SANFL Round 4 – Sturt v Port Adelaide: Powell-Pepper crashes the grand final replay

The bold, and big, back page heading of the Anzac Day edition of The Advertiser (Adelaide) read: “Pepper Stake”.

The accompanying kicker line proclaimed ‘Port opts not to play midfielder in SANFL, as club and AFL still in dispute.’

The Michelangelo Rucci penned yarn was about Port Adelaide’s Sam Powell-Pepper and his fight to clear his name against off-field behaviour.

It said how Port and the AFL were in dispute over how to close the disputed case from an Adelaide nightclub in early April and that the footy club had opted not to play Powell-Pepper in the Magpies’ grand final replay with Sturt that afternoon, Anzac Day.

Then a recent import to Adelaide, I was lucky enough to be one of nigh-on 40,000 at the 2017 grand final. It had everything. So it was a ‘no-brainer’ to want to be at Peter Motley Oval, Unley, to watch the Double Blues and the Magpies go at it again.

One doesn’t have to wait long for some action. In fact, it comes before the first bounce. Sam Powell-Pepper takes to the field.

There are many jeers and a few cheers. There is a bit of this and that. But mainly it is a “WTF?” moment.

Despite the ground being in picture perfect condition and the ‘spot on’ weather drawing a shoulder to shoulder crowd, the sides struggle to find the big openings in the first half, scoring just 7.16 between them, the reigning SA champs 22 points up. I leave, not through lack of interest, just that there is more interest elsewhere. In front of a screen at home to watch the Anzac Day activities at ‘The G’ pre the Collingwood-Essendon clash.

At the first break of that contest, there is an update of Adelaide news, saying how Sam Powell-Pepper is playing for Port against Sturt. I wonder what all the lounge lizards – those who have heard but not seen – would be saying.

Sturt and Port obviously straighten up in the second half, booting 13.5 between them, with the Double Blues proving 25 points too good. The most talked about player on the field ends with 24 possessions.

The next morning in ‘The Addy’, Powell-Pepper has the back page again. And an inside sport page. But wait, there’s more. And half of the front page.

‘Pepper Pickle’ is the front page headline, with a kicker line: ‘Star will miss another week, despite “no evidence of sexual or indecent assault”‘. On the back page, there are two photographs, a major heading of ‘Spicy Return’ with a kicker line: ‘Angry SANFL set to change rules after being blindsided by late Pepper inclusion’. (Inside there is a story titled ‘Saga Not Over Yet’.)

It seems a player ban by the AFL tribunal or match review panel for a breach of a game law applies to all competitions – not so with disciplinary matters.

Powell-Pepper will miss Port’s clash with North Melbourne. Or so Thursday’s paper says.

Ah footy, you gotta love it. On and off the field.

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