Monday 31 July 2023

Countdown to ecstasy

If you've been watching Melbourne long enough, you'll have reacted to the events of Saturday the same way I did - by expecting something to go wrong. The weekend started badly when Collingwood breathed life into Carlton's unlikely top four challenge, before wall-to-wall football errors in our favour the next day. I can't remember a set of fixtures that came out better in our favour Even when future pick trading ruined the comedy value of Freo beating Geelong at Kardinia Park, the very next game saw it restored by Gold Coast beating Brisbane, and when Port's usual end-of-season freefall continued, the lights were back on along our path to a top two finish.

This was all great, but wouldn't have meant anything without us beating an in-form Richmond who are doing the late 2010s Hawthorn style clinging on for dear life before inevitable disintegration. It'll be fun to kick them while they're down then, but as of 2023 they're still more than capable of beating us. We already had to come from behind to beat them once this year, and now they had the added incentive of returning to the finals race after three straight wins.

I've got nothing in particular against the Tigers, even if I was going for the other team in two of their Grand Finals due to the All Victorian Sides Except Us Can Get Stuffed rule, but it would be nice to thrash them again one day. There was an eventually comfortable win in Jones 300, but even that took a bit to wind up. I don't remember a genuinely rampant win over them since early 2010, and even that involved going 12-0 down behind to a team of three first gamers. Then we followed an eight goal first quarter with 0.6, meaning even a nine goal win didn't come easily. We couldn't even convincingly throw that game against them in 2009, having to rely on a kick after the siren. When Nathan Jones was reminded of this during Channel 7's pre-match he did an admirable job of pretending he was hurt by the result more than being used as a pawn to pull off major rorts. 

That all seems like yesterday to me, because I'm increasingly old and decrepit, but so much time has passed since the self-induced Jordan McMahon fiasco that Richmond's coach once played for a team that didn't join the competition until two years later. I confirmed reaching the age of no return after selecting Sean Charles as my FootyGrid crossover player for Melbourne/St Kilda, then finding out the most popular community selection was Luke Dunstan. You'd be forgiven for forgetting James Frawley's two game cameo with them, but Dean Kent? Stephen Powell? Apparently not. If you're also past it, please consider that Judd McVee was born the day before Jared Rivers debuted. It was a major milestone when all the players were older than me, when the coach is too that might be time to consider retirement.

On a more cheerful note, we're still in what passes for a glory era for us and are set for a third consecutive double chance finish for the first time since Norm Smith. Bonus drama points for staring into the abyss twice here, before charging away in the last quarter to confound expectations by all of: a) winning as favourites, b) taking advantage of the misfortune of others, and c) coming out on the right side of another shootout. We've pretty much got a) right over the last couple of years, but surviving another high scoring game was surprising. God knows what's happened other than sending Grundy to play against teams with less annual turnover than his salary, but suddenly we're kicking goals out the yin yang. Conceding a few more than you'd want, but as long as you're in front at the final siren etc... 

The game was played to a surprisingly high standard considering rugby unionists were rucking and mauling on the same turf the previous night. Nobody did their knee in a divot, so you could afford to treat it as a nostalgic throwback to the early 90s when the MCG had more sand on it than the Gobi Desert. Next time hold a monster truck rally on Sunday morning and really make things interesting.

I'll tell you who does interesting things, he says in a not-at-all awkward segue, Kysaiah Pickett. He's not entirely responsible for us scoring nearly double what we were a month ago, but there's some correlation between that and them selectively introducing him to centre bounces again. This time he plucked the first one and set Petracca up for a snap 15 seconds in. He was thieved out of a goal assist when Trac's snap failed to account for having all the time in the world to turn around and bang it through. Undeterred, Pickett then dropped a kick on JVR in the middle of three defenders for the opening goal before almost entirely dropping off the face of the planet until the last quarter. What he did early was brilliant though, and he doesn't need much of a look to change games. 

