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Touch Of The Fumbles: From invincibles to Vinced

Touch of the Fumbles

As Oscar Wilde would have probably written if he’d had the misfortune to be an Adelaide Crows supporter: To lose one game against a middle-rung opponent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

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And careless they were, to be sure.

Playing as though they hadn’t a care in the world: not for the win, not for any obvious game plan and certainly not for one another.

RORY: “Hey Crouchy, can I get a little help over here?” MATT: “Pffft…” Photos: Michael Errey / InDaily

 

It’s not merely the fact of the last fortnight’s losses, but the manner of them which is so disturbing.

Truly, the Pyke Cart has broken down and the Pykelets are as flat as a proverbial pancake.

It was so bad, even Geelong concurrently losing their third game on the trot did little to brighten my mood. In fact, it merely served as a dour reminder that we are clearly still one top-line midfielder short of a decent engine room. Which sounds like some kind of euphemism for being stupid. Which would explain some of our decision-making under pressure.

At any rate, fate has determined that we don’t even get to enjoy the Cats’ fall from grace, because our own is arguably even worse.

In two months we have gone from being better than we thought to being the best team of all time to being not as good as we thought to being not very good, full-stop.

For the second week running, the Crows were smashed in the tackle count. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

We are, deservedly, no longer premiership favourites – so that was fun while it lasted! A loss on the road to Brisbane and we won’t even be premiership fancies. Rather, just the latest in a long list of also-rans – Geelong in 1999, Collingwood in 2000, the Kangaroos last year – who started the year in a blaze of glory before embarking on a demoralising losing streak as their season quickly fizzled out.

And the capriciousness appears contagious, given the three sides that were undefeated after five rounds have since lost eight of the nine games played between them. And the one win (which was ours, at least) was a given, since it was a game involving two of those three teams.

But just to cheer us all up, I’ve decided to try and look at the positives from our game against the Dees. In fact, I’ve made a list of all the good things we learned, despite the loss:

  1. The hot chips they sell at Adelaide Oval are actually not as bad as you might expect.

That’s all I could think of, but feel free to send in anything I might have missed.

Your club wants YOU… to play better. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Of course, the weekend’s main subplot was the return of Bernie Vince for his 200th game against the club who had unceremoniously ousted him, which always had a bit of an ominous ring to it.

The game did have a bit of a ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ feel about it, with the Crows side largely resembling a lifeless cadaver.

Predictably, he had the job minding Rory Sloane which, predictably, we didn’t seem to predict. Apparently the Crows were told during the week that they should try and help out Sloane if he was being targeted, and sure enough plenty of teammates took turns to fly the flag. Unfortunately, they were Vince’s teammates, and they flew the flag by helping him duff up our best midfielder.

And appropriately enough, the game did have a bit of a ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ feel about it, with the Crows side largely resembling a lifeless cadaver and a couple of guys trying comically to make it look a bit more animated, and largely failing.

Ok, so we weren’t there to play in the first quarter. That’s a given; it’s such an entrenched part of Adelaide’s game I’ve always assumed it’s written into an enterprise bargaining agreement somewhere.

And fair enough. It usually takes me a little while to get into the swing of things when I start work too. So Adelaide’s first quarters are really their equivalent of you or I having a couple of flat whites and thumbing through the paper before getting on with our day.

And sure enough, once the home side kicked five unanswered goals to skip away to a handy second-term lead, it looked as if we were back reading from the script of our once-flawless season.

Perhaps the difference early on was that the Crows’ backs were against the wall. They weren’t favoured against GWS, they hadn’t beaten the Hawks in five years, Port are never to be taken lightly and Richmond was a highly-hyped top-of-the-table clash. So in each of those games, the team was prepared to work hard to haul back the first-quarter deficit, and then some. This time, it was as if they figured it would all just happen for them.

Still, they weren’t the only ones.

I’ll confess, it was at about this point that I rather-too-smugly noted aloud that the Demons were yet to register a score for the quarter. They obligingly piled on the last three goals of the term and the next nine without reply. You’re welcome.

Demons co-captain Nathan Jones was fired up, unlike the Crows. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

But even by the end of the third, I was still watching the game with the rose-coloured ‘Post-Round-Six’ glasses on, and thinking to myself: “Gee, this comeback is going to be pretty spectacular when we fire up in the fourth.”

It wasn’t until the Dees kicked the first few of the final term to drag their lead into the stratosphere that I started to think that maybe we might want to get a bit of a hurry along with this comeback of ours to avoid disappointment.

Sadly, the comeback never came. Just the disappointment.

The familiar, crushing disappointment.

“Now Rory, it’s possible they might try and man you up in some way, but luckily enough we rely on an even combination from the entire team…” Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

I’m told that at about 9.30pm my five-year-old son got up out of bed to ask why I wasn’t home yet because we were halfway through the book I was reading him and he wanted to know what happened next. When he was informed that I was still at the game, he dejectedly lamented: “Ohh, why is football so crazy!?”

Funnily enough, I was pondering much the same thing myself.

