R11 – Port Adelaide v North Melbourne – The Prophet’s Perceptions

The Prophet’s Perceptions


On paper, this match presented as a potential training drill for Port Adelaide. Of course, that depends on whether they are switched on, and if they leave it late and are required to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat again. North has been showing some good signs but seems to lack the consistency to stay relevant in games. Will this trend continue or, on the Apple Isle, will some sort of miracle occur? How did things play out? Well, I’m the Prophet and these are my Perceptions.


Their Own Worst Enemy

North started the game well. Their intensity was high in the opening term, and they were prepared to keep the ball in motion and change angles with their kicks. The boys from Arden Street even led at a late stage in the opening term. However, inevitably, they became their own worst enemy.

I know that it’s easy to point out the skill differential, and higher-quality players on the Power list, however, North made a mess of their defensive transitions today. Time and again, they may intercept mark, or get the ball in a defensive contest, and then as they exited their defensive 50, they would either try too cute of a kick, or, more often, make some basic skill errors which would end with a Port Adelaide score.

North battled hard all day and brought good energy and endeavour. That only gets you so far, though. When your disposal, especially under little pressure is as poor as theirs was, then you’re basically playing with an arm tied behind your back.

Credit must also go to Port – considered the best pressure side in the competition – for being in the right positions, for their tackle pressure, and for capitalising on these errors.


Stoppage Brutality

North have some good players around the ball, but Port were brutal in the clinches today. Jason Horne-Francis, in game 50, against the side he ejected himself from, was instrumental in setting up Port’s lead in the first half. He had eight clearances to half-time, double the next best, and was regularly exiting from the front of stoppages, thus setting up his forwards for success. Liam Shiels did a great job on Zak Butters in the first-half (and for much of the game) which goes to show the depth of midfield options with Butters tagged and Rozee and his questionable fitness playing forward for much of the game. Old hands, Ollie Wines and Travis Boak showed why they still offer so much to the Port Adelaide side, being in the right places, strong in the contest, and being instrumental to getting the ball to their outside runners.

North’s on-ballers had moments. George Wardlaw continues to enhance his reputation. He is combative, tough, and unafraid to get hit while getting the ball moving to his teams advantage. Luke Davies-Uniacke was very good again, as he always is. He doesn’t get a lot of support, and so often doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves, but he is the epitome of a team man and giving his all for the jumper.

While the clearance differential wasn’t huge, it was the ease of the Port Adelaide clearances that will frustrate Alastair Clarkson and his coaches. Some more strength in the tackles and better positioning would go a long way against the stronger midfields. You want to be able to setup the game, and Port had that luxury a lot.


Indigenous Disrespect

That does read somewhat like a political headline, and it’s not supposed to be. However, being Sir Doug Nicholls round, and some teams opting to use their Indigenous name isn’t new, I kind of expect the broadcasters to respect that choice.

All through the pre-game, Fox Footy commentators were saying Port Adelaide, as opposed to Yartapuulti. Throughout the game they were better, but still not fantastic. Even when referring to other games involving teams using their Indigenous names, it didn’t happen.

I imagine that producers may have been in the ears of some during the game, as there was a big over-correction (saying Yartapuulti five times in four sentences). I think it simply comes down to analysts and commentators being thorough in their preparation, respecting the choices of the clubs (regardless of their possible individual thoughts), and showing their class. This is a small clip, but one that hopefully doesn’t need to be had again this year or going forward.

(Editor’s note – you may notice that this article also refers to Port by their original name quite often. This is my choice as the owner of the site, as Jimmy did have them referred to exclusively as Yartapuulti throughtout the article. The reason for this is to enable searches within the site to accurately find this game when people look for it. Over the last week, our own analytics demonstrate that the term ‘Port Adelaide’ has been searched over a hundred times on the site. ‘Yartapuullti’ was searched four times, even taking into account misspellings. It is a decision made by me to be consistent with the search results within our site. No more, no less. Cheers – HB)


We Are Marshall

No, I’m not referring to the 2006 movie, I’m just showing some support for Todd Marshall. He’s been quiet in recent weeks, but he made the most of Port’s dominance and good looks going forward. He kicked five-straight – and equalled his career high. His first three touches in the third term – after going through a HIA during the second – were goals. Some of which were of the highest class.

