Luke Shuey’s perfect kick sends the Power home and the Eagles onwards

Jay Croucher Columnist

By , Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    Two seasons coming down to one ball drop, one connection, one cool head, is either cruel or magical depending on your allegiance.

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    For those whose allegiance is only to the game, the moment was as perfect as the kick. Luke Shuey won the free kick – which wasn’t a free kick, but in real time didn’t it have to be paid? – and lined up. He chuckled to himself before going into his run-up, a brief and lovely acknowledgement of the absurd gravity of the moment – a year of hard work for two clubs was going to come down to how his boot struck the leather.

    The smile disappeared and then it was business. He looked a touch frightened, because he is a human, but fear always looked like it was losing to determination. He began his run-up, body arched and compact as always, and moved towards the entire Port Adelaide team on the mark.

    The ball drop was perfect, the connection was perfect, and so was the result. It was all so simple – an easy run-up, body weight behind the ball, the kick struck with conviction.

    So often the most intense moments come down to players being able to find and hold onto simplicity and quiet amid the chaos and the noise. Shuey did that, and the kick was never in doubt, and then neither, for the first time all night, was the result.

    It did appear to be heading towards ‘over’, though, a few times. When the Eagles went 31 points up in the second quarter, it seemed like Port had finally revealed themselves to be the pretenders many had pegged them as for much of the year. But the flat track bullies navigated an uphill path, and gradually wrestled back momentum.

    When Port finally took the lead back in the final term, the Eagles looked to be shot. They were gallant, but Port were too relentless, too fast and youthful, with too much quick-twitch athleticism all over the ground for the more lumbering West Coast bodies to handle.

    Charlie Dixon Port Adelaide Power AFL 2017

    (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

    But the Eagles did something that had eluded them for much of the year – they dug deep in a fourth quarter, they grinded, and they eked out just enough scores to keep the game close.

    Eric Mackenzie, pursued by Charlie Dixon (the best player on the ground), kept the Eagles alive with one of the great finals plays, making a beeline for the behind post to keep the scores level in the dying stages. He wore the damage, saved his team, and gave them the hope of extra time.

    The hope appeared to be crushed when Ollie Wines finished off Port’s most magnificent sequence of the night in the first half of extra time. Travis Boak won the ball, dished it to Chad Wingard who lofted it to Robbie Gray as he fell over, and then Gray, while being collected by Sam Mitchell, delivered the handball of the evening, jumping up at full extension and bulleting a no-look over-the-shoulder dart to Wines, who duly finished with a powerful strike from a standing start.

    The lead was then 13 points with only seconds left in extra time’s first half.

    From the restart, though, Lewis Jetta, dominant once regulation expired, won the clearance and drove the Eagles forward for Josh Kennedy – absent until the final stages – to toe-poke a desperate goal which kept the Eagles breathing.

    Kennedy popped up for another in the second period after some grunt work and class from Nathan Vardy, and then the moment was set for Shuey.

    Port will have the whole summer and likely many summers beyond to lament their missed opportunities. Dixon, while exquisite in announcing himself as a true force in the competition, will long have to ponder ‘3.6’. Wingard too, brilliant all season and for much of the night, would surely like a few of his kicks back at the death.

    So too might Mark LeCras and Andrew Gaff, but thanks to Shuey, the regret will remain with their opponents.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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