Tuesday 17 October 2023

Banno goes boonta in b-team beatdown

Welcome to another big week of nobody paying attention to a really good team because we were too busy trading some men, fishing another out of hospital, and blowing up the AFL Tables servers trying to work out who Tom Fullarton is. I don't know if there's a good time to balance clear air for AFLW and not killing the players in the middle of summer, but it's a touch NQR that the season will have three home and away games left by the time all the other competition's newsworthy distractions are over.

It doesn't help the build-up when you're playing another of the many dreadful sides, but if there was ever a day for West Coast to score more than seven points against us this was it. A raft of injuries (some qualifying under the 'good week for a rest' rule), +30 degree temperatures on a ground with about 2% shade cover, and the recent disappointment of losing our first game in a year had us primed for a... not as big as expected win. The Eagles certainly weren't going to beat us without something insane happening, but you could make a case for it staying interesting a lot longer than the other times we've brutalised them.

To their credit (he says switching to a deeply patronising tone) they reached half-time near enough to keep open the prospect of the biggest upset of all time. We might have had a shitload more injuries, several players could have collapsed from heatstroke during the last quarter, you never know. Then the 'no goals in the last quarter' count was reset to one, and extended to the opposition not scoring a cracker for the entire second half, on a day where they only have nine inside 50s. You can't tell anything from a high inside 50 count, but when it lands in single digits you have - in the end - had a shit one no matter how solid the supporting effort. 

The absence of Tayla Harris and Lauren Pearce was a win for stats nerds everywhere, as Rhi Watt lost her chance to be the only two-time leadership group member never to play a game, but gained the title of oldest MFC debutant of all time. At just shy of 36 she easily vaults Laura Duryea for the AFLW record, and finishes over a year ahead of ex-North man, and later Australian Football Hall of Famer, John Lewis for the combined club record. Put that on a t-shirt. John's great grandson played for West Coast, Rhiannon's great grandchildren may be around to see their women's side achieve respectability.

After narrowly missing a 100 point win against Freo (who, to be fair, had been walloped by COVID protocols) two years ago, I was open to the idea of going 12+ points better against the alternative but tempered my expectations based on raft of changes, and weather that may as well have been the Kalahari Desert compared to Casey. A nice, comfortable win without injuries or suspension would have done me well into the third quarter. Then as the score started to tick up I got bloodlust and wanted to pile unnecessary misery on players who were probably hoping somebody would throw the towel in and f or them. 

The secessionists love playing air raid sirens at the start of quarters, and what better day than when you're likely to be under fire from start to finish. When they unexpectedly went straight out of the middle and kicked into the heart of forward 50 I'd have been more nervous if it didn't land in the arms of a defender without an opponent in the same area code. Like a sadder version of the start against GWS, it was false hope for the scattered home crowd. They knew it was the equivalent of if Luxembourg had fired the first shot in World War II. They were quite efficient in scoring from their remaining inside 50s, with two goals from seven attempts. 

On every measure other than the scoreboard we were better between that mark and the first goal, but the interim was a bit rough. The Eagles tried their best not to be thrashed, at the cost of looking a chance to go one better than last time and become the first team to score nil. The effort was there, and you knew we'd break through eventually but for now it lacked clear cut chances. 

At least we had the commentary stylings of 'Scoey', who not only reminds you of a fringe Simpsons character but has perfected the world-weary, 'pretending to love the game but sounding like he doesn’t want to be there' attitude of Gerard Healy. This is the same person who thought we had mental scars from the 2018 Prelim shortly before humping Geelong by a huge margin, so I assume Tim Ruffles was busy.

There wasn't any saving this game for spectacle enthusiasts, but those of us who clutch to anything red and blue like our lives depend on it needed a spark. Enter Alyssa Bannan, about to take her turn on the rotating 'five goals in a game' showcase. First Hore equalled Daisy’s club record in Canberra, then Zanker at Casey, now Banno has done it somewhere that doesn’t start with C. If last week was anything to go by, good teams have realised that you can't let her run out the back and into an open goal. For obvious reasons the Eagles were unable to implement that strategy, twice standing around like Wile E. Coyote being passed by the Road Runner in a cloud of dust.

