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Touch Of The Fumbles: the post-Paddy era

Touch of the Fumbles

The Crows lost, Port won and Paddy Dangerfield played a personal best against the reigning premiers. That sounds like a cue for Tom Richardson to return for another season of grumbles – and Fumbles.

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Goodbye Danger, It's Been Nice

Sometimes bad football seasons are just crap from the outset.

That was pretty much what happened when the Crows played North Melbourne in Round One, which my mate and I opted to watch in a city pub, only to be told they wouldn’t put AFL on one of their many TV screens because, and I quote: “We’re a Rugby pub.”

As a business plan, this made no sense because a) there are only three people in Adelaide who like Rugby, of any persuasion, and b) none of them was in the pub at the time.

In fact, no-one was in the pub at the time, except me and my mate.

Nonetheless, the bartender was not for turning on the matter.

So we wandered off to find another bar that would accommodate two Crows supporters awash with the spirit of heady anticipation that only a new season can bring.

A barrage of pre-season clichés had convinced us that tracks were being burnt up and houses were being trained down, and optimism had duly built.

It didn’t last long past the first bounce though, with the likes of Daniel Wells and Brent Harvey cutting Adelaide’s defence to ribbons.

The Kangaroos went on to smash us by 75 points and our season collapsed from there, culminating in the sacking of our coach.

I might have forgotten to mention, this was back in 2004.

Twelve goddamn years ago.

Thankfully much has changed, apart from Wells and Harvey cutting our defence to ribbons.

And fortunately, much of my memory of that game has been long obliterated by the passing years (not to mention the copious pints we downed in whatever non-Rugby pub we ended up in).

I do recall that we won the first quarter, and remember thinking: “Hey, maybe this season won’t be so bad…”

After all, we had finished pretty well the previous two years, with a preliminary final in 2002 and a big finals win at home in ’03 followed by a respectable away loss to the eventual premier, so there was reason enough to consider we might be building to something good.

And then the Roos came out and kicked six goals to none in the second term and all that pre-season hope evaporated in one comically catastrophic half-hour of football.

I recall that at one point two players started to wrestle each other for the ball like toddlers fighting over a toy. The problem was, they both played for the Crows.

(I’m pretty sure one of them was Scott Welsh, the man who later redefined the term ‘jumper punch’; I’m not sure who the other guy was because I’d have to somehow watch the game again and that’s a personal sacrifice I am simply unwilling to make.)

But it’s fair to say that 2004 was a shite year from beginning to end.

We finished 12th and Port won the Grand Final.

There’s simply no excuse for years like that.

And in that Round One game, Wells had 18 possessions and kicked two goals.

You may recall we missed out on recruiting him because we’d given away our Number 4 draft pick to North (amongst other things) to secure Wayne Carey. That ended up a Number 2 pick after Carlton were kicked out of that year’s draft.

Carey kicked just the one goal in that Round One smashing, and retired mid-season.

Adelaide, June 24, 2004. Wayne Carey (centre) and Adelaide Crows coach Neil Craig (left)) and Crow's Captain Mark Ruccuito (right) during a press conference where Carey announced his retirement in Adelaide today. Carey retired from AFL football because of a neck injury. (AAP Image/Rob Hutchison) NO ARCHIVING

WENT WELL: Wayne “King” Carey leaving his Crows kingdom, flanked by coach Neil Passmore Craig and captain Mark Ricciuto. Photo: Rob Hutchison, AAP.

Wells may have been a frustrating player for Kangaroos supporters, but he has played for them for 13 years. Which is about ten times longer than Carey played for us.

I mention this not to dwell on our entrenched mediocrity, nor to ponder the what-might-have-beens if we’d have had an elite outside runner at our disposal in recent years, but to try to find a ray of hope for morose Crows supporters.

North fans were destitute to lose their proverbial King, but a decade and a half on, they’re still getting value from his departure.

That’s a good strand of hope to clutch on to whenever Paddy Dangerfield goes near the ball this year.

I don’t ask for much in life.

This weekend, for instance (putting aside minor things like celebrating Easter with the family) I merely hoped that the Crows would win, Port would lose and Dangerfield would turn in a dismal individual performance.

So, that went well then.

