The Showdown - The Good, Bad and Ugly

I love the Showdown. There, I said it. I’m a Victorian and there was a time when there were suburban rivalries. Collingwood and Carlton hated each other. Hawthorn and Essendon hated each other, but NOTHING compares to the feeling in either a Derby, or a Showdown.

I feel privileged to have watched it.

Normally we’d do the good, bad and ugly, but tonight we’ve only got good things to say. This was a cracker!

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, good and more good.

 

THE GOOD

Robbie Gray’s third quarter

Wow.

OK, I have a confession. In the most recent version of our rolling All-Australian team, I omitted Robbie Gray. Don’t I look like a real idiot? Even more so than usual!

Gray turned the game on its head in the third quarter. His five goal blast shook the Crows to their core, and set up the Power victory. He ran to the right spots, he got involved and then popped out the back at the right time, he marked, and most importantly, he kicked straight.

The Port crowd was in absolute raptures as Gray slotted his sixth goal for the game, and I have to admit, I was getting a little excited myself. What a quarter… what a player!

The last five minutes

I’ve already professed my love for the Showdown, but this was a whole new level of appreciation.

The Crows were done. They were gone! With the Power holding a 17 point lead, it looked as though they would cruise to the win, but this is the showdown, and you never take your foot off the pedal in a game like this.

Eddie Betts clunked a ripping mark and converted to give the Crows a glimmer of hope. That glimmer grew when Tom Lynch found Tex Walker outside 50. Quiet for the most part, he took a diving mark and went back to slam home a 55 metre bomb to get the Crows within a kick.

The heat was now on, and the Crows’ next inside fifty was claimed by Wingard. Inexplicably, he decided to go into the middle and Sam Powell-Pepper, but the kick was slow, and Matt Crouch put himself in position to be awarded the mark in front. His long kick inside 50 was marked by Mitch McGovern.

With a bit of history converting in late-game situations, he went back and gave the Crows the lead with under a minute left on the clock.

All it would take was a mark and the Crows could milk the clock. The ball went back to the centre and spilled to Dougal Howard at half back for the Power. He slammed it on the boot and both teams went hard at it in a contest at half forward. A sickening collision between Richard Douglas and Mitch McGovern saw both men crash to the turf.

But it left Steven Motlop standing. He swooped on the ball and casually slotted a goal from 40 metres to ice the game.

It was as frantic a couple of minutes as you’ll see this season, and a fitting end (if you’re a Port supporter) to another classic clash between the cross-town rivals.

Bring on Round 20!

Tom Jonas

Jonas was a rock down back for the Power, repelling multiple Crow attacks and keeping both Tex Walker and Josh Jenkins very quiet in his time on either man.

He took ten marks and had 21 disposals whilst anchoring the Port defence. Jenkins and Walker combined for 17 touches in total, and three goals. As the best Port defender on the ground, a lot of that credit goes to Jonas.

His tag team with Jack Hombsch is one of the best one-two defensive punches in the game. Throw in Dan Houston and… I’ll refrain from making the same space-y joke everyone else would in that situation.

Daniel Talia

Now I don’t think that Charlie Dixon played a poor game, but he had to search far and wide to have any influence whatsoever. Inside the forward 50, Talia had his number.

We put Talia in the Mongrel’s Rolling All Australian team after Round Seven, and he has done nothing to suggest that he’ll be supplanted this week. As the Power piled on the goals in the second half, Talia was still able to stifle his own opponent at every turn.

Rory Laird v Chad Wingard

It was a mouth-watering match up that looked as though it wasn’t going to come to fruition.

Laird played his regular role in the first quarter, racking up 12 disposals to lead all players. For the rest of the game he had only another 15. He had something else to concentrate on, namely Chad Wingard.

The two found themselves in direct competition all throughout the second half. Wingard finished with 19 touches and two goals, but was more than a handful for Laird.

With Laird concentrating on Wingard, the Crows lacked that reliable, steady hand across half back. I was wondering which club would pull the defensive forward role on Laird – Port didn’t have to. They just put one of the more dangerous players down there are forced Laird to man up on him.

Well played, Ken Hinkley.

The Hoff

I’m not sure there has ever been a guy like Westhoff before. I remember watching him lope around years ago and thinking “Does this guy know what he’s doing?” I think I should’ve been asking it a little differently. “Am I capable of understanding what this guy is doing?”

For years, The Hoff has done things he’s not supposed to. At his size, he has skills and class that big men just don’t possess. He is fantastic in the air and is one of those players you hear people describe with the saying “He sees things in slow motion.”

He had 12 contested disposals amongst his 26 touches, dragged down six players in tackles, and displayed the sort of vision that would be the envy of most midfielders. Still, I find myself looking at him and wondering how he is playing this game.

But that’s because I don’t understand. The Hoff knows what he’s doing.

Rory Atkins

With one Rory out, and another in a duel with Chad Wingard, could it be that Adelaide would not have a Rory creating havoc through the midfield? No, of course that wouldn’t be the case.

Atkins picked up a lot of slack tonight. His run and carry was important with Seedsman somewhat limited, Laird battling with Wingard, and Milera out of the side. Whilst it failed to be enough, he was important early in the game in particular.

Tom Rockliff

He needed this. REALLY needed this.

Rockliff was in the midst of the worst season I can remember him having, and yeah, a lot of that was due to carrying an injury, but he was in the side and he just wasn’t performing.

So he sat out, played SANFL and made his way back in, and he worked his backside off tonight.

