Monday 2 October 2023

The all star action attraction somebody's gonna end up in traction faction

There was a moment during the last quarter of the Melbourne Football Club's easiest senior level win at Kardinia Park since the 1970s where I achieved a level of sporting arrogance not seen since deep into the last quarter of 25/09/2021. 

After a competitive start, the Cats had melted like everybody else we've played in the last year, but late in the game they were streaming into the forward 50 with free players everywhere and looked like ruining the much-loved since finding out about it two weeks ago streak of not conceding in the last quarter. They blew it in slapstick fashion, and maybe because all the misery I'd suppressed at the end of the Carlton game was about to pour out (NB: it hit me like a train when I reluctantly tuned in midway through the first quarter on Saturday) this seemed like the funniest thing ever to happen at an AFL venue. 

On reflection it had nothing on Gerald Healy mispronouncing Gold Coast, Hawthorn holding a goalkicking competition for recovering drug addicts, the MCG cleaner point-blank refusing to clean a kid's spew off the Ponsford Stand, or any number of hilarious on-field fiascos but at the time I needed a good news story, and completing a 14th consecutive win without conceding a goal in the last quarter was the nearest thing that was going to happen over that weekend.

This magical run - that we've been so invested in since finding about it two weeks ago - could easily come to an end next week, even if we do win, but as far as I'm concerned it's up there with great feats of the code. You can discredit some of the 14 due to the opposition being pus but there were three finals in the mix so I'll have it on the top shelf of achievements thanks. It's being built up so much now that even if we go through the season undefeated (which, let's not get sidetracked here, is not impossible but unlikely), carry the streak into the Grand Final, and concede one on the siren while 45 points up there will be a slight element of sadness.

I'm not one to count chickens pre-hatch, especially before playing the next best team in the competition, but this was a welcome reminder of how good our side is. Like everyone else in the league our depth is so thin that a few injuries could throw the whole plan out the window, but this side is living through their imperial phase. Here's to stretching it out until the end of the year before the AFL starts kidnapping players and forcing them to play in strange places like Blacktown and Frankston.  

It's easy to forget in Round 1 we went into half-time barely clinging on against Collingwood, because since then there cannot have been a more entertaining team in eight seasons of this competition. I can understand even AFLW-friendly neutrals avoiding many of the games involving sides outside the top eight, but for pure footballing enjoyment you'd be made to watch anyone else. 

This was our biggest test since the opening round, finally playing Geelong five and a bit seasons after they entered the competition and just after getting their act together. Throw in a decent local crowd due to the upcoming public holiday, our soft-lead in, and the realisation that we've become the giant to be slayed in this league and I was a bit edgy about this. Not quite 'red alert' territory, but maybe a dark orange. After nothing short of an extinction level event could have stopped us last week, this was a return to "anything can happen" territory.

For a game where Kate Hore ended up outscoring them single-handedly, Geelong did look dangerous at the start. We've chased a couple of teams during the golden era but I didn't fancy it here, especially without Harris marauding around CHF clattering into people. She'd needed to have changed ends to get a kick in the opening minutes, the ball was stuck down their end, with the unlikely defensive pairing of Goldrick and McNamara repeatedly relieving the ball from 30 metres out. The dam walls look to have finally broken when they kicked the first, only for it to be reversed for a push in the back. Sucked in.

And double sucked in when our "can't play [insert massive list of shit teams here]" doubts were erased by the a goal from the worst free of all time. A defender certainly did hold onto Paxman without the ball, but only because it had been dropped during the initial tackle. There was no sling, no UFC-style slam into the ground, and if it happened to us I'd be cracking the shits. Geelong didn't get the opportunity to sook for long, because straight out of the middle Pearce was marking, having a flashback to missing from the square against Adelaide last year, and dishing it off to a passing Hore for the second.

So, while I'm sure class would have won out in the end, you can't help but feel sorry for them doing everything but kick goals for half a quarter, then going two goals down after a woeful free. Could have stopped the warp speed centre clearance that led to the second one I suppose. Their problem was wasting so much time nearly kicking goals that they went within a few seconds of an unlucky/negligent (delete as applicable) scoreless quarter. A late goal reduced the margin to seven, which was a far more accurate picture of where the game was at.

Geelong was both wasteful and unlucky again at the start of the second, with more unrewarded pressure and Goldrick doing the most incorrect disposal possible before we counter-attacked for a third. I can understand why the Cats - featuring three of our old players in the hope that something will rub off - will make finals, and maybe beat one of the 5-8 teams in the first week, but are no chance of a surprise run at the flag. They were ok, and will be better in the future, but we're in charge at the moment.

