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Touch Of the Fumbles: Crowvid-19

Touch of the Fumbles

Ah, Queensland. Beautiful one day. A nightmare hellscape of footballing incompetence the next.

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Oh, and also prone to the odd torrential downpour – which at least ensured the best that could be said for the sporting weekend was that a few dozen Port supporters got rained on.

It bucketed down not long after this. Good. Photo: Dave Hunt / AAP

And while we’re looking for consolations, apparently yesterday was the winter solstice (well, at least according to everyone in my Facebook feed, who all seem to think this is cause to jump in the ocean for some reason).

Which meant that the worst day of the football year so far was mercifully also the shortest.

Yes, the long-awaited Quarantine Hub has quickly fulfilled its promise to become the second worst trip to the Sunshine State in recent club history – and with two weeks still to go, it could yet prove even worse than the infamous off-season camp that appears to have sparked our spectacular collapse from minor premier to major embarrassment.

Still, trips to Queensland have never really been our thing.

I still get queasy recalling our visit in 2002 for a highly anticipated qualifying final – in which we managed just 2.9 to three-quarter time (still, I hasten to add, more than double our score at the final change yesterday, so not so bad in hindsight).

Not to mention that club record 141-point loss to the Lions back in 2004, which I’ve long maintained was all down to Luke Jericho missing a set shot from 50m just before half time when we were just shy of five goals down, and that had he kicked truly we might have managed to come back and hang on by a point. Instead of losing by 23 goals.

Anyway, that game was Neil Craig’s fourth at the Crows helm. His last came seven years (almost to the day) later, when we collapsed to the Saints by 103, scoring a grand total of 3.6.24 – the lowest score in Adelaide Football Club history.

I mention this because we just – just – managed to avoid beating (for want of a better word) that ignominious record yesterday. Late goals to Walker and Crocker ensured we ended up instead with merely our second lowest score in Adelaide Football Club history. So the joke’s on the Suns really.

Though it was, as you’re no doubt aware, the first time we ever lost to Gold Coast – so I’m glad we made sure of it.

You will be, however, delighted to know that yesterday’s second-lowest score of all time also managed to squeeze the previous week’s record loss against Port out of the top five ‘Crows’ Lowest Scores Ever’ table – silver linings, and all that.

The 2020 Showdown is now in sixth spot, nestled happily between our 4.10.34 against Footscray in ’94 and 5.7.37 against Collingwood in our debut season.

So the laugh’s really on Port, if you think about it.

Port players, presumably before they learned that yesterday’s loss knocked our previous week’s Showdown score out of our Top Five Lowest Scores Ever. Photo: Dave Hunt / AAP

And to think we were told that the argument for bringing football back during the pandemic was that it would lift our spirits!

If anything, it’s merely lifted my intake of spirits.

But amid all the doom and gloom, let’s not forget we kicked 6.0 in the first quarter against Sydney in round one – so it’s just possible that the other 11 quarters after that have just been an aberration. Isn’t it?

Animated GIF

And anyway, things could always be worse.

I mean… these rebuilds, they just take a few weeks, right?

What’s the worst that could happen?

s01e08 GIF

And sure, we may be bottom of the ladder, with just 17 rungs and around 200 percentage points separating us from our bitterest rivals who remain undefeated and appear destined to go deep into October or November or December, or whichever month contains that One Day In September this year.

But on the bright side, if you’d told me in the off-season that we’d still be playing deep into September, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat.

(If you’d gone on to explain that it would only be on account of the season starting three months late due to a global pandemic I might have been less enthusiastic, but whatever.)

Hugh Greenwood laying one of his many tackles. Photo: Dave Hunt / AAP

That is, of course, if we still have a season by then.

Essendon speedster Conor McKenna’s bid to etch his name into AFL folklore this weekend prompted plenty of speculation that the 2020 season – as enjoyable as it has been thus far – might not be long for this world.

Still, given our numerous failed marking attempts yesterday, far be it from me to criticise when someone actually manages to catch something.

It also gave rise to the unique experience of feeling jealous of supporters of two teams that weren’t actually allowed to play.

That’s how bad we were.

The previous week against Port, we at least looked ok for about 10 minutes.

Yesterday, we didn’t even look ok for 10 seconds.

From the opening bounce, indeed, when Reilly O’Brien – arguably our best the previous week – was simply brushed aside by Suns ruckman Jarrod Witts, it was clear that they were on, and we were off, and the script never deviated from that basic premise.

As with the Showdown, authorities allowed 2000 supporters in to Metricon Stadium – making it a record turnout for a Suns home game.

A Suns supporter whose tickets won’t scan sums up the expression I maintained for most of yesterday’s game. Photo: Dave Hunt / AAP

There probably weren’t too many Crows supporters there though, given the Sunshine State is maintaining its border restrictions despite South Australia dropping ours this weekend – allowing Queenslanders to come for an extended stay in the happiest place on earth.

Disappointed Standing In The Rain GIF

But with any luck, the northern border will soon be a two-way free-for-all, allowing us to recommence unfettered passage of our state’s biggest export: crap football teams.

Not to mention our second biggest export – decent players from crap football teams, with Eddie Betts, Mitch McGovern, Alex Keath and Hugh Greenwood all showcasing our uncanny ability to improve other clubs’ lists on the weekend (fortunately Gov only showcased it for a few minutes in the second quarter, but annoying nonetheless).

Indeed, so well did they all play you’d almost think someone had questioned their value or otherwise inspired them somehow? We’ll never know though. It’s a mystery.

https://twitter.com/HGreenwood3/status/1274625703267319808

 

Still, silver linings: at least Lever didn’t get to play. A Best-On-Ground to Jake ‘the Snake’ would have just about done me in by that point.

