Adelaide versus Geelong
2.50pm, Sunday, 21st July
Two Adelaide fans, two Geelong fans, a Richmond fan, and a first timer walk into AAMI Stadium. It’s an unusual collection for what seems a predictable game of football. Walker and Dangerfield are missing from an already under-performing Adelaide outfit. Meanwhile, Geelong is Geelong. On the drive toward the ground my fellow Crows supporting friend says he cannot envision a scenario that results in an Adelaide win. I am inclined to agree.
The first term is indicative of what I’ve come to expect in encounters between the two. The Crows generally play the Cats quite well, and have rarely been blown off the park throughout their era of dominance. The ball spends much of the term down Adelaide’s end, and missed opportunities are in abundance. At the other end the Cats are redefining efficiency. They seem to score with every forward entry, and each score is a goal. The siren sounds and Geelong leads by one, despite the Crows having double the scoring shots. They’ve played well, but you can’t squander chances against the likes of Geelong and expect to get away with it.
The second follows the story of the first, though Geelong are now even more ruthless. They hurt the Crows on the rebound again and again. They kick five goals to Adelaide’s one, and lead by twenty four at the long break. Selwood has been the architect of Adelaide’s demise so far.
Half time is spent looking wearily at darkening clouds above, purchasing ponchos as a result of our findings, and watching Auskickers. One in particular draws our attention as a result of an impressive spin move to go round his opponent less than a metre from goal. Not only does he score, but the ball hits an inattentive spectator a few rows deep. It’s glorious in every way.
Our joy over little Timmy’s performance is shortlived however, and an ominous feel enters the air as Lonergan kicks the first of the third to push the margin out to five goals. Wright restores the half-time margin minutes later after pinning Varcoe holding the ball in front of goal, but the first truly rousing Adelaide moment occurs when the ball is in dispute in the middle of the corridor. Sloane and Duncan, both having good games, jostle for the ball, and Sloane wins out. He flicks the ball to another impressive youngster in Crouch, who fires a quick handball between two Cats, hitting Thompson in stride. I am legitimately excited by this handball, as it feels so long since I’ve seen such a cutting one from someone in the red, yellow and blue. Thompson hits our new favourite ginger Lynch in the forward fifty, and suddenly the Crows have kicked two in a row.
Before hope can even arise though Bartel takes a truly Bartel-esque mark amongst a pack. I blink, and re-emerge from the darkness to find Kelly has kicked one in immediate response. This is the problem. Adelaide need to strive to manufacture brilliance, while that is Geelong’s natural state. Caddy kicks another on a snap, his third, and midway through the third the scoreboard reads 74 to 44.
Lynch kicks another shortly following the restart after receiving a high tackle from Enright. Then the Crows tease us with another “this could be our day” passage of play. A haphazard boot from Adelaide’s defence results in the ball trickling lonely on the wing. Jenkins, Lonergan, and Enright hunt it down, with the giant Crow somehow winning the foot race. He soccers it off the ground toward goal, and leg two of the race commences. Jenkins wins again, though Lonergan is on his tail and forces him to handball immediately. Three Cats surround the ball, yet they hesitate in picking it up, allowing the calvary to arrive. Ginger Ninja Lynch wins it and shovels it back out to Jenkins, who snaps for goal on his left, finally putting it between the big sticks after spraying all his earlier attempts. With three minutes remaining Lynch kicks his third of the quarter, and Adelaide trail by just fourteen. The siren sounds with that margin intact. The Crows are playing with an intensity I’ve not seen all year, and I begin to dream a little.
To say the fourth quarter was an emotional roller-coaster would be an understatement of epic proportions. The opening twenty seconds are majestic from behind my Crows coloured glasses, as Vince bends the ball from the pocket perfectly to score a stunning goal. The game is played almost exclusively in Adelaide’s half, but devastatingly the very first time the Cats manage to break free they score a goal.
The ball continues to live in Adelaide’s forward half though, and eventually Otten snares a remarkable one handed grab in the goal square, and his resulting kick brings the margin into seven. The atmosphere at the ground is at fever pitch. Selwood wins the centre clearance and finds Motlop forty out directly in front. He, astonishingly, kicks it out of bounds on the full, and Geelong seem fallible. A fifty metre penalty thrusts the Crows forward, and eventually the ball falls to Crouch who nudges it toward goal. His first, and now the margin lies at a solitary point.
By now I am no longer in complete control of my mental state. I leave my seat in ecstasy embarrassingly often with every forward foray, while every Geelong possession leaves me feeling ill. This is Geelong after all. They always find a way a to win, they’ve got it under patent. The only steeplechaser I know of kicks a goal after marking inside fifty, and I begin my futile mental preparation for what seems to be inevitable disappointment.
