In Success Lies Stress

West Coast v Essendon

Patterson’s Stadium

Sat 20 August 2011, round 22

By West Coast Dave


Thursday:  This is driving me mad.  In 1997 Adelaide came from behind at three quarter time in the last game of the year, and I beat JTH to the University of Queensland footy tipping comp grandé prize by one point.  The following year, despite successfully tipping a draw mid-year for a 10 point bonus (I bet I am  one of very, very few people to have been at the ground when there is a draw that they have tipped!), I faded to mediocrity.  Years of vitriol, wasted passion and misdirected anger followed.  By 2005 I was banned from watching football at all by my wife, who valued her TV more than my hissy fits.

That was kind of a shame, because when West Coast won in 2006 I didn’t see a single game ‘live’.  Even the GF I taped and started watching as long after the final siren as it took to rewind the last VHS tape I will ever own.  However, I survived, and my blood pressure is probably still the better for it.

Since moving to Canberra in 2007 I haven’t had to worry about the stress of live football.  Here, unless the bloody Swans are playing we are lucky to get a game within 3 weeks of when it was played, and then it has 27 ads every 10 minutes, regardless of where the play may be up to.  Brilliant.  Good for avoiding footy stress though.

Last year was also pretty good for avoiding footy stress.  Being stone motherless last – and ineptly incompetent with it – has a way of reducing expectations to a manageable level, as a surprisingly diverse set of fans this year can attest.  In 2011 my honest ambition for the year was to finish ahead of Gold Coast – and after they got within four goals at Subi in the NAB cup I even went as far as checking if we played them at home or away, figuring that that might make all the difference.  So long as we weren’t the first team to finish 17th in the AFL I thought it would be an OK year.

So it is pretty weird to sit here on the Thursday before round 22 stressing over football again.  I feel like a divorcee must do on a first date, taken by surprise in experiencing all this stuff again.  There is actually something to play for this week – and in fact the last month and a half has been leading up to this weekend.  Ever since we beat Geelong (did I mention I was in France when that happened?  Feel free to ask for photos…) we have been effectively fourth, but without the stress of looking like it.  Even today I had to explain to a Carlton fan why the Eagles and not the Blues have fourth spot to lose.

And therein lays the rub.  We actually have something to lose!  That hasn’t been the case for long enough to forget how it feels – I guess that happens pretty quick when you’ve grown up on a diet of success.  It isn’t that I think we can win the cup this year, and it is one of those rare years where a dodgy finals campaign will still be a victory of sorts, but nonetheless, getting to a Prelim, which is really what is at stake here, is not something to take lightly.  If you aren’t sure how seriously I am taking this, just count the number of commas in that last sentence.  I think they are all justified, but there sure is a heck of a lot of them.

We have people over for dinner on Saturday.  That could be nasty – but as I will be having to monitor the game on a variety of ‘internet enabled mobile devices’, a few surreptitious trips to the kitchen to fetch drinks or check on the dinner should do the trick.  Actually, stuff dinner, I’ll do drinks and someone else can make sure that unmonitored broccoli doesn’t burst into pitiful conflagrations, like an unexpectedly elegant metaphor for Port Adelaide’s year right here in my kitchen.

Of course, if [FX: through gritted teeth] those wonderful blokes at Hawthorn [FX: jaw muscles relaxing] knock off Carlton tomorrow then it doesn’t really matter.  That would leave us with some margin for error, effectively able to drop a game and still finish top 4.  Go Buddy!


Friday, 9pm:  Finally snuck away to check the Hawks-Blues game.  Please let Hawthorn be smashing them.  Excellent.  Half time – 7.10 – 1.8.  Must be a strong crosswind?  I thought they were playing at Docklands.  Maybe not.  Anyway, happy with that.  Feeling more relaxed already – though the surprising empty bottle of surprisingly good Chilean Pinot may also have that to something with do.

Later…22.06 into Q3, and it is 8.14 to 4.12.  Evidently Shaun Tait is coaching these guys, and Cyclone Tracey is making a guest appearance in Melbourne tonight.  Still confident, but Pinot supplies dwindling.

¾ time – 20 points?  On current form that is about 15 scoring shots, but I am a little anxious.  Bloody Hawthorn – fancy having to worry about how they are going!!!  That is why I stopped doing footy tipping in the first place!

Q4 2.05: 19 points!  It’s happening!  Have they got time?

20 minutes later: No.  Breathing space.  Pressure’s off.  Good for me, good sign for dinner tomorrow, ambiguous for the Eagles mental state leading into the finals.  I am planning to be in Melbourne Prelim Final weekend.  Expect to be watching the Eagles.  Now that wasn’t something I expected, and (previous sentence aside) I am not even sure that I expect it now.

