We’re now at the business end of the season and the hopes of teams rise and fall with every weekend.
Port Adelaide continue to battle to the stigma that they cannot knock over quality teams, yet they sit a game clear in fourth place and look as though they are capable of making some September noise. People tend to forget they were a kick out of the Grand Final in 2020 – that does not happen by accident, and there is a lot more substance to this team than people give them credit for.
The Giants are a meandering collection of talent and youth – awesome at their best and ordinary at their worst. Their loss here dropped them to ninth, and they now sit half a game out of a return to finals, and with Geelong and Richmond in their next two weeks, all is now before them.
The Mongrel cast his eye over the final game of Round 20 – here’s what he saw.
GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AND AMON
There is no better wingman in the game over the past month of football than Karl Amon, and he continues to grow into the role, playing with the confidence that only comes with the knowledge that you’ve done the hard work and now is the time to reap the rewards.
Combining a perfect blend of hard run and precision kicking, Amon had the rare combination of travelling at 90% efficiency for his 31 touches, whilst also leading the game in metres gained. Not only was he throwing the ball on his boot and gaining valuable ground for his team, but he was also hitting targets with monotonous regularity.
For the uninitiated, we have a weekly wingman ranking for our members, as part of our Wingman of the Year Award, and Amon is coming home with a wet sail. Only three players have ever scored 100+ points in that system. Doing the quick maths before this write-up, we may just have a fourth this week.
When you look at who Karl Amon was as a player, and who he has become, the transformation has been amazing over the past two years. It is clear that this is a man who started taking all aspects of his football seriously, including his preparation. He has gone from being a good runner – a role player – to a borderline star of the competition, and with another five tackles in this game, he is contributing in a big way defensively, as well. Over the past four games, he is averaging over six tackles per game. In his first season, he had ten tackles in six games. You’ve come a long way, kid.
THE GATHERING STORM
You can see it bubbling away, can’t you?
The troops are returning to the front lines and the strength of this Port Adelaide team is now coming to the fore. Connor Rozee is finding form, Xavier Duursma has been back in the team for a couple of weeks, as has Zak Butters. Orazio Fantasia is back in the team – the firepower is increasing, week by week, and with the return of Robbie Gray, hopefully before the finals, Port are looking like a team on the rise once again.
There was a player in the NBA at one stage named Michael Cage and he had the gift of the gab. When describing a then-young player named Shawn Kemp, he had a wonderful way of describing him.
“This guy is like a hurricane. You can see him coming a mile away. You can see him like a storm brewing on the horizon, and when he gets there, he rains down on you, anyway.”
That is what we’re seeing with Port at the moment. Their best is on the horizon, and assuming they get a decent run with injury, there might be a storm brewing right around finals time. Wines, Boak and now Willem Drew provide a powerful midfield unit. Charlie Dixon is playing himself into form. Aliir Aliir, Tom Jonas and Trent McKenzie provide a solid defence, and the runners… well, when they start motoring, not many can stop them.
The return of Robbie Gray remains the bolt of lightning that can ignite this team. With Rozee looking dangerous and giving Lachie Whitfield a few headaches in his role off half back, and Zak Butters now starting to round into form, Port are now becoming the team to watch. Their best could very well be THE best.
WHAT HOPPER ADDS, AND WHAT HE WILL COST
With just three rounds of footy remaining in 2021, there is a contract situation that is getting zero attention. It revolves around the player that was stretchered off after an attempted smother saw him kicked right in the face by Karl Amon. He is without a deal for the 2021 season.
Praise has come thick and fast for Hopper from anyone who has watched him play, with some associated with the Giants calling him the best midfielder they’ve seen. Take note of that as we run through some names that have wandered through the GWS doors over the years – Whitfield, Shiel, Treloar, Coniglio, Kelly… it is high praise indeed.
