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Alas, poor Porpoise, we knew him well...

Touch of the Fumbles

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Has Jason Porplyzia had some kind of Todd Carney incident we haven’t been told about? Well, no (obviously!). But that at least would explain the frustrating logic behind the fact this guy is unable to hold his place in Adelaide’s team.

Despite a rare full pre-season, he was dropped after two games, one of them as the starting substitute. He finally got thrown a lifeline last week as a late replacement for the injured Kerridge, and seized it with both hands. Brenton Sanderson said he “played his role”. Phil Harper said he was “serviceable”.

Are they kidding? It had the air of work-shopped spin; the guy was doing his best to keep us in the game in the first two quarters, taking strong marks in the back half, setting up a goal with a pinpoint pass and snapping one of his own. Then, in the third, he was handed the red vest, before being unceremoniously dropped for this week’s game, a regulation win against GWS notable only for finally, inevitably, breaking that ridiculous run of Yoyo form.

Adelaide have kept winning, so who cares, right? Except. It’s one of the frustrations of coaches who over-think things so much that they become obsessed with what players are not doing, and oblivious to all the things they are. Remember when Neil Craig had a bee in his bonnet about not playing Tex until he picked up the “defensive side of his game”? So one of the league’s best up-and-coming key forwards languished in the SANFL because, shock horror, he was just taking marks and kicking goals.

Porplyzia is 29, which shouldn’t be over the hill, particularly for someone who has played so little AFL football in recent years. He has impeccable skills, can read the ball well and, unlike a few of his teammates, is a decent kick for goal.

He went out (along with the similarly maligned Lyon, the apparently injured Reilly and Luke Thompson, who probably played his best game for Adelaide against Port) to make way for Rutten, Henderson, Laird and Mackay. Lyon is one of a glut of second-string midfielders who’ll be in and out of the team until they end up seeking a trade somewhere else, and Thompson now merely has to wait, just as Rutten had to wait before him.

Now, it’s apples and oranges to compare them, but something’s not right in the world when David Mackay is a run-up start but Porps can’t get a game. I like Mackay, but I like him in the same way I like watching Season 2 of House Of Cards; I keep waiting and hoping it will be better than it actually is. It’s a symptom of Adelaide’s lack of pace, of course, that we need Mackay to play.

Indeed, when you scour the list and pay heed to structure, there are few obvious omissions you would make to give someone like Porplyzia another game. The only comparable small-forward-cum-midfielder roles are Matthew Wright (who stays on form) and Brodie Martin, who probably played his best game for Adelaide on Saturday.

What’s disappointing is the refrain, both hinted and overt, by the club that the game’s passed the Porpoise by; that because he’s not a defensive type, he’s of no value. Petrenko may lay nine tackles in a game, but I’d still prefer to play a forward who might actually kick a few goals. Controversial, I know.

The Porpoise has had a horrid time of it under Sanderson; in 2013 he became the regular starting substitute, which would have knocked his confidence as a member of the six-man leadership group, and in any case seems to defy logic. It’d be a bit like Port using Chad Wingard as the go-to sub, because he tends to bob up and win games in brief bursts. And I doubt we’ll see Wingard don the green vest much in his career.

Sure, Porps is an impact player who can change a game in a single quarter, but he’s also a confidence player so he’s unlikely to do much coming in off the bench. He’s not fast, so isn’t going to provide the kind of run you’d generally want from a substitution. He doesn’t pile on “defensive pressure”. What he does is play football. But, you know … really, really well.

Apparently that’s not what we’re on about these days.

So maybe we’ve seen the last of Porps in the Crows AFL side; at least we got to see him in vintage form for a quarter or so to remind us what has and could have been.

That aside, we appear to be building some form now, though bizarrely Gold Coast, North and the Bombers – having all lost the previous round to keep us in the hunt — were all victorious against more fancied opponents, so once again we’re in limbo.

On the plus side, though: Port lost – their second on the trot, and two in a row at Adelaide Oval – but in typical Port fashion even in defeat they managed to stuff us up, by keeping Essendon snapping at our heels.

But still … Port lost. Glass half full, and all that.

They’ve now dropped out of the top two, which would mean losing that all-important guarantee of two home finals. They finish the season on the road against Freo, so will be at a distinct disadvantage in week one of the finals.

If it weren’t for a fairly soft draw, one could almost start to contemplate the prospect that they’ll miss the top four altogether. They’re now amongst a glut of teams sitting on 11 wins from 15, with only significant percentage keeping Geelong at bay.

The top five now have a two game break on the rest of the eight, with Collingwood, North and Gold Coast evidently in more danger of falling out of finals contention altogether than of securing the double chance.

With Ablett set for a spell, Gold Coast – talented as they are – seem the likeliest to go. The Kangaroos have already pipped the Crows as the most psychotic team in the league: two and a half months without consecutive wins is admirably flaky, but backing up a loss to the 17th placed team with a solid win over the ladder leader is on an entirely different plane.

Speaking of psychotic, Brian Lake aka “The Hawthorn Strangler” seems set to sit out the Hawks’ Friday night clash with the Crows, and with Sewell joining Cyril and Gibson on the sick list, and Mitchell still underdone, Adelaide has only itself to blame if it doesn’t extend its winning run.

Still, a loss will carry with it one significant consolation – we can keep Port out of the top two for one more week.

Tom Richardson is InDaily’s political commentator and Channel Nine’s state political reporter.

On Mondays during the AFL season he can be found in InDaily’s sport section, writing this lament – or chronicle of triumph. Time will tell.

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