[10.18 to 8.18?  Must have been dodgy conditions under the roof at Etihad tonight.  No, wait…]


Saturday:  3.10 EST, preparation for the dinner party is well underway, and more importantly the iPad is set up in the corner and from the far end of the house comes the tinny 3AW commentary streamed over the web.  Quite why you can’t stream it off the iPad app I haven’t figured out, but the composite solution is fine.  I’m feeling confidently sanguine about this – the Eagles have been genuinely good in the second half of the year as their confidence has returned.  They have a soft draw, but they have also cleaned up Carlton and Geelong when they had the chance, so it’s not like they haven’t done anything at all.  With the buffer of Hawthorn’s win over Carlton last night, it is a joy to be listening to my team play for something significant and with an expectation of success again.

The first quarter and a half sounds tight.  I get the impression that the Eagles are getting slowly on top, but that Essendon are doing more than enough to stay with them.  It’s 23 degrees there, and with the Bombers having to use their sub in the first quarter, I am pretty sure that the Eagles will come over the top of them anyway.  That said, I don’t like the way the Eagles can’t get any control over the ball inside their forward 50 in the first half.  The resurgence this year has been a lot about marks inside 50, and that is just not happening.

A point down at half time I am not concerned, but our guests have arrived and so the commentary is off now.  The iPad app makes a cheering noise whenever a goal is scored, but it is the same sound whoever scores it, so that doesn’t help.  It needs a feature where it makes a sound like a contestant getting an answer wrong on a 70’s quiz show when the bad guys get a goal.  Standing around talking, I hear more and more cheering sound effects, but trying to interpret the worm over my guest’s shoulder (is it just me, or does that sound a little dodgy?) I can’t tell who is getting them.  Eventually, on the  pretext of showing them what the app does, I get to check the scores directly.  Relief.  Both the lead and the scoring are picking up.

By the last quarter we are onto the third bottle and it’s the Eagles who are dining out.  Six goals; seven goals; eight goals; the lead keeps building.  I was thinking that a good tough game is good finals preparation, but winning an arm wrestle and then wiping the floor in the last quarter for a confidence booster is pretty useful too.

I still can’t say that I think we are a realistic contender this year – Collingwood will take some stopping – but I’m enjoying football again, and they say that is what it’s all about.  Can someone pass the tiramisu?


  1. johnharms says:

    Close readers of this missive will detect that it is a strong message to your wife that you are not having an affair. (I refer to the first-date paragraph and the use of the word ‘must’).

    Please name the better mid-fielders at WC. Who is winning the footy because when I look at the team list I can only see Priddis (and cameo-Kerr).

  2. westcoastdave says:

    If I thought that there was even the remotest chance of Justine reading this, then the ‘must’ reference would be more effective!

    In terms of mid fielders, I can’t be definitive because I don’t get to actually see an awful lot of the games, but my impression is that Shuey gets a lot of centre clearances along with Priddis and Kerr; that Natanui creates quite a few clearances himself; that Cox and Natanui dominate the ruck to the extent that just about anyone could get the clearances on a good day. Then there is Embly and the Selwoods in stoppages around ground, while Le Cras does it in the forward line. Hurnand Rosa have been good across half back, and Lynch and Kennedy across half forward. The defence is really the unknown thing to me.

  3. Brad Carr says:

    I agree, Dave. Alongside Priddis (who is an in-and-under ball-getter), Shuey has emerged as perhaps our no.1 mid. Kerr has been very good 2 of the last 3 weeks, and Gaff has really emerged in the last 6 weeks. Embley had a very good first half of the season, but has dropped off a bit, and Rosa’s injury was really poorly-timed given he was in career-best form. Scott Selwood has also had a very good year.

    I also think McGinnity (obviously over-shadowed by other matters in the last week, but let’s talk about his form) has really improved this year – skills are much better, and he was instrumental in setting up direct forward movements in key stages, such as in the last quarter of the recent Bulldogs game. He’s become a bit more than just a tagger.

    But you’re right that the other element is the big blokes: Natanui & Cox each get clearances themselves, as does Lynch at times.

    My only gripes from yesterday were:
    (i) Matthew Lloyd being in commentary
    (ii) all the (bitter, resentful) Carlton blokes that Channel 10 had on in the evening
    Dave, you did well to minimise your exposure to the former, and avoid the latter.

  4. Mulcaster says:

    Would it be more difficult for a male or a female divorcee to go on their first date?
    I suspect it would depend on the duration of the earlier marriage, the damage done, desire to get back into the game etc.
    Then you have to take into account expectations and reservations…As Meatloaf so eloquently put it “I’ll do anything for love …. but…I won’t do that”. To be honnest I think being a West Coast fan would be worse than being a female divorcee…and what is worse you are going back to the same squeeze.

