Premiership success could change political landscape
such a big event in SA’s life that it will have an affect. And you need only to look at our politicians’ behaviour to realise they clearly see a neat nexus between their own successes and the sporting victories of others.
Premier Jay Weatherill, inspired by the team swapping of Cabinet colleague Martin Hamilton-Smith, was a surprise feature in premiership pictures when the Adelaide Crows women claimed the cup in March. A devoted Port man, who lives a mere long drop punt from Alberton Oval, clearly won’t let any positive PR opportunity go begging.
More consistent with first principles was Mr Weatherill’s surprise appearance in teal at the 2013 Slowdown, just months before an equally shocking election win. Slotting an impressive three goals, and avoiding death in a tackle from Crow Kym Koster, a ginger Premier would later remark that he’d seldom inspired such public applause.
But Mr Weatherill’s rival can’t claim to be any more pure on football loyalty.
Born black and white and growing up around Ethelton, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall quickly became a Redlegs fan ahead of his campaign for the marginal seat of Norwood.
It’s understandable. Despite all the advances of social inclusion in recent decades, the reality is that some bigoted views still linger. There’s just no way that Norwood would elect a Magpie.
Former Liberal premier John Olsen knows better than anyone how sport and politics mesh in SA. Now chairman of the SANFL, he fought and won an election in 1997 that was held just a fortnight after the Crows lifted the cup.
Speaking to The Advertiser this week, Mr Olsen said the event changed SA. The premiership, that is.
“The outpouring of excitement, enthusiasm, the building of confidence that we had achieved at a national level was palpable,” Mr Olsen said.
“It did a lot to restore state pride. The State Bank falling over, the depressed nature of the economy, the loss of the Grand Prix to Melbourne and drought conditions all had a dampening effect on mood. The Crows’ win turned that around on a dime.
“It really built a motivation that SA could achieve at a national level.”
The Labor Party this week was also in nostalgia mode, and went into the vaults to unearth a campaign video that aired during the 1997 match, in which a youthful opposition leader Mike Rann leapt on the Crows bandwagon. Decidedly wooden, but delivering the right lines, Mr Rann called the grand final “a chance to beat the Vics at their own game” and “kick a few goals for SA”.
Mr Olsen says he believes the strategy was for Mr Rann, who was suffering the Opposition leader’s curse of being branded relentlessly negative and a whinger, to shift that narrative by attaching himself to something positive. But Mr Olsen, now Liberal Party president and set to play a key backroom role in the state election campaign, is cool on suggestions that political results will be much affected by the sporting contest of today, saying: “I think people do separate the two things out.”
But this match will certainly change the dynamics of the next few months. A Crows win could lift SA’s mood and make voters just that little bit happier about maintaining the status quo. A predicted spending boom would help support the faint signs of an economic comeback that have started to show themselves in the latest jobs data.
It would certainly create media gridlock that would push political affairs of state right down the news agenda.
Suddenly, the campaign starts to look a lot shorter. Take out time for post-premiership partying, the predictable Christmas lull and Mad March, and a six-month campaign is virtually cut in half. The principal political effect of that is it becomes much harder to turn around existing opinions, as opportunities to talk with voters diminish.
That makes it more likely the chaos of the current polls, where the primary vote is fractured across the two big parties and Nick Xenophon’s SA Best, will be realised on election day.
But, today, who really cares? There’s something much more important to worry about. All the rest is just details for another day.
After some early hits on the “No” campaign trail, he went one step too far complaining about music star Macklemore’s plans to play hit