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Touch of the Fumbles

Touch Of The Fumbles: The Power of 119

Touch of the Fumbles

It hardly bears pointing out, but Port Adelaide look really pretty ok this year.

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Worryingly ok, indeed.

Of course, it’s easy to look good when your year to date consists of outings against the previous year’s wooden-spoon runner-up – and hot favourite to go one better (or worse) this time round – and a side in Essendon who have long looked ominously like the Crows of 2018-19: a team treading water while their supporters convince themselves they should be genuine contenders.

Not to mention two one-sided pre-season hit-outs against last year’s official Worst Side in the AFL™ (yes, that’s us I’m referring to).

And sure, I know our form has lifted strongly since those two outings prompted that sinking feeling that our 2021 season could somehow turn out even worse than last year’s, but still: to lose one pre-season game to Port may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness, and all that.

So, yes: there’s no way around this. Port look good.

‘Good’ in the sense that they’re playing well, not in the sense of being fundamentally ‘not evil’. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

But for now at least, they look good in the same way a pint of SuperDry looks like a good lager option at Adelaide Oval.

It’s fine, but the competition isn’t great.

I suspect we’ll find that they actually are good, which will be something of a problem because the world has already suffered through a global pandemic so a Port premiership on top of that would really mark this as The Worst Of Times.

But nonetheless, at least even in their weekend success they managed to raise a smile among the Crows faithful.

Personally, I’d seen enough of them running rampant over the hapless Bombers and wandered off to eat dinner and spend time with family, as we all must do sometimes on the odd occasion between fixtures.

So imagine my delight when I later checked the AFL app for the final score, to be confronted with the most recognisable three-digit number in the history of South Australian sport:

It’s hard to believe that the simple but unalloyed pleasure of chuckling at the number ‘119’ has only been with us for less than 14 years, so entrenched has it become in the South Australian psyche (well, a particular demographic thereof, at least).

One might think that such a simplistic premise for a gag – the record losing margin by an AFL side in a grand final – might have gotten somehow tired by now, but no. Indeed, I’ve given it some thought lately and I genuinely feel that, if anything, ‘119’ gags only get funnier as the years go by.

It certainly has the capacity to elevate an uneventful day from its drudgery, say if you’re out shopping and spy an item discounted to an eye-catching price.

Or taking your toddler for a quick romp at the local Play Cafe:

Hell, it even makes us feel better when our health authorities aren’t setting a cracking pace in the early stages of a vaccine rollout to combat a global pandemic.

That’s the beauty of ‘119’ – it crops up in the most unexpected places, enhancing our lives with little hits of unsolicited joy.

I suspect that part of the reason it works is that 119 is a uniquely memorable and, IMHO, intrinsically amusing number.

I’m so fond of it, indeed, that I feel at this point that even if my own team lost by a game by 119 points I’d still find it inherently wryly funny.

Dan Houston gets airborne as he spoils the ball, en route to a team total of 119 points, in case we didn’t mention this. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

It’s often easy to forget that in that delight of a Grand Final – surely the third-best of the modern era (and sometimes the second best, depending on my mood) – Geelong’s final-quarter lead actually blew out to as much as 128.

A late (very late, admittedly) but inaccurate charge by the Power whittled it back to 125 before Shaun Burgoyne launched a soaring kick on the run from the 50-metre arc to nail the final goal of the game.

I’ll admit, I was pretty dark about it at the time.

For starters, there was something quite neat and aesthetically pleasing about the 125-point margin – the fact it was a tidy five-eighths of the way to 200, perhaps.

But in hindsight, and as I’ve noted before, that Burgoyne goal was actually a moment of sheer serendipity, creating the legend that is ‘119’ – the numerical touchstone of bloody-minded Crows supporters everywhere.

Sure, I know it’s immature and maybe even stupid, and we should really take a good long look at ourselves.

But when things aren’t travelling too well, one must take good omens wherever you can find them – and I’m taking Port’s fateful echo of their 2007 ignominy (even in the throes of great success) as a Very Hopeful Sign.

Which it certainly was for one lucky Power supporter on the weekend:

It’s also a much better talking point than their rather tedious obsession with the so-called ‘prison bar’ jumper, a homage to all the felons who have played for and supported their club over the years (I presume?)

I don’t really understand why they’re so keen to wear a Collingwood jumper, but it seems to mean a lot to them.

I mean, guys like Brodie Grundy have to be paid outlandish amounts to wear the Collingwood jumper, but the Port guys seem keen to do it pro bono, and good luck to them.

I’ve never given the matter much thought, because frankly it’s tiresome and I don’t much care… but – and here’s the nicest thing I’ll probably say about Port Adelaide this year – if they want to wear that jumper in Showdowns, I don’t really see a problem. At all.

The way I see it, either Port will be unhappy, or Eddie McGuire will – and either of those scenarios is fine with me.

Can we just stop talking about it please?

Sydney seemed to somehow manage ok without Aliir Aliir on Saturday, sadly. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Anyway, we’ll know a fair bit more about Port in a couple of weeks, once they’ve played a pair of actually quite decent sides, including the one that beat them in last year’s home preliminary final.

And yes, the Tigers also beat us in the 2017 Grand Final, but we don’t need to dwell on that, do we?

