Round 8 – Port Adelaide v Adelaide: A Showdown for the Ages Reignites Past and Present Hostilities

Port Adelaide v Adelaide

4:40PM, Saturday May 12

Adelaide Oval


A Steven Motlop goal with less than 40 seconds to go on Saturday evening was the latest chapter in the intense rivalry between Port Adelaide, working class and a club built on hard work and success, and the Adelaide Crows, formed in 1990 in the Supreme Court in Adelaide after Port failed in its bid to enter the AFL competition for the 1991 season – a battle lost but a war eventually won in time for the 1997 season.


It was a hard-fought battle, but most are. Port Adelaide, the so-called pariahs of South Australian football back in July 1990 when the well-kept secret broke in a Melbourne newspaper had to not only re-build its image but win back some semblance of respect if it were to gain what they strongly believed was their destiny and secure the second and last AFL licence ever to be offered to a South Australian club. Bruce Weber, now deceased was the man behind the move as President of Port Adelaide back in 1990. Clandestine discussions had begun and the biggest change in South Australian football was soon to happen.


Port’s reasons for joining the AFL were simple; for too long they had developed and then lost for next to peanuts elite players into Victoria (and then other states) throughout the late 1970s and 1980s and they had had enough. Players like Dwayne Russell, Greg Anderson, Max James, Martin Leslie, Craig Bradley, Greg Phillips and Bruce Abernethy to name just some. How do we stop this player drain, and ensure that there would be a Port Adelaide Football Club forever they thought. They were right. The foresight was right. There had been discussions long before 1990 about a South Australian side joining an extended VFL competition for years. Legendary Port Adelaide coach Fos Williams had mooted an idea for SA’s two most successful and best-supported clubs Port and Norwood to join the then VFL a decade or more previously. But the SANFL, paralysed by fear and indecision and baulking at paying the licence fee continued to sit on their hands. In May 1990 club officials met at Victor Harbour and the question of entering the AFL in 1991 was discussed. At that meeting all club representatives agreed to hold off on making a decision, basically postponing an entry until at least 1994. Port’s representative at that meeting Dave Boyd voted with the others. It was that vote which led to the Supreme Court action and the stalling of Port’s audacious plan.


Once the news broke Port were accused of treacherous behaviour, of selling out their SANFL roots for greater glory. Port saw the move as salvation. Media types as well as other SANFL club officials like Doug Thomas at West Adelaide were scathing of Port for going behind the back of everyone and looking for a back-door in. SANFL president Max Basheer was equally disgusted. High stakes and high emotion greeted the second half of the 1990 season. Port fought manfully from their Alberton corner, against the weight of anger from right around South Australian football to win the SANFL premiership that year – against the odds. But that victory was their last of the year. With a court injunction in place thanks to a number of SANFL rival clubs Port were effectively shut out from negotiations with the AFL and couldn’t actively spruik their claim to the likes of Collingwood, St Kilda and Hawthorn that they were the best option going forward. The SANFL thought they had it with a composite side made up of the cream of SA’s footballers and some handy ex-pats returning home. Sadly the SANFL option won the day, and by the end of 1990 the Adelaide Crows were born – a bastard child of Port Adelaide and set about doing exactly what Port was hoping to avoid. They pillaged every half-decent (and many who weren’t) players from each SANFL club and effectively doomed the SANFL competition to its current status as a pure feeder competition that since 1991 has lost fans, lost money and mostly lost much interest. A Port Adelaide entry wouldn’t have had such a negative impact.


In December 1994, after presenting an outstanding bid document for the second licence, Port tasted the success they so craved in 1990. They were heading to the AFL – they just didn’t know when. A Brisbane Bears/Fitzroy merger at the end of 1996 opened the path up for entry for the 1997 season.


Some wonder just where the hatred between the two clubs comes from. It isn’t hard to see. Port were outcasts after their back-door 1990 bid. But look further back. Port and Norwood’s rivalry was already well-established. Port and Glenelg on the field had had some epic battles over the years where few took any prisoners. In the 1989 grand final Port held North Adelaide to only 1.8 for the game – humiliating. That’s what Port had done to sides – they humiliated them. Only rarely did they get one back over Port. Dislike. Hatred. Port’s manoeuvre in 1990 only crystallised that hatred for many SANFL fans.


