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Touch Of The Fumbles: Stockholm Syndrome

Touch of the Fumbles

Normal service was resumed on the weekend, as the Crows reverted to type by failing spectacularly to live up to the hype. Fortunately, so did almost every other contender - including Port. And despite the crushing disappointment, our Fumbles correspondent is, perversely, looking on the bright side.

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I’m not angry, just disappointed.

No, on second thoughts, I’m pretty bloody angry.

But also strangely relieved.

Much like the Crows, I don’t think I could take another week of being the consensus Premiership Favourites™.

Clever strategy, then, to nip all that hype in the bud by turning in the worst single quarter in club history. Full marks, Adelaide.

I mean, even in that 11-goal final term Brisbane dished out to us back in 2004, we still somehow managed to kick two behinds.

On Saturday, though, the high-flying, free-wheeling, big-scoring Premiership Favourites™ didn’t register a single score for the entire opening term. Not a sausage. Nada. Zilch.

We didn’t even look like scoring.

While North Melbourne (who, let’s not forget, hadn’t managed to win a game of football in five starts to open the season) piled on 10.4.

That’s 64 points to none, in case maths wasn’t your strong suit.

Which meant the Crows actually pipped Prince Philip to be the week’s Biggest Letdown after an Overhyped Buildup.

(Although, after the global panic about a royal abdication, the ‘bombshell’ news that a 95-year-old fop wouldn’t be getting out as much as he used to was still a pretty major anticlimax. If nothing else, because I’d kinda assumed he’d already retired years ago.)

Ben Brown chases down an unsuspecting Daniel Talia, in much the same way as his Kangaroos surprised Adelaide on Saturday. Photo: Rob Blakers / AAP

Given the litany of ponderous pieces dubbing us ‘unbeatable’ and comparing us to Essendon’s high-watermark team of 2000, the Roos quickly made Adelaide look plain silly. Or sillier, in the case of Rory Atkins. It’s probably been noted, but Atkins sort of looks like a giant bird has crapped on his head.

Which is probably an apt metaphor for what the Roos did to our season.

If anything, Rory Atkins’ guano-themed coiffure is looking sillier now than it was a week ago. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Because the problem now is that, as Collingwood did with Geelong the previous week, the Kangaroos have shown the rest of the competition the trick to beating the Crows.

Fortunately, that trick seems to involve playing us on a blustery day in Hobart, which most of them probably won’t get the chance to do very often.

Given their record there, North should really ‘do a Port’ and offer a bunch of teams half a mil to switch their home games to the Apple Isle. If they had any money.

Anyway, such was the shock of the defeat – and the nature thereof – that it had pundits scrambling for something or someone to blame.

And personally, I blame Boof.

Alarm bells should have been going off the minute Don Pyke invited Darren Lehmann into the coaches’ box to witness North’s goal deluge.

After all, he’s never had a win as coach at Bellerive after losing the toss.

True enough, that scenario may have only happened once during his tenure at the Australian helm, but it’s fair to say Adelaide’s first quarter brought back horrible memories of that second innings collapse against South Africa back in November.

On the plus side, that Test match was the moment Australian cricket reassessed its standing in the world and drew a proverbial line in the sand, since when they’ve never again sunk to such a low (although they’ve come close once or twice).

We can only hope the Crows respond in kind.

Taylor Walker takes a strong mark in one of his highlights for the day. Unfortunately, the game hadn’t actually started at this point. Photo: Rob Blakers / AAP

Ideally, in fact, this game will be our equivalent of Geelong’s 86-point thrashing by the Magpies back in 2008 – the only home and away game the Cats actually lost all year. (Bizarrely, the pounding ensured that the all-conquering Cats boasted the season’s highest average losing margin; they also managed to lose the Grand Final, but I’m not extending the analogy that far.)

And speaking of Collingwood, I also blame Nathan Buckley.

While it was pretty obvious his successful ploy to tag Joel Selwood last week would see other coaches move to shut down other influential midfielders, it evidently wasn’t obvious enough that we actually thought of doing anything about until half-time, by which point Sam Gibson had held Rory Sloane to a measly five touches. (He was still more helpful than Josh Jenkins, who to that point had had a whopping two kicks at an impressive zero per cent efficiency.)

Thankfully the karma bus hit the Magpies in their loss to the Blues, whose captain Marc Murphy had 30 telling possessions while Buckley didn’t bother putting a tag on him.

You have to give us credit, though: when we drop our bundle we don’t do it half-assedly

So turgid was our first half that Eddie Betts’ 500th goal was barely noticed – although he was helpfully gifted a 501st within seconds after North’s Scott Thompson failed to get into the milestone spirit.

On which point, it should be noted that our contribution to the AFL’s Scott Thompson Duopoly had 11 tackles in the SANFL on Saturday – while his 22 senior side teammates managed only 50 between them.

That’s 50 tackles to North’s 90 – despite the fact we were chasing them for the ball from the get-go.

So as easy as it is to blame Boof and Bucks for our travails, the fact is – need we even say it? – we got ahead of ourselves.

And, as Pyke noted, we got what we deserved.

Because we’ve flirted with this outcome before.

Barring two games against relatively easy prey, Adelaide’s first quarters have been poor all year. The three-goal headstart we have traditionally gifted opponents now tends to nudge four or five before it occurs to anyone that it might be sensible to start playing some football. Of course, the malaise has been easily overlooked given we’ve overturned quarter-time deficits against the Giants, Hawthorn, Port and Richmond and gone on to comfortable wins.