Paddy’s Monday afternoon frolic – a lazy 43 possessions, 10 inside 50s, seven clearances and five marks, including two absolute screamers in front of goal in clutch moments of the final quarter – provided the not-unexpected insult after the injury of the Crows’ Saturday night loss to the Kangas.

A ten-point defeat, having been four goals up early in the third term, wrought by a loss of composure around the stoppages. You know what we really could have used in such a situation?

43 possessions, 10 inside 50s, seven clearances and a brace of clutch marks, that’s what!

To be honest, I wouldn’t even mind Paddy dominating this year as long as Geelong still find a way to lose, like we always used to.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke (right) speaks with his players at the three quarter time as the Crows play North Melbourne Kangaroos in round one of the AFL at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, March 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Adelaide coach Don Pyke with his charges at the three-quarter time break. Photo: Julian Smith, AAP.

But this just doesn’t seem fair: try as he might to dispel it, Dangerfield seems to have proved the notion that you can put a great player into a middling side and make them much, much better. With the obvious exception being the Adelaide Crows.

At least he was gentlemanly enough to miss three gimme goals in the final term, to remind us that while he accumulates the ball with mesmerising composure, he doesn’t always meet the same lofty heights when he divests himself of it.

I note we play Danger on a Friday the 13th, which is no doubt unlucky for someone. Us, presumably.

But at least we get to play him twice this year, which will give Adelaide players a close to 40 per cent chance of getting a direct pass from him, for once.

Yes, I am being churlish. He may be a total Karmichael Hunt, but I get that players like Paddy enhance our game.

Sportswriter Martin Flanagan tells a yarn about watching a Kangaroos-Geelong match with former Hawks premiership player and later coach Peter Schwab, who took issue with a vocal member of the crowd berating the dominant Wayne Carey.

“Carey’s a champion, mate,” Schwab reportedly told the spectator.

“You’re privileged to see him play.”

And he was. And we were.

But it was a bigger privilege to see him play for us.

Even briefly.

And in the case of Dangerfield, that privilege has sadly passed.

We should be happy for Geelong… they’re due for some success.

Nonetheless, while the week’s football media will obsess about Paddy’s Geelong debut, it wasn’t like we didn’t have some impressive debutants of our own on the weekend (not least of which was a new coach, whose unveiling was so studiously low-key that this is the only mention I will make of him).

Sure, Mitch McGovern – the poor man’s Dangerfield – may have had 34-odd fewer disposals, but he did match his game in one key area, missing three sitters in the final term. Take that, Patrick!

Adelaide Crows player Mitch McGovern (left) and North Melbourne Kangaroos player Michael Firrito contest in round one of the AFL at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, March 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

A poor man’s Patrick Dangerfield: Mitch McGovern. Photo: Julian Smith, AAP.

But really, we should be happy for Geelong. What with the heartache of missing last year’s finals, they’re due for some success.

Remember that time back in the Britpop heyday when Michael Hutchence had to present an award to Oasis, and Liam Gallagher sauntered onstage and declared that has-beens shouldn’t give awards to will-bes, or somesuch?

That was the kind of disdain the Cats showed yesterday to the ageing Hawks (albeit not much older on average than Geelong).

AFL Season 2016

Matt White leaves the field with a pectoral injury. Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

Anyway, talking of Michael Hutchence, Port sadly managed to salvage a win despite a plucky St Kilda putting a lie to their adopted INXS anthem by tearing them apart for much of the first half.

AFL Season 2016

RED WINE AND A THREE WEEK GROWTH? Charlie Dixon marks despite pressure from Jimmy Webster. Photo Michael Errey, InDaily.

As in 2015, the Power lost the run of Matthew White through injury and the aerial dominance of Matthew Lobbe through form. But the Saints couldn’t finish the job, as Robbie Gray asserted himself on the game and Suns recruit Charlie Dixon, like his favoured red wine, got better as time wore on.

He finished with 3.3, which some commentators – and his coach – helpfully informed us could easily have been 5.1. Mind you, it could also have been 4.2 or 6.0, but on the plus side it could also have been a Dangerfield-esque 0.6. But it wasn’t any of those things.

The scoreboard ultimately flattered Port, who kicked 20.13.133 to run out 33-point victors – although when you think about it, that could easily have been 22.11.143.

At least we can console ourselves with Ollie Wines’ off-season declaration that he wants to model himself on Patrick Dangerfield – which obviously means he intends to piss off back to Melbourne at the peak of his career.

