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Round 13- Adelaide v Brisbane: Johnny Gastev Is Playing Quite Well

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Climbing over Fort Canning I’m sweating buckets. Stewart Loewe-sized buckets.

The wife and boys are this morning back in South Australia, where there’s boots and Nanny’s pumpkin soup and a fire. I’m in Singapore, wrapping our stuff up before jetting to them, and the thrilling, forgotten winter.

Like Adelaide, the Lion City has modest hills. Fort Canning’s among these, and is less intimidating than a wheat silo, so I reckon Billy Brownless could get a torp over the silent cannons and trees, and drop it into the Singapore River.

Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival established his command post here to defend the island from the invading Japanese forces in 1942. Singapore was mostly conquered by bicycle, which is both ghoulish and brilliant.

I stroll on towards neon-drenched Clarke Quay.

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I’d love to get to the Gabba again. Last time I was there I saw Greg Ritchie club a quick forty in a shield game. Correct, there was no running between wickets.

The Adelaide Crows are proudly top-knot free in 2015, but with horrid predictability Brisbane opens us up and goals with a decisive movement. As Casey Kasem used to say, “For the thirteenth big week in a row Adelaide begins in a pedestrian fashion.”

As good as the Lions appear we’re fumbling and sporadic, and our forward line is Hong Kong tram while the home side’s is Tanami desert. We’re down by three goals, quickly.

Narrowly edging out Alex Ischenko, my favourite ever Brisbane player is Johnny Gastev. In an upset win over the Sydney Swans early in 1989, Gastev kicked seven goals after half-time! Beforehand, he’d not kicked a goal all season. Who doesn’t love this story? Not long after his career was ended by a brutal Gary Ablett bump.

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During the second quarter the outrage grows as Man Mountain cum dwarf ant hill Josh Jenkins continues to be pushed off the contest. Is he a footballer or an ectoplasm? Then, miraculously, he goals.

Suddenly, the Crows find focus and Smith fires a fricken laser. We’re alive despite being outplayed across the ground. Cameron demonstrates singular poise and vision to get the ball to Crows’ forward impersonator Jenkins, who converts. Brisbane is efficient; meanwhile we launch the footy out of bounds with galactically shite regularity. Half time and the defibrillator’s on its way to our rooms.

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Zorko. Zippy Lions forward, but was he a member of the Animal House fraternity? His name suggests Delta Tau Chi frat debauchery with Flounder, Boon, D-Day, Hoover, Bluto, Stork, Otter and Pinto. Based upon today’s performance, Faber College (“Knowledge is Good”) Dean Vernon Wormer would surely announce the Crows’ grade point average as,

Zero…. Point….. Zero.

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Soon after the recommencement, Hanley goals with the cringeworthy effortlessness of a George W gaffe. In the emotional gloom of the Boomarang (sic) Bar I start to hope the TV will switch to a replay of Lee Kwan Yew’s funeral highlights.

With his Grand Tour classical antiquities moustache back on his beak Tex gets one, and crazily we’re still in this. An unscheduled break in Australia’s Funniest AFL Footy Videos allows Cameron to goal with a roost that should generate confidence for the young Crow.

Everyone’s nineteenth favourite Mitch (Robinson) then drives his head into Talia’s groin in an unrehearsed outtake from an adult film I don’t wish to see. His pornographic pluck is rewarded with a free kick. He goals. I reach for a fork.

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During the final period the game abandons its dreadful, cartoonish tone, and Adelaide, terrified of the implications, starts to behave. We kick six goals, Betts and Walker metamorphose into the forwards they should be, and the Crows win.

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My Eyre Peninsula mate Craig worked in the Minnipa pub, on the highway from Perth to Adelaide, where he’d often amble past the dining room’s Japanese tourists, bewildered and broken by the long, bitumen ribbon. He’d ask,

How was the crow? What! You didn’t have the crow? That’s what we eat ‘round here. Mutton. And crow.

Craig would tell them about the mythical outback station, the Speewah. He’d talk of its continental size and gigantic shearing icon Crooked Mick. He’d describe Mick standing on a towering peak, and peering out across the plains. The mountain was so tall, of course, that he could see the back of his own head.

But Craig especially loved recounting that, “During shearing, the Speewah was so huge, it had six cooks cooking for the cooks.”

Today, at least, unlike those of the Minnipa pub, the Crows are not yet done.