This was all very good, and every early Richmond forward entry was dealt with efficiently. We should have seen tiny red flags falling from the sky when they went in with only Riewoldt as a traditional tall. Usually, we want all the key forwards teams can find so attacks can be chopped off, turned around, and used against them. This turned out to be an example of why we're vulnerable to smaller attacks, but not before Jordon failed to capitalise on finding one of several gaping holes in their defence.

Richmond did get their first goal from a tall straight after, but it took their ruckman doing what you'd refer to as a 'massive shepherd' on Gawn at a ball-up first. Last week all the Adelaide fans thought we won the umpiring as part of a massive conspiracy to hold the interstate clubs down and return to the VFL. This time Richmond fans thought they'd been rorted because... they can't handle returning to earth after years at the top? If the league did try to rig ladder position via umpiring I know which of these sides they'd be looking after.

Even allowing for the legally dubious nature of his dismissal, this was part of a rocky start for Maximum. When Gawn emerged up from this 'contest' holding his jaw I was temporarily worried, before remembering that Port had just redefined the scale for testing concussions so there wasn't going to be an issue from something this minor. They pinged straight out of the middle for a second one, and when he dropped a mark that turned into a goal, Grundy must have sat bolt upright on the couch. Then the captain roared back with one of his greatest halves and Brodie went back to browsing the massive house section of the Adelaide real estate pages. 

It was a rare example of us bringing a high-quality, high-scoring game to Channel 7. They've had our thrillers, but usually with a goalkicking tally that makes the advertising department try to drink poison. If we'd lost I'd have hated it, but as far as reasonably low-stakes home and away games go, Richmond's death spiral at the end was all that stopped it being the perfect example for curious internationals to fall in love with, before going back to whatever sports are played in their prime time.

It's not entirely fair to say Pickett went missing from the opening minutes until the last quarter, he did place a lovely pass to the advantage of Petty to pull down a great mark in the square. Dear Ben Brown, I will always love you but if Harrison (never Harry) keeps doing that then you're probably free to pursue a life of spiritual fulfillment away from the AFL. We'll always have the first goal of the last quarter 25/09/21.

Petty was so good, both kicking goals and in the contest, that I'm prepared to do a dramatic U-turn and accept him as a forward forever if we find a convincing replacement for May. There's not one on the list at the moment, allowing for Turner to play more than two games before he can be judged, so I'm into the Geelong plan of swiping readymade players from other clubs. After giving them Preuss, Bedford, and in a roundabout way Hogan, it must be about time to swipe another GWS player.

For three quarters the most dangerous place to be was in our backline immediately after a goal, and Petty's first would have lasted until literally the next kick if not for a hit post. I don't like giving goals straight back, but if it has to happen let's go through the lottery of a set shot, or have somebody dish off a handball first, not just ruck contest, grab ball, leg into space and boot it through from distance.

It felt a bit like last week if Adelaide hadn't kicked like dickheads for most of the game, so I was scathing when Harmes missed a sitter from 30 metres. I know set shots aren't his job, and instead of Petty kicking it to him they should have been the other way around, but this was not good. He probably knows he's only there until Sparrow and/or Oliver return, and even if he's done enough to earn a crack at another club this whole game wasn't one for the audition tape.

When you can't get goals out of the midfield, why not turn to a tall defender? In the spirit of Tom McSizzle booting set shots from everywhere when he first went forward, Petty gently rearranged a defender, marked an end-to-end move and got a second. And like peak forward McDonald, his goal was nearly undone as quickly as possible. We got away with the forward entry straight from the middle, but it only took one half-arse foray in our direction for the ball to come back and find Dustin Martin hanging out on his own in the square.    

Martin almost got another shortly after, stopped only by Hunter's most last-minute of touches on the line. Somewhere a Melbourne fan was probably lamenting how silly we were not to draft him, as if he'd have emerged the same player after landing at a club where our players once cancelled a training session because CBF. Maybe - unlike one of the two players drafted ahead of him - he'd have taken the challenge in the right spirit, but in the end he got three flags, we collectively scored one and counting (?), so let's agree that via a few grim twists and turns everyone involved with this transaction won at either football, finance or both, except McMahon and poor Jack Trengove.

