Whilst Port were looking for their ninth-straight win, the Hawks had won a couple on the trot and did knock Port over at Adelaide Oval just last season. It seems so long ago, doesn’t it?
The Power put on a show in the first half of this game, pummeling Hawthorn in a manner we rarely see at the top level. From the middle of the ground, to a dominant forward line, to a powerful defence, Port gave the Hawks no chance, racing away to an 82-point halftime lead with the number stretching out to 96 points at one point. This left the Port supporters rejoicing, and Hawthorn supporters wondering where the improvement is going to come from.
We got the answer in the second half, and whilst you might hear a lot about how the Hawks lifted their intensity and started to work for each other, make no mistake, this was only due to Port taking their foot off the accelerator.
The game was done at halftime – the better team had emerged and the result was conclusive. Whatever happened after that main break was either going to be the cherry on top for the Power, or something to hold onto going forward for the Hawks.
It turned out to be the latter.
In the end, it was a comfortable win for the Power, as they put the car in cruise control and hummed toward the finish line content in the fact they had done the early work to set up their win.
Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Loves and Hates.
BIG FORWARDS DOING A NUMBER
What was going on in the first quarter? It was like a training drill for the Power, as their tall forward tandem of Jeremy Finlayson and Todd Marshall torched the lacklustre Hawthorn defence with a flurry of marks inside 50 and a goal avalanche that saw Port snag nine majors to the Hawks’ two, effectively sending a message that there would be no repeat of the plucky Hawthorn win of 2022.
As the sides walked to the quarter-time break, Finlayson had four goals to his name and Todd Marshall had added another as both provided excellent targets, capitalising on a Hawthorn defence that looked in complete disarray.
Of course, many will look at that defence and blame those players, but the ease of which Port moved the ball down the ground was damning of Hawthorn’s midfielders as much as it was the defenders – possibly more.
Scott Lycett was instrumental in getting Port moving, winning plenty of the footy against Ned Reeves and Lloyd Meek, and was ably supported by the best player in the game currently, Zak Butters, Dan Houston, and Connor Rozee.
With those players on top of their opponents, it left the Hawthorn defence scrambling to cover not just their own opponents, but the wave of Port players breaking through attacking 50.
In short, the dam wall broke through the middle and the Power surged right on through. This resulted in Finlayson finding space that would normally not be there, and if Hawthorn were able to rush back to cover him, a quick double-back lead from stick man, Todd Marshall left them flat-footed.
As Finlayson slotted his fourth (and really, he could have had five or six to open the game), Hawthorn’s defence stood around, looking not at each other, but at their midfielders, who simply were not doing anywhere near enough defensive running.
THE WAY JASON HORNE-FRANCIS WINS THE FOOTY
He has copped so much flak this season, but every time I watch Jason Horne-Francis play footy, I see something else to like about him.
Here’s a question that a few might have the answer to – is there a player that hits stoppages harder on a consistent basis than JHF?
There may be some that hit them as hard, but I am not sure anyone goes harder. The manner he collects the footy is always excellent – running flat out at the ball whilst others may approach with caution, he will never, ever die wondering.
This likely won’t go down as one of his best games of the season. When all is said and done, someone who loves stats will flick back to this game and skim past it – 18 touches and a goal will be nothing in the career of Horne-Francis, but it was not the total of the stats that were significant in this contest. No, no… it was the way he went about it.
Five of his six clearances came in the first half, when the game was alive. He had two direct goal assists amongst his seven score involvements – he was busy without being spectacular, and strong without being overpowering. With players like Butters and Rozee playing at elite levels, I expect him to join them pretty soon.
And what a midfield trio they will make.
NOT DEAD YET
I mentioned Lycett’s first quarter in the opening section, and Port fans would have been pleased to see him winning his own footy and having an impact.
When he is on song, he is one of the more combative rucks in the game and certainly one I would not want to be on the bad side of. Faced with the Hawthorn double act of Ned Reeves and Lloyd Meek, Lycett was having his way both with taps to advantage and with his second efforts having an impact.