Anyhoo, Port won, which further compounded the annoyance of Adelaide supporters who had somehow decided that the recruitment of a bunch of second-string players would cover the loss of this year’s Brownlow fancy.

AFL Season 2016

SORRY, PORT! Ollie Wines wants to be like Patrick Dangerfield. Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

We all got quite excited about Paul Seedsman because he once played a blinder in a big game. But then, so did David Mackay.

And Troy Menzel, a former first round draft pick, has the air of someone confident in his own abilities – more confident, indeed, than those who saw him play in the pre-season.

Nonetheless, we matched it with North Melbourne for much of Saturday (at least, if we conveniently forget that they spent much of the match without the dash of the injured Jed Anderson) and appear to have at least solved one of the fundamental flaws of our game – a dearth of outside pace.

Our propensity to butcher the ball, however, appears a longer-term fix.

Which is a shame, as there’ll be people voting in this year’s federal election who have never seen a Crows premiership (shouldn’t that be against the law?)

Collingwood’s early hype gave way to a Round One horror movie… namely, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’.

And it’s starting to look increasingly likely that we’ll end up like those lovable English soccer hooligans who sang laments about how “thirty years of hurt never stopped me dreaming”.

But it’s not like we’re in a worse position than injury-struck Hawthorn, or pre-season fancies Fremantle, or Collingwood, whose early hype gave way to a Round One horror movie.

Namely, I Know What You Did Last Summer.

AFL Season 2016

Lobbe lost the ruck duel to Tom Hickey. Photo: Michael Errey, InDaily.

Coach Nathan Buckley spoke after the match at his displeasure that “our players are the only players that seem to no longer enjoy the ‘Cloke of Anonymity’”, which I took to be a clever backhander at his near-invisible key forward.

The Pies’ cross-town rival Carlton, having recruited half of Adelaide’s B-list, appear to have consequently adopted the Crows’ propensity to be competitive without ever really threatening to win (although Tigers coach Damien Hardwick must have been thinking about calling the game off for a few minutes there in the second half).

But it was nice to see Matty Wright bob up with three timely goals, given he was the last man standing without a contract when Adelaide had to cull its list after an industrious trade period.

I bet he was delighted about Matthew Jaensch’s subsequent well-timed “retirement”.

(Speaking of which, do we get our top-up player now, or wait until later in the year?)

And Sam Kerridge was typically industrious, despite the odd match-defining gaffe.

Wright and Kerridge can be some small consolation for the Blues, who over the years have given us the likes of Eddie Betts and Sam Jacobs, while we’ve given them Steven Trigg and David Gallagher.

You’re welcome, Carlton.

Kerridge made his name at Adelaide with a barnstorming six-goal performance against – who else? – the Kangaroos, back in 2013, when the Crows twice came from 40 points down to win by a solitary point, with that famous Jared Petrenko toe-poke sealing it with just 16 seconds to spare.

It was three years ago. It’s telling to watch the denouement again: the last five players to touch the ball are Kerridge, Petrenko, Dangerfield, Bernie Vince and Jason Porplyzia. All now gone.

It’s not just onfield that the game continues apace. And watching Daniel Wells cut us to pieces on the weekend just gone, it occurred to me I was looking at this all wrong.

North Melbourne player Daniel Wells kicks the ball as the Kangaroos play the Adelaide Crows in round one of the AFL at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Saturday, March 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Julian Smith) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Daniel Wells: quite fast. Photo: Julian Smith, AAP.

Instead of being preoccupied with Dangerfield carrying the Cats to glory in 2016, I should be anticipating Wayne Milera (hopefully) playing his 200th in Crows colours sometime in 2024.

Or maybe contemplating that one day when Paddy is long retired, and Mitch McGovern is lining up to kick the winning behind for us in a grand final, this will all seem worthwhile.

In the meantime, of course, it just sucks.

Mind you, it’s nothing that a weekend win over Port Adelaide and their dentally-challenged devotees won’t put right.

It will be the ultimate battle of the clichés: Total Football versus the Port Adelaide Way.

Stay clear of Rugby Pubs: this one’s not to be missed.

Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s weekly AFL column, usually published each Monday during the AFL season. Yes, it’s shamelessly biased – even up the score in the comments section below.

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