AFL Finals Week 1 – Adelaide v Sydney: Behind Enemy Lines

The Crows fan did not seem happy to see me.

“You again” he growled before breaking into a wry smile. “Jesus I’d almost forgotten about today’s game. Then here you are again in that damn jumper reminding me all over.”

Saturday night and we’re ordering another round drinks at the Kings Head Hotel, a fine establishment in the guts of Adelaide. With no time to change in between the game and dinner I had no choice but to venture into Enemy territory decked out in red and white. My Adelaidian non-AFL friends were wary, fearing retribution for the Swans win. But I wasn’t picking up any bad vibes at all in this town. The Crows supporters were great to talk to during the match and gracious in defeat. The only appalling thing I witnessed was a Swans fan belting someone to the ground outside AAMI Stadium before scuttling away across Turner Drive into Westfields, evading three mounted police and an overweight security guard. We’ll be fine I assured my friends, and so we were.

It was a spur of the moment decision to venture south. The members pre-sale and the chance to catch up with friends sealed the deal. Logistics sorted all the wife and I had to do was spend a week sweating whether the boys would turn up in form. My Almanac gibbering has been lacking of late. Writing anything after the Hawks heartbreaker and the ‘cue in the rack’ effort against the Cats seemed futile. Twenty pages of scrawl I could barely look at let alone craft any sort of article out of. Work’s been a nightmare too. Time for a break, just go to the game, enjoy the trip away and revel in the fact we’re in the finals.

That proved sound advice.

Squeezing into our seats at AAMI we admired the magnificent looking turf. Cramped seating aside I liked the place, seems a shame they want to tear it down. Nothing like finals atmosphere too, 45,000 people on the edge of their seats willing their team on. The last time these two sides met Adam Goodes injured his quad and today Grundy was out. Both Reid and Bolton were back post injury and though we desperately needed their firepower there was always the risk they were coming in underdone. The Enemy had their stars back with Dangerfield and Walker providing run and big targets up front.

Minus the notebook I was now free to fully concentrate on bruising my hand through clapping. Smashing a rather chunky ring into the base of one’s left index finger seems a fine thing to do while the adrenaline rush of the event and Carlton Draft anaesthetic are in effect, not so brilliant on a Sunday morning. The game was barely underway and we were already into the Sydney chants; I swear our fans are louder at away games than at either the SCG or ANZ.

And there was a lot to cheer about. The Enemy may have outscored us in the inside 50 count but as the old saying goes it’s not the size it’s what you do with it that counts. Sometimes you can just tell when the Footy Gods aren’t looking after your team and The Enemy gods had slipped off down the pub for a few Saturday afternoon. With The Enemy dropping marks, hitting behinds, the post and booting balls that weren’t making the distance they seemed simply out of luck. In contrast the Swans were on fire with Adam Goodes picking the right time to find some form not only in front of the sticks but leading the battle across the ground. Or is it Andrew Goodes? The stadium announcer got his name wrong, twice. And I’m still wondering how Reid scored that fourth quarter goal in defiance of the general wind direction?

Still it wouldn’t be a Swans game unless our backline was showing why we’ve conceded fewer points than other teams this season. Grundy’s slot might be a risk as LRT proved a revelation up back almost as much as when they moved him up forward. We’re still somewhat prone to rebounds out of the defensive fifty but this time LRT was there assisting Richards, reading the play and mopping up The Enemy’s attack.

Discipline, communication and relentless pressure were the keys to the win. Jetta, free of the hard tag he’s been under the last few games, managed to turn on the afterburners; running down Dangerfield in a memorable chase. The tackling and defensive effort was ferocious and going into the final quarter I could perhaps be forgiven thinking we were due for a fadeout. Indeed The Enemy did claw a couple back but it was too little, too late. Starved of options they had been backed into the proverbial corner. While their fans begin that depressing walk homewards we were full voice into the team anthem. The only downer on the day was McGlynn potentially being out of action for the season. I didn’t realise until I made it back to my friends place just how serious it was; his tears on the footage said it all. The Enemy’s semi-final winning chances took a dive too with one of their players out with a broken arm.

Back in town there was some banter with the aforementioned Crows fan throughout the night. It was disconcerting being out of Sydney, you forget people actually do talk to complete strangers in an amiable way.

Flying back Sunday night I felt my confidence in our chances of the big one restored. There’s a buzz around Sydney town again and I can’t wait for the prelim in two weeks time.

About Tom Bally

Born in 1834 Tom Bally was instrumental in establishing the rules of the modern game. It's a little known fact and the rare times he talks about it all he'll say is "that bloody Wills chap got me full of grape one night and the next thing I know he's peacocking around Richmond Paddock like he dreamt up the whole thing on his lonesome. Still I got the last laugh didn't I eh? Introducing the Umpire and all that."

Comments

  1. Would love to have seen it Tom. The silencing of the Crows faithful is something to behold. Tremendous win from the Swans – my Spetember team I think.

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    Agreed..Swans can win it.

  3. Ben Footner says:

    Sydney were sensational on Saturday. Almost the perfect game from them. A lot of Adelaide fans are going on about what Adelaide didn’t do, but for me it was more about how good Sydney were. Adelaide were owned, simple as that.

    Also – Goodes is one of the finest players I have ever witnessed live, I will be telling my kids about him.

  4. Keiran Croker says:

    Nice article. Our Swans were terrific. Debating in my head whether to go up to Sydney from here in Melbourne for the Prelim. I have the small matter of my folks 60th wedding anniversary lunch on Saturday, that I would need to get back for.

  5. Rocket Nguyen says:

    You should do it Kieran!

    You can be back for lunch – take the Southern Aurora that leaves Central at 12.30 pm….

    It is going to be a massive game in Sydney – although getting to Homebush in peak-hour Friday night traffic will be a night-mare on Epping Road….

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