Wednesday 22 May 2024

RIP Fortress Perth (2021 - 2023)*

* Technically it died on 19/05/2024 but I don't want the glorious memories to be tainted by association with this debacle.

As far as glory eras go, a few consecutive wins at one interstate venue is hardly Norm Smith in the 1950s, but if you're the sentimental type there's no shame in feeling sad about the Perth Stadium bubble bursting. The conditions will never exist again to do much in so few games at a single venue, including the obvious highs of September 2021 to thumping a COVID-ravaged Freo AFLW side that was roaming the streets trying to find players a few hours earlier, and a couple of effortless 10 goal wins while West Coast was in the relegation zone.

It didn't have to end this soon, but here's another reason why it's risky assuming we'll win in advance. At the other end of the scale, lunatics who dared to talk about percentage boosting and players having an easy one to get back into form and probably feeling ripped off now. That's between them and the once again beleaguered club receptionist who has to answer calls from nuffies.

There's some good news from this, it proved that premiership anaesthesia is flowing through my system. It's one thing losing lots of finals but the real test was our first lifeless, sad loss to a lowly side. I may have sworn in front of the children but was not moved to tip the couch over. In a week where Richmond's demise has me wondering what it will feel like to eventually fizz out again, I haven't got enough energy to go off chops this early in the piece.

Last week the round was ruined at the first opportunity, this time you had to hang around while 16 other sides went at it, thinking "surely we won't stuff this up". In the words of top stuntman Rob Sitch, "the waiting. It's the worst part". It was hard to take delight in the misfortune of Geelong or Hawthorn knowing that we were heading directly towards a banana skin. I still thought we'd win, even if it took a plug fugly struggle. Then we played as if in the advanced stage of carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless you're North or post-Anzac Day Richmond this season has had something for everyone, but even if the Eagles are well past their 170 point loss era I didn't expect to make it this easy for them.

Regular readers will recall my role in killing our 2023 AFLW campaign by buying a membership late in the season, now I've provoked a tits up shambles by going all-in for Goodwin until the bitter end due to his emotional scenes after the Geelong win. If you're into mystical shit you may note that neither side has been any good since that goalless quarter and picture Channel 7 execs plunging needles into AFL-licenced voodoo dolls. Whatever the reason, we've got the violent wobbles - just like mid-2021, 2022 or 2023. Except we're not even halfway through this interminable season yet so I understand people getting nervy about just making the eight now, let alone reaching September as contenders. 

I can hear the Bradbury Plan envelope unsealing as we speak, but there's no need to chuck your dignity out the window and carry on like we reunited the Mark Neeld All Stars just yet. I wouldn't bet five Hungarian Pengos on us winning a final, let alone three or four, but teams have survived worse. It doesn't mean we will, but no matter how (relatively) dreadful this was, nothing happened to definitively prove that it's over. 

Now that half the league is stealing our indigenous names bit (after we ripped it off from Melbourne Storm) my remaining interest is annoying easily outraged people in the Facebook comments. It's not the highlight of my year, but this is your annual reminder that a quick browse of the news will reveal a lot worse going on than footy teams playing under an assumed name. In the interest of balance, the minority on the other side who get upset when anyone slips up and uses the traditional names can proceed to the same bin.

My only radical political view is protecting the 2021 flag's legitimacy, and I'm considering civil war against people whose coping strategy for bad losses is to act like it's illegitimate because they didn't see it live. Even if you believe the same path would have been followed at the MCG (which I do not), and regret not rorting the COVID restrictions like everyone else to watch with friends/family, it was a great moment and I'll occupy a major university to defend it. If premierships don't matter unless you see them live, could somebody tell the thousands of fringe Pies fans who go to one game a year but carry on about the 2023 Grand Final like they were whispering tactical moves directly into Craig McRae's ear.

I don't think race relations will break down if I refer to West Coast by their regulation name throughout this post (NB: their indigenous jumper was tremendous and they should wear it every week) but the scoreboard abbreviation of WAA was a fitting tribute to four decades of fans sooking about umpiring. Ironically, they got their first goal via a good old fashioned shove in May's back, and double ironically we were WAAing by the end and saying NAR to any hope of winning the flag. 

We've been five goals down against North Melbourne in consecutive years before winning, so when we did unlike last week and goalled in response I was calm. In retrospect, the Potential Shambles Alarm was going off in the background. The midfield was a step behind and the forwards may as well have still been in the domestic terminal. That's fine if you've built everything on defending... until West Coast's second goal came with a bonus kick to the head for Jake Lever. So that was the end of him, and I'm not saying that doomed us but it sure as Christ didn't help. Now we find out that he's got lingering knee trouble and is being sent for surgery, which makes sense if he's already out for a week and we've got the bye but I reserve the right to worry that they'll leave a scalpel inside him.

