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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Showdown 46

I love the Showdown – never miss one, but half way through the third quarter, you couldn’t help but think this one was well and truly over.

The Crows were on top and the Power were floundering. With many of their big guns sidelined, Port looked spent and Adelaide looked to have things under control. And then Ken Hinkley, the bloke my buddy Mip Grant thinks can’t coach, pulled a swift one and sent his star contest-killer into attack, and as we made our way through the fourth quarter, it was game on again. Was it a little too late? Hmmmm, maybe, but at least he made a move.

Such is the way of the Showdown. Things happen quickly, and a sudden change can turn the game on its head.

Did the Crows put the cue in the rack? Did the Power grow another leg? With Charlie Dixon still a while off, could Dougal Howard be the next defender to move forward and make a big impact, just like Aaron Naughton at the Bulldogs?

All this and a bunch of steak knives in The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of Showdown 46.

 

THE GOOD

 

KEATH THE SECRET

This was a game built for defenders, and as far as defenders went on this night, Alex Keath had no peer.

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie – he had a peer in Dougal Howard, but once the Port player moved forward, he was no longer a real defender, so I’ll rephrase. Over the course of four quarters, Alex Keath had no peer as a defender, and receiving the Showdown medal was an apt reward for his efforts

Keath was dominant in defensive 50, and was both able to kill contests and pick off wayward inside 50 deliveries. He had 12 intercept possessions to underpin the Adelaide defence all evening, and while the Crows established their lead, Keath reigned supreme down back.

It’s been an amazing journey for him, taking the place of Tom Doedee, who took the place of Jake Lever. It’s always fun to play “what if” and I wonder what Alex Keath would be up to had Lever decided to stay with the Crows after 2017? Would Doedee have got his opportunity? Would Keath?

They say things happen for a reason (who are “they”? And why do they say so much?) and maybe in the long run, Lever’s departure will work out beautifully for the Crows. It seems as though they have a knack for finding wonderful intercept defenders, and looking at the way Keath’s 2019 season, he might be the best one of the lot.

I see people are starting to mention Keath's name as a potential All-Australian? We were all overit a couple of weeks ago here at The Mongrel. Who says we don't know what we're talking about?

Most people, actually. 

 

LACHIE MURPHY

I added this bloke to the “good” category the other week based on his forward pressure and what it created for his teammates. Well, he’s back, and this time his pressure was on another level all together.

We have this thing we do here at the Mongrel called Power Rankings, and one of the triggers for forwards to score points is tackles inside 50. I had a feeling Murphy would have hit the mark tonight, and when I checked the stats, not only did he hit the target… he smashed right through the target and hit other targets.

Murphy had eight tackles inside 50, which is a season high for the entire AFL as he added 11 disposals and two direct goal assists to his totals.

Tackles inside 50 are worth their weight in gold in the AFL, and on this occasion Murphy was like King Midas. That tackle-mark will be difficult to beat this season.

 

TOM LYNCH

Three goals to go along with 20 touches is probably the ideal game for Tom Lynch. When you throw in two direct goal assists as well, I reckon you’ve got a player who may have been the most important player on the park in the first half.

Lynch had a shocker in 2018, and he had plenty of mates joining him, but the first eight games of the season have seen him return to the kind of form that made him such a difficult match up in 2017. He has an enormous tank and is quite content to work right up to half back in order to gain separation.

Lynch had ten contested possessions in the first half, and looked the most likely of the Adelaide forwards to give Port headaches. His run and carry, as well as his six tackles, consistently gave his mids a reliable hit up target who would halve contests at the very least, and he worked hard at ground level to ensure the ball didn’t come straight back.

I thought he was close to best on ground at the halfway point, and he is vital to the Crows’ chances of finals success in 2019.

 

DOUGAL HOWARD

So I have a confession.

When Ken Hinkley threw Howard forward in the third quarter, and Justin Westhoff went back, I thought it may have been a mistake. I thought it again when Hoff gave away a free kick to Elliott Himmelberg minutes later.

Up until that point, Howard had been exceptional in the defensive half, with seven intercept possessions and 12 spoils. He is a contest-killer of the highest order and I wondered what the Power were giving up in order to generate some offence?

It turns out they were willing to give up plenty, but the reward was worth the risk.

I’m pretty glad I don’t tweet often, because if I did, I may have made a complete dick of myself. As we ventured into the last quarter, Howard kicked two goals that started the Port Adelaide heart beating again, but even with Howard playing the role of defibrillator, they gave the Crows too much of a start to pull them back.

