Round 5 – Port Adelaide v Geelong: Apathy on the field leads to apathy off it, and the death of the bump


Port Adelaide v Geelong

7:10PM, Saturday April 21

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide



It seems after Saturday night’s game between Port Adelaide and Geelong in Adelaide that the bump, the hip and shoulder, may well be a thing of the past, gone the same way as the dropkick and cheer squad duffle coats. Not that the North Melbourne/Hawthorn game didn’t already start nailing the coffin shut. But Lindsay Thomas’ hit on a Selwood brother Saturday night, while crude and causing some injury, was the end. Thomas, a marginalised character throughout his career caught Selwood with a fierce bump, the was ball within five metres yet he was reported and now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines – and a tough time getting back into Port’s first team for the rest of the season.


Thomas isn’t liked by everyone, that’s more than clear. But the hysterical, over-the-top nonsense that has come from fans and commentators alike since the incident shows just how far down the doomed path we are. Cameron Ling called it a “dog act”, a nasty and malicious slur on Thomas and his football, and words that shouldn’t be said about any footballer. Ling should know better than to articulate those sorts of comments when emotions are running high. That the bump occurred against his former club is no excuse. He was just one of many media people to rail hard against Thomas when there have been many far worse incidents on a football field in the past. The hip and shoulder is an essential part of football, and continuing the emotive rubbish commentary around it every time someone is unlucky enough to be hurt because of one doesn’t do anything except put more pressure to sanitise the game further. Already Aussie Rules at the elite level is becoming softer each year that passes.


On Saturday night Port Adelaide could have done well to be even more aggressive at the body and ball, but they were timid at times and reactive against a well-drilled, professional and terrifically set-up Geelong side who strangled Port’s forwards ball movement forcing sideways nonsense that so enrages the supporters. It was mind-bogglingly boring and frustrating to watch. Geelong scored against Port’s flood, amazingly, but Port could not do the same in reverse. Port had no run and lacked a coherent forward line.


Port were a sore and sorry lot by nights end, but the greater problem would be off the field at the moment. Adelaide Oval is a great venue, if you forget the disgraceful food and drink prices that make the SMA rich, Port fans resorting to packed sandwiches and unhappy kids, and the over-officious security who seem intent on wrecking the thrill factor of attending an AFL game at the venue. But the biggest issue is the fans’ apathy. Apathy when things aren’t going swimmingly on the field. That’s a change from what we’ve seen at Football Park and previously in the old SANFL when games were fiercer and crowds fiercer still. Was there anything really wrong with either in days gone by? I don’t think so. It is a football game after all, not a country women’s association bake-off event. Swearing, gesticulating and the standard screeching at the umpire hardly seems over the top or out of place at an Aussie Rules Footy game. The AFL, Adelaide Oval and also Port Adelaide Football seem to have gone so far the other way in trying to make the football a cuddly family-friendly event that they’ve lost sight of the basics of support, footy, tribal angst and everything in between. Why?


Port does a lot well. They have the most indigenous players of any club on their books, and their community work and work with Aboriginal programs is an outstanding success. And the idea of a first goal, kicked on Adelaide Oval before the match Saturday night by former winger David Hutton has its merits, but they’ve really thrown in some utter fluff too.


Never Tear Us Apart is great for getting the crowd off their seats and singing, which is good, but even the most diehard Port fan would admit it’s manufactured. Very manufactured. Those things only work when they are crowd-driven, which it wasn’t. The flames and kids zones and all that adds very little and the constant blast of music and over-the-top PA announcements are annoying at best.


Since when did football need all of this malarkey for it to be enjoyable? When did a game of Aussie Rules become an event, an outing – as opposed to a sport, a game, a contest, a battle in front of supporters diametrically opposed and raging at each other? Who knows, but it’s time to wind it back. When they players come across at times as apathetic, and the fans in the stands share that apathy then there are issues. I left Adelaide Oval Saturday night feeling dejected for the loss, but also dejected at the changing face of the game itself. The preference for watching Port away grows each year that passes, despite continual trips back to Adelaide. Each time I’ve been I’ve grown more dissatisfied at what I’ve been watching. Port actually hit the front on Saturday night during the torrid third quarter, but from where I was positioned in the crowd you wouldn’t have known it. During the last quarter, when Port’s players simply gave up the ghost the crowd was a strange mix of ‘we’ve seen this before against Geelong’ and early exit time. It’s galling to watch actually.


Take out the bump, and crowd involvement and the fierceness of battle and it isn’t Aussie Rules anymore. Port, its fans, Adelaide Oval and the AFL need to remember that.


Twitter – @chrismwriter


PORT ADELAIDE    1.2      4.4      7.5      7.8 (50)
GEELONG                 3.2      5.7      8.10    12.12 (84)

Port Adelaide: Neade 2, Thomas, R.Gray, Wines, S.Gray, Amon
Geelong: Parsons 2, Horlin-Smith 2, Dangerfield, Menegola, Fogarty, Ratugolea, Murdoch, Duncan, Kelly, Menzel

Port Adelaide: Wines, R.Gray, Westhoff, Bonner, Polec
Geelong: Selwood, Dangerfield, Menegola, Horlin-Smith, Duncan, Kelly

Crowd: 45,372





  1. Len Rodwell says

    We should call the bump what it really is, a shoulder charge, something that is outlawed in both rugby codes because it is considered dangerous. It should be outlawed in Australian football as well.

  2. This may come across as biased because I am a heart on the sleeve Port Adelaide follower, but it is not. Let me also say, I carry no light for Lindsay Thomas and was unhappy at his recruitment by Port, hoping he was closer to the lower end of the pay scale than the top. However, I have been bemused and annoyed for some time by the commentary about on-field incidents from many commentators.

    What has happened to the legal principles of a fair trial and sub judice. We hear, ad nauseum, from politicians especially, that “the matter is before the courts and I cannot comment”. Well effectively all AFL games are before the courts (MRP) until the all-clear siren goes on Monday afternoon. This, and the fair trial, did not stop Ling, the Geelong coach and many others, from piling onto Thomas as a convenient scapegoat for their world view. Ling, in particular, should hang his head. Matthew Lloyd and Chris Judd on Footy Classified on Monday night, both strongly said it was not a dog act. Campbell Brown (of all people) and Wayne Carey (of all people) on Talking Footy also agreed it was not. They both should know.

    With monotonous regularity, we see incidents in games dismissed by Channel 7 “experts” as nothing to worry about, or “he will get weeks”. It is nothing to do with them, it is Michael Christian’s job to figure that out.

    I agree with every word of the rest of your article too and it is the main reason why I opted to mind granddaughters on Saturday night rather than use the proffered free tickets.

  3. daniel flesch says

    Yes , a serious lapse from ” Lingy ” ( ugh !) And what’s more an unforgiveable slur on dogs – faithful affectionate companions , essential wonderful help for the blind , equally essential as workers on sheep and cattle properties and Premiers two years ago. Cameron Ling’s outburst could be described as a bitchy (and punny ) Cat act .

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