"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 16: Groceries

Jimmy Fungus over at JimmyFungus.com believes that my life is a non-stop party compared to his. I decided to consolidate that idea by writing about this week's new experience - I went grocery shopping.

I still live with my parents, which means I've never really had to do grocery shopping. Yes, I've bought food for myself and I've contributed to groceries for holidays, but as far as the weekly shopping goes... never. My sister Christina came up with the idea of trying the shopping one week herself because she was fed up with the quality of food Dad was getting. She wanted to make it a challenge to see if she could get better quality food while sticking to the same budget as he uses. Dad liked the idea. e said 'And next week we can get Michael to do it,' to which Christina and I both said '...what?'

The budget was set at $130. Christina was sent out with a long list of items and came back having blown the budget by $7. Dad was pretty impressed. With the amount of stuff he put on the list, he was expecting her to go way over. So then it was my turn. I was handed my list on Tuesday morning. There was far less items on my list than there'd been on hers. This was going to be easy.

When I went out to do it, I had three objectives in mind: Price of course - it had to fall under the budget; Health benefits - a lot of produce is pumped full of so many chemicals and pesticides that the farmers don't go near it while it's growing; And local stuff - gotta support Australian jobs, right? I also wanted to stock our pantry with stuff that we could snack on. I thought it would be better than sticking to just the standard three meals per day.

Christina had gone to the Central Markets to get her produce. Good idea, but I had a better one - the fruit & veg shop in Prospect. The food was more expensive and the range wasn't as good, but I didn't have to pay for parking, so Prospect it was.

Here's a little piece of information about myself. Often, if I'm not completely 100% sure I know what I'm doing, I'll be convinced that everyone is looking at me thinking I'm doing it wrong. 'What's this guy doing? Doesn't he know you're not allowed to buy those grapes? Why's he holding the basket that way?' I felt needlessly awkward as I searched for the fruits and vegetables I needed. What on Earth is the difference between regular bananas and eco bananas? And how much better than them are organic bananas? If a carrot's the size of my arm, does that mean it's more chemicals than food? If one vegetable's cheaper than another, does that means it's in season or just unpopular?

I'd only been given one fruit and one vegetable to buy, the rest I could pick myself. I went with the eco bananas and picked the two best heads of broccoli I could, and I filled up a bag of seedless grapes for myself. I got milk, a bag of nuts, celery and carrots, then dusted my hands, payed for it and walked out the door. My confidence had arrived.

Next stop was Coles just up the road. You get tripped up on the weirdest things when you haven't done them before... I had to get one of those trolleys where you put the dollar coin into the slot to unhook it from the chain. I put my coin in the slot and pulled, and it wouldn't unlock. I kept pulling, I checked all over the device and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then the guy behind me said 'Push it in a bit harder mate.' I blushed and pushed the coin in until I heard a click. Then I took the trolley and kind of strutted away with fake bravado as if to say "Yeah, whatever man, I knew that." I walked ten meters, turned around, went back and picked up my Dad's credit card which I'd dropped on the floor in front of the smirking man.

Ok, back to being confident. I walked up and down the isles collecting healthy snack foods and ready-made meals. My trolley was halfway full by the time I thought 'Maybe I should check the list.' And so I finally started to cross off some of the items I was actually there for. I counted up the amount of money spent in my head as I went, rounding up to the nearest dollar to give me some margin for error.

But then I had to go to the deli to get ham. I was already coming dangerously close to my budget and ham is expensive. Dad said he wanted 200g, which is what I asked for. The lady behind the deli counter weighed it and said '264g, is that ok?' I felt like the biggest douche when I said 'Um, could you take a slice out?' She looked at me and said
'There's only five pieces in there.'
She took one out and put it aside.
'216?' She said, annoyed.
'Yeah that's good enough,' I said feeling like even more of a tool.

But anyway, I was finished. By my count I was very, very close to the limit. I thought I wanted to make a point when I presented my achievements to the family, so with my last remaining money I got a women's magazine for Mum and went to the checkout. You know what it all came to? When I added the receipt from the fruit and veg shop to the price listed at the checkouts, it came to $129.81. Did I nail it or what? My cockiness was hampered a bit by the fact that I'd forgotten to bring canvas bags and had to use the store's, but I was happy with myself nonetheless.

