Because it’s looking increasingly likely our fleeting daydreams of ending the year with an almost entirely accidental number one draft pick will come to nought, as Carlton – heretofore the most delightfully consistent of the teams I’ve followed this year – finally remember that they are a paid, professional football team.
I’m not quite sure what it is that’s made this journey of Bluebagger misery such an enthralling one for those of us who stand to benefit from its travails, but I’ll hazard a guess.
After 21 years of riding the fortunes of the Adelaide Football Club for an ultimately fruitless return, it’s rather refreshing to instead pitch one’s emotional tent on some other club’s footballing graveyard, if even temporarily.
After 21 years of being mostly good, but never quite good enough, at last a season in which we get to rapturously celebrate complete and unalloyed incompetence.
A week ago yesterday, more or less as we at Fumbleland were approaching what we loosely call our ‘deadline’, Carlton president Mark LoGiudice confirmed the club had made the fateful decision to dump their coach.
Brendon Bolton, the smiling assassin – who had, in truth, done not a lot of smiling and even less assassinating – was being Unbound by Blue.
To which my first reaction was rather like Tessio’s in The Godfather when he realises fate has thrown a monkey wrench into his carefully-laid works.
After which, aptly enough, Carlton duly did to our grand plans for the 2019 draft what Michael Corleone’s flunkies proceeded to do to Tessio.
And it wasn’t that we couldn’t see their win against Brisbane coming a mile off. But, of course, they had to taunt us by pretending they were going to collapse in a heap regardless, going goalless and 37 points down well into the second term before turning the match on its proverbial head.
It was all very confusing for the commentators, who for the first half hour or so were all trumpeting “haven’t Carlton improved!” and were just starting to segue awkwardly into “actually, Carlton haven’t improved” when, lo and behold, Carlton actually improved.
Anyway, it was around that middle point – the “Carlton haven’t improved” bit – that I started to get a bit… well, smug.
So in a sense, I blame myself for what transpired thereafter.
But in another, more realistic sense, I blame Brisbane.
In fact, I blame Brisbane entirely.
Charlie Cameron, for whom I was magnanimously allowing myself to barrack, had virtually no impact – making it the second time he’s seriously let us down in as many years.
How does any self-respecting team allow themselves to fall for the old “crap club gets new coach and wins game” routine?
It wasn’t lost on me either that it was a former Adelaide assistant, David Teague, that oversaw this affront to our draft strategy, and a former Adelaide forward, Mitch McGovern, who kicked the goal that first put the Blues in front.
This was particularly vexing given McGovern hasn’t exactly taken his game to another level this year. Which is to say he has, but a level lower than the one he used to play at, which isn’t really what’s supposed to happen.
In fact, it’s arguable that the turning point for the Blues in 2019 actually wasn’t giving Bolton the arse, it was McGovern shaving his mo’.
For Carlton’s game in the second half on Saturday was as smooth as their Number 11’s newly-visible upper lip.
It was as if the entire team had been labouring under the weight of his whiskers; perhaps they’d merely been avoiding kicking the ball into the forward line all year to avoid having to clap eyes on such a hideous John Holmes homage.
And then to appoint as caretaker senior coach their forward line mentor after sacking the previous senior coach basically because they couldn’t score any goals… well, as one bemused Blues battler put it: “You can’t make this stuff up!”
Except, of course, you can –and they have.
They’ve made it stuff up quite thoroughly, in fact.
But not this week. Indeed, it’s really been Carlton’s week all round, with the AFL Commission reportedly well-disposed to a new proposal to extend the league’s record-keeping to the game’s post-1870 “foundation years” – automatically gifting the Blues an extra six flags.
I only hope this is in lieu of a priority pick.
(They evidently got the maths wrong in any case, because the table published in the Herald Sun only gave Port Adelaide one premiership, and their supporters keep telling me they have 37.)
Whatever, the point is: Carlton are now far less likely to take home the wooden spoon, and we’re consequently far less likely to take home the Number One draft pick.
They’re now a mere game shy of both the Suns and the Demons, with a percentage superior to both.
