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It’s hard to imagine life without sport — or my beloved Adelaide Crows

28 February 2016 247 views No Comment

IT is hard to imagine life without the Adelaide Crows. They have become part of our social fabric, part of our identity. We have to remind ourselves they haven’t always been here.

In a new book, I have written what amounts to a potted history of the club — and the exercise became a reminder of so much that is good about the Crows and sport. In an interview for my chapter, Crows champion Mark Ricciuto said something quite remarkable.

I’ll get back to that but, first, remember the upheaval at the start? Port Adelaide had tried to sneak in to the AFL, doing the dirty on the rest of the SANFL. The Crows were born of that animosity — of the need to keep Port in their place. The Crows were cobbled together in the summer of 1990-91 and we headed off to that first game against Hawthorn not knowing what to expect. We’ve been hooked ever since.

Non-sporting types can often be dismissive of our national obsession, suggesting it distracts us from serious pursuits. But what of the benefits? The personal fitness, social bonding and life lessons we get from sport, let alone the invaluable escapism.

The overwhelming majority of sports coverage is about match reviews and previews, team selections and injuries. It is about the highs and lows, the winners and losers, the human drama, the sacrifice and the striving for excellence. It is good news.

When there is trauma or tragedy in the sporting world, the community bonds in empathy — we feel we know the personalities. Sport often brings out the best in us.

So my chapter about the Crows is for a book called ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’. More than 20 contributors have written chapters about moving moments at their clubs.

It is edited by Queensland academic Ross Fitzgerald who is a Collingwood tragic; he has written about the untimely death of Darren Millane, just a year after the champion wingman held the ball aloft as the siren sounded on Collingwood’s 1990 premiership.

Former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone has also written about her beloved Port.

My chapter centres on Showdown 39 — a fortnight after the killing of Phil Walsh. It was a game for the ages that told us all that is good about footy and both clubs. Importantly, as Scott Thompson said after receiving the Phil Walsh Medal from Walsh’s daughter, Quinn, it was a fitting tribute to the life of a “fantastic man.

This was, indeed, a heartfelt moment, and in writing about the game I also recounted the Crows’ 26-year history, which is full of trials and tribulations, triumphs and despair, good fortune and bad luck.

There are people who contributed brilliantly while missing out on the ultimate rewards (think Tony Modra, Chris McDermott, Andrew Jarman, Tony McGuinness) and others whose sheer determination helped drag others over the line (think Mark Bickley, Shaun Rehn, Andrew McLeod and Ricciuto).

Two preliminary final wins, two grand final victories and a host of other strong finals performances. But when I put it to Ricciuto that the three-point win in Showdown 39 might have been the club’s most impressive win outside finals, his answer was surprising.

“Maybe it was bigger than the premierships, said Roo.

It was a big call from the club’s only Brownlow Medal winner and former captain. But it says something about sport that the emotional bravery and personal tributes involved in one home-and-away game — a shared respect for one man and one game between two rival teams — can see it stand out so strongly even in the mind of true champions. In the end, sport is not an escape from life; sport is life.

â– ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’ will be launched in Melbourne on Tuesday

Chris Kenny, The Adelaide Sunday Mail, February 28, 2019

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