As recently reported, Adelaide players are feeling shaken by the nature of the departure of Kurt Tippett, and the ongoing revelations of the possible salary cap breaches committed by the club.
A football club is more than just big names and superstar talent, as seen by the recent surprise victory of Sydney to overcome Hawthorn in the 2012 AFL Grand Final. There’s something special about a strong, united culture.
A hard-working, though certainly talented team defeated an opponent that had been touted for the majority of the year as near-unbackable favourites to win the premiership.
A club’s culture is often an intangible thing and not something that can be forced, whether it is the ‘Bloods’ attitude that infuses Sydney or the proud ‘us against them’ mentality of Collingwood, or even the shinboner spirit of North Melbourne. The culture of a club must grow, and evolve naturally; even with the guidance of marketing gurus, psychologists and coaching staff, it is in essence driven by the team, by the players and then embraced by the supporters.
The off-season has seen a myriad of challenges to the cultures of two clubs specifically: Adelaide and Melbourne.
Adelaide has always been positioned as uncompromising, dedicated and disciplined. Before Brenton Sanderson arrived, this was sometimes to its detriment with the denigrating tag of ‘Crowbots’ arising at times. The invigorating flair he injected into Adelaide during the 2012 season, bringing the club to a kick away from a Grand Final, promises exciting things for 2013.
However, in the wake of the Kurt Tippett scandal, even beyond possible salary cap breaches, the club and the team as a whole are put in a compromising position because of the supposed importance of one player.
For Melbourne, the shadow of tanking looms large over the club. In a desperate attempt to pursue talent, it allegedly approached AFL games with the intention of not the short-term victory but rather the long-term game of taking advantage of the draft. There are plenty of clichés about winning, but the truest of them is Aristotle’s “excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
In its desperation to gain an edge in an increasingly cutthroat competition, Melbourne sacrificed excellence and irrevocably damaged its culture. Adelaide sacrificed its integrity; the Crows shook on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that they had no possible hope of following through on. Both Adelaide and Melbourne have exposed their clubs to criticism and AFL sanctions, as well as heightened media scrutiny.
At this time of the year, players would rather be focussed on a tough pre-season and a fresh start to 2013. Instead, they have to deal with repetitive questions about draft tampering, salary cap breaches and players who have left the fold.
It is still unknown what the 2013 AFL season holds, but the biggest test to the culture of Adelaide and Melbourne remains – to see whether the playing group can overcome the faults made by their respective administrations and find success both on and off the field.
Supporters of both clubs will be hoping that the adversity which confronts the teams, and the playing groups that they barrack for, will forge a new resolve and bind young men together in an effort to prove themselves, and that they will find success next year.