AFL fans: A Crows fan is a Crows fan is a Crows fan

by John Harms

I am worried about Patrick Dangerfield. He seems like such a nice boy. He’s from the Geelong area. Innocent. He knows the country air, the surf and the sea of Moggs Creek, the smell of freshly mown fairways, and the sound of new-born lambs feebly bleating.

He was born under the reign of one of Geelong’s most colourful mayors, that ratbag Jim Fidge, and he’s grown up among the good folk of a community which produces wonderful citizens. And good footballers. Patrick played for the Geelong Falcons, a club up there with Mallee Park and Mt Gravatt as one of the finest football nurseries in the world.

But I’m worried about him: because he’s been drafted to Adelaide.

I’m not so concerned in the sense that the Crows pinched him and that he should have him at Kardinia Park. At Geelong we love footy as much as we love our own club, and we’re happy to continue to produce magnificent young footballers for the sake of the competition. Because, frankly, without Geelong and environs this national  competition would be battling.

And the Adelaide Football Club I’m worried about. The club itself is exemplary. Neil Craig has a lot of Geelong about him: country boy, love of the game, belief in education, Parkin-esque sense of perspective. The club has helped Patrick find the right trajectory. They let him finish his studies in Geelong, and they brought his footy along at an unhurried pace last year, before he made his debut against the Bombers in Round 20. Patience from the coach.

They know this kid can play. Strong. Skilful. Presenting at the right moment. He can take a mark. And he won’t stand back when the footy appears at the bottom of a scrimmage. It’s like he’s been around for ages.

No, it’s not the Adelaide Football Club I’m worried about at all. It’s that he has to live in a city full of Adelaide supporters.

Because Adelaide is just so Adelaide. It has such a distinctive and powerfully parochial identity that unless you are vigilant it will have an impact on you.

That impact starts as you cross the border. Who would have thought that a fruit fly bin, different-coloured number plates and 10 kilometres of stobie poles could make you feel South Australian so quickly? And by the time you get to Keith the Advertiser posters (dealing with the issues most critical to South Australians: “Cornesy’s piles cured”) on the footpath at the front of the delis will get you in. You’ll be drinking West End (why are stubbies called echoes in SA?), eating Balfour’s Pies (a different kind of coagulant) and finding that you can’t have morning tea without buying a 600ml carton of Farmers’ Union iced coffee.

At training you’ll practise check-sides, and set-ups at bounce-downs, and you’ll start to love playing in a state which has a tradition of world-class mullets, sublime mid-size half-forwards, and bizarre crimes.

If you ever have a week off Patrick (God forbid), you’ll enjoy your carpark barbecue on the lawns around Footy Park, having kangaroo and lemongrass rissoles, and  mettwurst and cheese rolls, and fritz sandwiches, washed down with a Rockford’s Basket Press or a Bowen’s shiraz and you’ll start thinking like a Crows supporter. You’ll sit there on your director’s chair taking in the serenity of West Lakes, content with your lot. The kids at Pulteney and two-year old colt in work at Lindsay Park.

You’ll start defending Lleyton Hewitt and discussing the big issues in South Australia like the design of submarines and whether KG deserves a state funeral when he goes, and which church should get it, or whether there should be a service in every Adelaide church heard via simulcast on 5AA.

But the thing you have to be most conscious of, Patrick, is becoming like a Crows’ supporter: grim. Because for all the joy that South Australia, the Adelaide Oval, Les Favell, KG and Cornesy, Jarman and Ricciuto, Hayden Haitana, West End beer, Barossa shiraz, Darren Lehman, Coonawarra everything, and the Advertiser can bring to you, when it comes to footy Crows people still live with an underlying, spirit-sapping grimness. Crows’ fans don’t crave the joy of playing, they don’t crave the joy of winning, they crave the relief of not losing. Being at Footy Park is like being at the old Highbury (remember the Arsenal off-side trap) or the dentist.

And to suffer football in that way, is enough to point you down the Port Road to Alberton. Even now.

Or back to Geelong.

Postscript: I was at the Adelaide-Geelong game (circa 1994) at Footy Park when Ablett kicked 10 out of 14 in a losing side. His remarkable skill didn’t raise an eyebrow; didn’t register a murmur. Indeed, the Harms family was subjected to the evil stare from the who-let-them-in Adelaide crowd.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the conclusion I drew that night, and from other visits to Footy Park to watch the Crows, is that, while most Australian football fans have two loves – the game itself and their club – Crows fans only possess the latter.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. This article, as published in The Age, caused me to laugh out loud on the train to work. It did so because, as an ex-pat Crow supporter living in Melbourne, it is so true.

