(This post simulcast on Every Day Is Like Sunday)
(Yeah, I know the roof was closed but in my heart it was pissing down)
Well, after a week off to do something important with our lives footy is back. Remember back to the glorious days of, err, a fortnight ago? We were in the winners circle and everything was looking up. Then as soon as you started to relax a bit it turned out that we were expected to show up and play the 2nd best team in the competition. Arse.
When we first met the Dogs this season, in that farce of a practice match at Bendigo where the lights went out, I was convinced that they were a bottom three side. This is why I never claim to be a real analyst of football, but at least I can't be accused of bias considering I had us in there as well. Anyway, as we've all seen - to devestating effect in Round 2 - they are quite good actually and have only dropped 1.5 games this year. Well slap my ass and call me a bitch, I didn't see that one coming. So, they're quite good. Obviously we were always going to lose so I chose to invoke the "Mercado/Gary Davies from TAB Sportsbet Plan" where the degree of success/respectability in a loss is measured on whether or not we beat the point spread. This week it was +42.5 points, so that was the target.
To be entirely honest the game was so freaking awful that I'm struggling to remember much of what happened. It was one of those days where the top side shows up, never gets out of first gear, gives their fans a bit of a scare and then do just enough to fall over the line because the rotten side don't have the tools to match them. The first quarter was eminently forgettable, mainly due to the fact that we didn't freaking score until the last minute. However, despite the fact that we were generally getting slaughtered out of the middle despite Jamar usually having first touch, we weren't completely blown out of the water early on. Credit for this must go to the defence who have been outstanding over the past few weeks. One of these days Garland, Warnock, Martin and Whelan (Rivers? Consult your local emergency department unfortunately) might earn the right to be called The New Jurassic Pack. Now that the last one has broken up and Nathan Carroll is preparing to take his wacky haircut world tour to the arenas of the WAFL, the much maligned likes of Warnock and Garland have stepped right into the breach and are probably our most important element while we're unable to kick massive scores.
So, with the midfield average at best in the first (Jones turning over everything he got his hands on) and the defenders holding it all together what about the forwards? What forwards? Miller was doing great work when it hit the deck but god forbid anyone could manage to find him as a target? Green was down there early on for some reason and couldn't get any of it either. Sylvia started up front but was soon thrust into the midfield. Can we just get over this wet dream of him being an elite midfielder already? It's not going to happen. Wonaeamirri seemed to have deliberately been sent up the ground and was taking a lot of marks 60 or 70 metres out from goal - and that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing because if you've got one trick and everyone else discovers it then you're rooted.
Speaking of people who might be a bit short in the trick department let's discuss the case of one Michael J. Newton. On the strength of the first quarter alone I found myself hoping that the car he won (well, won the use of anyway) for the 2007 Mark of the Year has a sweet Sat Nav system so that he can find his way to the nearest Centrelink on the first Tuesday after the season ends. Actually let's make it Wednesday, because you can't expect anyone to drive the day after Mad Monday. It's one thing to be a forward and not get a touch at all, but it's another to get the pill and botch things so seriously that even in a season where we're rivalling Fitzroy 1996 for ineptitute you get a bronx cheer from our own supporters when you finally get something right. Ok, so he was getting the ball 50m out on the boundary line but after first trying to square one into what was basically a team meeting of Bulldogs players, he then marked again in the same spot, burnt Sylvia on a lead and proceeded to thump it out on the full. Sad. We all had high hopes for him (well, medium level hopes anyway) based on the second half of last season but frankly he's just not going to make it. His most important goal should be to play two more matches for the rest of the season so he can overtake Leigh Newton's 13 games to be our most famous Juice ever. He redeemed himself - a bit - later on with a couple of marks and a goal but if he's the future then I'm a busty supermodel.
Anyway, so somehow we went into the second quarter within striking range. Didn't last long. When Will Minson, the king of slops, is marking over you and kicking goals you know it's not your day. They got the first two before Chris Johnson scored a cheap fifty to kick his first career goal and cut the margin to 20. Buckley and Green both added one, but Cross and Akermanis cancelled them out and we were a goal worse off than we were at quarter time but still hanging on and not getting blown out of the water.
Green got his second in the first couple of minutes of the third and you thought "well, maybe we could..." and then in true Melbourne fashion we failed to add another one for the quarter. Here's to a big 2.4 to that end (Coventry?) for the day. There was a lot of to and fro but the fact of the matter was that Footscray are a highly tuned outfit operating at a much higher capacity than we were. When they turned it over we'd usually give it straight back or kick it to an unrealistic contest (SHANE VALENTI IS 3 FOOT TALL, STOP EXPECTING HIM TO TAKE PACK MARKS AGAINST 2 OPPONENTS!) When we gave it to them they had players running everywhere. Unfortunately even though we had Johnson and Murphy well shut down they are a team with about 20 other players who can kick goals. We are a team who are lucky to have two people who have kicked twenty for the season. It didn't help that the likes of Bate, Jones and Wheatley were just throwing the ball on the boot with no concern about where it would actually go. The answer was usually "to the opposition".
