R1 – Port Adelaide v West Coast – The Takeaways

This was expected to be a blow out, and in truth, only some poor kicking at goal prevented the Power from registering an 80+ point win over the Eagles at home.

With just one of the West Coast midfielders able to surpass 20 disposals for the game (Elliot Yeo got his 20th touch away as he was tackled late in the last quarter), it was a case of the “haves” versus the “have nots” with Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, and Ollie Wines all taking turns collecting the ball and pumping it inside the Power’s attacking zone.

The debut of Harley Reid was serviceable without being spectacular, but we saw enough of him to know he belongs at the highest level, whilst the ruck duel pitting Ivan Soldo against Bailey Williams was probably one of the more entertaining head-to-head clashes of the day, with both men able to hold their heads high.

It was sheer dominance from the Port Adelaide midfield puttying over the cracks of some wayward goal kicking to lead the Power to a 50-point win over West Coast at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon.

In a game where it’s safe to say the Eagles should have been put to the sword much more mercilessly, Port Adelaide skipper Connor Rozee and his midfield mates were the driving force to secure a 16.24 (120) to 10.10 (70) victory.

There were dire signs for a West Coast outfit looking to give more competitive performances in 2024, given the margin could easily have blown out to 80+ points.

Repeat misses to Todd Marshall, Willie Rioli, Miles Bergman, and Jeremy Finlayson could have blown the visitors out of the water, but whilst their inaccuracy did not even go close to keeping the Eagles in the game, it didn’t provide the rewards the dominance of the Power deserved

Eagles games have become somewhat difficult to dig into over recent years. How many positives can they gleam from repeated drubbings? And how much can we judge the opposition given they make just about every team look like the ‘07 Cats?

Well, this week, the daunting task of finding some nuggets in this one falls to me, so read on below to catch four of my takeaways from Port’s big win.


Port fans are truly blessed

I alluded to the midfield dominance Port Adelaide displayed in my intro, but let’s dig a little deeper into it here.

All four of the Power’s main midfielders in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, Ollie Wines, and Jason Horne-Francis finished with equal to or more disposals than West Coast’s most prolific ball winners (one of who was half-back Jayden Hunt).

They also combined for five goals (Rozee two, Horne-Francis two and Butters one).

It was a men-amongst-boys type of performance. Port Adelaide were clearly superior in the middle of the ground, and they knew it. They attacked the ball with pace and with a ferocity the Eagles’ mids could not match. This resulted in the ball continually being pushed forward by the Power, even when the disposals weren’t clean. It was as though the will of Port’s midfielders was too great for the Eagles to withstand.

The combination of youth and supreme talent in this midfield is a rare sight, and while it’s only West Coast, Power fans can sleep easy for the next decade or so knowing their midfield will be a perennial top unit in the AFL.


Harley holds his own

It wasn’t the amazing, high numbers type of  debut we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years, but Harley Reid held himself well in his first genuine AFL experience.

We’ve been spoiled in recent years, with remarkable debut games from the likes of Nic Martin, Riley Thillthorpe, Josh Rachele, Josh Daicos and Harry Sheezel warping our expectations and setting the bar unattainably high for Reid.

However, the number one draft pick and superstar prospect did enough to be among his side’s best in what was an otherwise dour day.

Reid amassed 16 disposals (eight in a hot first term) and did his best to hold up physically against a string of bigger opponents eager to let him know they’ve seen the back page circus in the West Australian.

I fear Reid has landed in an environment that won’t get the best out of its players at the moment, but so far so good for the talented youngster. He was composed, far from over-awed, and had enough moments to make you sit back and assess that the kid has got it.


West Coast hasn’t answered any of its big questions

The Eagles came into 2024 looking to change the expectations and perspective on their results.

At their season launch, new CEO Don Pyke implored fans to employ reason when assessing the team’s performances this year. A club and fanbase so accustomed to success is now being urged to be content with simply making games more competitive.

While there’s wisdom in those words, it’s hard for fans to come to the party when the games just simply are not competitive.

The 50-point scoreboard flattered West Coast on Sunday, and the same issues continue to surround them.

From a player point of view, the next-to-nothing contributions from senior players like Andrew Gaff, Jack Darling and Tom Barrass have the Eagles at a deficit from the first bounce.

Then there’s the coaching and game plan, which for some reason was expected to change and improve despite the fact the Eagles brought back the same head coach who has overseen the last two disastrous seasons?

These are the same issues that have plagued the team for almost three full seasons now, and yet they remain lingering over a club unwilling to pull the trigger on genuine change.


Ball Use Maestros

When a team has one or two players who can deliver sizzling passes whilst on the run, the coach smiles. Once that number balloons out to four or five, you can see that things get serious. It goes from a luxury to being an expectation that the ball will be landing on the chest of leading players further afield.

And having those expectations is a great problem to have.

With players like Dan Houston, Kane Farrell, Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, and Jason Horne-Francis (when he doesn’t try to kill the footy) kicking the pill around at a rate of 109 disposals between them, the forwards and even other mids would relish the opportunity to work into space because they know these blokes are going to give them every chance to win the footy.

Whilst the half-backs of the world are lauded for their ball use so often, it is the players that can grab the footy, drop the hammer and hit high speed and still have the skill to lace out an opponent that makes a team dangerous.

Watching this group run around on Sunday, there were “danger” signs everywhere for opposition coaches. If all five of these blokes are ‘on’ at the same time, they could wreak havoc, and could make even an ordinary forward line looking like world beaters.