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Touch of the Fumbles

Touch Of The Fumbles: Rory, story, allegory

Touch of the Fumbles

The ‘Sloane-spired’ Crows kept their faint finals hopes alive after achieving the unthinkable – re-signing a marquee player. It’s a phenomenon so rare that your Fumbles correspondent was moved to pen an open letter to the great man himself.

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Hey Sloaney,

Just a quick note to pass on my thoughts about your recent life decision.

It’s hard to put it into words, but I think this probably conveys what I want to say:

Oh wait.

No, sorry mate, that was the one I had prepared for the decision I expected you to make.

So, after a quick scramble, let’s just leave it at this, in a purely platonic and non-stalkerish way, of course…

I was en route for a family holiday to visit my father-in-law on a tiny Greek island (where he lives without electricity and running water, which is kind of like living in Adelaide during a weather event) when the news broke of your re-signing.

When I checked my phone in between long-haul flights at Doha airport, I discovered a) everyone had been rescued from that cave in Thailand, b) you’d signed on for another five years and c) I’d been paid.

If I wasn’t paying international rates, I’d have called up the Rory Hotline right there and then, just to hear some words that rhyme with ‘Rory’.

Then, having travelled 30-plus hours across the globe, I promptly shut myself in my Hydra hut to live-stream the Sloane-inspired (or ‘Sloane-spired’, if you’re into brevity, which I’m not) Crows claiming one of their better wins this year against the Cats. Which was either the best or worst thing I’ve ever done, I’m still not sure.

You’ll be pleased to know that pretty much everyone on this tiny island has now heard your name, Rory, given the volume at which I screamed it when you kicked that goal to put us 30 points up.

Still, at least when people ask me what the highlight of my trip has been, I can send them a postcard of this:

Although, listening to Port potentially blow their season against the hobbled Dockers whilst simultaneously enjoying this view was pretty good too, tbh.

Speaking of Port, their SANFL side also lost to the Crows reserves – who won their first game of the entire year courtesy of a 10-goal final term – which is all very unfortunate and not hilarious in any way.

Anyway Sloaney, I digress.

The point is that you are, as they say, a Good Egg.

Unlike some.

Indeed, we’ve had a few Bad Eggs round these parts, Rory; like a certain recently-retired Swans player we try not to mention, and a persistently annoying Brownlow medallist whose first name rhymes with ‘Hat-trick’.

(Speaking of hat-tricks, probably worth mentioning that our trio of Rorys (or is it ‘Rories’?) topped our possession stats on Thursday night, with 98 touches between them. It was Rory Glory!)

One of the three best Rorys on Adelaide’s list, and some other guy. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

But I’ve got to admit, I was pretty sure you’d be joining Paddy and Kurt on the ‘Fumbles shit-list’ – that long list of ‘Adelaide marquee players who pissed off elsewhere in their relative prime’.

And an illustrious list it is too.

Besides the aforementioned pair, you’d have been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lever, Cameron, Davis, Bock and Gunston, not to mention Stenglein, Welsh, Maric and, um, Fergus Watts.

I’d like to think I wouldn’t have harboured quite the same resentment towards you as I have to most (all) of them, Rory (although truth be told, I probably would have).

You once said – when you won the first of your two club champion awards, in fact – that you cried when you were first drafted to Adelaide. I get that.

Adelaide’s an acquired taste.

Some people prefer their essential services to work regardless of atmospheric conditions.

And the new pavers on the mall aren’t for everyone.

But you’ve got a good thing going, Adelaide and you, and I’m glad you’ve recognised that.

There are, no doubt, kids all over SA with the Number 9 stitched onto the back of their guernseys who will be beaming about what you’ve done, Rory

And even then, we all get the allure of returning home (although, to be fair, having a $4 million contract in your back pocket probably softens the blow, amirite?).

And it’s not that I thought we couldn’t go on without you.

In fact, what with all the ‘superdraft’ speculation, one could mount a fair argument that we’d have been better off, one day and in some way.

But some things matter more than that.

Things like this, for instance. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

In Footballistics, the roundly and rightly praised new book by ABC sports boffin (and Crows supporter) James Coventry – along with “a team of footy’s sharpest thinkers” – two of the aforementioned sharp thinkers (Cody Atkinson and Sean Lawson, to be precise) put together a player rating system called the ‘Player Approximate Value’ or PAV index, designed to measure not just the individual player’s output but their overall value to their team.

It can be used, for instance, to retrospectively assess the winners and losers in any given trade deal.

And there’s a fair chance (with all due deference and the previously mentioned platonic affection, Sloaney) if we were to weigh up the footballing dotage of a favourite son compared to the prospective full career of an emerging top draft prospect, the PAV to Adelaide would favour the latter scenario.

But that’s not really the point.

Coventry’s book also dwells with unseemly detail on Adelaide’s relatively disastrous Wayne Carey trade coup as a classic PAV bust, given that (courtesy of Carlton’s 2002 salary cap breach penalties) we ended up foregoing a number two draft selection, with which the Kangaroos picked Daniel Wells.

And while he’s no longer at the Roos, Wells is still playing AFL (at the time of writing, at least. Technically.) And North did get a solid 14 years out of him, whereas Carey played for a season and a half at the Crows before bowing out with a bung neck.

Still, whenever I ponder Adelaide’s propensity to trade away draft picks with which someone else selects future 300-game stars (Shaun Burgoyne and Drew Petrie spring to mind), I also think of the final scene of the movie The Sting, wherein Paul Newman asks Robert Redford if he’s going to stick around to collect his hard-won loot, and he replies: “Nah… I’d only blow it.”

