I was genuinely excited to sit down and watch this game as I thought we would get our best indication to date as to where these two teams were at.
Port Adelaide had slowed a little after a blistering start to the season and over the years, we’ve seen plenty of clubs have fast starts, only to fall in a hole.
Melbourne had shown some form in recent weeks and I couldn’t help but feel that they were starting to believe in their brand of football again. Some argued they should have beat Brisbane last week. Maybe they should’ve have, but I should do a lot of things in life as well, and I just don’t do them.
And so, with two teams looking to either establish or re-establish their style of play, I was set for an arm wrestle. But what I got was anything but.
If we set the scene as though this was an arm-wrestling contest, Port stepped up, took their position with their elbow on the table and were ready to go to battle. Melbourne approached the table, slipped in a puddle of beer, banged their head on the corner of the table and they were unable to compete.
Port weren’t actually great in parts, but their “good” was so far ahead of whatever it was Melbourne was dishing up that it was made to look great. Does that make sense? It makes sense to me, and it is a little scary. Port have room to improve.
This was a beatdown. It was a team that is sure of themselves taking on a mentally fragile collection of players who have no idea how to cohesively operate, and if you’re a Port supporter, I’d read on.
If you’re a Demons supporter, maybe skip this review. It won’t be pretty.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
GOODBYE, FAREWELL AND… AMON
I know the consensus seems to be that Trav Boak was the best on ground, and I won’t argue with you, but if you know me, you know I tend to put a bit of a focus on the guys who play on the wings. Hell, the All-Australian selectors don’t, so someone has to.
Karl Amon was fantastic in this game, and what I really liked about his game was how well he positioned himself. Whether he was reading the poor kicking of the Melbourne half backs and mids to collect eight intercepts, or holding his position to allow his direct opponent to get drawn to the contest, Amon gave both Ed Langdon and Angus Brayshaw a bath on the wing this evening.
And once he got possession, he would do what basically every Melbourne midfielder on the ground found it impossible to do, and he’d hit the target. He ran at 84% efficiency for the evening and with a fair few of his teammates in contention, I actually think he is in the running for the best on ground.
Now, if you think I am a bit off the mark here, that’s cool. We all look at these games through our own lens, but he had 11 of his 25 touches come via the contest and still managed to carve the Dees up.
Maybe this is a “for your consideration” kind of deal like they do with films before the Oscars? Please consider Karl Amon for best on ground in this game… he was pretty damn good!
You have to be travelling pretty well when you can take a player like Dan Houston and stick him at half back, and your midfield simply does not miss a beat.
But that’s seemingly where Ken Hinkley is at this season, as Houston slipped back into his old role off half back and did it with style.
With 19 touches at 90% efficiency, he was able to slip off his opponent and cruise through the middle of the ground with no real pressure at all on him. It was startling to watch.
Port have Houston, Hartlett… doesn’t his name sound like a fantasy novel character Hamish Hartlett? You can picture him with a rapier and a mask, cutting people’s hearts out… Anyway, that was a bit random.
As I was saying, you have Hartlett, Houston and Darcy Byrne-Jones who are able to pick up plenty of the ball and all act as the release player from half back – this is a team, when clicking, that can go from defence to attack in the blink of an eye, and when they did that against the Dees, carnage ensued.
Houston’s run through the middle in the third quarter was scintillating and should rightfully do the social media rounds. What an absolute luxury to have him back there.
I’ll get to how poor the Demons were in a moment, but the more I think about it, it was the hard work of the Port mids and half backs that made them look that way.
There were several passages of play that saw the Dees relieve the pressure from half back, find someone between half back and wing and then… nothing.
There was simply nowhere left to go.
You could see it on the face of the Melbourne player with the ball. They’d got the short pass or handball, turned to look for a target and seen a mass of Port Adelaide jumpers up the field. Worse than that. There were also a mass of Port Adelaide jumpers converging on the player as well.
What resulted was a hack kick (the Melbourne speciality) to either an opponent or a contest and the Power would win again.
I know that Ken Hinkley is not everyone’s cup of tea. A mate of mine has a relative that was with Port at one stage and they didn’t like his style, but Hinkley knows the system he wants, knows the game style he wants, and when the players buy into it this is the result.
It was a complete and utter shutdown of whatever anaemic efforts the Demons could conjure. Players like Amon, Wines, Rockliff and Mayes all worked to get into the best spots to cut off any errant Melbourne kicks.
And there were plenty of errant kicks to cut off.
So, who do you reckon was quiet for the Power? Who do you think should have done more?
Before starting a rewatch (yep, I rewatch things to make sure I have some idea of what I’m talking about), I thought Brad Ebert was quiet, but his pressure in and around the attacking half was excellent.
Was Connor Rozee quiet? A little, but for a desperate Michael Hibberd lunge, he ends with three goals. Westhoff? He snagged a couple of goals as well. How about Charlie Dixon? You must have missed him competing on every long ball inside 50 and the goals that came from him drawing three defenders and bringing the ball to ground.
