Adelaide and Richmond: Helter skelter, particle physics and the indisputable romance of swashbuckling


“If you lose all hope, you can always find it again.”
-Richard Ford, “The Sportswriter”


Is there a more attractive figure than the swashbuckler?
To the list of Robin Hood, D’Artagnan, the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac and Indiana Jones, we need now add both Adelaide 2017 and Richmond 2017.


Bang. Bang. Flick, swish.
Blades slicing through linen.
Silhouettes nimbly dashing and flying; threatening and fooling.


And with that, Preliminary Final weekend was won.
And with that footy in 2017 pegged beyond Base Camp.
In the future, analysts will tease out clichés; pore over data; endeavouring to describe these two games. But these games were each at a new scale; and like in the large Hadron collider, traditional rules of physics need re-imagining.


Adelaide and Richmond, two new kids on the Preliminary Final block, each playing a highly qualified and fancied opponent, each stepped up to a new level of footy this weekend.
This was no Carlton chipping across defensive 50. This was no Collingwood stuttering laboriously forward. These were carnivals of mayhem; festivals of colour and clout; whirlwinds of helter skelter (“when you get to the bottom you back to the top of the slide…”) Skills were tested to the extreme. Under time pressure. Under pressure of physical and mental pain.

Sherpas gathered at each coin toss nodded collectively – for they knew that these games were the last window for ascent. These would be the last chances to reach the summit. Time was closing in. Supplies were dwindling. It was now or never.


And like nimble shoplifters, the Crows and Tigers each snatched and they ran. They looked over their shoulders and they ran. And they ran. Players hit targets, with foot, with hand, with ruck tapouts; players with sparkles in their eyes, with eyes darting every which way, danced the fleet-footed jigs of only the creative.


Eddie Betts swooping; sparks fizzing at his toes.
Daniel Rioli testing the predictions of particle physics.
Rory Sloane delivering a family of new particles predicted by supersymmetric theories.
Trent Cotchin at the crossroads between quantum mechanics and general relativity.
Sam Jacobs.
Alex Rance.
Charlie Cameron.
Nick Vlastuin.
Every single player could be listed here.
Maybe this was the Higgs boson.
Or the Cirque du Soleil of footy.
Probably, these games are what Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale,” looks like when expressed as Australian Football.


And while it is only under specific conditions of time and pressure that a diamond might be forged; this weekend delivered us two.
For Adelaide and Richmond, both, a fairytale awaits. In fact, a fairytale now unfolds. To paraphrase Dean Lusher at this time last year, Doggies man, in a way, each of Adelaide and Richmond has already won.
Certainly the footy public has already won.
For this Grand Final is a story-teller’s dream.
Everything about this game breeds possibility. And breeds reflection.
1998 was a long time ago. Adelaide’s last Grand Final.
1982 was a long time ago. Richmond’s last Grand Final.
A coach was murdered.
A club was almost lost.
And yet – young men who know not their limits, forge on, fly on, run and run and run on.
They fend off, they leap.
They tackle and they yap.
They run into space.
Magically, not one of the footballers assembled on Saturday will have experienced a Grand Final before. (The last time this occurred in VFL/AFL history was in 1898; the second season of the VFL – and first ever Grand Final (Fitzroy 5.8.38 d Essendon 3.5.23 in front of 16,538 at the Junction Oval)). Stunning.


We are now in the realm of dream.


The football of Adelaide and of Richmond this weekend was a football of possibility, of hope, of speculation.
Theirs was a football written in the stars.


To so many proud supporters, these clubs mean so much.
And we the lucky rest of us get to watch, as these two cavalier swashbucklers of football meet on Grand Final day.


En garde!


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. I would have said. “All played well”, but not as poetic Dacid!

  2. sorry “David”

  3. Sums it up. This is a rare grand final, both teams equally worthy and storied for different reasons.

    I think both have football in perspective for what it is. Richmond, through some wonderful leaders and a change in mindset, and the Crows through equally wonderful leadership and overcoming the horrible death of Phil Walsh two years ago.

    And the fact the game will feature 44 grand final debutants is unique and unlikely to be repeated. After Saturday, North Melbourne I think will be the only side without grand final experience on their list.