Unlike unbeaten premiership favourites Adelaide, the Eagles not only scored in the opening quarter but got full points. Sure it came gift-wrapped from a 50 but better to make charitable contributions than risk the AFL kidnapping half our list (and if this happens may I suggest the bottom half) to distribute around the country. Normal service resumed with Bannan proving her versatility by booting a set shot as well, and no damage was done from gifting them a goal. 

There was already a less than 0.01% chance of being caught from three goals to one in front but we lobbed in a fourth just to make sure of it. While her sister was busy hoovering up kicks off the half-back line, new cult favourite Aimee Mackin was busy causing carnage inside 50. After a near miss where she don't argued one opponent with contempt, had a bounce, then booted it straight out on the full, her long-awaited first goal finally came from a spot of goalsquare crumb that furthers the theory that we should be recruiting the Irish as early as possible and training them into a race of superplayers. 

At 26-years-old there's plenty of time for Mackin to either a) polish her game, become the most exciting forward in the league, and be part of the first sibling life member combination since the Febeys, b) have the excitement coached out of her, or c) lose interest and concentrate on dominating the Gaelic game instead. There was a centering kick from the boundary line that would make recruiters fall off their chair if done by a prospective draftee. The next step is doing this against the good teams she is already providing terrific entertainment value.

The only thing that was going to stop us winning now was direct nuclear strike, so I took the opportunity to spend the second quarter cooking dinner. Still watching, but with the sizzling commentary replaced by sizzling frypan. I'm sure some excellent audio content was missed, because the footy didn't have much going for it. We spent the whole quarter thumping away at their end for a measly by our standards 0.2, while West Coast nearly went a full quarter without going inside 50 once. Once they did our defenders were so surprised that they conceded a mark/goal, and somehow we'd lost the quarter. 

This was the AFLW equivalent of the day we held Footscray to two points in the third quarter and still lost by 98. That not only made the margin a respectable 15 points, but reopened the prospect of events with the rarity of Haley's Comet conspiring to beat us. Or we could kick the next 55 points unanswered. Which was nice.

You could be excused for feeling a little bad for the Eagles when they followed up an arguably heroic defensive effort by leaking a goal less than a minute after the restart. That must have been a touch deflating, because they curled up in a ball for protection and suffered two full quarters of one of the greatest bombardments in competition history. We've scored more twice this year, but neither with as many scoring shots. This was brutal. Unless they were in the shady, CIA interrogation centre style building at the right of screen I don't know where the bulk of the alleged 1200 crowd were hiding, but local fans deserved a medal for commitment.  

Despite a level of domination and control that skirted the boundaries of legality, we went several minutes without a goal after Bannan entered 'on the verge of a bag' territory with her fourth. I was absolutely convinced that she was going to plow past Daisy's record and finish with about eight. Sadly not, but a pair of late goals carried the margin to 46. I'd have taken this as the final margin at half time, but now that rampage was in the air I went into full sicko mode and wanted us to kick 10 goals to nil.

Not surprisingly, players who'd just spent three quarters going full pelt in the heat were more open to energy conservation. In any other conditions it might have got really ugly, but at the same time this is a rare scenario where you can say "they'd have won by more if they kicked straighter". It doesn't work in a 50/50 game, but when it's almost certain the ball would have been back at our end seconds later it could have turned into a conveyor belt of carnage.

In the conditions, I don't hold it against the players for running the clock down in Harlem Globetrotters mode, turning the endless stream of marks inside 50 into an excuse to chip the ball to players in better positions while Eagles defenders trailed behind with their tongues hanging out like neckties, begging for mercy. When Mithen set up Hore's first, the opposition must have seen their life flash before their eyes. We got two more, including Bannan's fifth, but spent the last few minutes gleefully spraying shots like a training session. One day they'll be better than us, but the good news is I'll probably have carked it from old age first.

Like letting the kids occasionally beat you at video games, we tried to encourage them to score something by finishing with Gillard and Birch on the bench. Didn't help, but I expect our coaching group to be jointly nominated for the AFL Community Award for effort.  

