I absolutely love these photos from today’s AFL Women’s game at Etihad between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. And I love even more that it was shown on TV for the very first time in the game’s history. By all accounts it was a really close and exciting game, with the Dees getting up by four points 6.4 to 5.6 over the Dogs. I was also pretty happy to read a lot of positive support on social media – in a year when fans seem to be ready to tear down anything and everything, it was nice to see them come together to universally applaud this.
It seems every week has to end with a dust up at the moment, no matter how good or bad the lead up is. This one was a cracker; raised voices outside a hotel in Brunswick after 12 hours spent in the company of each other and a never ending stream of beers and ciders. To be honest I’m not even sure where it came from. A comment that escalated after I couldn’t provide an answer and suddenly he’s storming off into a taxi leaving me standing on the side of the road wondering what the hell just happened.
“I hate people,” I told him, several times, “they are the absolute worst”. He questioned why and asked me what had specifically happened to me. At least I think that’s how it started, everything is fuzzy at that point. I told him I’ve watched from the sidelines a parade of the worst of human nature for the past nine years but the answer wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t give an example specific to me and if I’m being honest, there really isn’t one. There’s never been something so traumatic in my life that someone has done to me that I’ve been absolutely shattered. Not to say there hasn’t been awful things happen but I couldn’t pinpoint a specific tragedy that lead to my sweeping statement about human nature.
I think I stuck my tongue out at him at one point in a poorly chosen attempt at levity but it didn’t work.
Earlier he had suggested I was “hard to get to know” and I was horrified. He later described it as “distressed”. I told him, in an early afternoon phone call designed to smooth things over and ensure the friendship was repaired, that I thought there was an element of truth in his statement and that’s probably why I reacted the way I did. He also said I asked a lot of questions and he’s never really had someone do that. I wish I had of asked if that was a bad thing.
It’s disconcerting to have someone you’ve known for such a relatively short period of time nail some aspect of your personality that you hadn’t really considered. It’s equally disconcerting to repeatedly hear them give opinions on things and think, “fuck, that’s exactly what I think”.
I don’t think he hates people though.
I wouldn’t suggest I hated them but there wasn’t a lot to love about Port Adelaide yesterday. We’d beaten the Bulldogs earlier in the year but were nowhere near favourites to repeat it in the second half of the draw. It was a small crowd at Etihad and I barely saw any of my people there as we walked into the stadium. Possibly not the best of omens, especially given were a team that could ‘technically’ still make the finals.
All up we were woeful. Coach Ken Hinkley later described it as their worst ever loss in his time at the club, not because of the score line but due to the fact we didn’t bother to show up to play. For a proud club whose motto is “we never ever give up” it cut pretty deep.
We gave up. No two ways about it.
I watched the game from high on the third level with my friend, berating him for clapping the Bulldogs goals. Traitor. As it wore on I realised that as much as I might want to leave I would need to stay and suffer through all of this or I would never hear the end of it. I think I’ll file it away for the next time we’re successful – I will be able to sit there and say I was there the day we gave up against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad. I can talk about how much it hurt and how good it feels now those days are behind us.
Later on in the night we had a discussion about whether it’s worse to have a fantastic season and just miss out at finals or whether losing all year is harder. Having lived through both Port Adelaide eras now I’d say the latter is harder, by far. So I’m going to fold this season up and put it in my back pocket and pull it out occasionally during those good times for some perspective. Because I know those good times are coming, they have to be.
There’s been a lot to think about today. Do I really hate people? In an exceptionally broad sense I find them frustrating and disappointing and awful at times but perhaps I can concede I’m overstating things when I say “hate”. Am I hard to get to know? I’m very good at banter and humour but I struggle with talking about personal things. I feel like if I tell someone something then I give away a little piece of myself that I can’t get back. It’s easier not to be exposed.
This afternoon I got a message from a mate asking if I as thirsty because they were heading to a pub in Fitzroy. I replied, saying I was hungover as fuck but I could do with a Coke and the company. So I went and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. We had a brilliant time, telling stories and laughing until I could barely breathe. They had a girl there with them that he grew up with and we hit it off superbly immediately – it was like we should have been friends for years and years. I thought again about the concept of being “hard to get to know” and how you can feel an immediate kinship with someone you have only just met. Imagine missing out on all these good people for no good reason. I’ve always considered myself to be an optimist but perhaps it was time to get back to walking the talk.
I asked him last night how we had known each other for so long but had only recently become friends. Then I told him that our friendship made me think it was nice to know there are still good people out in the world, even if you haven’t met them yet.
Maybe people aren’t all bad. And maybe some things are worth the risk and the effort. “We never ever give up” as they say.
Something for Port Adelaide to think about too.
On the grind.
I remember watching Port Adelaide’s first game this year against Fremantle and feeling very disappointed at the end of it. As the team many were tipping to win the flag this year, I was gutted that Port led all game only to fall short at the end. Of course, that’s before Fremantle won their first nine games in a row and started having the season the Power were expected to have. While the Dockers have blitzed nearly everything in their way, Port’s season has turned into a slog.
The problem is, of course, that when we’re good we’re very very good (v Hawthorn – that opening quarter!) and when we’re bad we’re horrid (v Brisbane). Sitting at 9th on the ladder with five wins from 10 games is not where we’d hoped to be. We absolutely have the toughest draw in he AFL but whinging about it won’t change anything and at the end of the day, you’re pretty much gonna have to beat everyone if you’re gonna win the flag. But I switch on a game every weekend and rather than sitting back, relaxing and enjoying it, I’m always nervous and concerned – which Port Adelaide is going to show up?
Last weekend wasn’t much different. The 38-point win over the Bulldogs belied what a tough, close and grinding game it was for the first three quarters. While Port led at every change, the highest quarter break margin was only the 16-point lead we had at half time. I never had the ability to settle in because I was always a few seconds away from panicking we were going lose this. Nothing like living on the edge, right? Most of the contests involved hard tackling and subsequent stacks on of players jostling for the ball until the game looked like nothing more than a series of throw ups from the umpire.
Port aren’t back at it’s best but to use the key word again, we’re grinding there. I think the loss to Brisbane was particularly damaging for our confidence and often we seem to forget that we know how and are capable of playing good footy. Sure, other teams have probably figured us out a bit this season and we’ve lost the element of surprise, but we’re just not looking as consistently free flowing and assured as we have been in the past couple of seasons. The last quarter we regained a bit of that, kicked straight, and did the requisite damage on the score board. It was nice to see a bit of percentage added on and the boys run out eventual clear winners.
Wingard had an absolutely magic game and was best on ground for mine. I liked his effort all night and he competed well, tackling, setting up other players and kicking a couple himself. He’s just got the cliché silky skills. Wines had a cracker, as did Westhoff and Boaky did well even with two Dogs tagging him. Robbie Gray again, man… Just a pleasure to watch. I’m not sure I’ve ever appreciated him so much as I have this year and what he brings to our team is almost immeasurable. I’ve called him the Rolls Royce before and honestly, sometimes it’s like watching a race where the Rolls is lining up against the Datsun 180Bs. He’s just that good.
We play Geelong this Friday night in Adelaide and are favorites with the bookies, though the churning in my gut hasn’t subsided. Still nervous. I’m not sure you can take much from the Cats’ 69-point demolition of Essendon as an indication of how they’ll come to play against Port but clearly they’ll be feeling OK going in. And will both teams sitting at five wins for the season this will be a crucial scalp for Port to capture – all the while I’ll be shredding my hands to pieces and hoping for the absolute best.