And Port’s dislike of the Adelaide Crows was fast and furious. Port fans bemoaned the Crows fans lack of football knowledge and accused them of being chardonnay-sipping yuppies who left well before games end (which was never wholly untrue). Port were ferals, wharfies and of low intelligence. A large part of the state of South Australia got straight behind the Crows, and in 1991 Port were left lost and isolated. Their results matched finishing fifth – losing an elimination final to eventual grand finalist West Adelaide. Port were in football hell. The Crows garnered support and sponsors, liberated the state’s colours for their guernsey and aggravated Port Adelaide fans in every way. It should have been us they cried. And they’re right…it should have been.


On Saturday night Port coach Ken Hinkley celebrated the win in such an animated fashion it left some bemused, perplexed and almost annoyed. Such emotion from an AFL coach is rarely seen. But over ten years earlier Mark Williams at the MCG showed even greater emotion on the day of Port’s finest hour, winning the AFL premiership (their first). Williams grabbed his tie, mocked choked himself (a reference to the calls by some that Port were chokers for bowing out of both the 2002 and 2003 finals race having had much expected of them) and cried tears of joy. Hinkley didn’t cry, but his joyful display was yet another reminder of how much Showdowns mean, and just how much beating the Crows means.


At Port Adelaide the fans are supporters, members – passionate, loyal and fierce. At Adelaide they are customers, placid and genteel. Football isn’t a matter of life and death when these two play each other; it’s much more important than that.


On Saturday night another chapter was written in this intense and special rivalry. A rivalry rooted in the events of July 1990 but stretching far further back. No one should ever question why Port Adelaide fans hate the Crows, and why, nor vice versa. If Showdown 44 on Saturday night didn’t explain it, then nothing ever will.



PORT ADELAIDE  1.3   4.6   11.11  14.11 (95)
ADELAIDE            4.2   8.3   10.5    14.6 (90)

Port Adelaide: R.Gray 6, Wingard 2, Ryder 2, S.Gray, Boak, Powell-Pepper, Motlop
Adelaide: Betts 3, Ellis-Yolmen 2, McGovern 2, Walker 2, Atkins, Jenkins, Douglas, Seedsman, Lynch 

Port Adelaide: R.Gray, Jonas, Polec, Rockliff, Jonas, Neade, Ryder
Adelaide: Laird, Atkins, Crouch, Talia, Gibbs, Ellis-Yolmen             

Crowd: 50,967



Twitter – @chrismwriter



  1. Awesome.

  2. Jarrod_L says

    I’ve got some Crows supporting mates that would likely clock someone that called them “placid, genteel customers” to their faces, haha. I appreciate the characterisation, but Adelaide has their fair share of passionate ferals too!

  3. E.regnans says

    “…and staid Adelaide nearly boiled over…”

