Oh what a night……….

Oh what a night, late in March back in 91.

That’s when the Crows story had began

What a game and what a night…………..

 

Okay it’s not quite as good as the Four Seasons song but on an autumn Friday night at the end March it  was not only the beginning  of the 1991 season but it was also the start of the first AFL club from SA – the Adelaide Crows.

Now let me give you a bit of a rundown of how the Adelaide Crows came about. The South Australian National Football League (the SANFL) who ran the local competition had been seeking to enter a team in what was then the VFL since 1981. Negotiations were brought to a head in 1990 after an SANFL team, the Port Adelaide Football Club, reached agreement with the AFL to enter the competition. Because the Port Adelaide Football Club represented only a fraction of the interest of football followers residing in South Australia, legal action followed, and eventually the league agreed to enter the composite Adelaide team in 1991. You can start to see why there is such a division between the Power and the Crows now.

The nickname “Crows” was inspired by the traditional “Croweaters” nickname for South Australia’s state of origin teams.

The team was only put together some four months before this game. The first Crows squad contained an interesting mix of players. There was a brave army of SA expats who were already playing in the AFL returning to this new AFL team (Tony McGuinness, Bruce Lindner, Mark Mickan etc). Then there was  bunch of young stars from SANFL ranks who wanted to show the world, that South Australia’s best is THE best (Nigel Smart, Matthew Liptak, Simon Tregenza etc). The squad included those SA bred players who had previously turned down offers from AFL teams (McDermott, A Jarman etc.)  and then there were the players that many thought were too old (Bruce Lindsay, David Marshall), too slow (Remano Negri and John Klug) and those that were of an interesting stature (the scud missile himself Eddie Hocking).

Anyway back to the actual game…….

This game was the hottest ticket in town (I know what you Victorians are saying – anything would be the hottest ticket in town for sleepy old Adelaide) but even as a devoted Brisbane Lions (well, back then the Brisbane Bears) fan I was even after a piece of the action. After all this was not just the Crows playing the Hawks but as far as most people were concerned it was SA vs the Vics.

It was a packed house and the air of anticipation was incredible. How were the Crows going to go against one of the powerhouse AFL sides who had just taken out the pre-season cup (when the pre-season actually meant something) and had the likes of Dunstall, Brereton, Ayres and even two ex SA boys who did not want to come back to join the Crows – Johnny Platten and a young and slim (you should see him now) Darren Jarman. The other thing that was also interesting was that it was the first match that I had been to where it was such a one sided crowd, 99% supporting the crows with a scattering of Hawks supporters which gave the game a real different feel. The support was going to be one way all night, which meant if the Crows went poorly, it was going to be a long, long night. The rabid Crow fans at Football Park gave a new meaning to the words “Parochial Crowd”.

So out came the Crows in their red, yellow and blue jumpers (the state colours of course) which to me looked like a packet of fruit tingles rather than an AFL jumper. The crowd went wild loudly cheering for ‘their boys’. There were people jumping and screaming as the team ran through the banner.  The Crows pre-game banner borrowed the slogan of the pork industry ad campaign that was running at the time. It was emblazoned with the call to arms of “Get Some Hawk On Your Fork” and featured a barrel-chested strutting Crow brandishing a giant fork, on the end of which was impaled the scrawny body of a dead Hawk.

At the start of the game the two Jarman brothers stood each other even if Andrew Jarman looked ridiculous with his socks over his knees. Then the siren went. Big Negri leaps like he had never leaped before and thumped the ball forward. Before you knew it the ball was in the Crows forward line and the Hawks were under pressure. Then it happened.  John Platten gets tackled by McGuiness and gets pinged for holding the ball (now days it would be a push in the back). McGuiness lines up from 20m out on the slightest of angles and shots truly. The Crows have the first goal not only of the night but of their history. In the first fifteen minutes the Crows players were playing out of their skin, with everything going right. Before you knew it there was another goal, and then another and then another and the Crows had the first four with the Hawks not even on the board. How easy was this? The crowd was going crazy and hanging off the rafters.

