Nearing quarter time, Carlton had managed to reverse its scoreless opening quarter of last week’s clash with Richmond with a fruitful five goal term that brought with it a 12 point lead over a fancied Port Adelaide side full of confidence after an upset victory over Melbourne.

A freak knee injury to Carlton star, Charlie Curnow halted the Blues momentum late in the quarter, and gave the Power, lead by second gamer, Connor Rozee the chance to work their way back into the game, wrest control back and hang on for a tightly contested win in trying conditions. This, despite losing Karl Amon and Jack Watts to game-ending leg injuries along the way.

For the Blues, good but not good enough, as the same old story of young stars continuing to show individual signs of reaching their potential played out, but questions remain over team cohesion and the ability to really put teams away on the scoreboard. Obvious concerns about the long term health of their star forward, Curnow remain overnight, as they went to 0-2 for, remarkably, the seventh consecutive year.

The Power go to 2-0, and head up north to a tantalizing clash with Brisbane, which has all the makings of game of the year so far, albeit 3 rounds into the season. The brave moves to see the back of Chad Wingard, Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard, not only in an isolated context, but off the back of a huge off-season recruiting drive the year prior that signaled premiership intentions, is at least for now looking like paying dividends. Further emphasising the genius of Hinkley’s gamble, is the form of first year players Rozee, Willem Drew, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters. The kids all look like they’ve played 50 games, not two. Are the Power the real deal? Are the Blues in for another rough ride? This is The Mongrel Wrap Up.

BEST ON GROUND

SCOTT LYCETT (Port Adelaide)

25 touches, 5 marks, 34 hitouts, 1 goal, 17 contested possessions, 10 clearances

You’ve got to feel for Andrew Phillips. He’s had two very good games in a row where he’s just run into a dominant ruckman who put up a far more effective game. First Nankervis, now Lycett. Lycett’s prior best possession count in a game was 21 up until today. In wet weather, the big men struggled across the ground, but Lycett put in a midfielder’s time sheet to be the most influential big man on the ground.

Lycett dominated the centre bounces, resulting in a lopsided 61-37 clearance count for the Power. At times, he was Grundy-esque in providing a link-up option in the middle to get his mids into the game, and his goal from 50 out showed that he’s arguably the best set shot in the competition over 200cm.

Last week’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly speculated whether Lycett was the recruit of the season, and his work allowing Ryder to play forward and work into the year after an interrupted pre-season, as well as lifting his output from a handy back up at the Eagles, has had a huge say in both Power wins so far.

How do you fit him, Ryder and a returning Charlie Dixon in the same side?

CONNOR ROZEE (Port Adelaide)

15 touches, 4 marks, 2 goals

Have we had a better start to a Rising Star market in any other season? For mine, it’s always been a case of three candidate stereotypes – the high draft pick from the year that looks that much better because his contemporaries picked above him have stagnated and haven’t had the luxury of being slowly introduced into the team; the flashy role-player who gets on the highlight reel enough in a winning, high profile team with ex-players in the media championing his cause; and the intellectual pick where there’s a guy playing a dour key defender role, usually in a non-Victorian side whose cause is championed by the guy who really wants it known that they follow footy that much more closer than anyone else. Either that or they have 5AA/6PR chips on shoulde, thumbing their nose at Victorian media bias towards the irrelevant states.

This year, it’s a Melbourne Cup field largely consisting of the higher profile early draft picks from this off-season who’ve hit the ground running and shown the promise that was hyped. It’s tough to have just one horse in this race, and if I’m hedging my bets, Rozee is one of mine.

Rozee’s second quarter performance today was the difference between the two sides. As Carlton heads dropped, realising that their star forward had sustained a potentially season ending knee injury, it was quickly followed by the legs starting to tire, as a heavy collision to former skipper, Marc Murphy left the interchange rotations at a standstill. It was Rozee who bobbed up with two quality goals (and probably should have had a third) to claim the ascendency for Port. If anything, it should have signaled Port never looking back, and running away with it, but to Carlton’s credit, they managed to hang in there.

I’ll make a brave, perhaps silly call about Rozee. Two games in, I think he’s already showing what St Kilda have waited over five years to get from Jack Billings. A consistent effort, a courageous attack on the footy, clean finishing skills, and some tremendously clever tricks in close. All three shots on goal resulted from getting himself in the right position (one with a huge assist to a Blues’ zone defence falling completely apart aside), and taking ownership beyond his years of game situations.

