Port Adelaide got the jump on the Gold Coast Suns and set themselves up nicely in the first half in order to maintain a healthy lead throughout the remainder of the game.

Was it classy? Nope.

Was it a joy to watch? Also nope.

Was it effective? Hell yes, it was, and the four points in a season that may be compromised further will be very handy as the weeks wear on.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

CHARLIE WHO?

No, I’m not talking about a guy with the virus, I’m talking about Charlie Dixon. The efforts of the young forward combination, comprising Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades may have made some Port fans smile when thinking about the future in this game.

Georgiades first.

He attacks the ball like his life depends on it, doesn’t he? I don’t think there is an aerial contest he sees that he doesn’t think he can win, and if Ken Hinkley is touting him as a potential mark of the year winner, I’d be inclined to believe him after seeing the young fella launch at some packs in this one.

He finished with two goals, worked up the ground and provided a target for most of the contest. I can see him becoming a star of the game, and I’m a little envious because Port already have one of those in Connor Rozee… now they’re just being greedy!

Port have been waiting for Todd Marshall for a little while now, and he looks as though he is finally about to arrive. Still thin as a rake, he has started to attack packs with a bit of venom, and he was also close to dragging down a big hanger in this one.

He finished with two goals as well, but probably could have had four but for poor conversion.

So, when Dixon comes back, what happens to this duo? Do Port play them as three marking forwards with Ebert, Gray and Rozee buzzing about down there as well? Teams that improve rapidly usually fnd a couple of players who jump out of the box, and with Port, I reckon they have a few that can play that role for them.

Marshall and Georgiades are but two. Butters is another, Powell-Pepper fits that category, and both Byrne-Jones and Dan Houston made significant steps last year. Even if one of Georgiades and Marshall make the leap this year, it may be enough to take the heat off Dixon enough so as to make him a more potent weapon.

Exciting times for Port fans.

 

A FORGOTTEN MAN

I’m a very honest person… this pre-season I was genuinely shocked to see Trent McKenzie on the Port Adelaide list. I thought he’d faded into the distance a couple of seasons ago and that was the end of that.

Fast forward to this evening and I am watching the first quarter, and there he is, intercept marking like you wouldn’t believe, and generally making life miserable for Gold Coast forwards.

Trent McKenzie looks a helluva lot different to the way I remember him. He was a Gold Coast kid with the booming boot that everyone got excited about, remember? And now he is… bigger. He has definitely filled out and looks every bit the key position defender, or at least the third tall.

He finished this game with six intercepts to complement the defensive pillars of Clurey and Jonas perfectly, and I’ll be watching with interest to see whether he maintains his place in this side and puts that leg cannon to good use as the season progresses.

 

A GLIMPSE OF GRAY GREATNESS

Can you see it brewing? Smell it on the air, msybe? The deft touches, the body positioning and the ball on a string when the pressure arrives? The vision to spot teammates out of the corner of his eye?

Did you spot them all happening this evening as Robbie Gray dipped into his bag of tricks to start preparing for the Showdown next week? It’s where he excels, after all, isn’t it?

Despite not snagging a goal himself, Gray was the leader in score involvements on the park, notching 11 in total. You could see him plotting and planning as he approached the ball, his mind like a computer that doesn’t crash all the time like the piece of shit I’m writing this review on. He was about a step and a half ahead of everyone else on the park tonight, and he has about a week to pick up that extra half step that gets him to the level he has played at for so long – two steps ahead of everyone else.

Robbie Gray in full flight is a sight to behold, and after a disappointing 2019, you can tell he has a point to prove this season. 18 touches, 11 score involvements and three tackles inside 50… Robbie is warming up.

The Showdown looms.

 

ANOTHER GREAT SIGN

In the pre-season, I took particular notice of the way Sam Powell-Pepper was going about his footy. Usually someone who plays in fits and starts, I would not have blamed Port supporters if they were starting to feel a little annoyed with the way he would go missing, or the way he would throw the ball on his boot and hope for the best.

With his name coming up in trade scenarios, I was pondering whether that would be enough for Powell-Pepper to start really applying himself and start transforming himself into a more rounded player.

If the Marsh Series and Round One are anything to go by, we might be starting to see the maturation of SPP, and not a moment too soon. His work at the contests has been very good, but more than that, he is hitting targets with his disposals, notching 20 touches at 80% efficiency in this one.

For the record, Powell-Pepper travelled at just 66% in 2019, and 64% in 2018. If he can maintain his efficiency in the mid-70s, we may see him become the defining factor as to whether Port can give things a real shake this season.

