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Touch Of The Fumbles: Goodbye to romance

Touch of the Fumbles

A final Fumbles farewell for a year that promised fun and flags, but delivered yet more folly, failure and fetid fallout. Some of the Crows’ biggest names have gone, and a new era awaits – under a former Port mentor, no less. So, an uneventful few weeks then…

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Yep, an uneventful post-season.

Nothing to write home about.

Just our coach quitting, the club sliding out of top three draft contention, an unpleasant external review, an unpleasant internal review, the next two most senior guys in the football department getting the arse, a third of a team including three of the four most likeable players on our list* bumped out the door and a new coach appointed.

That’s all.

Even the stuff that had nothing to do with us was pretty annoying, not least the PTSD flashback experience of watching Richmond rollicking home in a Grand Final.

Still, there were consolations: at least we’re now the least worst of the Tigers’ recent premiership opponents.

So bad were the Giants, indeed, that at one point I feared they might take ‘119’ away from me, an affront for which they would have never been forgiven.

At the end of the day though, we should be, perhaps, vaguely thankful one of the few teams in the AFL without a former Adelaide player in their ranks keeps winning the flag.

But really, the Grand Final was just a temporary hiatus from the real business of the season: players leaving the Crows.

There were so few players left, they had to rope in Ricciuto to field a side. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

And what a dizzying thrill it was to wake up every day of the post-season to that familiar excitement of wondering who would be leaving the club today.

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Not that I’m some romantic idealist who can’t bear the thought of anyone ever moving on.

I get the need to make tough choices, to refresh, rejuvenate, cash in or cash out, as the case may be.

So, it’s not that I wanted all these guys to stay, exactly.

It’s just… that I didn’t want them to go.

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Especially Eddie.

Ah Eddie, our finest recruit of the post-premiership era. His departure has even prompted calls from some folk (who are more magnanimous than me, admittedly) for the Crows to dedicate an annual award in his honour.

For the player with the most drawn-out, confusing departure of the year, presumably.

Not traumatic at all. Photo: Michael Dodge / AAP

Still, while I know that dumping someone for your ex is never a great scenario, try as I might, I simply can’t muster the requisite Tippett/Dangerfield-level antagonism such a departure should logically dictate.

Maybe it’s because Eddie is just so damn likeable. Maybe it’s because he appeared on his last legs anyway, and it was getting just a tad sad watching his slow, inexorable decline. Or maybe it was just because deep down we know we probably broke him.

Still, we’ll always have this:

After that 2016 game, probably his finest moment in Crows colours, I wrote the following:

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 the man who inherited Troy Bond and Graham Johncock’s Number 18 guernsey – and who this week had it decorated in the healing hues of his native heritage – is such a player.

So for now, this week, after another likely Goal of the Year in Indigenous Round – a fixture he ranks on par with a Grand Final in terms of personal significance – all we can do is sit back, shake our heads in dumbstruck wonder and thank the Footy Gods for the great and continuing gift that is Eddie Betts.

So that’s all a bit depressing now, isn’t it?

Crying Doctor Who GIF - Crying DoctorWho Sad GIFs

My seat at Adelaide Oval is right behind the so-called ‘Eddie Betts pocket’ – well, one of the four, at least – so I was well positioned over the years to watch as he kicked the sealer in games against Port, Collingwood, Richmond and many more besides; big moments in big games, doing crazy things from tight on the north-eastern boundary.

There was some romantic notion in seeing it through – at least to a farewell more fitting than the despondent cheers that greeted his 600th goal as we drowned against the Pies in late August. But romance, as we have long learned, is a fickle commodity in the football industry. And for supporters, of course, romance and heartbreak are two sides of the same coin.

And that coin has once again failed to flip our way.

Not only did the Blues re-embrace the man who’s brought more unalloyed joy to Crows supporters over the past six years than any other, they also managed to destroy any residual enjoyment of the movie Back To The Future while they were at it.

Fortunately they stopped short of signing off with the line: “Where we’re going, we don’t need Crows…” but it was regardless almost on par with the way Port managed to ruin INXS for everyone else.

All of which hurts on a number of levels, not least because it crystallises the fact that our interminable search for flag glory is doomed to drag on for some years yet.

Not Ready Back To The Future GIF

But I think the thing that really stings about Eddie is that he is genuinely one of football’s good guys – and he clearly couldn’t wait to see the back of us.

Which does raise an awkward prospect.

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But, you know what?

Who cares.

So we support a broadly unlikable club?

Great – we should relish it. We should celebrate every win we get next year (which might not be too many, admittedly) just that little bit harder for knowing how annoying it is to neutral football supporters.

And we should particularly enjoy the fact that we callously took Eddie from Carlton for six of his finest years and then casually handed him back.

A bit like this:

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And who knows? Maybe Carlton will one day lend us some other great player whose spirit needs breaking?

After all, we’re the place to do it.

Yes, that infamous preseason camp still occupies far too much of the narrative surrounding our doomed, damned club.

It was supposedly about breaking the players down and then building them back up again, which is ironically the exact opposite of what the current administration has done to the football club as a whole. But the fallout has now indirectly claimed the jobs of our head of football and senior assistant coach (who was presumably boned just because his name was a constant reminder of the word ‘Camp’), while departing players begin to spill the proverbial beans.

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As for the man formerly known as ‘Birdman’… well, we’ll always have this:

Both, after all, were fired with no particular public explanation, other than to provide clear air for our then-unnamed replacement for Don Pyke. Does that, though, mean if Pyke hadn’t quit when he did, there was no impetus for sacking his two offsiders?