That’s kinda how I see that era of Adelaide Football Club trades.

Coventry’s book maps the trade history of every club and – surprise, surprise – places Adelaide dead last in terms of lost PAV.

But you know what? I’m ok with some other club choosing judiciously with our draft picks – because we’d only have blown ‘em anyway.

We’d no doubt have overlooked a Wells or a Burgoyne for some lanky mobile ruckman-cum-forward with a penchant for petty theft but questionable football prowess.

Hell, it feels in hindsight like Adelaide spent half a decade or more throwing darts against a board titled ‘prospective key forward’. Hence we had the Cavalcade of Catastrophe that was Lawrence Angwin, Luke Jericho, Fergus Watts, John Meesen, James Sellar and Kurt Tippett, not to mention Adam Richardson (no relation!) and Evan Hewitt (whom Coventry’s book declares was statistically Adelaide’s Worst Ever Trade – worse even than the Carey deal – given North used the pick 23 we sent them in 2000 to pick up Petrie, who retired last year after 332 games and 444 goals).

But I digress again, Rory.

The point is, the Carey trade wasn’t really about football at all, even if we thought it was at the time.

It was about symbolism.

It meant something.

Crow Carey: meaningful. Photo: Trevor Collens / Perth West Australian / via AAP

Because, for a brief moment, it allowed us to feel like a destination club. The kind of club in which the biggest marquee name in Australian football could lay down his hat and call it home (albeit admittedly only after shagging his best mate’s wife and effectively becoming a pariah in his home state).

And sometimes symbols matter.

Which is why I’ve always been able to rationalise the Carey trade. Particularly since I’ve never been convinced Daniel Wells was the difference between Adelaide and a flag in the intervening years anyway.

Although, the book reminds us, Adelaide also forewent its pursuit of another ‘PAV’, then-wantaway Docker Matthew Pavlich, to focus its energies on the dud ‘Duck’ deal – a decision that the Freo star later conceded “rubbed me the wrong way”, and whose consequences were far more momentous to our wilderness sojourn (353 games and 700 goals, in case you’re wondering).

So basically everyone involved in the whole episode should probably give themselves an uppercut right now, if they haven’t already.

Anyway, Adelaide’s strategic and diplomatic faux pas helped ensconce the Pav at Freo, where he remained for another 14 years until his 2016 retirement.

When he re-signed in 2002, columnist and Dockers tragic the late Matt Price wrote his own open letter to thank him, assuring him “you’ve done us a great service by following your heart and not your wallet or family”.

“There’s an eleven-year-old boy in Canberra whose face lit up when he learned ‘Pav’ was staying put,” wrote Price.

“Multiply that by tens of thousands.”

And there’s the rub.

There are, no doubt, kids all over SA with the Number 9 stitched onto the back of their guernseys who will be beaming about what you’ve done, Rory.

If nothing else, you never know what kind of chump could have been wearing the Number 9 next year if you’d left.

Just think about all those kids who quite reasonably invested in a novelty Number 32 jumper, and then had to endure two seasons of people thinking they were massive Troy Menzel enthusiasts.

Speaking of which, there was, of course, some poetic symmetry in the fact you got to mark your decision last week with a game against Geelong, and your old mate – and teammate – who once wore the 32. The yin to your yang (is yang the good one? I forget); the Darth to your Anakin.

Yes you, sunshine. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

And I won’t lie Rory, he’s a solid player. When he played for Adelaide, he was undoubtedly our best.

That was a mantle you assumed by default, although you have also – and always – been something perhaps more important.

Our barometer. Our heartbeat.

Sloane: all heart. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Let’s face it, Paddy’s departure in 2015 – given the close ones we lost the following year and the difference those losses made in the final wash-up – probably cost us a flag. Maybe two.

So much as I loved him – in a platonic, non-stalkerish way – there can be no doubt about my feelings towards him now:

And I never wanted that for you, Rory.

You always struck me as a good fella. And if there’s one thing goodfellas know, it’s this:

So putting Pav (and PAV) aside, this is why what you’ve done matters, Sloaney.

Hell, you might yet help us to a flag (maybe even lead us to one), and I dearly hope you do.

You deserve it more than anyone, as Luke Beveridge might say.

But even if you don’t, after the year we’ve had (and the years we’ve had) Adelaide right now needed – really, desperately needed – a symbolic gesture. Even a futile one.

If the Crows are a microcosm of Adelaide itself (and I’m pretty sure they are) our ‘star player retention’ record is akin to SA’s much-maligned eastern states Brain Drain.

Put simply, we’ve become sorely accustomed to our best and brightest pulling up stumps and heading over the border.

I’ve no doubt there’ll be more of them, Rory, but not this time. Not this player.

And that matters; because I wasn’t quite ready for this team, that has played with such heart in recent years, to suddenly lose its heartbeat.

One day. But not yet.

The Adelaide huddle at the final change. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

As Bowie sang, “We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got.”

But five years is better than nothing, Sloaney.

It’s a lot better than that.

All the best, mate – and thanks.




Your Fumbles correspondent is lounging about in a different timezone for the next two rounds, so for now he’ll be doing what the Crows did against Richmond a week or so ago – and phoning it in. And, much like Adelaide’s season in general, there’s no guarantee he’ll turn up on any given week.

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