Croweaters stand ground

August 10, 2017

The Adelaide Oval scoreboard is as spectacular at the ground as it looks on television.

One of South Australia's greatest football exports and official AFL legend Malcolm Blight has his own statue outside Adelaide Oval.

They are a parochial lot in South Australia.

Quick to find themselves in an argument and boast about Adelaide Oval, I have been told by many a South Australian it is better than the MCG.

I won’t have a bar of that as a Victorian, standing up for our spectacular stadium that has stood the test of time and hosted countless AFL grand finals, Boxing Day Tests as well as an Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

But I have had Adelaide Oval spruiked to me since its refurbishment before its first football match in 2014.

Having heard about it for years, I had my first chance to watch a game on the Sunday, having timed my visit to the City of Churches perfectly as it coincided with Showdown weekend.

The mood around town was pumping.

It seemed the only thing newsworthy in the paper was the big game as a grand final-like build-up ensued.

Nearly two million people have attended the 43 Showdowns, with the record attendance set in round three this year when 53698 fans watch Adelaide earn a 17-point victory.

Unfortunately, the greatest ever margin between the two sides was broken on Sunday as the Crows stormed to a 14-goal win.

It was a pity the weather was abhorrent as an ever poorer game followed suit.

With travelling across the footbridge to cross the River Torrens part of the experience, most huddled under rain jackets while others complained about how cold they were.

The ground lost part of its grandeur when the white stands blended in to the varying greys of the sky.

Regardless, I took the time to visit the statue of AFL legend Malcolm Blight as well North Adelaide’s Barrie Robran, before heading into the the ground for cover.

Without doubt the best part of the arena was the old scoreboard.

It was almost surreal to see the black board with the yellow words that is synonymous with the summer of cricket.

Although 45028 watched Shepparton product Alex Keath’s Crows side dominated the game, the one-sided nature impacted the atmosphere.

The roar the ground had been known for, despite a capacity of just 53500, was absent.

Many people huddled undercover, although credit must go to those who stood on the famous hill under that deluge that hit in the second quarter.

Glimpses of Eddie Betts’ magic was one of the only moments the crowd became audible, giving a glimpse into what would occur if the Showdown was tight.

But as I begin to lose interest in the game, I considered what it would be like to live in a two-team city.

The rivalry would be immense as in the Adelaide Advertiser the following day, all the players were given a ranking in a style normally reserved for grand final.

I can only imagine what a game would look like in September should the Power somehow work their way into fourth for a qualifying final.

I lost my bearings heading out of the ground on Sunday night, calling my South Australian friend for directions detailing that I was standing near a church.

Admittedly that was not the greatest description of a location in Adelaide.

I then said I would head to the shops before returning, only to receive the response that supermarkets close at 5pm on a Sunday in the city.

It just served to show that Shepparton is more of a bustling hub than the capital city.

The following day we made our way to a SANFL museum, in its final week of display.

As a Victorian, sometimes I sometimes forget other states have their own history of football given VFL clubs were the core of the national competition.

I was taken on a tour by Chris Halbert, the wife of Sturt Magarey medallist John.

Having won the equivalent of the Brownlow Medal, South Australians remain proud of the long and illustrious history they had before Adelaide joined the league.

It is still strange to me that the SANFL is local footy for those from Adelaide, where people go to watch Sturt, Norwood or Glenelg play, where in Victoria barely any head to the VFL.

With so many stars part of the SANFL, it is a shame the only time many find out about them is when the AFL inducts them into its Hall of Fame.

Of course sitting on the bus back to the airport, I got the standard ‘‘are you heading back to Mexico?’’ quip from a passenger, which I am pretty sure was a saying that became outdated before I was born.

But I will happily give over the ranking of second best ground in the country to Adelaide Oval, with daylight between the MCG at number one.

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