It’s safe to say that even with a win, Port Adelaide may want to ditch the prison bars discussion for a day or two.
Because they really just got out of jail against Collingwood at the MCG.
Playing about 20 minutes of good football proved to be enpogh for the Power to overcome a dogged Magpies team that scrapped and scraped a little bit better than Port for the majority of the day, only to let themselves down as the Power turned up the heat in the last quarter.
The picture of a stone-faced Ken Hinkley in the coaching box following the final siren was probably reflective of the Port fans who were watching at home. At the game, you can understand the jubilation of the fans, but looking at the game objectively, Port were damn lucky to walk away with four points, and in the process, raised as many questions about their form as they answered.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
GRUNDY V LADHAMS
Hands up if you thought that Brodie Grundy was going to break a record or some sort in this game as the first quarter ground to a halt.
He was so far ahead of Peter Ladhams in terms of impacting the game that I actually started to feel sorry for the Port fill-in ruck. I started to wonder whether this was the game that would see the coaching panel and selectors exchange looks and put a line through his name in terms of future planning.
Grundy had six clearances, nine disposals and a goal in the first quarter as his second efforts and elite workrate left Ladhams looking like a particularly still telephone pole. You can imagine the look Ken Hinkley would have given him as he walked to the huddle at quarter time, can’t you?
Ladhams was challenged by the man many believed to be the most complete ruck in the game a couple of seasons ago. He was shown up as lazy and looked like a player that didn’t belong. He had to do something to reverse that perception.
And to his credit, he damn well did!
Over the next three quarters, Ladhams started to reel Grundy in. He didn’t come out and blitz him with 12 touches in the second quarter or anything like that, but he did add 16 disposals over the next three quarters to finish just two behind Grundy for the game. He managed to stick to the Collingwood big man and make life difficult for him, whilst collecting the footy, himself.
After quarter time, Ladhams actually got more of the footy than Grundy, but a margin of 15-14. I have to admit – I did not see that coming at all.
I’ve got to give credit to Ladhams – a lesser man would have gone into his shell, but Ladhams stood his ground, fought back and probably brought it back to a draw in the end. Considering the start Grundy had, that is a phenomenal effort.
WELCOME BACK TRENT MCKENZIE
I’m sure Jordan de Goey would not be echoing those sentiments.
McKenzie was a bit of a revelation last season, re-emerging as a key defender after years of being nothing more than a former Gold Coast player in the eyes of many. He has had to bide his time this season, but he was presented with an opportunity in this one, and he grasped it with both hands.
Playing on de Goey, McKenzie effectively shut the high-profile Collingwood player (note, I do not use the word “star”) out of the game. At three quarter time, de Goey had managed just four disposals. That was to go with his two marks and zero tackles. Oh, and zero goals. If McKenzie played him any closer, de Goey would have been campaigning to bring back hard social distancing rules immediately.
He was comprehensively beat; so much so that Nathan Buckley finally moved him into the guts to have an impact, as it became painfully evident he was unable to do that inside 50.
McKenzie finished with nine intercepts as he started to zone off the inept de Goey, and added six rebound 50s to his stat line as well.
With Tom Clurey out of the side, McKenzie received the opportunity he has waited for, and with his excellent shutdown job on de Goey, a selection dilemma may arise once Clurey is fine to return.
I mean, how can you drop McKenzie after a performance like that?
AND WELCOME BACK, TAYLOR
A gutsy return from Taylor Adams in this one, with the mid picking up eight clearances along with his game-high 29 touches.
He attacked the contest with venom, and it is no coincidence that the Pies were much more competitive in contests with him in the guts. Adams is a warrior and could very well be the next captain of the Collingwood Football Club. He takes no prisoners, offers no excuses and puts his head over the footy without flinching each and every time.
The Pies have been reliant on the old guard for so long – Pendlebury in particular – but a healthy Taylor Adams combining with Jack Crisp provides an avenue forward once the champ decides it is finally time to hang his boots up.
And I should add, I hope that’s not for a couple of seasons, yet.
Q NOT ANON
I have taken particular interest in the work of Connor Rozee this season and like most Port Adelaide supporters, I guess, I have been patiently waiting for him to find the form that had so many thinking he may be the next great small forward in the league.
However, a bout with plantar fasciitis saw his start to 2021 delayed, and he has been unable to really get going.
I’m sorry to say, Port fans, but he was unable to get the motor started again today, with Isaac Quaynor completely cutting him out of the game and giving him a bit of hiding in one-on-one contests. Quaynor’s physical strength and bursts of speed saw him able to both outbody Rozee in the air and on the ground, and match him when a footrace was the order of the day.
