Richmond v Port Adelaide – The Mongrel Review

With Port Adelaide’s season now officially over, the Power now has a different mission; do as much damage to the teams around them as humanly possible.

This week, the adversary was Richmond, who came to town needing that big victory to re-solidify themselves as the contenders they know they are. It was a back and forth battle, with both teams enjoying their periods of momentum, until a third-quarter blitz shut the game down, paving the way for a commanding 38-point Tigers victory.

Here are my Likes and Dislikes, from a Saturday night special in the City of Churches.

 

LIKES

 

SILVER SERVICE

I love what Port Adelaide has done with their ruck division since the injury to Scott Lycett. The trial of Sam Hayes was an unfortunate failure, and since then they’ve used Jeremy Finlayson in the middle, and the experiment has paid off. Tonight, however, the Tigers showed Port what an advantage it is having a strong, experienced big man in the centre square. Toby Nankervis was everywhere for the Tigers, and was by far the most influential player on the night, finishing with 29 disposals, eight clearances, seven inside 50s, five score involvements, and 42 hitouts.

But much more to the point, Nankervis’s dominance was a godsend for the players below him. For Dion Prestia and Trent Cotchin, it was like a child receiving endless gifts on Christmas morning, each more wonderful than the last. Port’s midfielders had their own periods of influence, but nothing compared to Prestia and Cotchin, who continually drove the Tigers forward. Prestia finished with 32 touches, 23 contested possessions, 10 clearances, eight score involvements and five tackles, while Cotchin amassed 31 disposals, 17 contested possessions, and six each in tackles, clearances and score involvements.

 

NINTHMOND NO MORE

Maybe it’s just me, but all the “Richmond are ninth” jokes are really starting to get old. I’m no Tigers supporter, but whenever Richmond have an opportunity to get away from ninth place, I’m barracking hard for them. I don’t know why, but it just grinds my gears. So with Richmond’s win, and St Kilda’s loss, the Tigers will end this week in the top eight. I can only hope this continues, and I apologise to Saints and Bulldogs fans everywhere, but I simply cannot stand the punchlines any longer.

 

THE TEAK

Plucked from obscurity in the mid-season draft, Brynn Teakle has gone from state league forward to AFL leading ruckman in the blink of an eye. The man they call ‘Test’ (get it? Test Teakle. Get it?!?) has given the Power a new look in the middle of the ground, and I love the presence he brings for someone so new to the AFL world. Sure, he was beaten by a stronger opponent tonight, but Teakle didn’t look out of place, and finished with a more than serviceable 12 disposals, eight tackles, three clearances and 21 hitouts. Perhaps the only man who was unimpressed with Teale’s performance is former understudy Sam Hayes, who is now third, and maybe even fourth in line for the ruck role at Alberton.

 

PORT’S SHAI BOLTON

Mark Ricchiuto said it many times during the broadcast, and he’s absolutely correct. Connor Rozee is Port Adelaide’s Shai Bolton. In a nutshell, it simply means that Rozee is the box office draw that you thrust before the cameras to drive patrons through the turnstiles. A midfielder capable of the in and under grunt work, and a high flyer up forward, Rozee wasn’t in every contest, but when he was near the ball something always happened.

There were screamers in the goal square, blistering runs through the corridor, a crunching tackle that denied a goal, and a series of shoves and arguments with the umpires that could well have been punished harder. Sure, there were a few negatives, and his knee injury will be monitored closely during the week, but that’s all part of the package that comes with a player like this. Bring your popcorn to Adelaide Oval, because when Connor Rozee is around, you won’t be able to turn away.

 

RICHMOND’S CONNOR ROZEE

For everything I just said about Rozee, copy and paste it for Shai Bolton. Every team needs a player like this, a slightly arrogant showman capable of pulling off the impossible, and driving supporters to the ground to watch the highlight reel. Bolton has his haters, and his showmanship, such as showing the football to Sam Docherty in an arrogant display that I’m sure he regrets, will rub people the wrong way, but this confidence should be embraced, not destroyed.

Tonight was no different, and we got to see every side of the Shai Bolton show. There were spectacular marks, high flies that missed, four wonderful goals, five wayward behinds, an inspiring chase-down tackle, and plenty of photo opportunities for the Richmond supporters that braved the elements. Like I said with Connor, bring your popcorn whenever Shai Bolton is in town, because the highlight reel will be packed to the rafters.

 

THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

For far too long, Port Adelaide relied heavily on their big three, Travis Boak, Ollie Wines, and Robbie Gray. With Boak and Gray entering the final phases of their respective careers, many supporters wondered who would step up and take the reins to drive the team into the future. After showing glimpses, we finally know who those young stars would be. We just spoke about Connor Rozee, but there are many more that have shown they’re ready for the spotlight. Dan Houston has been a strong contributor for a while now, Willem Drew played one of the best games of his career, Jase Burgoyne showed an enthusiasm that is infectious and will earn him cult figure status in no time and Miles Bergman was smooth in the back half.

