If there’s a single consolation from that spiteful, shiteful Showdown at the Oval, it’s that Port Adelaide are much easier to hate when they’re winning.
It actually got a bit confusing for a while there about three years ago, when they were getting done by 150 points every week; you found yourself feeling a bit of sympathy, even misguided affection, for the hapless has-beens. So if you have to fossick for positives (which you do, and it isn’t easy), it was a bit of a relief to find myself surrounded by a stadium-full of baying, braying Powerites and be engulfed by that old, familiar sense of blind hatred. Pleasant.
Less pleasant, though, is the prospect of rocking up to that same admittedly-impressive stadium week in and week out for the next five months to watch similar displays of frustrating ineptitude.
Unless you’re a Melbourne supporter, one of the joys of pre-season is the weight of possibility; you haven’t seen your side play in six months, anything could have happened in that time and nothing is beyond the realms of comprehension. You allow yourself to dream dreams of taking September off work to jet around the country following your team’s triumphant progress to an unlikely flag. And then the first ball is bounced and all the dreams are shattered for another year.
The lot of the Crows supporter is a frustrating one; we’ve always got those premierships to fall back on, but the “Back To Back” brags start to ring a bit hollow when it dawns on you that was back when John Olsen was Premier and Steven Trigg was calling SANFL games and hosting home improvement shows.
If one must watch one’s side lose awkwardly, there’s no more hospitable venue to do so than Adelaide Oval.
It’s not that the Crows are ever truly bad, just endlessly frustrating. I generally console myself, at least, that I’m not a St Kilda supporter, those long-suffering masochists whose club has contested certainly as many unsuccessful preliminary finals as we have, with the added bonus of a slew of failed Grand Finals to boot. But they at least have two wins from two starts in 2014, which is two more than we have.
And in typical fashion, we are not playing terrible football; we are just not playing good football often enough. Those concentration lapses that typified last year’s bizarre fade-outs remain and, if anything, appear to have worsened. My most plausible theory to explain it is that somehow, when we inexplicably beat the Kangaroos from nowhere in Round 9 last year, the Curse of Crap Decision-Making that had bedevilled North’s season to date passed over into us. Thus, we managed to throw away match-winning turns against Fremantle, West Coast, Port (miserably) and the Bulldogs. We also did effectively the same thing against Geelong in Round 17, gifting them two shots at goal in the final minute after we hit the front late in the game, but miraculously, they managed to spray them both, somewhat disguising our own ineptitude.
The worry for Crows supporters is that we know the draft sanctions courtesy of You-Know-Who won’t really bite for a couple of years yet, but we were kind of hoping to win a few games in the meantime. We’ve had a disastrous run with retention, losing the likes of Davis, Bock, Maric, Gunston and The-Man-Whose-Name-We-Don’t-Mention for not very much. That’s a spine right there, and a very reasonable one. So while the Crows aren’t exactly spineless, they’re certainly missing a formidable spine. Which explains a lot.
If one must watch one’s side lose awkwardly, there’s no more hospitable venue to do so than Adelaide Oval. Nonetheless we do have a chance to turn it around this week against a similarly underwhelming Sydney. Both teams are winless, and one way or another, one of them is going to have a seriously bad week after Round 3. I’m just really hoping it’s them.
Tom Richardson is InDaily’s political commentator and Channel Nine’s state political reporter.
On Mondays during the AFL season he will be found in InDaily’s sport section, writing this lament – or chronicle of triumph. Time will tell.
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