When Martin set up their next good as well my thoughts were firmly on the present-day question of what Michael Hibberd was doing, and why wasn't it happening here. Because we won, McVee being run around by a future Hall of Famer was probably good for his experience. He was kept quiet enough from there, but at the time I was terrified of another Brent Harvey-style 'one for the road' bag. Similar concerns about Lance Franklin ended with him retiring after injury, which is a shame because I was counting on the Swans wheeling him out in Round 24 while clearly unfit a'la us and Matthew Whelan in 2009.

Another goal right at the end was a blow. While we hadn't played badly by any means, and an 11 point deficit is practically nothing these days, the loose nature of their five goals was a worry. Riewoldt had one, but I didn't mind if they kept trying to go through him, it's when ball contacted grass that things got dodgy. North and Hawthorn have nothing left to lose playing us, one should try an all-small forward line, then try to roll every inside 50 kick either into open space. Never forgot 2021 when the Hawks were cactus but still got a draw against us off the back of attacking like they were drunk when they didn't mean to. Alternatively, just boot it long at the forwards and we'll take to it like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

This was not our backline's greatest day, May was good in the air and with ball in hand but seemed a touch ropey at ground level (possibly not 100% fit? Some chance of a 'what's the worst that can happen?' spot of 'managing' against North?), while the Tomlinson hype express blew a sprocket and had to be shunted off for maintenance. After taking so long to get interested in him again I'm not giving up immediately, but this told me that he's far better suited to the Adelaide style of having the ball booted down his throat, than having to put up with fierce forward pressure.

I'm hoping for the chance to be really patronising next week, so not going to waste my best stuff on a recent triple-banger premiership side but they were worryingly fierce for the first part of the game. I had faith that we could run them down if things didn't get too out of hand, but it was stress-testing the hypothesis that mid-table clubs (in a season where that extends from 5th to 14th) could go with us, but not for a full four quarters.

The key for being able to rope-a-dope sides is not going so far behind that the margin can't be run down (e.g. Brisbane part 1). In the spirit of new statistical measurements, I'd like to know the average tipping point for a comeback is. I just arbitrarily declared it as 24 points when introducing the Stranglewank, but there must be a point where your likelihood of either coming back to at least make a game of it, falls off the cliff. Get the boffins onto this instead of bullshit like Expected Scores that assume Petracca missing after 15 seconds still leads to Lachie Hunter standing in the same place for a set shot with 15 seconds left with the exact same margin.

I might have gone into full panic mode if that man Martin hadn't missed another one at the start of the second quarter. Like I did when Hunter randomly took on kicking duties for the first time (?), played on, then ran an absurd distance before kicking it. I'll retrospectively do something for outraged Crows fans and say that after their guy was nabbed in similar circumstances at the same end, this was identical. No harm done, but let's never end up in a situation again where one of May, Salem, Bowey, Rivers etc... isn't around to do it. 

The safest place for players to have a go at something new is the ruck, where most of the time we do worse when the other team fails to contest. At least until Gawn introduced his popular new tactic of grabbing the ball out of the air and heaving it forward, removing the risk of it being swept away at ground level. I still can't believe they let ruckmen do this, every other element of holding the ball is shrouded in controversy and mysticism and the AFL would kill stoppages tomorrow if they had the chance, but at the same time rucks can choose to pull the ball in and get away with being tackled. This isn't really relevant to Gawn because he's so large 

they struggle to tackle him before he gets the ball away, but if there was a free on the cards you'd just have somebody go straight for him the moment the ball was in the air.