Port had no passengers in this game. Every bloke out there played their role and made life incredibly difficult for Melbourne to create any momentum. And when you get an entire team with no passengers, it usually means you’re going places.
RUNNING IN NUMBERS
Geez , you would have loved seeing this as a Port fan.
On several occasions, the run and carry, either down the wing or through the guts from Port Adelaide were brilliant. Sometimes there would be three or four running in a wave, all ready to accept the handball and support their teammate.
Duursma, DBJ, Houston, Amon, Wines… the list goes on, just as the run continued all evening for the Power.
This is a sign of a team hungry for a kill. Melbourne were simply the prey in this game. They were like an antelope cut from the herd and the predators in Port guernseys (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) all wanted the killing blow.
BOAK-AY… BOAK-AY… TRAVIS AND OLLIE
Look, I left these two down here so I could further sway you to vote for Karl Amon as best on ground, but I realise this may be futile.
Travis Boak has been amazing the past couple of seasons. I’m sure people will point out he’s been amazing for a lot longer, but back in 2018, he’d dropped to 21 touches per game and maybe people were thinking we were starting to see the decline that inevitably gets all players.
But not Travis Boak.
His 2019 was incredible as he posted career-high numbers despite being the “wrong side” of 30. There are a couple of blokes in the league that have managed to get better post-30. Boak, and Shaun Higgins at North Melbourne, but it is only Boak who is carrying that form on this season.
He had eight clearances and 13 of his 25 touches came in the contest. Proving that his touches hurt, he had nine score involvements as he did the heavy lifting inside for his team.
Across from him at centre bounces, Ollie Wines played the kind of game Port fans have been waiting for. Strong over the footy, he did the bulk of his damage in the first half, picking up 16 touches as he teamed with the other former captain to counter-attack and make the Dees look slow to react.
On a personal note, this aspect of the game got the attention of the lovely Mrs Mongrel, who usually pays scant attention to the intricacies of footy. When she realised that wines and Christian Petracca were both contesting the same footy, things got a little heated in the Mongrel household. It was like thigh-explosion when they met in a tackle, and was too much for her to handle.
It was the clash she’d been waiting for – Quadzilla vs Petracca in the battle of the bulky legs, and though they didn’t directly oppose each other, if we’re comparing performances, Wines made the early statement and so often, they’re the statements that matter most.
Well, it seems as though Port supporters are in for a treat over the coming years.
In a blaze of high leaping glory, Mitch Georgiades pulled in a few strong marks en route to slotting three goals, and could have easily had a bag of five in this game.
With Charlie Dixon drawing enormous amounts of defensive attention, Georgiades was able to get off the chain a little and hit the scoreboard – something plenty of fans, and not just Port fans will want to see more of.
As much as I like the marks he did take, his effort in the first quarter that saw him miss the footy and land on his backside was the highlight for me. The bloke thinks he can mark anything! Probably because he can.
ZERO DAMN SENSE
Right, so I don’t like whacking individual players. It’s not something I take pleasure from and I don’t think there is a hell of a lot to gain from it in the end, so instead, I will focus on something that happened quite a bit, and it happened quite a bit for the simple reason that the good kicks in the Melbourne side allowed it to happen quite a bit.
You know when you see a ruckman take a mark or win a free kick, and in a good side, there is a multitude of players running around the back to pick up the easy handball. Some people look at that as a player picking up a cheap possession, but why do you think that player is doing that? Do you think it is so he can have great numbers and he’ll gain the adoration he craves?
No, and if you think that, you’re thinking way too simplistically.
Those players do that because the coach and their teammates trust them with the footy in-hand. Their role is to collect that handball and hit a target to alleviate the pressure on the big guys to make a kick that is quite often beyond them.
But Melbourne doesn’t do this.
Max Gawn is one of the better-skilled big men in the game, but if it comes down to him using the footy creatively, or one of the midfielders using it, the answer seems pretty obvious, right?
Ahhhhh, wait on…
I see the problem here. It’s not obvious!
Usually, a team has four or five blokes in the midfield that can take responsibility and hit targets. Looking at the Melbourne midfield, outside Petracca… Gawn might be their best kick!
That is such an indictment!
Some may argue Viney is a good kick. I would argue that he is a great contested ball winner – not a great kick. Clayton Oliver? No… I love the bloke and think he is an absolute star, but when he gets the ball at half back, you can see the opposition up on their toes, waiting for an errant kick. He needs to be treated like a ruckman, and some of those better kicks (Hibberd, Salem, Nathan Jones) need to get on their bike and run to receive.
Brayshaw? Hell no… we’ll get to him.
The Demons are asking for miracles from people with no divine power, and they are really paying for asking such stupid questions of their players.
Ask stupid questions; get stupid answers.
What enables a good switch of play?
It can take a gutsy kick across half back or on the 45-degree angle through the middle to break the game open, but more than that, it takes hard work.
Someone has to be willing to put the work in to find space, and that takes gut-running. It takes someone laying a block and then someone else willing to take the risk and make the kick.
The Demons had none of those things going for them in this game. They played a stagnant, down the line brand of football straight out of the Under 14’s at the North Melbourne/Kensington football club playbook. It was unimaginative, careful and utterly gutless play.