Howard may have a future as a forward, and until Charlie Dixon gets back, Hinkley may have to deploy him there to kick-start his offence.

 

DANIEL TALIA

Told you it was a night for defenders, huh?

If there is a less-publicised full back in the game, I’d like to know who it is. We’ve always heard about Alex Rance, and now with him out, Richmond supporters are spruiking Dylan Grimes. Port fans adore Tom Jonas, Freo has Alex Pearce and Phil Davis is a star for the Giants.

But Daniel Talia is probably the most unsung of the elite full backs in the caper, and he deserves some praise.

He completely blanketed Justin Westhoff in the first half as the enigmatic Power utility started forward. Granted, Westhoff was not aided by the conditions or the terrible delivery by his midfield, but none of that is Talia’s fault. He had nine intercept possessions and thumped the ball away from contests 11 times over the course of the game.

He was particularly potent in the first half when the Crows pulled away, effectively opening up what would amount to a match winning lead. His decision to leave Westhoff to make the contest on the wing in the second quarter was brilliant. He managed to make a vital smother as the Power surged forward, with Westhoff all alone inside 50. It was an all-or-nothing play by Talia, and it paid off.

He was last an All-Australian in 2016, and his absolute best footy may be behind him, but if there is a long ball coming inside 50, and you need one bloke to make sure the ball comes to ground, Talia would be right up there in terms of first choice. In a nutshell, he is very, very rarely beaten, and that was the case again this evening.

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THE BAD

 

THE LACK OF PHYSICAL CLASHES

You know, if there were still gladiatorial shows, I’d probably go watch them. What does that have to do with anything? Well, I like the physical aspect of AFL footy. I like when there is a player or three with a bit of grunt in them and they actually seek to make hard physical contact with their opponents.

There aren’t many players fitting that bill anymore, and for me at least, the game feels worse off for it.

I get that there’s a brotherhood of sorts in the league, and no one wants to connect with the head of an opponent, but there are so many opportunities to legitimately put a player on their ass in modern AFL, and I’m not sure players even know how to do it anymore. Maybe it’s been coached out of them? Maybe the reward is not worth the risk, but at stages in this game, I kind of felt that Port Adelaide needed someone to step up and knock a few blokes over.

But it didn’t happen of course.

Looking at the teams, I’m not sure how many players have that in them. Lycett does. Powell-Pepper does. Hartigan does. Tex would if the opportunity presented. But other than those four, I struggle to find someone who, when presented with the opportunity to line someone up, would get a bit of a gleam in their eye.

I know I’m in the minority these days, and I know that we’re all about the athleticism and skill. It’s where the game has been headed for years, but when a side is not performing, and they need a spark, just once in a while I would like to see someone… anyone take the bull by the horns and run through an opponent as a signal that they’re not going to go quietly into the night. I’m not talking punches, or anything like that – just a good, hard hip and shoulder or shepherd now and again.

They’re lost arts in the modern game.

… Darcy Fogarty would’ve hit someone. Let the kid play!!!

 

EDDIE BETTS

This may be unpopular, but he was non-existent in this game. He had just ten touches for the night, with only four of them effective.

I expect Eddie to be up and down this season. His six goals in his 300th game capped a wonderful career, but I can’t see that happening again anytime soon.

He had Ryan Burton start on him, but once the former-Hawk’s hamstring gave way, Eddie should’ve had his eyes light up. They may have, but they didn’t translate into any success.

Dan Houston was forced onto him, and Darcy Byrne-Jones picked him up here or there, and between them they completely cut Betts out of the game. He was virtually unsighted in the second half on a night where Betts’ skill and elusiveness should’ve come to the fore.

 

THE TAG ON RORY LAIRD

“Aidyn Johnson has gone to Rory Laird and will be tagging him.”

Really?

Was his job to stop Laird intercepting? Because he only did that on 15 bloody occasions. Yep, 15 intercept possessions for Laird as he continually positioned himself in the right spot to cut Port’s attempts to exit their defence.

Laird cut the Power to ribbons, consistently banging the ball back from whence it came, on his way to collecting 31 disposals.

In response, Johnson had 12 disposals. Let’s put this experiment down as a huge failure and move on.

