After Melbourne’s annihilation of a listless Geelong on Friday night, many considered the result in this one a fait accompli as the home ground and rested Port Adelaide would steamroll the Dogs to set up an enticing Grand Final. Alas, to the delight of bookmakers around the country, another favourite was dispatched, this time with clinical precision by a Bulldogs side who most definitely re-found their mojo that had them inside the top two positions on the ladder for much of the season. 

The Bulldogs jumped the stunned Power here, perhaps freed from their slumber by a last-gasp victory last week and with outstanding contributions primarily from Bailey Smith and Aaron Naughton never released their metaphorical foot from the throat, sending an anticipative Port crowd into a  spiral of dismay. For the vanquished, Ollie Wines and Riley Bonner can hold their heads high, but that’s about the extent of positives in a result that will be hard to recover from. A small shining light could be Wines winning the Brownlow next Sunday in what would be a fitting result for the midfield bull.  

And so a repeat of the 1954 decider is upon us, not that I think we can gauge too much of the form guide from their most recent premiership meeting, in fact, the general lack of Grand Finals from either club adds to the fairytale which will occur on September 25. Melbourne have played in only two Grand Finals with nightmarish outcomes since their last triumph in 1964, while the Bulldogs only qualified for their fourth in their entire history, and second since 1961. 

 

Port Adelaide(Tim Hunt)

 

[3] Ryan Burton – 5

Far from Port’s worst, Burton tried his best and was generally ok – he gathered 19 touches, went at nearly 80% efficiency – but just didn’t have enough of an impact when it mattered to warrant any more than a five out of ten. 

 

[12] Trent McKenzie – 3

I’ll be honest, coming into this game my number one concern was how Port would go about trying to quell the influence of the Dogs tall forwards. McKenzie lowered his colours to Dogs phenom Aaron Naughton, as he struggled to contain his high-leaping attack on the ball, and generally, he looked completely out-classed and bereft of options on how to assert any authority.

 

[21] Aliir Aliir – 4

At the start of the game, the Dogs forward structure seemed geared almost completely to stopping the intercept marking of Aliir. At every marking contest inside 50, Aliir was buffeted out of the play with a combination of Josh Schache and Mitch Hannan doing a superb job in keeping him occupied. As the game went on, Aliir was able to exert some influence – he finished with 11 intercept possessions – but generally this was a sub-par performance from the All-Australian.

 

[14] Miles Bergman – 4

Bergman was fine – far from Port’s worst, but not amongst their best either. He seemed a little overawed by the occasion to start, but fought his way through the game to finish with 18 touches, three score involvements and four intercept possessions – amongst his better stat lines for the year. He’s shown enough this season to suggest there’s quite a bit of talent for the Port coaching staff to work with, and will be better for the experience.

 

[1] Tom Jonas – 3

A very disappointing effort from the Port skipper, as he more than had his hands full with Dogs forward Mitch Hannan. You get the impression from Jonas that this game will live long in his memory and spur him on all summer long to work harder than he ever has. 

 

[33] Darcy Byrne-Jones – 2

You know it’s not a good sign when you have to double-check that a player did indeed take the field when doing these ratings. Nevertheless, that’s where I find myself with Byrne-Jones. He was far below his normal influence and possessed none of the run-and-carry that normally makes him such an offensive weapon. Just 13 touches and 84m gained.

 

[7] Xavier Duursma – 3

One of a number of Port youngsters who let the occasion of a preliminary final get to him. Interestingly, throughout his young career, the Dogs are the team that Duursma performs worst against. His efforts last night won’t go anyway towards improving that. 

 

[16] Ollie Wines – 9

To say that Wines was Port’s best is probably not doing him much justice – it was a pretty sorry bunch last night. In fact, the worst thing about his performance was that it happened in a preliminary final loss, and as such will be largely forgotten. He gathered plenty of the ball (38 touches, seven clearances, six score involvements and five tackles), and did everything humanly possible to try and drag his side to something resembling respectability. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough help. 

 

[5] Dan Houston – 6

I thought Houston was pretty good last night – he had 22 touches and kicked a goal. He was one of the very few Port players who could hold his head high as they trudged off the ground after trying his heart out all night long, but was simply outclassed by Dogs opponents. 

