Round 6 – Port Adelaide v West Coast: Welcome Strangers

In a bloodless age, journeying interstate with your footy team assumes the heroic proportions of the early explorers.  The thought came to me pre-game in a North Terrace pub consuming Coopers while  isolated in a throng of black and teal.  Not quite alone, as I had the Avenging Eagle playing the faithful tracker Wylie to my Edward John Eyre.  The pub’s TV showed the early stages of the game at Etihad.  The Burke and Wills Blues up against the Ludwig Leichardt Lions.

 

Explorers had no maps so they relied on omens and the stars. Port were 1-8 after Showdowns. Tough games against Sydney (the Rum Corps), Hawthorn (Bligh) and Adelaide (the Charles Sturts still searching for the inland sea) had surely sapped their vitality. We ran Port close last year in Simmo’s early days, and we had improved while they had plateaued at best. They were short price favourites with the legalised thieves and Mr Wrap had tipped them. All good signs.

 

The choice of Record seller outside the ground requires moral discernment. I favoured the older gent who looked like he had spent the night drinking ruby port on Pinky Flat. Kindred spirits. “I barrack for the Eagles too”, he enthused. “Trying too hard,” I thought, “I only want the one.” “Which Eagles?” I stupidly enquired “Big Cox or Lindsay Head?” “Heady of course” he chided and we embarked on a one upsmanship journey down memory lane. “Bob Hank”. “Mick Clingly”. “Bobby Gibson”. “Freddie Bills”. He raised me a Glen Pill and I saw his Vin Landers. The customer is always right.

 

We journeyed inside the Fuhrerdome, where the world’s most beautiful cricket oval had once been located. Bucolic views of the hills and cathedral spires replaced with giant screens, on which Aryan FM radio breakfast hosts raucously welcomed both the faithful and the retinue from the cattle trucks now safely ensconced in holding pens high in the Wanganeen Stand. What has happened to the Clem Hill and George Giffen Stands? Fine test cricketers from the turn of last century – but now the victims of grandstand name burnings that assert SA’s sporting history started with the Crows. Very 1984.

 

Some elements of the ‘fan experience’ (sort of like the ‘girlfriend experience’ – all the fringe benefits without the commitment) were fine. Kochy and the Port marketing department do a much better job than the fattened Eagles at making kids and families welcome. But the thumping bass line of the doof-doof music as we queued to collect our tickets was infantile.

 

The “music” and nauseating Aryan Youth big screen presence continued inside, culminating in Port fans standing po-faced with their scarves outstretched for their (time honoured) pre-game rendition of what sounded like “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles”.

 

You can take the boys out of the Barossa, but you can’t take the Barossa out of the boys.

 

The first quarter was tight and fierce. 3-4 apiece at quarter time. We were up for the fight.

 

The first 10 minutes of the second was the all-out blitzkrieg that Port has built their reputation on. Rapid running and ball shifts to players creating space on the opposite flank. I held my breath. The Eagles defensive line stiffened and held. Tonight was to be the Famous Few not the Ardennes. Port’s on-field generals too sure they could impose their superiority at any time to really push home the advantage.

 

Josh Kennedy disappeared with a dislocated finger to add to his winged keel and the Eagles manfully reorganised to cover his absence. Yeo started the season as a defender, became a midfielder and now he was our full forward. He marked strongly 3 times for a 0-2 result, but no matter we were swallowing time while they were squandering their mismatch. Our line had held and the contest was still on, with us only 17 points adrift and matching them for intensity.

 

At half time I left the Avenging Eagle in her eyrie and watched from beneath the Moreton Bay figs on the grass mound in front of the old scoreboard. The wind had died; the floodlights had taken over and from the low angle the electric chessmen charged to and fro in manic waves. Australian football is logic and advantage from above. The taking and denying of space. From inside the fog of war it is brilliant marionettes playing Punch and Judy to a script half-written. Given the degree of difficulty, I will never criticise our players again (until we get flogged by cellar dwellers – as we surely will in this most even and unpredictable of seasons).

 

Being loyal 5AA and MMM listeners the Port players had spent half time listening to Roo, Bone and Rowie reassure them that they were now well on top and the result was a formality. The third quarter started with Lobbe Lloyd and CC Ryder getting their kicks on Route 66, while Nic Nait and callow Callum Sinclair were getting on top to give our midfield first opportunity. And that was all we needed. Priddis, LeCras (reborn in the clinches), Yeo, Masten, Gaff and Shuey gave the overhyped Port midfield a lesson in pressure, tackling and team running to advantage. Suddenly the game looked easy and a 4 goals to one quarter had us leading by 4 points at orange time. Could have been more as we missed easy shots, but I reminded myself that it’s only easy from the stands.