  5. westcoastdave says:

    Mulcaster, it is more like having dumped Cameron Diaz after she did Vanilla Ice, and then she phones up out of the blue a couple of years later, still hot and begging forgiveness.

  6. Rick Kane says:

    Glad the Hawks could be of assistance in your time of need. Enjoy the Finals :)

  7. Richard Naco says:

    I’m not usually a fan of Matty Lloyd, especially when the Dons are on the park, but I thought his commentary was quite fair on Saturday. It took me quite by surprise! He obviously showed far greater knowledge of the visitors’ nuances and background stories, but I still found him unusually fair and readily accepting of the truth that the better team won.

    Ten’s Carlton contingent are another matter entirely, but even they look like unbiased boy geniuses compared to Brian Taylor or Ray (shudder) Shaw on F*X.

  8. WCD, I’ve had a very different approach. I have gone into almost every match expecting us to lose. Then, they just keep surprising me.

    We need to make a pact not to change anything, lest we inflict the dreaded mozz on them this late in the season.

    JTH, in this age of midfield merry-go-rounds, we have a long list of players that go through there. Gaff, Shuey, lilttle Selwood, Kerr, Naitanui, Lynch, LeCras, Embley and Ebert all rotate through there at various stages. But having said that, with big Cox feeding the ball down their throat, we could even put Nicoski in there and get the clearances!

  9. westcoastdave says:

    Shaken, I am definitely not getting ahead of myself. Just planning to be in Melb on Prelim final weekend to watch West Coast v Geelong, that is all…

  10. Hmm. On the upside I have said for some weeks that we are a 20% chance against Collingwood in a first final given their continuing injury issues. Then an 80% chance against anyone back at Subi in week 2. So Dave I give you a 100% chance of seeing the Eagles in a Prelim (maths was never my strong suit).
    On the downside, the Eagles midfield is OK not great. As in the second quarter on Saturday when Watson and co took most of the Cox/Natanui taps – we consistently get a lot more hitouts than clearances. Waters was our best midfielder on Saturday because he took out their midfield gun.
    Priddis, Kerr and Scott Selwood are the only ‘inside’ mids who regularly get first possessions from the taps. When oppositions shark that the rest often don’t matter.
    Scott Selwood had a best ever game yesterday, but he normally tags the opposition’s best midfielder so he stops more than he collects. I am convinced that Shuey will be an absolute gun in a couple of years. He has everything – acceleration, awareness, beautiful hand and foot skills. He is just too light and skinny to match it with Judd, Pendlebury, Selwood J yet. But he is beautiful when he gets even a glimmer of space. Gaff is a tireless runner as an all ground link player, but also way too light for work close to clearances. McGinnity is a running tagger/defender with dubious foot skills but also very light. Brad Ebert will star for Peel Thunder next week. That we run LeCras through the midfield so much because of his elite hand and foot skills says how much the coaches understand our midfield vulnerability. He is very ordinary away from the front 50, because like Shuey he needs a little space to work his magic. But he gives us rotations. Adam Selwood has slowed a lot, but is canny and always takes the best opposition small forward – Milne etc. Rarely in the mids these days. Rosa is tireless, but also not quick, if we can get him back on the park. Lastly I hate Cox and Natanui on the ball together as NN has lots of great and developing qualities, but he hasn’t the awareness in tight of an elite midfielder. I think it gives the opposition a spare man. His tap work is brilliant, and he is great on the run when he can get the space to build up a head of steam. His round ground marking etc is improving in leaps and bounds, but understandably doesn’t have Cox’s positioning sense.
    JTH is right – midfield is a vulnerability. We are tall, strong and relentless in our pressure and tackling. As JRB commented earlier in the year, I think it is our difference to Hawks, Blues and Cats that gives us an edge against their running, flowing style.
    Hurn and Kennedy are guns. Glass is rock solid. McKenzie and Schofield are underrated, though McKenzie is a poor kick. Lynch, Darling and Nicoski are tireless workers and provide pressure with their big bodies even when they are not dominating.
    Doubt we could go premiers, but we will give everyone bar a healthy Collingwood a big scare – even in Melbourne. I don’t bet on anything these days, but if there was a silly 8 or 10/1 to make a grand final I think it is big value.

  11. johnharms says:

    I reckon the Eagles are the absolute wild cards in this. The downside is the experience level of the mid-field. The top three sides have plenty of experience, of course – they are the three premiers of the last three years. However, the thing the Eagles have is the complete freedom to be. They have nothing to lose in the first final – assuming they make it.

    I genuinely believe anything can happen in this.

    And I am still amazed at the price of the PIes – $1.85 on TattsBet. Must be unders. Must be.

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