19/05/2024

Port Adelaide's banner for the Showdown in 2021. Picture: portadelaidefc.com.au

Some debates should be as clear-cut as the stark contrast in black and white. But some highly regarded experts know how to make people see red.

“And how many games did you play?”

Graham Cornes, who played quite a few games of Australian football – a total of 390 – at Glenelg and North Melbourne and for South Australia, always works this line as his trump card in a debate on talkback radio.

It has backfired on him. Never short of a complaint on umpiring, Cornes was ranting behind the microphone on the work of the people with the whistle when he hit the button to play a commercial break.

It was the solution to his unusual and awkward silence when asked: “And how many games have you umpired?”

Agatha Christie never murdered a soul. But be it with Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, she spilled so much blood while writing 66 novels that have made their way to television and cinema.

The “how many games have you played” backhander was a handy tool in the old world of talkback radio where the lights on the switchboard are today’s equivalent to cheap clickbait in digital media.

Cornes learned from the master of lighting up switchboards, Ken “KG” Cunningham, how the best match to strike on talkback radio is any involving the Port Adelaide Football Club.

To quote former world squash No.1 and breakfast radio host Chris Dittmar: “To work alongside Ken is to see a genius in action and I don’t think he knows it. He says something and the phones ring for the next three hours. It’s a knack I haven’t seen anyone else possess.”

Cornes, senior and junior with SEN breakfast host Kane, are not short of the skill.

It would be easy to play the man, just as another radio commentator did last week while taking issue with a Melbourne-based journalist on that infamous Crows pre-season camp in 2018.

Sadly, it seems no-one in the media wants to deal with THE story of that camp; there are so many distracting side issues that ably serve the need for clicks and talkback fodder.

As English actor Paul Eddington, when cast as “Jerry” Leadbetter in the hit 1970 series “The Good Life”, read from a neatly crafted script, “When you resort to insults, you are losing the argument.”

So, with no fear of being asked “And how many articles have you written?”, let’s look at Graham Cornes’ weekend column that was presented as dealing with a “tiresome, disrespectful debate” on the Port Adelaide Football Club’s right to honour its heritage by wearing the club’s traditional black-and-white bars jumper in the AFL.

“A distraction in the last (sic) two seasons and it threatens to be a distraction this year.”

So writes Cornes of Port Adelaide’s bid to find a rightful place for a much-loved jumper.

The club has decided that Showdowns, all derbies with Adelaide, offer the perfect backdrop to not only highlight Port Adelaide’s heritage but also the history of South Australian football to a national audience.

Distraction? Or a powerful spirit of passion?

If there was ever to have been a distraction to derail the Port Adelaide Football Club it was 1990 when the club sought the first AFL licence based in Adelaide, a winter storm that delivered the SANFL-sanctioned Crows.

The record shows that Port Adelaide won the 1990 SANFL premiership (against Cornes’ Glenelg) and followed up with flags in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1996 before entering the AFL.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley should engineer as many “distractions” as he can.

“This renewed push has obviously come in the wake of the Sydney Swans’ announcement that the team will wear the old red-and-white South Melbourne jumper when they play in Melbourne.”

Here Cornes ties himself in many knots.

Why does he not argue – as he does repeatedly with Port Adelaide’s case to wear black and white in Showdowns hosted by Adelaide – that the Swans have no right to wear a heritage jumper in any games?

Why does he not declare – as he often does with Port Adelaide – that the Swans changed their name from “South Melbourne” to “Sydney” during the historic move from Lakeside in Melbourne to the Harbor City in 1982?

Why does Cornes not – as he tried with Port Adelaide – note that the Swans’ constitution and ownership has changed a few times since 1982 that the Sydney version should have no right to any of South Melbourne’s grand heritage that began in 1874 with blue and white?

Why? A huge difference between Port Adelaide and Sydney is that at Alberton every premiership cup – be it from the SANFL, AFL or the Champions of Australia series – is inscribed with “Won by Port Adelaide”.

Not so with Sydney.

“There isn’t another team in the competition with a similar jumper.”

Fremantle’s first heritage jumper – an interesting theme for a club formed in 1995 with no direct link to either the South or East Fremantle football clubs – is a red-and-white guernsey with a red V line that is almost identical to the South Melbourne/Sydney jumper.

Why did the Swans not protest against Fremantle borrowing the heritage of a very different Fremantle Football Club of the 1800s?

“The controversy and resentment that would accompany a prison-bar marketing campaign in the week of a Crows’ home Showdown would be an unwanted and unnecessary distraction.”

Very good Graham. In the tone of fairness and equality, now argue for.

Port Adelaide president David Koch to demand Adelaide wear an alternative jumper – say all white – for Showdowns in which the Crows are the “away” team.

After all, wearing State colours of red, gold and blue in a derby makes all the difference.

Adelaide Football Club chairman John Olsen to demand Brisbane (with its Fitzroy guernsey) and Hawthorn (with its V jumper) never again come to Adelaide Oval with a heritage jumper to assist merchandise sales or a marketing campaign.

Or it is just a “Port Adelaide thing” Graham … and Mr Olsen?

Since when did any club dictate what the opposition wears in any game?

Surely that task belongs to the AFL football department with decisions made on the needs for contrast to assist in the presentation of the match, particularly for television.

“You can’t nuance black and white”.

So Cornes writes of the Collingwood and Port Adelaide black-and-white jumpers that have different designs. And what of Richmond and Essendon – all black with one club having a red sash; the other yellow. No issue of contrast or “nuance” there …

“For Port Adelaide to promote the club and market the old jumper around their home Showdown and the club’s history is understandable.”

Finally Graham, finally. So Port Adelaide is Port Adelaide and it can wear the bars … finally.

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