Dockers remain upbeat despite disappointment
Adelaide rejoiced in its semi-final win on Friday night, but whatever the equal and opposite emotion is, it was not apparent in the Fremantle rooms. Mostly in the rooms of a losing semi-finalist there is only grim silence and ghostly stillness, but in the Fremantle rooms, there was chatter and industry. Players and coaches mingled with families and friends. Some did interviews, in which the tone – once the first pang had passed – was upbeat, coach Ross Lyon especially. The Dockers were disappointed, but not distraught.
Partly, it was because they were in demob mode; they would play no more footy this season. But, you suspect, it was also because they divined that although they had lost, they had also gained. They had beaten Geelong in Melbourne and led Adelaide in Adelaide in the last quarter. Their mission – to win four finals in row, all on the road – was impossible, but they had given it a good shake.
In remarkably short time, they had adapted to the patent Lyon game plan. Time might be starting to catch up to Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Luke McPharlin, but it was still at least a lap behind. The coterie of young talent was exciting. The club is cashed up, and has room in its salary cap, and seems likely to land a free agent, now that they exist. Defeat this night notwithstanding, the future looks sustainable.
None of this was enunciated, of course, and if asked, perhaps only ambitious president Steve Harris could have itemised it this way. This was the coalface, not the boardroom. None the less, the sentiment was there, in the esprit de corps, in what was very nearly a twinkle in the eye of Lyon, and especially in the few words of rangy defender Michael Johnson. ”I can’t wait,” he said, still in his match strip, ”for pre-season training.”
If Fremantle was more chipper than might have been expected, Adelaide’s humour was blither still, more blithe perhaps than this victory warranted, since in the eyes of even some staunch Crows people, it entitled them only to a sound beating at the hands of Hawthorn this week. Adelaide’s jauntiness can be interpreted partly as relief – consecutive home-finals defeats would have sat poorly with the fervent – but also as an understanding that the Crows, like the Dockers, have gotten much out of this season already. Last year, they were 11th and 14th respectively.
A year ago, former coach Neil Craig lauded the quality of the Crows’ list, and was ridiculed for it as they slipped down the ladder. Now, he has been borne out. Sam Jacobs, Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield comprise the nucleus of a formidable midfield, the defence is sturdy, and once Taylor Walker slipped the traces of Alex Silvagni and his own loss of confidence, all things became possible.
Against Sydney, the Crows’ methods looked one-dimensional, but the Swans do that to teams. Against Fremantle, it looked patient, methodical and workable. A sudden shortage of manpower at the back will hobble the Crows this week, but not next year.
So two teams left AAMI stadium daring to hope. The caveats for both were supplied by Lyon. One was standard, about how a run to the semi-finals and beyond one year was no guarantee even of playing finals the next. The other, when contemplating Hawthorn’s favouritism for the premiership, was to note that in a final, ”you only need to have one thing go wrong”. He should know.