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Round 20- Adelaide v Port: Barney 43

hill

I blame the shameless brewers of that most horrific muck West End Draught. Where were the dissenting voices at that fateful marketing meeting? Here we are, into the third decade of the state’s biggest football event and it’s still, somehow, called the Showdown, as determined by the fifteenth best beer manufacturer in Adelaide.

However, it’s also another example of American linguistic imperialism. If we were talking about Ole Miss and Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl then the word would work, but here in South Australia we should’ve gone with Dust Up, Yike, Blue, or my preference, Barney.

“We’re underway in Barney 17.” Or-

“There’s the siren. Adelaide has won a thriller in Barney 31!”

For the first time this millennium I’m on the Hill, just down from the world’s best scoreboard. We’re in a tidy quintet of chaps. There’s ferocious rain and wind and the sky is like an aubergine. The mud and slushy grass is tundra. Old mate behind us has on a Power scarf and is in shorts. My phone says it’s eight degrees. Jason pulls out his sunglasses, “Reckon I’ll need these soon.” We laugh, and Chris asks, “Did anyone bring the 50+?”

With a significant wind-assistance Adelaide traps the ball within their arc, and like an over-zealous debater, makes point after point after point before The Hoff collects his own kick and soccers cleverly. This, I’m delighted to report, would be the Power’s sole major until about ten minutes into the third quarter.

The Crows dominate across the ground and despite the conditions are clean and sure in disposing by hand and foot, which is a happy contrast to their dismal first half at the MCG last Sunday. Tex Walker appears impatient with his side’s inability to punish the Power so, both as captain and big forward, monsters his teal competitors in taking strong grabs and slotting telling goals.

Paddy Ryder has been in colossal form and various denizens of the Hill voice their anxieties about how Sam Jacobs might handle the Power star. They needn’t have worried for while their aerial and ruck duels are spirited, the boy from Ardrossan is also outrageous at ground level and kicks a great pack snap for a rooster who’d bang his red-combed head on the hen-house rafters.

Despite now missing his appendix Eddie Betts kicks some amazing goals, including one from his pocket just down in front of us. As the ball bent through, the heaving crowd about me leapt and there were ponchos and scarfs bouncing and flapping like a Latino dance party. The only deviation from the Happy Days script is when yet another goal-of-the-year contender is deemed by the evil umpire to have been touched by an evil Power player.

And what of Port? They’d appeared to be entirely unlike Port such is their pedestrian spectating. They seem disinterested, and must be waiting for The Choir Boys to reform. In the sheds at half-time only Robbie Gray has earnt his hot cup of Milo.

September looms and pleasingly Sloan finds plenty of it, and creates well. On the Hill, I spy a gent wearing a bespoke shirt featuring a picture of Rory’s blonde bonce with this accompanying prose-

Men want to tag him

Women want to shag him

The crowd is boisterous and enjoyable. I see lots of Crows fans standing with Power faithful, and the banter is lively. Not Disney channel, but not Tarantino either.

Suddenly, Charlie Cameron has it and he accelerates through the middle. It’s among our game’s most exhilarating sights, but while his pace is Lamborghini, his kicking is still often Holden Gemini.

Then Brad Ebert gets one, but unlike last Saturday against the Saints, it really is too late, and the Port supporters are shuffling towards the gates like an Alabama chain-gang. The Nissan Urvan will soon be pointed towards the Lefevre Peninsula, and I just hope that Uncle Ernie managed to fix the heater when he popped round yesterday.

Adelaide records its biggest winning margin against the INXS wailers, and after two decades now lead 22-21 in these most magnificent of contests, the Barney.

I must get back to the Hill again.

nissan

 

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Round 14 – Adelaide v North Melbourne: Thursday

greyhounds

In the truly tremendous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the central character Arthur Dent laments, “This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.” Shortly after, and with effervescent style, the planet Earth is destroyed.

Thirsty university students refer to Thursday as the new Friday. If American paint-by-numbers rockers The Knack was the new Beatles, and sauvignon blanc is the new chardonnay (or is it the other way round?) and burger joints are the new burger joints, then let’s agree that Thursday can imitate Friday.