Back home, I gave the presentation to the family. I went through the produce first and had to explain my decision on the eco bananas. Dad didn't think that had been a good idea, so I peeled one and got out another banana that was already in the fridge and gave everyone a blind taste test. There was one yellow one and one white one and everyone said the yellow one tasted better. Ha! That was the eco one! Dad had to concede.

I got to the end of my presentation and finished it with '...And I had just enough money left over to buy you a magazine, Mum.'
'Oh, he can do this more often,' she said, just as I predicted.
'And in total, this all came to $129.81,' I said proudly.
'Well done Michael, I'm impressed, said Dad. 'Although you didn't have to buy more bags, we've got plenty.'
'Buy them?'
'Yeah, they cost 10c each.'
'Yeah, how many did you buy?'
'So what does that bring your total to?'
$130 and one cent. Darn.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 15: Gala Auction

Every year (apparently) the Repat Foundation holds a big gala dinner for returned servicemen and women and high profile Adelaidians. My friend Kelsey, who's studying event management at uni, was one of the key volunteers that helped put the gala together. On the night they needed more volunteers to run the show and guess who put his hand up? Predictable old me.

Jerida came too and she went to the Entertainment Center at nine in the morning to help set up. I wasn't available until six that evening (I was at the latest Port Adelaide game), so I rocked up and entered through the backstage door just in time to catch the end of the briefing for the night proper.

The dining room looked amazing. It was covered in red and black with a dash of white here and there and it was awash with candlelight.The chairs were all covered in soft-looking red lycra sleeves and there were spotless crystal glasses on every table. Lined up along the back of the room was the object of our attention for the night - a long table of objects that the diners could bid on. It was a silent auction.

As hundreds of rich-looking socialites entered the auditorium, my spirits were unexpectedly high. I was dancing along to the military swing band, much to the amusement of the other volunteers and a couple of the guests. They all took their seats and Jane Doyle came onto the stage to introduce the night. There were speeches and letters from the ANZACs and then the entrees were served.

Someone had to get the bidding going on the silent auction. I looked around at the items. There were a series of painted ceramic pots, some paintings, a set of golf clubs, movie vouchers, shopping sprees, jewellery, a nice dress, a hot lap in a V8 Supercar and a joy-flight in a two-seater areoplane. That's the one I stopped at. See, I'm getting to a stage at the moment where I deliberately make things happen just so I can write about it on this blog. A joy flight in a tiny aeroplane was something I'd never tried before. So if I could win that, that would be another week of my blog sorted. The hot lap would have been cool too, but I've been a passenger in a stunt-car while the driver did tricks, so that's sort of similar. The joy flight is something completely new.

The reserve price for the flight was $80, so that's what I put down. Then as people came to check out the items up for sale, I watched them like a hawk. It took two hours for someone else to bid on it, but eventually someone bid $100. That's ok, I'd bide my time. Beat her bid at the end of the night.

Meanwhile, I did actually have a job to do. We were there to answer any questions and cross out all the invalid bids (the ones that weren't filled out correctly). It didn't take long at all for someone to have a problem with that. Two ladies who were already tipsy came up to us and said 'Who crossed out my bid?'
'That was us, madam. The bid was too low and it needs to be signed.'
'But why did you cross it out?'
'Because it wasn't filled in correctly.'
'I didn't know my table number when I made the bid.'
'That's fine madam. Feel free to write it down again, just remember to increase your bid by $5 and sign it and you'll be fine.'
'Don't do it again,' one of them threatened as they both ambled off. I heard the other one yell to a companion that we'd crossed it out because she'd forgotten her table number. I sure hoped the rest of the night wouldn't be like that.

