Norwood Grand March, Norwood Oval
Glenelg v Port Adelaide, Alberton Oval
(Saturday 4 September 2021)
A rather surreal day marked the end of the minor round in the South Australian National League competition for 2021. At the end of it, there were clear winners and clear losers; in some cases, it was hard to tell.
First, L and P attended the Memorial Gardens outside Norwood Oval (or Cooper’s Stadium, as it is badged in corporate-speak), she in her Fortis in Procella top (see below). From the Latin, it means “Forward into the Abyss” or something…seriously, it means something like “Strength in Adversity.” The guernsey names all those who supported the Club through the thick-and-thin of Covid-19 restrictions this year. (Australia might be becoming an international joke what with hysterical lockdowns, totalitarian restrictions on liberties and government-led intrusions on privacy, but at least we’ve kept the footy going).
Quite a crowd gathered, to be treated to a decent merchandise tent, a decent sausage sizzle, and an adequate band playing mostly off-copyright songs from the 1960s. The kids had a bouncy castle, and a visit from Rusty the Redleg mascot, Humphrey B. Bear (yes, he’s still alive) and a Legacy bear turned-up as well. They were all impeccable, although frankly there’s something a tad eldritch about these looming characters – we don’t exempt Glenelg’s bizarre tiger mascot from this by the way.
After L went on her way with the Red and Blue army to march onto the ground and form an honour guard, P gracefully departed. By the way, Norwood then comfortably accounted for their opponents, the faux football team Adelaide, 14.11 to 7.10. This sees them finish third, with good form and a double-chance in the finals, making them the clear and outright winner of the last round.
P drove down to Alberton Oval (aka Mordor), where the shadows lie. The game was played under ominous clouds, amid a paint-stripping, skin-blasting wind that P couldn’t work out (although he almost never can): at one stage it went straight across the ground; at other times it seemed to swing 180 degrees; for several minutes it seemed to be blowing from all points of the compass at once.
The only team to go through a season undefeated was Port in 1914 and obviously they were keen to spoil Glenelg’s attempt to replicate that. Port needn’t have bothered, because it looked like the Tigers weren’t. Clumsy, over-using the ball, tentative, slow, and lacking in attacking method, missing set shots, missing key player Luke Partington, and with Port filling its ranks with AFL players wanting a run before their Preliminary Final, the hosts were pretty comfortably in front all day, apart from a few minor flourishes, and it was a thrashing in the end by 6 goals. Had the Bays lost their mojo?
Nevertheless, neither team ended as winners: Port finish 7th and must rely on their affiliate, vaguely-related team, the Port Procurers, or whatever they’re called, for a sip of 2021 finals glory.
Glenelg 5.8 (38) Port Adelaide 11.8 (74)
Of the remaining games, West “won” the wooden spoon by going down to finalist South Adelaide at Noarlunga, by about 7 goals, but at least they kicked 7 and can look to next season with some hope of improvement. South meanwhile, saw off a challenge from Port and Sturt to replace it in 5th spot, and keeps alive its hope of its first flag since 1964. Centrals were big losers on the day, to Eagles at Woodville by 19 goals to 2. The Bulldogs go back to the kennel to write a new blueprint for 2022, and the Eagles, also clear winners in the last round, finish 2nd. Sturt caned North, but North make the finals at the end of it and Sturt don’t. On such muddled form, who know where they’ll all be next season?
For now, the final five is:
Glenelg (17 wins / 1 loss)
North Adelaide (10/8)
South Adelaide (10/8)
North v South and Eagles v Norwood next week.
Many Tiger fans will be relieved: better to drop a game that really means nothing than those important battles that lie ahead. Some Bay supporters might feel about Glenelg as courtiers did when Henry VIII was unhorsed during a joust, a colossal breach of royal etiquette that many feared would be the end of him. But he recovered and returned, to impose general misery on all rivals. Glenelg is still this selector’s choice to do the same.