    The postscript, however, causes me to take small issue. I grew up a hardcore Woodville supporter – we lived a Blighty screw punt (NOT torpedo) from one pocket of Woodville Oval; Blighty’s family was similarly located beyond the diametrically opposite pocket. The SANFL in those days was a magnificent competition with many major rivalries. You’d race home from the game to watch KG’s Football Inquest (a round up of the day’s matches, complete with players almost straight from the shower), then a replay of the match of the day. Just like Victoria, funnily ebough. Sundays were spent launching monster punts for goal from ridiculous angles and, yes, checksides from the opposite pocket. And as supporters of lowly Woodville, Blighty was the obvious template around which we based each impossiblus attemptus. Skyscraper marks, impossible goals, sublime skills – the SANFL had everything you could want from our great game and it was fanatically followed by crowds that rated with the VFL per capita.

    When the Crows came along, hardcore footy lovers who had been ateending the SANFL week-in week-out for years seemed to miss out on tickets in the avalanche of newly interested theatregoers. Many of us lost interest and kept following the SANFL. So please don’t confuse these latter day footy fans with the true believers of SA footy.

    Please visit Legends of SANFL to view some of the greats of the past that we marvelled to in the good ole days.

    P.S. I was at Footy Park that night when Colbert wasn’t paid THAT mark and Geelong lost that final – the Cats were robbed.

  2. johnharms says


    I agree with you. (And I reckon I’ll change that postscript slightly)

    I spent 1985 in Adelaide and footy was absolutely thriving. Like so many things in SA it had a really distinctive SA flavour. Highly skilful, open, although with some hitman-villains who huffed about the place. Many of the grounds provided the wide open spaces, although some were quite tight. And the supporters were so keen. People knew their footy, and the teams and the players mattered.

    Footy characters seemed to be dotted around the (small) city. We used to drink at the Welly which was run by Big Peter Darley. Grenville Dietrich used to come in. Fats Domino was on the jukebox.

    Footy was also thriving at the Ammos level. I saw a superb match at the Adelaide Oval between Teachers College and Uni – top div. That was a couple of years before. I kept thinking I was being drawn in by the romance of footy being played at the great ground. But it wasn’t that at all: it was the sheer brilliance of the skills, and the spectacular way the game was played. They went for everything.

    Just thinking out loud I find the Crows Footy Park crowd very middle class. Lots of Howard’s aspirationals. Maybe I have that wrong; it’s just an impression. So your label (theatregoers) resonates with me. A similar thing has happened with the broncos in Brisbane so much of the meaning which surrounded the local rugby league comp has been lost.


  3. John Kingsmill says

    The big issues in south australia…

    One. After a seven year drought, the beginning of the death of the mighty Murray River from the mouth up. With insufficient flow from the north, the lakes system and the Coorong has become comprised. In order to save the lakes from becoming a toxic swamp, the barrages may have to come down and sea water let back into the river system.
    Unless we have seven years of flood, which is possible in this strange country and these strange times, only the ocean will save the lakes. That means that salt water enters the system for ten km or so and the ecology changes.
    In ten years time, it might be salt water up to Welington; ten years after that salty water may reach Murray Bridge. That river is dying in front of our very eyes.

    Two. The collapse of the old manufacturing industries in South Australia with nothing on the horizon, apart from mining, to replace them and keep the SA economy afloat.

    That means jobs, basically.
    Will Adelaide become a service town to the mining industry?
    And, If the drought continues, the wine industry is under threat.

    Three. A lack of topshelf politicians in SA – a drab generation of people without vision on both sides of the chamber.

    Four. Adelaide’s car-dependency. It’s lack of useable public transport infrastructure. Adelaide may be 20 or 30 years behind the times with its electified traffic system.
    We should get moving now for the post-petrol age

    These are real concerns.

    On the other hand, Adelaide is a large country town with many diverse lifestyles. That City of Churches tag is a misnomer in a sense. The historic right to establish a church, any church, in South Australia also contained a flipside in thate freedom – there is a clearer right in South Australia to be free from any religion. SA, more than any other state, keeps its religions separate from its public instutions. The line between state and individual is drawn strongly here… and its reflected in its quality of public discourse through ideas festivals, state patgronage of the arts, and the rest of it, including much legislation that has led the country.

    You can go about the business of being a citizen here without, by and large, any fear of being caught up in an ethnic riot or crossfire between warring crime families.
    If there is public corruption, it’s mainly invisible. If there is organised crime, no-one knows who the Mr Bigs are.

    This is not a bad place to live. Maybe Vancouver is the only better city in the world.