Clean with his hands, never short on courage and with a wonderful ability to win his own footy, Hopper is slowly compiling a ripping season – not an AA season; the competition is way too strong for him to sneak in this year, but the potential to be an All-Australian at some point is apparent.
But will it be with the Giants?
GWS have been excellent at retaining the players they want to retain, particularly in the midfield, however, the fast-tracked development of Tom Green may be giving the GWS list management cause to ponder their options. Hopper is a star in the making – some would argue he already is a star – but the fact is he remains in limbo when it comes to next year, and there would be a dozen clubs willing to part with a bit to get their hands on him.
As it stands, GWS will once again be at the pointy end of the draft thanks to a brilliant strategic move last year that saw them acquire Collingwood’s first round pick. If Hopper decides he would like to pursue options elsewhere, we could see the Giants with two, if not three top ten picks depending on their own finish to the season.
Say what you want about the Giants in terms of results since they fell over in the 2019 Grand Final, but the way they have continually topped up this list with high-end young talent is incredible.
Personally, I would like to see Hopper re-sign with GWS, but what I like and what happens are seldom one and the same.
DIXON V TAYLOR
Cards on the table – I am a huge Sam Taylor fan. As a young bloke, he is taking on the best forwards from each team every week, and for the most part, is doing a bang-up job. However, whilst you can see how much of an influence he will have over the next five or six years, there are times where a big forward can get the better of him. He is, of course, just 22 years old and that means that he is developing that core strength that will see him able to compete with the monsters on a more even playing field.
However, when he has to stand up for an entire game against these monsters right now, there are periods where he is in trouble. Charlie Dixon had two good quarters and two quarters where Taylor owned the contest. He kicked two in the first (and got away with one of the most blatant pushes in the back you’ll see) and added another two in the last quarter, but through the middle of the game, Taylor went about compiling a nice little period where he held Dixon to just three touches and no goals.
Dixon once again managed to clunk contested grabs, and he will need to continue that as we head toward September. He really is a mountain of a man, and it takes something special from a defender to cover him for an entire four quarters. It was a lesson that Sam Taylor learnt the way in this game.
WHAT CAN PETER LADHAMS BE?
With three goals in the first half, Ladhams demonstrated that he has the ability to make something out of nothing. The problem is that we’re all well aware that he also possesses the ability to do just the opposite, at times squandering opportunities that are presented to him.
As a backup ruck and part-time forward, Ladhams could be the perfect player to cause chaos in the finals for Port. He has soft hands in marking contests and demonstrated some very quick thinking/reflexes in this game. When pinch-hitting in the ruck, he was more than serviceable, but with him in the side, do Port run the risk of being too top-heavy in the run home? And if so, where does that leave the Power and Ladhams going forward?
Given the lack of genuine rucks who can hit the scoreboard in the league, a bloke of Ladhams’ stature could command a decent price on the open market, and under contract for next year, Port are well and truly in the driver’s seat in regards to asking price. A team like the Gold Coast Suns could be prepared to overpay for him, given their ruck dilemma this season, and with plenty of talent up north that could be traded away, Port could make some big moves.
That said, what do you lose without Peter Ladhams? Up forward, the emergence of Mitch Georgiades, and the slow but steady development of Todd Marshall mean that the Power are covered for tall targets. Dixon has plenty left in the tank, as well, and his mark-kick game could see him a fixture up forward for another three/four years. Port are also well-stocked with zippy little forwards that can take over a game. Does losing Ladhams, if they choose to look at that as an option, hurt that much?
I don’t think it does, but I also see the tremendous upside of retaining him. He is a 23-year-old ruck who hits the scoreboard. Would the Dogs get rid of Tim English? Hell no, they wouldn’t, and even though I am sitting here floating the idea of moving Ladhams, I would be determined to hold onto him if I were Ken Hinkley. Given that, I am just not sure how the forward line functions at the pointy end of the year. Ladhams, Dixon, Marshall and Georgiades… I am not sure you can play all four against the good sides and win. If you had a gun to your head, which one of them do you leave out?
