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Tell 'em the Truck lost it

Touch of the Fumbles

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So… we’re definitely winning the Premiership, right?

That’s how this works, isn’t it? You win your first two games so convincingly the contest is effectively over at half time and then five and a half months later someone hands you a trophy.

I appreciate there might be some work to do in the interim, but based on last year, when I suggested we simply hand the Hawks the flag after Round Four, I now assume whoever looks the goods in the opening rounds is a shoo-in for the last Saturday in September (and if they acquit themselves well on that day, for the first Saturday in October, when the Grand Final is actually played.)

So it has to be us, right? Unless it’s Sydney. Or Hawthorn, or Freo? Surely it won’t the bizarrely tenacious Bombers holding the cup aloft, while James Hird channels Mark Williams on the dais as he bellows: “Caroline Wilson, you were wrong!”

Hell, on current form, it could even be GWS.

Not Port though. They suck.

Sure, they’ve dropped their first two games six times before (roughly one third of the years they’ve been in the comp) and often gone on to bigger and better things – twice winning the vaguely-coveted minor premiership. Still, there is that frisson of hope that they are embarking on a ‘Crows circa 2013’ comedown wherein, on the back of a stupendous season, they presume they merely need to turn up to garner a top four berth.

My most fervent hope this time last week was for (and I quote) “a nailbiting win against the Pies followed by a glorious Port loss to Sydney at home”, which suggests just how destitute we Adelaide supporters have become over the past two decades.

The notion that we might expect anything greater than a nailbiting win – say, keeping a Nathan Buckley-coached Collingwood goalless in the first and skipping away to a near-10-goal lead shortly after half-time, by which point our only (fruitless) worry is that we escape unscathed by injury – frankly never crossed my mind.

The fact that the injured player in question, Brodie Smith, still managed to be best on ground suggests the caliber of opponent he was up against.

It’s always a pleasure to play Collingwood these days, as it provides a timely reminder of how lucky we were to get sanctioned in the wake of the Tippett scandal – losing draft picks, key personnel and copping massive fines — given that the alternative was recruiting Jesse White.

But there was nary a weak link in the Adelaide chain. Walker (whose captaincy the Fumbles has never, ever questioned in any way whatsoever) continued to show just how dangerous he will be when he kicks straight, Dangerfield (whose alleged imminent departure we don’t discuss here at Fumbleland) was annoyingly sublime, and Sloane was typically industrious. But it went well beyond that; Lynch kicked two majestic goals, Ellis-Yolmen showed post-gastro poise and dash, and even Charlie Cameron suggested boundless class in a handful of his eleven possessions.

Grigg came on as the sub and looked fluent, Cheney has found his niche, while Laird and Hartigan have stepped up a mile from 2014. To think we still have Scott Thompson and the brothers Crouch to come back into this side is just blatantly insulting to teams like Carlton, who have to loiter outside the MCG on game day asking passers-by if they’d like to fill in up forward.

There are certain days in one’s life that are immediately filed away in the top drawer of precious memories: your wedding (or wedding/s, if you’re that way inclined), the birth of your first child, the birth of any subsequent children.

It’s fair to say that any day Adelaide smashes a Victorian powerhouse while Port gets pantsed at home gets VIP entry to the top drawer, which means Saturday automatically qualifies as one of the great days in history.

Of course, one’s loyalties are always somewhat conflicted whenever Tippett and Port Adelaide square off, but the “glass-half-full” consolation is that one of them has to lose.

Mind you, props to Port for reminding us all that, no matter how good your “match day experience”, the best match day experience is winning the damned game.

You can’t fault their exuberant effort: last year, the Never Tear Us Apart conceit came off so well and so not like something that a bunch of marketing guys just thought up, that a bunch of marketing guys had to think up something to make it even better.

The solution: invite the dudes who co-wrote the song to stand awkwardly in front of the crowd, looking entirely bemused about the whole thing. I can imagine an embarrassed Kochie in an Adelaide Oval corporate box insisting throughout the final term: “I’m sorry, Mr Farriss, they usually play much better than this!” as the former INXS honchos wondered if it was too late to withdraw copyright permission.

The Power has, to be fair, set the bar of late in match-day showmanship (not to mention winning games of football).

Port coach Ken Hinkley wasn't happy at three-quarter-time. Photo: Michael Errey/InDaily

Port coach Ken Hinkley wasn’t happy at three-quarter-time. Photo: Michael Errey/InDaily

I had occasion to write an article last week that pure news judgment dictated could not but be favourable to Port Adelaide, who have clearly left the Crows far in their wake in capturing the youth market of SA.