 

TWO TANKS INSIDE

Whilst watching this game, my missus piped up and saw Travis Boak getting a clearance. She knows how highly I spoke of him last season so she asked how he was going in this game.

“Travis Boak is being Travis Boak,” I answered, as if that should explain everything. I’m sure it does to some of you.

Boak had to be controlled in this game, or he was going to tear it to shreds. In the third quarter, Stuart Dew threw Nick Holman at Boak with the directive to stop him, or at the very least, slow him down a bit.

At half time, Boak was cruising along, with 18 touches and four clearances. In effect, he was doing as he pleased, and Dew knew something had to change.

However, Port don’t just have one clearance beast at their disposal, and as Boak was slowed, the “Pig” started to warm up.

Tom Rockliff is not the same player he was in his best and fairest seasons at Brisbane, but in truth, Port don’t need him to be. Rockliff was a player without limits, but also one without boundaries at Brisbane. Sometimes, the freedom granted by one system can be detrimental overall, so whilst Rockliff went along his merry way, the Lions didn’t fare too well.

In the Port system, he doesn’t need to be everything to everyone. He just has to do what he did in this one. Rockliff combined with Boak and Powell-Pepper well, feeding the ball out Port’s runners, as well as getting to the outside himself to drive the Power inside 50.

His numbers weren’t brilliant – 26 disposals and six clearances, but in this game, they didn’t have to be. What he did was exactly what Port and Ken Hinkley needed him to do.

 

BEN AINSWORTH AND SAM COLLINS

Righto, so I’ll get the two highlights for the Suns out of the way, because there are some players I’m going to go whacked-whack on in a minute or two.

I like what I see in Ben Ainsworth. Playing that high half-forward role, he is clean of hand, and can hit a target, and better still, he gets to the right spots to make an impact. He was impressive in the first half, and was one of the very few Suns to give the Port defenders any trouble.

Sam Collins was like the lone defensive pillar down back, which is understandable when you consider that Rory Thompson, Jack Hombsch, Charlie Ballard and Jarrod Harbrow are all out of action. Actually, when you write it like that, it’s quite an injury list at Gold Coast, isn’t it? When you throw in Alex Sexton and the man who threatens to be great, but we may never see, Izak Rankine, the Suns have a bit to come back.

Anyway, Collins hardly put a foot wrong all night in a defence that was under siege. In one-on-one contests, he was indomitable, picking up 12 intercept disposals and playing on both bigs and smalls alike. Nice job, Sam.

 

THE BAD

 

A LONG WAY TO GO

So we had a glimpse at Rowell and Anderson, and both did well in flashes, but the inability of Ben King to have any serious influence on the contest (mainly due to the deplorable delivery inside 50) and the timid approach of Jack Lukosius in defence indicate that the Suns may be a fair way off just yet.

Yes, the pieces are in place – Fiorini, Brodie, Bowes, Weller, but the team is still so inexperienced that the chances of them all playing well simultaneously are… remote, at this stage.

Port are not world beaters… or at least they don’t appear to be at this stage, but they were made to look electrifying by a Suns team that allowed their structure to crack, and ultimately break on several occasions. That Port were able to sweep the ball from end to end with ease on several plays indicates that the Suns are either a) not working hard enough to cover options, or b) gassed too early in games.

Those who are expecting the Suns to vault up out of last place this season would have had reality slap them in the face with a wet salmon this evening. The Suns have a long way to go, and though I believe they will be a much better team this season, three wins is still a total in play for them.

 

FOOT OFF THE PEDAL

Port, you could have really stepped on the throat of the Suns in this game, and who knows how important percentage will be as weeks, and individual games tick by.

As the game wound down, Dwayne Russell… he of the same seven statements said in different ways, said that this was all Port fans could have hoped for. To that I say “bullshit!”

Port were 40 points up against a young team who looked cooked, and they won by 47? And Dwayne believes that Port fans could not have asked for more? Is he kidding?

How about some killer instinct? How about some ruthlessness? How about demonstrating that if you don’t bring your absolute A-Game against the Power, you will be put to the sword? I reckon that would have been more like something the Port supporters would have been hoping for. Don’t you?

 

THE UGLY

 

FALSE PROMISES

Pre-season can be dangerous.

You watch teams and see development in players and they can fool you into thinking they’re ready to take the big step and become real players in the league. They look the part, the do all the right things, and then Round One rolls around and…

… nothing!

This season I was tricked by a couple of young Suns who looked like world-beaters in the Marsh Series, and then ran around like they were foreigners and the GPS functions on their phones weren’t working. I’m happy to celebrate the good when it comes, but in order to appreciate the warmth of the Mongrel’s love, you must first experience the chill of my anger.

