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They are Port Adelaide

Touch of the Fumbles

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One of the (many) crimes against grammar with which one must constantly wrestle when writing about team sport is whether said team should be referred to in the singular or plural.

If the team name is a plural, it’s easy enough. As in: “The Blues are being thrashed by a team that has never played the same 22 players in consecutive weeks.”

But even when the team name is singular, one still feels disposed to refer to it in the plural. As in: “Carlton are really not very good, are they?”

I’m sure this grammatical conundrum weighed on the minds of the Power brains trust when they (it) opted for that infernal slogan: “We Are Port Adelaide.”

It sounds like it was invented by whichever PR firm thought up the Charles Sturt Council catchphrase “I am Charles Sturt”, but at least that had the grace to use the perpendicular pronoun.

Port’s version sounds as though it’s trying to say the same sort of thing, but with a strange royal affectation.

Or perhaps it’s throwing out some great existential nod to Port’s multi-faceted identity, along the lines of The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, wherein “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”.

Maybe they should go all out and make their slogan simply: “Goo goo g’joob.”

Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

At any rate, Port Adelaide, singular or collective, is currently A Bad Thing To Be.

Last week, when the round produced the kind of result the Fumbles, all things considered, should be crowing about (no pun intended, nor delivered) we were decidedly downbeat, to the point that a mate suggested we were inappropriately flat for a weekend in which Adelaide won and Port lost.

The Crows were perhaps no more convincing this week against the undermanned Saints, but nonetheless, it feels as though the universe is trying to tell us something.

After all, do you know how many times the Crows won and Port lost on the same weekend last year?

Five. Five times in an entire 23-round home and away season. And it took until Round 13 to happen at all.

There is a lesson here: when it does happen, make the most of it.

Brisbane's James Aish gets a handball away despite pressure from Port captain Travis Boak. AAP photo

Brisbane’s James Aish prepares to handball under pressure from Port captain Travis Boak. AAP photo

Even against an opponent that, until last night, was mired on the bottom of the ladder, there was plenty for the Power to play for this week. Drawing ahead on the win-loss ledger, for starters. Not to mention potentially entering the eight, bolstering a flagging percentage …

And yet the Lions led by 25 points at three quarter time, albeit with even the most impartial of observers wondering how they’d withstand the inevitable withering Power burst. But it never came. Instead, it was Brisbane that powered away, leaving Port looking leaden, listless and (literally) aimless. Watching the likes of Wingard and Schulz spraying sitters might be an enjoyable way to spend the weekend, but it’s sadly not a common sight. It’s tempting to suggest this was a rare off day, but such days are not, it seems, as rare as they once were. Amid all the damning stats from last night’s game (and, indeed, Port’s recent history), this was my favourite: they’ve now won as many of their past 16 home and away games as Brisbane has. Six. Six out of 16. Like all stats, it doesn’t tell the whole story, but it tells a story nonetheless.

This one was, furthermore, Kane Cornes’ 299th and penultimate match, having decided that after a decade and a half of putting out midfield fires, he’s off to tackle the real thing. At least he’ll be spending a fair bit of his professional life up a ladder, which is more than can be said for his teammates at the moment.

Cornes, though, may get some much-needed job experience before his MFS gig kicks off in June, because alarm bells are well and truly ringing at Alberton.

Cornes is a self-effacing type who has given his club great service belying his relatively lowly selection in the 2000 national draft, in which he was taken at pick 20 behind the likes of Koschitzke, Didak, Kerr, Scott Thompson (taken by Melbourne and later traded to Adelaide), and Nick Riewoldt. I was at the then-Colonial Stadium to see Riewoldt’s first game in 2001 (a three-possession effort in a match the Crows won by 97 points) and it looked briefly, horribly, like he too had played his last game against us on the weekend.

So who did the Crows select amid all this brilliance with their number seven pick in 2000?

That’s right, Laurence Angwin. A man less inclined to taking clutch marks or breaking lines than to taking ecstasy and breaking and entering.

It’s fair to say our eternal search for the perfect mobile ruckman has had more downs that ups in recent years (I’m looking at you, Tippett!).

Cornes, though, may get some much-needed job experience before his MFS gig kicks off in June, because alarm bells are well and truly ringing at Alberton.

But at least he got to choose the time and manner of his departure, unlike poor old Radar Reilly, whose career was ended not by form or advancing age but by an errant blow to the head during a pre-season training drill.

Reilly was a number 12 pick, just ahead of Nick Dal Santo, in the so-called Super-Draft of 2001 (how good was it? Well, besides Hodge, Ball and Judd going in the top three, the Pies got Dane Swan at #58 and the Dogs nabbed Brian Lake at #71).

The game I always recall of Reilly’s was a round one contest with the Bulldogs in 2008. He was probably our most dangerous player for three quarters, suggesting a big season ahead, only to break his wrist and miss the final quarter, as the Crows lost by three points. In hindsight, it seems to sum him up: great promise so often cruelled by untimely setbacks for a player who had to adapt and fight for the lion’s share of his 203 games.

That baton, it seems, may have been passed to poor old Matty Jaensch, who was having his best game for a long time on Saturday when his knee buckled beneath him.

That was the crowning ugly moment amongst many on Saturday. But after finding despair in our Gold Coast triumph last week, this time round let’s just appreciate the moment.

After all, if the Saints were undermanned, our midfield is functioning without the likes of Sloane, Crouch, Douglas and Ellis-Yolmen. So suddenly that glut of inside-mids perpetually on the brink of selection doesn’t look so pointless.

And indeed, the interlopers held their own, with Matt Crouch racking up possessions and Mitch Grigg providing some welcome poise, kicking our typically-belated opening goal and setting up another in the first quarter.

Our recent era of mediocrity has coincided with the infancy of Gold Coast and GWS, which has ensured a handful of games each year can be safely locked away as wins even before the first ball’s bounced.

But that’s all changed. The Saints, the Bulldogs, Brisbane, even Melbourne – teams we’ve lately marked down as easy beats – are all perfectly capable of turning the tables on their day, if not every other day. The era of the easybeats is over. Except for Carlton.

So a win, any win, is something to savour. And when it coincides with Port losing to the 18th-placed side … well, it’s time to party like it’s 1999.

After all, the magical, glorious combination of a Crows victory with a Power defeat might not happen again for the rest of the season.

But on current form, it probably will.

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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