But the most disturbing thing about the whole enterprise was just how accommodating and helpful everyone at the club was to deal with.

As a final tip of the hat to the recently departed cricket season, it put me in mind of blokeish Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, recently excoriated for declaring – amid the team’s infamously-thirsty World Cup celebrations – that the Black Caps batsmen “deserved” their inelegant send-offs.

“They were that nice to us in New Zealand and we were that uncomfortable,” Haddin recalled.

“All they were was that nice to us … I said in the team meeting: ‘I can’t stand for this any more’.”

I finally understand what Haddin was on about. There’s nothing so off-putting as a sworn enemy treating you with genuine politeness. If anything, it made me relish the weekend’s Power failure all the more.

But despite it all, we’d do well to not get ahead of ourselves.

To mark our match-up with the Pies, FoxFooty this week decided to re-play a “Classic AFL Moment”: that free kick to Jack Anthony that snatched back the lead to win the 2009 semi-final.

Yeah, thanks FoxFooty. Unsubscribe.

So, while the Crows are suddenly a team the Victorian press talks about with breathless fear and loathing, the moral of history is: Never get your hopes up.

The fact that Anthony won it with only his fourth touch of the game made it even harder to bear; he went on to be traded to Freo, where he lasted for only eight games over two seasons, racking up an unenviable 66 possessions.

Amongst all our heartbreakingly narrow finals losses over the years, that was undoubtedly my darkest moment.

Sure, we’ll always have the ’93 prelim, but in truth we probably didn’t deserve victory then. We just hadn’t earned it yet, Baby, as Morrissey would say. I know I sure hadn’t, being more preoccupied at the time with faux-guitar heroics than with the travails of my local football team. Indeed, my keenest memory of the day (though still sufficiently vague) is of the Channel Seven newsreader delivering updates during the ad breaks. I’ve always remembered it as being poor old Graeme Goodings, a devout Crows supporter, but to be fair all newsreaders pretty much seemed the same to me back then. At any rate, whoever it was couldn’t contain his enthusiasm at half-time, ad libbing something along the lines of: “And how about those Crows, eh? We’ll have all the glorious highlights tonight at 6.” By the time the teams had broken for the three-quarter-time huddle, however, and the Bombers had stormed back into contention, the ashen-faced reader restrained himself to a mere “and we’ll have all the highlights of the preliminary final later” through gritted teeth.

Looking back though, it was that failure that ultimately gave us the twin glories of ’97 and ’98. I’ve only re-watched the ’93 prelim once, 10 years later, when the pain was substantially dulled by the knowledge of what came thereafter.

But there’s something about hitting the front, only to have the lead snatched away again at the death, that really rankles, and we seem to make a habit of it. We managed it in finals in ’07, ’09 and ’12. In 2007, if we’d only kept Buddy to six goals instead of seven, we would have drawn North Melbourne (no contest) and Port at home (50-50) to make the Grand Final. In which we would have been obliterated by a rampaging Geelong. In hindsight, I’d hate to have taken that honour away from Port.

But in 2009 our form had us right in the mix, and that loss just really, seriously killed me. I still remember reading a mate’s text through damp eyes after Rutten gifted Spud Anthony the free: “Tell ‘em the Truck lost it.”

There was, though, only one season that genuinely felt like ours for the taking. In 2006, we had 14 wins from our first 16 starts, and looked to be a mile ahead of the rest of the competition … apart from West Coast. In three meetings that year, including a home preliminary final, we just couldn’t beat them. That we now know several of those Eagles players spent the rest of their time acting like Tony Montana from Scarface just makes that fact more embarrassing. In Round 17, we went to Perth and got spanked by 82 points, and thereafter the wheels swiftly fell off our season to a frankly ridiculous degree: Andrew McLeod’s year was cruelled by a bursa on his foot; Ricciuto, even more ludicrously, was sidelined with Parvovirus, a disease more commonly found in fecal-sniffing dogs.

So, while the Crows are suddenly a team the Victorian press talks about with breathless fear and loathing, the moral of history is: Never get your hopes up.

They’ll only get dashed in the end.

Just look at Port Adelaide.

Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s weekly AFL column, published each Monday during the AFL season. For new readers – yes, it’s shamelessly biased. Even up the score in the comments section below.

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