What do you make of Xavier Duursma’s now-traditional celebration?
Port Adelaide are a club on their knees right now, after a disastrous 2011 on and off the field. So you can understand the jokes which began following a string of stories about the club, regarding a training bust-up and a sponsor’s $1 million move for Brendan Fevola or Leon Davis.
The South Australian club were the laughing stock of the AFL in 2011 (I’m sure many readers have seen the ‘Port v The Bye’ videos on YouTube) particularly following their Round Five home loss to new boys Gold Coast, or their 100-plus point defeats to Collingwood and Hawthorn in Rounds 20 and 21.
In fact, if it wasn’t for a shock final-round win over the rudderless Melbourne, they would’ve finished below the youthful Gold Coast and claimed the wooden spoon.
Off the field, the club also struggled financially, resulting in chief executive Mark Haysman and three board members handing in their resignations, before AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou offered the club $9m over three years to keep them afloat before the agreed move to Adelaide Oval. To boot, crowd figures plummeted, with only 14,169 turning out for their final game of the season at AAMI Stadium.
In such context, you can understand the temptation when VIP Home Services chairman Bill Vis said he’d put forward a $1m sponsorship deal with the club if they signed either Brendan Fevola or Leon Davis.
“The players would provide an adrenalin rush for fans to come back in the gates next year,” Vis said. “From a business point of view, it makes sense to implement ways to attract the crowds back to the game and signing players such as Fevola and Davis would help to achieve this.”
Both players would likely offer some value on the field in the short term (Davis was an All-Australian in 2011), while Fevola in particular would generate a lot of media attention and public interest.
Recruiting footballers in their 30s isn’t something which happens very often in the AFL nowadays. But then, sponsors offering a million bucks to a struggling club doesn’t happen very often either.
So there certainly must’ve been temptation, particularly given Port have shown some interest in Davis.
But Port chief executive Keith Thomas came out and said: “(Bill’s) passion can’t and won’t extend to influencing decisions in regards to recruitment and team selection.”
Indeed, that’s the key point for Port Adelaide. The football department won’t be dictated to by commercial interests and nor should it, even if this kind of thing does happen in a less public fashion in sporting organisations around the world.
Then again, the way this whole episode was played out in public makes you think it was more PR stunt than serious offer. VIP Home Services have certainly got some free publicity out of it.
There are plenty of football fans who probably would argue that given Port’s predicament, they would have nothing to lose by taking the money and recruiting Fevola or Davis.
However, as good as the short-term gains of the sponsorship money and their potential on-field impact would be, in the long-term there’d be negatives, such as the obvious divisive effect of undermining the footy department. And for a club who’ve seen Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan depart, now is the time to blood youth, and coach Matthew Primus appears to have made that his priority.
A club who narrowly avoided the wooden spoon in 2011 must be united in its approach to getting back to the glory years of the mid-2000s.
That might sound touch boring, but clubs don’t rebuild by looking for short-term fixes.