 

Port returned the favour in the last as their early assaults all resulted in gettable misses. A fine running and linking passage by the Eagles along our eastern wing was clinically finished off by Jamie Cripps to give us breathing space. Wingard goals – then Shuey – parry then thrust. Modern footy like modern warfare – one moment strategically breathtaking – then chillingly brutal. What is this – Bersheeba or Stalingrad – and who won those battles? I’m reduced to omens because the game gives no clue of the result. An errant Wingard pass is retrieved a cigarette paper width inside the boundary and turned back inside for Monfries to snap a goal. On such things seasons stand or fall. Is the roar of the home crowd a portent of the hangman’s noose or the governor’s reprieve?

 

4 points. How much time? How much time? The man in front says 4 minutes. The woman behind says 2 minutes. 5 minutes later the man in front says 2 minutes to go. The woman behind still says 2. Either her watch has stopped or my Eagles are dead.

 

The on-field action is manic as players throw themselves at every contest. Spoils are awarded the Military Cross; tackles a Service Medal. Priddis is weighed down by exhaustion and silverware. McGovern marks and becomes a dual recipient of the VC.

 

The ball goes out on our half forward flank. One more time. One more time. The scrum from the ruck at the lineout (what code is this?) magically gets the ball moving our way and suddenly there are blue jumpers running clear. Shuey slots from the angle and the cattle pen in the top northern corner of the Wanganeen Stand are all up shouting and hugging and dancing like it’s the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Sport as the pale continuation of war by other means.

VE Day Our West Coast correspondent and the Avenging Eagle celebrate among disbelieving Port supporters

 

10 points up with 37 seconds left to play. 37 seconds sounds authoritative so I guess we have moved on from wishful thinking. I look across to the western wing and the flood to the exits suggests that the Outer Harbour train timetable is now assuming more importance than the Footy Record for 38,000 disillusioned Port fans.

 

Bliss. I can’t remember witnessing a better win. In a season where I expected gruel, even a tuna sandwich tastes like Krug and caviar.

 

The Avenging Eagle and I join the 500 Eagles diehards in the Cathedral Room under the stands. Port do not cater for away wins. There are 4 bar staff and 2 beer taps. No matter I am drunk just standing in line.

 

The Avenging Eagle goes over to Alan Cransberg our Club President and thanks him for appointing Simmo as coach. He smiles and says “everyone pushed for Sumich, but the club needed to embrace the future”. The players at the mic mumble the usual inanities, but Luke Shuey tellingly acknowledges the role of Brady Rawlings in toughening up the midfield. I can’t resist shaking Shannon Hurn’s hand and calling him ‘Bunga’ with a mention that I saw his grandfather Brian (the original ‘Bunga’) open the bowling for SA in the 60’s when this was still a genuine cricket ground.

 

Eventually we wander off into the night seeking victuals. Keeping my head down in fear of the roaming vigilantes that menaced Alastair the Innocent. But the people of Adelaide are remarkably charitable on seeing our colours. “Great win – goodonya,” they enthuse from passing cars; when pulling beers or offering us the menu.

 

I notice that all these people also wear blue and gold. With just a splash of red. Must be our new away strip.

 

The last couple of seasons have been swimming in shit for Eagles fans. Suddenly we have mysteriously surfaced with gold between our teeth. In my mind I was now elevated to Edward Hargraves finding those first gold nuggets on the western slopes. Welcome Strangers.

 

 

PORT ADELAIDE     3.4   7.6   8.6     10.8 (68)

WEST COAST           3.4  4.7   8.10   11.12 (78)

 

GOALS 

Port Adelaide: Gray 3, Wingard 2, Boak, White, Schulz, Lobbe, Monfries

West Coast: Hill 2, Cripps 2, Shuey 2, Yeo, Priddis, Kennedy, Sheed, LeCras

 

BEST 

Port Adelaide: Krakouer, Gray, Hombsch, Hartlett, Wingard

West Coast: LeCras, Schofield, Wellingham, Shuey, Yeo, Priddis, McGovern, Butler

 

Umpires: Deboy, Kamolins, McInerney

 

Crowd: 38,508

 

VOTES

LeCras (WC) 3; Schofield (WC) 2; Krakouer (PA) 1

Comments

  1. Peter Fuller says

    Peter,
    Great report, your mix of military honours and the early explorers is inspired. However, I would quibble at your characterising the Blues as Burke & Wills. Certainly B & W’s game plan was similarly ill-conceived as the one Carlton is currently employing (that’s my inference, btw); but Burke & Wills did have an objective (however preposterous, given their planning and execution) to reach the Gulf. Only the most generous observer could define an equivalent goal for which the Blues are aiming.

