As the final siren rang, Justin Westhoff looked into the crowd and pointed at the Port Adelaide logo on his guernsey. He had every reason to be proud as the Power ran over Melbourne following a slow start.
The highly-fancied Demons stopped to a walk as the young Port players invigorated their senior counterparts, and the ruck duo of Paddy Ryder and Scott Lycett completely nullified the influence of Max Gawn both in ruck contests and around the ground.
Hold your heads high, Port fans – this was a great, great win.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of their impressive outing at the MCG.
THE TWO-HEADED MONSTER
Look, I’m not the sort of bloke who likes to blow my own horn… believe me if I could do that in a metaphorical sense, I’d never leave the house – but in the JLT series, I said that the recruitment of Scott Lycett might be the biggest move of the off-season.
Not just because of what he brings to the table, which is a big, strong, competitive beast, but also for what it allows Paddy Ryder to become. Scott Lycett is a match in body-to-body contests for Max Gawn. He can hold his ground, split contests and nullify the impact of Gawn… and that’s what he did today.
Lycett had modest stats – ten touches, no marks and 16 hit outs, but too often negating players simply don’t get the plaudits they deserve. Today, from The Mongrel at least, Lycett gets his due.
Forget Gawn’s stats – they were padded with 4-5 touches late in the game after the result was decided. He was beaten all day by Lycett and Ryder, as they tag teamed the Melbourne big man at every opportunity, and Gawn just couldn’t fire a shot in return. I’m not saying they’re better players, but as a team, they were better, which means the battle in the coaching box was won by Ken Hinkley. His plan worked – Simon Goodwin’s did not.
Indeed, it was a whole-of-team effort from port Adelaide to put work into Gawn. He didn’t run ten steps in the first half without a Port player bumping into him, the best of which was Tom Jonas, who went low and hard off the ball, and dropped Gawn before he could get to a marking contest. Was it illegal? Yes, it was, but not so far outside the rules that it warrants a suspension or even a fine. Jonas knocked Gawn to the ground, and it was a metaphor for the way the game was played. Port looked at what Melbourne wanted to do and said “Sorry guys…”
Then you had Ryder jumping over a tiring Gawn after Lycett did the heavy work… it was beautiful to see. He and Lycett combined for 32 hit outs to Gawn’s 21 for the game. Here’s some context – Gawn’s season low in 2018 was 30. They absolutely smashed him.
I don’t want to separate one over the other, as this was a true tandem working perfectly together, but I can’t go past Lycett’s bullying, bustling work. What an addition to that side.
THE OTHER TWO-HEADED MONSTER
But there was another duo working their backsides off to make Port look great, and that was the defensive coupling of Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey. I lost count of the times they cut a Melbourne forward thrust off at the knees.
Both were spectacular in stifling the influence of potential match winner, Tom McDonald (so many Toms in this section) and the Dees’ Jesse Hogan replacement, Sam Weideman.
Weideman actually started really well, and it took until half way through the first quarter for the Power defence to settle into rhythm enough to put the brakes on him.
Jonas’ physicality was on display in this game, as he was on both ends of some heavy clashes, and I love his second and third efforts. There were times he looked beaten, but managed to recover to either win the contest, or break even. It was an absolute captain’s knock from him as he was happy to put his body in the line of fire for the betterment of the team.
When your captain is willing to do that, everyone else will follow.
With those two manning the key defensive posts, smaller defenders like Karl Amon and Ryan Burton were able to work into the open, with both providing fantastic options as the Power exited defence.
In what could have been a complete blowout early, Jonas and Clurey marshalled the troops in the Power defence, and kept the Demons to just nine goals.
THE NOT-SO NEW RECRUIT PART ONE
As Tom Rockliff (again, another Tom!) crashed and bashed his way to 44 touches for the game, you could almost hear the relieved sigh from the Port Adelaide hierarchy. This is the player they thought they were getting last season, but due to injury, he was a shadow of the player we saw in Brisbane, and the player we saw today.
Fitter, and looking a little pissed off, Rockliff notched his highest disposal tally since 2016 with a relentless attack on the ball, and some of the gut-running that was missing from his game last season. His work at the coal-face was excellent, and his ability to run hard to make the next contest made a few of his Melbourne counterparts look more than a little lazy.
He spent most of his time drifting from the middle to half back, and had only 12 contested touches, indicating he was happy to spread and outwork his opponent once the ball was cleared. He also laid eight tackles in a display that would have supercoach fans salivating. Personally, I don’t play supercoach as it affects the way I watch a game, but I loved seeing Rocky’s desperation with the ball in dispute. He is a hard man to move once he establishes position over the ball, and his form has made the loss of Ollie Wines tolerable for the interim.
A small thing that made a big difference today – Rockliff’s chase on Brayshaw in the third quarter, which affected the kick and led to a turnover was very important. Ryan Burton sent the ball back inside 50 as a result, enabling Brad Ebert to mark and goal. That won’t be credited as an assist to Rockliff, but that was as much his goal as anyone’s.