 

THE UGLY

 

STEVEN MOTLOP

I’m quite positive that I don’t need to remind anyone of Motlop’s 2018 heroics in the Showdown; it was one of the most electrifying moments of the season. It was the sort of moment that bestows upon you a status that is hard to live down – a player who delivers in the big moments.

But Motlop seems to be on a mission to live down that moniker. He was putrid in this game, refusing to put his body on the line, and going missing for long stretched in this game.

He had 16 touches and six marks, which sounds like a half-decent game, but watching Motlop, and knowing what he can produce, and seeing what he did produce… or more what he didn’t produce, you can’t help but wonder if his career will be remembered as a monumental waste of talent.

I don’t think Motlop is a best 22 player at Port any more. If Brad Ebert or Ollie Wines were fit, Motlop would not get a look in. He was thrown a lifeline in one of the biggest home and away games of the season, and he played like a millionaire.

With Zak Butters on the sidelines this week for a rest, you have to wonder if Port would like their time over again. Motlop is on good money, but he is not worth it. It would’ve been better to play Butters and allow him to acclimatise to the pressure of a Showdown rather than invest time in what is amounting to a lost cause.

Tom Rockliff has taken his second chance seriously. It appeared as though Jack Watts was about to do the same. I’m not sure Motlop will ever take his chances, but as long as people keep giving him opportunities, he’ll continue to disappoint.

 

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QUICK BITS

 

I liked the game of Sam Powell-Pepper, though he really needed to get his hands on it more early. He was one of the few who never gave up as the game wore on.

Nice game overall from Dan Houston, but that slip and cough up of the ball to Rory Sloane in the first quarter was horrific. Nice of the commentators to call him Karl Amon when it happened, so he can at least have the Shaggy defence – “it wasn’t me.”

I’m a bit of a fan of Sticks Marshall, but he was really poor in this game. Unable to physically impose himself, and with the wet ball robbing him of his aerial ability, he became a bit of an albatross around the Port Adelaide neck. When he finally did get a mark inside 50, at a time he could make a difference, he kicked poorly to a nest of Crows. The fact he could mark inside 50 and Port couldn’t even manufacture a shot at goal… not good enough.

28 touches for Travis Boak, but this was not one of his better outings. Some players were still able to find a bit of time with the ball, but Boak seemed to be in a rush every time he touched it, and so many of his kicks were turnovers. 12 of them, in fact. Way too many.

Having Brad Crouch back playing at this level (30+ in the last four games) is like having a new recruit for the Crows. With his brother off injured, he may have to do some heavy lifting in the coming weeks.

I thought Rory Sloane was really quiet in the first half, but man; he made up for it in the second half. Tackle stats are always indicative of how much a player is willing to do the extra things. Sloane had a game-high 13. He was engaged, and he engaged the hell out of more than a few Port players with his tackling in this one.

Big call by whoever it was yapping away on commentary that Connor Rozee is the next Nat Fyfe. Why would he want to be that? He can be the first Connor Rozee.

The ruck duel was a bit of a letdown for me. Above, I wrote a little about physical clashes. Earlier in the year, Lycett, Ryder and Tom Jonas beat the shit out of Max Gawn and it had an enormous influence on the result. Here they had Reilly O’Brien basically playing a lone hand against them… and they really let him off the hook. The Crows’ ruck had 34 hit outs on the night, but a bit of bashing and crashing from Lycett could’ve really put a bit of fear into him. I was hoping he’d do that and soften O’Brien up.

It didn’t happen, and to O’Brien’s credit, he ended up being pretty good.

The Power have this unique opportunity. They have a bruiser and a finesse guy. I’d like to see Lycett walk the line between what is great for his team, and what is right. They may never rally align, because knocking the stuffing out of an opposition ruck may not be right, but it is good for Port, but Lycett is one of the very few players who can straddle that line successfully. I’d love to see him do it more, and I would have loved to see him do it tonight. He had 15 contested touches, but neither he nor Ryder could count half their possessions as effective.

Overall, I wouldn’t rate this as one of the best Showdowns I’ve seen. I’m sure Adelaide supporters will be rapt, as four points papers over any cracks a neutral like me may have. For Port fans, I’m sure they think it sucked. It didn’t, but it failed to reach highs other games between the clubs have. Maybe we’ve just been spoilt by them recently?

The Crows sit in the top four tonight, with a trip to the Gabba to face the Lions looming next week. The Power have toppled from the eight, and should gain some confidence back next week against Gold Coast at home, but the Suns are proving to be no pushovers.

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