NB- the title offers homage to Central Districts Footy Club’s cult fanzine Brendan Maguire Is Playing Quite Well. Brendan’s career really took off when he subsequently moved to the Kapunda Bombers.

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AFL Round 5: Adelaide v GWS- Jesus Was Way Cool, but Dangerfield is Risen

12.40pm, Easter Sunday, 20 April

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Like everything else, public holidays are allocated cautiously in Singapore. Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic celebrations of the island’s polytheism. To an Australian it is puzzling that Easter is only given Good Friday. What beyond the resurrection? No Monday holiday! It is like Bruce McAvaney saying

So it is half time here in the Grand Final. It is all set up for a riveting finish. Will there be a comeback? Goodbye from the MCG. Stay watching for Are You Being Served?

Watching the game in our River Valley home as the equatorial skies open, I become nostalgic. Has any built environment spread more psychological benefit than Adelaide oval? The rustic scoreboard is a temple, and the happiness, contagious.

I love that 50,000 can be there, and when the ball travels into the ground’s northern half we see the Morton Bay Figs, evergreen and embracing, surreptitiously poisoning the otherwise chain-smoking opposition fans with fresh oxygen. A goal kicked to this end provides among the most fetching views at a sporting venue.

Despite the arresting re-development, it remains a cricket ground. Just. TS Eliot declared, “April is the cruellest month,” but autumn is Adelaide’s exquisitely liveable season, measured out with sunny and still afternoons.

GWS have a Curtly (Hampton) and a Devon (Smith) in their team giving it a Port-of-Spain quality, and the Giants dominate play early. They don’t kick sufficient goals though. A murder of Crows may be the collective noun, but such is the home side’s initial impotence that a suicide of Crows seems apposite.

Dangerfield’s season has been erratic, and scattered with anomalous decision-making and sometimes poorly applied aggression, but today, he is astonishing. His centre clearances generate many goals. Once a concern, his kicking on the run displays brutal penetration and sniper accuracy.

He is the complete modern footballer. He is also an old-fashioned footballer, and would belong in an ancient black and white photo taken on a muddy suburban ground like Alberton or Victoria Park. He can be ferociously brave. Occasionally he is poetic and elegant. Dangerfield will collect a Brownlow.

Becoming the eighth Crow to reach 250 games, Scott Thompson accumulates nearly forty inventive possessions. He even plucks multiple one-handed marks, and this artistry conjures the darts commentator Sid Waddell

Taylor is so hot he could hit the bullseye standing one-legged in a hammock.

After the final change Podsiadly slots a check-side major, and for the third consecutive quarter the Crows get one within the opening minute to establish an attacking tone. While he does not kick many goals, he adds appreciably to the forward structure, along with Eddie Betts, through creativity, pressure and contest.

Petrenko is effervescent, and Sam Jacobs rucks like the big, cheerful country boy he is; deceivingly simple and occasionally unwieldy, but with critical effect. Then Betts soars for a screamer, unsuccessfully, but contractually obliging Fox Footy caller Anthony Hudson to hyperventilate. They then cross down to special comments monolith Barry Hall, who sounds like Barry White but without the intimate diction.

Of his intimidating size Amity Island’s Quint would have said, “This shark, swallow you whole,” and indeed, Crow Josh Jenkins is a monster fish. Able to roost it from outside fifty, he uses his battleship physique with military clout, and collects four goals.

A highlight of Adelaide’s performance is its imaginative use of the footy on the elongated ground. Podsially sets up a Rory Laird goal, courtesy of a smart handball into space. However, the forward line cannot house Lynch, Jenkins, Podsiadly and Taylor Walker. Who will make way?

In a passage more agricultural Yorkshire than Homebush, Lamb kicks to Plowman across the field. It comes then to Cameron whose kick drifts right of goal. This is emblematic of the Giants as their best is exciting, but inconsistency is their anchor. Treloar’s final term goal is a sizzling and accomplished individual effort.

Key GWS forward Jonathan Patton tries to be a general, but too many orange troops have deserted. However, after the main break the Crows kick ten, while GWS get seven. This is positive for the visitors, and probably of minor unease for Adelaide. Against Geelong or Hawthorn, the Giants would have been mauled, without respite.

It does not have the seismic impact of the Crows’ historic win at Football Park in March 1991, when, in a striking announcement, they conquered Hawthorn by 86 points. But it is their first home victory of the new Adelaide oval era.

It is a beginning and a return, and Easter Sunday belonged to Patrick Dangerfield.