It may have been the final game of Round 22, but it was one that many were excited about. The Power were sputtering, having dropped four in a row, while the Giants have been on a late-season ladder climb. With the Power back home at Adelaide Oval, and some key players returning, could they turn the tide and consolidate their top-four spot, or would the Giants continue their merry march to September? Here’s what happened.
Green with Envy
Tom Green started the year on fire. He was building, arguably, an All-Australian season before a significant hamstring injury. He returned last week and was impressive but this weekend, it felt like he was well and truly back! He hasn’t missed a beat! He had 31 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 4 clearances, and kicked two goals.
Green is a valuable member of the Giants side, and it’s his grunt work in the contest that allows his teammates to get into space and use their foot skills.
Then there’s his almost namesake, the skipper, Toby Greene. He couldn’t get into the game in the early stages because of the Power’s fast start, but he had equal game highs in clearances (7), inside 50’s (7), score involvements (9), and contested possessions (14) to go with his 27 disposals and 2.2.
While many of the Giants players were down on their usual output, Tom and Toby were immense and threatened to bring the Giants back into the game a few times – they needed a few more of their mates to help!
I put that headline to write about Port, and then remember that the Giants won the contested possession count by 10, and the centre clearances by 2 (albeit losing clearances overall by 7); and having just praised Tom Green and Toby Greene.
What I think I’m aiming for is the overall influence they had. Zak Butters did Zak Butters things – he won his own ball, but was also an offensive weapon. He and Conor Rozee had 63 disposals between them, and both went at over 80% efficiency. While neither kicked a goal, they were involved in most things their team did. And you could be relatively certain that when one of these two touched the footy, good things were going to happen for Port.
At one stage, you had Butters, Rozee, and Horne-Francis all part of a chain of possession. If you were a Port fan watching that, it would be a glimpse of the next ten years, and a glimpse you’d love to see more of. As these three become the pillars the Port midfield builds around, it’d be hard not to think that when all is said and done, there’d be at least ten All-Australian selections between them. So far, the tally sits at one, but in a month and a bit, I reckon we could see that bump up to three.
Beyond just Butters and Rozee, Ollie Wines reminded everyone why he’s a Brownlow Medallist, and Jason Horne-Francis continued to build and set himself up as a finals wildcard; I expect that in ten years’ time we will reflect on his career, and others taken the same year as him, and will find that JHF is the best of the lot! And no, I promise I’m not Kane Cornes in disguise. I love the way he goes about it. His second half was outstanding. Sure, you might say Port were already ahead. That’s true. But, you still need to take your opportunities, and he did so when the Giants pushed back a few times.
Looking through score involvements – Power mids were most of the top echelon. And even with inside 50s, while some Giants had more, the balanced spread across the Power players tells the story. The boys from Alberton got more from their collective group than the Giants did.
Won’t Be Torn Apart
The INXS banger that the Power play before their home games is mem-eable – especially in the instances when the Power do get torn apart. Today, wasn’t one of those occasions. The Pear were ready to go, and jumped the Giants at the start of the game.
Having lost four in a row, I can imagine that many would have been looking for a response from Port Adelaide, and they got that. Kicking the first four goals of the game, the Power set the tone early. One of the leaders of this onslaught, was Miles Bergman. His first quarter alone contained 11 disposals, three contested possessions, 304 metres gained, and three goals.
His personal best was two goals in a game prior to this game; something he’d achieved three times. However, when you see him step up and make a difference like this, it bodes well for finals. How many times do you see a team get a special effort from a player you’re not expecting in the finals? Port seem to have a few that can do that, and Bergman’s efforts early in this game demonstrated that when called upon, he has plenty in his trick bag to unveil.
The Power continued after the first break, kicking the first three goals of the second, to have a 10 goals to 3 lead, controlling the game. They were able to win the ball back in their front half, with 32 forward-half intercept possessions, and scored 8.3 from this source. Their structure, pressure, and ball use set them up for success.
When the Power play like this (and they need to do it away from home) they are fun to watch and hard to stop.
Strengthening His Case
There are going to be some pretty disappointed defenders when the All-Australian team is announced later this year, as there is an abundance of players vying for one of the smaller/mid-size defensive roles.
I have a feeling that the selectors may opt for three talls, with Harris Andrews, Sam Taylor, and Darcy Moore all with string claims, however, I simply cannot see them overlooking Dan Houston after a brilliant year at half-back.
He took another big step in this one, collecting 30 touches, 698 metres gained – indicating he did not screw around with the footy, and even ran forward to snag a goal. In seasons past, Ken Hinkley has dabbled with Houston as a midfielder at times, but this season has seen him used almost exclusively in the back half, and you can tell why.
The competition is stiff, but the season Houston is putting together is too hard to look past.
From the Viewing Gallery
This time of year, people talk about most improved players. Kieren Briggs would need to be in that conversation. He had another solid game amassing 18 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 7 clearances, and 31 hit outs. He’s a big body who’s not afraid to throw his weight around.
Jake Riccardi was very good in this game. He marks well and was accurate. He kicked 4.1 and it was him in the first quarter who kept them in it – albeit barely. If he can find some consistency, he will be a very big asset for the Giants for a long time.
Darcy Byrne-Jones has been a whipping boy at times. However, he continues to build a great season and rebirth playing as a high half-forward. His two goals, 7 score involvements, and 5 inside 50s highlighted the game he played and the role he plays.
How good was that Sam Powell-Pepper goal running toward the boundary? At that speed, being able to screw the footy around your body is hard to do at the best of times, but SPP made it look easy. I mentioned Bergman being one of the possible x-factors this season as we head to finals, but Powell-Pepper looms as a matchwinner. I am not sure there is anyone in the league hitting the footy and the contest with the velocity he does, and there have been moments this year when he has made his opponents look like statues. They stop, prop, and wait for the footy – he hits it like he hates it. I don’t think there’d be a team that would not welcome this bloke with open arms with the way he plays the game. It’s amazing to think that just 18 months ago, there were questions about his future at Alberton. As it stands, I cannot imagine a Port side contending without him in it. What a turnaround he has made.
I mentioned him above, but JHF doesn’t get enough props for his positioning or the way he evades opponents and gets into space. His finishing in front of goal is very good, too. Much gets said about him wanting to go home, but let’s appreciate the fact he is good at football.
Adam Kingsley has shown he can get his players moving in the right direction, and is building a solid style and culture within the Giants. With the edge he brings, and what he’s bringing out of his skipper, I’m expecting big things from the Giants going forward.
Well, the Power solidified their spot in the top four, even amid the rumours of a coaching handover in the next 18 months (we all know how well those go, just ask Mick and Bucks), with a comprehensive win over the Giants. They head to Perth next Sunday for the twilight fixture against the Dockers, seeking to remain in touch with the top two, while the Giants will try to keep their season afloat as they take on the Bombers at GIANTS Stadium on Saturday. Tune in and subscribe to The Mongrel Punt to see how these games pan out
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