 

[15] Karl Amon – 4

Amon had every right to feel aggrieved at the All-Australian selectors and their apparent disdain for wingmen. He put together a really nice season and has quickly become one of the best wingmen in the comp and was someone I was really looking forward to watching last night. Then the disastrous first quarter happened – a first quarter that had me convinced that Amon (along with a few other teammates) had somehow forgotten everything that made him a really good player. There was none of the spark, none of the dash that are normally a feature of his game. Instead, he had just three disposals and looked completely lost.

 

[4] Todd Marshall – 5

I find it hard to judge the game of players who get subbed out with a fair chunk of time remaining. In Marshall’s case I’ve gone with a ‘5’, though that is probably one or two too low. He was pretty good while he was out there, constantly providing an option in attack on the rare occasions that Port managed to get the ball over halfway. 

 

[18] Zak Butters – 3

Like a lot of his teammates, Butters will want to forget about this game in a hurry. Unfortunately, there’s no game to prepare for next week, meaning that the memory of this game will live long in the mind of all Port players. Butters wasn’t the worst – he had 18 touches and two score involvements – but there wasn’t any of the enthusiasm that’s normally associated with him. 

 

[9] Robbie Gray – 4

Before the game last night (a game that I pencilled in as a Port win) I looked forward to the Grand Final and thought that, along with Travis Boak, Robbie Gray was the Port player I most wanted to see win a premiership. Like so many of his teammates, he seemed heavy in the legs last night, as if they’ve all been training too hard. Just two disposals in the first quarter suggests that his mind, like mine, may have been looking to the Grand Final before they had qualified.

 

[22] Charlie Dixon – 6

It’s hard to judge a full forward on a night where the rest of his team was so thoroughly smashed. Do you judge them harshly because they didn’t impact the game enough, or do you go a bit easier on them because they weren’t presented with enough opportunities to impact the game? In the end, I’ve probably gone a bit easy on Dixon, but I thought he did as much as he could. He was Port’s only multiple goal scorer, took three marks inside 50 and really did everything that could be asked of him.

 

[20] Connor Rozee – 4

I feel like I’m becoming a bit of a broken record, but Rozee looked like the occasion got the better of him. There was no doubting his effort and intensity – as always, they were exemplary – but the influence that he can exert on a game was virtually absent. Only two score involvements and 96m gained is clear evidence of this. Like Bergman, Duursma and Butters, the ceiling is high for Rozee, and Port will be hoping that all of them will be better for having this experience.

 

[29] Scott Lycett – 6

I’ve long been a fan of Lycett – he’s an old-fashioned, hard at the body ruckman who seems the sort of teammate who will do everything in his power to pull his team over the line. Last night was no different, with Lycett winning 26 hit-outs to go with 14 disposals and an equal season-high nine tackles. You’ve got to admire his willingness to get his hands dirty – it’s just a pity that so few of his teammates followed his lead. 

 

[10] Travis Boak – 6

I struggled with what to give Boak as a rating, but I’ve settled on six because I felt he was at his best in the first quarter, when it must have felt like there were thousands of Dogs opponents. Boak won a clearance in the first quarter, had seven disposals and two tackles, which admittedly are not phenomenal stats, but when you consider that all of his teammates (bar him, Rozee and Bonner) had less than five disposals, you begin to appreciate how it must have felt like he was fighting a lone battle. 

 

[28] Willem Drew – 4

This isn’t so much a rating for Drew as it is for Ken Hinkley. The decision to start Drew on the bench, instead of on the ground and tagging any of Bontempelli, Libba or Macrae was a horrible decision and immediately blew up in his face. By the time the mistake was rectified the game was just about over. Drew eventually followed Libba around for most of the night, and what do you know, after a really fast start, Libba had little influence on the rest of the game. 

 

[13] Orazio Fantasia – 0

Welp, what do you say about a game like that from Fantasia? He certainly… played? Laced up his boots? Wore the right jumper? I’m asking these questions because I genuinely don’t know – did he do any of these things? I’ve watched the game twice now and can’t say for certain that he even exists, let alone that he took the field. It was the sort of performance that is likely to result in Fantasia’s face being put on the back of a milk carton, while Ken Hinkley and David Koch hold a press conference standing in front of ‘Missing’ posters.

