AFL Round 23 – West Coast v Adelaide: The Crows wonder ‘what if?’

West Coast versus Adelaide
6:10 pm Saturday 31 August
Patersons Stadium
Barry Nicholls

What are the odds? Not good really. Adelaide and West Coast only within reach of finals because of Essendon’s supplement-tainted relegation to ninth position. By the opening bounce at Paterson Stadium it was all irrelevant. Carlton’s six goal comeback against Port Adelaide had closed off the final eight.  The Blues by a whisker into September action.

So what did the Adelaide and West Coast clash mean? A chance for Eagles’ fans to farewell some of its retiring greats, for Crows supporters to see what might have been. At best it was a pointer toward next year.

In Busselton, two and a half hours  drive south west of Perth it’s blustery outside, intermittent rain falls. Springs feels a long way off.  I’m with Ann and the kids, all four of them in front of the television.  A Saturday night ritual, bath, tea, and with winter pyjamas as they huddle on the couch to watch the first half of the footy.  Heat from the fireplace warms the room as winter’s final hooray beats down outside.  Watching the footy is the only television they are allowed. They probably think that there’s nothing else on. In some ways they are right.

Today August 31st also marks the sixteenth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. There’s a brief mention in the nightly news.

“Who’s that?” asks Jacy who’s eight years old and likes all things to do with fairies and Princesses.

“Prince William’s mother,” I answer. The father of the new baby George. Remember him?

She nods.

I’m trying to keep the conversation short.  Explaining death is difficult at the best of times especially when the footy is about to start.

“What happened?”

“She died in a car crash, that’s why you have to be very careful on the road.”

Jacy seems content with that answer.

And then for a moment I am back there. Staying at a mate’s five bedroom stately house in Birmingham. Hearing the whispers and steady movement.

“She’s dead. Princess Di is dead.”

It’s hours after Australia heard the news. No Facebook and Twitter back then. I watch the television and see a middle aged couple I met a week before being interviewed. They were in a car behind the Princess’ and stopped to try to help.  True story.  What were the odds?

There was a sense of the unreal that Sunday morning.  Everyone seemed upset by the news. Like they all knew her. Months later, dinner party jokes about Princes Di’s death were  still frowned upon. I know I laughed at one to stony faced stares.

While England mourned the Crows were on an unlikely run to their first flag. Fourth going into the major round, many fans thought the Crows no chance of a premiership.  But a Darren Jarman inspired win against the Saints followed by another ‘catch up’ premiership in 1998. What were the odds?

Sixteen years on and there’s no need to dwell on the past…for long.

No such luck for the Crows this year. The odds haven’t fallen their way. Or they haven’t done enough to make the odds fall their way. The loss of draft picks and officials’ suspension because of the Kurt Tippett contract has taken its toll on Adelaide. I’m not sure what excuse West Coast has. Rumours about the Eagles coach’s tenure have circulated for months.

It looks cold at Paterson’s Stadium, only the keen have turned up. The Crows jump the Eagles. It’s like watching a ball rolling down a steep hill. You know it’s going to have a fair bit of momentum by the time it reaches the bottom. One way traffic as the commentators say.

By half time the kids are in bed and the game is all but over. The Crows are ‘doing a Watto’ (credit JTH), that is performing when it matters least. By the final siren the Crows 34 scoring shots to 18 tells the story. Well part of it anyway. It’s an 86 point margin. Crows fans must wonder what if? Had they snuck into the eight, what would have been the odds of a run at the flag? Maybe it would have been like 97 and 98, but that’s probably dreaming which is all many fans can do until next season.

Adelaide 4.4, 8.7, 15.10, 19.15 (129)

West Coast Eagles 0.3, 3.7, 4.8, 5.13 (43)


Adelaide: Dangerfield 3, Otten 3, Grigg 3, Crouch 2, Thompson 2, Sloane 2, van Berlo, Callinan, Smith, Tambling

West Coast: Tunbridge 2, Smith, Dalziell, Wellingham.


Adelaide: All played well

West Coast Eagles: Priddis, Cox, Selwood

Umpires: Fleer, Wenn, Foot.

Official crowd: 29,416

Our Votes:   Dangerfield (Ad), Thompson, (Ad) Sloane (Ad)


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A Interesting Philosophical read Bazz I am sure every 1 can remember where they were on that fateful day 16 yrs ago and a amazing coincidence 4 yourself re seeing the person who you had recently spoken to being interviewed after trying to help !
    Re The Crows yep A Season of what ifs realistically not good enough especially when Walker went down and we will never no how much the off field drama effected on field and ironically the Team which really finished 10th in North Melourne are the Team who would have done the Most damage in September in my opinion
    Thanks Bazz for the trip down memory lane .

  2. Good to see you avoided talking about the “football”, Barry. Very wise.
    Adelaide’s midfield still looks very potent, so they can be a force again if they can find a marking forward. Sanderson had an extra man in defence all night, and the Crows often ran out of men forward of the ball when they attacked in the first half.
    Against the Eagles???? Does Sanderson buy insurance for asteroid landings??
    Modern football tactics make no sense to me. Then again Adelaide actually had a game plan, however misguided.
    Is Diana’s chauffer available for the Eagles Mad Monday???

  3. Baz, nice to read you again. Last piece had the provocative headline – a night with Ben Cousins. Got the tongues salivating (people hoping there were pictures) and you had the lawyers on their toes as well.

    This time you tackle Lady Di.

    Hard to think of her as a grandmother, which she would have been now.

    I remember that Sunday afternoon well. I was in the Ashgrove TAB waiting for Courting Pleasure to run, when the news came over 4TAB (racing radio) and hardened punters looked distressed.

    I probably should have been more distressed but Courting Pleasure led all the way at Mildura and won by a nostril, her last hurrah.

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