Seven goals down at the last change and it was more a case of hoping to break even in the final term and avoid the Dogs running riot and kicking 15. We gifted them a few rushed behinds and both Buckley and Newton missed shots but it was basically junk time from the first bounce. From the time Mitch Hahn kicked a goal to extend the margin to almost 50 seven or eight minutes in the Dogs shut up shop, put their feet on the table and started smoking a fat cigar. Somewhere Robbo was shedding a tear that there was so much junk time that he wouldn't be able to run riot in. Newton finally got one - and thank god because I would run out there with the appropriate paperwork myself if he hadn't and Miller kicked our last three to make it a respectable 31 point loss. The spread was beaten - let the children of the town rejoice, and we were lucky enough to hear the Dogs theme song which still appears to have been recorded by a pissweak ska band fronted by a 75-year-old lead singer.
Let's be honest about all of this. We're a shit side, but there's a future. Today we were a ten goal better side than the one that they massacred in Round 2. Since March 29 we have seen the likes of Carroll, Yze, Weetra and White shelved. Some perhaps more permanently than others. We've also discovered that Garland can play, Dunn can tag, Green is a leader, Miller can be a presence up front and that THE CELEBRATOR and Valenti have been hits from the rookie list. This isn't the same team it was in Round 2 and thank god for that. Either we're going to look back on these years in a decade and say it was where we built for success, or we're going to look back and go "ahh, that's why the whole team went tits up and the club is now playing in the Tasmanian League". Either or - let's just get on with it already.
2008 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
I feel like I'm being controversial with these. Please direct your abusive comments to our customer feedback department c/o the third wheely bin on the left outside the Ponsford Stand.
5 - Colin Garland (Safe as houses down back. More please)
4 - Lynden Dunn (Tagged Cooney to buggery. An angry young man)
3 - Cameron Bruce (He was always there and racked up 35 touches, but how many times were they actually worth anything?)
2 - Chris Johnson (Still butchering it sometimes, but playing with enormous confidence)
1 - Stefan Martin (Showed a shitload of poise in contests for a second gamer)
Apologies to Wonaeamirri (deliberately further up the ground?), Green, Miller, Jamar (rocking along at 1 kick a game but doing alright in the centre), Whelan, Valenti and Buckley
No apologies to Jones who couldn't hit the side of a barn for most of the day. And yes, I am biased towards defenders so there's no need to make a point of it. All I'll say is that how come none of them have ever won the Jakovich Medal then? Oh, because they've all been shit for years you say? Good point.
Today's game tilted me even further away from Naitanui. Don't give me this bollocks about having a "marquee player". Do you seriously think that any of our alleged 'fans' who have lapsed over the last couple of seasons are going to come back just to watch some guy who can jump a mile and has a novelty haircut? He might turn out to be the best player ever for all I know but the last thing we need at the moment is a project player. Today says to me we need a key forward.
I think I've mentioned this before. What if we finish 16th, Freo finish 15th and we trade the #1 pick to them for the #2 pick and Warnock. Then we still have 1st pick in the Pre-Season draft and haven't really lost out. Of course the chances of anyone who isn't West Coast finishing last at the moment are slim to none, but you never know. Maybe you could pull the same kind of scam with them and throw Warnock in as part of some hot threeway deal. Or you could just do what everyone else does in trade week and sit in a room eating biscuits for four days and then try to make 17 trades in the last five minutes and have them all collapse because the fax machine at AFL House is too busy.
Strangely enough I think Green is probably still morally the winner of this award. I don't know if that proves that the voting system is flawed or that I'm watching games on crack.
23 - Nathan Jones
21 - Brock McLean
21 - Cameron Bruce
20 - Brad Green
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - James McDonald
12 - Colin Garland (Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
11 - Lynden Dunn
10 - Austin Wonaeamirri (Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Brad Miller
9 - Aaron Davey
9 - Cale Morton
9 - Paul Johnson
7 - Chris Johnson
6 - Jared Rivers
5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Clint Bartram
4 - Matthew Whelan
3 - Nathan Carroll
3 - Matthew Warnock
3 - Jeff White
3 - Paul Wheatley
2 - Russell Robertson
1 - Mark Jamar
1 - Shane Valenti
1 - Adem Yze
1 - Stefan Martin
Religious Affairs Department
Bishop, please take your hand off my knee. Also it was great to see some guy in some sort of Montreal Catholic Church jacket (Le Church?) also sporting a Demons beanie. You'd think if you knew nothing and were coming from overseas for a massive god type convention that you'd automatically pick the Saints. Just proves how shithouse St.Kilda are in the grand scheme of things that they've had such a tragic history that even religious types won't back them.
What price will you give me on a Bruce/Green joint ticket? You heard it here first - even if I did make it up.
Laughing Stock League
13. Port Adelaide (falling from grace and abandoned by fans. Choco Williams' head to explode by Round 22)
14. Melbourne (brave but shit)
15. West Coast (rotten, but at least they have a glorious past)
16. Fremantle (projected to jump at least one spot after next week)
Freo in Perth. They're shit aren't they? Guess what kid, the moment we travel any further west than Telstra Dome so are we. Home win.