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Touch Of The Fumbles: A Hard Reign's Gonna Fall

Touch of the Fumbles

If anyone’s looking for the archetype of Ambivalence, Thursday night helpfully provided one: when your former best player kicks the winning goal against your least favourite team.

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Rarely has a single moment in football unleashed such a maelstrom of snark, sour grapes, schadenfreude and smugness – all wrapped up in that nagging feeling that I would have ended up annoyed regardless of the result.

One of the more annoying sights in football: Patrick Dangerfield celebrating a narrow victory. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Fortunately, before the weekend was out the Crows also managed to beat Fremantle by 100 points, about which I felt no conflict whatsoever.

But in the end, I rationalised it thus: had the Crows somehow managed to convince Patrick Dangerfield to stay in Adelaide in 2015, he would not have been able to kick the goal that cost Port Adelaide victory last week.

And thus, something positive has finally come from his departure.

One of the less annoying sights in football: Port Adelaide players leaving the field after a narrow loss. It is possible Charlie Dixon is still preparing to take his kick at this point.

Port supporters often make much mirth of Adelaide’s inability to retain its players, so it was actually quite enjoyable to note that our inability has now cost them four points and potentially a top four finish.

Although to be fair the Gold Coast Suns’ inability to retain their players also contributed significantly.

For, after almost four quarters were done, the two moments upon which the game turned came in the final harried moments – Dangerfield’s decisive snap and, of course, Charlie Dixon’s languorous preparation to kick what should have been the sealer, before the umpire called play-on and the chance went begging.

The amount of consternation this incident has created is a tad bizarre. I have seen entire articles criticising the umpire for “pedantically” applying the rules of the game, instead of adhering to some general vibe that Port were playing better and should therefore be allowed to win.

Imagine the post-mortem when the umpires review the match: “Hang on, you gave Charlie Dixon 45 seconds to kick that last goal… what’s with that?”

“Oh, you know, I just felt like it was great for the theatre of the game, really helped build up the moment nicely… and besides, Port really deserved to win it, so it just felt right.”

“Excellent, great umpiring.”

If only we’d had umpires like this on Saturday night. When Eddie Betts dribbled the ball on the run only to hit the woodwork, the goal umpire could have signalled a major regardless because it just felt right, dammit.

Eddie was robbed of at least two goals because over-officious umpires chose to apply the rules exactly as they are written. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

But even with this Dennis Denuto-style interpretation of the rules, it’s evident Dixon’s approach to goal-kicking is a bit like a viniculturalist’s approach to making his beloved red wine: it’s a process that can’t be hurried.

Although there’s always the danger it will leave you full of remorse the next morning, and pondering what the hell you did the night before.

Anyway, the good news for Charlie is that there is a book about someone just like him that offers hope that things will turn out ok.

The Mr Slow in Roger Hargreaves’ book similarly takes way too long to do anything: it takes him until New Year to open his Christmas presents, and until Easter to write his thank-you cards. And while he struggles to hold down a job, he ends up finding the perfect gig driving a steamroller, which sounds right up Charlie’s alley.

Mind you, we can’t be too hard on Charlie “Mr Slow” Dixon. After all, if only the AFL had provided some kind of large, prominently-displayed timekeeping implement to keep track of these things all of this controversy could have been avoided.

As ever when Paddy Dangerfield plays Port, it was hard to know who to barrack against (or, to be precise, who to barrack against harder). However, the Cats managed to win me over somewhat pre-match by playing highlights of the 2007 Grand Final on the big screens at the revamped Kardinia Park.

I know they were doing this to commemorate a decade since their record drubbing of the Power, but it really should be mandatory for the AFL to play highlights of the 2007 Grand Final on big screens before every game, regardless of who’s playing.

In any case, Port finished the night a 117-point better team than they were 10 years ago, so that was nice for them.

Two points: still better than 119 points. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Anyway, speaking of 100-point thrashings, Fremantle returned to Adelaide Oval on Saturday night. It was the scene of their 89-point drubbing by Port in Round Two, since when they had won six of their next seven games. So it’s possible the venue triggered some kind of repressed memory from their ‘incompetent’ era, because they played more like the Dockers of 2016.

Crows supporters are happy, Ross less so. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

And the Crows, back at home for the first time since that embarrassment against Melbourne, managed to banish their own Demons with a rare four-quarter effort. Their attacking zeal was undiminished by the driving downpour; a promising sign, and one that even won over the supporters who had all-but threatened to boycott the side after the fairly routine selection decision to include the oft-maligned David Mackay, who sat out last week to have a think about what he’d done.

In truth, while perpetually on the cusp of non-selection, Mackay hardly warrants the kind of white-hot angst his name tends to elicit. Although, really, no player in the history of the game warrants that kind of angst. Except David Gallagher.

It was a solid team performance, with our supposedly underwhelming midfield garnering possession after possession, and much of the game effectively played in Adelaide’s forward half. Far from our traditional sluggish start, it was raining goals at Adelaide Oval. Or at least, it was raining. And we were kicking goals.

Eddie catches a glimpse of the scoreboard. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Otten, Milera, Jenkins and Cameron all hit the scoreboard repeatedly, while Eddie did lots of jumping in the air, occasionally even in the vicinity of the football, before kicking three goals in about a minute on either side of the halftime break.

Eddie leaps in the vague direction of the ball. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

What does it all mean?

Does the Cats’ win over Port make it more or less likely that they will drop a game this week, when the Crows visit Geelong for our annual reality check?

We haven’t beaten them for four years – they inflicted two of our most thorough defeats last season – and haven’t bettered them at home since 2003. Is this the week that Geelong’s reign of terror over Adelaide will finally end?

Otten enjoying one of his four goals. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

At the very least, if we can somehow avoid Paddy Dangerfield kicking the winning goal I’ll take that as a consolation.

And if Geelong feel like kicking off the night with more highlights from their 2007 premiership, I won’t complain.

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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