Showdown 45 - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Crows might be out of the race for September, but it never matters when it comes to a Showdown. They beat the Power by three points in another classic.

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

THE GOOD

Bryce Gibbs

All this talk about Pendlebury being a Rolls Royce, and Higgins being a Rolls Royce… is Bryce Gibbs a Bentleigh?

In a game where brute force was the key at every stoppage, Gibbs provided the class for the Crows. He had three goal assists for the game, ran at 76% efficiency for his 29 touches, banged the Crows inside 50 on nine occasions and had four clearances as well.

Whilst many will see Rory Laird as the Crows Best and Fairest this season, Gibbs would have to be close. In his first season with Adelaide, he has been ultra-consistent and has stepped up to carry a midfield load that wasn’t in the job description when he applied.

The only mistake he made all day was being a little too hurried when he received a handball from Sloane in the forward pocket early in the second quarter. He had a little more time than he thought.

Jared Polec

And another few dollars are added to the expected contract of Jared Polec.

Since North Melbourne’s offer was made public, Polec has turned on the jets and has averaged over 28 touches per game over the last three weeks.

He had three direct goal assists tonight to match Gibbs, and 20 of his 24 touches were by foot, utilising that run, carry and penetrating left foot. He still looks incredibly uncomfortable when forced onto his right, and his teammates gave him the ball when he was running onto his wrong side a couple of times tonight. He needs to be either smart enough to not call for the ball in that situation, or…. waiit for it… learn to kick with your right foot! You’re a professional athlete!

That little rant aside, he was amongst Port’s best today, adding five clearances and six kicks inside 50 to his totals. Polec’s ability to read the play and get into the right positions will be vital as the Power push for finals in one of the tightest finishes in years.

The Heat

There is simply nothing like the Showdown. I answered some stupid Twitter post by the Herald Sun today that asked whether Essendon v Hawthorn is the greatest rivalry in the game. I almost laughed. It PALES when you stack it up next to the Showdown. All games do.

Each Showdown is like a final, irrespective of where the teams sit on the ladder. Even when watching on TV, the intensity is palpable. You can feel the emotion running through the crowd and it leaps out of the TV and grabs you by the balls and says “Pay attention to this – it’s special!”

That’s how I hooked up with my first girlfriend, by the way.

Seriously though, I never miss a Showdown. Whilst we have 90K in at the MCG for Richmond v Collingwood, nothing comes close to the genuine feeling and emotion attached to Adelaide v Port Adelaide. It’s something those outside South Australia simply don’t have anymore, and as a neutral watching every time the two teams clash, it’s an absolute privilege.

Wayne Milera

I watched Milera a couple of weeks ago and he looked a bit like a chook with his head cut off when he got the ball. He was running this way and that, changing direction randomly and running in and out of trouble. Wanna see what it looks like? Go cut a chook’s head off and see what you reckon.

He was a little more under control today, and started the game off brilliantly with a great one-on-one win against Motlop. I found that when Milera got his hands on the ball at half back, good things started happening for the Crows.

He had 22 touches for the game and rebounded the ball outside defensive 50 on six occasions. Motlop was able to get one back on him in the third quarter when Milera tried to shake his opponent and slipped over. Motlop pounced and caught him holding the ball, but Milera’s value was in his kicking tonight. I loved that he would lower his eyes and look for the leading player. His spot up of Tex in the second, and his repeated involvements in the play that saw Sloane goal in the second quarter were really positive contributions.

Rory x 2

Rory Atkins has only been back in the Adelaide side since Round 17 after being dropped to “find some form in the SANFL”. I usually hate that line, but it seems to have worked for Atkins. He had 29 touches at 69% efficiency, dude… and sent the Crows inside 50 an equal game-high nine times. With Seedsman on the sidelines, his run and carry was very important on the outside.

Sloane’s contribution was just as important, but very, very different. He looked to have a bit of power back in his running today, and managed to sneak forward to slot a couple of goals. But as always with Sloane, the efforts don’t stop once he gets rid of the ball. He puts his body on the line when it’s his turn to go, and he did that a couple of times that stood out to me.

The first came when Brad Ebert seemed to have his name all over a marking contest. Nuh-uh… not when Sloane is in the vicinity. He ran back with the flight and made the contest and split it. This was made more impressive due to the fact it was Ebert he was contesting against – one of the best overhead marks in the game for a mid. He was at it again in the third quarter,. Going low and hard to get the best of Tom Jonas in a big body on body clash at half forward. His actions played no small part in the ensuing shot at goal for Eddie Betts.

The Crows have looked so much better since Sloane’s return to the team, and then to form. Combine that with Atkins “finding form” and you start to get a bit of a look at what could’ve been this season.

The Chad and Robbie Gray

If I’d told you before the game that Gray and Wingard would have eight goals between them, you probably would’ve thought that the Power had the game in the bag. Well, they did get eight between them, and the Power did seem to have the game in the bag… and then the bag broke, and crap went everywhere and the Crows somehow won. I could end this review right there.

