The beginning of a new era at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval was always going to be a huge day in South Australian sport – the biggest home AFL match attendance since a Showdown entertained 51,140 fans in 2003.
It was expected, but few could have imagined the rivalry between these clubs could have got fiercer than it became over the past week.
They fired early salvos, right up to match day when Adelaide was denied adequate car-parking space and the coaching staff had to car pool, and the club had to cancel a post-match function because Port Adelaide, which was the home team, said it needed the room. Leaving 53,500 T-shirts over the seats saying: “We will never ever give up. We are Port Adelaide” was a brilliant marketing move, and a message to further rile the minority Crows fans at this sell-out game.
Of course, it was the on-field action in this Showdown XXXVI that really brought this city alive. With Port’s Matthew Lobbe winning the first tap, Ollie Wines the first kick, and Lobbe kicking the first goal from the first free, there was a belief among the dominant Port crowd that this was their day.
The first Showdown was big, the first final between these sides was great, but there was no doubt this game will be remembered far longer than any other Showdown. To use a football cliche, it was more than a game; it was arguably the biggest sporting event in this city.