Like Shakespeare’s Dane, I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth.
Well, actually, I know pretty damn exactly wherefore and inasmuch as which. It’s those bloody Crows. Throwing away four points against the lowly (but decreasingly lowly) Demons, with the best part of the following fortnight to stew over what went wrong.
The consolation of the bye round was at least for once you went into the weekend reasonably confident your team won’t get trounced; t’was a rare and reassuring feeling. At least, though – unlike Shakespeare’s Dane – we appear to have navigated our dark funk without wholesale bloodshed. (One suspects Richmond might not be so lucky; Saturday’s listless loss to the lowly-but-decreasingly-lowly Demons amid the mourning of a lost legend in Tom Hafey was a new low in a dire season, although it did bring me closer to a free six-pack courtesy of the fellow who posted in the comments section here a few weeks back, wagering half a dozen beers that the Tiges would finish above the Crows).
But since we don’t pick our teams, they pick us, it was with enthusiasm if little confidence that I swaggered down to Adelaide Oval, joining the 50 thousand strong throng on Thursday night, ostensibly to watch our season ebb further away courtesy of a heartbreaking loss to the finals-bound Pies.
Such was the vibe in the coliseum, the inevitable shaming seemed almost inconsequential. Suddenly the recipe for enticing crowds back to football appears simple.
Port supporters, who so recently were trickling to AAMI Stadium in their teens of thousands to watch their side get flogged, now flood from the proverbial woodwork; and to think, all they needed was a half a billion dollar city stadium and their team on top of the ladder.
Crows supporters, apparently, demand even less; just the stadium will suffice, and we’ll happily keep turning up to watch our bizarre last quarter fadeouts. But, having missed Adelaide’s only previous home win this season against GWS due to an unfortunate scheduling clash involving the birth of my daughter, I was beginning to fear I may never actually witness my team win at Adelaide Oval in 2014.
It certainly appeared that way as the first quarter progressed. Goals were few and far between, yet Collingwood slowly and steadily built their lead. Our forward firepower was symbolically bolstered by Walker’s much-hyped comeback, but we appeared to have replaced that brawny, hirsute, lovable lunk who used to wear Number 13 with a svelte, dashing midfield type who resembled less the ‘80s metal roadie of yore than Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind. And while this Texan imposter got a fair bit of the ball, his radar seemed sadly awry.
But then, suddenly, halfway through the second quarter, something sort of magical happened. Josh Jenkins, the New Tex, or perhaps more accurately the new incarnation of the man whose name we don’t mention down here at Fumbleland but whose brother now plays pretty well for North Melbourne, caught fire. Not literally, of course; I don’t mean to imply that he spontaneously combusted in front of the 50,000-strong crowd, like a Spinal Tap drummer. He just started playing really, really well.
And the forward line started to find its rhythm, which finally gave our gameplan a hint of something resembling structure. And we tackled, and kept tackling, and some of them even stuck. And fortune started turning our way. Collingwood players did stupid things resulting in turnovers or free kicks, or both.
A kick that may or may not have left JJ’s boot after the three quarter time siren was declared a momentum-boosting goal (for what it’s worth, I was one of about three people at the ground who reckon they heard the siren, and I thought he’d already kicked it, although I’m prepared to concede I might have had a few ales.)
At any rate, the Crows are now 4-4 on the win-loss ledger, just as they were after eight rounds last year. The ideal scenario, of course, is that everything clicks from this point on and we charge through the remainder of the season without loss en route to a historic third premiership.
The more likely option is a repeat of last year: we ventured to Etihad Stadium and twice came back from the dead to beat the Kangaroos by a point with that famous toe-poke from Petrenko; then, as the euphoria dissipated, we dropped the next three games before a run of patchy form saw us limp to 11th on the ladder (ironically, just behind the Kangaroos).
A bit’s changed since then, of course. Petrenko lost his spot in the side last week, and on the strength of Charlie Cameron’s debut will have his work cut out getting it back. On Sunday we face Carlton, a rematch of the moment where it really all went a bit Pete Tong in 2013. On that dark day at the MCG, Walker threatened to blow the game apart, but instead blew out his knee as the Blues skipped away to a five-goal first quarter lead, which they didn’t surrender. It would be pleasantly appropriate if Tex picked next week to rediscover his blistering best.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; that Demons game is still too fresh in the memory. For now, the hazy beer-soaked euphoria of leaving Adelaide Oval after a home-side victory will suffice.
There are few things better than watching your team win; one of them is when it’s a win no-one believed they’d have.
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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