When Wingard snuck forward to mark unopposed in the goal square with just over ten minutes left, it looked as though the Crows were at breaking point. It was a huge defensive lapse that came about due to confusion with Talia going off, but someone should’ve picked him up – he was thirty metres in the clear!

Gray looked dangerous whenever he went near it. He has had another ripping year, and will be an All-Australian irrespective of what happens in the last three weeks. As a fan, you’d be hard pressed to choose a better player to watch for the duration of the game if you want to see the pure skills of Aussie Rules on display. His reflexes are lightning quick, and he has that ability like Cyril Rioli, to tap, or deflect the ball into a better position to do something “special” with it.

Being isolated on either of these blokes is a scary prospect. Looking at them up forward, with Dixon huffing and puffing and blowing packs down, I thought they’d be a forward set up that could really trouble Richmond. Now, with West Coast, Collingwood and Essendon to come, Gray and Wingard will need to be huge just to ensure the Power make the finals, let alone give the top four a shake.

THE BAD

The disappearing act of Jack Watts

With 13 minutes left in the first quarter, I started wondering how Jack Watts would fare in a game as hot as this. You see, I am one of those people who believe that as soon as there is physical pressure in a game, Jack Watts starts to drift out of it.

Well, I was all ready to be proven wrong when, moments later, Watts got himself involved and by the end of the first quarter, he had two goal assists to his name. And then he did what I thought he’d do, and he just wandered off to a forward pocket and hid for the rest of the game.

Watts finished with ten touches, three marks and ZERO tackles. In a game the likes of the Showdown, he simply didn’t belong. It starts to make me wonder how he’s going to fare in finals. You know, Jack… those games where the umps put the whistles away and you have to earn your kicks? Those things?

Oh, you don’t know, because you’ve never played in one.

And yeah… neither have I…I get that.

But I haven’t been recruited to Port Adelaide to be the icing on their cake. I haven’t been recruited to Port Adelaide to be the quality they need with the ball in hand in big games. Jack Watts has been recruited for those reasons, and if his effort, or lack thereof in the Showdown is any indication as to how he’s going to go when the heat is on in September, the Power would’ve been better off saving their money.

This isn’t the return you’re looking for

I had to feel for Brodie Smith at one point during the game. He wanted to do what he used to, but he was so rusty, and the game was so hot, that after almost a year out, he just found it a little too tough.

Now that is not a shot at Smith’s toughness… that would be foolish – I just think he’s going to need a few games under his belt before he can start showing what he’s capable of again. He was brilliant for the Crows right up until his knee injury last season, and just how much they missed him in the Grand Final, and this season til now is something that has been debated, but at one point tonight his major contributions seemed to be conceding a 50 metre penalty to Robbie Gray, being beaten in a one-on-one by Travis Boak, and kicking the ball out on the full.

He ended up with 14 touches, and I’d never doubt his endeavour, but this isn’t the way I expect he’d envisioned his return game. Still, he was in that circle as the Crows sang their song, and I expect that, like a good racehorse, he’ll be better for the run.

THE UGLY

Score review, please?

Wow… just wow.

At the MCG we had the goal review system working well, with two goals reversed after it was revealed that they’d been touched off the boot, and in Adelaide, we were treated to… this?

Josh Jenkins put the Crows in front late in the game with a snap round the corner that looked to have shaved the post. Actually, no – it didn’t look to have shaved the post, it hit the post. That’s about as blatant as you can put it. It was reviewed, scrutinised by a team of blind men and perhaps a blind dog that was actually blind and not a seeing eye dog, and after the review it was still awarded a goal.

Now, mistakes happen. We’re all painfully aware that, as humans, we all cock up a thing or ten along the way, but this system is supposed to limit human error. It’s supposed to help us stupid humans get it right, not get it even more wrong than we were in the first place. A decision like this could very well have cost Port Adelaide their chance at a top four spot, and by proxy, their best shot at winning the flag. It may even cost them a spot in the finals. That’s a lot to allow to ride on a large degree of human error.

Something like this has been brewing for a while. The AFL implemented their goal line technology using what looked to be a Sony handicam and a ton of VHS tapes. If they want this system to stop being the absolute joke that it is, they need to invest some of that TV Rights money into getting their score review system right, and stop screwing around with things like AFLX.

How’s that for a rant?

And yeah, while I am at it, Jenkins should’ve kicked that right through the middle. The fact he kicked it so poorly that it hit the post from 15 metres out is being lost amid the controversy.

OTHER BITS

OK, my favourite bit… I can be a little random here.

Tom Doedee is the rising star. Again tonight he was wonderful in defence. He had a bit of a flat spot in the middle of the year when it seems the entire Crows team had a flat spot, but I reckon his job is a lot harder than Jaidyn Stephenson or Ben Ronke. This bloke is given a job every week and he does it! 21 touches, nine marks, 14 intercept possessions… give him the bloody award!

