West Coast v Port Adelaide - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Eagles came from the sky (wow… that’s corny) and pinched the game after the siren despite not leading at any point before then. They broke the hearts of the Power, and pushed them to the brink of missing the finals.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

The kick

It’ll be a moment played time and time again – possibly the kick that defines whether the Eagles are a premiership threat, and home finalist, or an also-ran. McGovern went forward late in the game, in one last gasp attempt to steal the game, and like a master thief, steal it he did.

After marking in front of Brad Ebert, 35 metres out from goal. McGovern went back, executed his routine, and slotted the goal to win the game. The kick itself was a real mongrel and immediately lurched out to the right, only to fade back beautifully.

It was all part of the plan, of course, right? The McGovern brothers now both have late game heroics to their name. After a relatively ineffective game, Gov stood up when it mattered.

The handball

Not enough credit has been given to the clearance that led to the McGovern mark and goal.

With 30 seconds on the clock, the footy was as hot as it had been all day. We’ve all seen mad scrambles for the footy and how difficult it is to get clean hands on it. Someone must have forgotten to tell Elliot Yeo how difficult it is.

He swooped on the tap from the centre bounce and somehow, had the wherewithal to stand in a tackle, locate the smallest gap to sneak the ball through and deliver it to Lycett, who kicked it forward.

There were hands and legs everywhere in that contest. The physical pressure was intense and the margin for error was very small. But Yeo didn’t make an error – handballing, when executed well, is one of the most damaging acts in the game. It buys space and time, and on this occasion it bought the opportunity that West Coast needed.

Yeo was wonderful all day, and for mine, was a clear best on ground. The handball to set up the goal was the icing on the cake. He does the things that you may miss over the course of the game, but his run and carry, his fearlessness when taking on the opposition, and his cool head in a crisis are qualities that scream leadership.

Tom Clurey

I would have loved to have seen this matchup had Darling not injured himself earlier in the year – I think anyone who has watched Eagles games since he came back will admit that he is a little less effective than he was before getting hurt. Hell, it’s hard to argue against, given he was voted the player of the month at one stage – he wouldn’t have been in the voting since.

It doesn’t detract from how good Clurey was on him. Darling managed one spectacular mark, falling to the ground in the forward pocket, but for the remainder of the day, he was completely blanketed by the defender.

Clurey finished with 17 touches and seven marks, but it was in him taking the big responsibility of playing on Darling that allowed fellow defender, Tom Jonas to run and provide an option out of defence. He and the floating Jonas combined for 18 intercept possessions for the Power, stifling many of the Eagles’ early forward thrusts.

Darling got himself involved in the penultimate attacking effort of the day, with quick thinking to get the ball to Cripps, but if you look at the game as a whole, Clurey had his measure.

Luke Shuey

I shook my head at one point in the game, wondering why someone just couldn’t get a holding the ball decision on this bloke. He’s rolling his shoulders, changing direction, copping the tackle and getting a stoppage, and just doing enough not to get pinged. I reckon that’s a talent in and of itself that only very few in the game possess.

He is by no means afraid to absorb contact for the betterment of the team. He was collected by Rockliff in a marking contest at one stage and held onto that mark for dear life, and his spin out of trouble in the middle earlier in the game was spine-tingling stuff.

I do think he was incredibly lucky to get away without being pinged for holding the ball on a couple of occasions, but what did they say about fortune favouring the brave? Shuey was making the play, and that’s what you want from your mids. If the cards fell his way this time in terms of decisions, so be it. He’ll take that gamble every single time,

Liam Ryan’s pressure

I find it really is feast or famine with this bloke. He can do it all, or he can do bugger all. He flashes in and out of the game, and can go from world-beater to beaten in a matter of moments, but far out he is exciting.

His smother on Jack Watts late in the third quarter was such a contrast between the two. Watts, taking his time, searching for options, and laconically kicking, against the desperate, manic Ryan who pressured a different player before making a last-ditch lunge at the boot of Watts. His smother knocked the ball out of bounds and won a stoppage for his team and surely would’ve made them walk a little taller.

Into the last quarter, and his intensity lifted again. A great mark using one hand to tap it out of the outstretched hands of Jasper Pittard, a crunching gang tackle with old mate Rioli on Watts, and another holding the ball free kick against Pittard saw Ryan rise to the occasion.