  4. I am SA born and bred living there from 1955 to 1982, and went regularly to SANFL from 1962 (barracking for Port’s retarded neighbour West Torrens). Port Adelaide Magpies were universally feared, hated and respected. Port dominated the SANFL in the 1950’s (6 flags in a row) under Foster Williams (Mark’s father) with teams that were hard and ruthless. Port fans revelled in their motto that “hope ends where Port Road bends” – Alberton Oval was just around the bend – and I never saw a West Torrens side win there in the 1960’s and 70’s.
    Port beat us in the 1962 Second Semi after we finished minor premiers and then Port went on to win the flag (again) after we lost the Prelim to North by 2 points. My hatred, fear and respect of all things Port Adelaide was set in concrete at Age 7.
    I was there and cried when Jack Oatey’s beautiful young Sturt team lost to you by 3 points in 1965, and cheered for the next 5 years when they humiliated you in GF’s. It was a 60’s rebellion thing – peace triumphing over war.
    I dunno the ins and outs of the AFL entry saga but I suspect Port’s two-faced behaviour hit a raw nerve with every SA non-Port footy person. Foster’s “win at all costs” mentality revisited. Jack Cahill and Grave Danger didn’t help matters. Fear, hatred and respect.
    I think your rose-tinted view that Port’s model for entry to the SANFL wouldn’t have debased the SANFL is a blinkered rewriting of history. The AFL had to give vast concessions/advantages to the early interstate entries (Eagles, Port, Giants, Swans) to make them competitive and attractive up against the ruthless, professional VFL clubs. The WAFL suffered similarly (good to see we beat the SANFL on Adelaide Oval by 4 goals last weekend).
    Port lost its best players to the VFL because it had a good culture for developing young players. West Torrens lost Matt Rendell, Rocky Roberts and Milan Faletic (doh). WA lost Polly Farmer, Barry Cable, Brian Peake, Peter Featherby, Simon Beasley, Gary Baker, Gary Sidebottom…………………….
    VFL flags were built on robbing poorer SA, WA and Tasmanian cousins. It’s why I now still hate Victorian teams much more than Port Adelaide (you are more like the errant prodigal son returning these days).
    My likes and dislikes are pretty much pantomime, faux enmities these days but I might reserve some special bile for Mr Wrap’s Tigers on Sunday. Great theatre.
    Loved your piece Chris. Great piece of writing and history. Great passion. Goebbels and Trump would be proud.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Agree 100% with PB re the prognostication of how it all would have been different/better if only Port took its “rightful” place in the AFL before the Crows. Everything else written seems to flow from that – and we’ll never know one way or the other. Where were Port’s players going to come from if they joined in ’91 for example?

    Loyal – hmm, that’s not what the attendances in from 2008-13 would indicate, but I’m sure there’s a conspiracy in there somewhere that would explain it away.

    Last time I looked, the Showdowns are worth the same as any other game – 4 premiership points.

    I refer you to the twitter account of chrismwriter – glad to see that he has dialed down the bile for this piece. (I’ve removed the direct quoting of the tweets)

  6. Power’s fans ‘passionate, loyal and fierce’? Yes, no and yes, in that order, if my observations at the ground on Saturday evening were anything to go by. I’ll have a piece up later today to present an alternative view on that score. They may be a bit more fierce than most but they’re as fickle as all the rest. I agree that the SANFL comp has suffered dramatically, but a couple visits to Unley Oval in recent years showed me that the local game is probably more enjoyable in its authenticity, accessibility and groundedness than the crass, commercial pap of the modern stadium game.

  7. chrism76 says

    MarcD – Thanks.

    Jarrod_L – True. Lots of generalisations happen. I agree.

    Peter_B – Thanks I appreciate that. The point about Port joining in 1991 and not a composite side is that the drain on all SANFL clubs would not have been as severe in any way than what the Crows did. They took the cream from each club – Marshall, Jameison from Glenelg – Hart, Jarman, Hart B from North – etc etc. Port would have gone in in 1991 almost as is. With a big come-home factor for a few already playing in the AFL.

    Swish – The response you’ve given does come across as sour grapes, and more than a tad snarky. I’d like to know which part of what I wrote about the timeline of events, and the repercussions aren’t actually true?
    That’s what happened – fact. And it wasn’t just Port. Norwood were speaking to the AFL, in secret before Port were even approached. They decided no, sat on their hands and Port went ahead. Look at the SANFL now and you can see it was the right thing to do. Maybe you’re pining for the good old days of the competition but those days are long gone. Never to return. That’s why a club like Norwood lost more than anyone else in 1990. By rights they should have been the second AFL side so as that Port/Norwood rivalry could continue in the AFL. Norwood bitched and moaned like everyone else and now, as I said in a tweet they are stuck in a third rate tin pot comp.

    It was their rightful place – the club constitution insists on them playing in the best comp available. Well that was the AFL, rightly or wrongly. And was a way of making sure the club was going to be around in 100 years or more. Can you honestly say that any of the SANFL current clubs are safe? No.

    Loyalty – Port had shocking crowds from 2009-10-11-12. No debate from me about that. Side point about income from those crowds is that if Port didn’t get such a shoddy stadium deal from the SANFL those crowds wouldn’t have affected the financial bottom line as much as they did.

