Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs – The Doc’s Autopsy

Gather Round up to this point has produced some pretty good football, if we’re being honest.

The meeting between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide was one of those games where it was going to dictate just exactly where these two sides, who flip-flop on form consistently over the past few years, sit in the grand scheme of things.

In the pissing wet at the Adelaide Oval, we were treated to a great contest between these two. It was never going to be an exhibition of who can slice through the field with their kicking skills, it was hard, physical, territory football.

The Power got off to a strong start, but could’ve just as easily put this game to bed by quarter time, registering eight scoring shots for a return of 3.5 to the Dogs’ 1.2 – as you’d expect, the Dogs responded and controlled the second and third quarters to lead by two points at the final break. When it looked like the Dogs were going to push clear with the first goal of the last quarter, the Power dug deep and recorded a memorable win in the wet.

Personally, I don’t think too much of Port Adelaide – they’re a bit similar to the Dogs in that they can be very hit-and-miss. But these can be the kind of wins that begin this thing called momentum. They held firm against the Swans last week, despite their injuries to the defensive stocks and this week they failed to wilt against the Dogs to make two wins against opposition slated to play finals at the start of the year.



By the time you read this, you would’ve probably heard Ken Hinkley’s speech in the post-game presser about Jason Horne-Francis.

In case you haven’t just yet, he basically blasted everyone who has been negative about him wanting to come home, booing him, writing up pieces about him, also reminding everyone in real ‘Dad’ fashion that the kid is only 19 years of age.

It’s not every week I agree with something Ken Hinkley says, but he’s right about this. Not just JHF, but with young kids in general, we see the guys like Harry Sheezel and Nick Daicos putting up 25-30 disposals most weeks for fun, but not all young fellas are created equal to those two impressive young chaps.

A lot of us here agree that his time at North Melbourne was an absolute shit-show, and I’m in the business of being honest, I’ve had my fun with little jabs about him over the off-season. But at 19, I would’ve struggled away from home too, and I’d put money I wouldn’t be the only one here. The booing doesn’t make a lot of sense, unless you’re a North Melbourne fan.

But anyway, footy. Horne-Francis up to three-quarter time had been putting in an ordinary game – registering only eight disposals and minimum influence, yet at the three-quarter time interval, father Kenneth had a word with his adopted son and came out like a man possessed.

In his fourth quarter alone, he had 11 disposals, seven of which were contested, along with four clearances, and even took a very impressive, contested mark in pretty bad conditions. There were a few good young men that helped get Port over the line in this game and the contested work of Horne-Francis was definitely one of them.

He just dug deep and proved to people that he is still the same kid that many thought was the wonderchild that could rival Nick Daicos as the one in the AFL Draft of 2021. Look, he still has some ways to go to catch up to what ‘Hollywood’ Daicos is doing.

But I guarantee you that if he keeps on putting in games like these where he helps Port over the line, then the hate will shut up and go away. I’ll certainly pipe down about any notions of a ‘Mummy’s boy’ tour from now on, lest I get on the receiving end of Daddy Ken’s wrath.



Every time the Dogs play Port, I get a bit anxious to see who Willem Drew latches on to. He’s had the job on nullifying Tom Liberatore on the past, and I think he’s had some time on Marcus Bontempelli as well. He loves a negating role on the Dogs and Luke Beveridge loves not doing anything about when someone tags one of his players out.

For the first half, it didn’t look like there was a specific match-up for him. He was allowed to go and win his footy from the stoppages.

By halftime, Marcus Bontempelli was the standout Dog on the ground, recording a ridiculous 10 clearances from his 15 disposals in the first half. When the sides came out in the second half, Drew was situated right next to the Bont around every stoppage.

And to say that influenced the game, would be a massive understatement. Bontempelli would only register another two clearances for the second half and only just eight disposals. It completely helped shift the momentum back in Port’s favour.

And while, yes, I hate it when he plays against the Dogs, but that’s also a testament to how committed he is at playing his role for the team. He’s not a primary ball winner, but what he is good at is getting under the skin of his opposition and sticking to them every chance he can get.

Drew finished with 27 pressure acts – equal highest on the ground along with Adam Treloar and Caleb Daniel – with 11 defensive half pressure acts. He also finished with six tackles in this game, outlining his defensive abilities.