He isn’t a household name, but he is a very reliable contributor for Yartapuulti and is one of the great exponents of accurate goal kicking – something that some sides severely lack at the moment.


Other Things

While North remain winless, they also remain the only side to not have a goalless quarter this season. Funny game, this Aussie Rules.

Speaking of streaks, for Nick Larkey, he ended his run of 29 consecutive games of kicking a goal. He battled hard all day – probably deserved a few free kicks – but it just wasn’t his day.

Ken Hinkley coached game 259 today. According to @sirswampthing on X, this is now a standalone V/AFL record for most games coachd that doesn’t include/feature a Grand Final. Make of that what you will.

In probably a surprise to most, Zak Butters started the game on the bench. However, his impact, upon arrival, was fantastic. North had just kicked a goal, Butters went straight to the centre bounce, and, as a sign of what was to come for his side, cleanly crumbed the ruck contest, burst from the stoppage, and slotted his first from outside 50.

Paul Curtis is becoming a very good footballer. He does some fantastic things on-field. He has clean hands, is strong overhead, and while his goal kicking can be a little hit and miss, he usually is good for a goal or two. And he’s one of their ball users who isn’t afraid to switch to the corridor and can execute. He’s definitely one to watch as a neutral.

I initially put in my notes the jumper clash. Looking at the sides line-up for the Welcome to Country I was a little confused at the decisions both clubs made. On-field, having the sides in different coloured shorts was helpful, but there was still some struggle when the camera was zoomed out. To all clubs, and the AFL, it’s 2024. This shouldn’t be an issue. Can we please take the lead from other sporting codes and have a home jumper (and primary if no clash), an away jumper (clash jumper) and perhaps even a special jumper for different occasions (a la the indigenous strip). Patrons would buy them, and aesthetically it’d be great.

A shout out to Aidan Corr. The journeyman played game 150. He’s a great clubman and was solid in defense. He’s a great guy to have in the side to help work with some of their young key defenders.

I’ve said some positive things about Eddie Ford in some other articles in recent seasons. Today, though, his efforts weren’t good enough. When it goes his way, he looks good. However, there were a few instances today where he could have had an impact – tackling, etc – but the intensity and desire to do the defensive things wasn’t there. He isn’t alone, but that needs to improve in his game and that of some of his teammates.


What Did We Learn?

North – I’ve spoken of the skill deficiencies in the North side. We saw it today, and it cost them repeatedly. However, you can work on that. What I’d love to see is the North players being willing to play with some more freedom; on instinct. I understand wanting to keep possession, and build up your ball movement, but when you don’t have the skills to do that for long periods, a little bit more chaos could be the answer. The effort was there, and, hopefully, things start to shift for them over the coming weeks. Getting a more consistent output is important – not just one quarter or parts of quarters – but starting to run out games better will see closer games and even scratch a win or two.


Port Adelaide – Yartapuulti did what they needed to do. They went to Tassie, got the four points, and got a slight percentage boost. They started slow in the final quarter, but were rock solid on basically every line. Their midfield was dynamic and instrumental. Todd Marshall found form, their defenders kept the Roos forwards quiet, and they capitalised on the opportunities put in front of them. After the almost aberration last week, this was a good response. They can build from here and need to keep winning the games they should win to ensure they are in a position for the double chance come September. We didn’t learn anything new, just had our expectations re-inforced.


Well, Port Adelaide did what many probably expected them do and won comfortably over North. They look ahead to Thursday Night Football at Adelaide Oval against the Blues. While North can take some time to rehab, refresh, and plot a mini-resurgence (consistency through games, namely) with the bye next week before a Round 13 contest against the Eagles in Perth.

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