I’m not even going to attempt to lie to you – that was damn ugly. My eyes almost started bleeding while watching this encounter that was the ultimate test as to whether a close result can make up for an absolute dog’s breakfast of a game of footy.

Port Adelaide managed to get up over the Saints and win their second on the trot in the hot, slippery conditions of Cairns, as both teams managed to thrill and entertain only those easily thrilled and easily entertained with a brand of footy that was almost painful to watch.

That’s not the players’ fault – it was played in Cairns. In the evening. After it had been raining. What else did we expect? Great job selling your home game up there, Saints. Hope it was worth four points.

Both teams hacked at the footy like the time my uncle asked me to chop a tree down outside and it took me an hour before the bloody thing fell on me. I’m guessing that for the first three and a half quarters, footage of me trying to outrun the falling tree like Wyle E Coyote attempting to escape one of his own traps might have been more entertaining than the game, but in the end, what we got was a frantic finish, with both teams simply unable to strike a killing blow in the form of a goal, as they exchanged a series of 11 consecutive behinds to end the game.

It was Robbie Gray who kicked the best of the behinds, slotting a spectacular behind to regain the lead for the Power in the last minutes, before taking a mark and pretending to be having a shot at yet another, more dramatic behind before passing off as the siren went.

Obviously, I jest. Port fans will be rapt their team showed some guts and determination to come back after the Saints kicked the first three goals of the game, and Saints fans will be bitterly disappointed that they were unable to convert relatively easy shots in in the second half to ice the contest.

And that they sold their home game.

There were lessons to be learned from this game.

You don’t go on holidays and leave your back door open, you never invite a vampire into your home, and you never, ever give a desperate team a chance to capitalise on your own errors.

St Kilda did one of those things in this game.

And I hope they didn’t leave their back door unlocked as well – a vampire could get in!

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

WHO WAS YOUR HERO OF THIS GAME, AND WHY WAS IT ROBBIE GRAY?

Games like this can go either way.

On one hand, you get what we had in the first half, which was players attempting to play dry weather football in conditions that were never, ever going to permit it. Of course, this results in messy, borderline unwatchable footy.

And then you get the rare exception to the rule that everyone else seems to be operating under.

Robbie Gray is that exception, and in the third quarter, it was almost as though he decided enough was enough and needed to show some of these highly-touted young players how to handle yourself in the wet.

Gray’s role in the third quarter breathed life into the decaying corpse of a game. It lifted Port Adelaide and allowed them to have a focus inside 50 that was actually going to create opportunities as opposed to squandering them.

I know a lot of people rad some of the stuff I write and run off to have a look at the stats to back it up, or disprove it. Go for it.

While the rest of the players on the park fumbled, bumbled, and scrumbled (I made that word up), Gray displayed clean hands, didn’t miss a target, and kicked two goals. This was the old bloke looking at the younger blokes on his team, shaking his head and saying “I’m not letting us lose this.”

It was fitting that the footy found its way to his hands again late in the contest, and as he ran toward goal with the scores locked together, it had all the hallmarks of a classic Robbie moment, slotting a goal to kill off the Saints.

But in keeping with the tone of the last quarter, he scored a point, and because it was Robbie Gray, it turned out to be enough, anyway.

If Port could somehow manage to bottle what Robbie Gray has and distribute it amongst their players, the team would be just about unbeatable. He is all parts footy genius and no parts choker – so rare. I hope he plays forever.

 

IS IT TIME TO PULL THE PIN ON THE CAIRNS EXPERIMENT?

If you’re a neutral fan and you got through this entire game, my respect levels for you just elevated to levels they’ve never before reached. It was ugly, and it was so ugly that even someone who loves footy wondered whether I could just half-arse this review and pretend I watched the rest of the game.

In the end, I am glad I stuck it out due to the finish, but man… it was an ordeal.

My understanding is that this game gives the Saints a substantial cash injection, which is the only reason I could see it continuing. So, in effect, they sell their home game to make some coin and cost themselves the home ground advantage because unlike Hawthorn and Tassie, or GWS and Canberra, the Saints have no base in Cairns and fly in and and out once per year. Ugh…

If I were an opposition club, this would be the one game I would request to be reassigned.

Whilst Port will walk away with find memories of the encounter – four points will have that effect – you have to ask what the AFL is trying to promote there? Are there any plans to move a team to Cairns? Are they going to play more than one game per year there? How do you look at the low standard of footy being played as a result of the conditions and justify this as a good idea?

Good on the Saints for getting a bit of cash for their home game, but with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder whether the money is worth the four points in a season where they are looking like they could be set for a deep finals run.

Imagine they miss top four on percentage?

 

WHOSE BEHIND WAS THE WORST?

It was Max King’s.

I was going to say it was the woman bending over to get something out of her handbag on the far wing, but that would have been mean. And I kind of just said it, anyway.

Max King had just slotted the opening goal of the last term. It was the kickstart the Saints needed after Port clawed their way back into the contest in the third quarter ad as they went inside 50 again around a minute later, it was King getting out to take another mark.

This is the point where they could have broken Port Adelaide.

The Power had poured their heart and soul into scrapping and scraping to get back into the game, and within two minutes of the last quarter starting, Max King had the chance to kill them off with back-to-back goals. He missed from 30 metres out and let the Power off the hook.

And the Saints would pay a huge price for it.

Now, before anyone mentions anything else, let’s delve into things a little more. Max King is one of the brightest young forwards in the game – at least in terms of football ability. I don’t have access to any IQ tests he’s recently completed. He is in this St Kilda side to take marks and kick goals, only his last two weeks have seen him return 3.9.