Yes, he took the nice mark, which is where he’s made his name, but for me it was the efforts at ground level – the little pressure acts around the contest that made him stand out. He has a head for football, looks like the game comes so naturally to him, and has a real x-factor about him. You’d have to think that barring his early season injury, we’d be talking about Ryan for the Rising Star award this year alongside Stephenson at Collingwood and Doedee at Adelaide.

Aidyn Johnson – the move to nullify McGovern

The importance to West Coast of their power backman is well known. Ken Hinkley and his crew put a fair bit of work into curtailing him, and it worked!

Right up until the last 30 seconds.

But this is not about the last moments of the game. This is about a young man named Aidyn Johnson, who went forward and competed against one of the game’s real gorillas, and I mean that in every positive sense. He had three goals next to his name at the end of the game, and despite only having seven touches himself, McGovern only had nine.

THE BAD

Brad Ebert’s last couple of minutes

I reckon Brad would like to have that last minute or so back.

The ball came out toward him in the forward line with the chance to lock the ball in and cause a stoppage at worst, and the chance to grab the ball and kick it back deep into the 50. Ebert had the chance to do neither, as the ball clean-bowled him and Port took control.

The worst thing about the error is that the ball ricocheted to the other end where Cripps, Darling and LeCras combined to goal, and bring the Eagles back within a straight kick.

It’s unfair to play the game of “what ifs” in football, as any one difference has a butterfly effect on the rest of the game, but what if Ebert had grabbed that ball, or deflected it? What if he altered the state of play just ever so marginally that the ball doesn’t get swept away? They’re thoughts Port fans would’ve have plenty of times since the final siren.

But we’re not done with Ebert just yet. He was one of the many who drifted back in the last 30 seconds of the contest to “save the game.” He was also closest to a certain Jeremy McGovern as the ball was booted forward. He also didn’t get anywhere near making a spoil, as the Eagles big man rose and clunked the mark.

Again, it’s unfair to single Ebert out here, but a fact is a fact, and he looked to be the only Port player with the chance to spoil. It’s unfortunate he had to compete against a marking beast the likes of McGovern, and some would even go so far as to say that West Coast were lucky that things fell into place – not so. Elliot Yeo’s clearance was not luck. Scott Lycett’s kick was not luck. And nor was McGovern’s mark and goal.

I wrote above about fortune favouring the brave, and that’s what West Coast were.

THE UGLY

Port’s last two weeks

I’m not sure you could’ve scripted a worse fortnight than that which Port Adelaide has endured. They’ve gone from looking like a distinct top two chance, to standing on the precipice of failure. Their loss to Adelaide in the Showdown was a complete heartbreaker, particularly given the dubious circumstances surrounding Josh Jenkins’ late goal, and now they’ve lost to the Eagles after the siren.

Again.

To make matters worse, their big man stocks took an absolute pummelling, with Paddy Ryder limping around looking sorry for himself, and Charlie Dixon looking a little worse than that. Dixon won’t play again this season after it was revealed there was a fracture to his fibula. This leaves Port horribly undermanned in the ruck yet again, particularly if Ryder cannot get back. Dixon was pinch-hitting in there for periods of the year (which severely impact his ability to perform as a forward) and as good as Westhoff is around the ground, he struggles in the body to body nature of the ruck contests.

Port will need a bit of a miracle to contend this year. It seems as though the footy gods are conspiring against them right at the wrong time of the season. It’s no wonder Ken Hinkley looks so pissed off.

 

OTHER BITS

Heard on the grapevine that Jared Polec has pulled up pretty sore after the game and is a chance to miss against Collingwood. That is a huge loss – he has had a magnificent last 4-5 weeks.

I reckon something that hasn’t been touched on much was the miss from Robbie Gray with less than five minutes left. This would have all but iced the game for the Power from 40 metres out, but because he’s Robbie Gray, he gets a pass? He is one of the highest skilled players in the league, but under pressure in the fourth, with the game there for the taking, he blew it. Kicked the hard ones all day, and the two easiest shots he had both missed.

The Eagles just did not look like it in the first quarter. Port built a wall and West Coast just couldn’t get past it. Their kicking to position was atrocious, and there was very little run and spread from half back. Looking at the quarter as a whole, Port should’ve been 5-6 goals up, but I guess that’s the story of Port’s season, right? Could’ve. Should’ve. Didn’t.