This quickly led to Petty's third goal from a mark, and JVR getting a gift from Chandler (via a lovely tap-on from Melksham) that he was lucky didn't bounce away from him in the square, and it's hard to work out how we still had to come back from 20 points down to win this. Then you remember why, as the ball went straight towards Richmond's goal, and didn't come out until a wacky bounce beat May and the other Pickett, for somebody else to toe-poke through an unguarded goal. Neutrals would have been having a great time watching this but it was giving me the shits.

It didn't take long for the Tiges to get their next one either, but not before a cavalcade of comedy inside our defence 50, featuring players punching the ball in the air, running over it on the ground, and missing/not even pretending to try tackles, until it eventually allowed a free snap. I still had belief that we good enough to win, but was starting to wonder how we'd stop them scoring long enough to do it. Turns out the answer was not to worry about what they did and concentrate on kicking a shitload of goals ourselves.

The only thing worse than giving goals straight back out of the middle is conceding them in the final minutes, and bless Richmond for doing that 2x just as we were teetering on the brink. There was an assist from a 50 on the first, before Viney and Petracca combined to brute force exit one out of the middle, somehow allowing us to win the quarter. It could have been better, with a Mad Minute style third only denied by the umpire ignoring Melksham being unconstitutionally rooted in the square.

Meanwhile, 50s were being paid at the fastest rate since the pre-season game when we gifted Carlton about five goals by opting out of the new dissent rule. First to Brayshaw, who kept running, tried to thump it through from distance, instead landing the ball just inside the boundary line about 15 metres to the right of its intended target. Then we gave one away too, and things were getting so administrative that the crowd should have been invited to do their tax returns at half time.

If we were going to activate turbo thrust and run away with it, my health would have appreciated starting right after the break. Instead we turned an attack from the first bounce into the conceding within a minute. There was a bit where the ball was so far out of bounds it was nearly cleaned up by the 4:52 to Glen Waverley but that didn't excuse them kicking towards three unguarded players, and getting away with choosing the worst option. Loose defending is one thing, this was getting a bit free range for my liking.

Then, if anyone should try and blame rugby for affecting the turf it was James Jordon, whose stumble in front of goal cost us the next one. I don't think there was a surprise chasm involved, he just tried to run through a gap, tipped too far forward, and fell over. He's ahead of Harmes at the moment, but is probably as likely to be elsewhere next year. When you've got this many midfielders something's got to give. And we'll have so many draft picks that it's inevitable more are on the way, so he may as well take advantage of the weird situation of being a free agent at the end of every contract due to a previous delisting and cash in on the 'he can't get a game in a good side' theory elsewhere. Best go to a shit team who need to pay ridiculous money to artificially reach minimum salary cap and play regularly. Or do a Weid and leave for a fresh start, then end up in the reserves anyway. Let's remain on good terms just in case.

Those goals wiped out all the ground we'd clawed back at the end of the second quarter, and deep down I was ready to consider surrender terms. Finally it was our chance to wreck one of their goals at warp speed, and when Chandler booted one over his head you just never knew... Until they recovered that from the bounce and you did. Or at least you thought you did, if you're a nervous coward like me. Their reply was helped by one of the worst unrecalled bounces you'll ever see. The bounce should be abolished, but if it has to stay I'd go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and recall nothing, so it's hard to take any sort of moral highground on being disadvantaged by it flinging off to the other side's advantage.

By now I was so wound up about everything going against us that when a van Rooyen mark was greeted by a random downpour my first thought was how typical it was that we'd get a good chance just the moment the weather turned against set shots. My weather-related sooking was interrupted by JVR lobbing the shot through like it was bone dry. Which was nice. 

Then the rain disappeared, and I went from Pity Party to Petty Party when the new Tony Lockett stuck a knee in his opponent's back and kicked his fourth. We'd had to endure a defence optional near-miss after JVR's goal, and the Jack Viney Shoulder Injury Scare Of The Week, but now things were finally rolling. Petty celebrated with a Hulk Hogan style ear-cup to the crowd, and as it seems most in the vicinity were ours I think it was just general triumph rather than Bugg-esque tormenting of the opposition.

