Round 21 – Port Adelaide v West Coast: Tarzan Saves the Day

Port Adelaide v West Coast

4:05PM, Saturday August 11

Adelaide Oval



“Tarzan clings desperately to the rapidly fraying vine.  The pygmies shower him with spears and poison darts from the cliff above.  The water below froths with hungry crocodiles…”


Movies as a kid were always a double feature (Clambake and Dr No) preceded by a cliffhanger serial.  Serials like Tarzan, the Phantom and the Lone Ranger transposed the usual structure of set up; plot development and eventual denouement.  



The movie owners wanted to keep us coming back every week, so each episode started with the resolution of the previous week’s looming crisis.  We knew that Tarzan couldn’t be killed off, so the debate over Monday recess finger buns was how he would escape and triumph rather than if.


“Jeez – Tarzan’s bitten off a fair bit this time.  Waddya reckon?  Will he get a free kick for a high tackle and win it in extra time?”


“Nah they used that plot line last year.  Reckon he’ll grab another vine; swing and take out three villains; grab the jewels out of mid air and fly back home to his tree house.”


Saturday was sparkling sunshine in Perth after weeks of rain, so it was an early tee time for me.  The Avenging Eagle headed off to Bassendean to watch her nephew Brandon’s fourth game of the season for Swan Districts after off-season back surgery.  The plan was for the extended clan to reunite back at our place for replays, red and AE’s legendary chicken, bacon and mushroom pies.


I got home from golf in time for the AFL bounce down with my Eagles having a horror show first quarter and lucky to only trail by 4 goals, thanks to a solo Elliot Yeo running shot from outside 50 just before the siren.


The media menagerie chirp about Adam Simpson being a Clarkson acolyte, but I reckon his coaching style is just as much from his playing day’s mentor Dennis Pagan.


The Eagles are a tight, hardened unit just like the late 90’s Kangaroos.  Six finals in the last three seasons, and there is not much that phases Hurn et al – on or off the playing field.  Love us or hate us – those inside the Eagles bubble don’t much care for external noise.  A bit of youth and unpredictability has been injected into the front half, but the defence and mid field are finals hardened.


Adam Simpson is the most undemonstrative coach in the AFL.  With the Eagles outmatched and fumbling early – the TV cameras show him……….thinking.  No panicked phone demands; no grimaces; no arm waving.  He trusts the players and the team process.


At quarter time we reset around the clearances.  Scott Lycett starts to get on top of Paddy Ryder and the Port flood of ball becomes a trickle.  The game slows to a grind and I know that my Eagles are in the contest.  Both sides lack forward potency but we are on top at the contests.


I am getting twitchy watching this alone and Shandy the Wonder Dog is pleading for a walk after being holed up by the rain for days.  Swan Districts are a goal up on South Fremantle at half time and Brandon’s stats look good, so I bundle the Labrador in the car and we head off to Bassendean Oval for the second half.


The clan are in the Bill Walker Stand (4 Sandover Medals, 3 flags and still a legend around the club).  The fun and money police go home at half time, so us cheapskates get to wander the grass outer bank in the late winter sun.



The radio tells me that the Eagles are not quite in it – but not quite out of it.  Port have played the undersized Aidyn Johnson as an Oliver Twist centre half forward to take advantage of McGovern’s compulsive marking attempts.  Oliver crumbs two goals from the Artful Dodger’s table spills.  Paddy Ryder goals from outside 50 for Port to lead by 28 and then hobbles off to his looming zimmer frame.


Ryder’s departure is like the test pattern on old tv’s that said “sorry for the service disruption – normal service will resume later”.  We goal twice and then Charlie Dixon joins Nic Nait, his man mountain counterpart, in the orthopaedic ward for the season.  Brendon Ah Chee thanks Dan Houston’s ribs for trading him to Perth.


Port’s in-game injuries to key talls have evened up our pre-game absences (self-inflicted and otherwise).  The last quarter will belong to the team that holds it’s nerve.  Port have dried up like temperance meeting converts.


I had thought that Willie Rioli was the best of our young forwards (and still may prove it in finals) but Liam Ryan has come back from self-inflicted injury (an Eagles theme?) and shown focus to match his endeavour.  Like a greyhound on the lure he chases down Jack Watts to win a free.  Then he is Phil Matera on pogo sticks, with a one hander on Vardy’s head to rival Mark Waugh in the gully.  He goals from the angle and then hits the post from 50.  Ryan is Milne and Ballantyne – but with a smile instead of a snarl.


Swans fade away in the second half, but Brandon hangs tough at half back to earn second best from the coach.  They are young and skinny against the bigger bodies of the clubs with more resources to pay players (WAFL flags now go to richest rather the best club).  Shandy is getting more attention from the kids in the outer than the footy, as the WAFL game fizzles while the AFL intensifies.


The siren sounds at Bassendean with 15 minutes to play in Adelaide.  The brother in laws head to the TV in the members bar.  I can’t get in.  Shandy is only 13 – under age.  Instead I pace the deserted outer like an expectant father.  


We can win.  We should win.  We have all the possession.  We kick points.  We are running out of time.  But this is Port and us.  They have sergeant majors where we have generals.  They have conscripts and defectors where we have enlisted soldiers.  We have a plan where they have a hope.


Where are you Tarzan?  Barrass is plucking marks like coconuts, but we are locked in our back half.  Darling, Cripps and LeCras conjur a great team goal and there are 43 seconds left from the final bounce.  Lycett the Lionheart battles and bustles the ball forward to just inside the 50 and…………..


“Tarzan leaps from the frayed vine to catch another in mid air and calmly gathers himself to hoof the flour bag into the stand and send the pygmy tribe fleeing in their customary fear and disappointment.” 


For a crazy minute I am lost in joy and amazement.  I am Tarzan.  I hug Jane the Avenging Eagle and we dance like teenagers.  Wolf the Wonder Dog forgets his arthritis to join in.  


This is why we go to the movies.  The jungle drums are beating.


Eagles are coming.  Eagles are fearless.  Eagles never surrender.  Be very afraid.  Josh and Jack will be back…….”


Replays, red and chicken pie never tasted so good.


PORT ADELAIDE                    5.1  6.2   9.2   9.4 (58)
WEST COAST                          1.1  3.2   6.5  9.8   (62) 


Port Adelaide: Johnson 3, R.Gray 2, Wingard, Dixon, Farrell, Ryder
West Coast: Cripps 3, Yeo, Masten, Sheed, Ryan, LeCras, McGovern


Port Adelaide: Wines, Jonas, Pittard, Ebert, Westhoff
West Coast: Shuey, Yeo, LeCras, Barrass, Redden, Sheed, Cripps

Crowd: 32,534


  1. PB- the Willie Rioli story is a good one. Only a couple years back he was nearly twenty kilograms heavier and not traveling well. Got fit and played a season with Glenelg where he impressed many including me. I’m pleased for him and your Eagles.

    I guess Christmas at the McGoverns this year will involve the boys asking Google to play their after the siren heroics.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Two movies and a serial, what great value there once was for your movie going dollar. These days I nearly have to take out a second mortgage each time I buy movie tickets and popcorn for my family.

    Lovely pic of Shandy the Wonder Dog. Looks much more heroic than Tarzan in “The Dive of Death”.

  3. Superb PB stunned re Ports lack of composure in the last 2 minutes and bizarre re WC sending the photo to Gaff say what ?

  4. Dan Hansen says

    I hope rookie draft Kerchak next year … anything would be better.

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