With light snow forecast for our state’s upper ranges the fixture begins, and following a few scrappy minutes Rory Atkins kicks a cracker which is reviewed, extraterrestrially, to a behind. However, soon after, like Arnor Ingvi Traustason in Iceland v Austria, the good Tom Lynch soccers it through.

The Crows padlock it in and Dick Douglas (did he star in a 1940’s Hollywood musical?) snaps accurately. North move the ball without method or fluency, and this increases the spectacular early lack of spectacle.

My Barossa shiraz is jovial in a rumbling, earthy, Thursday way, and it shields me against Ziebell’s goal. Still, it’s the first opposition score in nearly a fortnight. Yet another Crows’ goal review degenerates into circus with the process seemingly being timed-out. As my first-ever boss might say, “The AFL couldn’t organise a root in a wood yard.”

Good Eddie jags a point, and with five consecutive minor scores Adelaide lurches into wastefulness. It reminds me that once there were two British parliamentary committees simultaneously investigating pointless governmental duplication.

The Kangaroos can’t twine together possessions, while the Crows are better in close, especially by hand. Of course, I’d just confidently completed that previous sentence when North get two goals in a minute, and my keyboard is abruptly stricken.

*

A shiraz-aided recovery allows me to now type that Tex ghosts unaccountably to the front of the pack. He grabs it, and slots it to shove the lead to a couple goals.

Lindsay Thomas drops the ball as if it’s an allergen, and to the crowd’s predictable umbrage, he attracts a free. Shortly after there’s a goal by Mason Wood- didn’t this golf stick debut at Troon in 1926 along with the Mashie niblick?

Half way through the second quarter the Kangaroos have impetus and the lead, and then when kicking at goal Adelaide is Ernie Els on the first green at Augusta, tapping it everywhere and really often, but never fecking straight.

After the main break Crouch crashes through a hasty torpedo punt and we’re away. Good Eddie follows within a minute. It’s a frenetic start and typing maniacally requires my shiraz to sit abandoned. Tex tyrannosauruses one from sixty and my glass and I reunite. Just now.

With the wife and boys abed I scramble back into my chair and Thomas sneaks the opposition in front again. Our sixteenth behind. No, make that the seventeen. Spare me. Then, good Eddie triangulates it through, and we’re just up.

Following more frisson from Charlie Cameron in which he’s has moved the ball with scintillating pace, but crude disposal a video review goes against Tex, and as an eye laser surgery beneficiary glaring at a big TV, I’m sure the stinking camera is lying. Why am I watching this atrocious Australian farce? I turn over to ABC 1 for Rake and its superior Australian farce. Cleaver, Barney and company are at their ridiculous best.

No, I don’t. How could I?

A furious scoreless epoch ensues. Buck Roo Ben Brown continues to display deliberately maddening hair. To use a cliché, which is itself a cliché, the next goal is crucial. And the digital ink isn’t dry when it goes to Adelaide, right now.

Suddenly, the Kangaroos are twenty-eight points, and eighty grand down. It’s peculiar to think that these two haven’t played a final since the 1998 decider. September may see these two again clash, and it would be ripping.

*

My wife and I didn’t meet, nor were either of our boys born on a Thursday. However, these happened on Thursdays: as a United Kingdom resident I voted in their 2005 general election (sadly just once); at Thebby we saw a raucous Violent Femmes; and one summer’s evening at the Tower hotel I had a tidy earn with a Hobart greyhounds trifecta.

You see, Thursday goes alright.

burger joint

 

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It must be like Keef teaching you guitar: our footy day

eddie

On some days footy can come at you from many directions. Like Mum’s roast it can be expected, but occasionally it’s a happy combination of the old and the new.

My wife had gone to Sam Jacobs’ territory, the Yorke Peninsula, for a friend’s birthday so on a whim the boys and I drove up to the Adelaide Hills for an early lunch. Heading to the Aldgate Pump Hotel we passed a footy ground with the reserves fixture underway, and there were sparse knots of blokes along the fence, the red beer cans contrasting with their navy rain jackets. Up here footy is often beneath a Yorkshire fog. Not far down the road as the hills become the plains is Chad Wingard’s home territory at Murray Bridge. Chad was about to wow them for Port in Alice Springs.

