Confessions of an Adelaide Boy

I am an Adelaide boy, born and bred who’s had a life long passion and association with Australian Rules footy. Growing up in Glenelg some of my earliest memories are of watching the Bays play on a Saturday afternoon at Brighton Rd and kicking an old brown ball (polished within an inch of its life) under the Glenelg Oval scoreboard. Some years later I was fortunate enough to play some (not many) senior games with the SA Tigers. When the Adelaide Football Club came into existence in 1991 it felt to many of my ilk that the corporatization of the sport we had grown up with, had stolen an important part of our collective footy experience. It was for this reason, together with some subliminal envy, that many of us found it very difficult to embrace the Crows.

Often in those early years, I found myself trying hard to find a reason to embrace the Red, Yellow and Blue of my home state’s colours but the match day experience at West Lakes, coupled with the fabled chardonnay set, led to a distinct disdain for the Crows. I have some really close mates who have had strong and significant connections to the Adelaide Footy Club yet still found myself unable to embrace the Crows. Although great SA footy people built the AFC, my inability to connect was born from the perception of a soulless corporation rather than a living breathing heart-beating footy club.

My escape from the Crow mania that enveloped SA in the early ‘90’s was to become more and more attached to the Yellow and Black of the AFL. The 1990s were not a great time to find yourself barracking for the Richmond Football Club, however, I could console myself with the fact that this club had a real history and soul that the boys in my hometown could only dream of. Couple this with the best song going around and I was able to feel comfortable (and slightly smug) in the knowledge that I barracked for a real footy team. A subsequent move to Melbourne further consolidated my passion and enjoyment of following the Tiges and my recent match day experiences in Adelaide have been decidedly more enjoyable (I’ve seen two RFC wins at Adelaide Oval having thankfully decided not to travel home for last year’s elimination final).
It came as somewhat of a surprise, then, to find myself listening to Phil Walsh’s first post-match presser this year and being authentically impressed by his words, demeanor and approach to the game. Here was a bloke who seemed to have an ability to cut through with his no-nonsense language and analysis of where his footy club was headed. This worried me.
Fast forward to last Friday as my family and I entered the car bound for the airport. The death of Phil Walsh and the circumstances surrounding it were just starting to filter through the media. Like everyone the sense of shock and disbelief was palpable and I found myself thinking of all my friends and family back in Adelaide. I texted my dad (who I normally take pleasure in giving an anti-Crow rev) and his response was, “James now we realise it’s only a game.. Shattered”. My thoughts turned to my own father-son relationship and I rang my eldest back in SA to tell him how much I loved him. In the subsequent days, the strength of the football community has been a shining light for all to see. The vision of Choco Williams in his Richmond gear, reminiscing about his mateship with Walsh at Port Adelaide and reflecting on his own family bought me to tears.
And so, Phil Walsh, a man who has been involved at the Adelaide Football Club for just nine months, respected by all for his astute and innovative footy brain will leave a legacy at the Crows that will be profound. For in death he broke the heart of a club and in doing so, exposed a heart and a soul so real, so big and so strong that no one will ever question its authenticity again. Its fans, its players and its leaders have displayed a courage and humanity that has touched us all.

May they find the courage to play and enjoy footy again with the spirit of Walsh forever in their hearts.

About Jamie Mason

A lifelong love-hate relationship with footy that has been rekindled as i have moved from active participant to everyday punter.

Comments

  1. nice words Mase

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Nice sentiments Mase,mind you all afl clubs are corporate huge businesses now days not traditional footy clubs,I do understand the thoughts towards the crows in the beginning tho.Phil Walsh had been a breath of fresh air re coaching far more honesty less bullshit with a touch of funny weirdness.we all hope that his legacy will live on just a shocking tragedy in so many ways

  3. Terrific post with a whole different insight. Has there been a Victorian so loved as Phil Walsh was in South Australia? I doubt it.

  4. E.regnans says

    Well played J Mason.
    Everyone even peripherally associated with P Walsh has had cause to reflect recently.
    Of course, no one need die before we each think about our places in the world.
    It can be a healthy part of our everyday existence.
    Life goes on.