I've got no idea what percentage of Petty/JVR working well is down to a) them, b) Richmond leaving a shitload of space inside 50, or the c) the cameo work of Melksham, but this was combining to be the most unusual haul of goals against the Tigers since Andy Lovell kicked eight. Then Melk went from supporting player to headliner with two of his own, and against all odds and logic we were up by nine.

The second involved a defender shitting himself in a tackle and handballing over the line in a fashion not even people dressed as Tigers could reasonably argue. Petty did the tackle, but as hot as he was from regulation angles I'm glad they decided it was Melksham's kick because I've got more faith in him doing funky around-the-corner shots from the boundary. He delivered the goods again, in what could be the greatest career revival since... himself 12 months ago. Let's hope this one's got a finals series in it, and that if Fritsch comes back (and after the Oliver debacle I'm not sure) they complement each other rather than getting in the way.

This was a very silly game, so the natural reaction to us finally being ahead by more than a kick was for a second gamer to come on and goal about nine seconds later. We'd already introduced Smith for Tomlinson, and he continued to prove useful enough at either end that it will stereotype him as a sub. Conceding here was frustrating because we'd dominated for 20 minutes, it still left us ahead at three quarter time and looking more likely but nothing could be taken for granted.

The rookie might have kicked it, but the goal didn't happen without Riewoldt putting down a mark. And now he's on the downside of a great career, the countdown has started to ensuring he never has a massive day out against us. On the occasion of Lance Franklin retiring as the era-adjusted greatest goalkicker of all time (I don't mind this measurement, games and goals are the only thing you can judge from 1897 to the present, so it's fair enough to use stats to compare players from different times. Better than when somebody's assigned an 'all time' record based on stats that didn't exist until 1998), I ran the career goalkicking statistics of four great 21st century forwards to check my belief that we'd well held three of them. The results were as expected:

After kicking 11.0 since quarter time of course we started the last quarter with multiple points. It wouldn't have been as much 'fun' if I'd known what was going to happen, but like every game since Hawthorn the fatal blow took longer than you'd like. By the time it was over there were a lot of fingerprints on the candlestick that killed Richmond in the middle of the MCG. Gawn had been tremendous for the whole second half, and by the last quarter he was taking the piss, filling the Clayton Oliver medical mayhem void by playing like him.

There was a quick break to fill your shorts when Richmond reacted to five minutes on the back foot with the opening goal. And a second when our defenders tried to tackle a player on the line as if they were sliding barefoot across an ice rink. There is not the remotest chance I've had believed in a five goal win from here, it just seemed impossible that we'd stop them scoring long enough to get ahead and stay there. Then we kicked the last five goals to 0.0, nil, not a cracker. Didn't see that coming.

Nor did Gawn see the unpenalised eyepoke that indirectly led to Petty's fifth. The novelty value of going down to the most unlikely five goal haul since Sam Blease was obviously all the Tigers could take. Melksham got his fourth, before a moderately contentious free put them away for good. A defender took the high-risk option of trying to fend Pickett in the goalsquare, and when it caused him to be clobbered above the shoulders the umpire said bad luck for getting yourself in that position, gave the free and we were all but home. It might have been technically correct but even I was a bit embarrassed to get a goal under those circumstances.

Barring any absurd calamities we were already home before Petty took the 'most unexpected haul since....' competition beyond Jamar, Blease and McDonald at Subiaco with his sixth. After five set shots he decided to throw a snap around the corner into the mix, and why not? We knew he was capable of goals - and could have had this many against Hawthorn if it wasn't for injury - but via the AFL Tables list of all 5+ performances I deem it our most unlikely sixer of the century. Everyone else who's done in my lifetime it was either a full time forward, or in McSizzle's case already had form. Next cab off the rank is some Tasmanian rando called Michael Reynolds who got six as a late replacement in 1983 and not many after.

