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Distracted, by the bye

Touch of the Fumbles

In his weekly AFL column, Tom Richardson writes the nicest things he will ever write about Port Adelaide - catch it while you can.

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A bye weekend. The perfect opportunity to achieve a few things you couldn’t possibly countenance when your team’s playing. Catch up on housework. Get some sleep. Maybe even spend time with friends and loved ones. Except…

Except when the weekend kicks off with the ultimate high-end AFL grudge match, and you think “maybe I’ll just tune in till Buddy kicks his first”, and before you know it you’ve watched the best part of all six games. As usual.

It didn’t help, of course, that it took Franklin till halfway through the final quarter to break his goal drought, by which time the promised prospect of turning off the match and watching a romantic comedy with the long-suffering wife was a distant pipe-dream. Although a jaw-dropping seven consecutive behinds to the mercurial forward did ensure that he’d effectively scored a cumulative goal against his old side by halfway through the second quarter.*

The Hawks faithful, long familiar with pinning their fortunes on the vagaries of the Buddy Arc, wouldn’t have known whether to laugh or cry.

There may be more tears to come though, as their team is likely to face the rampaging Power sans Mitchell, Rioli, Lake and possibly Roughead. If you take enough top-liners out of any team, even one playing as irresistibly as the Hawks, they suddenly begin to look very resistible.

And, sad as it is to admit it, Port Adelaide looks every bit the premiership fancy.

Alone atop the ladder, with an astronomical percentage and one single-kick defeat blotting its book after eight rounds, those dark early 2000s days of minor round dominance suddenly seem to be upon us again. Worse still, the team’s tireless fitness and infectious joie de vivre makes it seem less likely to inherit its forebear’s propensity to choke in the major round.

And most terrifyingly of all, such is their youth, they could be thereabouts for a good few years yet.Of the cream of their crop, only Junior Cornes and Dom Cassisi are on the wrong side of 30.

If they do have a weakness, it is perhaps a longer-term dearth of key tall forward targets, despite the energetic efforts of Jay Schulz. Sadly, first-round draft pick John Butcher appears to be one of those forwards for whom the cliché “enigmatic” was coined. He remains perhaps the only Power-listed player who was playing better football BK (Before Ken), and has probably never surpassed his second game of six kicks for six goals against the Western Bulldogs. But that aside, Port’s confidence, run and spread of talent will make them tough to beat from here. (Troy Chaplin, who quit the then-hapless and coach-less Power for the Tigers in 2012, thinking Richmond was on the up, must be kicking himself!)

Chad Wingard is fast becoming one of the more annoying people in the league (by which I mean he keeps winning games off his own boot); the fact he hails from SA also means Port won’t be dogged by constant speculation about him heading home. He’s been a brilliant recruit.

[Note to Port Adelaide supporters: the above paragraphs are the nicest things I’m ever going to write about your club, other than to acknowledge that Warren Tredrea is a pretty decent bloke when he’s nowhere near a footy field; so take it or leave it.]

It’s all enough to make the poor old Crows – mired down in the bottom half of the ladder – look about as relevant as tonight’s Saints-Blues clash.

And the eight’s only going to get tougher to crack from here, with Sydney and Freo rediscovering some form (at least until the Dockers’ last quarter against Port), Gold Coast emerging from football puberty and West Coast finally learning to kick straight (11 goals zero behinds to Josh Kennedy is just ridiculous stuff – maybe he should have a word to Buddy Franklin?). As it is, we’re languishing in eleventh place, held at bay behind the Roos and the Bombers. Which is exactly how things were at the end of last season. If one was a pessimist (which is what an idealist calls a realist), one might suspect that’s because it’s more or less where we belong. I guess we’ll find out on Thursday night.

*We won’t even mention four goals and a horribly strong marking display by a certain Sydney forward whose name we don’t mention. Because we don’t talk about people like that here at the Fumbles.

Tom Richardson is InDaily’s political commentator and Channel Nine’s state political reporter.

On Mondays during the AFL season he will be found in InDaily’s sport section, writing this lament – or chronicle of triumph. Time will tell.

 

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