More than that, it was heartless.
Is the Simon Goodwin gameplan as follows?
1 – Kick down the line
2 – Force a stoppage
3 – Win the stoppage
4 – Turn it over
5 – Hopefully win it back in defence
6 – Repeat from number one
It seems like it.
The Dees were putrid, and if their fans are jumping online giving them a blast, they deserve it. They didn’t run hard enough, their positioning was atrocious, their decision making was appalling and that was only matched by their dreadful skill.
I had a bit of hope for the Dees after the last few weeks, but as they seem to make a habit of doing, they let themselves and their fans down. If I am disappointed by their ineptitude, I can only imagine how their supporters feel.
WHO SHOULD MELBOURNE TRADE, AND TRADE FOR?
The Dees have no elite ball users in the middle and are desperate for someone who can do something other than hack it forward and hope it lands in the hands of a teammate. It is painfully obvious that the bloke on the outer is Angus Brayshaw.
It is also obvious that he needs to be okay with going to a club before the Dees offload him. But where would he fit?
To me, the obvious answer is Fremantle. His younger brother is already there and his other brother is on the list at West Coast. Whilst he is a Victorian boy, the prospect of moving him to be closer to his brothers may appeal… unless he hates them, of course.
And what would Freo give up in return?
Do you think they could be tempted to part with Adam Cerra? He is contracted until the end of 2021, but if there are no talks about an extension in the near future, perhaps they could look at getting value for him before his contract ends. If you think it is lopsided, a swap of picks usually fixes that perception up.
Under this current system, I cannot see Brayshaw getting any better. He looks like he is lost and a couple of times he got sucked into the contest from the wing and it resulted in his direct opponent getting out into space.
To channel Sam Kekovich… you know it makes sense.
DID STEVEN MAY BEAT CHARLIE DIXON?
Look, on face value he did. Dixon kicked one goal and that came as a result of a ruck free kick against Max Gawn, and the other marks he was able to clunk were up the ground. So if we’re talking pure one-on-one contests, yes May got the better of Dixon.
But there is more to footy than one-on-one contests.
The amount of times Dixon drew numerous defenders to him really opened up the game for the Power. Goals to Georgiades, Boak, Rozee and Wines all resulted from Dixon’s heavy work inside 50.
And what would be a better assessment of whether Dixon was beaten would be to look at the amount of contested grabs the defenders took for the Dees.
The number is one, and that was to Jake Lever.
May was good, but to give him the win is being a little too simplistic.
WHAT TO DO WITH PETER LADHAMS?
Okay, first of all yes he was beaten by Gawn. We saw a bit of a rucking lesson (I said RUCKING) from Gawn, but as Travis Boak pointed out after the game, the Port mids were geared toward Gawn winning the tap – it was their job to minimise the damage.
Ladhams’ job was really to try to limit Gawn, so you need to look at the entire game to see whether he was able to do that.
If I was to approach you before the bounce and offer you 11 disposals, five marks and no goals for Gawn, would you have taken it? I would have! Gawn ran at just 55% efficiency, and I reckon that is probably generous. Gawn’s turnovers were costly, and whilst Ladhams was by no means the better player on the night, did we ever really expect he would be?
Ladhams had a horror start, trying to match strength with Gawn and losing badly. He gave away free kicks and really needed to regroup. He did that well enough for my liking.
How many times in this game did it seem as though Port had more players on the park? This feeds directly into my point above about work ethic. Port had it in them to make contest after contest. Melbourne seemed content with getting the ball out of their area.
I loved the work of Tom Clurey in this one, and felt a little cheated that Sam Weideman ended up with two goals. When the heat was on in the first half, Weideman had just one touch. That was due to the efforts of Clurey. He was immense.
The Clayton Oliver report? Nothing in it. Wouldn’t surprise me if it the umpire changes his mind once he reviews it.
While we’re at it, I have to mention Tom Jonas and his game. However, is beating Tom McDonald still considered a big win these days? I think it is expected of a good key defender now. Still, you can only pulverise those they put in front of you…
Quote of the night from Jobe Watson – “it would be tough to be a forward at the Melbourne Footy Club.” No shit, Jobe. It would be no picnic playing defence there, either.
I know he was quiet, but the way Connor Rozee moves when he hits the footy at pace… far out. This was another moment where Mrs Mongrel raised her eyebrows. “Who was that?”
That, my dear, was Connor Rozee, and I cannot wait until he has a big game this season and just opens up on a team.
I didn’t mind the game of Jay Lockhart for the Dees. He looked like one of the few players willing to actually chase an opponent as opposed to running along beside him (like Ed Langdon).
And that’ll do me. Port get to open Round 10 against the Dogs. In a wild season, it is probably even a little bit crazy to go with form, but given what we’ve seen over the last two nights, this is Port’s game to lose.
The Dees… well, they’re now cooked, but against Adelaide, they have the chance to actually redeem themselves and trick their supporters into thinking all is not lost in 2020. Forget it… it’s lost. Enjoy the win.
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