But you all knew I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to sing this next man’s praises. Zak Butters is now a bona fide midfield star, and his performance tonight proved he’s ready to be Port’s main man in the middle. A beautiful combination of silky smooth skills, and stupid amounts of toughness, Butters has all the attributes to be the next big thing in the league. Port’s best player in a losing cause, Butters gathered 28 disposals (13 contested), eight tackles, six score involvements, five inside 50s, and a glorious snap goal that I have replayed over and over again.

 

THE PREMIERSHIP QUARTER

Speaking of Richmond’s win, it was a tight contest for the first 60 minutes. Then the Tigers of old resurfaced, and in a pulsating third term, Port Adelaide were put down in a terrifying manner. It was a scintillating display that reminded all those around them that the Tigers are still a force to be reckoned with in season 2022. Nank the Tank in the middle, the Human Meatball at the coalface, Box Office Bolton and Lynchy up forward, and the two Riolis and their speed. They may only scrape into finals, and could face an elimination final away from Victoria, but this team has all the experience they need to trouble those above them, and if any side from the last decade and beyond is capable of winning the premiership from eighth place, it’s this one.

 

UNCLE AND NEPHEW

Most teams would consider themselves lucky to be blessed with one Rioli on their list. West Coast supporters were overjoyed when Willie returned to their side, Hawthorn fans look back on delicious Cyril with pure amazement, and Tiger fans of yesteryear fondly recall Maurice and his exploits. But imagine having the luxury of two Riolis to do as you please with. Damian Hardwick must thank his lucky stars that each week, and opposite end of the ground, he has two outstanding contributors from the same extended family.

In the forward line, it’s Maurice Jr, who despite his age and inexperience, has shown plenty to suggest he will be a long-term force to be reckoned with. Like his father, Maurice Jr is an exquisite talent who is impossible to tackle, but can run you down like it’s nothing. Maurice Jr is still a work in progress, and needs a few more years to fully establish himself at the level, but it’s clear that the Tigers have another future star on their hands.

At the other end, it’s Daniel, who has reinvented himself from an inconsistent small forward into a game-breaking half-back flanker. Daniel has performed so well in his new role that he has entered conversations with All Australian selectors. Daniel might not make the final 22 at season’s end, but he has given Richmond a new dimension to its backline, and his natural attacking flair has caused many a headache for opposition coaches looking to clamp him down.

 

DISLIKES

 

TRENT MCKENZIE VS. TOM LYNCH

Port Adelaide has a major issue, one that is years in the making, and is their own fault. Plain and simple, Port are far too small in the back half, and the chickens once again came home to roost. Aliir Aliir was seen as the fix, but then Ken Hinkley decided it would be a good idea to play Trent McKenzie on Tom Lynch, and right from the get-go it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a good idea. Aliir is the tallest of the bunch at 194cm, but Hinkley preferred to play him loose, and he was followed around by Noah Cumberland all evening. Elsewhere, Jonas tries hard for his 188cm frame, and McKenzie nudges 191cm, but remember he started his career as a long-kicking wingman.

The biggest black mark on the Power is they already had a key defender on their list, but for some reason decided to play him forward, and when that didn’t work, they shipped him off to St Kilda, leaving a gaping hole behind. Dougal Howard has become the go-to stopper for the Saints, and I know it drives Power fans crazy when they watch his highlights, knowing that a player of that ilk slipped through their fingers, largely due to their own list management incompetence.

 

HINKLEY’S CONTRACT

Stability is a wonderful thing. But in this instance, has the coaching stability started to shift into a burden? Ken Hinkley is now in his tenth season at the helm, and it must be said that coaches usually don’t last this long if they have failed to achieve the ultimate success. In 2020 and 2021, Hinkley’s men came agonisingly close to making the big dance, but failed (in differing circumstances) both times, and the question must be asked as to whether Hinkley has gotten all he can out of this playing group.

Contracted until the end of next season, the likelihood is that Hinkley will see out his tenure, but you know that the lack of silverware he has delivered is a sore spot for everyone involved at the club, and Port still possesses a list good enough to challenge the best sides, but time is very quickly running out, and if things go wrong again in 2023, we may have another caretaker coach behind the wheel.

 

For 60 minutes, we were treated to a tight, enthralling contest. Then half time came and went, the Tigers flexed their muscles, and it was lights out for the Power. Port held on in the last quarter, and could’ve really been blown away, but it’s clear that they are a few puzzle pieces short of where they need to be. Key defence desperately needs fixing, and with Karl Amon likely out the door, an injection of speed and poise through the middle is a must find as well. The Power still has the nucleus of a premiership contender, but their window is closing fast.

But this should be about the victors, who came across the border, to a place they’ve had their struggles, and put a team on par with them to the sword, reminding the competition how good they are when at their best. They have an exciting mixture of youth and experience, and are still yet to welcome back Dustin Martin and Dylan Grimes. This may be their last crack at a premiership with this playing group, and it’s looking increasingly likely that they will lose Martin at the end of the season, but they are still all in on this year, and I for sure wouldn’t want to be playing the Tigers in the first week of September.

 

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