Last time we lost a defender it paid off the otherwise curious decision to name Marty Hore as sub. Now the replacement was Taj Woewodin, who did well amongst the chaos but wasn't going to help in the air. Lucky we had a perfectly good one at the other end, playing like he'd just beamed in from another galaxy. So they left Petty flailing around for the next three quarters while the Eagles carried on like they'd reincarnated prime Scott Cummings, Peter Sumich and Josh Kennedy. Who knows if Petty would have made a difference to the disaster evacuation levels of panic when we got the ball, but I'm certain he'd have offered more than he did trailing defenders to the ball all day. Fair enough not making the change at quarter time when he had to get through his own concussion assessment (insert your own unkind comments), but carrying on in the same fashion after half time was waving a white flag.

If I was defending the forwards in Footy Court I'd lean heavily on us having our least inside 50s in a full length game since 2015. The jury would see straight through that, because a large part of the problem was having zero marking power on approach. Last week we had more inside 50s before scoring than any team on record so god knows what's going on, but it's not good. Can't help that van Rooyen was KOed by J(ack)V(iney's)R(right knee) and Turner did a mystery hammy, but no idea why we thought playing Brown and Petty at the same time was a good idea. I didn't mind playing McAdam off the back of injury/limited VFL form, but there had to be something else that didn't rely on more than one forward who is moving like the elderly.

Brown has at least found his way to a few goals this year, but Petty is in all-time dreadful form. In eight games, the first played half in defence, he's kicked 2.8 and half of his marks were in the backline against Hawthorn or in that one really good performance against Geelong. He showed promise as a forward last year but needs to head for the other end or the VFL as quickly as possible. I was there when we had so few real forwards that Frawley, Garland, and Rivers were given a go, and all of them would have done better than him this year. Refer previous posts about not running him out of town because he'll eventually be a quality full back, but if he starts forward next week I may punch on. His confidence is obviously shot, so keeping him up there every week is almost workplace bullying.

It was all getting a bit farcical by quarter time, including May getting lost without the other half of footy's greatest platonic couple and hoofing the ball off the ground straight into the hands of Jayden Hunt. As much as I hated this whole game, it's nice to see him doing well after arriving at West Coast just before the bottom fell out. Last year I was thinking about launching a hostage rescue to get him back from Perth, but if he can hang around long enough Mr. Owl Energy might be trying to save his old teammates from disaster.

While everything was going to shit I'd like to acknowledge that Kysaiah Pickett was having a massive go setting a good example. He might have been going too hard trying to lift everyone onto his shoulders and ended up turning it over as much as anyone else. Still, I'd rather go down in that fashion than standing around watching the opposition do as they liked. See also ANB and Oliver, who will also (spoiler alert) feature in the most difficult set of votes I've had to do for ages.

I always do the votes first, then change my mind a few times before the end. Even after a loss this is usually the easy bit, but this time my shortlists were 'Doesn't really deserve a vote' and 'Certainly doesn't deserve a vote'. It was easier to give Jordie McKenzie the five for 186 than deciding who our 'best' was here. This struggle was vindicated by the coaches' votes, where we got nil for the first time since Port 2020 kicked off the popular Bartlett vs Goodwin feud. And while we're having a shit week, any chance of the latest 'leak' from the Bartlett files? If it fires the group up they can compare us to the Medellin Cartel again. It's a shame Joel Smith's timing was so shit because he'd probably have been handy in our forward line this year.

So, by the point where it was clear Lever was finished, and we were being beaten in every part of the ground all I had left was innocent childlike hope of another comeback. If we could turn the tables against Carlton, then we could overrun a team of half kids and half nearly crocked veterans? Well yes, except when you stand back and let young and old do whatever they like. The best description for this performance would be 'timid'.

It wasn't exactly the passing of teams in opposite directions like Hawthorn in the 2007 pre-season (and for all-time dated references, what about a post title referencing the shortlived Playstation Portable?), but we did pay off years of helping young players get Rising Star nominations by making absolutely sure King Harley Race will win the overall award in a landslide. I'm not bothered whether North are ever good again, but hoped the merits of tanking would decided for good by them missing out on this guy but coming out equal or better eventually, but they're probably secretly regretting winning in the last round right now. Anyone who thinks Dustin Martin would have turned out the same way if we'd picked him is mad, but I suspect this guy could have walked into any club from top to bottom and had an immediate positive impact. 

Probably calm down on treating the kid like the second coming until he's played a few more games and we find out whether people will just start grabbing his fend arm and whipping him into the turnbuckle WWF style, but bloody hell he had our number here. I've avoided seeing him until now by watching approximately 0.00 seconds of Eagles games but turns out the Rankin' Wankin' x50 frenzy might be justified. Very polite of us to let him get on with it too, while our players were being battered off the ball at every opportunity we must have been hoping to stay in his good books for the inevitable 'Return to Victoria' scramble, shortly before he joins Carlton and coincidentally discovers a love for cardboard recycling.