I was ok with being challenged, it's fun to pulverise the needy but finals aren't won by freewheeling rampage. It even seemed like a good thing when the player who no longer has a massive 80s style perm kicked a goal to keep it interesting. They may have lost that half of Kardinia Vice, but do still have a player called Crockett-Gills who sounds like she should be arresting people on a speedboat.  

The comeback didn't last long. To prove everything was going our way Heath flubbed a set shot that fell into Sherriff's arms in the pocket. She missed but it didn't take long to get the party started again. Enter Kate Hore, fresh from a random TV ad flogging booze on a couch with subject matter expert Mark Robinson, for her third. She might have had another straight after, but a ballistic kick out of the middle by Hanks arrived so quickly that it bounced off her. Then one rebound 50 later she could have had another shot but tried to be captainly and share it. 

I wouldn't trust these umpires to judge pies at the Whittlesea Fair but if Hore plays the whole season and doesn't finish amongst the top players in the league B&F then they should all be relieved of their duties. Her only danger is being pushed out by Hanks, who put forward her medal credentials at the start of the third quarter by nailing the ex-perm wearer holding the ball in front of goal.

Things were going very well for us now, but the suggestion that the AFLW should be evacuating players from Ireland on charter flights was furthered by Geelong's full forward pulling down a big contested mark for her third. We've taken a Moloney from them before and I'd be keen on doing it again as part of our ongoing project to create the biggest Irish diaspora since America in the 1800s. Our contingent weren't as rampant against sensible opposition but still had some nice moments, including Aimee Mackin being rorted out of her first career goal by being ignored while running into the 50 without an opponent in sight.

The margin was only 15 but it was hard to justify getting worried about the Cats launching a comeback. Still, after 10 minutes without a goal I wasn't arguing with Paxman's bouncing one right into Zanker's path for a tap-in from the square. That left us 22 in front at the last change, and surely to god we weren't going to suddenly concede four without reply so once Gay celebrated her 50th game with a goal all the focus turned to shutout watch.

Our best chance of stopping them scoring was to keep the ball at our end, including Paxman booting a tremendous set shot from the boundary line. I didn't think much of the "can anyone beat them?" talk on commentary, because history has shown the answer is almost always yes, but did enjoy the "this is over, start scanning the crowd for celebrities" shot of Daisy Pearce trying to look neutral as old employer thumped new employer.

As we ran the score beyond 70 I started to think how good it would be if the team that used to kick weird scores like 1.9 ended the year with a better scoring average than the men. With several good teams yet to play it would be a stretch to reach the required 88.12, but in five games we've already covered entire seven game seasons from the early years of the comp and all nine games of the 2021 H&A season. Longer games etc... etc... but I defy you to think back to some of our forward lines and wonder if they'd have scored at this rate if quarters went for an hour.

Once they'd comically botched their best chance for the quarter the only thing I wanted more than everyone getting to the final siren uninjured was for Mackin II to get Goal I but the wait continues. Hore teased another five goal haul but you can forgive her missing a set shot after darting from one end of the ground to the other for four quarters. A 49 point margin was a little bit unfair, especially when they had to stand around watching their former B&F Purcell plucking disposals left, right and centre, but that's life. The tide will eventually turn on us but here's hoping it will take a long time.

2023 Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Kate Hore
4 - Olivia Purcell
3 - Eden Zanker
2 - Eliza West
1 - Paxy Paxman

Apologies to Goldrick, McNamara, Hanks and Pearce.

When one stops the other takes over, and the greatest two-horse race of all time continues. No change in the minor awards.

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

Goal of the Week 
I'm going wild declaring things to be the best ever at the moment, but Paxman's set shot in the last quarter is surely better than any we've ever done in this competition before? Obviously she wins the week, but has to be content with second place on the season leaderboard. 

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

Next week
It gets spicy on Saturday afternoon against the Crows at Casey. Our percentage is 300, theirs is 260, but time to get serious against proper opposition. We should get Harris back from injury, but I regret to say that the successful return of Colvin to defence probably means elite off-field celebrator Maeve Chaplin will miss again. Hopefully the conditions on Mt. Variable Weather don't wreck the quality of this game because it should be played like a final. Unlike all the finals against Adelaide until the last one I'd like to think we'll win, but will be generous and say they'll ruin the streak by kicking a goal in the final term. 

Final Thoughts
Now that the Trump people have won the men's competition we can write that season off as a bad memory and go all-in on winning this version of the flag. 


  1. Come on Adam, get with the Paxy Program! There is no Karen Paxman anymore.
    How much fun is it to watch this team play.

    1. Bloody hell, I knew I'd botch it eventually.


Crack the sads here... (to keep out nuffies, comments will show after approval by the Demonblog ARC)