The latter, you’d like to think, can still rally to snare a few games, but I fear the Suns will end the year where they always appeared doomed to end it.
And if they do, then what?
In all likelihood, we take home pick two instead. Which is hardly a poor result.
Moreover, the obligatory rumours have begun in football reporting circles that Ken Hinkley is on the Blues’ shortlist – an eventuality that would obviously devastate the Power’s supporter base.
Fortunately, Ken is very good at contract negotiations, with an idiosyncratic method for getting clubs to add extra zeroes to the end of his salary:
In any case, after the shock of Bolton’s sacking, it was heartening to hear LoGiudice repeatedly assure everyone that “our strategy does not change”.
Well, that’s a relief.
So despite them selfishly winning on the weekend, I can’t really stay mad at Carlton.
After all, they’ve given us so much over the years: Eddie, Sauce, not having David Gallagher…
Not to mention Bryce Gibbs who, despite everything, I’m still confident can play a key role in a Crows flag this year. Even if it’s in the SANFL.
A fun game to play every Thursday night is to log in to social media when the Crows announce their weekly team selection, check the ratio of ‘comments’ to ‘likes’ and try and guess whose turn it was to be “controversially omitted” (hint: it’s always Gibbs).
This week, though, the club cannily threw everyone off the scent of its patented fortnightly ‘Bryce Gibbs Snub’ by also controversially omitting Hugh Greenwood.
So incensed was everybody about the Gibbs/Greenwood nexus, the fact they’d also dropped Mackay – an eventuality for which some supporters have inexplicably spent large chunks of their adult lives advocating – went almost entirely unnoticed.
And of course, while we dwell on the fruits to be reaped from Carlton’s misfortunes, we’re still a silly shot at some unrelated success in our own right, moving to fifth after accounting for the in-form Giants at home.
I don’t dislike GWS as much as I should; indeed, I’ve almost forgotten the whole Phil Davis thing, given we’ve since had more key defenders than Spinal Tap had drummers, and they tend to meet with similarly unfortunate fates.
Moreover, for some reason when I think of the games in the past few years in which the Adelaide Football Club has managed to genuinely surprise me, they’re usually at home against GWS.
In Round One of 2017, for instance, when we’d spent all summer hearing how the ominous and finely-tuned Giants machine was ready to steamroll the competition, and instead we flattened them by 56 points.
Even the loss last year, when Adelaide hit the front in a must-win game with a surging crowd propelling them to victory – and then managed to concede the next five goals.
But the one I recall most fondly, of course, was the Indigenous Round game in 2016, where we went in with a tenuous 5-4 record against a rising Giants side on a six-game hot streak. It was a nervous arm-wrestle for a half, and then Betts went nuts in the third, kicking three of his five goals – including the goal of the year after somehow keeping the ball in play hard up against the north-western boundary.
So enraptured was I by that goal – and its significance not merely to that game but to our season and even, in hindsight, to that brief freewheeling, pace-setting era itself – that I wrote at the time: “Despite our eternal frustrations with our club’s capricious team selections, wayward kicking and final quarter fadeouts, once in a while a player comes along whose contribution transcends the normal discourse of form, structure and role; a player who is just a genuine joy to watch.”
And on Saturday night, just for old times’ sake, he did it again.
Same pocket. Against the same opponent.
What a magnificent human being he is.
Of course, three years ago he was all over the game, and his five goals were crucial and decisive; these days, his bursts of brilliance invariably come in cameos, and his weekend goal of the year redux was – with a minute to play and already 16 points up – the icing, rather than the cake.
But it’s enough to make us fleetingly daydream again. Of what has been, and of what still, just maybe, might. That this could be the season in which Adelaide, like Eddie on Saturday, can turn it on late in the piece and make a dour campaign suddenly electrifying.
That they, like Eddie, can show there’s match-turning life in these old legs yet.
And even if they can’t, we can always start a campaign to reinstate Brendon Bolton.
Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s shamelessly biased weekly football column, usually published on Mondays during the AFL season.
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