Of all his crappy misses, this one was the most important. This was like a reputed swordsman attempting the killing blow on an ailing opponent and tripping over to stab himself in the foot. It was like a bomb disposal expert suddenly going colour blind and getting confused between the red wire and the green wire and not only blowing himself up, but his team. A set shot from thirty metres out directly in front from a guy this club is going to pay a huge sum for in the next few years is unacceptable, and whilst I am sure he will be forgiven because he is the franchise player, it is just not good enough. Remember a few weeks ago when some bozo in the media was saying his performance was Carey-like?

Ageing well…

The Saints had a great start to the season and had the opportunity to move to 6-1 for the year. That would almost guarantee a finals berth.

Instead, they sit at 5-2 – still pretty good – and face the reigning premiers next week and then Geelong the week after. See how things change so suddenly?

One kick by the bloke paid to kick goals – it could have changed everything.

 

KILLER KARL AMON STEPS UP

I have to admit – when I heard the news from our Port Adelaide loving reader, Judith McBain, last week that Karl Amon was being dropped, I almost fell off my chair. As a matter of fact, I had to go and find a chair, sit down and then almost fall off it for dramatic effect, such was the craziness of the decision.

You see, I watch Port quite closely, and Amon was dropped the week following Ken Hinkley’s strange decision to have him tag Sam Walsh. In a role he had never played before, Amon laid ten tackles, but was often led to the footy by Walsh, as you’d expect.

Apparently, Ken didn’t think that was a good enough reason and cut him from the team for the game against West Coast.

We all know what happened – Miles Bergman got pregnant… or sick or something, Amon came back into the side, and played well, and now, he is back on the wing where he belongs.

And do you think Port and Mr Hinkley would be glad about that?

Amon picked up ten last quarter touches as his running power and raking left foot sliced the Saint to bits. In the fourth quarter alone, Amon pumped the footy inside 50 six times – far out mate, he only had nine of them for the entire game! Only two other players had six or more for the game.

One of Amon’s kicks – one that could have led to a killing blow for Port, was a 50 metre cross the body dart that hit Kane Farrell on the chest 25 metres out. At that point, no one could kick a goal, so Farrell missed as he didn’t want to feel left out, but it did not detract from the efforts of Amon.

That quarter alone should see off the wolves from his door and guarantee his place in this side in the role he has made his own for a couple of seasons on end – the wing.

 

DID SAM HAYES JUST STEP UP?

I’m actually not sure – I am more asking you guys than I am trying to answer the question, myself.

In prep for this game, I had the feeling that the combination of Paddy Ryder and Tom Campbell would give Hayes a bit of the old run around, yet as I watched the game, I thought the young fella handled himself quite well. He wasn’t dominant or anything – he just competed well and prevented Ryder from taking control of the game and Campbell… from doing whatever he was going to do as part of the game

Anyway, as I said, I am not completely sold on it, I have no data to really back it up – it was more just a gut feel over the course of the game, particularly on a night when conditions were not at all suited to the big guys.

 

CAN DOUGAL HOWARD BE AN ALL-AUSTRALIAN CANDIDATE?

I like Dougal, so I am asking the question.

Nobody else in the league is doing what Dougal is doing right now. He is completely killing contests as a ridiculous rate, averaging 11.8 spoils per game amongst his 13.2 one-percenters. The next best is Caleb Graham at Gold Coast, but Howard is doing this whilst also taking the deepest forward every week.

I won’t harp on about it too much, as I know Saints fans are probably pissed that they sold their home game and lost four points. As a result, they are not looking to read much about the game, but 16 one-percenters again in this one from Howard – he is a gun.

 

THE BRICK WALL

14 intercept possessions for Aliir Aliir in this one, as the big fella continually managed not only to beat his own man in one-on-one contests, but got back to help his teammates multiple times, as well. When you throw in his seven one-percenters, you start to get an idea of his influence. That’s 21 contests he was responsible for winning or breaking even.

The bloke listed above, Dougal Howard, had a combined total of 21, as well.

Those long ball deliveries inside 50 really did the tall defenders a few favours, huh?

 

OTHER BITS

Saw some nice stuff from Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera in the last quarter. His run down the wing, keeping the footy in front of him and just paddling it and toe-poking it ahead was the kind of stuff that doesn’t really get highlighted, but it is the type of action borne of hard work. It will hold him in good stead.

Where’d Jack Sinclair disappear to after quarter time? He had 11 first-quarter touches and added 12 more for the remaining three quarters.

Some big moments in this game from Ryan Burton, as he got back and defended desperately late in the game. Several instances could have seen him give up a free-kick, but he has really developed into a fine defender. Port won the trade…

9.31 was the combined scoreline in this one. In a way, Port were lucky that St Kilda were so shitful in front of goal early, and then the Saints were lucky… to a point (nice pun) that Port seemed unable to convert in the last.

Dear AFL players – wet, slippery footies don’t bend in the air like dry ones. You cannot curl them around the same way. You cannot bounce them through on the slippery grass allowing for the ball to curve in. It won’t do it – please write this down and remember it. It WILL come in handy the next time you think you are going to curl the wet footy around the post.

It’s not going to happen.

 

Port against the Dogs next week should be a belter. Both teams have been ordinary, but if Port gets up, the blowtorch that has been placed on them will suddenly pivot and the Dogs will feel the hear.

Meanwhile, as mentioned above, the Saints have the Dees and Cats in successive weeks.

Oh, and they also sold their home game.

Thank god this review is now over – I will not be putting my hand up to review the Cairns game next season. What a terrible spectacle.

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