 

[38] Peter Ladhams – 2

Look, Ladhams was ok (he won 18 hit-outs, had nine touches and two clearances), and maybe two is a bit rough, but once again, this is more about the selection than the player. I know that Port like to go with two ruckmen, but I wonder what the impact would have been had Powell-Pepper been included in the side over Ladhams? I’m sure it wouldn’t have affected the overall result, but would the Dogs have run as rampant as they did through the middle of the ground if Powell-Pepper was out there from the start?

 

[26] Riley Bonner – 8

Along with Wines, Bonner was Port’s best. 32 touches, ten marks, eight intercept possessions and 813m gained – it was a complete performance that deserves recognition. It says a lot about the young man that he was able to perform like that when so many of his teammates failed, and will hold him in good stead over the coming months as Port embarks on some much needed soul searching. 

 

[6] Steven Motlop – 1

I swear I heard Geelong supporters last night sigh with a sense of familiarity when contemplating Motlop’s performance. For a guy who promises so much, he often delivers so little. Motlop is kind of like Leonard Nimoy from the ‘Monorail’ episode of The Simpsons. You know, where he says “My work here is done”, Barney says “you didn’t do anything”, then Nimoy says “Didn’t I?” before disappearing. 

 

Medi-Sub [2] Sam Powell-Pepper – 3

Like I said with Marshall, I find it hard to rate a player who only comes on for a quarter or so. Particularly in the case of last night’s match, where the game was well and truly over before Powell-Pepper entered the arena. It’s telling that he gathered the same amount of disposals as both Motlop and Fantasia despite playing three less quarters, though perhaps that reflects more on them than on him. It’ll be interesting to see if Port floats his name in upcoming trade talks, as I reckon there might be some interest. 

 

Western Bulldogs(Alex Docherty)

 

[10] Easton Wood – 7

There are quite a few men in this Bulldogs side that are finding form at the right time of the year and Easton Wood is at the top of the pile, playing a key role in a defence that shut down a very potent Port Adelaide forward line. Looked to have had the job on Robbie Gray in the early goings of the match and negated his influence whenever he went forward, but also many of his defensive efforts and one-on-ones helped set up a Bulldogs scoring opportunity moving forward – having an underrated finals campaign.

 

[43] Ryan Gardner – 8

In the absence of Alex Keath, this was a massive test for Ryan Gardner, who had been maligned by many Bulldogs supporters over the past 18 months. But he answered the call early by winning an important pair of one-on-ones against Charlie Dixon in the first quarter. After that seemed to be the key defender to peel off the small forwards and impact whatever contest came his way, his eight-spoils a team-high for the Bulldogs, but none more important than his spoil on the goal line in the third term when Port had the momentum their way.

 

[34] Bailey Williams – 8

Without question, his best game of the finals series. Looked to have had the match up on Orazio Fantasia at numerous points of the night, but worked very well to continually cut off Port Adelaide’s forward 50 entries. Led all Bulldogs for intercept marks with four for the match and also recorded a team-high 10 intercept possessions. Very strong around his body in the one-on-ones that he did win at ground level as well.

 

[35] Caleb Daniel – 7

Wasn’t as big of a standout as he was last week, but still featured with a few really big plays and was a strong source of rebounding out the defensive 50, recording seven rebound 50s for the match – second-most of all Bulldogs. He had 16 kicks and 430 metres gained at 68 percent efficiency, but also had eight intercept possessions, including an intercept mark that took the wind out of his sails significantly, possibly even sore ribs, such was the impact of his landing, but at least he’ll have the extra week to recover from that. 

 

[12] Zaine Cordy – 7

Came into the team to replace Alex Keath who was ruled out on Thursday night with that hamstring complaint, and whilst I’ve had my issues with Zaine Cordy’s positioning and tendency to be sucked towards the ball at times across the year, this was a performance that I was left satisfied with. He did have the daunting task of manning Charlie Dixon and kept him to just two goals – one at the start of the third quarter and the other during junk time in the fourth. Dixon is very strong in the air, but Cordy’s work in the air was equally strong, unfortunately, it may not be enough for him to keep his spot when Keath comes back in.

