Footy clubs sell hope. Good ones sell excitement and success. Middling ones the promise that tomorrow will be better.
This season Eagles fans have been sold a bag of donut holes by a coach with the charisma of Christine Milne. Blues, Saints, Demons and Crows fans know what I mean. The Kangaroos flatter to deceive, but at least their fans get the thrill of the flirting.
So today’s game against Essendon meant everything for our season – redemption, revenge or ridicule. Sufficient to say that the history and current management of the Bombers represents most things I dislike in footy and life. Ruthless, humourless Masonic greed and insularity.
Destiny had ruled that my enemy’s enemy would be us today. A win would make the season bearable. It would be justice delayed, but justice nonetheless. We had our best lineup for the past month. No Naitanui, Shuey, Hurn or Waters. Kerr, Embley, Nicoski and ASelwood are lights of other days – so little lost there.
Still Almanacker Brad Carr was back from his high altitude recovery session in Arizona. The Clinic had managed to delete the memory of both Dockers’ derbies, but the Port Adelaide game persistently lingers. Still no sign of West Coast Dave in our time of need.
The first half was everything I hate about modern footy. Essendon – goes without saying. A Foxtel telecast where you often struggle to follow the play. Their camera directors must have ADHD. Eddie McGuire doing “look at me” more often than the average 4 year old. A game intro that held the northern half of Melbourne enthralled and the rest of the country feeling ignored (were there 2 teams playing today?) Umpiring that ignored 100 years of the rule book, but offered spasmodic reminders of self-importance by awarding pedantic 50 metre penalties.
The best piece of umpiring was a header off the line by a goal umpire who looks to have a good future as Centre Half for Melbourne Victory. The footy was a shambles. Miskicks, fumbles and circuitous offence that looked like the Demons highlights tape. Errant handballs from Darling set up more Essendon goals than their own midfield. LeCras missed a set shot from 20 metres out directly in front. His confidence has been in his boots all season, but unfortunately his kicking hasn’t. Late in the second quarter he Wattoed off (patent pending) nursing his ribs after being slammed into the Etihad concrete while marking.
The Eagles were incompetent. Essendon were inept. At half time we couldn’t take the clangerthon any more, even though the Eagles led by 2 points. The Avenging Eagle departed for a shopping appointment with her mother. I took Shandy the Labrador and my radio to the park for the third quarter.
The positional changes seemed to work. LeCras surprisingly reappeared after half time, having been given a good Rogersing (careful with that ‘s’) by the coaching staff. Orthopaedic surgeons among the Almanac readership will understand that Rogersing is the surgical insertion of a backbone into a previously invertebrate structure. He was immediately sandwiched in a marking contest, but with the benefit of his titanium Rogers he was able to unerringly slot it from 45 metres out. This was more like it. We slipped 3 goals clear and while there was a brief flutter from the artificial hearts at Bomberland, 2 late ones saw us 21 points clear at the orange break.
Encouraged by the third quarter effort, Shandy and I returned to the couch for the final stanza (hope the Avenging Eagle doesn’t read this). Essendon kicked the first goal, but their beat skipped a heart, and that was their final contribution to the game (save as red and black training cones).
The second half was encapsulated in our journeyman midfielder and Saints retread, Jamie Cripps. In the third quarter when danger briefly threatened, he slotted immaculately from the boundary line out near the 50 metre circle. That it was a deliberate shot rather than a miraculous ‘hit and hope’, showed that he has more talent than I had imagined. Better was to follow.
In the last quarter he started a foot race with Dyson Heppell in the centre square. Now Cripps is 183cm and what I call ‘nippy’ more than quick, but Heppell showed all the dash of a Grand Annual Steeplechase winner. Cripps beat Heppell by 4 metres over the 40 metre dash (another Bomber heart skipped and beaten) then selflessly handballed to Josh Hill in the square for a goal.
To date I have tried to restrain my cheap shots on Essendon in this match report. But here goes, one cheap shot deserves another. Cripps was flattened by a raised forearm from Dustin Fletcher well after he had disposed of the ball. A lot of scribes exalt Fletcher because of his undoubted skill and longevity. I have always reserved judgement because he seems a serial ‘cheap shot’ offender. Ankle taps; outstretched legs when his tackles have been evaded. You know the sort of thing.