Between my Laksa and not plonking some coin on Music Magnate in the Doomben 10,000 I looked at my phone to check the Alice Springs score especially as my old school mate Chris is related to the Hoff from the Power. No signal. But, I reminded myself this English village sleepiness is the attraction of the Adelaide Hills. It’s why we visit.

Descending through the mist and back into the sunshine we listened to In The Superbox With The Coodabeen Champions and because it’s a family standard, sang along with Greg Champion, “You’re the player, you’re the player, Gary Ablett! Gary Ablett!” I told our eight and six year-old boys that the tune was originally about the Gold Coast star’s dad. They ignore me and keep singing. One day, it could be about a third generation Ablett too. Footy ditties, like Paul Kelly songs, are also timeless.

The car was warm with nostalgia when I found myself turning left down Belair Road and parking outside a handsome villa in Kingswood. I’d decided the boys might like to see where their Dad had a kick and a catch with the Unley Jets before his career finished one August afternoon (split eyebrow; hours waiting in Flinders Medical Centre). As the pale sunlight bent onto the forward flank, we saw the reserves get up against Port District. To celebrate we each had a Freddo Frog (caramel).

How wonderful is local footy? I love the unpredictability. There’s the moments when grace rises above danger as the gangly kid blind turns and jags one from the pocket, and the roar makes the BBQ veterans look up from their hotplate of snags. Later danger reaffirmed itself when a Jets defender surged thrillingly across the wing, but didn’t steady, and his kick squirted across the boundary, like a drive shanked onto a neighbouring fairway.

Our evening was the Crows and the Giants. As had been our day’s theme, the past and the present would again meet. Entering the competition in 2012, Greater Western Sydney has only been discussed in future tense, as a club to whom success would surely come. That day is now speeding towards us, like a growling Monaro.

For Crows fans, ’97 and ’98 have transmuted from glorious history to nostalgic, troubling distance. Is it nearly twenty years? But, yesterday and today often connect, and Andrew McLeod is the football name Eddie Betts rates above all others. Who better to mentor him than the great running half back, as beautiful a player as has strapped on footy boots? It must be like Keef teaching you guitar. With his poise and promise, Wayne Milera, Adelaide’s first selection in the 2015 draft, has been compared to McLeod by judges like Scott Thompson. It’s tantalising.

Eddie’s a senior player now; a leader. Just before the third quarter siren Eddie fabricated yet another miraculous major, one that could net him successive goals of the year. While the kick itself was impressive, it’s how he gained possession: materialising on the boundary and somehow trapping the Sherrin with the surety of a NFL holder assisting in a field goal kick, then accelerating away from a grasping Giant and curling it through at the Cathedral End.

It’s fitting that the Indigenous Round’s best moment came from a Port Lincoln Nunga, a footballer like Sir Doug Nicholls: diminutive, exquisitely skilled and shaping the game in remarkable ways.

The young Giants raced home, but once more Eddie created a goal from gossamer and his fifth in the final seconds guaranteed my Adelaide a fine victory.

It’d been a brilliant day. Yet again footy had jumped out at me in unexpected and blissful ways. Just like footy can.

 

This story was first published in Inside Football. For more go to http://digital.insidefootballonline.com. My thanks to co-founder and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac, John Harms for the opportunity to write this story.

BBQ

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Round 9- Adelaide v Fremantle: Colin Sylvia’s mother says

dr hook

In even greater news the Fremantle Dockers have adapted Dr Hook’s 1972 hit, “Sylvia’s Mother” as their new club song

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s busy

Too busy to come to the phone’

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s tryin’

To start a new life of his own’

Colin Sylvia’s mother says, ‘Colin Sylvia’s happy

So why don’t you leave him alone?’

With their gargantuan pressure evident immediately Fremantle forces an error, and Mundy goals for the Dockers. Walters snaps tidily and it’s two majors to zip. Freo is big and fast and skilful. Adelaide is bedazzled. Then Ballantyne (Gandhi would doubtless find him punchable) gets one too.

