The pain of a narrow preliminary final loss will be the perfect sharp edge to carry Port Adelaide into the future, after a successful 2020.
Brisbane defeated Port Adelaide 16.11 (107) to 13.12 (90) in a hard-fought game at the Gabba on Saturday night, and here are my takeaways for the Power.
Let’s start with the top five players.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and after Brisbane jumped Port early Boak willed himself into the contest and his team along with him. Thirty-five touches of grunt, grit and skill to go with two goals kept his team in the contest. It’s a real toss-up between Boak and Lachie Neale for best on ground, with the veteran having a renaissance year thus far. He’s no longer captain but he’s playing like one more then ever.
From one pick No. 5 to another. I included Rozee last week when others could just as easily have taken his place, but this round Rozee wasn’t just the best of the young guns, he was arguably the best on ground, scoring five and having 21 slick touches while looking generally electric in the forward line. Last week I noted his ability to turn people inside out with a step; this week I’m thinking he has more attributes then I have room on the page.
Powell-Pepper was a real bull and human battering ram all night, showing his heart and unwavering commitment to the cause. He had 29 touches and lifted in Tom Rockliff’s absence while showing his outside run and work rate. He did, however, kick long into the forward line too often, but he more than made up for that with his continued flying of the flag when others faded.
Yes, Butters faded completely out of the game late, but he was again super impressive at times. He really shows a bit of everything at times with clever kicks, slick hands and an attack on the ball that seems ridiculous at times given his slight frame. Solace can be taken in his rapid emergence.
He had a couple of almost unforgivable misses in front of goal yet still kicked two goals and looked influential even if things were going wrong at times. His late exit from the field really felt deflating – the nail in the coffin of a flagging team, if you will. He’s still so important to this team.
In a back-and-forth final quarter Port took the lead before Brisbane returned fire, only for the Power to rally again. Travis Boak kicked an inspirational team lifter of a goal to open the term, and when Ollie Wines kicked Port’s fourth goal of the quarter with a similarly monstrous effort, it felt like the Power’s leaders were going to pull them over the line. Unfortunately it proved to be the last shot Port would fire for the game.
Sam Gray’s SANFL form, which returned him to the team, was excellent, and to be fair, if Port had won, it would have been overlooked, but on a night when long balls were being propelled into Port’s forward line with regularity, another tall was required.
Near the end of the first quarter Rozee read a kick, intercepted it and palmed down to himself before running inside to open the angle and punching a high ball over a defender and through the goals from 45 metres. It was a play Rozee created, worked and then finished, showcasing him as a prodigious talent.
Whoever was manning the clock when Brisbane tall Oscar McInerney clunked a key mark with just over three minutes remaining needs their faculties checked. At no point was the clock stopped as he walked back and took his time before ambling in to score a crucial goal. Nearly a whole minute disappeared at this crucial time in the game. It wouldn’t have saved Port, who were two down on the bench and suffering repeated barrages, but such timekeeping is an amateurish look for an elite game.
In a thrilling clash at the Gabba between two rampaging teams, Port Adelaide spent three and a bit quarters chasing the game before collapsing in something of a heap right at the death. The Power has got away with slow starts in the first two weeks by running over the top of teams, but it caught up with them in Brisbane. Nonetheless, had Port not blundered some crucial opportunities, they might just have done it again against an in-form team.
Port won many of the key battles and stats but Brisbane always seemed to score with greater ease, and it was this greater effectiveness inside 50 which was ultimately the difference. Brisbane have shown already this season that old standards and assumptions may not apply, suggesting this to be a result which could improve in retrospect.
The continued form of Port’s young brigade very much provides the silver lining, and down the track all the Power faithful might remember of this game is the startling emergence of the young and talented Conor Rozee.