    Twitter – Not sure Twitter is relevant. It’s short sound bite snappy comments that we all make. I don’t hide being a Port fan on there – it says it on the bio, so why aren’t I allowed to write about Port and being a Port fan?? Rehashing past Tweets I’ve written doesn’t seem to add much to your arguments about the piece, which again is factual.

    In regards to the tweets –

    When is your club, and CEO going to make a comment about the Crows member who wrote he’d wished the cancer had won? Silence from West Lakes. When a Port fan has done the wrong thing (and they have plenty of times – like your fans) Koch or someone else says something about it and deals with it. Crows bury it under the carpet, fane responsibility and hope it blows away..That isn’t good enough from a club CEO.

    You were formed in a court room. Fact. SANFL had NO interest in joining the AFL until at least 1994. Fact. Yet as soon as Port wanted in the SANFL soon reneged on that Victor Harbour meeting too didn’t they? Nigel Smart himself referred to you all as customers…your own Crows employee. Don’t take offence at Port fans simply repeating what your own club as said. Not members, not supporters – customers. If I was viewed as a customer I’d be very angry. And you lot, mostly, but not all did desert your own SANFL clubs. Port didn’t – we deserted the comp we were in. Massive difference.

    The Showdown medal does looks average to me. My opinion. And that game, and us losing cost us a finals spot. It annoyed me he was smiling at the end. His smiling did not in any way match the fans anger at the loss. That’s all. Brothers or not.

    What does Goddard have to do with a Port/Crows piece??

    Think that covers it. You come across as a salty Adelaide fan who was preparing their own winning tweets, celebrations etc with 40 seconds to go and you didn’t get to because you lost. It happens. Yes it’s four points. But the rivalry and hatred goes far deeper, which is what the whole piece is about.

    The rest of your comments come over as bitter and trying to do your own re-writing of history.

    Ian Hauser – All clubs have a degree of fickle fans. Just human nature. Port, Crows, Essendon etc. The lot. Look forward to reading your piece.

  8. Great peice.

    Imagine if Port got in for 1991. During 1990 the club had Nathan Buckley and Gavin Wanganeen on the list. The former has expressed that he would have played for Port in the AFL but for the mountain of work Collingwood did to get him to the club from Brisbane.

    I feel that if Port did get in for the 1991 season interest in the SANFL would have broadly increased as it did for Port after we failed to gain entry in 1991. Our attendances increased during our crusade. I would imagine Norwood, Sturt and Glenelg attendances would have rocketed vying for the inevitable second liscence. Scott Hodges kicked 11 for the Crows once. Would’ve been beautiful seeing him at his prime for Port in the AFL.

    Oh well, all ended up pretty good in the end.

  9. chrism76 says

    Will – Thanks. Appreciate it. The side Port would have put out in 1991 would have been impressive. And made finals from day one. Hodges missed out sadly but he would have been a gun at AFL level playing for Port.

  10. I have often thought that Norwood must quietly spit chips at their absence from the AFL. When the Crows were invented, it was a known condition that in 6 years time there would be a second team from SA. If the first team had been Port, the AFL would have loved Norwood as the second. Instead, Norwood sided with the likes of Glenelg, created the Crows and the rest is history.

    I am as proud as punch that my little team has risen from the swamps of Port Misery to compete on the national stage. Despite being given the State colours, most of Footy Park as a home and much of the corporate dollar as a walk up, the Crows will never be more than a Balance Sheet.

    Peter B. makes one small mistake in that Sturt did not beat Port in 5 consecutive GF’s in the 1960’s, I think 3 were defeats of those perennial GF disasters from the Bay!

  11. Stainless says

    Ah yes, there’s nothing like a good dose of small-town parochialism based on some shenanigans that happened decades ago to fuel a “great” rivalry. Double bonus for us outsiders. We get to see a cracking contest twice a year and not care a fig who wins. And – the two teams are so hell-bent on beating each other that they routinely forget that their real objective is to perform in September! What’s not to like??

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