Evoking the joyous regularity of Warney jagging one back from outside leg and onto an Englishman’s off stump, Betts kicks a cracker from the pocket. Moments later his protégé Cameron slots it truly.

The rain is torrential. The splotches of poncho colour give the screen’s sweeping vista a Monet quality. We’re getting the Fox telecast here in Singapore, and the absence of BT gives the experience a Christmassy quality.

Fittingly, Adelaide’s third goal is courtesy of Ellis- Yolmen, meaning all three have come from indigenous players. While Fremantle dominated the opening scenes, the Crows have since applied themselves productively.

The second quarter opens with both sides slugging away in a scrappy yet engaging affair. Cameron takes a super grab reminding me of Mick Jagger’s comment to the crowd about his drummer during their live album Get Your Ya Ya’s Out, “Charlie’s good tonight.”

Suban gets one for the visitors with an impressive left foot poke to give them back the ascendency. Like a series-winning moment in Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, Dangerfield then kicks the ball into the back of an oblivious teammate’s head, giving the footy shows footage for tomorrow.

Adelaide’s controlling the ball, and Betts slots one from the boundary with an exquisite, almost slow motion left foot checkside punt, ensuring his 2015 highlights DVD is already into its second hour. He’s become the most watchable Crow since McLeod.

Against the flow Fyfe takes a telling contested mark. He’s in Exile on Main St form, and has had important touches. Talia punches the footy away from Pavlich to save a late goal, and show his sublime All Australian skill. Half time.

Are you aware of Crows Forever? It’s a bequest programme founded in response to the insufficiency of the billion-dollar AFL underwriting the Pride of South Australia. So, I’m bequeathing my modest assets to the Adelaide Football Club. However, the seventeen future cats my octogenarian self is destined to share house with are going to be disappointed when they read that they’re out of the will.

The good Adelaide Tom Lynch, and not the evil Gold Coast version, starts the second half with a wily conversion to give us confidence. Dangerfield and Fyfe are magnificent. Each is symphonic, brave and artistic. Punctuating this the star Docker goals to claw his purple haze back.

West Torrens royalty Pavlich has been quiet, and puts the Dockers but a point behind. Walters benefits from panicked Crow kicking, and they surrender the advantage.

Both sides trade majors in a pulsating period. Fremantle’s death row pressure is again evident as Adelaide’s defensive work stutters. Monster truck Jenkins ties things up, and moments later Pav gets his just desserts. Three quarter time. If this were East Enders I’d make a cuppa tea. But it’s hot Singapore, so beer is medically necessary.

Was it only twenty years ago that the Dockers had their first game against Richmond at the MCG?

Ill-fated forward Chris Groom took four marks, yet only had three possessions. Following his fourth grab, did he simply sit on the ball and refuse to budge, like a toddler in a supermarket aisle? Half back flanker Todd Ridley received two Brownlow votes for the best twelve-possession performance in the history of our code.

In the last stanza Fremantle kick a goal. Another score review. Touched. The match is like a gripping forth innings run chase. It’s Brett Lee and Kaspa at Edgbaston during the 2005 Ashes. Half way through the quarter we’ve a nil all FA Cup thriller with both sides bursting and holding, bursting and holding.

Barlow then gossamers it from the boundary to put them up by over two majors. The Dockers surge. Pleasingly, Pearce is off with his kick at goal, but Adelaide is being trooped to the gallows.

We trap the ball. The clock gallops. Another behind. We pump it in, but there’s three Dockers smothering our square. It comes out. It splutters back. Our final quarter is gallant. Dangerfield loads one through from the boundary. Score review. A behind. Fremantle win.

The good Sandilands- Aaron and not evil Kyle, records sixty-nine hit outs, while collectively Fyfe and Dangerfield have nearly eighty possessions. While we’ve luxuriated in our chairs, these two have played us Let It Bleed, and also Revolver.

As my loved ones sleep I now sit silently, and morosely, staring into the hot dark, looking tearfully out at the eighteen wheeled truck I don’t have, and feeling forlorn about my football team, and myself, like a wretched character in a bad country song.

Like, possibly, a Dr Hook song.

truck