Ah, Port Adelaide.
Sometimes I wonder why I rail against them so much.
After all, their generous propensity to salvage even the most despondent of weekends is laudable.
And it was despondent for a couple of days there.
Not that I’m bemoaning Adelaide’s rare Friday night showpiece; after all, it’s good to get the weekly disappointment out the way early.
But it does leave a lingering pall over the ensuing days that only a two-point Port Adelaide loss to the injury-depleted reigning wooden-spooners can finally dispel.
It does help put something into perspective though: remember last season when Power supporters would rationalize away their team’s generally-lamentable form with the rejoinder: “Ah yeah, but we beat Hawthorn twice!” – as though that was some kind of self-evident proof of their premiership credentials.
Well, they’ve now lost to Carlton twice in the space of a year – a trend that possibly betrays more about their standing than the more flattering analysis.
Their enforced ‘ruck-free football’ philosophy is being tested, losing the hitouts 59 to 27 – though still narrowly winning the clearances – and with Matthew Kreuzer proving not only the dominant big-man but also the match-winner.
There is only one thing worse than blowing a three-goal final term advantage against a team previously considered bottom-four material – and that’s emerging to see next week’s opponent dishing out a 103-point drubbing to the formerly-respectable St Kilda, with one of the AFL’s form ruckmen racking up 33 hitouts.
I’m not convinced Ollie Wines is going to cut it against Nic Nat on Saturday.
Not that supporters of the Paddy-whacked Adelaide Football Club are in much of a position to crow this week.
Yes, it was a strange weekend. We kicked things off being turfed from the eight and yet, bizarrely, found our way back there by Sunday’s denouement, off the back of a Power failure and a Demons capitulation to the Bulldogs.
Now, I actually wasn’t going to fall for the Dangerfield hype this week, given the buildup to his return seemed longer and more tedious than the federal election campaign.
But it’s worth reflecting on, because Dangerfield – and his absence – has somehow become the story of our season.
And if we’re a better side this year – which is highly, highly debatable at this point – it’s despite his departure, not because of it.
There seems to have been some confusion about a couple of other things too.
No-one ever said Danger wasn’t a good bloke.
We certainly never said he wasn’t much chop as a footballer.
We didn’t say he didn’t serve us well, and that we weren’t glad to have him playing for us.
We’re not alleging he’s not entitled to live and play wherever the hell he likes, if he’s in a position to make it happen.
We’re not even suggesting his relocation wasn’t handled quite positively, with a reasonable return at the trade table.
All of these things may well be true.
But all I’m saying is: Paddy Dangerfield, while being a really great guy, is actually the Devil.
You can tell me he’s a fantastic bloke or an ornament to the game all you like, but that is pointlessly rational. And this isn’t a rational hatred.
That’s kind of the point of being a football supporter.
So all I’m saying is, if you’re one of those many people who have said in the past week that Paddy should be thanked for his service to the Adelaide Football Club and that you wish him good luck in his future endeavours and that we should all just get over it…well, your opinions are valid and you are welcome to have them.
But please never express them to anyone again, ever.
Paddy certainly embraced the theme of the week, reveling in the media attention to such a degree that I’m surprised he didn’t step off the plane from Melbourne wearing his gold jacket.
On the positive side, though, we finally won a crucial stat – the free kicks fell our way 26 to 14, an anomaly I’m sure the club will be taking up with the umpiring department during the week.
Moreover, while Paddy was predictably industrious, he generously turned back the clock to his Crows days with a disposal efficiency of 51.5 per cent.
That means that roughly half of his 33 disposals were really for us instead of Geelong.
That’s what a nice guy he is.
No wonder all his former teammates greeted him so fondly after the final siren (and by the way, doesn’t this bloke ever stop smiling!? He looks like a serial killer, it’s quite unnerving.)
He had more clangers (7) than Brodie Smith had disposals (6), and was more effective for the Crows than both Crouches combined, with Matt and Brad having 16 and 14 touches respectively – that latter with a jaw-dropping 35.6 per cent efficiency that should officially see him lose his status as The Better Crouch Brother.
