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Raining on the Dees' parade

Touch of the Fumbles

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The skies were angry that day, my friends … angry, like Paddy Dangerfield after a nifty knock to the knackers from Bernie Vince.

As the heavens opened in the third, the crowds either decamped to the nearest bar or reached for their trusty waterproof garbage-bag ponchos, leaving every remaining spectator looking like Laura Palmer from the first episode of Twin Peaks.

Not the ideal conditions for our own twin peaks of Walker and Jenkins, although they still managed to jag four goals between them.

Neither, you’d have thought, conditions best suited to a swift outside runner either, though that didn’t appear to stop David Mackay turning the contest on its head with 23 possessions, a momentum-seizing goal and a lazy 13 tackles. It was, finally, a game worthy of the promise he showed in that 2009 semi-final loss to Collingwood (yes, I realise I have now mentioned that game twice in two weeks; let us never speak of it again.)

Anyway, it was bucketing down so hard my ironically-named SuperDry quickly became more of a Miller Lite, but my spirits were nonetheless warmed by a trio of Crow majors to open the term.

But something was still sadly, intangibly, awry.

And then it hit me, like a cheeky post-tackle Vince jab to the ribs.

As usual, every home-side goal prompted the now-traditional vignette on the big screens at Adelaide Oval, in which the cartoon crow swoops on its hypothetical prey … but something had changed.

The squawk was gone.

That infernal, irritating mawkish squawk that used to greet every goal has been faded from the soundtrack; our cartoon crow still dives enthusiastically like Dangerfield after a minor head bump from a former teammate, but it is now muted, silent but for the exaggerated whoosh of the wind beneath its wings.

But you know what?

After every goal, somewhere in the crowd … someone will let out a spontaneous squawk.

Someone will emit that strange, screeching yawp and those seated within earshot will sagely nod their ironic appreciation.

And there is an irony here.

For 12 months we’ve been told that Port Adelaide nailed this “match-day experience” thing because they didn’t try and make something happen, they just turned up, played an old INXS tune and before you knew it the stadium was engulfed with the toothless hordes, scarves aloft, warbling “Never Tear Us Apart” in the wrong key.

It just happened, they insisted.

It was organic.

Well, it turned out the Adelaide Football Club managed to achieve much the same thing.

Back in the Snake-Oil Salesman’s days, the only tackles we’d see were the ones that inadvertently popped up on the TV screen when the camera lingered too long in the changerooms during the half-time break.

Conceivably, by the time the club celebrates its next 25-year milestone, there’ll still be the odd punter in the crowd who’ll greet every goal with an impromptu, feeble squawk.

It may strike more amusement than fear into the hearts of opposition teams, it may be unconscionably naff, but it’s still sort of brilliant in its idiocy.

And at least there was occasion for a few squawks on Saturday, given that after last year’s disaster – in which we fronted up as hot favourites to play the Dees on a grey, wet Saturday afternoon and let them run all over us – we again fronted up as hot favourites to play the Dees on a grey, wet Saturday afternoon and let them run all over us.

I once heard a story about a gaggle of elderly ladies at a community club who gathered each year to watch the Grand Final together. Back in 2006, they were enjoying a tight tussle between West Coast and Sydney that was going right down to the wire. But it wasn’t until Leo Barry took a game-saving mark in the dying seconds that someone realised they’d had the TV on the wrong channel – they were watching FoxFooty’s replay of the preceding year’s Grand Final between the same two sides.

That’s a bit how I felt by the time we fell 20 points down well into the first quarter, still without a score on the board. I was starting to think perhaps the Footy Express I’d caught to the match was some kind of TARDIS, which had cruelly transported me back to Round 7, 2014 (the only consolation for which would be that I’d get to watch us roll Collingwood again a fortnight later).

Angry skies ... the view from Fumbles' seat.

Angry skies … the view from Fumbles’ seat.

It was Scott Thompson, in his first game for the season after an injury layoff, who turned the momentum with a desperate, goal-saving run-down.

And the home side kept tackling. We have, it seems, finally become what Sando always wanted us to be – a side that tackles.

Back in the Snake-Oil Salesman’s days, the only tackles we’d see were the ones that inadvertently popped up on the TV screen when the camera lingered too long in the changerooms during the half-time break.

But on the weekend, the Crows laid a dizzying 108 for the game; debutant Jake Kelly laid 10, three more than his total number of disposals.

This wet weather football thing wasn’t all bad! Adelaide worked to the conditions; they bashed the ball or, if that failed, the opposition.

A 25-point victory over lowly Melbourne may not seem like much, but it’s better than a three-point loss.

The weekend wasn’t all watered-down champagne and caviar, of course. Port won, and so did the Cats, reminding us uncomfortably that Geelong is not so very far from Moggs Creek.

While their sluggish start has been enjoyable, it’s worth remembering that the Power’s first three games have all been against near-certain finalists. The way they played against the ominous-looking Freo would have beaten most teams in the comp; the way they played against Sydney … well, wouldn’t.

And they still have Hawthorn to contend with before the Showdown – it’s a nightmare fixture to kick off a premiership tilt.

Adelaide’s draw, conversely, is the fixture equivalent of a first-class flight with complimentary slippers and silk pyjamas followed by free drinks and canapes in the Qantas Club.

Besides some late-season road trips to Sydney and Geelong (near Moggs Creek), our away games schedule consists of the lowly likes of Gold Coast, GWS, Brisbane and West Coast. We also play the Eagles at home two weeks before the finals, by which time, on present form, their backline will more closely resemble Essendon’s NAB Challenge squad.

Such is the luck of the draw, but for now it does appear we may, finally, have a team capable of capitalising on a soft run.

Squawk!

Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s weekly AFL column, published each Monday during the AFL season. For new readers – yes, it’s shamelessly biased. Even up the score in the comments section below.

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