    Interesting thoughts on Adelaide FC formation.
    Thanks

  5. Dave Brown says

    Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. The Crows’ soul or otherwise is something I’ve struggled with in recent times. I had no trouble connecting with them on formation because it was a team of South Australians coached by South Australians. Every week was a de facto state of origin. More recently has been the issue – what defines the Crows as distinct and soulful? In the last week that emotional connection has returned.

  6. Rick Neagle says

    Well said! The Board and management of the Adelaide Crows have handled this unprecedented crisis superbly.

  7. Tom Martin says

    Lovely, Mase. You’ve neatly summed up why Camry Crow mania never took hold for some SANFL fans, myself included. I’m glad you found the Tiges, if only to irritate Malcolm R, Ashwood.

    The great quality of Phil Walsh was the way he allowed his humanity to shine through the corporate sediment that weighs down the game. The tragedy of his death has shown that no matter how many pre-game laser shows, branded ‘stadiums’ or gambling advertisements the corruptniks plaster over ‘their’ product, footy’s raw humanity is the only thing we ever really care about.

  8. Jamie, I was unfortunately in Adelaide on the weekend they won a premiership. I recall cars driving around honking. It was as if they had nowhere to go – “soulless” indeed! Maybe they hoped to find a Vic to kick? It seemed only by finding someone miserable could they embrace their own victory. It was odd – WestLakes was not going to be the “muster” so there seemed to be none. Franchise.
    When Port got in I at least thought it was a footy club. But their identity and relationship with SANFL Maggies has been confusing. The “real” Port fans are a small isthmus. Despite media jargon, this was not a “cross town” rivalry. What’s evolved is a Port fanbase nurtured by a hate of Crows – an extension of Adelaide’s paranoia re Victoria. Hardly inspiring or sustainable.
    Go Bays.

  9. Fantastic Mase.
    I can relate to the above completely, for the exact same reasons i’ve stuck with the Blues.
    You do expect a lot of praise & kind words in this type of circumstance but you get the feeling that the resolve is to follow through on the ‘vision’ and it has support of club, players, fans & the general football public.
    That is quite a legacy to be left by someone who was there for such a short period of time.

  10. Quality piece Mase, glad to see the bike incident hasnt had any lasting effect and in fact may have revealed something of a litterary sevant .In precisely the same boat myself with alegences to Richmond but it is people that make the game after all and reverent respect to those that genuinely make a difference, especially in such an unassuming manner.
    Hope your coming over for the long lunch which just happens to be the pre-match warm up for the Crows V Richmond game. A quiet salute to Walshy would be in order.

  11. Thanks for taking the time to write this fine piece Jamie. It has touched many readers.

  12. Well said. I’ll be wearing both my Power and a (borrowed) Crows scarf to the game tonight – not sure why – perhaps to show that sport and footy are so much more than who you barrack for. It’s sad that it takes terrible situations such as this for some people to show kindness and humanity :(

  13. Lovely Lisa says

    Nicely put Jamie.

  14. Nice one, Mase.

  15. Well said Mase. Puts things in perspective.

  16. spot on in all respects.

  17. Neat and Tidy says

    Mase had a full head of hair before he started supporting the Tigers

  18. Well said, for similar reasons I also didn’t embrace the Crows in 1991. For my sins I stuck with the Demons who I’d then supported for 20 years. The Phil Walsh tragedy serves to remind that no one is immune from domestic violence and that footy clubs can be (and usually are) extremely supportive environments. Fot the first time (and for a few weeks only) I say, “Go the Crows”.

  19. Phil Grix says

    Great article Jamie. I remember Freddy Phillis Graham Cornes and Kerley coming to St Leonard’s to give us some coaching.

  20. Tony Symonds says

    Great piece Maso. I felt as though I could relate to everything that you have written , particularly in the sense of having little or no interest in supporting the AFC in its formative years except for the fact that many of my friends were involved at that time. Extremely impressed by the way all football people have handled themselves throughout the current tragedy. Sad times.

  21. Ivan Bayliss says

    Great article Jamie, myself and my family have followed the Crows from day one because they were SA’s entry into the AFL and a large number of the personnel were from my beloved Bays. (Although GFC has never really recovered from that) Every club has to start from somewhere. BTW, may have played with your older brother at Glenelg?

