While it always loomed as a danger game for the Crows, St Kilda evidently hauled themselves to Adelaide with little self-belief, and even their staunchest advocates started making their excuses before the first ball was bounced.
The Saints are not supermen, nor were they born perfect. When they recognized God’s love, they followed it and served others.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 5, 2016
Lest we forget, Nick Riewoldt played his first ever AFL game against the Crows back in 2001.
And a pretty good game it was too.
Not for him, of course. He had three touches in a 97-point demolition. Of them. By us.
(It was also, incidentally, the game that saw Malcolm Blight sacked as the Saints’ coach, an event evidently significant enough to warrant a bronze statue out the front of Adelaide Oval.)
But for Riewoldt it was the start of great things, whereas we lost by 49 points to the Swans at home the following week. So swings and roundabouts.
I mention it because, for a brief moment there yesterday early in the first (and not for the first time) it looked as though Saint Nick had played his last ever AFL game – and posed for his final selfie – against the Crows.
He hadn’t though; he recovered from a wrenched knee to play a relatively minor role in an 88-point demolition (of them, by us).
But had things gone awry in those opening minutes, his career would have come full circle – beginning and ending on the receiving end of thrashings dished out by the Crows.
There would have been a certain symmetry to that, given that Riewoldt has been among the finest players of his generation, and the epitome of the best and worst of St Kilda – a team that plumbed the depths of incompetence, from which it garnered a succession of plum draft picks around which it built an ominous outfit which, but for the errant bounce of an oval ball, could have delivered long-suffering Saints supporters their elusive premiership.
And in the meantime, the Crows have claimed a total of four top ten draft picks. Two of them have even been good, although Paddy Dangerfield and Phil Davis (both on the cusp of the top ten when selected) are both now giving their best years to other clubs. The bastards.
(To put that into some perspective, Hawthorn had three picks inside the top 10 in 2004 alone, and Buddy Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Jordan Lewis now boast ten premiership medallions between them.)
Moreover, our two other top ten draft picks this millennium range from the outright disastrous to the merely unpleasant, and stand as a spiteful testament to our perpetual inability to find a decent mobile ruckman/forward.
Laurence Angwin and John Meesen managed two games between them, while James Sellar at pick 14 compounded the folly of our eternal draft quest for a mobile tall forward with 21 largely unmemorable games across five largely underwhelming seasons.
Which just makes a mockery of the fact the Crows have thus far played hardball over the future of Josh Jenkins.
Despite coming to football late, the former basketballer kicked 40 goals in 2014 and – to prove that wasn’t a fluke – bettered it with 46 last year.
He’s on 34 at the halfway mark of this season, having dobbed a lazy bag of seven yesterday, among 24 disposals and nine marks inside 50.
He also represents the sole respite for our otherwise ludicrously overworked ruckman Sam Jacobs.
And yet, there appears a genuine chance this guy could sign on to play for Brisbane, or some other godawful team.
And even if he doesn’t, we’ll be paying far more to secure him than we would have had we just done the sensible thing three or more months ago.
When you watch Jenkins play, there should be a counter up on screen to quantify just how much his market value has increased throughout the course of the game. By the end of yesterday’s outing, he’d probably added another zero to the end of his next contract.
At least such a counter would allow the Crows to calculate how badly they’ve burned themselves by being stupid.
It’s bad enough that they’ve reportedly prevaricated over the length of his next contract, but when you consider the previous decade and a half of draft folly trying to eke out a player of his ilk it’s just pure madness.
When the Shaun Rehn era ended, it took us another decade to find a ruckman/forward who wasn’t a recidivist thief or just a general spud. And when we did, he ended up leaving for Sydney, and crippling the club for the next two years on his way out the door.
And yet, we now have a guy who kicks close to 50 goals a season, and wants to play for Adelaide, and we decide now’s the time to play hardball?
At my kid’s kindy they have a peculiar phraseology they use when talking to misbehaving preschoolers.
They pointedly avoid referring to naughtiness or bad behaviour, instead positing a deep existential question: “Are you making an ‘A-choice or a ‘B-choice’?”
An A-choice, as you can probably guess, is a Good Behavioural Decision.
A B-choice is on the less desirable end of the scale.
And not signing Josh Jenkins up to a decent long-term contract when he was still an affordable prospect was unquestionably a B-choice.
Having long had slim pickings in the upper echelons of the draft, it must be said Adelaide have, by and large, made the best of their opportunities. The list at present doesn’t boast a wealth of top end talent, but it arguably runs deeper than most. On paper, half of the much-maligned SANFL side could comfortably run out with the senior squad and acquit themselves well. Last night, Matt Crouch came in as a late replacement for Scott Thompson and got 17 touches in the first quarter alone.
His brother (essentially another first-round draft pick, incidentally) picked up another 29 possessions and eight clearances in the state league on Saturday, suggesting his continued absence from the AFL side is another B-choice.
Significantly, Troy Menzel had his best game for the reserves, with 13 disposals, four tackles and three goals, suggesting his time is near, potentially when first-year forward Milera is given a spell.
If Adelaide’s list doesn’t boast top draft picks, it is nonetheless a work of Moneyball-style gravitas, with the team playing to its strength on every line (as opposed to a few years ago, when it just had a bunch of B-grade midfielders rotating up the wing and across half-forward).
But the way the Moneyball Crows acquitted themselves against St Kilda was heartening; it was everything we hoped they would be against Gold Coast a fortnight ago. Hard, clinical, uncompromising. Wayward, yes, but we have learned to live with that over the years.
And it was timely, with Port snapping at our heels at the cusp of the eight.
Ken Hinkley says they haven’t yet turned the corner, but are instead peering around it and pondering their next move – which could well be to jump out flailing their proverbial arms and scare the living crap out of a bunch of teams hovering on the lower rungs of the top eight.
I hate to prognosticate (no, really!) but the Power’s career trajectory since 2014 is so similar to ours post-2011 it’s actually eerie.
From losing to the Hawks by a kick in a prelim final to missing the eight by a solitary win the following year, to kicking off the next season with a brace of big losses before steadying to make a concerted run at the finals.
Adelaide couldn’t recoup the distance in 2014, and I’d like to hope Port won’t either, but it’s clear they’re not going away quietly.
Our only defence is to keep winning, starting this week with West Coast, against whom we had arguably our worst and best moments of 2015 – that hollow loss a week after Phil Walsh’s death and that dizzying first quarter onslaught against the then-premiership favourites on the eve of finals.
Whatever happens, though, it’s clear we won’t be bolstering our list with top draft picks anytime soon, St Kilda style. So it’d be nice if we could recognise a good thing when we see it, and re-sign the guy who kicked the equivalent of the Saints’ entire score last night.
Like the Saints, JJ may not be superman, nor born perfect. But he’s the closest thing to an A-choice second string tall forward we’ve had this millennium.
That’s a start.
Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s weekly AFL column, published each Monday during the AFL season. Due to the Queen’s Birthday and the Crows’ bye, it will return in three weeks’ time.
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