Don’t get me wrong though.

I’m now all in on getting the Number One draft pick – which surely – surely – must be the plan here, right? Seriously?

leslie nielsen shirley GIF by simongibson2000

I mean, we’re not playing this poorly just for the fun of it, are we?

Still, my enthusiasm is only tempered by the terrible knowledge that we will somehow throw away our hard-won (or hard-lost, I guess) gains for a handful of magic beans at the draft/trade table.

For while the lure of high draft picks is the solitary light at the end of the interminably dark tunnel that is Season 2020, the fact is we have a chequered history at best at the top end of the draft – remember when we spent a whole decade punting on ruck-forwards who barely played a game? Followed by some inspired selections who are now playing rather well for other clubs?

No, our shining successes in recent years, in fact, have been with creative recruiting of the likes of Keath and Greenwood – against whom our football director was still hurling stupid social media insults last night.

 

That comes, mind you, after Ricciuto earlier claimed the departure of a player who always went hard in the midfield and gave our stagnant forward line its only signs of life after we let the contracted McGovern go was “probably more our call”, arguing: “You can’t just keep having those players in your midfield and then whinge that you’ve got a slow midfield.”

“He’s 28 this year and not going to be playing in our next premiership side, so we’re trying to get draft picks in to rebuild,” Ricciuto went on, not unreasonably.

Still, probably not the most inspiring rhetoric for the likes of Sloane, Walker, Talia, Lynch, Smith, Seedsman, Hartigan and the newly-re-signed Mackay – all of whom are 28 or over and are, apparently, just marking time until their careers peter out, according to the club’s football director.

david mackay afl GIF by Adelaide Crows

Not to mention the fact that we used the draft pick for which Melbourne paid ‘overs’ for Lever to prise the then-28 year-old Bryce Gibbs away from Carlton – who could presumably not believe their luck.

The club may be a basket case on the field, but at least its ‘spin’ game remains as sharp as ever.

Remember last year, when we were told all summer that the key preseason theme was “fun” – before a season that instead generally elicited an entirely different F-word?

This year, we were told, was all about wizardry.

At least, it was according to Graham Cornes, who wrote in the ‘Tiser back in January that a senior player, asked to describe the playing group’s impression of their new coach Matthew Nicks, wistfully described the experience as “magical”.

Magical!

One can only assume they were talking about some kind of black magic, or else sadly conclude we’re just a bit crap at casting spells.

Because the only conjury I’m seeing is our Amazing Disappearing Competence Trick – which we’ve been working on since late 2017 but happily appear to have finally mastered.

That same Cornes missive also contained the following paragraph: “Forget fitness, strength, pace and skill; the buzzwords at the Adelaide Football Club in this summer of 2020 are ‘connection’ and ‘relationships’.”

Which, to be fair, now seems eerily prescient.

For we do indeed appear to have forgotten fitness, strength, pace and skill – and several other competencies besides.

But never fear, for we’re well on track to win the elusive Connection and Relationships Flag, which is almost the same as an actual flag, except that it doesn’t exist.

usual suspects 90s GIF

You can’t blame them, I suppose.

For deep down, supporters – me included – don’t really know what we want.

“We need to get rid of the Old Boys’ Club!” we cry, while in the next breath demanding: “We need to better honour our links to the past!”

We lament when the club fails to “play the kids” but despair when they finally do that we perform like a side devoid of experience and competence.

(Though, to be fair, yesterday’s side still contained 11 players who were in our Grand Final team not three years ago, so the whole ‘Rebuilding’ theme can only stretch so far).

We demand the facts about our club’s malaise, but do we really want to hear them?

Jack Nicholson You Cant Handle The Truth GIF

It’s like that fake crowd noise they pump into the telecast during these COVID times – it’s strangely comforting, even if you know it’s not actually real.

I’m genuinely all in favour of it, and would also consider using it to soundtrack other personal endeavours such as arriving at/departing from work, preparing meals, accomplishing odd jobs around the home etc.

But the Fake Crowd Noise tells us that we don’t really want an authentic experience – as much as we want to believe the contrary.

Because without the comforting muzak of the fake crowd, as we learned in Round One all those weeks ago now, AFL football just seems ever so slightly crap.

Likewise, we believe in Fun and Magic and Fairytales, because to not believe is to lose hope – and really, when it comes to the Adelaide Football Club, what else have we had to sustain us these past 22 years?

“Things are never as good as they seem or as bad as they seem,” Rory Sloane told News Corp overnight, and maybe he’s right – maybe the problems that bedevil us now were always there before, but we didn’t care because we weren’t anchored to the foot of the ladder with years of pain stretched out before us like a roadmap to hell.

I’ll admit when the Conor McKenna news out of Essendon broke on Saturday it did, shamefully, prompt a few minutes of dizzying hope: the year was off, we’d pocket the number one draft pick and Port get to emulate their glorious feats of 2002 and ’03 by claiming a hollow minor premiership without playing a grand final.

But it didn’t work that way – and it shouldn’t.

For we’ve earned this wretched season – and possibly more besides. And now we just have to keep playing the proverbial kids, and hope they eventually live up to the standard of the guys we traded out in order to draft them.

A couple of whom we get to play against this week, when we take on Brisbane at the Gabba.

Let’s hope it’s not quite as bad as that Very Bad Day back in 2004.

But if it is, bear in mind – it’s only Matthew Nicks’ fourth game as coach.

And as Neil Craig showed, there’s a lot still to happen after four games.

Touch of the Fumbles is InDaily’s shamelessly biased weekly football column, published on Mondays during the AFL season.

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