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IRRELEVANT by Clyde The (former) Clifton Hill Cabbie

I don't know if anybody out there remembers me. In my time as one of this great city's leading cab drivers I was well known by all and sundry who used my services to convey them around town for my opinions on politics, religion, sport and a variety of other subjects.

I always believed I had a deep knowledge and understanding about our nation's number one sport until one day, this young bloke turned his attention away from his iphone, sat up in the back seat of my taxi cab, angrily snubbed his nose up against the perspex window that divided us and told me to STFU. To him, my opinions on the football were "irrelevant".

How dare he?

I was a keen student of the game and I got a lot of my inside information from listening to talk back radio and reading the sports pages of the little newspaper which was full of stories written by people who had contacts inside the various league clubs. Surely, the sources of my information were impeccable?

Later, after thinking about it a little more, I realised that time was indeed passing me by in this new world of digital electronics and whiz bang gadgets. Perhaps, I was becoming irrelevant?

I'm in retirement now. I live in this nice nursing home and although I occasionally get to watch a game on TV, I usually manage to fall asleep even before the result's done and dusted (which these days means by half time). I hardly ever get to read the newspapers because the print's too small and the eyesight's failing and most of the people here knit or play lawn bowls so I don't really know much about what's going on in the AFL any more. I suppose that's what makes me feel even less relevant than ever before.

However, I always look forward to that once a year day when one of the good people at Demonland visits me and asks me to write a preview of a Melbourne game for the site. This year's visitor was my old friend The Oracle but he delivered what I regarded at first as the supreme insult when he asked if I would write about the Demons' forthcoming encounter with the Gold Coast Suns.

I thought for a while and asked, "who in blazes are the Gold Coast Suns?". He replied that they were one of the new franchises that joined the competition last year.

"You mean like Hungry Jacks or Dominoes Pizza?"

"No, they're an AFL team that plays at Carrara. Gary Ablett Junior's their captain."

"Ablett? Well, that's okay then. Brock'll fix him up." Brock was one of my favourites.

The Oracle's next revelation hit me right between the eyes. He told of Brock's defection from Melbourne at the end of 2009 because of a problem he had with the club's "experimentation" that went against the grain of everything he'd ever been taught. So he decided to leave and head to a club whose traditions were seeped in integrity and honesty. I was incredulous as The Oracle explained the events of the week in great detail.

There was one thing that puzzled me but no sooner had the words leapt out of my mouth that I realised that my question was totally irrelevant.

"You would think with three experienced journalists and commentators doing the interview, one of them would have asked him why a man who held such lofty principles could have possibly gone straight to a club whose reputation not only for tanking but for generally rorting the system was legendary?"

It was at this point that all those years of spouting conspiracy theories gripped me and in a moment of inspiration, I understood what this was all about and it had very little to do with the practice of tanking.

The whole thing was a set up. The puppeteers were pulling the strings to perfection. The kid who not long ago publicly claimed he contracted aids from somebody's mother had left what passed for his brain in the studio's green room. They knew from the start that he would take the bait and it played itself out perfectly for them. The agenda and the people behind it soon became apparent.

As I put this proposition to my visitor, I suddenly felt that I was becoming relevant again.

He was almost out of the door when I noticed he had left me with several copies of the sporting sections of the week's newspapers to help with the research for my story. All that was left for me to do was to wade through the rubbish and sift through half a dozen beat ups and testimonies from former players and officials and then I could write my match preview.

That was the easy part.

The clash between 16th and 17th is a game in which every aspect of team selection and every move that the coaches make is likely to come under scrutiny for all the wrong reasons by suspicious journalists and others struggling to make a sensational story out of nothing.

But the game itself is totally irrelevant.

THE GAME Melbourne v Gold Coast at the MCG Sunday 5 August 2011 at 1.10pm.

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 2 wins Gold Coast 0 wins

MCG Melbourne 1 win Gold Coast 0 wins

Since 2000 Melbourne 2 wins Gold Coast 0 wins

The Coaches Neeld 0 wins McKenna 0 wins

MEDIA

TV – Fox Footy Channel at 1:00pm (live)

Radio –SEN ABC774

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 17.10.112 defeated Gold Coast Suns 12.10.82 in round 23, 2011 at the MCG.