Between them, Petty, JVR and Melksham now had 13 straight, which is unlikely to happen every week. Got us over the line here though, and once we'd gone into victory lap mode all the action revolved around whether Petty could get another, and watching Gawn rampage around like Genghis Khan, doing anything he wanted. At one point he had more clearances for the quarter than all of Richmond, opening the debate of how much of the season you've got to play to be the All Australian ruckman. May as well just pick him as a pure midfielder at this rate. Shame he missed the shot that would have allowed them to stop the coverage and acknowledge him as the greatest leader in Australia's history, but that was only a minor blemish on an otherwise bonkers performance.

After the best combined day for our forwards in god knows how long, it somehow ended with Hunter kicking the exclamation goal right at the end, and we'd won surprisingly easy. Didn't feel like it was going that way most of the day, but thank god for finally was nice to put a side away for good instead of generously giving them every chance to get back into the game. 

If this is another square on the way to collecting $200 and flag in Footy Monopoly, we'll look back on it as one of the most important performances of the season. For now, we know dick all about where this year is heading, and in a season that's delivering so many wacky results it'll probably end up as a GWS vs St Kilda Grand Final I don't dare to make any bold predictions but I think we can beat anyone on our day. It's just a matter of making sure that day coincides with the ones finals are being played. 

2023 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Harrison Petty
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Jacob van Rooyen 

Massive apologies to Melksham. Normal variety apologies to Bowey, Hunter, Langdon, Lever and Pickett.

There are 20 points left in the home and away season, and somewhere between 5 and 20 in the finals. That means if you're more than 40 behind the lead now you're stuffed. Like poor Gawn, who pockets five for one of his great performances and is still left on the verge of elimination. As a consolation, I'm comfortable in declaring him the near-certain winner of a 10th Stynes. All eyes on next week, where the main event will be decided if Petracca scores three more than May or Viney but realistically we're just delaying the inevitable.

And in the minors, van Rooyen finally escapes the apologies, and becoming by my count the 137th player to get a vote since Jakoviching commenced in Round 1, 2005.
60 - Christian Petracca (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
--- Needs three finals to win ---
29 - Jack Viney
28 - Steven May (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
26 - Clayton Oliver
--- Needs four finals to win ---
21 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
--- Also Gawn ---
13 - Ed Langdon, Jake Lever
12 - Trent Rivers
11 - Brodie Grundy, Kysaiah Pickett
10 - Kade Chandler
9 - Angus Brayshaw
7 - Jake Bowey, Harrison Petty
5 - Lachie Hunter
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Michael Hibberd, Jake Melksham
3 - James Jordon, Judd McVee (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal), Christian Salem, Tom Sparrow
2 - Ben Brown
1 - Tom McDonald, Adam Tomlinson, Jacob van Rooyen

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
You can make an argument for Melksham pissbolting into the pocket to mark, or for Chandler booting one over his head, but the only winner here can be Petty's joy-inducing snap. What a man, what a performance.

Season leaderboard:
1 - Jack Viney vs Brisbane
2 - Jake Melksham vs Brisbane
3 - Christian Petracca vs Gold Coast

The All New Bradbury Plan
It's another big week for implications. Now that we've done the right thing you can afford to ease off a bit on the teams below us and hope for Brisbane/Port to stack it. The race for the top eight is magnificently insane, but I'm hoping we're one win away from being able to treat those fringe games with the same left of contempt as Kayo suggesting I watch Malawi vs Barbados netball instead of the end of North/West Coast.

Richmond d. Footscray (because Dogs have an easier run home)
West Coast d. Essendon (because spite)
Gold Coast d. Adelaide (because their percentage is worse)
Geelong d. Port (because top two)
GWS d. Sydney (controversial this one, but I'm hoping the Swans get to R24 with so little interest they roll over and let JVR do his version of Schwarz kicking 9 in '94)
Carlton d. St Kilda (bit risky given that we have to play the Blues still, but let's back ourselves to do the right thing again and bump off the nearer contender)
Fremantle d. Brisbane (now that they're a game and percentage in pick four.. err I mean 15th.. Jacko and the Dockers can do us a favour here)
Hawthorn d. Collingwood (just to induce pre-finals wobble)

Next week
After a couple of near-misses in their 16 straight losses, I really thought North would beat fellow footballing abortion West Coast but they lost a thriller. Which means one more will equal the number of times they beat us in a row from 2007 to 2017. The bad news is that instead of playing them at a proper venue we're off to Casey Fields South where there will probably be a degree of difficulty boosting nine goal breeze to one end. 

