AFL Grand Final – Adelaide v Richmond: If You Ain’t First You’re Last

If You Ain’t First You’re Last

Adelaide versus Richmond

2.30pm, Saturday 30th September 2017


Ben Footner


Grand Final Night

“Ricky Bobby: If you ain’t first, you’re last!”

So says Reese Bobby to his son through the speakers of my TV. The pain bubbles to the surface again. Even the work of one of my favourite comedians manages to deliver another blow.


Losing a grand final is not fun.


Losing a grand final convincingly is even more painful.


Losing a grand final convincingly to a team you were certain you had the measure of is the downright pits.


I’m genuinely surprised at how much this hurts. I keep trying to tell myself it’s just a game, but the level of grief that flows through me in waves is comparable to a relative dying. I continually lambast myself for being so invested in something so trivial – but no matter how many times I tell myself this it feels anything but.


Grand Final Morning

It’s a beautiful day in fair South Australia, the end of what has been a thoroughly enjoyable week.

The mighty Adelaide Crows are in the Grand Final for the first time in 19 years and the optimism and positivity that has permeated the state has been palpable. Every workplace, café and media outlet has bubbled with conversation about the wonderful finals performances of this team, and positivity about their chances of finally securing a 3rd flag.

The big day is finally here. We’re back! Can you believe it? After everything we’ve been through?

I potter around the house putting up decorations and getting things ready for when our viewing companions arrive.

At times I stop and take in the pre-game coverage on TV. It doesn’t quite seem real to be honest. I was a teenager the last time my team made a Grand Final. It all seemed so easy then. How young and naïve I was.

As game time gets closer we all dress up in our Crows gear. The kids are excited, although more for the fact that their just seems to be some party going on rather than having any sort of grasp of what the day is or means.

My wife produces an Eddie Betts badge for Ashton, and a Sauce Jacobs badge for Chloe. They love them. All going to plan a Crows win today will hopefully start them on the path to full indoctrination.

As game time creeps closer the nerves start to kick in. Weirdly it’s the first time I’ve felt them all week. The performances my team has produced these past weeks have inspired a level of confidence in me I have not felt previously. They have displayed a hunger for the contest that I have not seen from my team for a long, long time. Maybe even ever.

After everything this team has been through, some things unimaginable, this team is ready.


These young men deserve this.


It is their time.


I am sure of it.


Game Time

It begins, and it begins well. Very well.

Adelaide kicks the first two courtesy of Rory Sloane and Eddie Betts. This is going to plan. An early goal from Sir Edward always augurs well.

The quarter wears on. We have the better of it, although Richmond respond late.

I’ve forgotten how intense the experience of watching your team in a grand final is.

The second quarter begins and I am concerned. Our midfield is starting to lose the battle. So sure a week ago, handpasses miss targets. Clean takes now fumbles. I can see it. I can feel it. As Richmond take the lead I refuse to believe it.

It’s half time and Richmond won that quarter – but we’re only 9 points down. We’ll respond.

The third quarter begins but we don’t respond. We do nothing and Richmond continues. One goal, then two, then another.


The dream is crumbling. Convincingly, horrifically, brutally.



The dream is gone.



I go to get myself another beer from the fridge, and I can’t go back.

I can’t watch anymore.

I walk outside instead. Wonder around the backyard in a daze.

This is wrong. This is not what is supposed to happen. My team is too good for this, too resilient, too strong and fast and confident.

I peek through the window. The scores are no better. The pain surges.


This is going to happen.


Post Game

I re-enter the house and walk past the lounge room. People with more fortitude than I continue to sit and watch the Richmond celebrations. I enter the walk in robe and take off my Crows gear. Wearing it is too painful. Looking at it is too painful. It must go away.

“Dad, where is your Crows jumper”

Ouch. There it is again.

“The game is finished Chloe, the Crows lost, so I took it off”

“Oh. Well, I still like mine so I’m going to keep wearing it”

The innocence of youth.


Grand Final Night

Ricky Bobby: Wait, Dad. Don’t you remember the time you told me “If you ain’t first, you’re last”?

Reese Bobby: Huh? What are you talking about, Son?

Ricky Bobby: That day at school.

Reese Bobby: Oh hell, Son, I was high that day. That doesn’t make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… hell you can even be fifth.

Ricky Bobby: What? I’ve lived my whole life based on that! Well, now what the hell am I supposed to do?

Reese Bobby: Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?


Ain’t that the truth.


Ain’t that the truth.



ADELAIDE       4.2     4.7      5.10     8.12       (60)

RICHMOND     2.3     6.4     11.8     16.12     (108)


Adelaide: Sloane 2, Walker 2, Betts, Greenwood, B. Crouch, Cameron

Richmond: Graham 3, Townsend 2, Martin 2, Riewoldt 2, Caddy, Houli, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Prestia, Butler


Adelaide: M. Crouch, Jacobs, B. Crouch, Sloane, Laird

Richmond: Martin, Rance, Houli, Astbury, Prestia, Edwards, Graham, Grimes

INJURIES  Adelaide: Nil Richmond: Rioli (ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Meredith, Ryan

Official crowd: 100,021 at the MCG


Read our extensive AFL Grand Final coverage here

About Ben Footner

I'm tragic Crows fan, avid lawn bowler, public librarian and father of 2 little kiddies. Sometimes I also find time amongst all that to squeeze out the occasional article for the Almanac.


  1. Now that’s an honest write up. Terrific thought gone into that Ben. Let’s hope you don’t feel that pain again anytime soon. Bring on 2018!

  2. Dave Brown says

    Really, really good Ben. Not something we’ve experienced in the AFL before (although a bit of SANFL experience for me). Has taken a good week for the fug to clear. Can’t wait for the cricket to start…

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I know just how you felt Ben, except my wandering around aimlessly in the last quarter was done with 100k people close by.

  4. Nice recount of your day, Ben. As we were away in Clare the disappointment was softened by being with some of our oldest and dearest friends. By early evening we were self-medicating with wine and Karaoke. If they’d played as woefully as we sang, the Crows would’ve lost by 119 points, or more.

  5. Very poignant. Very honest and more than a little bit funny. Can I recommend the European time zone for finals consumption Ben. We lucked onto this in for the 2015 GF and found it very useful again only a couple of weeks ago. GFstarts at 6.30am. By 3/4 time I am looking for socks and frillies under the bed. Rearranging suitcases. Gives a man something to do. By lunchtime you are in a taverna in a different town with new things to see; new delicacies to sample; and new cerveza/bier/vino to salve the wounds.
    Bit difficult with the littlies I know, but throw them out as soon as they turn 18 (you’ll be 5 years sick of them by then) and head for the Med. Regards, Uncle Peter (no longer acknowledging Croweater origins).

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