The culpability or otherwise of anyone else is apparently neither here nor there since the external review was helpfully mandated to audit neither board nor administration… because obviously neither board nor administration had any say in a camp for which the best that could be said is that it was probably better than Essendon’s. Right…?

Anyway, as is the way of things in the confected frenzy that is AFL trade period, everyone swiftly found something else to worry about.

The nature of the league’s annual meat-market is such that there is little time for rumination. One player goes out, the next one comes in, much like when your ex moves on with unseemly haste:

And all of it unfolds via the AFL’s incessant, all-day radio podcast, which is sort of like the football broadcasting equivalent of ‘Slow TV’ – meandering days of idle speculation punctuated by the very occasional cry that some random list manager had just “arrived at AFL House” – the national call-sign for an imminent trade, usually of some list-clogger who will never be spoken of again.

Club officials walking into AFL House seem to have the same effect on bored footy reporters that me walking into my house has on my dog; namely, causes them to jump around and/or literally piss themselves with excitement.

But, just as with Slow TV, there is some bizarre compulsive appeal to the whole thing – even if the entire feed this year was basically just old players trolling the Crows.

Perhaps it’s the latent schadenfreude of Bad Things happening to football clubs who are Not Us.

We all, for instance, felt really sorry for Geelong after they drafted a great player who then decided he wanted to go home. Really, really sorry.

In Tim Kelly (right), Geelong found themselves a new Patrick Dangerfield (left). In more ways than one. Photo: Julian Smith / AAP

And at least, in the end, the Bombers managed to upstage our trade period fire sale by holding Joe Daniher to his contract, forcing him to see out what promises to be a happy and not-at-all-awkward season at Essendon.

But it does all point to the sad fact it’s just so inherently stressful being a passionate football supporter these days.

Not so long ago, a player winning your club best and fairest was a feat to be celebrated and enjoyed.

Now it’s just a sideshow to the accompanying drama about where they’ll be playing next year, and how the hell you can retain them.

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Still, Brad Crouch remains a Crow for now, failing to join the exodus that began with Cam Ellis-Yolmen walking to Brisbane, initially for free agency compensation pick 48.

He was initially drafted at #64 eight years ago, which means his value has appreciated, appropriately, much like that of an Adelaide apartment.

Then came Eddie, Sauce, Hugh Greenwood and Alex Keath – the two former Category B rookies for whom we got a handful of magic beans and the satisfaction of a recruiting job well done.

And lastly Josh Jenkins, whom the Crows wished well and assured that he and his family “will always be welcome at the club”.

Which, given we are literally paying the Cats to take him away from us, sounds like some hip new AFL euphemism for what they really mean: “You are not welcome at the club, please leave or we’ll call security.”

Moreover, after JJ and Tippett, we should probably retire the number 4 guernsey now for a few years – its wearer is apparently cursed to be a bad breaker-upper.

Josh Jenkins finding out he’ll always be welcome at our club.

Still, we’ll always have this:

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For yes, we must endeavour to find a bright side – a silver lining to the clouds that appear to have settled in above us for the long haul.

And here is one at least: Paddy Dangerfield has now lost as many preliminary finals as the Crows have since their last flag. So that’s something.

Consolation. Photo via Channel 7

After all, we must always try to focus on life’s positives. Not on the losses, but the chance to redeem them.

Not on those who have left the club, but on those we have managed to retain.

David Mackay Afl GIF by Adelaide Crows

So at the end of it all, having climbed the dunghill of Season 2019, the view really isn’t all bad.

We know the Crows will play the proverbial kids next year, so at least we’ll get to catch a glimpse of that next generation of talent, the guys who will one day screw up our next premiership tilt.

Plus, one of our reported draft targets is a guy called Flanders and he hails from a place called Moe – a prospect tantalising enough to bring a wry smile to even the most ugly and hate-filled among us here at Fumbleland.

Then there’s the imminent appointment of new senior football staff, including the freshly-created role of Head of Leadership and Culture, with one contender springing immediately to mind:

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But the biggest beacon in the dark was the inevitable announcement of Matthew Nicks as Adelaide’s new coach, which allowed the club to somehow sell a minuscule modicum of hope – hell, such was the excitement even the social media guy forgot what he was doing for a minute there.

I know little of Nicks, but a learned sporting doyen similarly afflicted with the curse of being a Crows supporter informs me his record with the Swans against Adelaide was a mere three wins from 13 games – along with four wins and eight losses as an assistant coach. Which at least means I don’t have a predetermined grudge against him from the outset, I guess.

Apart from the whole Port Adelaide thing, of course.

He arrived speaking of reuniting a family, which was a nice touch – if ironic given around a third of said family were still on their way out the door at that point.

But that’s the thing about families: they can be annoying, they can break your heart or they can just play really bad football against middling teams… but you can’t choose the one you’re stuck with.

The road ahead may be rocky, but at times like these it helps to draw inspiration from the classics and find those special healing words to carry within you through the darker moments.

And thus, for one last time in this festering turd of a season, I find an old favourite manages to articulate better than I the reason I’ll front up again in Round One next year, a faint song of hope still whispering in my wounded Fumbles heart.

Touch Of The Fumbles will return to Mondays during the 2020 AFL season, assuming its author can muster the enthusiasm.

* And in case you were wondering: Eddie, Sauce, Greenwood and Sloane.

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