Round 16 – Richmond v Adelaide: The Edge of Chaos


Have you ever heard of The Butterfly Effect? Chaos Theory is a mathematical concept that postulates that small events such as a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a chain of events that lead to a hurricane in Texas.


Last September, the Crows were the team to beat and the Tigers were a group of over-achieving upstarts, deemed lucky to still be running around so deeply into the business end of the season. The fortunes of both teams have changed dramatically since that momentous day. Is this an example of this so-called Butterfly Effect? Has the sum of small changes altered everything? Are we now living on the edge of chaos?


Twelve months ago, I was down on my bended knee praying to all the deities that are, were, or will ever be, for rain to pelt down whenever my beloved Tigers took to the field. Wet weather football was their edge, speed and an unscientific gameplan ideally suited to greasy conditions and heavy skies. Hope based on weather?


There is only a smattering of our fans on the train as it glides towards Jolimont Station. I do not see any Adelaide colours at all in my carriage. Sitting next to me is a family, a young Mum and her two excited young daughters, chatting with their Nanna.


Both children are wearing Mickey Mouse ears and clutching dolls. They are on their way to Hisense Arena to see Disney on Ice. I chuckle privately at the thought that there are more Minnie Mouse fans on this train than there are Adelaide Crows fans.


After checking into the MCG and meeting up with friends, we share a pizza and a few quiet beers before the game starts, taking our seats just in time for the first bounce. As the Crows run out, Tiger fans greet them ungraciously, reminding them that they were not welcome in September last year and they are certainly not welcome tonight. The crowd is noisy and messy, a state befitting the football that our team plays. I wonder if Goofy is getting a similar reception down the road.


Determined to silence the crowd, Adelaide begin briskly and with intent. They immediately pepper their goals with flying attempts at scoring and Richmond’s defence is immediately under pressure. When Paul Seedsman kicks the opening goal, they finally capitalise and open up a lead. The response is quick and the high-flying Jack Riewoldt soon squares the ledger. His opponent, Daniel Talia, suffers an inopportune injury and Jumping Jack reaps the rewards.


Shane Edwards is the player who most embodies the Tiger playing style. Quick of mind, hand and foot, he shovels the ball into unnatural paths towards team-mates, setting up, creating disarray, bending momentum around him. He is like a Mathematical fractal, each of his actions appear unimportant and inconsequential. But a small handpass here or a dinky kick there creates a pattern that doubles, redoubles and repeats, expanding until it can no longer be controlled. He kicks a major and the game is on.


After the first break, the football from both teams is of the highest quality. For the Crows, Sam Jacobs controls the stoppages and Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch accumulate. Rory Laird is always running, launching attacks. No-one works harder than Kane Lambert on a footy field and he is clearly best on ground, continually involved in unruly handpass chains, propelling the ball forward.


Our two half-back flankers are Short and Broad. Despite sounding like an accurate description of my Sicilian grandfather’s appearance, they set up an impassable wall that Adelaide find difficult to penetrate. Richmond open up a handy lead but, when Jayden Short runs too far and ends up in Adelaide’s goal-square with the umpire rolling his hands in a spiral, chaos reigns again and an easy goal is coughed up, keeping the Crows in the game.


More of the same follows after the main break. A finely balanced tussle ensues, Adelaide fighting hard to stay in the game and Richmond threatening to take it away from them with their unpredictable play. Crows Captain Taylor Walker kicks a magnificent long goal to inspire his team-mates. The Tattooed One, Richmond’s anarchic talisman, responds. As the premiership quarter ends, two quick goals to Adelaide reduce the lead to a paltry sixteen points and the stage is set for a rollicking last quarter.


Immediately upon resumption, Josh Caddy bustles into the play like an out-of-control differential equation, and the Tigers have another goal. Several more follow quickly and a game that had been contested and disputed just a few moments earlier is now safely in the kitbag. Top position on the ladder is secured for another week.


Recent premiership teams such as Hawthorn and Geelong depended on their clean skills and crisp ball movement to win games. They embraced order and built their success on neatness and efficiency. The rest of the competition reigned them in as they always do, by copying their methods unashamedly. Accurate kicking was valued and highly sought. So was intercept marking and controlled running along established pathways to goal. Then the game became obvious, congested and staid.


But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. From this humdrum conventionality, the Tigers, the Evil Roy Slade of the competition, have emerged, armed with breakneck speed and a belligerent desire to gain territory at any cost. They scramble, clamber, crawl and stampede the ball forward. They swarm, scrabble, confuse and mess up to keep it there. They are unorthodox, play without height in the forward line, eschew a second ruckman and play with extra runners. Their small forwards chase and harass from every direction. There is no more order, it has been replaced by pandemonium.


The Tigers exist in the transitional space between order and disorder, on the edge of chaos and, consequently, the football they play is exhilarating!



First published on Balcony Banter|2018&category=

About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time, much like the current period in history.


  1. Jarrod_L says

    This is my favourite: “Our two half-back flankers are Short and Broad. Despite sounding like an accurate description of my Sicilian grandfather’s appearance, they set up an impassable wall that Adelaide find difficult to penetrate.”


  2. Joe De Petro says

    Thanks Jarrod. I couldn’t resist that line. I’m glad it got a chuckle.

  3. Stainless says

    I liked that line too, Joe. I’m also loving how often I hear commentators saying “Short goes long”!

  4. Joe De Petro says

    Thanks Stainless. Hopefully, Shorty signs up for a few more years so we can keep making name jokes.

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