Sunday, April 8, 2012

Round 2: Melbourne vs West Coast @ Paterson’s Stadium

“happy easter to u both, poor dees, but legs by 93 over eagles reigning premiers. visit soon. x”

For an Old English scholar and editor, Mum displays a surprising mastery of the condensed language of SMSes. Between wishing Theresa and me a happy Easter and urging us to come back to Adelaide, she commiserates with me over Melbourne’s terrible Round 2 loss in Perth – but strikes an appropriate note of Easter optimism with the news that Norwood have had a big win in the SANFL.

My favourite bit is the phrase “eagles reigning premiers”.

I get footy texts from two people: Mum often sends through Norwood results, and my friend Chris Nehmy keeps me up-to-date with the Crows, as well as occasional comments on the game in general. Yesterday, when I had already given up on the Dees for the afternoon, I received this fairly standard piece of sarcasm:

“I think this really could be Melbourne’s year”. To which I replied, in a similar vein: “Mark Neeld has really got the boys playing an exciting brand of footy”.

Last year, both our clubs sacked their coaches mid-season. Melbourne dumped Dean Bailey after the 30-goal annihilation at Geelong, and Neil Craig finally resigned when Adelaide played St Kilda back into form to the tune of 103 points. He’s now the Manager of Elite Performance at Melbourne. On a day like today, it feels like a bad joke.

I ended my post on Round 1 with the classic footy cliché that a week’s a long time in footy. Usually this refers to the possibility of bouncing back from a bad defeat with a win the following weekend, but in this case it took on a different meaning. Melbourne has endured what some journalists are describing as the worst week in AFL memory.

First came the deflating loss to Brisbane, then a media scandal over the coach’s alleged handling of indigenous players. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, the CEO of the club’s major sponsor, Energy Watch, was revealed as a total bigot. The Board dumped Energy Watch (a principled decision that will cost the club around $2 million), and the players ran out yesterday with duct tape covering the company’s logo.

I watched the game at Bar Centrale on Lygon St. Years ago it was Sabatini’s, and Socialist Alternative comrades would wander up there from Trades Hall to drink and play pool after Thursday night branch meetings. Now it’s very much a sports bar, and yesterday a few abashed-looking Melbourne fans gathered to see how bad the carnage might me.

It was pretty bad, a classic belting. The Dees fought hard, especially early on, but looked completely inept. At times we seemed to bring the Eagles down to our level, but as the first half wore on they shifted up a few gears and ran away with the game. I left at half-time, when the margin was 48 points, and predicted a 100-point loss. In the end, it was 108.

The only consolation is that our next two games are at the MCG, and we play two other winless teams: Richmond and the Bulldogs.

The main problem I have with all this is not even that my team is losing. Its that, having committed to following them closely this season, I have the awful feeling I’m not going to see many good games of footy. And I’m not a one-eyed supporter, it’s the game I love.

I guess I’ll just have to watch a bit of Hawthorn vs Geelong tomorrow – or get Mum to send over the VHS of Norwood beating Port in the 1984 SANFL Grand Final.

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