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Touch Of The Fumbles: China Syndrome vs Ewing Theory

Touch of the Fumbles

Richmond is the South Australian Liberal Party of the AFL. Discuss.

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For starters, neither has won anything of note for as long as anyone can remember, and both have a long history of dispatching their leaders in a fit of panic.

“We’re Richmond – people have a perception about us,” forward Jack Riewoldt told FoxFooty a few days back in response to the public overreaction to the Tigers’ uncanny ability to find a way to lose against Collingwood the previous week.

A few days later, Jack obligingly enhanced that perception by slamming a sitter into the woodwork from 25 metres out directly in front of goal; the Crows quickly cleared from defence and scored a rebound goal, snapping a run of three straight Richmond majors. Riewoldt’s would have cut to margin to just two goals at the half, and given his team all the momentum. Instead, the half-time deficit was a deflating (or delicious, depending on your perspective) 25 points. They never recovered.

Tom Lynch opted to return home for the birth of his second child. This would never have happened at Port, where they have a strict one-child policy.

Coach of the Tigers Damien Hardwick makes his way to the change rooms after being defeated by the Adelaide Crows during the round 3 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

NOT ENTIRELY SURE: Damien Hardwick mimics the look the board made when it re-appointed him till the end of 2018. Photo: Julian Smith, AAP.

Needless to say, some could question the wisdom of the season-eve contract extension of a coach who has won exactly zero finals in six years. But, like the SA Liberal Party, the Tigers know their reputation precedes them. And, like the SA Liberal Party, they’re not 100 per cent confident they’ve picked the right guy, but they’re determined not to knock off another leader, regardless of results – if only because that’s what everyone expects them to do.

Of course, that’s one of the pitfalls of democracy.

Port Adelaide recognises this, and has correspondingly thrown its lot in with the world’s biggest communist dictatorship.

 

“If you want to know the taste of a Pear, you must change the Pear by eating it.” – Chairman Mao Tse Tung

 

It makes sense, of course, given both China and SA are effectively one-party states, but the ‘Pear’s’ Asian foray has nonetheless not been without its challenges.

The first sign of trouble came when China’s CCTV started reporting mid-week that Port was completely injury-free and all was well at the club.

But the real alarm bells came when the network went on to proclaim that Friday night’s match was a high quality game of Australian Rules football that brilliantly showcased the skills and passion of the code.

Honestly, I can’t see where CCTV gets its truth-twisting reputation from. It’s entirely undeserved, in my opinion, as so clearly demonstrated in its balanced coverage of the Power’s 25.0.150 to 0.1.1 win. My only confusion came when it gave the three votes for Best On Ground to some bloke named “Xi Jinping”.

Port’s win was a 119-point turnaround from their previous week’s Showdown loss. If only they could have managed that in the 2007 Grand Final

Word had it that Port’s deal with CCTV would make the Bombers’ clash the most-viewed home and away match in history, which is frankly just insulting to almost every other game on the weekend, particularly two of the three played yesterday.

Port quickly powered to a ten-goal lead and, in keeping with the fabled “Port Adelaide way”, got on top and then stop, stop, stopped.

Like Freo did so often last year (and, to be fair, the Crows did last week) they sat on their ten-goal margin for the next two-and-a-half quarters of the match. As such, their win represented a 119-point turnaround from their previous week’s Showdown loss. If only they could have managed that in the 2007 Grand Final.

AFL Season 2016

“UP TO 50 MILLION, POTENTIALLY…”: Ken Hinkley reminds Robbie Gray just how many people are watching. Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

Mind you, if CCTV has a reputation for state-sanctioned information control, the local media put it in the shade with some of its own coverage of Port’s China deal.

We read that the Power could reach “as many as 50 million viewers on China Central Television”.

That’s despite the club itself talking up the event in far more modest terms, with “an estimated prime-time Chinese audience of up to two million people”.

Another report was even more egregious, enthusing: “Given the total TV audience in China is well over 1 billion, even a small market share for Port Adelaide’s games could mean around 50 million viewers – more than double the entire population of Australia.”

The breathless scribe, for that august journal the Daily Mail Online, continued to detail Port’s forthcoming CCTV doco series, which follows the progress of Chinese protégé Chen Shaoliang who, according to the article, “will play for the reserves in the SANFL this season”.

AFL Season 2016

Don’t diss the man-bun. Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

No mention, however, of the fact the poor kid tore his ACL last month and won’t be taking the field in any capacity in 2016.

I double-checked with the club about the missing 48 million viewers (had they been ‘disappeared’ by authorities for quietly sniggering at Westhoff’s beard or Young’s man-bun?) and was assured the most optimistic estimate was a still-impressive two million.

But who needs CCTV to spin your PR when you have the Australian football media?

 

“Swollen in head, weak in legs…” – Chairman Mao Tse Tung

 

If Port’s China Strategy has captured attention (and potential investment), it’s a fitting partnership, since most Port supporters seem to share CCTV’s self-censorial zeal – remaining bullish about their season prospects despite mounting evidence theirs is the Port Adelaide Way circa 2015.

