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No, they Ken't

Touch of the Fumbles

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It all started with “Never Tear Us Apart”, but it ended in “Bitter Tears”.

All week, the Port Adelaide faithful were telling us “Yes We Ken”. The truth is, though: No, they Ken’t. At least, they Kouldn’t. Not this time. Though they Kould’ve.

At any rate, Kendolences to the Power faithful.

And though we don’t generally indulge in matters SANFL at the Fumbles for fear of opening a can of worms, the Power reserves were also pipped in the league Grand Final by the curators of the Grand Old Flag at Norwood, who established a dynasty of sorts with their third successive premiership.

It was just one of those weekends really.

But if it weren’t for their supporters, their heritage and their personnel it would be hard to muster much schadenfreude for Port’s predicament. They were brave, the Power; they kept coming.

Boak led from the front, Gray (as ever this year) lived up to the hype, and even Polec – whom I’d started to suspect was something of a downhill skier – kept running, and kept tackling too.

A brief digression: I remember a Simpsons episode which ended with an all-out mob war between the mafia and the Yakuza on the titular family’s doorstep. Marge suggests to Homer they should go inside to escape the mayhem, but Homer keenly points out a diminutive Japanese gangster lurking ominously in the background sporting an unruffled white suit: “But Marge, that little guy hasn’t done anything yet. Look at him! He’s gonna do something and you know it’s gonna be good.”

And sure enough, the minute their back was turned, he did something. And it was good.

That’s a bit how I feel about Chad Wingard. He did nothing for three quarters, and if it were a lesser player you’d shrug your shoulders and say, “Ah well, it’s not his night.”

But when Chad Wingard does nothing for three quarters…well, you just know he’s gonna do something and you know it’s gonna be good.

The comeback fell short, but Port were hard and gutsy and all those other clichés you generally like to see in a football team. They stuck to their team ethos; they never gave up. It wasn’t, though, quite Never Tear Us Apart; Hawthorn tore them apart in the second and much of the third quarter. And that was enough, just.

But let’s keep the triumphalism in check, if only because given a home final and a week off, they’d have accounted for Hawthorn, and given their age profile you can only see them getting better. And because deep down in places we don’t talk about at parties, we need Port Adelaide, and we need them to be formidable. Every good narrative needs a villain; and the badder the villain, the better the story.

If there’s one downside to the result, though, it’s that the Crows now have to wait a whole week before signing Alastair Clarkson.

You have to admire Adelaide; Port were heading into a blockbuster preliminary final, and the Crows still managed to find a way of stealing the limelight.
Sure, we had to resort to sacking our coach, but it was worth it to see all those annoyed Port supporters with that disgruntled expression of “hang on, isn’t it all about us this week?”

I sort of blame myself. I hoped to be writing about a Crows premiership by the end of my first season at Fumbleland; instead, and rather more aptly, I’m writing about the coach being sacked for violating the club’s heretofore little-known “no mediocrity” rule.

The appointment of rugby union administrator Andrew Fagan as CEO is significant, a symbol perhaps of the dwindling hegemony of the Adelaide old boys’ network; except for the fact that before he’d even taken the reins, that same old boys’ network had shunted Brenton Sanderson.

Was it necessary? Who knows.

For a while there it was looking like my worst case scenario was playing out, and I’d have to choose between He Who Shall Not Be Named and the hated Port Adelaide on Grand Final Day.

After missing the major round four seasons out of five, and generally hanging around on the cusp of competence in a manner redolent of Richmond in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s, Crows chairman Rob Chapman declared the club “won’t accept mediocrity”.

Then, to show how Not Like Richmond we are, he sacked the coach. Because Richmond in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s never sacked their coach.
Not that I don’t appreciate the ruthless brutality of it all, but sometimes good things come to those who wait. If Bomber Thompson had been dumped by Geelong after three fallow seasons, they may not have tasted premiership success, let alone thrice (though with that list it would have taken a Mark Neeld to prevent it). Ditto Clarkson at Hawthorn.

Wouldn’t the far better option have been to keep Sando, but only let him coach every second week?

No doubt he was dealt a tough hand; season 2012 was like some glorious dream, the kind from which you wake to find you’re shockingly hungover. It still burns that He Who Shall Not Be Named walked out and we got nothing for him, but it could have been worse. We could have got Jesse White.
Even though he sounds like some cool hybrid of the two main characters in Breaking Bad, he appears more bad than breaking.