    Sydney? Pass.
    Melbourne? Maybe, but I’m happy to visit. It’s only 45 minutes and $60 away.
    Canberra? Not for me. Another city to visit.
    Brisbane? I’m not old enough for Brisbane.
    Hobart? Maybe, just maybe I’ll retire to Hobart and enjoy the zip in the air and the fresh water and fresh fish from the docks when I’m 70.
    Perth? Lovely visual city, underbelly of corruption, water problems, another city to visit.

    Now look, here, Harms.

    I love Adelaide — its central market, beaches, its gorgeous autumns and springs, its hills and valleys and sensational coastlines, its proximity to the desert, the general wholesome nature of its people, its Writers Week, Womadelaide, its Italian and greek food, sublime wines, its Cooper Ale, its Fleurieu Peninsula and… its paul kelly, who melbourne claim, but which Adelaide knows better.

    The Crows and Power?
    Yep, I admit that that dualism gets a little dull sometimes.

    Let the Western Bulldogs play eight Friday night games at Adelaide Oval per season and eleven games In Melbourne and this city will just about be complete.

    With 18 teams in the comp, there should be two Friday night games – one for free to air, one for Fox. One live, one on delay.
    WB should play Westcoast and Freo in Adelaide to cut the travel costs… and some of the lacklustre Melbourne teams in Adelaide to even up the travel requirements for the Victorian teams.

    Yes. I can hear you saying now, that this makes a lot of sense.

    And, John, don’t worry about Patrick.

    Adelaide people win Nobel prizes, and logies and Bookers and premierships and Brownlows.
    If he is in a solid club, which he is; and has a good master, which he does; and if he is surrounded by a group of people with sound ethics and good intelligence, which he is; there is nothing preventing him from achieving everything he wants to achieve in a long AFL career.
    And he might meet a fine Adelaide lass and have offspring and build a tradition at his club under the father/son rule that will become a part of footy history for the rest of our lives.

    John, don’t think of Patrick as one that was taken away.

    Think warmly for him.
    Think of him as a young man at the beginning of a wonderful life that will give him and his family and the entire national footy community sustained pleasure.

    Patrick is in a good place at the moment. His footy reflects it.

  4. johnharms says

    John Kingsmill

    I’m not worried for Patrick Dangerfield in the sense he has crossed the border to SA and Adelaide. I love Adelaide, and I think he is at a great footy club which has given footy fans a lot of joy over the years. Andrew McLeod has been one of my favourite footballers for years.

    And my piece highlights some of the wonderful elements which define South Australian life – like West End and iced coffee and KG. I have enjoyed these elements myself. Adelaide is delightfuly Adelaide. I certainly don’t think it is horribly Adelaide.

    My only concern is with Crows fans as I have come to know (imagine?) them through my experiences at Footy Park where the crowd is more like an English soccer crowd than anywhere else in this country (although I think Subiaco is similar). It is grim; so lacking in balance to be laughable.

    I don’t think this Crows crowd reflects the attitude of SA folk generally to footy. I think there might be a particulalr type who follow the Crows. I think the crowd is an unusual beast which has evolved artificially – genetically modified by heavy marketing of the Crows to middle Adelaide, parochial boo-a-blue Adelaide etc

    Yet I like going there. Because the dimensions and condition of thr ground allow good players and good teams to show what they can do.


  5. Gary Belgre says

    as a regular visitor to the provincial city of Adelaide over the past decade (and rusted-on Bloods supporter) I have had cause to attend Footy Park when my visits coincide with Crows-Swans matches (as I will on this coming weekend!)

    My abiding recollection of every such match is the total absence of balance displayed by the loyal Crows coterie.

    It is indeed a bizarre feeling to be one of only a dozen voices in a 30,000+ crowd to offer the opinion that a Crows player is holding the “BALL” when Brett Kirk has wrapped up a tardy on-baller and flung him side ways to the ground after the said on-baller has had enough time to hatch the egg, not just dispose of it. (Its almost intimidating, and even causes you to doubt your own judgement!)

    And try catching a cab at midday from Glenelg to the city whilst wearing a Swans scarf! (Its a long walk until a tattooed and toothless driver picks you up and advises you to “give those F#*%! Crows bastards heaps tonight!” Yep, obviously a Port man!)

    Still, young Patrick will get to undoubtedly imbibe Australia’s best wines whilst he is there!


  6. Nick Haines says

    Interesting article John. Having lived in Victoria since 1995 and going to Crows away games here very much in the minority I would say the same applies to supporters of most Victorian clubs as well – certainly the big 4!
    Also I didn’t see a lot of Melbourne fans cheering and clapping when Darren Jarman kicked 9 goals against in 1999 – and they won! Not many football fans will acknowledge a champion game by a champion regardless of what side of the border they were born.


