flag calmed me down because otherwise watching this would send my blood pressure to fatal levels.

The good news for fans of scapegoating is that it wasn't all Geelong running riot 2011 style, the Anal-Bullet was seemingly through on goal but fumbled and allowed them to ping down the other end for another goal. You'd never know from Channel 7's absurd 100x zoom closeups, but maybe there was somebody in his way and it wouldn't have mattered if he gathered it. Still not a great moment for a player everyone's keen to write off at the slightest provocation.

Whether or not he'd had kicked a goal, or if it would have helped, is up for debate but there are questions to be asked about all our fringe forwards - Chandler has slammed on the brakes, Pickett is barely going, Spargo hasn't gone since concussion, and ANB is very good for pressure but not adding much offensively. Not that we've got much in the tank to replace them, unless you want to go back to Melksham and hope he proves us wrong Tomlinson style. 

By the time we were three goals down with 10 minutes left, the game was basically shot. I refuse to join in the usual sour "boo umpires" cover-up for losing, but please review this footage and explain how it didn't end in a 50.

I haven't seen something so blatantly unpunished since Petty's 2021 timewasting that caused the rules to be rewritten. I'm not saying this changed the game, because we were already swirling by this point, but it makes you feel ripped off defending umpires for missing things while unsighted when they don't have the grapefruits to make a call like this. And you wonder why I don't believe they'd have paid the decisive 50 leading to that Gawn goal if there had been fans at Kardinia Park.

Comfort yourself by thinking that we'd have either a) played on foolishly and never got inside 50, or b) the kick would have fallen short anyway. And it didn't get any better from there. We got a couple of cheap ones at the end when the game was already lost, but it was just a sad, slide to death across the last quarter. The claim on commentary that you don't see us concede runs of goals like this made me scoff, but it's probably true over the last couple of years. What shit me is that it wasn't brute force forward entries that undid us, the sort where they can't help scoring eventually, but so many rebounds from where we hadn't taken advantage of our own chances. There are issues, none fatal yet, let's see if there's any response or whether heads will be jammed into the sand and the best hoped for.  

2023 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Trent Rivers
4 - Jake Lever
3 - Ed Langdon
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Jack Viney

Apologies to Hibberd, Hunter, May, McVee and Smith

Oliver's ongoing absence is making the result of this even more obvious, but I'm still not at the point of calling it in case that accidentally brings a curse down on Petracca. No alterations in the minors.
48 - Christian Petracca
26 - Clayton Oliver
20 - Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
17 - Jack Viney
13 - Jake Lever
12 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Trent Rivers
11 - Brodie Grundy, Ed Langdon
8 - Kade Chandler
6 - Kysaiah Pickett
5 - Lachie Hunter
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Michael Hibberd
3 - Jake Bowey, Angus Brayshaw, Christian Salem
2 - Ben Brown, Harrison Petty, Tom Sparrow
1 - Tom McDonald, Judd McVee (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
For pure aesthetics the Petracca goal in the last quarter was the best, but it suffers a minus 99% penalty for coming when we were already beaten and I was in a bad mood. Instead I'll go for the Pickett one off the ground with the unnecessary afters.

Season leaderboard:
1 - Christian Petracca vs Gold Coast
2 - Lachie Hunter vs Port Adelaide
3 - Bayley Fritsch vs Collingwood

Next week
We're off to collect a cheque in... err add to the rich cultural history of Alice Springs. The bad news for our partners in the Northern Territory, who really must have better things to spend their money on, is that the AFL has dudded them by fixturing a game with the lowest possible viewing audience. When the opposition is good enough to interest Channel 7, they get to flog the tourism message and long-distance shots of mountains to a national audience, putting us against GWS will be the expensive equivalent of buying a 30 minute infomercial on an obscure digital channel. [Update - Just realised this actually is on Channel 7. Their loss] 

On paper we should take care of the Giants without drama, but we're vulnerable to doing weird things so I'll believe it when I see it. Remember losing to them in mid-2021 due to having a toothless forward line that couldn't take advantage of a shitload of chances? Sounds familiar. Unless Oliver's hit by a meteor he's an obvious return, and I'd like all the focus to go on... say the line Simon.... connection. 

I love JVR and look forward to years of him marauding our forward line, but if we're trying to win right now he's not impacting games long enough. I know Brown's not injured because he was an emergency here, so for god's sake can we just try him again? Who gives a shit if he's not kicking 10 goals a week in the VFL, the man is a professional goalkicker who will know exactly what to do if recalled and has extendable Inspector Gadget arms that will suit our strategy of booting the ball a million miles in the air and hoping for the best. If we've gone insane and written Brown off, I'll reluctantly accept Petty going forward. It's not the same though.

It's probably still too early post-flag to go off chops, but I reckon this philosophy could be tested if we lose after kicking a dinky score.

IN: Oliver, Brown + any old random who plays well at Casey as the sub
OUT: Jordon, Spargo, van Rooyen (omit)
LUCKY: Chandler, Neal-Bullen, Pickett
UNLUCKY: Bowey, Tomlinson

Final thoughts
Usually, once we've lost the rest of my weekend is ruined, but I'm not letting this get to me. It was an average performance by an average side, but I haven't thought we were a genuine top four team for weeks. Doesn't help much, but keeps me from blowing up about individual games. This season could still go anywhere, it's just going to be about peaking at the right time instead of the last home and away game again.   

1 comment:

  1. Our dysfunctional forward line stands out like the proverbial canine testicles. Last 3 game scores in the 60s. We won a GF with brown, fritsch and tommy mac with kossy and spargo buzzing around. Goody won’t even try brown, fritsch and JVR. Got me tossed


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