Can’t go mentioning Zak Butters without mentioning fellow Mongrel Matt Oman’s incredibly unhealthy obsession of him. It’s kind of like the song ‘Stan’ by Eminem, where the lyrics are basically just letters to the rapper about how much of a fan of his work he is. That’s how I envision how Mr Oman interacts with him, just without the nuances about the wife in the boot of the car – I know he’s better than that.

Anyway, back to the footy, and Zak Butters is slowly emerging as the man who has the keys to Port’s midfield. Travis Boak has had it for years, and I’m not entirely sure where Ollie Wines sits in among the grand scheme of things.

Last week he was brilliant against the Swans and he was equally as impressive in this game. He has got plaudits for being a brilliant user of the ball and being a great impact-per-possessions player. But I’ve had my doubts about how he drifts in and out of games often.

There was no such thing on this night. He started the game with an 11-disposal term which included six contested possessions, five intercept possessions and three inside 50s. His last term saw him win more of the contested ball, win important clearances and sealed the game by taking advantage of Tim O’Brien (once again) butchering a kick with a brilliant snap around the body.

The one thing I took from this game – like Horne-Francis – was just how much he wanted the ball. He led all players on the ground for contested possessions, with 17 of his 32 disposals being contested. His seven clearances was the leading Port player on the ground. Three of those were centre bounce clearances.

He also finished with eight intercept possessions in this game. Only Aliir Aliir had more intercept possessions for the Power. A massive performance from him when the Power needed heroes to stand up.



There weren’t many positives to take from this game from a Bulldogs’ point of view, but the return of Cody Weightman is one of them. He finished with four goals, that’s half of their team’s total.

Now granted, these sort of conditions don’t favour the big men; Aaron Naughton was well held by Aliir in this game.. at times maybe a bit too literal, Jamarra struggled, and Rory Lobb sucked eggs again… can’t use the wet for an excuse, because they played in the wet last week and he gave a shit with his contests.

Small forward depth is something the Dogs have lacked over time. Arthur Jones is coming through, but is yet to hit the scoreboard since his debut a few weeks ago, but it’s not from a lack of effort – he had four tackles and 20 pressure acts. I have no doubt that he’ll be fine.

Cody Weightman’s presence in the forward 50 is enigmatic. He doesn’t have to bring that manic pressure that Jones brings, but he has got that uncanny knack of finding the goals and draw free kicks which lead to scoring opportunities. A lot of people get a bit upset about these players that do draw free kicks, but if they were at your club and it helped you in games, I know you wouldn’t be batting an eyelid about it.

He took a great leap over Kane Farrell in the opening stanza, and took a great grab in the last quarter to help them get eight points clear. He was a driving force in the second quarter, getting away from Ryan Burton once to take an easy mark and kick the corresponding goal and was perhaps the only one who was likely to score every time the ball went inside 50.

All in all, Dogs fans will take 4.2 from 11 disposals from him in this one. It’s been a slow burn for him, battling an adductor issue in the pre-season and missing every game up to now. But on this game alone, it looks as if the patience required to recover from an injury as problematic as an adductor has reaped good dividends.



There was a bit of scepticism about the Dogs bringing back Liam Jones after a lengthy stint at Carlton. Well into his thirties, there were questions about whether or not his body will hold up, whether or not he’ll have rust on the big stage.

After five games, I think we can safely put these notions to bed. Without him in this game, the Dogs would’ve been likelier to lose by a hell of a lot more. I thought his efforts in defence in this game were astronomical at times. He was rotating through the talls of Jeremy Finlayson, Todd Marshall and Charlie Dixon in this one.

Despite young Todd kicking two goals in the last quarter – one of which being a ridiculously good kick from the boundary – he held it well and played to the conditions in this game, but both times were on Tim O’Brien so that doesn’t count for Jonesy.

He had nine defensive one-on-one contests in total and did not lose one, which is impressive going against Port’s potent big men, but it is also worth mentioning just how well he reads the play. In a defensive system that’ll be different to the one at Carlton, he’s adjusted himself incredibly well.

He had four intercept marks in this game, and 13 intercept possessions overall. I also thought there were times that he showed great steely resolve and was able to help the Dogs manoeuvre the ball out of the defensive half: Seven contested possessions, seven rebound 50s and 12 kicks at 50 percent efficiency is a good effort from a key defender.

