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Celebrate footy past, but don’t live in it

Port Adelaide will celebrate its 150th anniversary season next year. And there will be many who will challenge the Port Adelaide Football Club to stop “living in the past”.

Fox Footy and SEN senior editorialist Gerard Whateley emphasised this point last week as Port Adelaide was again appearing consumed by the backlash of a traditional fan base that wants the glory days from the SANFL to roll on in the national AFL.

“Stop the agitation; stop the unrest; stop this ridiculous idea that you’re this old SANFL club that should rule the world,” Whateley said. “That’s not you (Port Adelaide). That’s not you in the AFL.

“(In the national league) you scratch and you claw for everything that you’re worth. And you put a plan in place and you follow that plan through.”

Many of Port Adelaide’s traditionalists will struggle with this analysis.

They have lived through either the “Golden Era” of the 1950s and 1960s when the club’s patriarch Fos Williams, mainly with Geof Motley as captain, won 10 SANFL premierships and played in 17 grand finals from 1951-1972 — or with John Cahill masterminding another 10 flags from 11 SANFL grand finals from 1976 to AFL entry in 1997.

It is tough for many of these blessed fans to see their once-powerful football club that dominated a 10-team SANFL fall into the pack in an 18-club national AFL.

But it is not just Port Adelaide that has to deal with this reality that empires crumble in the national AFL.

The fulfilment of a national game — “Australia’s Game” — with AFL games in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA and SA from 1991 also has pulled down some of the VFL’s powerhouse clubs.

CARLTON. From 1970-1990 — a generation — the Blues played in eight grand finals and won six premierships. Only once did Carlton miss finals in consecutive seasons, 1989 and 1990 when the Blues ranked eighth.

Since 1991, Carlton has played in just three AFL grand finals, all in the 1990s decade — winning the flag in 1995. But the Blues have crashed under the demands of a national competition (and the pain of their salary cap penalties in 2001).

Carlton has collected wooden spoons — five of them, all in the AFL national era: 2002, 2005, 2006, 2015 and 2018. Welcome to the AFL, Carlton.

COLLINGWOOD. From 1970-1990, the VFL’s biggest club played in seven grand finals (including the 1977 replay) and, while suffering from the Colliewobbles, won only one flag — the 1990 premiership with an “outsider” from Hawthorn as coach, Leigh Matthews.

Since 1991, Collingwood has done better than Carlton to play finals in 14 seasons (including this one). But the Magpies have not been spared from a nightmare run either, such as seven consecutive years (1995-2001) without action in September. Current coach Nathan Buckley also went five seasons (2014-2017) without a top-eight finals appearance.

Welcome to the big league Carlton and Collingwood, two of the VFL’s proudest and most-successful clubs.

The jump from the SANFL to the national AFL has changed so much for Port Adelaide — as it has for Collingwood and Carlton that no longer dominate as they did in the VFL.

Port Adelaide — like Collingwood and Carlton — has much rich history and tradition to honour and celebrate in its 150th season next year. But the club cannot be held prisoner to its past.

Williams became the Port Adelaide Football Club’s modern patriarch by creating a new “Port Adelaide way” when he arrived as the “outsider” (from West Adelaide) in 1950. But there was no national draft, no salary cap and no need for the club to operate beyond Alberton to find a $60 million annual budgets.

Times change. And change demands great football clubs to adapt to the demands of a new era. Clearly, Collingwood has done such as the Eddie McGuire presidency has built a powerful sporting business that has advanced from the past at Victoria Park and with a blue-collar budget to find its future at the MCG and with the top-end of Australian and world corporate businesses.

From Hard Yakka overhauls to Gucci pinstripes. From Holden’s to Lexus. From mud on the terraces of inner suburban Melbourne to leather-lined seats in plush boxes at the MCG.

Carlton has not been as progressive, either in its off-field growth or with its football programs — and suffered for such.

Port Adelaide cannot live in the past. It should aim to win the AFL premiership every season. But to achieve this goal it needs to be accepting the need for change to adapt to a new era, one that goes as far as Shanghai, China.

Celebrating the past is appropriate in a 150th anniversary season. Living in the past just denies the Port Adelaide Football Club a meaningful future.

Welcome to the Roast, the ninth edition of the enewsletter delivered online every Tuesday.

This week, retiring Crows club champion Richard Douglas tells of the critical change to football in his 14 years in the big league — and why he wants the game to be about the players rather than the coaches’ strategic playbooks.

In Reality Bites, there is another fact-or-fiction tale with Crows coach Don Pyke, why Port Adelaide assistant coach Brett Montgomery is fine with the limit on the use of team runners and a grand Terry Wallace moment with the Western Bulldogs in 1996 has been repeated in the English Premier League.

The Roast will continue online at advertiser.com.au on Wednesday and Thursday.

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