There’s an old joke about a man of faith drowning in floodwaters, who prays to his God to save him.
A sailor in a rowboat turns up and offers to take him aboard, but he sends him on his way, saying: “It’s ok: I have faith that God will save me.”
Likewise, the helpful skipper of a passing motorboat is waved away, with that assurance that “God will save me”.
The pilot of a helicopter spots him and lowers a rope, but again he refuses. God will save him.
When he finally drowns and gets to heaven, the miffed fellow is in no mood for niceties, telling his deity: “I had faith in you but you let me drown. Why?”
To which God replies: “Mate, I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter – what more did you want?”
That’s kind of how I feel about Adelaide’s season.
Yes, our 2018 campaign resembles nothing so much as a bad joke – and one we’ve definitely heard a few times before.
For so long at death’s door, it nonetheless felt like the Footy Gods were throwing a plethora of chances our way to salvage a finals berth, only for us to spurn them in turn.
Indeed if, as we lament our wretched fortune this year, we curse the hand fate has dealt us, it would be an apt response from on high: “Fellas, I gave you Freo without their two best players, I gave you the flaky Dees at home, I smote half the Giants’ best players the week before you played them, and then smote the other half during the game – what more did you want?”
For, like that poor drowned rube in the old gag, we simply failed to seize the opportunities that were handed us. And, in the end, deserve our fate.
Sure, we’ve been hit hard by injury this year. But if we’d managed to deal with our misfortune in the way GWS did on Saturday night, our season might still have a pulse.
The omens weren’t great to start with. The match, in subarctic Canberra, was played at what was once called Manuka Oval, where we have a 100 per cent losing record.
Mind you, that’s based on a solitary game against North Melbourne back in 2002, but still…
I lived in Manuka at the time, in a (now demolished) share house right across the road from the oval. I recall whiling away that year’s preseason watching pointless showcases at the suburban footy ground, including one of Wayne Carey’s final outings for the Roos before he sensibly decided to play for Adelaide instead (for reasons I can’t recall), and a lop-sided demolition of Collingwood by Sydney, during which the bloke I was sitting with spent the entire afternoon offering then-Pies forward Scott Cummings a hot dog and loudly quizzing him on his preferred choice of condiment.
The things I recall from Adelaide’s previous outing in Canberra: Ryan Fitzgerald did his knee and never played again. Scott Welsh kicked five goals. We lost.
Still, at least I didn’t have to worry about finding a designated driver. Small mercies.
It was a similar margin this time round and, once again, I didn’t need a designated driver. Because I sensibly stayed home.
As ever this year, we gave it away in that third term, after dominating play in the first half without capitalising. Unfortunately third quarters are not really our thing this season: against Port, the Hawks, Freo, the Eagles, the Dees and the Giants we’ve collectively shat the bath in the so-called premiership quarter.
But still, a better run with form and injury, and narrow losses to the likes of Essendon, Freo, the Dees and yes, the Giants (twice!) – not to mention the first Showdown, which we won’t – could have panned out otherwise and changed the complexion of our year.
But all things considered, I’m quite phlegmatic about our season’s demise – which I suppose must be official now that even our ever-stoic coach has conceded the finals race (even though it’s still technically possible we could make it if Geelong loses twice against bottom-six sides, a bunch of other results go our way and we win our next two by about 150 points each).
But bear in mind that I’ve been declaring our season dead since the first time we played GWS this year, so I’ve probably already been through all the traditional stages of grief and accepted our lot as a 12th place finish. Or as I prefer to call it, “draft pick 7”.
And anyway, it’s not all bad.
It’s leapfrogged last year’s draw with Collingwood as my favourite McGovern kick for goal after the siren
In fact, this year is fast redeeming itself.
For, as Die Hard’s Hans Gruber would have said had he been into AFL: “You ask for miracles, Theo – I give you the Port Adelaide Football Club.”
Whose supporters are doubtless still asking themselves (aptly paraphrasing John McClane in Die Hard 2): “How can the same shit happen to the same club twice?”
Truly, the bizarre finale to Port’s home clash with the wounded West Coast was just the tonic for our Crow travails, as Jeremy McGovern delivered the moment of the season – largely because it was so eerily reminiscent of the moment of last season.
