AFLW Round 5 – Adelaide v Brisbane: They? Or we?

 

by Holly Greatwich

 

I have found myself in a surprising situation. I am kneeling on a concrete step. My bad knee is already groaning, depsite cushioning the rough surface with my jumper – I won’t be needing it on this balmy Autumn evening. My darling fiance, F, is squashed in next to me, kneeling one step up to my right. We are flanked on either side by thousands of people jostling for position. When I optimistically look backwards towards the stadium seating I see it is packed. There is no space, anywhere. This concrete step has become our best bet for the next two hours. We accept our fate and look out over the Norwood Oval. I’ve spent a bit of time around young horses, and that’s what the crowd here reminds me of. Not exactly busting out of the yard and bolting, but twitching with a nervous, unsettled energy. There is a sense of unease, but excitment too and I let it wash over me. This is why I love live sport.

 

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone. Because I’m at the footy? Not at all. Surrounded by mad-as-cut-snakes diehard Crows fans? Absobloodylutely. You see, I’m a Port supporter. Not in a “oh every now and then I watch a game” kind of way. When I see that group of players in their black, white and teal take to the field, I get shivers all over. I feel so proud of my boys, and the way they play with such heart. I bitterly suffered through the `07 Grand Final with them and I cherish the chance to stick it right up the Crows when we come out on top at the Showdown (currently 21 wins to 20 – ha!). So, you’ll understand that I am attending this Crows v Brisbane game as an interested yet indifferent, neutral observer.

 

The first bounce brings a roar from the crowd that wouldn’t be out of place at any Showdown, and I’m impressed with the ferocity of play straight away. It’s jostling footy, and Emily Bates for Brisbane slots a neat run-in goal early on. The crowd bristles and I’m surprised by the volume of the Brisbane faithful letting themselves be known. I shift uncomfortably on my make-shift pillow and the game rolls on.

 

An awkward head-high bump to a Crows player is just the thing to get the crowd up and about. She uses the free kick well, and links up through the centre. A quick set of hands and a burst of speed sees the ball travelling quickly towards our end of the ground. The flanking players stream towards their goals to support the player with the ball. Urgent encouragement from the crowd: “C’mon RUN!”  The ball is delivered high, towards the Crows cindarella story, Sarah Perkins. The crowd heaves with anticipation. Can she mark it! Yes! No! Oh no! The ball spills forward and the crowd are roaring. If sound alone could propel the ball onto Perkins’ steady right boot it would be a sure thing. Who’s front and centre? Perkins give a scooping handball out to the imposing Erin Phillips who is gracefully arcing around the play with time and space. Everyone is mindlessly screaming (or thinking) “kick it!” and she listens, BANG onto the left boot. Catastrophe! It’s an awkward drop and the ball gets no air. Missed opportunity? No! Sally Riley scoops the ball cleanly off the deck and slots the open goal! Talk about the right time at the right place! She is unceremoniously smashed into the ground after the kick but it doesn’t matter – her teammates rally around her and the victory is sweet. All around the oval people are on their feet, pumping fists in the air and high fiving. The encouragement is fierce and sweeps across the ground as the players jog back to their positions. They’re fired up.

 

Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice among the chanting of “A-del-aide, A-del-aide” but I can’t quite place it.  Definitely someone I know, and close by, but who? It’ odd, but I dismiss it. On with the game. I check in with F. He’s wrapped up in the moment too. I unexpectedly get that deep down, tingling feeling when you realise all of a sudden, you’re a part of something special. Hang on, I’m here to watch a game of footy between two teams I don’t even go for! I quickly wipe away the grandstand dust that’s making my eyes smart and settle myself back into kneeling position. What am I doing standing up anyway?

 

The game ducks and weaves and dodges like the live thing it is as the two teams wrestle for momentum. The emotions of the crowd roll like waves out to the players. The game is tough, hard. Sloppy at times. Sleek at others. When the Crows Abbey Holmes is awarded a 50m penalty just before three quarter time the crowd goes nuts. I don’t think it can get any louder, until after kicking the goal the poor Crows player gets thumped into the turf by the offending Brisbane player. This is footy alright! I hear The Voice shouting out encouragement again, but I don’t see anyone I know except F. “They are tough!” he exclaims appreciatively. They’ve earnt the respect of my rugby playing, amateur boxing beau. And rightly so.

 

We’re at the last break and my legs are starting to go numb. Oddly, my throat is starting to feel a little sore too. Must be getting a cold. “It’s too congested around the ball,” suggests the group of teenage boys who are stationed behind us. I nod in agreement: “Yeah, we’ve got to find a bit of space around the packs”.

 

F raises his eyebrows at me with a wry smile. “They” I quickly correct myself inwardly. “They need to find a better use of space”.

 

The cleaner team on the night take out the game. The Norwood Oval is spectacular at sunset, despite the disappointed but relaxed feel of the crowd. I stand up and stretch. My shoulders feel a bit tight, like I’ve been waving my hands above my head or something strange. We are shuffled off our concrete step and docilely drift with the masses out onto the street. There’s a lot of chat about the game all around, and despite the loss everyone seems proud of the way their team played. I’m so glad I have finally headed along to an AFLW match. It’s just such a shame Port haven’t got a team yet. You know, so I could really get into it.

 

We have a long stroll back to our car. We’ve had to park over a kilometre away from the oval to find a spot. As we settle into our red rocket ready for the hour’s drive ahead back to the Barossa, F turns to me with a big grin on his face. “Well, I never thought I’d see that in my life!”
“What’s that love? Finally,  a women’s professional Aussie Rules League?”
“No” he laughs loudly, clearly amused. “You cheering your heart out for the Crows!”
I have no idea what he’s talking about.

 

Our votes:  3. Kate McCarthy (Bris)   2. Sarah Perkins (Adel)  1. Sabrina Fredrick-Traub (Bris)

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says:

    Haha, well written Holly. Welcome aboard! In the three games I have been to you do see a bit of Power merch – people supporting the state’s only side but making it clear where their allegiances lie. PLus, this Crows outfit is very easy to like.

  2. Mark Duffett says:

    It always messes with my head when I come across an intelligent, articulate Port supporter. Well done, Holly.

  3. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi Holly,

    brilliant stuff, and totally understand your situation. I am a paid up Doggies Women’s member and found myself cheering great Carlton players. (And Doggies too when they did something great, which wasn’t as often on Saturday morning.) I have felt quite bemused by my barracking … not red, white and black in sight and yet supporting something from each of the teams. I remember a Port supporter saying, they are Port first and South Australian second. Sounds a bit like you too. Thanks for your report and welcome to the Almanac.

  4. Thanks Holly. Great crowd and great report. Agree that Brisbane were cleaner when it counted despite Adelaide getting the ball forward significantly more often. Must be interesting, barracking for the Crows as a Power fan.

    A friend remarked to me that this is a great time of year because on a good weekend he can enjoy three Collingwood loses!

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