At least there were 5000 fewer Port supporters about the place to rub it in

The Demons clearly like coming to Adelaide Oval (maybe they enjoy the hot chips?). They now have two wins against us at our home ground since 2014, putting them in the same company as West Coast and Hawthorn – which is faintly ludicrous given they haven’t played finals in that time and hadn’t previously won a game in SA for 13 years (that one was also against us, obviously).

That first Adelaide Oval loss back in 2014 was arguably the match that cost Brenton Sanderson his job, given it was the win-we-should-have-had that ended up costing us a finals berth that year.

And, since we’re all agreed that losing Sando as our coach was probably a wise move, we should generally be quite grateful to the Dees for playing so well against us at Adelaide Oval.

But that’s a glass-half-full perspective I’m struggling to muster right at the moment.

Pyke says he’ll be backing his players to respond.

Mind you, he also said they needed to work hard to regain their confidence because “it doesn’t just magic its way back”, which makes him sound like he’s been watching too much Ben And Holly’s Little Kingdom. Presumably the Crows will now be going ‘back to basics’, which might have to include explaining to the coach that nouns are not ‘doing words’.

It might also include bringing Scott Thompson back from state-league purgatory before our midfield loses whatever credibility it had built in those first six weeks.

Fundamentally though, Adelaide’s trouble seems less personnel than perspective; the archetypal downhill skiers, they play like world-beaters when lesser teams quickly capitulate, but struggle under pressure.

That last sentence might not be strictly true, but it’s certainly arguable. And given I actually first wrote it after our equivalent home loss to Melbourne three years ago, it’s worrying how little has changed.

Particularly since the other great annoyance of that 2014 season – the Port Adelaide Pandas becoming a Genuinely Good Team – seems to have come back to haunt us as well.

Port fans in Shanghai were keen to get around the Port Panda mascot…

…but the angry crowds were not so kind to the Gold Coast’s koala. Photos: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

So good were the Pandas in their much-vaunted Shanghai showcase that their club song has now been adopted as Australia’s national anthem.

https://twitter.com/SkyNewsAust/status/863626326749696000

Which makes sense; the bit about having the power to win and the power to rule, along with the enthusiastic glorification of “aggression”, seems a good fit for the post-Trump world.

(And at least the lyrics sound somewhat plausible, unlike our demonstrably fraudulent claim to be “courageous, stronger, faster”.)

The official attendance figure was 10,118, which meant there wasn’t a spare seat to be had in a sold-out Jiangwan Stadium, with a capacity crowd in raptures from start to finish.

Or at least, that’s what I heard on China’s Communist Party-run state TV channel, so it must be true.

The Suns courteously respected their tetraphobic Chinese hosts by avoiding the unlucky 4 points

And the Power supporters who had jetted over for the event lapped up the heady atmosphere. Well, they had to really – there was nothing else to drink, with a beer ban inside the grounds.

For everyone else, this unfortunately meant they not only had to watch the game, but will probably remember most of it as well.

Truly, as the old anthem goes, there’s nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear than to watch a one-sided AFL experiment in a stadium with no beer.

Besides that though, no expense was spared to make the day a success: the AFL Record was even translated into Mandarin, with four pages explaining to locals how Australian football works.

Unfortunately, the Suns forgot to read it, and turned in an appropriately economy class performance.

The match was played in front of what appeared to be some kind of ancient castle, presumably to help reinforce the fact that Ollie Wines is a dead-ringer for Joffrey from Game Of Thrones.

At any rate, it was an apt setting, because the Pandas quickly went medieval on Gold Coast’s ass.

Travis Boak, the king of the castle. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Luckily Rodney Eade had already cunningly made a whole bunch of excuses for his team a week ago, so we know it’s not actually their ineptitude but a weird combination of travel fatigue, class envy and clogged sinuses that prompted the hefty loss.

One can only assume all the asthmatic Suns who evidently didn’t make the trip were pretty handy players.

The moment Rocket Eade suddenly realised he had another 20 hour return trip in front of him. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Security was tight in Shanghai: I read that there was one guard for every five supporters at the stadium.

Which was pretty much the same apparent ratio of Gold Coast to Port Adelaide players in the Pandas’ forward line.

To be fair, this match was always about more than football, and the Suns did manage to pull off one significant diplomatic coup – courteously respecting their tetraphobic Chinese hosts by avoiding the unlucky four points.

Still, they undid all their good work by conspicuously kicking just four goals for the match – ending with a monumentally unlucky score of 4.14.

As for Port, it was an odd diplomatic tack to jet into a Communist dictatorship and humiliate a bunch of guys wearing the colours of the national flag. They might not get invited back if they do that again.

It was Brad Ebert’s uncanny ability to levitate the ball telepathically that saw him judged best-on-ground. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Two weeks ago, I was worried that we’d finish the season on top of the ladder only to lose our home ground advantage when the Pandas snuck into fourth. Now, though, even finishing above them looks a stretch, let alone securing a home final and double chance.

But we can’t complain too much. Because the Shanghai fixture – despite being a triumph for the hated Pandas both on-field and off – did provide Adelaide supporters with one significant consolation on this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad weekend.

It meant there were at least 5000 fewer Port supporters about the place to rub it in.

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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