And there was even a moment against North, when the margin was whittled back to 30-odd in the middle of the third, when I began to genuinely believe we were going to do something remarkable.

And indeed we did. We got thumped.

By the final siren, we had lost by pretty much the same 10-goal margin we had conceded within the first half hour. In fact, we actually won the remaining three quarters by five points.

So f*cking hooray for us.

Despite not having played since Round One and being about 50 years old, Jarrad Waite was easily the Roos best with 22 disposals, six goals… and six tackles – more than any individual Adelaide player. Photo: Rob Blakers / AAP

You have to give us credit, though: when we drop our bundle we don’t do it half-assedly.

While our incompetence seemed to come from the clouds, it actually recalled a similar meltdown after a flawless start to the season under Phil Walsh in 2015.

Back then we jetted over to Melbourne to face non-finalists the Western Bulldogs. We were coming off three successive wins; they’d just been torn a new one by reigning premiers Hawthorn.

It had all the hallmarks of a ten-goal thumping.

And so it was. Of us. By them.

Fortunately for us, this is likely to be talked about in years to come as The Round That Stuffed Up Everyone’s Tips

Indeed, the weekend’s parallels with that game against the Dogs two years ago were eerie.

For starters, Hartigan was crap that day too.

And it was a similar tale on Saturday.

The final scoreline (22.13.145 to 13.8.86, if you needed reminding) wasn’t overly surprising; it was just that the teams were the wrong way around.

Fortunately for us, this turned out to be the theme for much of the weekend, with Round 7, 2017 likely to be talked about in years to come as The Round That Stuffed Up Everyone’s Tips.

It was, apparently, the first time in history that all the top-five teams lost their respective games, and the first time in the 18-team competition that every team lost to a lower-ranked opponent.

Fortunately, this also meant that instead of moving to second on the ladder with a regulation win at home, our good friends over at Port Adelaide slumped to seventh after their third loss in as many years to West Coast at Adelaide Oval.

Maybe they should pay them $500,000 to play them somewhere else next time?

Just a reminder, Power fans… Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Worryingly enough, the Eagles have now won five of their six games at South Australia’s home of football – a far better winning percentage than either of the local teams.

And, despite the entrenched notion that they can’t play away from home, they’ve actually won their previous games on the road against Port, the Crows, Brisbane, GWS and those bastard Kangaroos.

They just happen to be crap on the MCG.

Which is likely to pose a bit of a problem for them down the track.

Port will play in front of 11,600 largely indifferent supporters – it will be like 2012 all over again

As for Port, they continue to do us favours. Not only did their shocking-yet-somehow-predictable loss dampen the cacophony of schadenfreude emanating from the adopted Albertonians, but their imminent sojourn to China – and the less-than-fulsome praise for the entire venture from Suns coach Rodney Eade – is likely to dominate the local build-up to Round Eight, instead of our humiliation.

Chad Wingard tackles Chris Masten as the Power dominate every facet of the game – except the scoreboard. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

And indeed, perhaps that’s what the Power players need at this juncture: a chance to travel to a neutral venue and get some clear air (or smog, as the case may be). They’ll play in front of 11,600 largely indifferent supporters, most of whom won’t watch them again for the rest of the year; it will be like 2012 all over again!

In any case, football aside, the venture is being billed as a triumph of sports diplomacy – if having 5000 baying Power fans infiltrate your borders can be regarded as a diplomatic coup.

Is this really the best way to improve Sino–Australian relations? Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Still, it’s probably safest not to trash-talk the Power too much this week.

After all, the erstwhile Premiership Favourites™ have just dished up the latest in a long line of sobering wake-up calls since our last premiership. The first of which was back in 2000 when, after an unlikely four-game winning streak that propelled us into the eight for the first time in 14 rounds (after a five-game losing streak to start the season), the Crows took on a red-hot Carlton at Princes Park.

It was a genuine test of our finals credentials – and we had failed it by quarter time.

That day, the Blues piled on 8.1 to Adelaide’s two behinds to effectively kill the contest – even though we rallied to only lose by four goals.

For some reason (possibly because I’m borderline obsessive), the Tiser’s subsequent headline sticks in my mind: ‘A Quarter Best Forgotten’.

You could say the same thing about our effort against North on Saturday last, but for one thing.

We can’t forget it.

That quarter now has to stay with us for the rest of this season, and then some.

Because otherwise it will just become the latest in a litany of occasions on which we’ve grudgingly realised that we’re not those high-flying, free-wheeling, big-scoring Premiership Favourites™ after all.

It’s been a 19 years since we last won a flag – longer than British Labour’s famous wilderness years under Thatcher and Major

Did we really truly think we were going to swan through this year without loss, with each winning margin higher than the last? We’re not, after all, a team of top draft picks (mind you, GWS are, and they lost too). We have no present-day top-10 recruits, other than those playing for other clubs (both of which, gloriously, lost on the weekend, despite Davis and Dangerfield being among their best).

It’s been a long time – 19 years – since we last won a flag. Longer than British Labour’s famous wilderness years under Thatcher and Major. A full term longer than the ALP have been in power here in SA.

So it’s little wonder some of us feel a guilty sense of relief at being shown up as not the Premiership Favourites™ many thought.

After so long spent in futile failure, we are akin to the institutionalised prisoners unable to assimilate to the outside world. We are so unaccustomed to sustained success, we greet renewed hopelessness like an old friend on the doorstep.

And our bond with the club which inevitably inflicts our pain and suffering grows ever stronger.

Like Stockholm Syndrome.

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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