More food and entertainment was brought out during the night. Some singer came out who was apparently the runner up on The Voice. He was pretty good, in my expert opinion. After the main course finished, they held the major auction - the one for their big-ticket items that they brought out actual auctioneers for. They gave all the volunteers big thick glow sticks so they could move through the crowd and catch the attention of the auctioneers. When someone wanted to make a bid, the closest volunteer would go up to them and wave their glow stick around. I was keen to be involved in a battle. You know how at the end of an auction there's always two or three people left who are battling it out with each other? The whole time I was hoping that I'd be the volunteer representing one of those guys. The closest I came was when a guy put up his hand once right towards the end of a battle for an expensive pearl necklace. But he didn't bid again.

As the time limit for the silent auction drew to a close, the item tables became busier and busier. I wasn't worried about my flight. I waited until 10:59 and looked at the sheet. The winning bid was $120. The value of the flight was apparently only $100. Well, it was going to a good cause... I took out my pen and Jotted down $130, then I got to work collecting all the sheets of paper. It's not cheating, shut up.

I hung around while a couple of people organised the winners, then I helped guests find their prize. We packed up and shared celebratory champagne (water for me) in one of the backstage rooms. The organisers couldn't thank us enough for all our help and joked that if Kelsey wanted to volunteer for all their Anzac Galas from now on, that was fine by them.

Stay tuned. Some time soon you'll be reading about my joy flight in a two-seater plane. I met an eccentric man throughout the night who said he flies them, and he gave me his name and phone number so that when I wanted to take the flight he could organise it. This might be my favourite one yet.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 14: Block Party

I volunteer at a radio station called Fresh 92.7. It's a youth radio station that only plays dance music and generally only if it's less than three months old. The station's going through a massive growth spurt at the moment and it's doing a lot of ambitious things. The most ambitious thing so far has been what they called the Misfits Block Party - a clubbing event for which they blocked off a whole part of the CBD and set up three stages for DJs with food trucks and bars etc.

I'm not a clubber. I hate clubbing. I just hate the environment - a room full of music I hate that's too loud to hear anything else, surrounded by angry, violent people who are looking to have sex with anyone they can force themselves on. But I thought this might be a little different for some reason and being a member of the station, I could get in for free. So I reluctantly decided to go.

The event was scheduled to go from 2-10pm. I turned up at 4 oclock, thinking that being fashionably late was a good idea. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea. When I turned up there was a few dozen people there. They were all standing awkwardly around the edge of the main stage  while the dj made a valiant effort at getting something going. There was a single oldish fat man standing in the middle on his own doing the kind of wonky, jilted dance that clearly indicates that he's imbibed an illegal substance of some kind. I found Emily, a girl from the station who I see on Thursdays, and we started sticking together. We both wandered around meeting people from the station and chatting. It was hard to find a space on the block where you could hear a conversation, but we found one eventually. We sat there chatting for ages, often joining up with Dorian, who reads the news on air on Tuesday mornings. Eventually, crowds started turning up and we realized there was more to do than just talk.

We headed out past the very small group of girls that had joined the stoned fat guy on the dance floor and made our way to the food trucks. Why talk when you can eat, right? I tried some tapioca chips, despite Emily's objections. It was only $5, which I thought was pretty decent. But it turned out I only got five chips for that. It was gone in a minute and a half and I was already looking for something else to do.
There were some people spray-painting a work of art on a wall which I decided to stand around and watch. I call it a work of art, but I'm not sure how much you can call it art if there's a blurry face on it shouting "Pingers!" out of a speech bubble. Emily got bored and walked off, so I was left there watching it among a crowd of strangers.

She eventually rejoined me and told me about the second DJ stage in one of the buildings. Oh yeah, that's right - I'd forgotten there were other stages. I left to check it out myself, wondering how much longer I could really last at this party. The second stage was up a flight of metal stairs and into a building called Fowlers Live. There were a few people here, but not much dancing going on - not like what was starting to happen on the main stage. People were either chatting on tables away from the dance floor or standing on the dance floor watching the DJ blankly. To their credit, I was impressed by all the DJs' professionalism. Any other musical act would have been like "Ah, fuck this," and not cared at all about the three people in the crowd. But these guys kept pumping and yelling at the crowd like it was packed. I met Darren, a guy I see around the station from time to time, and I just kind of hung around him for a while.