I noticed the umps really whistle happy early on, as if they wanted to control a game with high emotions quickly. A few too many whistles early for my liking, but I was glad to see they corrected things and let the game flow after a little while.

When Charlie Dixon grabs the ball and runs through tackles with the ball raised to avoid having it knocked away, he reminds me of a movie monster that is just crashing through barricades and they’re kind of stuck on him, but not slowing him down much. He is a bit of a monster, but he didn’t scare Adelaide today… at least not on the scoreboard. No snags for Charlie.

I don’t think Cam Ellis-Yolman does anywhere near enough for a big-bodied mid. He got better as the game went, but at one point it looked like he was being led to the ball by Rockliff and couldn’t get his hands on it.

About time a team tagged Rory Laird. Looked like Darcy Byrne-Jones was paying him a bit of attention tonight, which is long overdue. Laird has been huge all year. 

Bit of a disappointing game for Ollie Wines, who was only good in flashes. 17 touches at 53% efficiency… eww. His kick for goal from 15 metres out around the body (unnecessarily) was possibly the worst shot at goal of the year, especially given how the game played out. Just a horrible, horrible kick.

Speaking of disappointing, am I expecting too much from Sam Powell-Pepper? 11 touches again, after he looked like an absolute bull early, running over the top of Atkins like a bulldozer in the first quarter. Maybe he was hiding out with Jack Watts?

Kane Farrell must have been wondering what all the fuss about these Showdowns was about after he kicked his third goal of the first quarter. He learned soon enough.

Some fumbles crept into Matt Crouch’s game in the first half… not often you see that.

Mentioned the defensive breakdown by the Crows where Wingard got free out the back, but it happened in the second quarter as well. Both Westhoff and Gray were out the back so long that by the time Boak found Westhoff, he had time to handball to Gray for the goal on the run. A few Adelaide players looking at each other and pointing after that sequence.

What was up with Taylor Walker’s kicking tonight? Seemed to have very little in the way of power behind them.

Loved Dixon’s hands below his knees. It’s  what Roughead was like at one stage for Hawthorn. Clean and able to hit targets whilst curling around. Talia had his number in almost every contest today. Dixon needs to do a bit more than "play my role" at times. He was a lot of sizzle against Talia. Not much steak.

Was really interested to hear Gerard Healy praise Sam Powell-Pepper for NOT taking possession of the ball and trying to tap it on instead. Then I remembered it was Gerard Healy, who won a Brownlow off the back of Diesel Williams doing all the hard stuff, and it made sense. Take possession, SPP!

Interesting at half time the top five disposal gatherers were all Crows. Sloane, Atkins, Crouch, Gibbs and Jenkins. Yet the Power were in the lead. It was quite Richmond-y.

Eddie Betts being unselfish in a Showdown… it doesn’t seem right. His attempted pass to Gibbs despite being in range himself was overkill. The Crows need Eddie kicking goals.

For a guy so supremely skilled, geez Motlop can screw up a disposal with the best of them. After recovering an average Rockliff kick in the middle, his 5-7 metre handball to Powell-Pepper was so bad that SPP gave away a free kick to Bryce Gibbs as he tried to retrieve it. Motlop can do the magical, yet at times can’t do the fundamental.

Great day for Josh Jenkins to show up. That ending probably overshadows how good he was for the night. Best big man on the ground. 

Didn’t mind the game of Travis Boak at all, sneaking forward to add a couple of goals to his 20 touches. His days of being an elite mid may be gone, but if he can hit the scoreboard like he did tonight, his value is retained.

Wrote about the Sloane v Jonas physical clash earlier, but seconds before it, Powell-Pepper and Gallucci had a decent collision as well.

Great desperation by Eddie Betts to force a behind in a one-on-two situation.

Doedee really stepped it up in the last quarter. By my count he took three intercept marks when the heat was on.

Riley Knight was good on Polec in the third, but the running power of Polec started to tell again in the last as he started accumulating again.

I have no idea how Jordan Gallucci missed running into the open goal from 15-20 metres in the last. I’d already written it down as a goal. You think about missing that, yet he was able to kick that 50m bomb from the boundary... it boggles the mind.

Possibly the softest 50 metre penalty of the year awarded against Westhoff for being upset at his own teammate in the last quarter. He was marginally late to the contest, which the terrible kick from Hombsch caused, and let him know all about it.

Think you’re having a bad day? Check out Dan Houston try to kick the ball to himself at full back, trip over, and have to rush a behind. First time in a while I’ve seen someone try to kick it to himself and the kick be ineffective.

The only goal of the day for Eddie Betts was a cracker late in the piece. I reckon Jasper Pittard might like that hack off the ground back. It didn't get outside 50, and you can't be hacking and hoping when Betts is lurking.

And then we had the Jenkins poster to finish it all off…

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