The highlights just kept on continuing for the Crows fan:

John Klug who originally came from the apple isle was an absolute star at centre half forward. For someone who’s turning circle before this match was larger than that of the Queen Mary he was dodging and weaving around players as if they were training cones. He was marking everything that was coming towards him and running around the oval as if he was a thoroughbred horse even though both of his knees were grinding bone on bone. At the end of the night he had bagged 4 sausage rolls and was clearly the best centre half forward on the ground (you have to the remember that the Hawks CHF was no other that the five time night and five time day premiership player Dermott Brereton).

Rodney Maynard who could not put muscle on his frame even if he did weights three times a day, every day of the year and had protein shake after protein shake played an absolute blinder. In one passage of play he marks the ball in back line and kicks forward to contest on the half forward line. When the ball comes to ground there is ‘Rocket’ grabbing the crumbs and from 50m out goals. This was no doubt Goal of the Year –well at least until the next game started.

Then there was David Marshall who is probably the oldest debutant the AFL has every had (he was either 33 or 34 years of age when he play this game, his first in the AFL) getting kicks from everywhere as he played the game as if he was a 300 game player.

But the biggest highlight (and some would say lowlight) came half way through the third quarter. The Crows are 10 goals in front and the night for the fans is just getting better and better. Then it happens. Chris Mc Dermott, captain courageous himself and the heart and soul of SA footy has got the ball on half forward line on the members’ side. It looks like another inside 50 and possible goal for the Crows when out of nowhere – BANG.  Dermott Brereton comes in and knocks Mc Dermott out cold which can only be described as a cheap shot that had one intention – to connect so hard that McDermott would not know what happens for the next couple of days.

The crowd is up on their feet in absolute rage.

“You’re an absolute thug Brereton” on fan yells

“You’re a dirty mongrel” yells another

“If you don’t get rub out for half the season then the tribunal sucks” yells another.

Hawthorn coach Alan Joyce would later recall: “Dermott got reported and got five weeks and the Adelaide supporters set out to demolish the coach’s box, which I think they almost did. It was just a nightmare.”

The Crows have now well and truly entered the AFL and McDermott lays motionless on the ground as players tell each other how dirty that play was, or that this is how tough it is in the AFL depending on whether you are wearing a Crows or Hawks jumper. There is no doubt about it but this incident has just taken the game up to another the notch.

When the final siren sounds the Crows have beaten the Hawks 24.11 (155) to 9.15 (69) in front of a sell-out crowd. The Pride of South Australia has smashed the best that the uppity Vics could put up against them. As the Crows players embrace themselves as if they have just won the 1991 premiership cup the ground reverberated to the magnificent sound of the Crows inaugural theme song (“Here we go Here we go Camry Crows”). Now when I say magnificent song it is purely tongue in cheek. The song in my opinion was one of the worst in the AFL right up with the Heave Ho Fremantle one and the oompa GWS song.

What a night it was even for a Brisbane supporter who just wanted to be part of the first AFL game in Adelaide. It had been a long time since the Hawks had been beaten by close to 15 goals like they were that night. I don’t think it would have mattered who the Crows played in that game. The Crows would have beaten any team that night.

So what happened after that match? The Crows had a roller coaster ride for their first season in the AFL. There were more wins to come but also some 100 point thumping’s. As for the Hawks – well even though they were humiliated that night they went on to win the premiership.

For me (as a South Australian) this game will always stick out as one of the best Round one games I have seen.  SA taking on the Vics at their own game and coming out on top. There is nothing better than that (except watching your own team win three premierships in a row like my Lions did 10 years later).

 

Footnote: It would be remise of me not to mention that Jim Stynes went on to win the Brownlow medal that year. A great footballer and a great bloke. Rest in Peace Jim.

 

About Andrew Weiss

Andrew is one of the few Brisbane Lions supporters that lives in the Adelaide Hills. He still has bragging rights over any Crows or Port supporter by mentioning the back to back to back premierships the Lions achieved in 2001-2003. After playing for over a decade for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football Club better known as 'The Doggies' he now spends his Saturdays running around footy ovals as an umpire, getting abuse no matter what decision is made. Coaching is probably next on the agenda as his two sons have started to play the great game of AFL. Andrew is a sports fanatic who when not watching or reading about sport is teaching secondary students about Biology, Nutrition and Psychology.

Comments

  1. pamela sherpa says:

    Great trip down memory lane Andrew.

Leave a Comment

*