But the departure of our onetime forward cum ruckman to swan around a football field (no pun intended) looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth was the beginning of the end for Sanderson. The way 2013 went down can be ascribed to the maelstrom of the pre-season, the knee injury to Walker, any number of things. But I suspect things really went awry in the off-season last year when, desperate to trade our way back into the draft, the Crows seemed to offer up anything that wasn’t nailed down.

“You’ve got a skilful outside midfielder who couldn’t crack Brisbane’s perpetually bottom eight side? Who will you take for him? Mackay? No? What about Wright? How about we throw in Lyons, McKernan and Vince in a job lot? WE WANT A DRAFT PICK, DAMMIT!”

It didn’t seem overly surprising that many of the players had stopped listening to the coach; according to the rumour mill about a third of them had been shopped as trade bait at some point in the past year.

So it’s harsh, sure, but if the Crows had decided Sando wasn’t going to get the best out of the list, then the right call has been made. The general refrain is that if we have no Plan B lined up then it’s all a huge mistake, but in a sense it’s a separate question. Is Sando the right man for the job? If not, then move him on. And then find someone else.

Word has it Gary Ayres is still available.

But we might be able to set loftier sights. I mean, if we can afford to shell out well over a million dollars to NOT have Sando, surely we can afford to offer whatever it takes to snare someone we actually want?

But we shouldn’t be afraid of appointing another cleanskin either.

The past three premiership coaches started at their respective clubs as rookies. John Longmire won a Grand Final within two years. Chris Scott within one.

That throws up names like Nathan Bassett, though he’s reputed to Not Play Well With Others. Which could be just what we need.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why everyone fell in behind the notion that Simon Goodwin was our great white hope, given he only retired from playing five minutes ago and spent his entire coaching career as an understudy on the league’s most dysfunctional coaching panel. In any case, he clearly sees the rich array of talent at Melbourne as a more enticing proposition. Either that, or he’d put a bet on himself becoming the Demons’ coach within three years.

Stuart Dew has been involved in premierships at every AFL club he’s gone to, which is obviously a good start, although one would hope his CV says something more than “I’ve been involved in premierships at every AFL club I’ve gone to”.

Conversely, recycled coaches rarely emulate their previous success. The calls for Worsfold are a bit staggering; such an appointment would smack of Malcolm Blight’s ill-fated stint at St Kilda, enticed by financial imperative but the heart never really in it.

But we are, you’d hope, a good proposition for an aspiring coach – a solid and young list, well-attended matches, a well-financed organisation. The fact that if you miss consecutive finals series you’re out of a job may make it somewhat stressful but you take the rough with the smooth.

I’d even be magnanimously prepared to put aside my unalloyed hatred of Alastair Clarkson if he was appointed, though we’ll have to wait until after the Grand Final to find out.

And here’s hoping it’s one of the classics, like 2005, 2009 or 2012, if not one of the all-time greats like 1997, 1998 or 2007.

The Swans are certainly in ominous touch: who would have thought paying $10 million to lure the best player in the competition would make them a better team?

Remember all those Swans fans who were up in arms about the Buddy signing, arguing it violated the Bloods’ famous “No-Dickheads Policy”? My guess is they were all at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, cheering like dickheads at each of Franklin’s 23 disposals and five goals.

His recruitment has also, incidentally, markedly improved the kicking of a certain former Adelaide ruck/forward whose name we don’t mention here at Fumbleland.

He Who Shall Not Be Named kicked four goals on Friday night, and all of them seemed to be kicked from about two metres out directly in front, which probably helps his oft-wayward conversion rate somewhat.

For a while there it was looking like my worst case scenario was playing out, and I’d have to choose between He Who Shall Not Be Named and the hated Port Adelaide on Grand Final Day. I’d already wrestled considerably with this conundrum, and had managed to convince myself in a moment of zen rationalisation that perhaps the whole Swans defection saga – the draft sanctions, the suspensions, even ultimately Sando’s sacking – was all part of some grand cosmic plan to stop Port winning a premiership in 2014.

Fortunately we won’t need the Swans’ Number 8 to prevent that anymore; so now we just need to decide who to barrack for in the Big Dance on Saturday.

And it all comes down to who we dislike the most: a certain Swans player whose name we don’t discuss, or Jack Gunston. After all, every good narrative needs a villain.

And the badder the villain, the better the story.

Tom Richardson can usually be found commentating on state politics every Friday in InDaily. On Mondays during the football season he also charts the season from a fan’s perspective – this year, a somewhat bitter fan.

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