It really did shine a light on the woes of the Hawks ruck division, with Meek subbed out of the game after a half of football due to his ineffectiveness.
Unfortunately, Lycett was also subbed out of the game in the third quarter and appeared to get some attention on his back… maybe he just wanted a massage? I can sympathise…
Port’s ruck division has been a worry for a while, and a fit Lycett could be a very important part of the equation down the stretch and into the finals. As much as the media and Champion Data rated Finalyson’s ruck work late last year, Lycett’s big frame gives the Power someone who can crash and bash with the best big guys in the game. He is a very important part of Port’s charge to glory this season.
CELEBRATING A CHAMPION
With five snags for the game, and a couple of posters, Luke Breust held up his end of the bargain for the Hawks, moving past his 500th goal to finish the game on 504 for his career.
He joins Jason Dunstall, Leigh Matthews, and Jarryd Roughead as Hawks with 500+ goals and three premierships to his name. Quite an exclusive club, and the company is of the highest order.
He finished this game with 5.3 to his name, had 15 touches, and looked dangerous whenever he was near the ball.
He was torched at one point in the first quarter, as his direct opponent, Ryan Burton, ran forward t slot a long ball, leaving Breust in his dust in the process, but for the remainder of the game, it was Breust making the play and Burton struggling to contain him.
Not that it mattered in the context of the game – Breust was never going to elevate the Hawks to a win – but to see an unsung champion of the game have a good outing as he passed a big milestone was gratifying. I am glad he wanted to stay with the club.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Connor Rozee and Zak Butters were at it again in this one, making the play for themselves and their teammates, and making it look easy in the process.
Both blokes got off on the right foot, with solid first quarters, combining for 16 touches, before they both hit the scoreboard in the second quarter as Port ran away with the game.
Watching Rozee dart one way and then the other to lose an opponent, or Butters use every centimetre to slip a short pass around an oncoming opponent gives you a great glimpse into the skill these two possess, and now, with stronger and more resilient bodies, we are really starting to see them hit top form.
Rozee had a massive third quarter, registering eight of his career-high 13 inside 50 deliveries, but it was the first half that set this game up, and during those first two quarters from this pair (13 touches and a goal for Rozee, and 16 touches and a goal to Butters) set the table for the big Port win.
If you don’t like watching this tandem play footy, I reckon you simply don’t like footy.
The emergence of Dylan Williams as a legitimate defender has given Ken Hinkley plenty of options and the best of them to date has been the move of Darcy Byrne-Jones to the role of pressure forward.
I was a bit reluctant to buy in, initially, but week after week, it seems that DBJ is warming to the role and making the most of his positional change.
He was important in the first quarter of this one, with little acts of desperation resulting in turnovers for the Hawks and scoring opportunities for the Power. I am sure a few of these will be lost in the statistics, but overall, the way he throws himself at the footy when it is in dispute would have Ken Hinkley smiling from ear to ear.
It won’t get much play, mainly because the story of this game was Port Adelaide and their destruction of the Hawks, but if you’re looking for another positive for Hawthorn, the work of Tyler Brockman would be it.
He was able to find space to operate in the Hawks’ forward half, and though the opportunities were limited by a stingy Port defence, he was the one to set up Luke Breust for his 500th goal, and he set him up for a couple more chances, as well.
Brockman had three direct goal assists to go with his own goal for the afternoon, as he made a case to be the eventual replacement for the stalwart Breust.
Brockman burst onto the scene a couple of years back with a very solid preseason that saw him become a part of the Hawks’ long-term plans. He did his reputation no harm in this one, with composed, unselfish football when the opportunity presented.
LACK OF LEADERSHIP
With James Sicily sitting out this week because of suspension, it was always going to be interesting to see how the Hawks covered his absence and who was going to step up in his absence to lead the team.
Luke Breust was named captain, mainly due to tenure than true leadership qualities, but how the Hawks played and who played like a leader were always going to be the story.
