Expansionist dream in tatters, despite Suns’ heroics
Three weeks ago, in a bitter and premature rant, The Punch ran a story entitled The Suns’ Humiliation is Demetriou’s Humiliation.
The basic premise of the piece was that this hapless bunch of newbies, whose jumpers look like hot dog franks dipped in mustard, would not win a game until Christmas. As in, Christmas 2017. Not only were they an embarrassment to themselves, we argued, but a dagger in the heart of AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou’s expansionist dreams.
How very short-sighted of us. In light of the Suns’ remarkable win over Port Adelaide on the weekend, it is time to man up and admit we were wrong. To be even more accurate, I was wrong. About the Gold Coast. But not about expansion
Let’s relive the Suns’ incredible comeback. Down by more than 40 points late in the third term, the Suns rallied, with star recruit Gary Ablett leading the way, to overhaul the Power on their home turf in Adelaide.
Ablett was not alone. He was ably assisted by a bunch of kids who had only learned AFL over the summer, including improving league recruit Karmichael Hunt, and the latest product of the blueblood Matera footballing clan, 18 year old Brandon Matera, whose name appears to be a product of his parents’ Beverley Hills 90210 obsession.
The Suns were also assisted by Port key forward Justin Westhoff, who sprayed a shot after the siren that would have stolen the game for his team the game. Oh, the agony.
This match has given Demetriou some much-needed breathing room. As stated in the piece three weeks ago, the AFL boss is very good at accepting the backslaps for his initiatives, many of which have been worthy of praise.
But he is equally good at vanishing when things take a nasty turn. He was nowhere to be seen when all the St Kilda and Ricky Nixon stuff blew up over summer, and was equally invisible after the Suns’ first three woeful losses, by a combined 280 points.
Expect to see him strutting around Melbourne this week, now his mission to conquer the outlying universe with AFL is back on track. The thing is, it’s not. If events of the weekend have proven anything, it’s that the AFL’s expansion is on dodgier footing than ever.
How dodgy? Well now, the most recent club to join the competition before the Gold Coast Suns was a mob called the Port Adelaide Power in 1997. That’d be the same team the Suns beat on Saturday.
Since inception, Port has been a rabble. Never mind the fluky 2004 premiership over a rapidly fading Brisbane Lions, in a season when the Swans and Eagles hadn’t yet fully matured as premiership powerhouses. Talk about good timing. You and I and a couple of mates would have won that game if we’d bothered to strap on a pair of football boots.
Port has the worst fans in the league, and the fewest. This year, as almost every year, they have generated crowd figures that might even shame the NRL. Yes, they really are that bad. Of the teams in the traditional “AFL states”, their crowds are easily the lowest.
This is a team whose official colours are black, white, silver and teal. Silver and teal? Silver and frikken teal??? No self respecting man I know has the faintest idea what teal even is. And if he does, I don’t know him anymore.
The Power also have chicken salt signage at their home games. Chicken salt. That’s just low.
More often than not, Port seem to beat local rivals the Adelaide Crows in a matched billed as “the showdown”, presumably because most Port fans are the sort of people who have a deep affinity with firearms.
The Crows aside, every other team dreams of playing Port, even on their bad days. Just ask Geelong, who dished out a 119 point hiding in the lopsided 2007 grand final. Did I say lopsided? The MCG almost tipped into the Yarra.
That 119 point margin rings a bell. Ah yes, that’s right. It’s the same margin by which the Suns lost their first ever game, to Carlton. Ask yourself: would you rather lose a grand final by that much or your first ever game? I know what my answer is.
So while the suits on AFL mahogany row think they can breathe easy now the Suns have arrived as a legitimate AFL entity, the expansionist dream remains in tatters. They won’t have achieved anything until they’ve brought the game of Australian Rules Football to a lonely outpost called Alberton.
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