  2. What a glorious win for you Peter, and I hope your BP is back to normal by now (maybe I will check it on your return). An away win is always sweeter.
    I hope not to match your pulse rate this weekend at Etihad, but I have been a Freo supporter for so long, I can never feel confident.
    I look forward to a Freo/Eagle GF if the current ladder is anything to go by.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    Boy did you pick the right time for a footy trip. So creative after a few Coopers on the Northern Terrace.
    The only explorer I could link with a team was Captain Cook and the Saints. I think Cook had a couple of trips over to or via New Zealand and someone even named a mountain after him.

  4. PB- the art of homecoming can be tricky, but well done on yours. I enjoyed the mix of military and exploration metaphor.

    Despite the infantilisation of the experience by the AFL,I’m pleased you found the footy electrifying. Always a bonus when travelling!

    Well done to your Eagles. Yes, the Dockers are flying, but I’m not sure that by Round 10, as many suggest, the top 8 will be clearer. And this is great.

    The middle Bunga, and father of Shannon, William, went pretty well for Centrals too playing over 130 games. I’m a little surprised he didn’t venture over to the VFL. He wouldn’t have been a star, but would have been serviceable. Or is this Barossa bias?

    Do you intend returning to Adelaide Oval for the cricket, or has the desanctification been too much?

    Thanks for that. It’s a report I’ve been long anticipating, and like your Eagles, it didn’t disappoint.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    The Port rucks sound more like Sunbury ’72 than Adelaide ’15 PB – by the end they were dragging the Chain, aptly dressed in Black and Blue.

    The scary part (as you discovered) is that the other clubs seem to have distilled the worst parts of the AO MDE and foisted it on us unsuspecting patrons elsewhere. I blame (once again) the LED enhanced Mitani Chicken Salt sign.

    Agreed Mickey – Bunga v2.0 went alright

  6. E.regnans says

    Love it PB.
    Telling analyses of game, squad members and AFL hoopla all within a creative soup.
    As with Mickey, I was anticipating this one.
    Aryan FM. Beautifully done.

    Equating clubs to inland explorers a nifty idea.
    If Carlton are Burke & Wills, reckon Collingwood could align with John King – Irishman and sole survivor of the 4 who made that calamitous adventure to the Gulf.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Very enjoyable read PB re what was a fantastic win by the eagles.Great to meet you and the Avenging Eagle and thank you for your kind words..
    Re the eagles to have lost McKenzie and after Glass retiring what they have achieved so far is quite remarkable,McGovern can really play and LeCras is all class

  8. Tony Robb says

    Well done Pete
    Always good to travel and go home with a win. I remember going along to see the Giants at Glenferrie Oval in 1974* and the elation of knocking off the Hawks a still lives with me. I have updated the profile by the way .
    Yours in orange

    TR
    * when a team has no history a bit of embellishment goes a long way

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Yes very ordinary that Hill and Giffen are not still honoured with grandstands. I like that when the Ponsford Stand at the ‘G was demolished, it was rebuilt as the Ponsford Stand.
    Enjoyable read PB.

  10. Mark simms says

    Nice work Peter.
    One of the Eagle’s best wins since 2006. Enjoyed your enjoyment. Port have had the wood over us for practically ever.
    I was at the Geelong comeback win in 2006. Nothing beats a win on the road.

  11. John Butler says

    Enjoyed this almost as much as you did PB. Those Eagles are certainly defying the injuries at present.

    Do you know what Adelaide’s win/loss figure is post Showdown?

  12. Dave Brown says

    Great piece PB. Surprised no Port people have cut up rough yet, though. Giffen was also a footballer, playing in 6 Norwood premierships and kicking the club’s first ever goal. He and Hill have lost their stands but gained bronze statues thanks to Basil Sellers.

  13. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Bravo, PB. Enjoyed that very much.
    There’s still a bit of strange love for the Eagles in this house … I can still see the Cygnet’s navy and gold socks on the line of his early childhood.

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