The rain was forecast to arrive early and linger late. I wasn’t bothered; I would merely throw on several layers and fortify myself against the inevitable chill with copious amounts of beer.
Lulled into an ill-advised aura of confidence by our historic achievement of winning two games in a row – one of them against quite a competent opponent – I determined that three hours in the freezing wet was a small price to pay for our inevitable victory against the depleted Hawks.
In the event though the Rain Gods had an ironic sense of humour – the weather held off literally until the final siren sounded on another home ground defeat, and then it bucketed as the morose mass of bodies struggled from the stadium. And it kept bucketing.
My companions departed, by this point I was beginning to realise that my beer and invective diet probably hadn’t stood me in good stead so, sad and saturated, I wandered to the nearest bar to contemplate my next move.
Somewhere on my travels I bumped into a Liberal Senator, who had endured a chaotic week in Canberra only to return home in time to catch the Crows’ latest underwhelming display. I did my best to discuss both these matters articulately for a few minutes, but quickly realised I was failing utterly. So I trudged back out into the rain and stumbled off to enjoy my impending hangover. Damn you, Crows.
Things started ominously on Friday night, when it emerged some wag had decided the best way to honour in-form goalsneak Eddie Betts’ 200th game was to deck out the supporters in the stand behind his favourite pocket in Hawthorn colours.
It seemed to do the trick; Eddie had one of his quieter nights.
His fellow off-season recruit, the much-maligned J-Pod, stood tall though, particularly in the first half. Dangerfield and Crouch had 81 touches between them, and Sloane had 33, so there isn’t an issue with getting our hands on the ball in the engine room. Jacobs dominated the ruck and Jenkins booted five, so on paper this was looking pretty good.
But the Crows so often look good on paper without matching up on the field.
Sometimes I hate Jack Gunston even more than I hate He Who Shall Not Be Named; Friday night at Adelaide Oval was one such time.
He ran rings around Otten, who was responsible for some of the most noteworthy of the “basic skill errors” Brenton Sanderson routinely rues post-match.
Having celebrated finally having his ideal trio of running backmen in Henderson, Jaensch and Smith on the park, the coach now has to figure out the best combination of lock-down defenders.
Hawk ruck duo Ceglar and McEvoy managed to kick four goals between them, with Rutten struggling.
At the other end, Tex appears a shadow of his former self, although to be fair we were always told not to expect miracles from him this year; which is hard when he’s done such miraculous things in the past.
No doubt due to my rev-up last week (and nothing whatsoever to do with the forecast torrent) Porplyzia was unexpectedly recalled for the hamstrung Mackay. But the coaching staff evidently didn’t read the bit that suggested he wasn’t ideal green vest material (nor remembered this being the case on numerous prior occasions) and he struggled to get into the game when he was thrust into the frenetic midfield in the final quarter.
Yes, at the end of the day there are worse outcomes than an 12 point loss to the reigning premier; but there was everything to play for here, and everything going for us. A finals spot beckoned; a rabid 50,000-strong crowd braved the elements for Adelaide’s first Friday night match at the Oval; and moreover, the Hawks were vulnerable. They’re missing Rioli, who’s caused the Crows heartache over the years, and have a backline cobbled together without Gibson and Lake.
If you think sides wouldn’t struggle with two of their key defenders out, just ask Port Adelaide. Sam Mitchell was playing only his second match back from a ten week injury layoff, yet without a Van Berlo or Kerridge to shut him down, he still ran riot with 28 touches and 8 tackles.
We generously played Essendon into form three weeks ago: they’ve now leapfrogged us on the ladder and look every bit a finals contender. Friday was our big test, and we’re just not quite up to it.
The problem with your team playing and losing on a Friday is the rest of the weekend is shrouded in that post-defeat misanthropy. Fortunately, everything was redeemed come Sunday; the sun was shining, the rain held off and Port Adelaide lost.
In fact, they didn’t just lose; they lost to Richmond.
They were made to look middle-of-the-road by the most pedestrian team in the competition. I know the club song talks about not stop-stop-stopping till they’re top, top, top, but I think that’s meant to mean come the end of the season, not Round 14.
From being a game clear atop the ladder, the Power are now a game outside the top four, and in danger of losing not just home ground advantage but the double chance. With a trip to Perth to face Freo to see out the home and away season, this is starting to look amusingly ominous. Ah, schadenfreude – the consolation of the frustrated football fan!
They’re not without excuse, though, of course. Injuries to Trengove and Carlile have seen them bleed scores while perversely robbing them of firepower, with Westhoff spending more time behind the ball.
While beating the hapless (but quietly improving) Richmond was considered a formality, the intrigue lay in seeing former fringe Tigers White and Schulz stick it to their former side. Ironically, that pleasure instead went to Troy Chaplin, who followed the Hoff downfield, and ended up jagging two clutch goals.
(By the by, with the Tigers on the rise, I won’t bang on about this result as much as I’d like to, since the Crows are still to play them in Round 21, and will, in every likelihood, fluff it up!)
But Port also just look flat; the likes of Polec and Ebert are nowhere near the form of a month or so ago.
One suspects their much vaunted fitness regime has been pumped up a gear in preparation for September, which often accounts for a flat patch in July/August. Which is fine if you’re so far ahead of the pack you can afford to drop a game or two.
This year, though, no-one’s that far ahead. Fall off the pace, and you could fall out of contention, as Collingwood appears to have done.
Beat the Magpies after the bye, and the Crows could still supplant them. Which, bizarrely, suggests that the “doomsday” scenario of Adelaide playing Port in a sudden-death elimination final could suddenly be a very real prospect.
The question is, is it doomsday for us, or for them?
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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