It had to be like six oclock when I finally worked up the courage to try dancing myself. I'd left the second stage and come back later on with Emily in tow. We were both standing there watching a couple of people do their thing - one of them being Darren and another being Troy, the station manager. And without saying a word I slid into place and started um... dancing I guess. Yeah I guess you can call it dancing. Any kind of movement that's in sync with a rhythm has to count as dancing, no matter how weird it looks. I danced for two minutes and then most of the people who were there left, so I did too.

Back outside, and there was a decent crowd at the main stage now. I watched three muscly guys in black t-shirts and orange parachute pants walk up to a clear space on the dance floor and start taking turns doing kicks, flips and spins. They'd been hired by the station and they sure drew a crowd. They took turns doing their best impressions of Shaolin warriors, tumbling through the air and drawing applause from mostly girls. This was starting to become much more of a spectacle. But I still wasn't sure how much longer I could stay interested. It was 7pm, I'd been there for three hours. At that point, a lot more people came that I knew from the station. Emily's friend Rachel arrived and Ben Palmer, the station's resident sports reporter came. Ben informed us that there were arcade machines inside the Fowler's building. that we could play.

Well there's my entertainment for at least another hour. The four of us went and had a go at Frogger, Pac Man and pinball. I've never been a very good pinballer, but by some miracle I did well enough this time to earn a free game. Frogger I didn't do so well at. My Pac Man was so-so.

Back outside and the crowd had finally hit properly. The stage was pumping and the dance floor was full. Plus a fire breather had joined the fray, swallowing torches and interacting with the Shaolin acrobats. Ben left and we gained a girl named Paulina, who I later found out was friends with my aunt.

We went to investigate a bus that was sitting just behind the dance floor and a lovely older lady invited us to take part in a campaign for the Sammy D foundation. It involved going on camera and talking about how to have a good night out without overdoing it or behaving dangerously. The four of us piled in the bus and tried on the hats and wigs that were provided. I tried a bit too hard to be funny, but that's me...

More chatting. More wandering around. More attempts at dancing. We lost some people, we gained some people. All the while, the number of people on the main dance floor grew. I was trying so hard to stay until the end, just so I could say I did. Ah, I've got it! There was a third stage I hadn't even checked out yet! People had been coming and going out of it all night and I hadn't thought to go. I went up some stairs and into a third building...

...To a practically empty room. There was a bar on one side and a DJ on the other. Not much else in between. My friend Nutman (don't ask) was standing there with a beer in his hand nodding his head to the music. Three teenage-looking people were playing around amongst themselves near the stage. Then that's about it. Oh well, I've come this far... I shrugged and jumped right in the middle of the dance floor, waving around with just as much abandon as last time. In the time I spent on the floor, more people did come in and have a go. By the time I was satisfied, there were about ten more people than when I came in. I wouldn't say I'm a trendsetter, but...

Ok, back outside. Of course, the main stage was at its peak. The headline act was on and there were hundreds of people letting loose. With less than an hour to go, I felt I was on the home stretch at last. I met back up with Emily, Rachel and Paulina and we joined the crowd to dance together. It felt like the end of a family movie as all the people we'd met throughout they night came to join us. Ben, Dorian, Darren, Troy and even the firebreather at one stage. At last it all ended and everyone headed off to the afterparty at the Light Hotel.

'Are you coming?' asked Ben excitedly.
'Shit no,' I said and I gratefully left to go home.

Author's note: I had an issue with this post on the Blogger app on my phone and a few weeks after it was posted, the second half disappeared and it reverted to a draft. I've had to piece together everything from the video games onwards from a months-old memory. Hope it's accurate.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 13: Showdown

I'm going to assume that most of the people reading this either live outside of Australia or don't know the full story, so I'm going to start this at the very, VERY beginning. On the surface it's a story about Aussie Rules football, deep down it's more about politics and sibling rivalry. There are seven main characters:

  • SACA - the South Australian Cricket Board.
  • SANFL - the South Australian National Football League
  • Adelaide Oval - the original home ground for both of these sports in SA.
  • Football Park - the new home for football in SA.
  • AFL - the Australian Football League. Known simply as the Victorian Football League until 1990.
  • Adelaide Crows - one of the state's two AFL teams.
  • Port Adelaide Power - the other one.

