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You had one job, Port!

Touch of the Fumbles

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Geez, Port Adelaide … you had one job!

The Power’s misfortune, while amusing, was spectacularly unhelpful. If it wasn’t bad enough that most otherwise sensible Crows supporters had to suffer the indignity of barracking for them yesterday, they added insult to the injury by losing to Collingwood.

It was a bit like that old Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who, where the Doctor had to swallow his pride and team up with The Master to save the universe, only for his old arch-enemy to kill him when his back was turned.

I can only imagine the anti-Crows sentiment is so ingrained in the Port club they collectively decide to throw any match that might inadvertently help their cross-town rival. They did much the same thing last year, losing to Carlton at home in a bid to deny us that finals wild-card. And yesterday, they went so far as to copy our tactical play-book in a bid to emulate the level of mediocrity that has defined Adelaide’s season thus far.

The Power had 191 handballs compared to Collingwood’s 138; it was as if Brenton Sanderson had come and given them a one-off training drill before the game in how to over-finesse the football.

The signs weren’t good when it was revealed many of the Power players were under an illness cloud; and while withdrawing Robbie Gray because of “tummy ache” would have been the second-worst excuse of the round after Buddy Franklin’s late scratching with “hurt feelings”, he was clearly well below his best.

Who to cheer for out of Port and the Pies when the result could sink your own team’s season is a bit of a Sophie’s Choice. I spent the 24 hours before yesterday’s game assuming I would barrack for a Power victory, but once the first quarter was underway I just couldn’t do it.

You know that fable about the scorpion who asks a frog to carry him across a wild river on his back? The frog baulks until the scorpion points out that if he were to sting him halfway across, they’d both drown. So they set off and, sure enough, the scorpion stings the frog halfway across. With his dying breath the frog asks why he’s condemned them both to a watery grave. “I’m a scorpion,” replies the scorpion. “It’s my nature.”

As a Crows supporter, it’s my nature to barrack against Port, even if it kills me. And yes, the Power’s loss has all-but killed Adelaide’s finals hopes.

 Supporting the Crows in 2014 is a bit like sticking blindly with a chronically unfaithful lover

But in truth, the Crows managed that feat themselves the previous day. Even we can’t blame Port for what was one of the most ludicrous implosions in a season littered with inconsistent form. Given the Yoyo Crows’ form-line, we should have expected that having finally clawed our way into the eight for the first time on the back of an away win against a backs-to-the-wall Magpies outfit, we’d follow it with what was – given the home ground advantage, the lacklustre opponent and what was on the line – our worst performance of the year.

The Tiser’s back-page lead declared: “Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson has told his players to ignore their hot favouritism and treat today’s game against West Coast as make or break, warning any slip-up now could cost the club a finals spot.”

It’s sort of worrying that we need the coach to point out this stuff, and downright scary that the players ignored it anyway!

On a sunny winter’s day and after a week of the kind of hype only a middling Crows outfit can generate, the Adelaide Oval crowd of 49,470 was a slightly disappointing effort considering what was at stake, but nowhere near as disappointing as the effort they saw on the field.

The defence was poor, even before Talia was subbed off with concussion; Eagles’ midfielders Priddis and Gaff ran riot without the likes of VB or Kerridge to shut them down, and while Walker, Jenkins and Betts kicked 10 between them, West Coast’s defenders seemed to be constantly finding space or outmarking their opponents. Which didn’t make the relegation of out-of-form tall Tom Lynch seem like the grandest idea, in hindsight.

And those turnovers. We’ve seen some crackers this year, but I don’t think they’ll better the J-Pod’s effort in the last term, hauling in a mighty goal-saving mark in defence, and then half-turning before basically handballing it straight into the turf. Brilliant. In its swift collapse from majestic to inept, it was a pretty good microcosm of our 2014 season.

And as a final insult, I stepped out of the Oval’s confines with a bellyful of beer, heartache and canapés, only to soil a perfectly good pair of suede boots on the sodden mudfields that attractively surround the ground. I half expected to turn around to see Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day pointing at me sneering: “Watch out for that first step, it’s a dooooozy!” Seriously, Stadium Management Authority, you’ve spent half a billion dollars-plus on this stadium – you can’t stretch for a few grand’s worth of landscaping?

I’d have to admit the Fumbles got lulled into a false sense of optimism after last week’s Collingwood win; I even bought Sando’s line (and passed it off as my own insight a few times) that post-round three we were a healthy nine wins and five losses, with only one of those above two goals. Take out the lapses against Melbourne and Carlton and we’re really more like 11 wins and three losses. So, effectively, we’re actually one of the form teams of the competition – right?!

Um…no. We are what we are. A young, mediocre football team, among a glut in finals contention that would do little other than make up the numbers if they got there. Supporting the Crows in 2014 is a bit like sticking blindly with a chronically unfaithful lover; they keep winning you back with grand gestures and promises of fidelity, only to break your heart all over again.

But perhaps – bear with me here – there is a twisted method in our madness, just like Brodie Martin’s strange “every point counts” goalkicking strategy. Maybe the Yoyos are so fixated on that Adelaide Oval elimination final against the Power that they have no earthly interest in ascending above eighth spot. They’d rather just hang around 9th or 10th and make a last-gasp charge than risk playing anyone other than Port in the first week of finals. Surely that must be it! There’s just no other rational explanation for Saturday afternoon.

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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