Good sides get lifts from those already at the club. It’s taken Rockliff 12 months to start repaying the Port Adelaide faith, but if 2018 was considered a small down payment, he threw a lump-sum on the pile with his performance today.
THE NOT-SO NEW RECRUIT PART TWO
So Rockliff stepped up in the middle and it was like having a new recruit. That was great, but there was also this bloke in the backline who played his best game in what should be the prison-bars, named Jack Watts.
He was great at reading the ball in flight, and was not only good in the air, but also responded positively when the ball hit the floor, using his clean hands and silky skills to punish the Demons off half back.
His effort in a 1-3 situation late in the third quarter was the individual highlight of the game, and with a year of hard work under his belt at Alberton, deserves the praise that will come his way for this outing. Against his old team, Watts showed some aggression when required to go, and was responsible for starting what were a couple of important Port forward thrusts with the game in the balance.
After an off-season to forget, he reminded everyone that he can play footy, and if this is what Port gets from him for the rest of the year, they’d be very pleased with their investment in Watts.
So is it possible that with Charlie Dixon out for a while yet, that Justin Westhoff could lead the Port Adelaide goal kicking this season? Five is not a bad head start.
It’s hard not to like the ‘Hoff. He doesn’t look like a footballer, does he? You could picture him hanging around a bar where they serve beer in jars, playing pool and talking about which café serves the best cold-drip coffee, but far out he can play, and he has some of the best hands in the game.
The way Westhoff finds the ball, makes something out of nothing and makes those around him better indicates why he is so highly rated internally at the Power, and at 32, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
An older, wiser Justin Westhoff is an unbelievable asset for Ken Hinkley to possess. With the ability to play either end of the ground, he has times when he is Port’s most important player (apologies to Robbie Gray). With Westhoff allowed a free run at the ball, he is a nightmare match-up for a defender, and requires a concerted team effort to curtail.
The Demons looked to go into self-preservation mode in the second quarter, and that plays right into the Hoff’s hands. With 18 touches and five marks inside 50, he was the most potent offensive weapon in the game, and when he couldn’t mark the ball, he was bringing it to ground. Fantastic game from Westhoff.
It’s difficult to find a winner for the Dees, which is a damning fact, given the talent they have on their list, but I do love the way Jake Melksham shares the ball – sometimes perhaps overshares.
Last season, he led the league in goal assists, and he was on-song again today, notching four for the game.
He had a total of 33 last season, so he is well ahead of schedule to match that this season. Not just dishing off, he finished with 16 touches and eight marks to complement his team-high nine score involvements.
Melksham is often the barometer for the Dees, but even with him performing above what was required, they had way too many passengers this afternoon. Still, he can hold his head high.
He may no longer be captain, but this was a performance from Boak that screamed “leadership”.
He had 34 touches, won 11 contested disposals and sent the Power inside 50 on seven occasions. Add to that eight tackles and you have the exact game a club leader should be providing in the middle.
I particularly liked his read of the play as the Power started to make their move in the first quarter. He recognised that Gawn was not attending a ruck contest inside 50, timed his run as Lycett muscled his way to the fall of the ball, got the handball from the big man and slotted a goal. That was intelligent from both Boak and Lycett, and the kind of teamwork that usually comes from years playing together.
It bodes really well for the Power going forward.
So I liked what I saw from all the Power youngsters today. Marshall, Rozee (loved his hit on Oliver), Butters and Duursma all looked as though they’ll find a spot in this side permanently, but I want to highlight a bloke named Willem Drew.
Firstly, I want to point something out I wrote in the JLT series - his name sounds like a cigar brand, and if I were him, I’d market it, and myself with the slogan “suck on a Willem Drew”, but let’s focus on his footy today. You’d probably appreciate it more.
I thought he was the standout amongst the kids, collecting 21 touches and running at 81% efficiency for the game. He picked up a direct goal assist as part of his seven score involvements, and looks like he has great instincts as to when he should hold the ball, and when he should release.
With all the noise about Rozee, Butters and Duursma, he kind of flew under the radar in the lead up to Round One, but no longer. His presence through the midfield provided a stable, reliable pair of hands to aid the Power as they combated the Demon pressure. He probably won’t get the Rising Star nomination, given that Sam Walsh had such a ripping game first up, but don’t be surprised if he gets one pretty soon with more performances like this one.
Finally, on these kids… perhaps the thing I loved best was that they got up.
At the beginning of the last quarter, the Demons hit them hard. Todd Marshall copped a big knock in a marking contest. He got up. Then Zak Butters got bowled over. Up he got! And moments later, after taking one hit, Butters went hard again and was flattened a second time – you guessed it; he got up again. As much as you look for inspiration from your leaders, seeing that from your kids has to make you walk taller. That is guts. That is determination.
Seeya Wingard. Bye Polec... this is Port Adelaide pride.
ANGUS BRAYSHAW’S HIT AND HOPE STYLE
I like Brayshaw, and I think he is a potential All-Australian player, but bloody hell, mate lower your eyes. He had 26 touches today, but I’d love to know how many times he just threw the ball on his boot without looking and bombed to a forward line where the Port defenders just ate up the chance to spoil or collect the ball.
