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Touch of the Fumbles

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Well, that hurts.

I imagine there’ll be some serious Man Conversations at West Lakes this week. Although I’m convinced these Manversations consist of little more than an impromptu a capella rendition of the Two and a Half Men theme song, with Phil Walsh and Scott Camporeale duetting on the bass line and harmony parts before Tex Walker jumps in with the soprano melody.

So, losing to GWS, eh? Who’d have thought a team with all the best young football talent in the country would eventually turn out to be quite good?

And who’d have thought progressively losing some of our best players to injury would eventually make us not quite as good?

Injuries are funny things (funny peculiar, that is, not funny ha-ha – definitely not).

You know that analogy about how when you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water it thrashes around in pain and dies almost immediately, but if you throw it into cold water and slowly boil it, it sits calmly, none the wiser, until it is too late? Why anyone actually found cause to  work this out is somewhat baffling. But those two scenarios aptly explain the vagaries of footballing injury.

They can be sudden, season-ending blows to the likes of Modra or Tex, wherein a key (or marquee) player is suddenly gone for a year and doomed to be a shadow of themselves for sometime longer. That’s the frog-in-boiling-water variety.

But at other times the injury toll mounts so slowly you hardly notice it at first.

There you are, flying through pre-season virtually unscathed, and dominating in the early rounds. Poor old Radar falls by the wayside in a freak accident, which is terrible; but, you reason, at least he was probably behind the likes of Smith, Henderson and Jaensch in any case. And then all of a sudden, you’re playing GWS without Smith, Henderson or Jaensch, and thinking how handy Radar would be in such a situation.

(Phil Davis would have been useful as well, by the by. Or at least, it would have been useful if he wasn’t playing for the other team and cutting off every attacking foray in the frustrating final term.)

But then you think, “At least Laird’s playing a blinder,” and of course, Laird gets stretchered off, concussed.

There have been, and will be, plenty of supporters grumbling about the Crows crossing that nasty psychological barrier of losing to GWS. But at least we waited until the Giants were actually good.

Or you’re sitting there in the stands, marveling at how your team’s assembled a midfield so awesome that talent of the ilk of Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Grigg can only intermittently force their way in.

Then Brad Crouch breaks his foot and you shrug, “Oh well, at least we’ve got plenty of depth”. And Richie Douglas limps off for two months and you’re almost pleased: “Finally, Matt Crouch will get a chance to prove his wares.”

Then Sloane and Ellis-Yolmen go down and you’re thinking, “Wow, I guess it’s good we’ve got all these inside midfield types in the wings after all, as long as we don’t play a really fast, skillful side because we’ll get cut to ribbons … oh wait.”

Just in case my metaphor was too convoluted: Adelaide is the frog, and its injury list is the boiling water, and before we even realise it, we’re dead in the water.

To be honest, though, besides a truly horrible start when they let GWS kick the first five goals before actually noticing the siren had gone and a few moments after Laird went off where they completely lost their shit and conceded about four more majors, they went ok, all things considered.

Adelaide’s kicking, which has been truly poor at times, was comparatively measured. They lacked defensive rebound, which is understandable with three of their best midfielders and every single rebounding defender out injured.

They were, however, simply left in the Giants’ wake like a hapless Wile E. Coyote in dogged pursuit of the Roadrunner. At least, like Wile E., they never gave up.

Here at Fumbleland we’re not really known for looking on the bright side, nor for talking up our team in the face of adversity.

But a 24 point loss to the Giants under those circumstances is not the worst thing that ever happened. It’s not even the second worst.

Our win-loss record is currently 5-3. At this point in the past two seasons we were 4-4, and we missed the finals both times by a single game.

So we’re obviously a shoo-in to make it this time. That’s how this works, right?

There have been, and will be, plenty of supporters grumbling about the Crows crossing that nasty psychological barrier of losing to GWS. But at least we waited until the Giants were actually good.

Unlike some.

Speaking of Port, I’ve previously flagged my disdain for the Sunday twilight fixture, but the persistent scheduling of the Power in football’s graveyard shift does carry one significant upside: for the past three weeks, it has ensured the weekend ends on a high note.

Ok, it’s unfair to kick them while they’re down. But it’s easy. And fun.

And of course the Fumbles would be kicking them even if they were still up.

But they seem to have inherited Adelaide’s patented 2013 “Premiership Hangover Without Actually Winning A Premiership”.

They have youth on their side, but there are worrying signs.

Even Kane’s 300th game retirement wasn’t enough to stop the Power getting … well, caned.

The crowd, at least, paid a fitting tribute to Cornes, with large swathes acknowledging his Round Eight retirement by similarly leaving early [insert tarpaulin gag here.]

Kane Cornes is carried from the field by captain Travis Boak (left) and Angus Monfries. Photo: Michael Errey/InDaily

Kane Cornes is carried from the field by captain Travis Boak (left) and Angus Monfries. Photo: Michael Errey/InDaily

This very month, against the Crows, Jay Schulz kicked five goals. Yesterday, that was all his whole team could manage.

Schulz is now 30, and if this season slips away, his best could well be behind him. Which could leave the Power’s structure potentially lop-sided. While the likes of Wines, Polec, Wingard and Boak have plenty of time left, Port need a spearhead, and it’s evidently not going to come in the form of John Butcher.

They could be doomed to endure what the Crows suffered in the post-Modra years: a crack midfield kicking to a makeshift key forward. For years, it was Scott Welsh, who stands at 188cm. We tried the likes of Adam Richardson (no relation), Ryan Fitzgerald, Daniel Schell, all to not much avail. So the likes of McLeod and Goodwin spent the best years of their footballing life kicking to a semi-functional forward line. (They at least had a couple of premierships with which to console themselves.)

A perfectly balanced team is a rare thing; I thought Port had it this year. I genuinely don’t know what’s gone wrong. And enjoyably, nor do they.

They haven’t even really had injuries to blame for their haplessness; sure, Wines was notable, and Polec leaves a significant gap. Trengove though, that really hurts. His loss mid-last year helped instigate the Power’s mid-season malaise; his absence when Port are already 3-5 and mired unluckily in 13th spot behind a glut of contenders is mildly devastating.

A bit like throwing a frog into boiling water.

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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