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Touch of the Fumbles

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Well, that didn’t go very well, did it?

And so the Yoyo Crows continue their impeccable consistency; every two weeks a win, every two weeks a loss. One suspected the rollercoaster would finish one of two ways; either this week with victory or next with defeat. Sadly, the Yoyo Crows were determined to stay on the ride for one more stop.
I’ve learned to be very philosophical about Adelaide losses; one has to really. But this one made me angry.

At first blush, my ire was directed at the umpiring. Now, I consider myself a pretty tolerant fellow where the “fluoro maggots” are concerned. I don’t take pleasure in criticising umpires, and try and think of them as well-meaning folk doing their best to contribute to society, despite their obvious sado-masochistic tendencies.

And I do, genuinely, loathe the propensity of cheer-squad types (and Adelaide supporters do this louder and more frequently than most) to pin every hapless loss on refereeing error. But the fact is THE UMPIRES SODDING CRUCIFIED US.

Even if we accept that Howlett’s matchwinning “goal” that shaved the post was merely karma catching up with us for Eddie Betts’ celebrated-but-similarly-dubious major the previous week, the final quarter was a litany of blunders that conspiracy theorists could and no doubt have already weaved into tangible evidence that the AFL had answered Essendon’s marketing plea to “Back Our Boys”.

At least the club’s alleged drug transgressions were performance-enhancing; whatever these umpires were smoking clearly did their objective judgement no earthly good whatsoever. It was a festival of Adelaide frees not paid and Bomber transgressions unpunished, most notably when an almost-lame Paddy Dangerfield was decapitated by his opponent in front of goal and the referees evidently thought nothing of it.

But as the hours wore on and some semblance of perspective returned, the focus of my anger shifted. Our opponents had bettered ten goals just twice in their last nine outings, and yet we let them kick seven straight in the first quarter alone! All week, it had been made abundantly clear that this was our last, best hope to play finals (just in case the players hadn’t bothered to check the ladder for themselves), and yet we sleepwalked into the match, losing the first eight clearances.

It was as if the players had heard the score of the Gold Coast game just before the first bounce and figured the prize of a top eight spot had already gone begging.

If, by some miracle, the Crows manage to steal a win next weekend (which we should, after all, given it’s the Yoyos’ designated week), it will effectively be our 2014 Grand Final, coming as it would too late to change the course of the season.

To be fair, the Bombers actually played pretty damn well at times. Brendon Goddard was huge, dominating the contest with the strength and versatility of ten men. Which is probably just as well, since he might soon be about the only player the Bombers are allowed to field.

And Adelaide lacked poise at clutch moments: a missed goal on the first quarter siren, crucial dropped marks by J-Pod and Tex as that forward line we’re told will be the envy of the league again failed to gel, and the bi-weekly brain-snap from Danger, playing on with an errant handball after pulling down what could have been a game-saving mark.

This has clearly gone beyond fluctuating form; this is either a team regularly playing well below its capacity, or a team that simply isn’t particularly good.

Assuming, as we fairly could, that we are effectively out of contention for this year’s finals, we have now missed the major round four years out of the past five. A lot of reputations continue to ride on that one year, as good as it was. Indeed, at Adelaide, a lot of reputations continue to ride on two premierships that were won almost two decades ago.

We are now two games and percentage outside the eight, and West Coast’s win yesterday bumped us to the bottom of the list of also-rans. At least Carlton managed to remind us that there’s always someone worse off than yourself!

Meanwhile the crosstown rivals continue their campaign apace.

Just to ameliorate all the Port supporters regularly miffed that I don’t give due weight to your team’s travails: don’t worry, I suspect I’ll be forced to write about them at length next week. On Saturday you won a game you should have won by a margin you should have won it by. Notably, Chad Wingard can have a quiet day up forward and still be electric in the midfield and Polec still appears to struggle with close attention. Not that it matters overly, since Port have about a million ways to compensate.

Jay Schulz kicked eight goals, which is apparently an equal club record (clearly the club hasn’t had any players of the calibre of Tony Modra or, um, Tom Lynch). The guy must be pinching himself, traded from Richmond at the end of 2009 in exchange for Mitchell Farmer (no, me either!).

He and Port spent a few years in purgatory, but now the future for both appears to beckon nothing but success. Richmond, on the other hand, appeared to be building to a new golden age, but it turned out the light at the end of the tunnel was just the headlight of a one-way train to Mediocrity that’s now smacked into them head-on.

Since the Hafey era ended in 1982, the Tigers have played finals just three times. For years, the joke was that they were the team that finished 9th; last year, they finally made the eight and got bundled out in week one by the team that did finish ninth! They are synonymous with not failure, but mediocrity. And sometimes failure is better.

I reckon if you asked Jay Schulz whether he’d prefer a few seasons getting thumped before leading the league’s goalkickers list and playing in a team that sits a game clear on top of the table or being eternally mired in mid-table tedium, he wouldn’t change a thing.

If, by some miracle, the Crows manage to steal a win next weekend (which we should, after all, given it’s the Yoyos’ designated week), it will effectively be our 2014 Grand Final, coming as it would too late to change the course of the season.

But if, as is more likely, we end the mid-season rollercoaster ride with successive losses, here’s one consolation: it will give the club’s marketing department time to implement a great new slogan for the coming season.

Football clubs invariably get it wrong when thinking up ways to sell themselves.

For some reason, every club slogan has been designed to hammer on social media, hence they conform to type: short, snappy and preceded by a ubiquitous hashtag. And the errors become more egregious as modern technology becomes more ubiquitous; given the Bombers’ peptides saga, their refrain last year — #WhateverItTakes – should rival Brazil for one of the biggest own goals in world sport. This season, they’ve opted for something with far more appeal to tradition and far less suggestive double-entendre: #DonTheSash. Which just sounds silly, and slightly risqué. Other clubs simply give up on inventive mission statements and opt instead to merely state the bleeding obvious: #WeAreCarlton. #WeArePortAdelaide. As if the snaggle-toothed supporters and teal tarpaulins weren’t enough of a giveaway.

But fear not, Adelaide FC’s Marketing Department: for I have come up with the perfect three-word slogan for the Yoyos’ 2015 campaign. A slogan that perfectly sums up the experience of following a team that forever builds optimism only to dash hopes, a team that now appears comfortably mired in the mid-table hinterland of AFL relevance. Adelaide Football Club: #WeAreRichmond.

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

On Mondays during the AFL season he can be found in InDaily’s sport section, writing this lament – or chronicle of triumph. Time will tell (although we’re starting to settle on ‘lament’).

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