In fact, I’m feeling much more sanguine about it all these days.

At the time, I thought we’d blown our Big Chance by capitulating to a lesser side; subsequent events have shown that’s clearly not the case.

In fact, one might even regard us as pace-setters for the competition, with our pioneering loss to Richmond paving the way for other teams to follow in our footsteps.

What’s more, it’s possible we got off lightly: I mean, sure, we lost by eight goals, completely lost our shit as an entire organisation and wasted two more years before deciding to start the whole football club all over again, and not necessarily even doing that very well.

But then, look at the once-mighty Giants: a Grand Final drubbing so severe it briefly put my beloved ‘119’ jokes in peril, followed by a slide from finals contention last year and an 0-2 start to their 2021 campaign.

I hate to break it to them, but in my experience the second year after a grand final loss to Richmond is even worse than the first.

On the other hand, I look forward to Geelong discovering this fact.

A sad sight, with Patrick Dangerfield and Josh Jenkins not playing for Geelong. No, really. Photo: Scott Barbour / AAP

They’re well placed to do so too with our their star player Paddy Dangerfield going on trial for murder facing the tribunal for knocking out Jake Kelly last week.

Kelly sustained a broken nose and a concussion and faces a stint on the sidelines, so of course, one can’t help but feel incredibly sorry… for the guy who bumped him.

“You feel like you’re on trial for murder,” Paddy lamented after his days of torment.

Poor guy.

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In a bizarre tribunal hearing, his lawyer even referred to his iPhone’s Siri function to help define what he’d been charged with (hint: not murder).

I thought this was a good idea, and tried to use Siri to solve the whole case, but she wasn’t much help.

Anyway, in the end, justice was done, and we’ll say no more about it.

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Nope, we’ll just leave it at that, and be done with it.

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Absolutely won’t mention it again.

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Geelong aside, though, so remarkably similar is the GWS trajectory to our own that it’s not beyond the pale that there could be more malevolent forces at work, akin to the mythical Crows Curse that has supposedly prevented us replicating our late-90s premiership success despite multiple opportunities over the ensuing decades.

So here’s my theory: Richmond was a cursed club.

No flag in 37 years, and hardly a finals appearance since 1980, when they lost that year’s VFL decider to Carlton.

That was the Grand Final that started the rot – and, like that movie Ju-On: The Grudge, the curse has now been passed on through subsequent Grand Finals.

In Richmond’s case, the curse was so strong it can be passed to multiple other clubs – and thus we, the Giants and (fingers crossed) Geelong are doomed to be crap sides indefinitely as a result of losing our respective Grand Finals to the Tigers.

Eminently plausible, right?

The problem for us, of course, is that we were already in a premiership drought of Richmond-like proportions, so the idea of waiting another several decades… well, I’d need to live as long as Principal Skinner to see another flag:

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I mean, at least Richmond began their curse on the back of five flags in 14 years; compared to that, our no flags in 22 years seems just a tad sparse.

And on the strength of our second quarter against Sydney on Saturday in the Battle Of The Rebuilds, we haven’t come all that far in those 22 years.

Look, last week against the Cats was splendid and great and we can’t really complain… it’s just that – I was given the distinct impression we weren’t going to lose games any more.

So from that perspective, I’m not angry, just disappointed.

Still, there were good signs for the future.

That young number 13, for instance, looks a promising recruit with a long and industrious career ahead of him.

In all seriousness, I’m happy for Tex that he’s finally found the mojo that eluded him in recent years, but surely Walker being our best player perhaps doesn’t really bode well for the rebuild?

Walker kicked six of the Crows’ 11 goals on Saturday. Photo: Dean Lewins / AAP

Particularly since, without Tex, we’d have been the football equivalent of INXS after Michael Hutchence died: a competent but ordinary outfit missing a strong figure up forward.

Anyway, bizarrely enough – after he romped to our club goal-kicking award last season with a mammoth 15 majors – Tex is currently leading the entire competition’s tally after two rounds, and is potentially even well-placed to snare his first Coleman Medal – named, I believe, after the famous actor Gary Coleman, because when people hear he might win it they say:

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And yet, the niggling questions from last year remain: McHenry continues to hint at promise without necessarily showing it, while Jones maintained his consistent output by not actually playing.

Still, we can’t complain (well, no more than usual and it doesn’t do any good anyway).

After all, this was a famous weekend for the Adelaide Football Club.

Yes, the Crows AFLW team won their top-of-the-table clash with Collingwood to earn a home preliminary final, putting them in the box seat to make their third Grand Final in five years.

The annual arrival of the men’s competition, expertly timed to ruin the business end of the women’s season, does tend to emphasise the standing of the Crows’ AFL side as the ugly, evil twin of its more perpetually competent AFLW counterpart.

Still, I’m just glad there is a Crows team I don’t have to make cynical banter about in order to cope with the ongoing frustration of supporting them.

And even if we do lose the AFLW decider – well, as Meatloaf notably failed to sing at the 2011 Grand Final, two out of three ain’t bad. (Probably for the best though.)

And at least we can always console ourselves that, even if we’re at our worst, we’re unlikely to go down by 119 points.

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

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