AFL Round 5 – Port Adelaide v West Coast: No Direction Home

I tried everything this week.  I wore my Eagles polo short all day to show my commitment.  Last season I bought flowers for the Avenging Eagle on my way home most Friday nights.  Having changed work places I no longer drive past the florist on my way home.  This week I made a special detour and purchased her favourite blue and gold irises.  (The real ones not the Van Gogh painting that Alan Bond stole).

I even vowed not to abuse our players when they made obvious errors.  I kept repeating the Avenging Eagle’s mantra.  “They’re trying their best.”  “They’re only young boys.”  “They have mothers too, you know.”  I kept my promise until after three quarter time.  (I plead severe provocation M’Lud.)

Given our appalling form this season, I adopted the Mike Brearley theory of leadership.  You don’t suddenly go from struggling to dominating.  You have to work your way back into form or into a contest via sustained periods of competency.  Set defensive fields and just seek to contain your opposition.  A narrow points victory is an important step in the process.

Woosha seemed to be adopting the same approach.  He started with a 4 man forward line and a clogged defensive structure.  For the first time all season, the boys seemed to have their mojo back.  There was run out of defence and plenty of room for Kennedy to lead into.  By half time we had taken 15 marks inside our attacking zone to none for the Power.  There was only one problem.

During the week I read a line from Jack Dee the grumpy British comedian.  He said he was “as nervous as Cypriot in front of an ATM machine.”  His new line will be “nervous as an Eagle with a set shot 25 metres in front.”  It was cringe worthy, but to half time the Power had the same goal kicking yips on their limited forays ahead of centre.

The Power started the second half with a couple of goals, but the Eagles quickly dominated possession and territory once again.  But our conversion rate went from appalling to diabolical.  LeCras centred cleverly from the pocket to young Jacob Brennan – unguarded 20 metres out.  I try not to judge young players until they have 20-30 games under their belt, but Jacob has the nervous disposition of a Sunni in a synagogue.  He spilled the sitter and hurriedly regathered still metres in the clear.  Imagining phantom footsteps he slewed the kick over his left shoulder out of bounds on the full.

While we were still 41 points clear, I suddenly had the feeling that I had seen this movie before.  Mental images of the Sturt – Norwood Grand Final of 1978 flooded back (you can buy Barry Nicholl’s great book on a memorable game through the Almanac bookshop).  “Teams that dominate play but not the scoreboard let the opposition feel they are still in the contest if they can summon one good quarter,” I sagely advised the increasingly nervous Avenging Eagle.  Or as Wally Grout more succinctly put it “never give a sucker an even break.”

Neade, Boak, Wingard and Hartlett started to run and carry.  The Power kicked 3 goals late in the quarter to be within 21 points at the final break.  Priddis had been subbed out with concussion in the opening minutes of the game, and now we were without run, rotations or self-belief.  I could see the lights of the oncoming express train.

Kenny from Camperdown held Robbie Gray in reserve until orange time and Gray danced all round the concrete shod Eagles in the last term with 12 possessions.  Fittingly Kane Cornes kicked the decider for the Power and had the ball in his hands in his 250th game when the timekeepers signalled for the screen to be put around the wounded beasts at the Fallen Log.  Port score a deserved 5 point win for a magical 5-0 start to their season.

The scary thing is that our best players were our ageing champs – Glass and Cox.  LeCras was our best midfielder but he joined all except Kennedy in the goal kicking horrors.  Shuey and Gaff had serviceable games and Scott Selwood always works hard before murdering possession.

My hope for the future – Jack Darling – got as many touches as a one legged man in an arse kicking competition.  Chris Masten served up more turnovers than McDonalds.  And so it goes.

Kenny from Camperdown is the pin up boy for any of us Over 50.  All any footy fan asks if for their team to have a red hot go and play to their best.  The Power under Kenny does that in spades.  Get on Hamish Hartlett for the Brownlow.  He is a ripper and his penetrating kicks reminded me of Peter Matera in his pomp.

After last week’s loss to Carlton I saw scarlet.  This week my world is sepia.  All the blood and passion seems as drained from me as it does from my Eagles.

The Avenging Eagle wanted to vent.  “What did you expect given their form this season?” I meekly commented and promptly went to sleep on the sofa watching the SBS movie – without any Shiraz assistance for a change.  Numbed into unconsciousness.

Footy – like life – is all about expectations.  In 2011 the Eagle’s caterpillars of 2008/9/10 unexpectedly metamorphosed into radiant butterflies.  Port Power fans are glorying in a similar display this season.  Without any warning the Eagles have woven themselves a new cocoon and returned to their inanimate chrysalis state.  Who knows how or why?  Don’t ask me or Woosha.  Ask David Attenborough.

Where to from here for my Eagles?  Personally I’d transfer their training to Gai Waterhouse.  She has openings I hear, and we need a ruthless Eastern States coach with a proven track record.  Her regimen would leave the Bomber’s peptides in the shade.

As for me I think I’ll buy delphiniums this week.  Irises fade too soon.

All Sunday I have wandered listless and directionless.  The words of His Bobness haunting me (cue the organ and piano intro):

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the Power a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People’d call, say, “Beware Eagles, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You’ve gone to the semi-finals all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
You said you’d never compromise
With the Woosha plan, but know you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the fans and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your Premier’s hat
You carried on your shoulders a Geelong Cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
They really are where it’s at
After they took from you everything they could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princes Park on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you’d better lift your Premier’s ring, you’d better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Malthouse in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?”

PORT POWER    1.0          2.5          7.7          12.12 (84)

WEST COAST      4.4          7.13        9.16        10.19 (79)
GOALS: Port Adelaide: Monfries 2, Wingard 2, Hartlett 2, Boak 2, Neade, Cornes, Broadbent, Stewart. West Coast: Kennedy 4, Hams, Dalziell, Masten, Cripps, Darling, Hill.
BEST Port Adelaide: Hartlett, Boak, Cornes, Ebert, Wingard. West Coast: Glass, Cox, S. Selwood, Shuey, Kennedy, Gaff.
UMPIRES: Pannell, Kamolins, Fila.
CROWD 25,132 at AAMI Stadium.
MALARKEY VOTES: Hartlett (PA)3; Boak (PA)2; Glass (WC)1


  1. Mark Seja says

    Great article Pete! I hate to admit it, but herself is a Power supporter so I too have been copping a bit of (dare I say it – crowing) about the Power win. If it’s any consolation mate, I watched the mighty Eags kick the Port Magpies off the Park at the acknowledged centre of the universe – Woodville Oval – last Satdy. I hope that makes you feel a little better.

  2. Great report Pete. The Eagles are this year’s mystery. There seems to be one every year. Seems the players have just stopped listening.

    Sumich needs to stop his perpetual squinting – looks like he has a bad case of piles.

  3. Kerry Smith says

    Hi Peter
    Terrific work. Great to hear from His Bobness! I am a slightly stunned Power supporter who keeps shaking my head in disbelief at what is unfolding. While I can see some similarities to the transformation of WC in 2011, I don’t think we are anywhere near that good yet. But it is fun so far.
    Kind Regards
    Kerry Smith

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