Bannan should have kicked for a club record-breaking sixth after the siren, but hit the deck with what thankfully turned out to be cramp and donated the shot to her captain's leading goalkicker campaign. I'm not sure cramp counts as an injury that you can decline a set shot for, especially when you not only stay on the ground, but stand practically next to the person kicking it. Even if you're not doing the old James Manson scam, try this in a close game and see what happens.

Hore missed anyway, probably because she looked over at Banno during the run-up and thought "what are you doing here?" That made it an even 70 points, and a warmer than usual chapter in our glittering history of thumping those less fortunate than us. Which is great, but unless it ends in beating good sides you're basically Geelong 2012-2021.   

Obviously the West Coast coach is not a believer in a) learning from the best, or b) retaining his dignity, because he had a very enjoyable post-match sook about having to play us. 

It can't be easy going into a game knowing you'll be thrashed (and didn't the bold, scrolling NO WINS graphic on Saturday night give me nightmare flashbacks to the Mark Neeld era) but forget the first half noble effort of an outmatched side that's won seven games in five seasons, the real enemy is fixturing.

Please appreciate the gentle and patient way author Nathan Schmook highlights the false claims about where the Eagles finished last season. If Tom Morris can bounce back from scandal to win an AFL media award, Nathan should be commended for not printing the quote verbatim then adding *Arrested Development voiceover* They finished third last. 

Since then the coach has 'apologised' (with a hint of kicking and/or screaming), but like us morally deserving the 2013 wooden spoon because we only beat GWS, I can see why he feels like they finished last. The only worse sides were expansion clubs put together in more haphazard fashion than the Brisbane Bears, but even if we all know it's farcical to only play 10 of 17 teams in a season that's life. Also, not sure what his excuse is for the season to date when they've played 12th, 9th, 14th, 18th, 17th and 11th until now. They've got Adelaide in the last round, and god help them with that, but have otherwise practically played a second division draw and are still shite.

I'm not sure what degree of assistance you can give to a regionally isolated team, in a still semi-professional competition, when the other local side is no good either, but if a men's team played like this across five years they'd be allowed to appoint their own umpires. They should get something, but not having to play the premier is kooky. Alternatively, I volunteer we play all the bottom sides next year in the name of equality.

2023 Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Alyssa Bannan
4 - Blathin Mackin
3 - Olivia Purcell
2 - Eliza West
1 - Kate Hore

Apologies to Hanks, Goldrick, Mithen, A. Mackin, Campbell, and Watt.

There's still a maximum 35 votes to play for so nobody's eliminated yet, and minimal votes for the big hitters this week leaves the door slightly open for a come-from-behind win for the ages. I've decided to consider Original Recipe Mackin a defender, so she's into the lead in that award.

23 - Tyla Hanks
19 - Kate Hore
11 - Eden Zanker
9 - Olivia Purcell
7 - Blathin Mackin (LEADER: Defender of the Year), Shelley Heath
6 - Eliza West
5 - Alyssa Bannan
4 - Tayla Harris
3 - Sinead Goldrick, Sarah Lampard, Lauren Pearce (LEADER: Ruck of the Year)
2 - Tahlia Gillard
1 - Paxy Paxman

Goal of the Week 
It's got to be the long-awaited Goal I by Mackin II, as good a crumb from close range as you're going to get. Does not dislodge anybody from the overall leaderboard.

1st - Kate Hore (Q1 #2) vs GWS
2nd - Paxy Paxman (Q4) vs Geelong
3rd - Eden Zanker (Q2) vs Collingwood

Next week
Dismantling the league's jabronis brick-by-brick is very good, but contrary to what Michael Prior may think all the good teams get a go at doing it. That leaves us taking on North Melbourne and their even more astronomical percentage from one spot lower on the ladder. In a rare case of 'trying to get people to attend' we're back at Princes Park in prime time on Saturday night, and we'd want to be getting several of the injured players back for the occasion. The stand-ins did perfectly well this week, but I'll have one Harris, Paxman, Gay and Pearce combination with the lot thanks. However they do it, either Campbell or Watt should remain so Harris can maraud the forward line all night.

After Adelaide I don't know if we're going to win against the top teams, but am sure that it will be a significantly better contest than this was.

Final Thoughts
I don't know if we learned anything important from this. May as well leave the tapes in the sun to melt and turn focus to the veritable shitload of important games that follow.

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