  22. Tom Martin says

    Fine comments embracin’
    The great Jason Mason.

  23. Interesting comment Ivan – can’t work out how Bays fans could see the Crows as a positive!

  24. Beautifully done Mase, thank you. For me there were two particularly notable observations arising from this awfulness:

    1. first there was shock as you note. And then almost immediately the reality that life inexorably goes on. I’d been feeding my dog soup bones. I knew there would be trouble. Sure enough within minutes of receiving the Walsh news I was mopping the laundry floor. Then I was getting breakfast for the little ones. And so on;

    2. we human beings crave connection. Meditators find it internally. Most humans look outwards. Football is a particularly popular medium. But Phil Walsh’s death transcended the Crows, SA, football, sport. For a little while it brought a fairly large slice of humanity together. It felt lovely to be part of that.

  25. Nice work Jamie.

  26. A fine literary debut Mase …. up there JADs ‘Elaysian Fileds’ …..nice words for a jock-strapper!

    Death brings us all together & helps focus on things that really matter in our lives – family health friends & living a ‘good’ life.

    RIP PW – a man just finding his niche as a leader of men with a refreshing view of how Aussie Rules should be played

  27. Ben Footner says

    Beautifully written.

    As an Adelaide fan this tragedy has only galvanised my love for the Club. I fear there will be a few man tears in our house tomorrow night when the boys run out.

  28. Well done Jamie, you reveal some fantastic points, A few things from my take.

    Thanks for calling it Aussie Rules, I rage against the machine, our game is Aussie Rules, the AFL is just one league that plays the game.

    Along with supporting Port (46years) I continue to be active in real football, grass roots football, where you’ve played, with your mates and the cycle continues. No real superstars, lots of flaws, but acceptance and inclusion dominate.

    I too had great difficulty loving the Crows, people assuming you support them cos your from Adelaide. Supporters leaving a loss and they’re over it by the time they get in the car, that ain’t footy!

    Truth is stranger than fiction, no-one could have predicted such a tragic end for Phil. Every footballer appreciates the value of the coach, every person appreciates the anguish this a brought about to the family. I too have some some love for the AFC.

  29. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Phil Walsh was the Victorian that Croweaters loved. If only he knew how much.

    I embraced the Crows from day 1, paring back my interest in the SANFL. Looking back, I can see the treachery that it entailed. I retain my memories of the 60s-80s, but it wouldn’t have been sustainable as the flood of players to the better (paying) competition overtook the ability of even the mighty Player Retention Scheme to keep our locals at home.

    But two teams allows Croweaters to have a balanced outlook – a chip on both shoulders.

    I’ve even got grudging admiration for the mob past the cemetery, whereas a few years back I would have preferred Collingwood or Carlton to them.

    Thanks Jamie

  30. Barry Nicholls says

    Congratulations Jamie on this very thoughtful article. Well done mate!

  31. Nice piece Mase, its always been easy to have a crack at the crows though due to not being 140 years old. They were formed out of treachery by the other mob, the offspring of a difficult time in SA footy. I grew up in the SANFL era and they were great days going to the footy on a Saturday arvo with my dad, uncle and cousin followed by a quick visit to the Lockleys hotel on the way home to watch hey hey it’s Saturday with mum and dad and my sister. We didn’t really see it at the time but the SANFL was slowly sliding and whilst the benefit of hindsight is obvious I’m not sure where footy would be now if port had gone into the afl in 1991 solo. Maybe my beloved Norwood would’ve joined later – I’m not sure mase or mr tom Martin you both would follow either of these 2 clubs if it had played out this way?

    Whatever people say the crows have been fantastic for sa footy and endure now as a successful well supported footy club. Now with guys like Mods coming back and the tragic events of last week have revealed a strength of support and emotional attachment that arguably have been the making of the club as a real club with family at the core. Crows fans are real supporters if there is such a term that can homogenise the sport following public.

    The professionalism of the game has resulted in the forced corporatism to provide a revenue model that sustains this new era – to the AFLPA be careful what you wish for. All AFL clubs have gone this way – simply if you want To support a “real” club perhaps a visit to Your local community club game in a Saturday arvo will provide a more authentic experience. Even better get down to Bob Neil #1 to watch a truly amateur club play for the love of the game.