You might think there's absolutely no chance this goes bad, and on paper I'd agree with you but please refer to that other traumatic game of my childhood and understand why I won't be engaging in any loose talk about boosting percentage. There's a slight difference in that Sydney had another 10 losses, and we were shit in 1993 anyway but please respect my sporting PTSD.

Casey warmed up for a game they won't be involved in by playing in violent wind and losing to the Oscar McDonald-powered Williamstown by a point. Going off nothing but the stats, Dunstan and Hibberd had a shitload of it, Laurie tackled everybody, and they apparently had two players in #0. In the interests of rewarding form, and assuming that Oliver's just days away from another injury setback, I'd like to give forgotten man Dunstan a chance at getting involved in a Cinderella story, but if Sparrow is fit he comes straight back in. Sadly it looks like Harmes is joining Brown in the premiership legend knackery, but both will be metaphorically carried off on our shoulders at the end of the year.

The Grundy forward experiment was reportedly binned, probably because they knew he'd spend half the game down the end where nothing was happening. And if that didn't harm his chances of a recall, Petty and Gawn both going bananas a couple of hours later made sure of it. I feel bad for him, and think he'd do a good job if called on, but we're not running a charity he can wait. If it ends in a trade this would surely be the first time three clubs combined to pay a salary. There was talk about tempting fate and resting Gawn next week and I'll have none of it now, then secretly complain that we didn't do it if something goes wrong. Knowing us we'll try to get tricky and play Max at full forward for a rest only for some journeyman galoot to fall across his leg. 

So as far as I can see there's not much else from the VFL, and not a lot we need to change in the ones. For all his endeavour ANB may as well invest in a butcher's apron, but he has such a bash that I'm willing to accept the 'role' masks a few clangers. Chandler didn't set the world alight but is still ahead of Spargo, and while I'd almost rather Smith to Tomlinson it feels a bit knee-jerk to ditch Tomo after one down game. Joel will just have to sit and wait for somebody at either end to fall over. We've had a great run being able to take off key position players in the last few weeks but I'd love to know what Plan B is if he's needed to replace a runner. Speaking of people who run, Jordon didn't float my boat this week but I'll stick with him, and there's got to be a spot for Hibberd soon if he can remain upright long enough.

On the balance of things we should win without too much stress but I'll believe it when I see it. Another eight goal to one first quarter would help. And if we do win, leaving Brett Ratten's caretaker coaching record on par with Alan McConnell, give the man credit for a top job coaching our midfield in 2004.

IN: Sparrow
OUT: Harmes (omit), Smith (back to sub)
LUCKY: Jordon, Tomlinson
UNLUCKY: Dunstan, Grundy, Hibberd

Final thoughts
This was very good, coming back from multiple setbacks to run over the top of an in-form, not dead yet great side. Maybe you can convince me we're a chance of winning it all, but at the moment I'm still relying on other teams self-destructing rather than us winning. If we get to Saturday *consults calendar* 30 September and the other side loses via explosive decompression, are you going to give the flag back?


  1. Kysaiah has actually got the first centre clearance disposal the last 3 matches in a row. Wonder if an obscure record?

  2. Speaking of centre bounces (several wonky ones not recalled), since when is the opposition ruckman allowed to cross over to Max's side to cause nuisance value? Don't we have the line in the middle to stop that nonsense? I didn't see an infringement paid against the Tigers. Now pretenders to the crown might see an opportunity to curb the dominance of the AFL's greatest ruck/rover/centreman/missile launcher.


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