Well, over the course of the first two quarters, no one stepped up and very few played like leaders as the defence fell to pieces early in the game and the Hawks went into complete self-preservation mode, as a result.
It was painfully evident that the Hawthorn defenders just wanted to prevent their own direct opponent from having an influence once the Power started to get on top. Where you’d normally have players zone off to help a teammate, defenders stayed at home to protect their own area and cover their own man. What this meant was that you got a whole heap of one-on-one opportunities for Port forwards.
And oh, how they did feast on those opportunities.
This would be the type of situation that Sicily would normally grab an intercept, slow things down, own the footy, and make teammates walk a little bit taller.
None were walking tall at all as Port continually won their one-on-one contests and were first on the scene to aid their teammates. Marshall, Rozee, Darcy Byrne-Jones… they were all ready to pounce and set up their teammates for easy scores.
If forced to pick a couple who did show signs of leadership, James Worpel battled hard, Jarman Impey provided a bit of run and desperation, and after a pretty tough first half, Josh Weddle demonstrated some character. Outside of them, it was pretty slim pickings.
THROWN TO THE WOLVES
How do you feel about players being made to learn painful lessons?
Personally, I was done with them many years ago – I remember Zac Dawson being fed to Anthony Rocca one-out at Marvel Stadium one day… it was uuuugly. I especially dislike these lessons when you’re forced to learn some that could have been avoided. I have a feeling that a few of the Hawks’ kids were taught some lessons in this game and that Sam Mitchell was aware they were getting an education.
It begs the question as to why the Hawks coach was content in allowing the Hawthorn defenders to continually be exposed to one-out situations throughout the first half, particularly when, as we covered above, it was due to the midfield being opened up like a ripe banana.
It took until halfway through the second quarter before he dropped a loose man behind the footy to, at the very least, make Port work for their scoring opportunities. They still kicked goals, but at least the defenders had a bit of help on the outnumber at that stage.
Mitchell trialled Josh Weddle, James Blanck, Sam Frost, and Jack Scrimshaw on Jeremy Finlayson, but the issue with this was that those who Finlayson disposed of were then sent to Todd Marshall, who proceeded to have his way with them in the second quarter.
If there was a positive to come out of this, it is that Weddle looked like a more settled player in the second half and started taking the game on. Whether that was more a case of the Power pressure being slightly off where it was in the first half, or him having more composure is up for debate.
I’d like to think it was a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
THE REACTION TO TAKING THE FOOT OFF?
I’ve added this for those who have already messaged me lamenting the Power’s lack of “killer instinct”.
What I saw was a team that did the job and were quite content to finish the game with a healthy list. No need to kill themselves to win a contest where they were 15 goals up… Port has bigger fish to fry than Hawthorn in Round 12. Their gaze is now shifting to a bigger goal.
Not finals… not top four… the way this Port Adelaide team is playing, they’re a premiership threat!
And so, I look at the criticism in these messages. I look at the vitriol I read and it makes me smile. Your team just won by 55 points without really breaking a sweat. They totally tore up the Hawks like Freight Train tore up Aunty Mama in The Cleveland Show, and unlike Freight Train, they did not live to regret it!
Sure, you may have liked to see them double down, attack the contest even harder, and maybe even break some records in the process, but it really isn’t about you, is it?
This team emerged from the game with four points, a healthy list, and the knowledge that their best form is far beyond that which Hawthorn is capable of stopping. Settle yourselves down and enjoy the ten-goal win. Geez…
And that might just do me.
Next week, Port head to Marvel Stadium to tackle the Dogs. It should be a belter, especially given the Power’s road record this season.
Meanwhile, the Hawks host the Lions at the MCG, who will be keen to make a good showing at the venue ahead of finals.
As always, massive thanks to those who support this work. I’ve given Port a pretty good run with the members’ columns thus far in 2023. It’s almost as though I believe in them, or something. Hint, hint…
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