I know he had a good game, here… but Marshall gets it in the neck if I am in charge. Interested to hear what you guys think.
DOES OLLIE WINES SNEAK VOTES AGAIN?
He has had an amazing season, and with another 28 touches in this one, I am keen to see just how the umpires respond to the presence of Ollie Wines. For mine, Karl Amon was a clear best on ground, and I would probably have Boak in there as well, but the third place in this game seems way up in the air.
These are the types of games that could get Wines home in what should be a very interesting Brownlow count this year.
For the record, Wines is a clear leader in our Mongrel of the Year award. With three games left, it would take a miracle to catch him, but in terms of the Brownlow… these last three games and the form players carry until the end of the season could very well decide it. I’d love to see Ollie finish strong – after all the conjecture about him in 2018/19, he has come out the other side as the player everyone thought he could be. It would make for a brilliant story.
A missed goal from the top of the goal square and a kick into the man on the mark from 25 metres out kind of summed up Greene in this game. There were opportunities aplenty for him, but he finished with 2.4 for the game. Though Port would go onto win by 27 points, Greene had the opportunity to be the difference in this game.
And for once, he kind of blew it.
He was still one of the better players on the park for GWS, but he really let Port off the hook with a couple of kicks at goal that registered behinds but should have been goals.
Greene should be an All-Australian forward this season, but 4.2 as opposed to 2.4 would have sealed the deal.
TAKING YOUR TIME
It’s not often that you see a forward called to play on as they line up for goal, but in the dying stages of the third quarter, Harry Himmelberg, who was held well by Aliir all game, had a chance to draw the Giants within a point of the lead.
But he just took too damn long, and with Ollie Wines imploring the umpire to call play on, the ump waved his hands and Wines ran in and nailed Himmelberg in a tackle. Some may consider this decision harsh, but the umpire blew the whistle as a warning to Himmelberg and he took no notice. He has no one to blame for that one, but himself.
Just want to point out, that despite the pundits whacking Port at every chance they get, they have now registered a league-leading eight interstate wins this season. Yep – eight times they have been forced to pack their bags, hit the road and have walked away with the win.
People, say what you want about Port, but this has been a wonderful season under duress. “Oh, they only beat so-and-so…” some will say. Let them say it – it does not change the fact that this Port Adelaide team have been bloody excellent when forced to play away from home, and if they have to do it again in the finals, I wouldn’t be betting against them.
HOW MUCH LONGER CAN BOAK BE A TOP-FIVE PLAYER AT PORT?
And a follow-up question – how long will he have to be?
Answering the second question first; as of next season, you’d like to see him not having to be a 25-disposal per game player, but he is highly capable of continuing at that level. Boak turned 33 this week, played the record-breaking number of games for Port and was a big contributor in the win against the Giants. He is a star of the game and is enjoying some hard-earned success in the back half of his career, and personally, I would love to see him land a flag before all is said and done.
Realistically, you would think Boak remains an integral part of the top tier of mids in the league next season, but with Drew emerging as a powerhouse in his own right, and the kids starting to become more capable of winning their own footy, maybe he can start taking his foot off the accelerator around… hmmm… 2023?
And even then, I can see him playing the same role Josh Kennedy is playing at Sydney, and David Mundy is playing at Freo. The bloke is a star!
Next week, the Power get the Crows in the second showdown of 2021. I reckon we might just see some muscles flexed in this one as the Power look to secure that top four spot. Meanwhile, the Giants look to salvage their season by beating Geelong. They’ll have to emulate their huge win against the Cats at Kardinia Park in 2019 to get the job done, but the way Geelong is playing… it’s going to be an uphill battle to make the eight now.
And that’ll do for this one – apologies for the delay on this review… had a couple of issues to deal with on Sunday that prohibited me from watching it live. If you enjoy what we provide here, please consider becoming a member on the link below. Without members, our site doesn’t exist. Thanks – HB