Quaynor finished with 26 touches, seven intercepts and five rebound 50s whilst holding the Port star-in-the-making to just eight touches and, importantly, no score involvements.
It was not a day for forwards, as the scoreline reflects, but it was particularly not a day for Rozee, who was effectively blanketed by Quaynor as he added another feather to his cap.
LIGHTING THE FIRE
How many games is Robbie Gray going to pull Port out of the fire?
How many times has he done this in the past.
With the Power looking completely inept up forward for the majority of the game, it once again fell to the maestro to conduct several passages of play that lifted his team out of the funk they were in and get them back into the game.
Where would Port have been without Robbie Gray today? One answer is “goalless at halftime”, whilst another refers to a particularly unpleasant creek without any apparatus with which to paddle.
In an age where all the press has been about the young stars in the Port Adelaide team, it has been the consistency and reliability of Robbie Gray that has continued to prop this team up. This week, with Fantasia injured (and yes, Fantasia has been excellent), Butters injured, and Rozee completely outplayed by Isaac Quaynor, it was Robbie Gray who made the play and hit the scoreboard.
With three goals and 18 touches, his presence in the forward half kept the Port Adelaide heart beating, and when they needed a bit of hand in defence late in the game, there he was, slotting in to take an intercept mark 15 metres out from goal.
At 33 years old, Robbie Gray cannot keep doing this forever. The superman outfit doesn’t quite fit as well as it once did, and the cape is a little tattered from the wear and tear over the past 250-odd games, but it is becoming more apparent by the week that if Port are to contend for the flag this season, it is going to take one more special effort from one of their greatest ever players.
Robbie may be the elder-statesman on this team, but when required, he stood up, put the team on his back and said “follow me”.
And they did.
NO RISKS = NO REWARD
I know it is all about the four points, and I know that had Collingwood won this game, none of their fans would have cared what brand of football they played.
But they didn’t win, and I care, because I had to watch them. They were so damn conservative with the footy, opting to avoid anything that would have had a risk/reward factor, and whilst that was fine through the first three quarters, it fell apart in the last when the Port pressure increased.
It’s a bloody shame that Jon Noble will most likely be remembered for his poor execution of a switch that allowed Port in, but looking at the bigger picture, it was indicative of the way Collingwood played for all except the final few minutes. Without his cramp/muscle tweak/whatever, that was a safe kick, but he botched it and the Power stormed back.
I understand that the Pies needed to play a certain way to give themselves a chance to win, but when Port was starting to wind up in the last quarter, perhaps fighting fire with fire was the option that should have been entertained? With tired legs and bodies, opportunities were opening up and the Pies were simply ignoring them.
And they paid for it, too.
It’s amazing how the erosion of a lead can inject an urgency into a team, isn’t it? As soon as Port took control, the Pies started to attack, and it paid dividends. They threw caution to the wins and the Power couldn’t stop them. Needing three goals to win, they went for it, and fell short by only the slightest margin.
Imagine they had produced that kind of football when Port were fumbling all over the MCG early in the game? They may have put the game beyond doubt.
Of course, we’ll never know because they opted to play safe, boring football. As a neutral… it was painful to watch.
JORDAN DE GHOST
This is the version of Jordan de Goey the Magpies fans dread seeing.
Not in the contest, hanging out to the side to get a cheap one where possible, and flat out refusing to apply anything even closely resembling forward pressure.
In the last five weeks of football, de Goey has laid three tackles, and that includes his time in the midfield. Some may like to compare him to Dustin Martin, which is laughable, except for the fact that Dusty doesn’t like the defensive aspect of the game either.
The difference is that Martin never has games where he has nine touches and doesn’t look like getting involved. They happen too often for Dusty-lite, however.
ST KILDA LEVELS OF FUMBLING
There was a point in the first quarter where it looked as though the Power was simply not on at all in this game. They were messy, made poor skill errors and failed to connect with teammates on several occasions. Handballs dropped a metre short of their desired target and everything seemed to comprise of a double-grab followed by a rushed disposal… which led to a rinse/repeat situation.
Port looked flat and believe it or not, a parallel between them and the putrid performance the Saints turned in on Friday evening was not too far from my thoughts.
On Friday, St Kilda were absolutely horrible – I could not believe it was the same team that played such good footy last season. Well, it’s not the same team – it’s a much worse team.
And as Port fumbled and bumbled their way through a goalless first quarter, I wondered whether they’d run into the St Kilda boys whilst visiting Melbourne and caught whatever was wrong with them.
Players that are normally so sure by hand and foot were dropping the ball short, or missing targets altogether. Hartlett, Burton, Boak, Wines, Amon… the Collingwood pressure was good, but it wasn’t THAT good that a who team felt it.
