On the eve of the first Showdown at Adelaide Oval, the AFL licences of Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows have been released from the control of the SANFL.
The move effectively gives the two AFL clubs independent control of their operations for the first time in their history.
The licence deals are done, the Oval rebuild is done and the fans are busting to see the best AFL game this city’s had in decades.
Perfect weather, a late afternoon start and a sell-out crowd make this a blockbuster.
Saturday is almost a “coming of age” for the AFL brand in SA.
Home side Port Adelaide welcome back Alipate Carlile set to play his first game for 2014.
Adelaide’s Richard Douglas passed a fitness test Thursday and is ready to roll.
Carlile returns from quad soreness following a successful hit-out for Port Adelaide’s SANFL side in its trial game victory over Central District last week.
In that game Carlile provided a strong and aggressive defensive game for the Magpies, which ran out comfortable 65-point winners.
Port coach Ken Hinkley says despite the difficulty quelling the hype of the first game at the re-developed ground, his team will prepare as per usual.
“It’s really difficult to say it’s just a normal game, being the first game back at the Oval and a Showdown,” he said.
“They combine to give slightly more significance to this, compared to a normal home-and-away game.
“It is an amazing stadium, we know how good it’s going to be for the whole of Adelaide.
“This game is about playing consistent football for the whole four quarters.
“It’ll be really close and it will take a full-game effort to take a win.”
In the Crows camp, fans have been so desperate to get a ticket, they’ve been buying Port Adelaide memberships.
They welcome the return of Douglas who missed Adelaide’s season-opener after sustaining a heavy hit to his groin in Adelaide’s last pre-season game.
The 2010 Crows club champion, who required surgery on the injury, was initially expected to miss at least a month but has made a quicker-than-expected recovery.
Coach Brenton Sanderson told the club’s website Douglas had ticked all the boxes in his rehabilitation.
“Dougy has been cleared to play from a medical perspective and also feels ready within himself,” Sanderson said.
“He’s been running well for the last seven days and trained strongly this week.
“Dougy finished runner-up in our club champion last year and was in the All-Australian squad. He’s a very important player for us and we’re rapt to have him back in the team.”
Douglas is one of two inclusions – veteran Brent Reilly has also been recalled for his first AFL game of 2014.
Reilly suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Round 14 last year. The 2012 All-Australian nominee has played two games for Adelaide’s SANFL team, amassing 34 possessions in the club’s trial loss to Woodville-West Torrens last weekend.
“Brent Reilly can play a variety of roles through the midfield and defence, so he gives us some flexibility and also experience,” Sanderson said.
“Radar didn’t play in the NAB Challenge, but he was able to do the majority of the pre-season training and has had a couple of games in the SANFL, so he’s in good nick.”
The sold-out Showdown starts at 4:15pm on Saturday and will be broadcast live on Channel 7 and Fox Footy.
A minute’s silence will be observed before the game in memory of the late Dean Bailey.
Gates open at 1:30pm.
The Adelaide Oval Footy Express will provide free express bus, train and tram services for people with a valid footy ticket this season. Visit www.adelaideoval.com.au for times.
Limited car parking will be available around the venue.
And don’t take a walking short-cut across the golf course – it’s competition day at the course and a hard-driven golf ball can come from anywhere.
Follow the signs, listen to the officials and enjoy the day.
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