  7. I am old. Old enough to remember almost 40 years back before I emigrated from Melbourne to the best city on Earth. In those days to go to Victoria Park, Windy Hill or The Junction Oval, to name a few, as an opposition or neutral supporter was to risk your life–or at the very least being maimed.
    Still, I went, because I love the game. I even played it and coached at a lower level than VFL/AFL.
    I go to Crows matches whenever the cold and wet aren’t too bad to have the arthritis flare up to the point of misery. Yeah, Adelaide crowds are quiet in comparison to those blood-letting tribal rituals in the old VFL and the VFA. It’s just the nature of the people that live in this state. Adelaideans are a much more reserved bunch than people in other states. This is the one city in the world where you NEVER see a standing ovation in theatre, opera or associated art forms. Pavarotti got a polite clap. But that doesn’t mean the Adelaide crowds appreciate Pav (the opera or Freo one) less that people in other states. Nope, it’s just the way people here are.
    You will find no more knowledgeable football fans anywhere in the country. Fans here know their onions, believe me. Just check any of the footy blog sites that have all clubs on them and look at the informed and erudite knowledge displayed on a Crows Board (we’ll leave aside the rabble down the road. They would not know if their arses were on fire. They took your article seriously and they are crowing–err–porting about it).
    So, this is a different place to the rest of Oz. People react differently, and as you passed awhile among us you should know that.
    Incidentally, my pet hate is that bloody awful clap clap clap Ad–el–aide chant that goes up around the ground. It is so–refined!
    I laughed out loud at your article and so did my mates. Can’t wait till you do the Poower.

  8. Puma Pride says

    I realise you write these things to incite people but 10-15 years ago didn’t you have some credibility?

    Now, I don’t usually waste my time by logging in to write these sort of things but (as an ex-pat Crows pporter), I’ve got to say, suck it.

    And versatile half-forwards?


    Geelong are going all right but as soon as this crop run out you’re back to square one.

    Anyway – it’s not like I’m making my living writing drivel.

    Best of luck Harmsy.

    PS – Nice site by the way. Who’d you get to design it?

    Your mother…?

  9. Puma Pride says

    I like the way you reply to the comments too, douche…

    v. classy

  10. Puma Pride says

    Hi John,

    Sorry about that, I just went and looked up who you really are:

    Then I realised I shoud try and find something about footy and saw your article from earlier this year ‘Footy really is more than a game’ or some such. Brought a tear to my eye.

    Just try not to run into stuff around the house. You’ll be fine.

  11. neilbelford says

    Here is the core of this issue according to me.

    There is nothing special about Footy Park crowds, or Subi crowds, it is just that the opposition support is just not represented in sufficient number to create any theatre, humour, wit, banter, or tribal catharsis. Thats why the only two really theatrical games in Adelaide or Perth each year are the derbies. Thats why at these types of games the odd spectator turns on their own with astounding malevolence.

    It is exactly the same when any of the real non victorian teams play in Melbourne, and by that I exclude Sydney and Brisbane in that they still have have enough local representation to make those games enjoyable to be at.

    The thing is you probably just dont go to many games in Melbourne when Port, Adelaide, Eagles, Freo play here. And if you dont have a particular interest, usually they are grim encounters regardless of who wins, so why would you want to go. Even with KP the way it is today you still usually get enough opposition supporters in to generate some interaction and enjoyment for all.

    However if you want to see the grimmest, sourest of crowds, ever ready to turn on their own and totally lacking in humour, come to the Freo Collingwood game on at the G on Saturday arvo. I have been to just about every one of these and let me tell you – it is Highbury.

  12. Peter Schumacher says

    Hi John,

    I quote your conclusion as follows, “Perhaps I’m wrong, but the conclusion I drew that night, and from other visits to Footy Park to watch the Crows, is that, while most Australian football fans have two loves – the game itself and their club – Crows fans only possess the latter”.

    You are not quite right,Crows barrackers do have a second love and that is walloping the bejesus out of any visiting Victorian club. Any margin of less than ten goals is seen to be too close.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I concur with several people above it is the lack of opposition supporters that create the atmosphere or more correctly lack of as some 1 who has been around when the SANFL was thriving in the 80s when crowds were comparable re per Population and now as 1 of a huge number of fans who are disgusted with the AFL in not having a National Reserves comp that the SANFL landscape is about to be ruined as has happened to the
    WAFL and the VFL Go the Redlegs in the last real SANFL YEAR
    Harmsy you are more than welcome at Bob Neil 1 Next Year when the Lights are up and there will be Plenty of Passionate SAAFL disciples Real Footy People and I am sure you join me in wishing the Ad Uni FC SCUM luck in the GF Today

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