Anyone would fall over themselves in glee if somebody like this turned up at their club, and fans were toppling from their seats in record numbers when Wonderboy followed Hunt's goal with three bounces and one of his own. Fair enough. It was like the time Bontempelli kicked a ripping goal out of his arse and you realised he was going to be a top player. Here's to Harley doing as he likes for the next decade against everyone except us.  

We got through two more shots by the end of the quarter, and were barely holding on. Two goals be buggered, this was a much worse performance than being 30 (and soon 36) zip behind against the Blues. Still, three quarters to get it right eh? Then before you knew it they had two more goals, from a player standing in miles of space in front of goal and McVee trying to defend against Jack Darling. Can't remember if Petty was back at this point, but that should have been the big FO wakeup call that we needed more size in defence. 

Maybe they were fooled by the false alarm of three straight goals. I've seen it done better at this venue, but wasn't in a position to complain about quality. After not doing much else (and he wasn't alone there) McAdam joined the exclusive one goal kicker club from a metre out. Which was good, but failing to make the distance from 40 metres later in the quarter didn't bode well. So we've got two key forwards who can't get to a contest, and McAdam and Billings can kick about 60 metres between them. Imagine the classic 'this is fine' cartoon in this space.

The third one was so weird that it deserved to lead to better things, with Brown kicking one on the run from the boundary that he had no historical right to. For execution and context it was no Pedersen vs Carlton for ex-North player finishes from that side, but now even I was getting sucked in to the idea of a Bellerive-style recovery from near-disaster to comfortable win. We conceded the next goal, but responded quickly and might have been within single digits if McAdam had between 40 and 45 metres in his leg.

More missed West Coast shots before half time felt like a big, flashing neon 'Danger' sign. Then we returned to do the exact same thing, and immediately deflated the balloon by conceding 30 seconds after the restart again. This really was a tribute to the Neeld years, when we usually returned after half time as if he'd spent the break reading them a list of war crimes and atrocities. We kept things interesting for a bit longer, and while it's sad to have waited the whole weekend just to watch us irritate a side that was thrashed last week, that's where this was at. West Coast got the first two, but we continued to hang around like a bad smell by responding. Then they got two more and the response is still floating somewhere over the Indian Ocean. I expected to be teased with another comeback before falling short, but every time West Coast left the door wide-open we blundered into the edge of it like an old school comedy routine.

The way we were playing the only surprise about conceding the first was that it took so long. Unlike the follow-up, which was born of the best non-Mad Minute centre clearance I've seen for years. Usually if you offered me a highlight involving Oliver and Petracca in the middle of the ground I'd like and subscribe in a heartbeat, but now we'll have to watch King Harley dismissing them like peasants on every highlight reel until the end of time. The only way to make it palatable is if you get to yell "yeah, but who won the flag?" at your TV or internet connected device for the rest of his career. This is currently unlikely.

It was still only two goals late in the quarter but we were getting into slapstick territory, when first McAdam realised he couldn't kick 50 and tried to pass to a leading Petty, then Billings missed from 20 metres out. Regardless of how poor we were overall, the margin was a very gettable two goals until the dying seconds, when our wasted opportunities came back to haunt us courtesy of you-know-who going forward and turning Howes inside out before goalling. Game morally over.

The only thing more offensive than our performance was commentary provided by the Western Australian Broadcasting Corporation. If you ever wanted to know what things would have been like if secession took off, here it was. This was audio torture beyond anything Dwayne or BT have done recently, if West Coast had done 9/11 they'd have blamed the buildings for getting in the way. Obviously the goal is to set up for a job for life in the WA media, but I'm surprised Matthew Pavlich lowered himself to wearing the state flag like a cape and talking nonsense. More understandable from the other guy, who graduated from the Kane Cornes Institute For Getting Attention By Saying Stupid Shit. 

Other than Pav and McBain's mate Scoey exchanging their credibility for local jobs, the highlight was the claim that what would have been nothing more than a fringe Mark of the Year contender would have been the "greatest of all time" if held. Shaun Smith retains the clubhouse lead but Liam Ryan gets the consolation prize of dropping the big mark but playing in a win. The lowlight was guffawing over a picture of rapist and women-basher Mike Tyson holding an Eagles jumper two weeks after the league stopped to raise awareness about violence against woman at the suggestion of... the West Coast CEO. By the second half it would have been as big a theft as last week if we'd won but I wanted it 10x more to annoy these people. With a day to think about it I've realised they wouldn't have given half a rats once the broadcast ended, it was just about playing their character for the local market. 