Aussie Rules football was originally invented in the mid-1800s by cricketers in Victoria as a way of keeping fit over the winter. Because if you're going to stand in one spot on a field for five days, you need to be fit right? Anyway, the game quickly took on a life of its own and in 1877, the first football league was created.

The league we now know as the AFL started in 1897, but back then it was only the Victorian Football League. Each state had its own league and occasionally the leagues would play interstate exhibition games. The sport itself didn't become big enough to be a full-time job until probably the 1970s. And even at that point, a lot of the players were still playing cricket in the off-season. It's this continuing relationship between the two sports that brings us to the next part of the story, which takes place in South Australia.

The governing bodies for cricket and football in South Australia were SACA and SANFL. One would take over the state during the summer while the other took over in winter. Games were played all over the state, but during the finals or just really big matches, all eyes would turn to one place.

Adelaide Oval. The spiritual home of sport in South Australia. A beautiful ground with perfect turf, a few hundred meters north of the CBD. It overlooks the River Torrens and is surrounded by the most picturesque buildings in our city. Adelaide Oval was and is owned by SACA, with the SANFL being their tenants. But in 1973, the two codes had a falling out. My understanding is that the SANFL were starting to feel stifled playing at a ground that was owned by their big brother. SACA were getting too big a cut of what the SANFL made. So they severed ties with SACA and built their own stadium. It was an enormous purpose-built stadium in the far western suburbs of Adelaide which they creatively called Football Park. But that was it for the relationship between the SACA and the SANFL. The two boards didn't talk again for 40 years and players stopped transiting across codes.

Back in Victoria, the VFL had emphatically become the premier football league in the country, due mostly to the ambitious nature of their board.. They would pay the best players from across the country to relocate to Victoria and join their league. And in 1982 they started expanding into other states to broaden their appeal. It began when they payed the South Melbourne Football Club to relocate to Sydney and become the Sydney Swans. Then in 1986, they created two new clubs to represent Perth (the West Coast Eagles) and Brisbane (the Bears). In 1990 they decided to change their name to the AFL and rebrand themselves as a national competition. They also asked SANFL to provide a team of their own to enter into the league.

Now, the SANFL didn't want to enter a team in the AFL. They had a good thing going on their own and they thought that entering a team in this new national league would just take crowds and profits away from their own competition. They turned the AFL down. But unbeknownst to them, the decision was being taken out of their hands. The Port Adelaide Football Club was the most successful team in the league's history. In the 120-odd seasons that the competition had been running, Port Adelaide had won about a quarter of them. They were one of those clubs that you loved to hate, because they just kept on winning and their fans would certainly let you know about it. Port Adelaide was just as ambitious as the VFL and they saw opportunity in this new national competition. So without the SANFL's consent, they put in a bid to be the first South Australian team.

South Australia went nuts. It was treachery! This club with so much history had turned its back on the whole state to pursue its own selfish interests. It caused months of legal battles and animosity, with threats coming from all sides over what would happen if this went ahead. The SANFL finally decided that the best thing to do was to create their own composite team out of players from the other clubs and put in a higher bid for the license. Sure, they would still lose something to the AFL, but it was better than losing their biggest team. The SANFL won the bid and the Adelaide Crows were born.

So for years, the Crows gained support and trust from the state. They branded themselves as "the team for all South Australians" and really pulled it off. But in 1994 the AFL announced they would be awarding a second license to a South Australian team. This time they were intent on getting a club with traditional history and an established supporter base. Port Adelaide were the obvious choice. While the Crows were busy flying all over the country in the national league, Port Adelaide vented its frustration by winning championship after championship back home. They won it three times from 1988 to 1990. They won it again in '92 and another three times from '94-'96. Their on-field success combined with their supporters' passion meant the AFL were left with no other option. The Port Adelaide Power joined the AFL in 1997, on the condition that the SANFL would own the license.

The first game between the two clubs was an instant sell-out. The media dubbed it "The Showdown" and raved about Port's chance for revenge and the Crows' opportunity to stamp their authority on the town. 47000 people watched Port Adelaide take down the favourites by eleven points. Not to be outdone, the Crows went on to win their inaugural premiership that year as well as another one in '98.