There is a fine line between ‘competitive’ and ‘dirty’. I should know as our coach was a frequent offender in his playing days. I think this habit gets worse as players get older. Their dislike of defeat, whether in a match or an individual contest, increases as their physical ability to compete diminishes.
This is your body telling your brain – “time to retire”. I have no faith in the MRP given that Shaun McKernan got 2 weeks for removing Brad Sheppard’s head with a forearm. The Cripps contact was less forceful, but the intent no less malicious, so I guess Fletcher will only get a week.
So here’s a suggestion if Fletcher wants to restore his reputation and leave the game with dignity. Do a Tubby Taylor and declare your innings closed as the equal games record holder at Essendon with the peerless Simon Madden. Why put yourself through the indignity of the rest of this shambles of a season and the inevitable finals ignominy?
‘Fess up; cop it sweet and set an example for your club and the competition. You could go on and coach them next year. After all you are a year older than the Scott boys so you have the experience to be a league coach already, and the AFL will shortly be hanging out the “Position Vacant” sign at Windy Hill.
I rang Pommy Tommy and asked for the odds about this happening. He said 200/1 and blowing out, so I saved my hard earned.
The Eagles ran riot kicking the last 6 goals of the game, and winning by an ever widening 53 point gap. If they went around at The Meadows the Bombers players would all get 6 months from the Greyhound Stewards for refusing to chase. But I’m not expecting anything as rigorous from the custodians at AFL House.
Anyway suspending Essendon for the rest of the season would be too kind to them. I’d offer them the double chance in the finals so we all get to see them humiliated an extra time. My enemy’s enemy is themselves now that the reality of the club’s actions is dawning on the players. The Tigers against the Bombers at the MCG in the first week of the finals would definitely be ‘good for football’.
The Avenging Eagle returned from family duties to share the last half on endless loop for the rest of the evening. The tape has been relabelled as “2013 Season Highlights”. We had to mute the sound to silence the endless whining of Eddie about the hurt being suffered by his ‘salt of the earth friends’ at Bomberland. Pleeeeeease!!! I would expect more sincerity from Paul Keating at John Howard’s funeral.
It is hard to know what to make of such a one-sided affair. Priddis ran harder and longer than the combined Essendon midfield. Wellingham belatedly showed the class he was recruited for. Dalziell continued his emergence of recent weeks. Younger players like Brown, Cripps, Smith and Lycett all grew in confidence and had their best games. Was it the lack of opposition or the benefit of sustained exposure to the pressure and speed of AFL footy? The remaining games will tell, but I have renewed optimism for next Saturday evening’s sojourn with the pampered pussies at Subiaco.
Our forward set up after half time of playing Kennedy and Darling further down the ground, leaving space for LeCras to work one-on-one, seemed to work a treat. All season our forwards have been stumbling over one another like drunks all searching for coins in the same telephone box. Woosha seems to have hit on the ‘other other plan’, and it may save his career as much as our season.
“How sweet it is,” as Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) used to remind us in The Honeymooners. “One of these days, Jimmy. Pow! Right on the Kisser.”
The Eagles have landed one.
WEST COAST 3.6 6.9 12.10 18.12 (120)
ESSENDON 3.3 6.7 8.13 9.13 (67)
West Coast: LeCras 5, Dalziell 2, Darling 2, Hill 2, Wellingham 2, Gaff, Cripps, Kennedy, Priddis, Schofield.
Essendon: Goddard 3, Winderlich 2, Hooker, Baguley, Kommer, Bellchambers.
West Coast: Priddis, Wellingham, Dalziell, Brown, LeCras, Glass, Smith.
Essendon: Hibberd, Watson, Melksham, Goddard, Carlisle.
UMPIRES: Meredith, Leppard, Hosking.
OUR VOTES: Priddis (WCE) 3; Wellingham (WCE) 2; Dalziell (WCE) 1