Oh my god. This was a game so tedious and boring that I was driven to the bar not long after the start of the second quarter. By the time I returned to watch the action fortified by an unknown volume of the amber liquid Melbourne was on its way to a five goal victory.

THE BETTING

Melbourne $1.57 to win Gold Coast $5.50 to win

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

Backs Joel Macdonald James Sellar Tom McDonald

Half backs Jack Grimes James Frawley Colin Garland

Centreline Jordie McKenzie Jack Trengove Rohan Bail

Half forwards Sam Blease Jared Rivers Lynden Dunn

Forwards Jeremy Howe Colin Sylvia Brad Green

Followers Jake Spencer Brent Moloney Nathan Jones

Interchange Jordan Gysberts Cale Morton James Strauss Luke Tapscott

Emergencies Jack Fitzpatrick James Magner Josh Tynan

In Jordan Gysberts Cale Morton Luke Tapscott

Out Neville Jetta (suspension) Daniel Nicholson (jaw) Stef Martin (foot)

GOLD COAST SUNS

Backs Taylor Hine Charlie Dixon Trent McKenzie

Half backs Daniel Stanley Matthew Warnock Jarrod Harbrow

Centreline David Swallow Gary Ablett Michael Rischitelli

Half forwards Jared Brennan Tom Lynch Brandon Matera

Forwards Luke Russell Sam Day Campbell Brown

Followers Zac Smith Karmichael Hunt Harley Bennell

Interchange Josh Caddy Liam Patrick Dion Prestia Matt Shaw

Emergencies Aaron Hall Steven May Maverick Weller

In Sam Day Michael Rischitelli

Out Steven May Maverick Weller

There must be a clever linguist out there somewhere who is capable of coming up with a word that means the opposite to "blockbuster", because such a word word be perfect to describe this game.

Until recently, I would have regarded a Melbourne home game against the Gold Coast Suns as unlosable but I'm not so sure any more. With the club under attack in the media and the tanking debate swirling around it, I'm not all that certain about how the players will react to what I can only consider to be the destabilising atmosphere that has surrounded them throughout the week. After all, it's not often that you have a situation where a former player and former president are out there publicly whacking your club across the head and the media heavies are baying for your blood on a daily basis.

It also doesn't help if, on top of these worries, you have a substantial injury list that severely restricts your capacity to pick a team that can win games. On my reckoning, no more than 30 players from the combined Melbourne senior and rookie list of 46 will be in action at the weekend. By way of contrast, North Melbourne will have close to its full list playing in three teams (the Roos are aligned to two VFL clubs and had 12 players representing Werribee alone in the final of the Foxtel Cup on Thursday night). Nevertheless, there are many commentators, either oblivious to thus situation or simply chosing to ignore it, who are maintaining that the Demons will come under more tanking scrutiny if they lose this match. Go figure?

Being from the old school, I like to analyse games line by line and, pardon the pun, but I've come up with a result that is going to be very much a line ball.

A great deal has been made of Melbourne's much maligned midfield but paradoxically, this is likely to be where the Dees can draw great strength. They might not have the sheer brilliance of Gary Ablett Junior or the youth, pace and ability to spread of their Gold Coast counterparts but they do have size, strength, experience and home ground advantage going for them. Nathan Jones has been a revelation all year and should not be underrated even in the company of the AFL's best player. He proved that last week with his 32 disposals 10 clearances playing to a losing ruck. His partner in crime, Brent Moloney was not far behind him in the disposal count with 29 on return from a brief stint in the VFL. Let there be no doubt, Beamer is playing for his football life along with one or two others like Cale Morton and Jordan Gysberts who are back in the side this week.

Jordie McKenzie will probably have the toughest task of the lot after a down week against the Roos but he's taken some scalps this year and, as a kid from down Geelong way, he should rise to the challenge of taking on the former local hero.

So this game might well be the antithesis of a blockbuster but I think it will be close and that the Demons will rise to the occasion, put their critics in their rightful place and make themselves relevant once again.

Melbourne by 2 points.

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