Indeed, their 2-1 start belies a team in worrying nick, with a burgeoning injury list and coming off a Showdown meltdown that was more China Syndrome than China Strategy.

He may have kicked Port’s first goal in each of their three matches thus far, but skipper Travis Boak nonetheless appears down on the form that once made him Geelong’s number one recruiting target, before they compromised and went for some hack named Patrick Dangerfield instead.

At least Charlie Dixon delivered on some semblance of his promise, kicking three goals and, at least early on, duly dominating Essendon’s pint-sized defence.

Word has it Ken Hinkley knew Dixon was the man for the job when he assured his prospective coach that he would “never, ever give up”.

Although he might have been talking about his fondness for red wine.

AFL Season 2016

The only Wines Charlie Dixon enjoys these days? Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

Richmond supporters can join him in imbibing away their rattled nerves as they brace for another week of media frenzy that will be only tempered by the fact the Pies managed to lose even more embarrassingly.

Having failed to match Adelaide in the football stakes on Saturday, Richmond then failed to match the People’s Republic of Port Adelaide in the thought control department, imposing a ham-fisted ban on players and officials talking to print or radio media after the final siren.

It reeked of churlish revenge for the inordinate – and inordinately farcical – media-led pressure on their club leaders after the Collingwood capitulation, and smacked of panic in the face of another middling performance.

 

“In waking a Tiger, use a long stick.” – Chairman Mao Tse Tung

 

Adelaide, however (and I will try and be measured here) are looking every bit the finals aspirant, particularly given the likes of Henderson, Cameron, Menzel, Ellis-Yolmen, Otten, Grigg, Kelly, van Berlo et al can’t get a game. Which thus far makes a mockery of the pre-season prognostications of despair after the departure of the aforementioned Moggs Creek turncoat, who racked up 26 possessions and three goals yesterday for the Moggies in another middling display.

Perhaps the explanation lies in the fabled “Ewing Theory”, which was drawn to my attention pre-season and first posited in the 1990s to try and explain why all of the teams for which US Hall of Fame basketballer Patrick Ewing played over his career seemed to do better when he was out injured.

According to sportswriter Bill Simmons, a fierce advocate of Ewing Theory, the key elements that create a Ewing scenario are that a) a star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him, and b) that same athlete leaves his team and both the media and fans immediately write them off for the following season.

The idea, however, is that the team has become – either consciously or sub-consciously – so reliant on said player that it adversely affects their style of play. And there are literally dozens of examples – including, locally and of late, Geelong post Ablett and Hawthorn sans Buddy – of teams performing to a consistently higher standard in the absence of their own “Patrick Ewing” (or in our case Patrick “Ewing” Dangerfield).

Speaking of Lynch mobs, Kurt Tippett is coming to town this weekend

We saw it again on Saturday: perennial fringe-dweller Jarryd Lyons continued his unofficial role as the starting substitute, as a late ring-in for the hamstrung Brad Crouch. He finished with 21 disposals, an equal team-high seven inside 50s, three clearances and two goals, raising the question of who the hell goes out once Tom Lynch has finished his six weeks’ paternity leave (that’s how this works, right?)

 

“Investigation may be likened to the long months of pregnancy, and solving a problem to the day of birth.” – Chairman Mao Tse Tung

 

Ten Goal Tom is a talent, but he has never been what you’d call a good decision maker under pressure. Nonetheless, he made his best ever decision under pressure on Saturday, when he opted to return home for the birth of his second child. He made it up to Tex by naming her Tayla.

Taylor Walker of the Crows reacts after kicking a goal against the Richmond Tigers during the round 3 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

“YES! He named her after me!” Photo: Julian Smith, AAP.

Still, it meant Adelaide, already down one Crouch brother, would face the Tigers without their best player from the previous week. This would never have happened at Port, where they have a strict one-child policy.

 

“History is a symptom of our disease.” – Chairman Mao Tse Tung

 

Anyway, speaking of Lynch mobs, Kurt Tippett is coming to town this weekend.

While the footage of Shane Mumford piling his head into the turf has been on a constant loop in my household this weekend, it’s fair to say that everything we’ve ever had to do with the guy thus far has not ended well. Indeed, we haven’t beaten Sydney in four years – and they’re undefeated after three rounds this season, so reports of their impending demise were (sadly) greatly exaggerated.

The Footballer-Formerly-Known-as-He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (right) with other miserable Swans after the grand final.

ABOVE: How we hope Kurt will look on Saturday, and BELOW: How he’ll probably actually look.

One of the more restrained celebrations by Kurt Tippett during his first match against the Crows.

I note too, it was about this time last year that we were just starting to get a bit carried away with our early form when the Bulldog pups tore us a proverbial new one.

So at best, playing the Swans will be a decent test of how this Ewing Theory business stacks up.

And at worst, at least we’ll get to give ol’ mate Kurt our personal and sincere best wishes for the year ahead.

Or something.

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

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