31 disposals, 12 contested possessions and six clearances was a welcome return to form for Rocky. Some of his disposals were a bit iffy, but he needed to get his hands on the ball, and that’s exactly what he did.

The Record

This is what you want from a rivalry.

44 games played. Tied at 22-apiece. You can’t beat that.

 

OTHER BITS

Andy Otten was really solid in defence early on. In a defence with Talia and Doedee playing tall, he stood up and made some really good stops early on.

Hugh Greenwood’s first quarter consisted of five touches, but felt like it was more. Every touch he had was important.

Walker’s don’t argue on Riley Bonner would’ve made Dustin Martin sit up and take notice. The fact he was so casual about it, and guided through a goal immediately after it looked ominous. At that point, you could be forgiven for thinking that it might be the Crows’ day.

I sometimes do not understand ruck free kicks. Ryder, with eyes on the ball, runs and leaps at it. Jacobs sees where he is, and positions himself under where he’s jumping. Ryder gets the tap, but the umpire pays a free for high contact because Ryder’s hand rests on the grounded Jacobs’ shoulder as he hits it. From that, the Crows go forward and McGovern marks and goals. Costly.

Nice to see Rockliff and Watts combine through the centre in the first quarter. Port’s recruiters breathed a little more easily at that point.

Turnovers killed the Power early. Douglas reaped the rewards after the Crows surged forward from half back. Laird, Gallucci and Atkins all combined to set Douglas up.

Polec inexplicably fell over while running forward which allowed the Crows to go forward again. The ball ended with Seedsman, who banged it through.

Sam Gray looked like Port’s best forward early. He was clean but inaccurate, and had 1.2 early in the second. It was the run of Jake Neade that set him up for his first goal.

Dixon really started having to work up the ground in the second quarter. He was not getting a sniff close to goal.

Seedsman’s kicks to Lynch, hitting him in stride for a goal was exactly why his season has been so highly rated. His touches are damaging and the Power knew that/. They clamped down on him in the second half.

Six bounces for Rory Atkins down the wing…

Ollie Wines finally shows his team how to lower their eyes a bit, hitting Robbie Gray with a great little chip, 35 metres out. Gray converted for the first of many.

Dixon finally outworked Talia at half forward and dropped the uncontested mark. Bloody Charlie…

I reckon Wingard’s tackle on Laird on the boundary early in the third set a tone for the Power. He won the free kick, forcing Laird’s kick to go out on the full, and from that point on, the Power were on!

Gray got his second from a free kick against Kelly for too high.

Seedsman did what I thought he couldn’t do – shrugged a Brad Ebert tackle. To put this in context, I am a huge Ebert fan and love his tackling. He doesn’t usually let people go. Credit to Seedsman for having the strength to get rid of him.

Powell-Pepper started winning a bit of hard ball in the third.

Neade timed his handball between two Crows perfectly to set up Gray for his third. Those two worked together like they were in sync.

Ellis-Yolman getting a 50 metre penalty was completely against the flow. It was a weird call – even on replay I couldn’t really tell what was worth taking a guy from the wing to 45 metres out. Ellis-Yolman banged the goal through. It was a huge penalty.

Eddie Betts got his first, but it was the tackle of Luke Brown  at half back that set the ball in motion for the Crows. His chase on Travis Boak was exceptional.

Robbie Gray drew another free kick against Kelly and converted again for his fourth.

Guts from Wingard to mark 15 metres out and play on to get to the goal line. That’s called backing yourself… amongst other things.

Ryder’s ruck work to set up Robbie Gray’s fifth goal of the quarter was absolutely spectacular. Maybe not quite as spectacular as Fyfe’s hit to Lachie Neale a couple of weeks ago, but still beautiful.

My man Ebert gets the assist for Gray’s fifth of the quarter and sixth overall.

It was a real sign of the pressure that even the good players started making mistakes. Laird gave away a free to Wingard inside 50 which cost a goal.

Overall, the third quarter was the best quarter of footy I’ve seen this season. Port struck first, then the Crows countered and then the Power started landing very heavy blows towards the end of the quarter. In a stark turnaround from the first half, the Crows were now on the ropes.

One of Jake Neade’s seven tackles saw Ryder take a big clunking mark 35-40 metres out. He went for the kick around the corner and duly converted. Great effort by Neade.

Betts’ goal from the pocket, a high, arcing bomb, was a real beauty. Ollie Wines claimed he touched it, but it looked good to me.

The Crows really tried pressing into defence early in the last, but it left no one in the forward line. When Eddie Betts got it from a great little tap from Tex, he had no one to go to.

The Power pinned the ball inside their own 50, and a panicked kick out landed with Powell-Pepper. He looked like he was never going to miss with the shot from outside 50.

I though a Gibbs fumble in the middle was potentially costly. He had time and space and was ready to pump it forward. Instead, after he composed himself, he was forced to do the JFK – back and to the left, instead of going forward. Amazing how a little fumble at this level, and under this kind of pressure, can allow the defenders to close in.

I thought Neade probably deserved a free kick for his tackle on Doedee, who ducked into it. I thought that was counted as prior opportunity?

And then we entered the last five, frantic minutes.

I know I can’t do those five minutes justice in writing. If you have the means, I would highly recommend tracking down the vision and witnessing it for yourself. Great game, great finish.

Oh wait... I remembered a bad/ugly. The fixture - this game deserved a Friday night slot, or a stand alone Thursday night game. Let's hope the AFL starts showing it a bit more respect.

 

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