Too Hard?

When I was a kid Port was always confident, so much so that others would often mistakenly label it as arrogance. As supporters we would laugh at the self-defeating remarks coming out of the opposition camp about how hard it was to win games and more importantly to win flags against the dominant Port Adelaide. That’s when we knew we had them, and in the big moments the gap in confidence showed time and again. 

A theme has emerged over the last few seasons in official and unofficial correspondence coming out from the Port Adelaide Football Club. It has come from the coach, the admin, players, a small subset of past players and most recently in an article written on the club website by Michaelangelo Rucci. “It is bloody hard to win an AFL premiership” in the “toughest competition”, “someone has to lose” and “finals are a bit scary”. 

I never remember hearing these words from this club in my youth. 

One season sticks strongest in my mind when thinking of the (seemingly lost) confidence of the Port Adelaide Football Club under previous leadership regimes. 

The 1994 SANFL grand final. 

Outside noise had written off an ageing Port Adelaide team as “too old” and “too slow” against the recently merged, strong and talented Woodville West Torrens Eagles. And pitted against a team that had dominated them by 73 points in the 2nd semi just 2 weeks earlier the task could easily have seemed “too hard”. 

Not for a John Cahill coached, Greg Boulton led Port Adelaide. 

I remember the t-shirts created, they read simply ‘Too Old? Too Slow? (both crossed out) Too good! Here was a club (and as a result a team) chock full of confidence. They didn’t focus on how hard it would be. They didn’t fall into line with the doubters. They didn’t try and ignore the commentary or shy away from it when they were criticised. They certainly didn’t shoot the messengers from within. They embraced it. 

Even when 35 points down in the first quarter the confidence and belief didn’t falter. Not only did they win the flag, they steam rolled the Eagles by 37 points. A massive 72 point turn around. 

They were inspired by the challenge, they were motivated by being written off. In the words of the late great Teddy Whitten they wanted to “stick it right up ‘em”. And later, from the makeshift stage at Alberton, they would joyfully repeat such sentiments, with much more colourful language. The fight was worth it. 

This was not a club, or by trickle down effect, a team that thought anything worth doing was “too hard”. 

Some will point out that these performances were in a different competition, a state based competition, not on the national stage. They will say that we can’t expect to replicate the same success on the national stage. And they are probably right. 

What we can replicate though is the same “confidence”, the same “striving”, the same “devotion to the cause” embodied by not only those old Port Adelaide teams, but also the modern great teams of the AFL who have been there and done it in the league in which we now proudly compete. As Central Districts Football Club said when creating their own SANFL success, whilst proudly brandishing copies of the book of Dynasty (about Port Adelaide’s path to success), “if they can do it, why not us?”. Success leaves clues. 

Take Geelong, who have won the flag 4 times since Port last held the cup aloft. Did they say it was a “tough competition”, did they say “someone has to lose”in 2007 when they shook off their “handbaggers” moniker? No. They attacked the season with “confidence”, knowing that if they “made the sacrifices” and were “devoted to the cause”, they could achieve the ultimate. Even in the “tough” AFL competition. The less said about that result the better. And what about in 2022 when they achieved their 4th AFL flag this century, with an ageing list, that had been written off by all and sundry, do you know what the t-shirts said?

You guessed it.

Too old, too slow, too good!

Ask any of that team if it was too hard or too scary.

The answer, like those old Maggies players on the stage at Alberton, will be it was *&^%$#@ worth it. 






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