If you’ve been paying close attention (or even marginal attention, really) you’ve probably noticed that here at Fumbleland we’re generally of the ‘glass half empty’ disposition.
You’ll have picked up, too, that we might, on occasion, take somewhat of a contrarian bent.
Hence, for much of this season – a season in which the team which, for better or worse, occupies a disproportionate amount of our attention has travelled particularly well – I have greeted most every win with a proverbial raised eyebrow at best and outright despondency at worst.
So, while it is utterly consistent with the Fumbles contrarian whim, it may surprise you to learn after that distinctly shitful loss to Sydney on Friday that I am now, finally, convinced that we may be on to something here.
Sure, the Swans look utterly ominous and I’d really rather not play them again this year. Or indeed, any year, come to that.
But the fact is, the Crows went into this round having already achieved what they needed to achieve – namely, a home final and double chance in the major round.
My biggest fear from Friday night was that, if we lost, we may end up hosting Sydney again come finals.
And we did lose, so that remains a very real prospect.
But, as of Friday night, it’s not a prospect I fear as much as I did before.
I’m now (tenuously, always tenuously) convinced that Adelaide is well-placed to progress through two home finals; and not merely by dint of drawing the softest prospective opponent.
At various points this year, I’ve spent more time than one could reasonably justify fretting over the prospect of drawing the likes of Geelong, Sydney or, of course, Port for our first-week final.
Any of these is still possible.
It’s just that I’m no longer particularly bothered about who we play.
My Friday foreboding was predicated on the possibility that we would fail our final pre-finals test – namely that we would not be able to match it with the Swans. And in that disastrous first quarter, that fear was briefly realised.
But as the game progressed we managed to dispel a few lingering doubts: about our ability to respond when the game has been taken away from us, for instance. And, yes, about our ability to keep pace with the league’s recent pacesetter. Maybe not on their home turf, but that is not an eventuality we need concern ourselves with this season.
We outpossessed them, took more marks (and, yes, many more frees, despite the infamous 50 metre-penalty) and hit the scoreboard more often – albeit in the wrong places.
Which is not to paper over how excrementally poor we were in the first term, although poor first terms are of course an integral part of our game plan and it would be foolish to tinker with a successful formula at this late stage.
If Lever ends up shooting through at season’s end I will immediately go home and watch that moment of first quarter madness where he took possession in the Swans forward arc only to evidently be hit with a momentary bout of incontinence that gifted Kieren Jack an easy goal. In fact, I will watch it several times in succession, just to make myself feel better.
Of course, if he signs on again we will never speak of it again.
This whole Leaver vs McGoin’ thing is a bit like the Battle of Britpop all over again: we are culturally disposed to have to pick a side. Whereas back in the ‘90s you were either on Team Oasis or Team Blur, now you’re either with Team Leaver or Team McGoin’, on the obvious (and annoyingly optimistic) presumption that we will only manage to retain one of them.
I’ve heretofore been more of a Leaver-liker, but after his four goal-haul on Friday night, I’m definitely lovin’ McGovern instead.
As for Charlie Cameron, he’s like the Pulp of the Britpop standoff, the one you like if you can’t decide between the two obvious options, even though deep down everyone knows they’re probably not as good as the other two.
That knowledge became more entrenched on Friday night, after his 10 largely ineffective disposals and two behinds raised the possibility he’s already mentally checked out and joined the Brisbane Lions. He certainly played like a guy who was vying for a wooden spoon.
But at least with Charlie, Adelaide holds the significant trump card that he still has a year on his current deal to play out, which allowed Don Pyke to publicly lay down the law to Brisbane during the week, telling them it’s inappropriate to try and recruit contracted players who are not Bryce Gibbs.
Yet despite Charlie’s best efforts, the Crows still managed to hold a nine-point advantage in the dying minutes of the match – only to drop their collective bundle by conceding the last two goals of the match.
By the time Papley kicked what turned out to be the sealer, my only consolation was that I didn’t have to listen to Brian Taylor calling the game. Except that around that point my mate pulled the match coverage up on his phone to check how much time was left, so I ended up enduring the worst of both worlds.
Speaking of phones, for the second week straight I managed to drop mine while attempting the deceptively tricky “check football stats while carrying a tray of beer” manoeuvre, and it now looks like Robocop’s helmet did after his brush with ED-209.
Which is apt, really, given in the space of those two final Swans goals, my composure disintegrated rapidly from something like this:
Anyway, in the event, Sydney won but still bizarrely dropped a spot on the ladder, all thanks to my old pals at Port Adelaide, whose season suddenly found life on Mars Stadium.
While they didn’t exactly strike gold in Ballarat, the Power still managed a Eureka moment of sorts, as they held firm in the finale to effectively end the Bulldogs’ season.
Port’s season strategy of exclusively beating sides placed outside the eight is actually quite a clever one, given there are more sides outside the eight than in. But of course, there is a logical flaw in the plan, which will presumably become clear to them once none of the sides outside the eight are playing any more.
Mind you, I’m holding fire on Port, in the unlikely event that we still have to play them in a qualifying final, which would mean annoyingly ceding our hard-fought home ground advantage.
The more likely prospect, though, remains a date with Geelong, for whom our old mate Paddy again worked his wizardry to dispel disaster on the weekend, or Richmond, who brutally accounted for the hapless Freo, dishing out their second 104-point defeat in as many weeks.
I haven’t seen Dockers treated with such disdain since the waterfront dispute.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though: Fremantle began full of intent, and had the better of the Tigers in the first. When Docker debutant Harley Bennell kicked his second, I started to suspect this was all some universal conspiracy to make me have to barrack for Port next week.
But the Tigers soon found their rhythm, and a frenetic rhythm it was too, as they kicked a lackadaisical 22 goals to four after the first break.
And so, having not so quietly hoped to draw Richmond in our first finals outing, the Good News is we’re looking likely to do just that.
The Bad News, however, is that Richmond suddenly look like a team we’d really rather not play at all, thank-you very much.
Mind you, they haven’t won a final since the turn of the century, so we have history on our side, don’t we? Or do we?
Here’s some awkward history for you. The Crows have finished in the top two and secured that elusive two-home-finals equation just three times before, in 2005, ’06 and ’12.
Two of those three times, we blew our first final. Three out of three, we failed to reach a Grand Final.
And you know who did make the Grand Final in each of those three years? Sydney.
So it seems pretty unarguable, right? There is a clear causal link between Adelaide finishing top two and the Swans winning flags.
But here’s another little piece of historical symmetry for you: 20 years, almost to the day, before Friday night’s loss to the Swans, the Crows had another horrible home defeat on their way to the finals.
They were blown away by the Western Bulldogs by 43 points at Football Park in an ominous portent for their 1997 September campaign.
Five weeks later, the same team became our stepping stone to a maiden premiership.
So, yes, I was perversely feeling quite bullish about everything, despite Friday’s loss.
At least until, out and about on Saturday night, I wandered past a besuited Adam Goodes, sharing a quiet moment with Michael O’Loughlin and Ryan O’Keefe.
Yep, on the cusp of what may be only our second ever minor premiership – and first since 2005 – that cruel bastard fate threw me a none-too-subtle reminder of who won the flag that year.
Which I could take one of two ways: either as an omen that we are on the verge of another devastating preliminary final loss.
Or perhaps, as a timely reminder not to squander another top two finish.
Given my newfound ‘glass half full’ disposition, I’m going with the latter.
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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