The boys played well today.
They didn’t get destroyed by Geelong, that’s good.
We haven’t embarrassed ourselves.
My efforts are worthless. These things may be true but I’ll still be crushed if we fall so agonisingly short. I need them to win this, otherwise the sky won’t seem so blue tomorrow. Or ever again. No that isn’t hyperbole. It’s that important.
The clock is beginning to work against us, and we just can’t seem to pierce Geelong’s armour. The Cats are getting their hands on it a bit more, and it feels like any shot at victory is slipping away when suddenly van Berlo, who has had a shocker, is in the right place at the right time to receive a loose ball, and kicks truly to bring us within two points. All his errors are forgotten and I feel like standing on a table to proclaim him as my captain.
The Cats win the centre clearance after the restart. Smedts sends the ball toward Hawkins in a one on one with Talia. The Crow uses his body exquisitely and drags it down with one hand onto his chest. He sends the ball to a contest up the wing. A series of tight handballs and fumbles along the ground occur, before Vince shoves it on his boot. Tambling is first to the ball but is tackled immediately by Enright. The ball pops out as they hit the ground. Douglas doesn’t even contemplate picking it up, and instead kicks it off the ground as hard as he can. Porplyzia charges out of fifty and collects the ball with a remarkable display of cleanliness. Wright, coming from the midfield, flies past him toward goal, and Porplyzia dishes it straight away by hand. It’s perfect. Wright doesn’t need to break stride, and now he is charging toward goal. Mackie chases valiantly, and dives at his legs as Wright goes to kick it, but it doesn’t have an affect.
The Crows are in front. They’ve kicked eight of the last ten. Wright has four. I love him, and I find myself legitimately disappointed that I do not possess the necessary biological capacity to be the human host for his children.
Now, every touch of the football, every bounce, every moment, feels more important than anything else in the world. Every time I see Geelong win possession I feel my stomach start churning. Every time Adelaide have possession is a time of happiness, until they have to dispose of it, as then the churning starts again.
The ball goes forward for Geelong as the clock hits twenty nine minutes. Vince, who has had one of his “I’m actually very good when I want to be” games, clumsily falls into the back of Bartel. Free kick. Bartel has the ball twenty metres out on an acute angle. It’s over. Bartel was born for these moments. He was bred in some laboratory for this exact moment in time.
He snaps the ball.
I cannot believe what I have just witnessed. It’s like watching Jesus make a mistake.
The siren still hasn’t sounded. Henderson punts the ball up the wing, and after a short scramble the ball is sent back into the Crows defence. Players from both sides crash into each other with violent abandon. A Crow somehow gets a boot on it. The clock hits thirty minutes, yet the siren continues to display a complete lack of regard for my mental and physical state, sitting there in silence as I prepare myself for a gut punch of epic proportions.
The ball comes forward again and seems to ricochet off every single object in the general vicinity. It lands in the hands of a desperate Harry Taylor.
It’s in the same spot as Bartel before him, just in the opposite pocket. There is no way he can miss this. I’ve already seen one miracle today, and Geelong don’t squander two opportunities. Doesn’t happen.
He snaps the ball.
Is this a dream? Is this actually happening?
The ball is again sent to the same spot on the wing. The scramble results in a boundary throw-in. The game resumes. Geelong win the tap.
I leap out of my seat and yell to the heavens. The first timer laughs at my enthusiasm. I take a few seconds to soak it all in, then I lean over toward my Geelong supporting friends and tell them that if it makes them feel any better, they’re going to win the flag. Right now I could care less, they can have it. All I know is Crouch has been superb. Lynch tremendous. Henderson marvellous. Sloane magnificent. Douglas stupendous. I’m running out of superlatives. Unicorns have sprung into existence. Rainbows will forever more be a permanent fixture in our skies. The Star Wars prequels never happened. All is right in the world.
Adelaide 3.5 4.8 9.8 14.10 (94)
Geelong 4.0 9.2 12.4 14.8 (92)
Adelaide: Wright 4, Lynch 3, Vince 2, Otten 2, Jenkins, Crouch, van Berlo
Geelong: Caddy 3, Selwood 3, Hawkins 2, Motlop 2, Kelly 2, Lonergan, Blicavs
Adelaide: Sloane, Henderson, Crouch, Douglas, Lynch, Wright, Vince
Geelong: Selwood, Simpson, Caddy, Duncan, Bartel
Umpires: Farmer, Dalgleish, Nicholls
Official crowd: 28,603
Our Votes: 3 Sloane (ADE), 2 Henderson (ADE), 1 Selwood (GEE)