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Adelaide Football Club - Crows History Locker

As the cleaners completed their work, the last of the fans were being herded out of the bars, and the rain and darkness swallowed the MCG, Adelaide’s elated squad returned to the middle.

The moving pilgrimage to the spot where they had triumphed less than two hours earlier must have been the convincing moment. “Yes, we’ve won a premiership”.

There had been little time to think since the final siren had announced Adelaide’s first AFL premiership – and there would be little time to reflect later that night. But there they were, in the silence of the deserted home of football, soaking in all the emotions of their great day.

Earlier, the players seemed reluctant to complete their on-field celebrations. Eventually they filed into the exit race with the club song ringing in their ears – “we’re the pride of South Australia ….”

Darren Jarman, the only player to have been through this before (with Hawthorn in 1991) was the last to push through the waiting jubilant mass.

Inside, there was a spine-tingling mix of joy, tears and pain. Family, wives, girlfriends, officials, fortunate supporters and the media scrum competed for the players’ attention. Nobody complained – although coach Malcolm Blight slipped away for a quick puff out the back.

There were a thousand backs to be slapped. And many stories to be told …  Jarman’s five last-term goals, the reward for Shaun Rehn’s brave battle through two knee reconstructions, Shane Ellen’s stunning five-goal cameo from out of nowhere, and the graduation of Andrew McLeod into the upper class of the AFL.

Pittman, so impressively self-controlled since Blight’s “pathetic ruckman”’  outburst in April, had quietened one of the competition’s best forwards in Stewart Loewe; the youngest player Kane
Johnson – a Victorian product – had taken on Brownlow Medallist Robert Harvey; ruckman Aaron Keating was playing just his third AFL game; and original Crows such as Nigel Smart, captain Mark Bickley, Rod Jameson and Ben Hart were thinking about all who had gone before them.

Not all the stories were fairy-tales. Watching team-mates celebrate could not have been easy for Mark Ricciuto, Tony Modra, Peter Vardy, Mathew Liptak, Simon Tregenza, Trent Ormond-Allen and several others, however many times they were told they were a part of it.

From the claustrophobic MCG changerooms, the players made their way to more sheep-in-the-pen scenes at the tennis centre in front of hundreds of fans, most of whom had made the trek from South Australia.

Players wondered if they should be so deliriously happy – and then realised that there is no next week to worry about, for now. Next stop was the Melbourne Convention Centre for the premiership dinner.

Some Crows managed to walk into the packed room unannounced but there was no way Blight could have done the same. A standing ovation greeted his long walk to his table.

And then it was time for the official business.

“You guys have created history,” said chairman Bob Hammond after he had praised Blight’s impact on the club. “I believe the club has arrived and you all should be justifiably proud.”

Chief executive officer Bill Sanders – who, like Hammond, had been there since the very start – could not contain his excitement.

“Oh, what a feeling,” he bellowed. “Today we had great pleasure in getting rid of the myth that we have no heart, no soul, no character . . . with the help of all you people tonight and all of those at the MCG today and all of those at the tennis centre, that one’s been put to bed so we don’t want to hear
that one again.

“It would be difficult to tell you how much work has gone into this finals series . . . and to win four games like we have, I don’t know if that is ever going to happen again. I’m sure we have created history and all you people are a part of it.”

Later the 21 premiership players were called forward, one by one. Kym Koster said it was “a dream come true”. Smart remembered his grandmother who had died earlier in the week. Brett James, a late inclusion, said playing was “better than watching it on TV”. Ellen, in a classic understatement, said he had “sort of played like a forward”. Bond told the players they had made his dreams come true;and K eating, one of the club’s liveliest characters despite his inexperience, thanked Blight and said he was lost for words, surely a first.

Clay Sampson, injured in the first term, dedicated his premiership medal to the team-mates who did not play. “Thank God for him,” Hart said of Blight. Rehn noted that the inhabitants of Arno Bay would “be upside down, for sure”. And the disarmingly humble McLeod, the Norm Smith Medallist, and captain Bickley, were left to last.

Blight then took centre stage and after thanking his players was already looking ahead. “We can actually go on from here – and where that takes us I’m not too sure either – but it’s great tonight,” he said.

The 21 players returned to the stage, Keating took over the MC role, and the rest of the list were told to join them.

And the party began to swing. There was yet another rendition of the club song, plus St Kilda’s song with some major lyric changes.

And for the rest of the long night it could be heard echoing through Melbourne’s streets: “We’re the pride of South Australia . . .”

Club historian David Burtenshaw wrote this article for The Advertiser after the grand final