You can argue there were better four-quarter players, but Rozee was the second most influential.

JACOB WEITERING (Carlton)

11 touches, 6 marks

As we’ve already touched on, this wasn’t one for the contested marking enthusiasts. The ball, especially in the second half was as slippery as it gets, and provided a great throwback to old-fashioned suburban ground footy.

And yet Jacob Weitering clunked them all day. His capacity to one-grab intercept marks was almost as notable as his inability to smile. Jacob Weitering does not smile. Ever. Something happened in his Mount Martha childhood that was just terrible. You can see it in his eyes. Chronological impossibilities aside, Scotland Yard should add him as a justifiable Jack The Ripper suspect. The Hinterkaifeck murders (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinterkaifeck_murders)? Definitely him. Mowing down German farm children like he did Port Adelaide’s inside 50’s. It’s implausible, but it’s my theory, I’m owning it, and I look forward to Patricia Cornwall bringing him to justice.

But you know who else he murdered today? Todd Marshall. (Wait, can we say that? No murder victims tossed the coin? I’m not googling it. You google it. Does the apology have to be unreservedly? OK, fine.)

Marshall had a great start to 2019 last week, playing the lead up forward role with aplomb. If he plays like that every week, Charlie Dixon is going to be a very highly paid SANFL player in 2019. He had 7 touches and 2 marks today without troubling the scorers. I’d possibly even go as far to say the
re was a hint of Glen Jakovich in Weitering’s performance today – which was undoubtably aided by not having Liam Jones’ knee crash into the side of his head at every contest. He’s also become more than reliable as an option coming off half back. He sets the play up very intelligently. Anyone who watched that first quarter will see the Blues tear Port apart off half back on several occasions, and those scoring chains originated from Weitering more often than not.

Does he do enough as a third man up in a contest? Not nearly. My sneaking suspicion is that a few times where Port found spare players stemmed from Weitering not being prepared to leave his man and chop out a teammate, but for the sake of his development, I’m prepared to give him some leeway and have a couple of seasons of selfish play. Find your feet, and become the centre half back that everyone assumed you would, and then worry about those little things as a priority. The return of Caleb Marchbank in the next fortnight is going to give the Blues a very versatile backline, and I suspect will free up Weitering to run and carry a lot more than what we’re seeing now.

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WORST ON GROUND

JARROD GARLETT (Carlton)

13 touches at 61% efficiency

When the game got tight late in the game, and game plans were thrown by the way side in favour of wild hacks off the deck and clever taps to advantage, Garlett’s reluctance to find physical contact often stood out. He offered very little run off half back either. While the Blues have made it very clear that Lachie O’Brien is going to have to earn his spot with a run in the twos, does he get a call up to face the Swans next week on the back of being named in the best in the Northern Blues’ VFL win over North Melbourne today?

JUSTIN WESTHOFF (Port Adelaide)

14 touches, 4 marks, 0 goals, 1 behind

Prior to the game today, Cam Mooney pointed out to Westhoff that as far as milestone games had gone, he was 0-4, with Port getting soundly beaten on his 50th, 100th, 150th and 200 games to date. I’m sure Westhoff was appreciative. Whilst Port were able to break that duck for his 250th game, Westhoff was another who struggled to find things as easy as Melbourne allowed him the week before. Taking a decent size advantage over Lachie Plowman wasn’t enough for Westhoff as his 14 touches failed to trouble the scorers too much, nor have any impact on the game.

MICHAEL GIBBONS (Carlton)

16 touches at 43% efficiency, 85% game time, 0 goals, 1 behind

This was the sort of game that recruiters who have overlooked the dual Liston Medalist for the past few seasons would point to as justification of their decisions. Gibbons consistently managed to get himself to the right positions at contests, largely through a massive work ethic, and some understated football smarts, only to lack the required polish to finish off his hard work.

This was the sort of game you’d have hoped Gibbons could have stepped up in after Marc Murphy went off the ground with a head knock, and show what he is capable of in the midfield. Conditions resembled a wet Williamstown day in the middle of winter, tailor made for Gibbons to churn out clearances. Instead, he just looked a VFL player amongst AFL peers. At this point, I’d argue Jack Silvagni offers more in the same role.