    But I don’t feel either can really lose. A fun week lies ahead!

  4. Poetic as always OBP and impossible to predict re which side will settle and not let the nerves be a huge factor in decideing the result thank you

  5. yes i feel we are post-trauma now and in the period of sustained contention – after all, 17 teams don’t win every single season.

    the phony ghosts of 13-15 laid to bed

    for this is a better team, yet a worse one, with younger players, less coached, but better coached.

    they have their own thing happening, and we are all just along for the ride. and this team will backup next year with El Greco’s monkey off our back, no expectations, but lots.

    as that sage warrington predicted in late 15, the core of the team reaching maturity as a group has enabled a decent shot at it. I suspect they were both shamed and empowered by the Bullies crazy run last year. If they can…

    Hardwick has stepped back and therefore up. Balme was the catalyst, but it sounds like Mr Hardwick Snr is a pretty sagacious man, too (did you see the quote where he said something like “the only inevitability is that Damien will one day not coach the club”. destiny, in all its glory.)

    I hope we win. I have this feeling we won’t. The Cotchin focus will not help. But rain could. I will streak if we win. Queenstown NZ is on earthquake alert as a result.

    But for a million reasons including Tex Walker, Phil Walsh RIP, and Andrew McLeod and Peter Vardy, I’d just about rather lose to the Crows than anyone else. Especially as I don’t have to live in Melbourne or Adelaide.

    ( i will see if I can draft some words about watching in a bar in QT. If I can find one…)


  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nicely done ER,
    Robin Hood: Men in tight Shorts?
    Exciting week for Tigers and Crows fans. No stress at least for us Magpies. Loved the work of Rioli, Cameron and Eddie. Hope they light up the G on Saturday. Go Tigers !!

  7. Played E Reg.

    Just like the two remaining combatants.

    One more time please!

  8. How good is it going to be to see some of these players finally grace the biggest stage of all? Just what do they have in store for us?

    I can’t wait to find out.

    (…and Peter, I feel the same way – if I had to pick a team to lose to it would be Richmond. Enjoy the week mate!).

    Go Crows. We Fly As One.

  9. G’day all,
    Excitement builds. What a week.

    6% – thanks very much. Those were two enchanted games.

    Jack: that perspective is an interesting call. May explain a lot.

    OBP: I think you’re right. Players remembering their role, so important. People can easily get ahead of themselves – maybe looking to make a mark/ be remembered, rather than doing the little things well.

    PW: post-trauma. Love it. Listening to Sweathearts right now as I type, in your honour. What do you know? It’s merry-go-round. Ha.
    I’m gonna set fire to the town.
    Again with the Yoda philosophy. Like Jack Banister. Curiouser and curiouser. Investing in N Buckley, Collingwood is singing from this same song sheet. I was very disappointed to see N Balme leave the Woods. His influence, I believe, is huge.
    This GF is already a magnificent story.
    It’s a crying shame that the AFL money men have created the away jumper fiasco.

    Lord: Those were two games of Extreme Footy. The game moves ahead every year. Head shakes, involuntary grunts, prolonged blinking, double takes in our lounge room – but how I wish I could experience crowd atmosphere without those insufferable TV commentators.

    JB: Anticipation is high. And opposed to recent Hawks/ Swans/ Dockers events, the words “dour struggle” don’t even come into calculation. It really is a different game.

    Tintin: Well said. May each player play to the best of their ability, and may the best team win.

  10. Er- beautiful sentiments. You had me at The Sportswriter extract- which I’d started re-reading as a treat to myself, until I bought the Tim Rogers’ memoir. But, I’ll return to it. Really enjoyed “sparks fizzing at his toes.” Eddie is a most compelling narrative, isn’t he?

  11. e.r.
    Well played.
    Some interesting and wonderful allusions.

    I must re-visit Richard Ford at some stage.

  12. Thanks Mickey, Smokie.
    Anticipation builds for this game.
    Though the world and speed of information exchange has changed.
    Lots of chatter about.
    Best two sides to go at it.
    And quite strange that 6 different sides play off in GF on 3 years.
    HAW v WCE
    WBD v SYD
    ADE v RIC

    Equalisation policy paying dividends?
    Better win this one, as there are no guarantees on next year?

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