It was un-Port Adelaide-like, as they continually turned the footy over or sold teammates into a pickle, and looking back, being three goals down probably let them off the hook.
Collingwood should have capitalised on the clumsiness of their opponents, but had their own issues, with Scott Pendlebury – normally as sure-footed as a mountain goat, missing targets all over the shop as well.
Yes, Port got the four points, but this would hardly be a game you decide to hold onto when you need to clear space on your IQ Box. They were lucky their poor execution in the first quarter didn’t hurt them more.
DID CHARLIE DIXON DO ENOUGH?
He did it when it counted, but if we’re looking at the game from start to finish, probably not.
As stated above, it was not a day for forwards, for whatever reason, but the work of Jordan Roughead was stellar in this one. Dixon’s five touches in the last quarter were encouraging, but it was his incredible smother to set up Dan Houston for a goal to narrow the margin that will be remembered.
Sometimes, little things matter, and that one mattered heaps.
IS THE SECOND FORWARD POSITION GOING TO HURT THE POWER?
I’m sorry to say, but yes it is.
Mitch Georgiades is still a little too raw to have a huge impact week after week. He drifts in and out of games, and whilst he is capable of doing the spectacular, he seems less capable of doing the run-of-the-mill duties he should be doing – leading hard, pulling the extra defender away from Dixon, etc…
And then there is Marshall. I think there must be a rule for him where he doesn’t attack the footy hard in the first half, but is permitted to do so after the main break. There is just no sense of urgency about him at all, and his seven touches, even when drifting deep into the backline, are nowhere near to say he was effective in his role.
When Dixon is being held, one of these two need to step up, and I am yet to decide if either of them are capable… yet.
Right now, I would almost be tempted to throw Ladhams up forward as the second target, but I know he has a history of having whole games that resemble his first quarter in this one.
IS BEAU MCREERY THE PIES BEST SMALL/MID FORWARD?
This is saying plenty, given Jordan de Goey plays for this team, but he is definitely the most consistent over the last month or so.
You know what you’re gonna get with McReery – a strong presence in the contest, a player that keeps his feet, and someone who loves to apply forward pressure. He had another couple of tackles inside 50 in this one, which has him as the leader at Collingwood quite comfortably at the moment.
As a matter of fact, he is the number one player in the AFL in that statistical category at the moment, and that is a huge win.
SHOULD PORT BE WORRIED ABOUT CONNOR ROZEE’S FORM?
As touched on above, he’s not exactly setting the world on fire this year, is he?
However, I think he might be playing hurt, or at least a fair bit underdone. I would not be jumping at shadows right now, but if he hasn’t had a “Connor Rozee game” by the time the bye rolls around, I would be tempted to give him an extra week to get himself right.
A player of his calibre could be the difference between a Prelim Final and a flag. You’ve gotta get him in tip-top shape before the serious stuff starts.
Another strong outing for both Aliir Aliir and Tom Jonas, both of who made some decisive defensive plays down the stretch. People have been raving about Aliir all season, and rightly so, but Jonas has just been going about his regular business of being one of the best man-on-man defenders in the game. His diving spoil early in the last quarter set the kind of tone that was hard to ignore.
Another solid game from Darcy Moore, racking up 25 touches and eight intercepts across half back. The work of Jordan Roughead allowed him to play the type of game that he is so adept at, and I would not be surprised to see him climb the leaderboard in our Defensive Player of the Year award once again in the near future.
I reckon Jack Crisp was a goal away from being the best player on the park. He finished with 0.2 but just that little bit of scoreboard impact would have been enough to elevate his game to the top of the heap.
I expected a bit more from karl Amon in this one on the wide wings of the MCG, but after a solid first quarter, he drifted out of the game and failed to provide that gut run he usually does. On the flipside, Port got plenty from Kane Farrell, whose burst of speed is a weapon not many can combat.
Sam Powell-Pepper’s last quarter was fantastic. He pressured, attacked the contest, and made things happen. The Power have missed his manic charge at the footy, but it was back in this one.
And that’ll do me. The Power head home to take on the Dockers in the Sunday graveyard shift next week, and strangely, I reckon that should be a very good contest. The Dockers are not that far away from being a good team.
For the Pies, they get the Cats at the MCG and will be looking to force them into a slower-paced game, which is the same style Geelong have employed at times over the last ten weeks. I might be avoiding that one…
And for the record, the Collingwood cheersquad are nuffies – I love “Never Tear Us Apart” at Port games. Didn’t Collingwood try a Metallica song at one stage? Yeah… that worked out great.