The rivalry kept growing from there. People seem to have very long memories in SA. Fans who were around in that whole period seemed to harbour personal grudges against the opposing team. They became more and more aggressive, to the point that some people started saying they would no longer attend a Showdown that was hosted by the other team - they didn't want to give their money to that club. Then people stopped going to Showdowns altogether. Crowds were dropping from 40-50 thousand in the first ten years to around the 30 thousand mark in 2010. Meanwhile, Port Adelaide were developing a habit of disappointing their fans. In 2002 they finished on top of the ladder, convincing the football world that they were about to win their first premiership.They lost badly in both of their finals matches - a very rare feat. They did the exact same thing again in 2003, earning them a reputation as chokers. In 2004 they made history by finally winning that first AFL premiership. But in 2005, they crashed back to Earth and just barely scraped into the finals, where they were eliminated by guess who - the Crows.

That's not all. After a disappointing 2006, they shocked the football world by finishing second in 2007. Towards the end of the season they beat Geelong - the team that was heavily favoured to take out the flag - in one of the most memorable games in the club's history. They made the grand final that year and came up against that same team, who belted them by 119 points - the biggest grand final loss in the game's 111-year history. Five more years of bitter disappointment - often after promising signs - meant that the club started to get into some serious trouble. Crowd numbers were dropping to ridiculous lows, the club was losing millions of dollars a year, and fans were embarrassed to be associated with the club. They were a joke. The Crows hadn't had much more success, but at least they were making finals. Football Park started to come under fire as well. The stadium - while big and versatile - was dirty and uncomfortable. Fans weren't keen to make the trek to the western suburbs to see games. And reports stated that the two clubs were getting bad deals from the SANFL, who would pocket most of the money made there. The Crows were dealing with it okay, but there was talk of Port Adelaide eventually folding.

It all changed in 2013. After avoiding their first bottom-of-the-ladder finish by the narrowest of margins, Port Adelaide got a new coach - a former assistant from Geelong - and a new president - a popular media personality named David Koch - and their player recruiting moves over the past six years started to come good. They went from 17th in the league to 7th. But it wasn't just that. They became exciting to watch again. There was barely a game all season in that you didn't think Port could win. They'd be 35 points down at three-quarter-time and then stage a miraculous comeback in the final term and win. There's a great deal of excitement and comfort you get from knowing your team's not beaten until the very end. And even more comfort when your opposition knows it too. South Australians still talk about the second Showdown that year where Port kicked five goals in the last five minutes of the game to win by four points.

While their on-field success was exciting, their off-field presence was something else entirely. They were seen getting much more involved in the community than ever before - doing work for charity, creating ties with the Aboriginal community, starting a "Women in Power" organisation purely for the female fans... Stories would emerge about how their players were the only players in the league that would have to clean up their own plates after dinner, giving them an air of humility as well. Their professional approach and inspiring performances meant everyone suddenly wanted to see them succeed - yes, even the occasional Crows fan.

In the finals, they first came up against Collingwood. They went into the game as the underdogs like they had been for most of their games that year. The president of Collingwood was going around in the media complaining about the game they'd have to play next week once they beat Port Adelaide. He had already penciled it in as a win. Lucky he'd written it in pencil. The Power beat them quite comfortably. Next they came up against Geelong, who were once again heavy favourites to win. Port hadn't beaten them since that day late in 2007. No one really expected them to win this one, not even their own fans. But when the first half ended and the Power were on top the whole football world looked on in disbelief. Surely, they couldn't pull this one off as well? It would be their biggest upset of the season by far. Alas, Geelong ended up coming back and winning, eliminating them from the finals. That night, commentators described how Geelong went back into their change rooms with their heads dropped and their hands on their hips like they'd just lost while the Power hugged and congratulated each other on a season well-played. They invited all the fans who had traveled to Melbourne for the game to join the in the change room and they all celebrated together. In true Port Adelaide fashion (these days anyway), they decided to forego Mad Monday and start talking about how much work they have to do to make sure they don't fall backwards next season.