 

[31] Bailey Dale – 7

Got caught holding the ball a couple of times during the game, but overall his consistent run and penchant for taking the game on brought home another strong performance off half back by the All-Australian from Edi-Asp. Led the club for rebound 50s with eight and many of them searing through Port’s press to find his teammates, with 18 of his 24 disposals being kicks and going at 83 percent. Also recorded 402 metres gained and five intercept possessions.

 

[6] Bailey Smith – 10

Whatever happened last week against Brisbane has been transferred over to this weekend in Adelaide because this was another blinder of a performance from the man with the golden mullet. Prominent early in winning his share of the ball and his two goals in the opening quarter, a little quiet in the middle, but finished off with a bang with two majors in the last term, including a ripping one from outside 50 on a tight angle. Four goals all up from 23 touches, also recorded 11 contested possessions, nine score involvements and 496 metres gained.

 

[5] Josh Dunkley – 7

Not as prominent as other Bulldogs around him, but was still strong enough to get a decent rating. Defensively speaking, he’s been the best midfielder of this particular bunch. It didn’t look as if he was given a specific match-up as he has done in recent weeks, but still managed to be one of two leaders at the club for pressure acts with 26 for the game, as well as eight tackles. In terms of finding the footy, he wasn’t too bad at that either, recording 22 disposals all up, 14 of those being contested and also recorded six score involvements.

 

[7] Lachie Hunter – 8

Dangerously efficient on the wings and played his role as the link-up man to near perfection.I’d argue it’s been one of his best games since the 2016 season, as he’s been very inconsistent since. From his 22 disposals, he recorded 11 score involvements, had eight inside 50s, 447 metres gained and had 16 kicks at a very high 81 percent. Also recorded the three clearances and seven contested possessions to continue his good form around the stoppages. A brilliant performance.

 

[23] Laitham Vandermeer – 3

Not his best game. Started out strong with his pressure and kicked a goal for his reward of good positioning deep forward. Continued to do his best with his harassing and chasing of Port defenders, but was subbed out of the game at three quarter time with a hamstring complaint. Vandermeer only had the six touches, but now puts himself in danger of being dropped for Cody Weightman, who you’d expect will slot right back into the side.

 

[33] Aaron Naughton – 9

How massive is this man going to be on Grand Final day? Had the match up on Trent McKenzie and made him look second rate all match. The way that he presented towards the ball both up the ground and inside the forward 50 just proved too strong for McKenzie to contain and with both Jonas and Aliir occupied elsewhere, it was an opportunity seized for Naughton at the very least to bring the ball to ground. He managed 2.2 but his two goals came at moments where the game was up for grabs and six of his nine marks were contested, it was a phenomenal effort all match.

 

[1] Adam Treloar – 9

Copped a lot of flak last week for not getting many disposals and body language that suggested that the toys were thrown out of the cot a little bit. Very unnecessary criticism I thought. Nonetheless, this was a game made for him to shut the critics down, and he did so accordingly by winning the ball directly from the contest as well as providing a run and spread that Port struggled to keep up. Led all Bulldogs for score involvements with 13, including two direct goal assists and a goal, as well as five clearances from 23 disposals, 26 pressure acts and nine tackles in a complete two-way midfielders performance.

 

[13] Josh Schache – 9

Hard to believe earlier in the year that I said that this man was as good as done, but here we are, preliminary final and such a prominent piece to the puzzle. I was so close to giving Schache the 10 for his performance in shutting out Aliir Aliir in this one, but his inaccuracy in front of goal was perhaps the only blip in his stunning performance. Aliir was basically the best Port player on the ground in the qualifying final and Schache created a lot of contests and forced the pressure which in turn caused the Port defender to make a lot of errors with the ball in his hands. Kicked the 1.3 for his troubles, but also recorded six marks and four tackles in a massive effort.

 

[44] Tim English – 6

Despite failing to register a contested mark or a goal to his name in this match, I thought his efforts to contest in both the forward 50 and in the ruck were solid enough. Of course he was never going to outbody Scott Lycett, he recorded just 11 hitouts from 38 ruck contests and only one hitout to advantage. But it’s what he does next that I look for, and he looked to have done enough in the contest, he recorded four clearances, three of them direct from the centre bounce, as well as a pair of tackles and 12 pressure acts.