Between him and Jason Johannisen, they were the best defenders on the night… man, Johannisen has been in some good touch the past two weeks, hey?



I’d just like to mention one more thing here and that’s the defensive role that Darcy Byrne-Jones was given on Bailey Dale in this game.

I’ve been onto it since Dale was named All-Australian a couple of years ago, but he just doesn’t respond well to being forced to defend. He’s brilliant when he’s got his hands on the ball and running well, but his actual defending leaves a lot to be desired.

Byrne-Jones has had a maligned reputation as being one of the worst All-Australian players in recent memory. Skill-wise, he’s been historically a deplorable kick, there’s no question he dips in, but that’s about where I think it ends for him. It’s gotten that out of favour where he was relegated to being the sub.

But this is where I think Ken still has the respect of the players, and whilst I joke about the ‘Ken Hinkley uprising’ often on the A3 Footy Podcast, I don’t know if that actually happens if players like Byrne-Jones respond negatively to being played out of position and in different roles.

Dale only had just 15 disposals in this game, after punching in a very good game against the Tigers the weekend previous. Byrne-Jones had 21 pressure acts and four tackles in this game.



Connor Rozee had a quiet game, but was more and more influential in this game the longer it went: finished with 26 disposals, 11 contested possessions, four clearances and six tackles.

Adam Treloar deserves his pay packet tonight. His disposal let him down at stages, but then again, which player wasn’t let down by their disposal? He had 35 disposals, 16 contested, eight clearances and 27 pressure acts.

Love Aliir Aliir’s game in this one, but how the hell did the umpires not spot him legging Aaron Naughton in the goalsquare in the last quarter? Still, shouldn’t deter his great intercept game – the Dogs couldn’t stop kicking the ball in his direction: Four intercept marks and 11 intercept possessions.

Ed Richards Appreciation Society over here says he played a great game: 22 disposals, 19 kicks at 74 per cent efficiency, 600 metres gained. He’s been providing plenty of good drive across the backline.

I don’t get Ken’s infatuation with Trent McKenzie. Aside from a booming kick which doesn’t do much, he’s more of a battler being played as a key defender. Had eight spoils in this game though, which showed he impacted the game aerially. It’s pretty easy for a key defender on a night like this though.

Tim English putting in another pretty good shift in this one: 27 hitouts, 10 to advantage on top of recording 23 disposals, 11 contested, eight intercept possessions, four intercept marks and a goal. Scott Lycett struggled against him around the ground.

Liked a lot from Jed McEntee in this game. Kicked a goal early, and showed plenty of good speed and applied great pressure on the Bulldogs’ ball carriers. Had 21 pressure acts, five tackles and two tackles inside 50.

Jason Johannisen’s numbers: 28 disposals, 10 intercept possessions, 18 kicks at 78 per cent efficiency, 428 metres gained. He’s been in some good form the past couple of weeks and I’m glad he’s found that confidence in his game again.

Matthew Richardson said on the broadcast that Todd Marshall would be the man he’d want kicking a set shot to save his life… Me too Richo, the man plays like a freakin’ unicorn.

What’s happened to Jack Macrae? He had another 24 disposals in this game, but he has lacked the run and polish from previous years. Is he playing hurt? Or has he lost some of his edge? Or is he just terribly out of form?

A good 200 game milestone from Tom Liberatore. You just know what you’re going to get from him these days. He’s relentless at the coalface and up in the close spaces, he’s a menace defensively: 27 disposals, 14 contested and 17 pressure acts. Shame there weren’t many others that buckled in with him.

And on that depressing note, I’ll end this and go back to hating my own team. Sometimes being a Dogs fan is more of a detriment to my health than a relaxing escape from reality.

At 2-3 they can’t afford to drop these sorts of games if they’re expected to compete for finals. Understand that competition is as tight as it has ever been. Next round they remain on the road as they travel to Optus Stadium to take on a Freo side that has had their share of struggles to get both a winning score and just results on the board this year.

But fair play to Port Adelaide, this was a great win for them, and now at 3-2 they remain in contact with the top eight. Whether or not they can maintain this form through the year and win the games they need to… that remains to be seen.

They’ve got a good chance for a third win in succession next week, when they take on an injury-hit West Coast at home. Bring the sort of hungry mentality to next week, and we’ll be asking the question of how much. The corresponding fixture last year saw the Power do them in quite comfortably.



You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.



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