And I am feeling pretty chilly toward these blokes at the moment.

Darcy MacPherson had back-to-back 30+ disposal games in the pre-season, and ran around like a peacock whose tail-feathers had come in really nicely, and he was keen to show them off. And then the lights turned on and the cameras focused on him and he looked more like a lame pigeon out there.

MacPherson struggled to get near it, totalling 12 disposals for the game and adding just two tackles. He is one of the Suns I thought I could rely on to at least bring the effort stats – the tackles and one-percenters, but in this one, he was either where the ball wasn’t, or he was beaten just about every time he went near it.

Oh, but there are others…

Will Brodie was ultra-impressive in the pre-season as well, and then decided to turn in one of the less-impressive outings of his young career over the first three quarters, picking up just eight touches. He had six touches in the last quarter to make his totals look a little more respectable, and I am sure those who simply look at the stats page will give him a pass mark.

He should not get a pass mark.

He is a highly-skilled young man with the ability to win his own ball. But in the first three quarters… you know, when the game was there to be won, he was not highly-skilled, and he was not winning his own footy. He was doing sweet bugger-all.

Sam Day… horrible. Had chances early, got both hands to the footy, and couldn’t hold on. His day got progressively worse from there.

David Swallow… I hate writing this, but the leadership he showed in the Marsh Series and last season was nowhere to be seen in this one.

Jack Lukosius… without kick in stats added to his totals, his numbers would have been dreadful.

Improvement doesn’t just happen because you have another pre-season under your belt. What we saw tonight from Gold Coast was a team that didn’t apply themselves in a way that gave them any chance to win this contest. They handed Port the win before half of the first quarter was even over, and made very little in the way of attempts to take it back.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

HOW’D THE SUNS’ RECRUITS GO?

Hugh Greenwood was serviceable without being spectacular. He is not a huge disposal-winner, but what he is, is a huge contested disposal-winner. 13 of his 18 touches came in the contest in this game as he continually put his body over the footy. Couldn’t really get into the flow of the game, however. I’d give him a 5.5 out of ten.

Brandon Ellis was probably around the same mark, often throwing the ball at his boot under a lot of pressure. There’ll be games this season where he gets out and runs, and he’ll look great when that happens, but I have always been a bit wary of him when the pressure comes at him.

 

WHO HAS A BETTER SIDESTEP THAN CONNOR ROZEE?

Geez, if anyone does, it’d have to be great. I’m a big fan of Shai Bolton’s change of direction, but at full pace, I am not sure anyone is as fluent as Rozee. I did see him get caught holding the ball in this game. That’s a bit of a rarity, isn’t it?

 

WAS SCOTT LYCETT THE BEST RUCK ON THE PARK?

Yep, without a doubt.

A fit Scott Lycett is a weapon. Not only can he match other big guys around the ground, but he is also strong enough to stand his ground in ruck contests and not be pushed out of the way. You have to remember, Jarrod Witts had over 1000 hit outs last season. From memory, four blokes have done that in their entire careers. Tonight, Lycett restricted him to just 24, and had twice as many disposals. I’d give that one to the moustachioed man.

 

OTHER BITS

Port seem to have a bit left in their midfield tank, with both Dan Houston and Karl Amon used pretty sparingly in there. Given the role of Rozee now running through the middle as well, I wonder whether we see Robbie Gray as the permanent stay-at-home forward pocket?

It’d give career back-pockets nightmares.

Fingers crossed for Brad Ebert. Hope he pulls up okay, as I believe he is a key to this Port Adelaide team. Always a great ball-winner, his overhead skills, and tackling aren’t spoken of often, but as a half forward, he has the potential to sneak under the guard of an opponent, and all he needs is a couple of opportunities to punish teams. This evening, he let Gold Coast off.

Not sure about where Brayden Fiorini is playing at the moment. Truthfully, I think he is good enough to play anywhere, but I reckon his best footy will come in the middle. I guess we’ll see how he goes off half back, though, won’t we?

Interesting to see Gold Coast give the job on Robbie Gray to Connor Budarick. They must have a lot of faith in the kid, because this was the sort of game where he would be given the role to learn, and his teacher is one of the greats. Hope he paid attention.

 

And that’ll do. A solid win by the Power, but really, they should have gone for the jugular in this game and not been content to play the game out. For the Suns, I suppose I should credit their ability to limit the Power in the second half, but a lot of me thinks that was as much port’s doing as Gold Coast’s.

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