And best of all, I can finally talk about ‘that time McGovern kicked a goal against Port to hit the front in the last minute’ without triggering PTSD.
Indeed, it’s even leapfrogged last year’s draw with Collingwood to become my favourite ‘McGovern kicking for goal after the siren’ moment.
The only thing that could have improved it for me would have been if in that post-match interview as he walked jubilantly from the field, the Gov had said: “My Grandma raised me not to tell fibs – I think it hit the post.”
And, to be fair, I’ll admit I was more than a little disappointed that the rain held off for the duration, given I was led to expect I’d be watching Port supporters getting rained upon for three hours straight – but you can’t have everything, I guess.
I’ll magnanimously make do with their season being figuratively rained on instead.
The Eagles’ win was all the more remarkable for looking entirely implausible for all but the final 43 seconds of the game.
But as we’ll recall from our own Round 8 clash with Port – a lot can happen in 43 seconds.
West Coast jetted in to SA after their own proverbial ‘week from hell’, after Andrew Gaff copped an eight-week suspension for his crude hit on Freo’s Andrew Brayshaw – a moment that had former players lamenting the culture of casual violence permeating the game. But in the end, they were all satisfied that Gaff had “copped his whack”.
But for West Coast there was no escaping the circus. The AFL, with its usual sense of theatre, scheduled Gaff’s tribunal hearing right before Giant Jacob Hopper’s appeal against a piddling fine for ‘umpire contact’. Which is a bit like letting The Beatles open for Johnny Chester.
Anyway, it would have been awkward for Hopper turning up for his hearing.
And for a while, it looked like the Eagles were indeed Gaff-prone.
The Power leapt out of the blocks early and looked set to run away with the game in the third term when their lead hit 28, at which point it appeared the Eagle midfielder’s moment of madness was still wreaking its legacy of destruction:
But in the event, the most telling blow was to Port’s own finals chances, as injuries took their toll.
It won’t get much easier for them either, facing finals-bound Collingwood and in-form Essendon, and needing at least a win to cling onto a major round berth.
After the match, ‘Crazy’ Ken Hinkley was doing his best to stay focussed on the task ahead and not dwell too much on the loss – which, if my memory serves me correctly, was exactly the same approach he took after the previous week’s Showdown.
But to be fair, it was very generous and diplomatic of Crazy Ken to acknowledge Port’s record against West Coast at Adelaide Oval:
As for us, I’m actually kinda glad the ‘will we, won’t we’ intrigue of the major round is over and we no longer need to obsess about our ever-decreasing ‘mathematical chance’. I was never any good at maths anyway.
Although I do note that if we should just happen to lose comfortably to the Kangaroos this week, they’d be a fair chance to take Port’s place in the eight…
But that’s less likely after North squandered a gift-wrapped opportunity to consolidate their season against the lowly Bulldogs – who, it turns out, must be closet Power supporters.
For the Roos, it was a particularly egregious own-goal, having led by 28 points at the main break before producing an utterly Adelaidey third quarter. I mean, what kind of team gets out to a 28 point lead with its season on the line and then loses the game??
Nonetheless, given yesterday’s annual finals-eve capitulation by Melbourne (or Lelbourne, as they should more aptly be known), it’s still entirely possible the Power will squeeze into the eight – and even a top four berth appears a ‘mathematical possibility’, as that patronising euphemism goes. Apparently, Jack Watts will now spearhead their finals charge, so I’m sure they’ll be completely fine…
But still, it’s a far cry from just last month, when their squandered soft draw had me predicting a Richmond/Port premiership playoff.
I guess it’s possible I actually kinda jinxed it for them.
Sorry about that, Port…
Talking of the Fumbles’ Midas Touch, I’ve already decided that the gallant(ish) Giants are my nominated ‘finals team when my team isn’t playing finals’. Which unfortunately means they’re doomed to crash out in a screaming heap.
For us though, after a campaign that’s felt like death by a thousand cuts, we’ve finally been put out of our misery.
But at least I’ve now got the perfect thing with which to cheer myself up.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be watching Port’s last quarter again.
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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