 

[29] Mitch Hannan – 7 

His start to this match was easily the best footy I’ve seen out of Mitch Hannan this year, kicking three goals up to half time. He looked to have had the job of keeping Tom Jonas honest inside 50 and snuck out the back for a couple of crucial goals to really help the team stick it to the Power in the opening half. Failed to register a goal in the second half, but still continued to present himself as a threat at moments when the match was already sealed: 3.2 from 15 disposals, five marks and three tackles.

 

[8] Stefan Martin – 4

His first game back since the Fremantle game mid-season and I thought his bodywork against Lycett was solid. Only spent 68 percent of game time on the field, but for what it’s worth, having a big seasoned body in there to contest the ruck makes so much more of a difference. Had 13 hitouts, six to advantage, as well as nine disposals, three tackles and three clearances. He was also responsible for giving away the most free kicks for the Dogs as well conceding five free kicks, most, if not all directed from ruck contests.

 

[11] Jack Macrae – 10

Another spectacular performance from Macrae as he is starting to build himself up to being the player of the finals series. When the game was in the balance in the opening quarter, Macrae was one of a few Bulldogs to have the ball won from the source and have the ball moved forward repeatedly. Led all Bulldogs for metres gained (580), as well as topping the disposals once again with 36 for the match. Also had nine score involvements, eight intercept possessions, seven inside 50s and 14 contested possessions at 75 percent disposal efficiency.

 

[4] Marcus Bontempelli – 8 

All week the questions were on the knee of the Bont, but he came through with a performance that suggested the knee was going alright. He weaved through traffic was hitting targets with ease, the best thing about all of this is that he’ll now have an extra week to recover and it sets up a frightening match-up with the Dees: Bont had 20 disposals, kicked the two goals, led all Bulldogs for clearances with seven, including a pair of centre clearances, but also had 10 inside 50s and eight score involvements.

 

[21] Tom Liberatore – 5

Started well in the Dogs’ midfield dominance for Port in the opening quarter of this contest, but before too long he was stuck with Willem Drew for company again, and much like their previous meeting had more of a hard time winning the contested ball. Still, he had 12 of his 19 disposals contested, and still had four clearances, the kick to find Treloar, which led to his goal in the third quarter was a highlight of sheer brilliance of vision which led to one of his two direct goal assists. Also had six score involvements and six intercepts for the match. 

 

[39] Jason Johannisen – 6

There was a moment in the game that saw Johannisen run back to take a mark against the flight. It was incredibly gutsy and six months ago, I’d wager that Johannisen wouldn’t have been so keen to get involved in that contest. But his past two weeks speaks of a man who is believing in himself to put in as best as he can and in a position that he has had to learn to adapt all season long, he’s starting to really piece it together: 1.1 from 13 disposals, 12 pressure acts, four marks and seven score involvements is a good return.

 

[15] Taylor Duryea – 8

Next to Alex Keath, this man is quite arguably the most important defender in this team and this season has shown exactly why. Got handed the job of curtailing Connor Rozee to start proceedings with and rendered him ineffective. Also spent some time on Orazio Fantasia and helped keep him out of the game as well. He had the two intercept marks, five intercept possessions and four spoils from 13 disposals and five marks in total. Does anyone remember how the Dogs only gave up a future fourth round pick to secure him from Hawthorn a few years ago? 

 

[37] Roarke Smith – 6

Often maligned by Bulldogs supporters for his supposed lack of impact, Roarke Smith is now finding himself a role on the wing that he will keep ahead of the Grand Final. Matched up with Karl Amon at numerous points in this contest, and whilst Amon would record 21 touches for the game, the manner the game was being played meant that the Port winger really struggled to make an impact in the contest. Smith himself came up with a big goal before half time and finished with 15 disposals, six of which were interceptions. 

 

Medi Sub [28] Anthony Scott – 3 

Came on as the medi-sub in the last quarter and made an instant impact, slotting through a goal in the opening minutes. It is a bit hard to judge him on anything else considering the game was well and truly done by the time he came on, but the stats will show that he had four disposals, three of them being involved in Bulldog scores. Will be very hard to see him retain his spot however come Grand Final day.

 

 

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