Brayshaw is as skilled as they come, and his ability to win the ball in tight situations is brilliant, but his decisions today when he had time and space were terrible.
Champion Data stats say he ran at 57% efficiency. That’s fine, but they’re inflated stats. Now take into account that anything over 40 metres is considered effective – I reckon he was more around the 30% efficiency mark in terms of hitting a target. He is much, much better than that, and in a game where the Dees needed some poise and class, he fell into the “throw it on your boot and hope for the best” club too often to be considered a good player.
So if we were throwing names out as the most disappointing players on the park today, the names Nathan Jones and Jack Viney would have to be at the top of the list.
We’ll start with Jones - he was horrible. Disgustingly horrible. Joe Ganino levels of ugly kind of horrible. He fumbled, he double-grabbed, his errors led straight to Port Adelaide scoring chances or cost his team the chance at goal, and his positive contributions could be counted on one hand. In terms of best players, he borderline top ten for the game – FOR PORT ADELAIDE.
As for Viney, I love the way he plays usually. I hated the way he played today. Obviously not right, he was a complete passenger, and had six effective possessions for the day.
The big stat for him? Zero clearances. That’s what he’s in the side for, and with Gawn being beaten, it begs the question – does he need Gawn putting it down his throat to be effective?
I’m sure that’s not the case, but he didn’t disprove it today. Hopefully, like a good racehorse coming back from a spell, he’ll be better for the run.
THE DEMON LEADERSHIP
Quick question – when the heat is on, which Melbourne players stood up?
Viney and Gawn we’ve covered – they didn’t.
Jones- we’ve whacked him as well.
Christian Petracca? He was like the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing and blowing nothing down. Sad thing is, there was nothing big or bad about him today; just a lot of huff and puff.
Clayton Oliver? 23 touches is a very quiet day at the office for him. He had less than that just three times last season.
Tom McDonald? Beaten easily on the day and finished with eight touches.
Last season the big knock on the Demons was that they would beat the crap out of lesser teams and fall over against those who were their equal. Port proved today that they are more like the team we saw through the first 16 rounds of 2018 than the one we saw in the last seven weeks, and the Dees capitulated against them.
If the Dees are to be considered contenders, they need some players to stand up and say “enough” when the game gets tough, and stand up for their team.
They did say “enough” today, but it was in the wrong context. They had enough, and wilted under the relentless Port pressure. Similar to their game against Hawthorn in Round Four last season, once they’d had their first quarter fun and the opposition started firing back, they went into their shell.
Opposition teams will be taking note.
Already 2700 words… I’ll try to be brief.
You think Melbourne could’ve used Brayden Preuss in the ruck today? Every time Lycett was matched up against Tom McDonald or Sam Weideman, he tried to take it out of the contest. A couple of times he was effective, and he hurt the Demons when he did. Against a monster like Preuss, moving him is pretty difficult. Nice work, Captain Hindsight Mongrel Punt.
Not often you see Neville Jetta beaten in one-on-ones, but I suppose that gives you an indication just how good Robbie Gray is, as if you needed me to tell you. Gray finished with 23 touches and only inaccuracy prevented him from being listed as one of the absolute best.
Big shout out to Karl Amon, who can make some mistakes at times, but he was very creative today, and used his run off half back to create options all game.
Great game from Christian Salem. Watched him a fair bit last season, and he’d always start like a rocket and then fade as the game went on. He was pretty consistent today, and stayed involved all game. He had 32 touches, with 10 of them intercept touches.
And for the record, he did start like a rocket again, with 12 first quarter touches.
Bayley Fritsch faded badly. I had him as one of the best in the first quarter, and his early work ethic, working from one end of the ground to the other, was fantastic. And then… what the hell happened?
You reckon Christian Petracca could play a role in a gangland mini-series? He’s got the look. Maybe not as one of the main characters, but more as like one of their brothers or cousins, who makes a lot of threats, but doesn’t really follow through on them?
Sam Powell-Pepper was a couple of accurate snaps away from having a real influence. Got his hands on it a few times inside 50, but just couldn’t convert.
Jayden Hunt had a real moment to kick start the Dees in the third quarter. His run and carry from full back, and the end to end play that resulted was the Dees’ best passage of the day.
Weideman at centre half forward? Had his moments, particularly early, and had a really nice mark and goal during Melbourne’s third quarter run. He’s doing what he has to, and when McDonald is so comprehensively beaten, it’s unfair to expect him to do more.
Darcy Byrne-Jones was very solid today. Haven’t really taken much notice of him over the journey, but it may be time I start to.
Rozee’s hit on Clayton Oliver… LOVED it.
And that’ll do Port fans… that’ll do. I have another game to cover, and you guys are busy celebrating. Great win on the road.
For the Dees, that was not the start to the season you’d want in any capacity. There’s a bit of soul searching to do, and you can just be thankful that premierships aren’t won in March. Get your act together and start playing like you give a damn.
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