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I’M NOT SURE HOW I FEEL ABOUT THESE

Just how good were Sam Petrevski-Seton’s first and last quarters? He seemed to get his hands on every big Blues passage of play, and the confidence to run around Port players like witches hats was a sight to see. But again, like most weeks, he completely vanished for two quarters. It’s great that the improvement in SPS is coming through, but it’s simply increasing the margin between his best and his worst. Incredibly frustrating for Blues supporters.

I think I like Cam Polson’s game and the attributes he brings to the team, and I think I’m the only one not paid by the Carlton footy club to think that. At this point, I see him as a player trying to do things that his 19 year old frame does not allow him to, and does not have the relationship with a key forward that gets him into the game enough to compensate for that. Look at every decent small forward of the past few years, and you’ll see that Rioli had Roughead, Betts has Tex/had Fev, Ballantyne had Pavlich who all made sure that their role was just as much about making sure he got the smalls into the game when they weren’t able to get on top themselves. That sort of chemistry with Harry McKay will come in time, and not instantly through 10 or so AFL games, and even minimal VFL game time spent together. McKay has started the year exceeding all expectations. If he keeps it up, I suspect Polson won’t be far behind.

Out of every player on an AFL list this year, is there a bigger discrepancy in quality between a player’s kicking skills under no pressure, and the quality churned out under pressure, than what Paddy Dow is bringing at the moment? When Dow gets the ball in space, and the time to do as he wants, you want to make Nick Dal Santo comparisons (for quality of ball use, than what you’d find on his laptop). Under the slightest bit of pressure, there’s a real propensity to use the ball poorly, either from a decision-making standpoint or execution.

In theory, Alex Fasolo belongs on the worst players list based on the non-existent output for three quarters of the game. In practice, his third quarter helped get the Blues back in the game and was just as influential as Rozee’s. I thought it was a gutsy display to play the sort of game he did, as he is not really renowned for his desperate tackling, diving on the footy, or creating opportunities for his teammates. However, of you pay a bit of attention to Fasolo in that third quarter, you’ll seee had a real go when everything was going against him, and could have easily dropped his head. He’s not a sure thing to get a game next week, but I think the corner is slowly being turned. On the other hand, the disgraceful decision to offer Matthew Wright less than what Adelaide offered him to be a part-time development coach and player in their SANFL team, makes it that much harder to accept.

Tom Rockliff was on track for a world record number of touches to half time. Most of them fairly inconsequential in the outcome, admittedly. Brendan Bolton then sent Will Setterfield to him after half time, and kept him to under 10 in the second half. Was it worthwhile? Rockliff’s influence on the game was minimal for that many touches, arguably on par with Setterfield’s, whilst one of the best taggers in the competition, Ed Curnow was being trialed in a defensive forward role with little success. Development and rounding Setterfield’s game is important, yes, but perhaps better options available?

On a similar note, Brad Ebert was possibly the most dangerous forward on the ground over four quarters today, his three goals all coming at crucial points in the game. Unlucky not to be in the votes. Has a move up forward been a little premature though? It’s looking the goods whilst Drew and Butters are running amok early in the season, but the kids will tire mid-season. Surely he gets back in there later in the year?

Steven Motlop kicked some crucial goals in the last quarter, game-winners perhaps, but for the rest of the game, was barely sighted and completely AWOL. A real contender for worst on ground otherwise. How does he escape scrutiny as far as recent poor recruits are concerned? Not just on what he’s delivering – everyone seems content for him to turn up, get his 15-20 touches a game of little consequence, but for 500k a season? There’s better value on the open market, and money better spent if and when a salary cap squeeze is going to occur at this team.

Normally, you’d also ask questions about Sam Powell-Pepper’s role, playing predominantly forward with brief stints in the midfield too, but on a day where Gibbons, Motlop and Fasolo were all just as ineffective, if not worse, it’s a difficult pot shot to take. Having watched both the Demons and the Blues games, I wonder how much is made of his Kevin Bartlett-esque instincts around goal. They’re as outright as selfish as any small forward going around in the competition, and I’m not sure there’s the results on the board to justify constantly burning teammates and having the first instinct to run to the boundary line for the impossible goal. He nearly kicked the Power out of the game in the second quarter last week, and some similar signs showed today. With Wines out, its surprising that the temptation wasn’t to put him in the middle again full time. It just might be that Travis Boak’s late career resurgence is preventing it.

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