Tom Barrass strikes me as an interesting one. Has moments where he looks amazing, but is a worker bee. I reckon to describe him as the poor man’s Jeremy McGovern could still be taken as a compliment, right?

I’m surprised seeing Shuey angle into a Westhoff tackle in the first quarter to draw a too high free kick didn’t get a louder reaction from the Port crowd. They must’ve been busy with a fight in the crowd or something…

When in doubt, give the ball to Elliot Yeo outside 50. He has such a beautiful kick on him, and it took his best to get the Eagles on the scoreboard.

Shannon Hurn would like his defensive effort against Charlie Dixon in the first quarter back. Did not lay a hand on him as they moved to contest the ball 15 metres out. Put a body on the big man – it impedes the ability to jump.

Liked what I saw from Brendon Ah Chee. He was hard at it in the incident with Dan Houston that saw Houston stretchered off (that was completely fair and in play) but I really enjoyed his combative way of playing. He probably should’ve had a holding the ball decision paid to him early when he caught Houston by the arm and slung him to the ground (also fairly).He had a goal assist to Cripps in the third, and was responsible for the extraction that set up Sheed for his long goal in the third. Overall, nothing to sneeze at. OK… that was bad.

A couple of glaring errors from Hacksaw Liam Duggan in the second quarter. Is he normally that bad a kick?

How much would you pay for Jared Polec. I kind of think North will get him, as not being re-signed at this point isn’t a great sign. On the last month, he’s worth a fair bit, but I would like to have seen Hutchings go to him to see how he handles the one-on-one attention.

The second quarter was some pretty ugly footy overall. Three goals between the team with no rain around. Just a lot of footy played between the arcs.

Darling’s miss after his falling mark really robbed Yeo of being recognised for his decision to take the Power on and run away from them. He was almost caught by Wingard, but it was his ability to charge away that put the Eagles on the offensive.

Brad Sheppard does not often put a foot wrong, but choosing to fly for a ball obviously going over the back was very costly. Robbie Gray stayed down and the ball got to Aidyn Johnson for a goal.

A couple of good minutes for Gov saw him monster Johnson to mark, and then commit to a ground ball contest against the charging Charlie Dixon.

Perhaps the one big error from Clurey went unpunished, when he dragged Jack Darling down in a marking contest and there was no whistle. It was probably one of the most obvious free kicks all day long. Just not Jack’s day, by the look of it.

Three goals to Cripps again. He just keeps bobbing up, and he does the hard stuff, too. He’s not flashy like Ryan, Rioli or even LeCras – very workmanlike.

Speaking of LeCras, that’s probably his best outing in a little while. Possibly since the first half of the season.

Ryan’s run through the middle in the third was scintillating, but his step around Pittard was excellent! On a few occasions in the second half, Ryan made Pittard look… ordinary.

I love how as soon as the commentators talk up how good Sheed had been in the third (and he was), he botched a handball, then picked it up and got caught holding the ball. The kiss of death!

How big was the goal reversal right on three quarter time! Johnson absolutely dropped Cole (and it was slightly played up by Cole… but really, only slightly to make sure the ump saw it) and the resultant goal to Wingard was disallowed. I spoke about Robbie Gray’s last quarter miss, but this was just as huge. Would’ve made it a 21point difference.

I was actually glad to see Darling pinged for holding the ball early in the last; not because I dislike Darling, but because it was Gov coming in and locking the ball in as Darling was being tackled. It shouldn’t have mattered, because Liam Duggan’s kick forward to Darling belonged in a toilet. That’s how shit it was.

Not a good day overall for Jasper Pittard. He and Brad Ebert had a miscommunication at half back that saw what should’ve been an uncontested mark turn into a fist out of bounds. Looking at them two have words… you could feel the game just slipping a little.

And that’ll do – it’s late and I’m tired. The Eagles had no right to win this game. Two goals in the last minute and a half are unforgivable. Remember a few years back when Richmond played the “worst 47 seconds in history”? Well, this minute and a half might rival it by the Power. Injuries aside, that is two games in a row they’ve allowed to slip. Not good enough.

For the Eagles, we see a team finding a way to win. I want to go all Galadriel from Lord of tge Rings here and talk about finding light in the darkest places. With 90 seconds to go, they were in a dark place, but LeCras, Cripps, Lycett, Yeo and McGovern lit their torches and guided them home. Great win.

 

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