But it goes to show what a gulf Paddy left in our side. I’ve been really worried about who would fill the void of turning the ball over inexplicably that used to be our former Number 32’s stock in trade.
Fortunately, the whole team has stepped up to shoulder the load, with comical turnovers and brain explosions all over the ground.
Thank God for that.
Because I fear the narrative around the Crows has been hijacked a bit in recent months. So let’s just dispel a few more misconceptions that have been allowed to fester.
Are we so jaded after Tippett that we’re supposed to be grateful when departing players don’t completely cripple the club on their way out?
First up, this ‘amicable’ deal that supposedly benefitted both Geelong and Adelaide. We effectively brought in three players, only one of which has actually played a senior game thus far. Dean Gore and Troy Menzel, who also cost us a decent goal-kicking midfielder called Sam Kerridge, remain ensconced at SANFL level and look like staying there for the foreseeable future. Yes, it looked good on paper. A job lot of decent players for one bona fide star. But this isn’t like changing a fifty dollar note. You don’t get just hand it over, get a bunch of shrapnel to the same value and say you’re as well off as before.
Losing one ‘Best Player In The Comp’ and gaining three ‘Not The Best Players in the Comp’ doesn’t make you a stronger side. At best, it helps offset the loss. At worst, though, it just clogs up your list.
And if you’re one of those people who talk up Danger (aka the Smiling Assassin) because he played well in his final year and then somehow helped facilitate a trade (even though the club was entitled to block his departure via free agency, so it was probably never going to happen), please give yourself an uppercut.
What, we’re so jaded after Tippett that now we’re supposed to be grateful when departing players don’t completely cripple the club on their way out the door?
And talking of crippling the club, here’s another misnomer: that our midfield has lifted in Dangerfield’s absence.
It’s lucky everyone always goes on about how much we’ve improved. Otherwise I might have accidentally confused us for the same mediocre side we’ve mostly been for the past decade or two.
Admittedly, I fell for this one myself in the early weeks of the season, even floating the notion that Paddy’s departure could be one of those AFL ‘Ewing Theory’ moments.
But there’s a key difference between his departure and the likes of Ablett, Buddy and even Judd: at least they’d all helped their respective teams win a premiership before they walked out.
Yes, it’s certainly true that our list is better balanced than it has been in recent years, with more pace and even the odd player who can occasionally hit a teammate with the ball, always a helpful attribute for an AFL player.
But it would have been in any case.
The truth is, though, the engine room is lacking grunt and pace – the two attributes Dangerfield provided in spades.
He has now gone to a middling side and turned them into a premiership contender. It’s a heartwarming tale, apart from the fact that they’ve already won three of the past nine flags.
Moreover, his decision to quit the Crows has effectively turned a team that could have been a contender into a middling side.
Let’s face it, our last three weeks have been average at best.
We were execrable for most of Friday night and only in the game after quarter time because of abominable goal-kicking from the visiting side – a fortuitous turn of fate that also favoured us in that scrappy win against Freo last month.
Moreover, the Cats beat us by four goals – which should have been ten – despite being a man down for most of the night, after Lonergan’s first-term concussion.
Yes, our forward line is unusually efficient, but at present we haven’t got the midfield to cash in. It’s like the exact opposite conundrum to the one we’ve had for most of the past two decades.
And the fact that the clearly underdone Brad Crouch keeps getting selected after one decent SANFL game while the likes of Lyons, Grigg and Ellis-Yolmen are overlooked despite solid performances almost weekly suggests they’re unlikely to ever figure prominently in the club’s plans.
I dread to think what will happen when Thommo retires.
It’s conceivable we’ll just tread water for a few seasons before our next rebuild.
At least we have the setting Suns this round, whose injury toll is as imposing as Paddy’s grin and whose coach Rodney Eade said after their latest drubbing on Saturday: “I thought this was the low ebb but probably next week might be the low ebb.”
We can only hope.
Despite now only being a game clear of Collingwood (yikes!), a look at our draw suggests we should still play finals – even on current form – but our losses thus far suggest we’re not in the class of the AFL’s top sides.
It’s good to be clear on all that, given all this talk about how much we’ve improved.
But at least we’ve still got Port.
Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s weekly AFL column, 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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