There's one more crucial piece of this puzzle - In mid 2011, after of heavy negotiations, politics and public debate, it was finally decided that Aussie Rules football should return to Adelaide Oval. The government had agreed to spend $535 million redeveloping the ground to almost double its capacity while keeping its heritage intact. The promise was given that the first game back at the oval would be a Showdown at the beginning of the 2014 season. All through 2013, the only thing that Adelaide talked about apart from Port's new-found success (and a season-long injury to one of the Crows' star players) was the move to this new ground and how much it would mean to the clubs and the state. The clubs and the SANFL projected much higher attendances, higher memberships and increased profits of millions of dollars per year. If you're reading this from America, know that we're not like clubs over there that make $100 million a year. Just $5 million is a lot for us. For the rest of the state, a return to Adelaide Oval had the symbolic factor of auussie rules being right at the heart of the city where it belongs.

In the five months leading up to this season, the focus turned completely onto Adelaide Oval. The ground was opened up before it was finished to accommodate some lower-level sporting events and to give people a good idea of what the completed ground would look like. 14th of March and the first AFL game of the season began. The first game at Adelaide Oval was slated for March 29 - a Showdown as promised. Talk about it ramped up even higher. Less than a week from the game and I remember reading a news article about how great an achievement it had been to get to this point. The boss of the AFL revealed that it took months to even get the boards of SACA and SANFL into the same room together as they both thought they'd be walking into a setup.

And one more thing that may not mean a lot to the story, but is big in terms of the clubs... A week out from the game, the two clubs decided to buy out their own licenses from the SANFL. The clubs were now no longer owned by anyone. All their profits would go directly to them and they were personally in charge of their own futures.

So if you haven't guessed by now, my new experience for this week was to see an AFL match at Adelaide Oval. Due purely to their success in 2013, Port Adelaide were awarded home-game rights for the first game. They organized a march for all their fans from the centre of Rundle Mall to the ground. 10 000 people turned up to join that march. The atmosphere was full of electricity, fun and most importantly, joy. They wanted to win today.

As a member of Port Adelaide, I have a reserved seat seven rows behind the goals. I was late in booking my seat, so I don't get to sit next to anyone I know. But it's definitely a good seat.
This is my seat. I went to visit it a week before the game. I love it so.
My view of the ground. My mate has a seat four rows in front of me.
When we got there, we were surprised and overjoyed to find a free commemorative t-shirt draped over every seat.
Lucky I went to my seat early so I could swap mine for one that actually fit.
As the 50 000 seat stadium filled up, it became a very impressive sight. I'd never seen a completely sold-out stadium before.

This was a good half hour before the game.

When the teams ran out onto the ground, there was an almighty roar from the crowd. This was a new experience for the players too. Especially for the Port boys who I'm sure have never played to a home crowd that big since joining the AFL.

I'm actually disappointed to report that it was a very one-sided game. Port Adelaide had gotten themselves out to around a 30-point lead before the Crows even got their first point. In the second quarter the Crows were much better, and they even hit the lead early in the third. But the moment they hit the lead, Port kicked back into gear and ended up winning by 55 points. For a game with such a build-up and that meant so much to the state, I would have liked it to be a much closer and more exciting game. Don't get me wrong though, I'm glad they did so well...

As far as the actual experience went, it was wonderful. They've done an amazing job of making the ground look pretty and picturesque. We were warned there would be teething problems with ticketing and cashiers etc. But I had no problem at all getting in, I just scanned my member's card and went on my way. The cashier at the kiosk was another story. The nervous teen just couldn't figure out how to put through a debit card transaction. The food there was expensive, but there was a wide variety of it available - more options than you'd expect at a football ground. And also the fried chips - probably the most popular item - were quite cheap for the amount you get.

The view from my seat was great, but there were two overweight people in front of me who kept standing up whenever a player lined up for goal. To be fair there was a guy in front of them that was doing the same, but all three were annoying.

Anyway, I loved being there. It's a huge win for the sport and for our state and that oval is now a symbol of the future. Both clubs are in control of their own destinies heading forward and it's safe to say the future looks bright.

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