I wrote this after Port Adelaide lost the 2014 preliminary final to Hawthorn by three points at the MCG, a game I attended. It’s been a big two years for the club and supporters definitely have something to get excited about. However losing a prelim always aches and I was feel pretty down for the next couple of days – writing definitely helps.
One of the questions I get asked fairly often is why do I barrack for Port Adelaide. I’m not South Australian; in fact, I’ve only been to Adelaide three times in my life. I grew up in country NSW in a family that supported rugby league teams and played rugby union. AFL never even factored in our lives until the Sydney Swans made the 1996 grand final and we started to show an interest.
The reason I support Port Adelaide is simple: I just do.
I’m honestly not entirely sure how it came to be. They were the new team in the competition in 1997 and for some reason I picked them. I picked them over the team that represents my people and my home state, I picked them barely knowing a single player, I picked them with no SANFL Port Adelaide Magpies background. I think a friend at the time had shown some interest in them and I simply went along for the ride – new team, new football supporter.
It’s probably fair to say that when people pick a team to support in any football code, they choose the one with qualities they identify most with. They want to feel like a winner so they choose a team with recent success, they feel like an underdog so they choose the battlers, for bravery and toughness they might find a team with a player who signifies this. Even those who choose a team based on family loyalties or physical location are choosing to be part of something greater than themselves, something that unites them with the people they love best.
Yesterday I watched my team – the team I have chosen – lose by three points in a preliminary final. The same team that two years ago finished second last on the ladder, broke and hopeless. The team that sacked it’s coach mid-season and had to cover the sea of empty seats at home grounds with teal coloured tarps to disguise the lack of interest. The team that was in such financial strife it seemed hard to believe it could keep going. The team that lost one of their own in a devastating incident on an end of season trip.
Somehow, at their very lowest point, Port Adelaide found a reason to keep fighting. They picked a coach who was effectively the last man standing, a man who had to be convinced to even apply for the job. They found an underrated captain who could lead by example. They propped up their young list with recycled players that found a niche in a new home. And they recruited a president who could reinvigorate supporters’ love for the silver, teal and black and white.
There is a massive amount of belief both in and at the Port Adelaide Football Club these days. It’s that kind of belief that in two years has taken us from that spot at the bottom of the ladder to effectively finishing third this season. And with one of the youngest lists in the competition you can only feel that things are going to get better and better for us. Our self belief – for both players and fans – is back with a vengeance.
Three points. Three fucking points. But from 30-points down mid-way through the final quarter I watched my boys give absolutely everything they could out there on the MCG. I watched them attack the game and kick goal after goal until the final siren put an end to their efforts. It absolutely hurts to lose and so it should but I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts. We are a team that could walk off that ground with our heads held high knowing that on any given day, our best is going to be enough.
I cannot wait for 2015. Yes We Ken indeed.
What Hinkley, Boak, Koch, Thomas and everyone else at Port Adelaide has achieved in just two years has been unbelievable. They’ve united the club and it’s supporters, created a brilliant new home for us in Adelaide Oval and reinvigorated our spirit. The right people at exactly the right time.
I last watched Port Adelaide lose a preliminary final in 2003 to Collingwood and I went to the toilets and cried. Last night there were a few tears as well, especially when my family called me. Today a friend called me to check I was still going to an event we had on today and she asked how I was going. “Great,” I said. “Don’t lie,” she replied, “I saw the game yesterday.” “OK then, shithouse.” And I meant it. Today I have been sad in that kind of way you feel on the day after your birthday or the 27 December. All the fun and excitement is over for another year.
One of Port Adelaide’s mottos is ‘We never give up’. And we haven’t. We didn’t give up at any stage during this finals campaign, fighting as long and hard as we could against Fremantle and Hawthorn. We didn’t give up after simply making the finals last year, when no one respected us enough to believe we could do it again this season. We didn’t give up when our club was at its lowest point ever – no coach, no money, no support, no hope. Instead we chose to collectively believe, a decision that has infinitely paid dividends.
When we unite to sing Never Tear Us Apart we mean it.
Respect. Pride. Determination. Courage. Commitment. Belief. If I was picking a team today I’d choose one that had all those qualities.
Lucky I already do. And that’s the reason I support Port Adelaide.