    Well done again mase on a nice rookie debut.

  32. Malcolm Ashwood says

    There have been some fantastic comments and I totally concur,S Boot

  33. Tom Martin says

    Yes, strangely I find myself agreeing with Malcolm R. Ashwood. Well put, Mr Boot.

    I actually don’t doubt that the Cows herd have an authentic sense of identity and community, and have for some time. It didn’t need a tragedy to pull it all together, but just as Port experienced with John McCarthy, true colours show in cruel times.

    It might be cold comfort now for Phil Walsh’s family and friends, but I’m confident his death will leave a long legacy at the AFC of solidarity and loyalty that the club will never again feel self-conscious or insecure about.

  34. Lewis Pounentis says

    Perfectly written and very heartfelt article….

  35. what a great read … Last night I was so proud of our boys I cried with them hopefully they can start to move on although I don’t know how they are going to manage that #weflyasone

  36. nice piece. great read.

  37. Tammy Bunder says

    Very ell written . Its also not the first time I have heard our club called souless and just a business. Each time I hear it I tell the person to just watch what the boys give on the field. I grew up a Magpie supporter but I followed the crows in the start because IM A SOUTH AUSSIE first and foremost. But I now love my club . We are the team for all south australians.

  38. Great post Mase – the mark of the man may be measured by the difference he made in such a short time; an absolute tragedy in so many ways far beyond the boundaries of a football club, or the colours that may be associated with one and all. As a lucky guy that still gets to wear the black and gold in a couple of different sports I’ll never forget the St Leonards mini-league appearance at Adelaide Oval when we had to play for Westies after the SANFL rezoned the metro areas – those horrid black and red barred jumpers and the great rev up speech we got about playing for the jumper – eighteen 11 and 12 year old kids looking at each other in the bowels of Adelaide Oval thinking as one; ‘this is crap – we should be playing for the Tigers!’.

  39. Mark Walters says

    Well said i agree .I supported carlton and glenelg but when the crows ca.e in i ssupported them more considering who was coaching and playing and captain .Buf those press conferences of phil walsh was so different s very well educated person unlike some of the other coaches who. Just use cliches

  40. BOUGHT ME TOO TEARS have cried so many tears this last fortnight, although cant understand any sa person going for a vic team, when there is the team for all sa,s right there.. made up of every club in sa.. wasnt evan interested in footy till 1993 and then Modra and a State team got me hooked

  41. Well written indeed Jamie .

  42. Lorraine Munday says

    I’ve always followed The Redlegs , through thick and thin and still do . Last years Grand final gave me great pleasure , especially as Port were the team we beat , we arrived at Adelaide oval about 11.30 am and left about 6.00pm, a long day , but well worth it . As the Port side had quite a few A.F.L players in it , they were expected to win , but ,the legs are well coached and prevailed . I started following the Crows when they first joined the A.F.L , there have been quite a few highs , also a few lows , the loss of Phil Walsh was the most traumatic event one could ever imagine , but the way the Adelaide football club carried itself , was absolutely incredible ,considering that the board must have felt the same distress that the players felt . I’m sure the Adelaide Crows have made many people feel very proud of the way each and everyone of them , be they players , coaches , staff or supporters ,handled this very sad time , I hope this makes the club even stronger , I believe it will and I wish all the those connected with the Crows all the very best , not just now, but in the future , may they play the way Phil Walsh wanted them too .

  43. Beautifully expressed Jamie. As a native born Croweater I can say that your sentiments and insights extend well beyond State borders.
    Phil Walsh’s death broke many hearts, but in a way that he would have hoped his passing awakens others deadened by time or disappointment.
    Carpe Diem.

  44. Raj Singh says

    Spot on a sad year for sport with the losses of Dean Bailey Phil Hughes and Phil Walsh in recent times.

  45. chocka bloch says

    Well said Jamie. It’s a tragedy that hits you in both the guts & head.

  46. Cam Bryson says

    Mase
    Thanks for your contribution and personal insights on this sad and touching issue – you pulled this together really nicely.
    Sorrow always reflects the depth of love and there has been plenty of both expressed. Well captured.

  47. Wonderful James

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