We were closer at the final change than last week, but nothing in the first three quarters gave me confidence of running over the top. If Lever was there and we looked to have the slightest bit of life force intact perhaps, but there was no way we were going to stop their forwards marking while playing one defender short and letting the ball fling down there without interruption. And lo, we did not. They politely waited a few minutes to concede the first, but after that it was a victory lap for West Coast's players, fans, and commentary team. You'd have been justified cracking the shits and walking out of your loungeroom but I felt it important to stay until the end. Well, until there was about 0.01 seconds left. I'll assume the special comments gurus managed to exit gracefully instead of spunking all over the place like him from South Park.  

So this was shithouse, but the good news is that you don't have to wait long for our very good friend Harley to fix us up again. After playing Carlton and Geelong for the only time all season (insert 'except for finals' if you dare) we're doing this all again at the MCG in six weeks. Maybe they'll go easy on us and rest him. Who knows if anything will have changed for us by then. It could be about the time we get Lever back and Melksham is well ahead of schedule. Otherwise we've got the chance to make some random's dreams come true in next week's mid-season draft. I'm not getting my hopes up when one of the headline available players is Kyle Dunkley. 

I don't suppose a 34-year-old Jake Spencer is still one of the options so I've got no opinions on who we should get but surely this is the time for ex-AFL players who can play a role rather than long term projects. And that's where we're at, two weeks after being 'back' I'm pinning my hopes on finding a gem on the May rookie draft scrapheap. Why would you want to follow anyone else?

2024 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Alex Neal-Bullen
4 - Kysaiah Pickett
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Judd McVee

Despite nobody deserving votes, apologies to Fritsch, Viney and Woewodin for just missing out in the process of elimination.

Not often you get this far into the season and none of the top four poll. In a win this would be a good sign, in this performance... not so much. So, congratulations to ANB for Bradburying a step closer to the top of the table and drawing to within 10 of his entire career total. Otherwise no alterations to the minors.

22 - Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
19 - Christian Petracca
18 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jake Lever
16 - Alex Neal-Bullen
8 - Judd McVee, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney
5 - Tom McDonald, Kysaiah Pickett
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Tom Sparrow
3 - Daniel Turner (JOINT LEADER: Rising Star Award), Caleb Windsor (JOINT LEADER: Rising Star Award)
2 - Kade Chandler, Harrison Petty, Trent Rivers, Christian Salem
1 - Jack Billings, Blake Howes

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Any mention of Ben Brown must be accompanied by pointing out that he's the nicest man in football, and on this occasion, I'd like to say thank you for everything (but especially one game in particular) with a nomination for that chip shot from the boundary. Might kick a more important goal for us, won't kick a better one whether he meant it or not. No change to leaderboard.

1st - Bayley Fritsch (Q4) vs Geelong
2nd - Kysaiah Pickett (Q4) vs Footscray
3rd - Kysaiah Pickett (Q4) vs Geelong

Next week
Remember the years when Ross Lyon derived a near-sexual pleasure from keeping us to absurdly low scores? Well he's relatively under the pump, we're losing altitude, and Lever won't be there, so set a calendar reminder to be furious on Sunday night next week. I'm trying hard to retain my bundle so am going for the coping strategy of expecting to lose and hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

It's another week where you won't get much inspiration from Casey, who somehow blew a five goal lead in a game where they only kicked eight. We know Lever is out and Bowey came back in a moonboot, but I'm going to blindly assume JVR's concussion has passed and Langdon will be back from his personal problems. So that's the enforced changes, now for the spite ones. I'm entirely off Billings and it's time to start looking beyond Brown, and as much as I wanted Petty to go down the other end on the day, with a week to think about it he can have a week to ponder his future. And for god's sake give Windsor a day off, he has been very good until now but played like he was about to die here. 

The problem is the inclusions - none of Fullarton, Tholstrup, Tomlinson played so how do you judge their readiness? None are on our suddenly extensive injury list, so I'll assume they're right to go. Tomlinson gets rewarded for hanging out in the VFL all year watching his career ebb away, and if Bowey doesn't play I'm all for giving Moniz-Wakefield a go and seeing what happens. Like people who couldn't say 'Trengove', I'm not even sure if these changes perfectly balance. If not add or subtract somebody to your tastes. I know they probably don't help team balance, and there's no way we'll omit three players and manage one at the same time, but this is as close as I'll get to demanding vengeance for now.

IN: Fullarton, Langdon, van Rooyen, Woewodin (to start), Laurie, Moniz-Wakefield (to sub)
OUT: Bowey, Lever (inj), Billings, B. Brown, Petty (omit), Windsor (managed)
LUCKY: McAdam, Sparrow
UNLUCKY: Sestan, Tomlinson

Final thoughts
There could be another reason why I'm so calm...

No comments:

Post a Comment

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