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Touch Of The Fumbles: So far, so good... but how far?

Touch of the Fumbles

While the rest of Adelaide may be back on the Crows bandwagon, Tom Richardson still has plenty of concerns. Chief among them, is Kurt Tippett's absence a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? And is "sudden-death final" an acceptable excuse for missing a pre-planned 40th birthday bash?

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This was on par with West Coast in ’03, and nearly as good as the Bombers in ’09.

Yep, Adelaide’s 62-point thrashing of North Melbourne was right up there with those other big home elimination finals wins that made us briefly think we were better than we are.

Of course, it’s always nice to get a ten-goal win to kick off the major round. But, lest we lose perspective (as we’re wont to do), there are two salient points we should keep in mind.

  1. We were playing against North Melbourne.
  2. Um… actually, there is no two.

We were playing against North Melbourne.

A side that had won twice from its previous 11 games.

Yes, granted, they had strung together nine straight wins not long before that, but that included games against the likes of Brisbane, Melbourne, Freo, Gold Coast, St Kilda, Essendon and Carlton. Oh, and Adelaide, of course.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

Last post for Roos veteran Boomer Harvey – at least the Crows gave him a better send-off than North Melbourne did. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

So, sure, the fact we live to fight another day is Good News (unless you’re a Port supporter, and if you are what the hell are you reading this for in any case?)

But never forget the immortal words of Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction (unless you’re squeamish, in which case you’d probably best not click on the clip below):

This time last year, I urged everyone to savour that epic victory against the Bulldogs, because wins like that don’t come along every day, every year or even every decade, and moreover you never know what next week will bring.

And as we found out to our embarrassment, the next week brought a complete pantsing by Hawthorn en route to their third flag in succession.

This time round, I feel less inclined to revel in the Crows doing exactly what they should have done, knocking off a non-contender at home.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

Eddie. Being Eddie. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

I suppose we at least achieved something we hadn’t done for 18 years – beaten North in a final. Mind you, that was largely due to not actually playing them in a final, so perhaps not such a grand achievement.

And we now have to do what no-one has done since then: win three consecutive games on the road against the likely three best teams in the competition.

But, one week at a time.

Finals, after all, are a time for surprises.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

Brodie Smith explains to Kyle Hartigan how to trip an opponent without risking suspension. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

If Adelaide beating North was the clear certainty going into week one, almost as certain was that the Crows would be facing the Giants in Sydney this week.

That, and that West Coast would prevail over the Bulldogs.

But not only did the Bulldogs prevail, they completely decimated the Eagles on their Domain deck.

Typical West Coast: good on the road, can’t win at home.

Luke ‘Tasty’ Beveridge may be as unlikeable as Alastair Clarkson but he seems to share his knack for coaching. Dropping Jake Stringer three weeks back was a masterstroke, not merely because it sent a message to the brilliant but mercurial forward, but because it sent a message to everyone: ‘I don’t care who you are; if you don’t try your guts out, you won’t get a game (*as long as we’re only playing Essendon and Freo)’.

The Bulldogs boilover, though, was quickly surpassed by the majesty of the Hawks/Cats grudge match (although I’ve now lost track of who holds the grudge against whom).

From here the finals series basically involves a succession of painful encounters with the ghosts of football relationships past… basically one long therapy session

It was one of those games that was confusing to watch; you were never quite sure which team you wanted to lose more.

Coach of the Cats Chris Scott is seen during the AFL Qualifying Final match between the Geelong Cats and the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG in Melbourne, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Chris Scott, possibly playing the Hawks an ironic lament on his invisible violin. Photo: Julian Smith / AAP

Dangerfield dominated with 35 possessions, obviously still smarting from the time the Hawks shocked the Cats in the ’08 Grand Final (I can only assume he lost the half-time sprint that day, or something?)

Still, his performance was just reward to Geelong for persevering with him for so long. Heartwarming.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

The guy in yellow thought this was out on the full; the thousands of people behind him disagreed. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

In the end, football was the winner, even though the team that intermittently played the best football was the loser.

Mind you, if Geelong really want to make a finals statement about that lost ’08 flag they should probably do it against Sydney, where Stewie Dew still works as an assistant.

I’m obviously hoping, of course, that they don’t get the opportunity to do so; for as I cheered on the GWS upstarts shocking the Swans on Saturday (and, moreover, the fact that both teams were bashing the hell out of each other in the process) the uncomfortable reality dawned on me that this, for the Crows, would mean perhaps the least palatable of all finals scenarios: playing Sydney in Sydney.

The Swans fired the first psychological salvo ahead of this salivating grudge match – by removing the grudge factor altogether.

Yep, they ruled Kurt Tippett – the Man Formerly Known As He Who Can Not Be Named – out of the game, after his valuable face became damaged during the loss to GWS.

I’m genuinely not sure how to feel about this.

On the one hand, it removes the possibility of one of my ultimate football dreams becoming a reality – that of the Crows beating Kurt Tippett in a knockout final.

On the other hand, though, it removes the possibility of one of my ultimate football nightmares becoming a reality (in case you were wondering, that’s pretty much the same scenario, but in reverse.)

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

At least we won’t have to see this sight on Saturday night. Photo: AAP

At least the Swans aren’t particularly fast, so we won’t have to spend another week speculating on that romantic notion that Riley Knight – who has managed only one game and 10 disposals at AFL level through a largely-injury-wrecked season – would somehow come in to add dash and be poised and majestic because he once happened to play a blinding final. After all, David Mackay played a helluva finals game against Collingwood back in 2009 and we’ve spent the next seven years waiting, mostly fruitlessly, for him to do something similar.

Wayne Milera turns 19 this week. He was not even one month old when the Crows won the first of their consecutive premierships

Unfortunately the awaiting semi-final will presage one of those awkward social scenarios wherein I must determine whether it’s acceptable to miss a friend’s long-planned 40th birthday shindig, and whether “sudden-death final” is sufficient excuse for doing so. (UPDATE: The answer is “not”, my wife informs me.)

I mean, for God’s sake, what kind of thoughtless people decide to have a September baby 15 years before the establishment of a team whose prospective finals schedule might impinge on any number of their progeny’s future milestones??

(Having said that, my own kid’s birthday falls awkwardly in the first week of September – the primary reason why I’m perhaps the nation’s only fierce advocate for the pre-finals bye.)

Speaking of September babies, Wayne Milera turns 19 this week. He was not even one month old when the Crows won the first of their consecutive premierships.

And therein lies the reason why we can no longer be mollified by beating also-rans in home elimination finals.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

EYES ON THE BALL: Tom Lynch. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Still, if we somehow manage to progress beyond the Sydney clash, we get to face Paddy Dangerfield’s raging Geelong, and thereafter (wistfully hoping!) either Phil Davis or the triple premiership-winning but Mark Bickley Medal-losing Jack Gunston.

In fact, from here the finals series basically involves a succession of painful encounters with the ghosts of football relationships past.

It’s basically one long therapy session, at the end of which we’ll either be cured or scarred for life.

I’m guessing the latter.

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

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