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.
Richmond defeated Port Adelaide 15.9 (99) to 14.8 (92) in a back and forth game at Adelaide Oval and here are my key takeaways for Port Adelaide.
The five best players were:
The pig was firing again in the midfield, usually saying someone has a thick skull is an insult but I intend no offence when I say Rockliff must indeed have one. After suffering a serious concussion last week Rocky was back to putting on his one-man midfield show, racking up thirty-seven touches.
Rockliff excels at both winning the ball and linking the play inside to out through the middle of the ground. An authoritative performance.
Boak was excellent, maintaining his rich vein of form with 33 touches. While dominant in the middle with Rockliff, he also had the most metres gained on the ground (493) and equal most inside 50s (6), showcasing his all-around game. Boak and Rockliff are in imperious form thus far this season and certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing team.
Burton has played well all season without ever truly standing out, but against Richmond he caught the eye. While his excellent long goal from the boundary highlighted his superb kicking and got the outer army excited, his damaging running game and extreme preference for kicks (19 of 23 disposals) marks him out as Jared Polec’s important replacement.
Continuing to adapt to his new role, Ebert had a very solid game up forward while also working through the middle. The club stalwart got two goals, including an inspiring long bomb he put through with ease, to go with his 23 touches while working hard all night.
He got himself a rare goal and offered an excellent option all night, making one or two eye-catching intercepts and using his excellent field kicking further up the ground. Houston always looks a clean, classy defender but is often the forgotten man in defence. However, a performance like this suggests expectations should be lifted.
When young Xavier Duursma took a colossal mark in the final minutes, it looked as though Port might be able to sneak back ahead with time running out. Unfortunately, the young man couldn’t put it through. In just his fourth AFL game it is a case of being impressed with the mark and putting the miss down to inexperience, but nonetheless such are the fine margins AFL games can be decided on.
If you were at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, you would have heard the phenomenon of forty odd thousand (minus a smattering of Richmond supporters) people being shocked and appalled by the umpire’s decision to award Tom Lynch a free after he had already kicked the goal. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these awarded and for a minor push, it was a case of the punishment far exceeding the crime.
In the blink of an eye Port went from eight points ahead to four points behind. With the wind collectively sucked out the crowd’s sails, Richmond capitalised and went on their most impressive run of the game.
When Kamdyn McIntosh kicked back to Nathan Broad in Richmond’s defensive fifty, Boak appeared to be chasing a lost cause, that was until the oval ball took a comedic (tragically comedic for Tigers fans) turn through Broads outstretched hands and legs. Boak then went lower and harder for the ball, before dishing off the handball to Sam Gray who coolly slotted the snap.
It was a crucial goal born of equal parts grit and good fortune, which brought Port back into the game just as Richmond were edging out of sight.
The questionable brain department
There were several horrible turnovers to keep the coaching staff awake at night, but none looked worse from where I was standing than Tom Jonas’s turnover in the middle of the ground towards the end of the first quarter. With two minutes left on the clock and looking comfortable sitting fourteen points up, the turnover gave the out of position defence no chance and Richmond fully exploited.
While Jonas was otherwise solid, a turnover in such a mundane field kicking situation will be one to quickly forget.
It was another week where Port had enough of the ball and won enough of the key statistics to suggest a win was there for the taking, but another close game slips from their grasp. Some of the young players had an expected drop off while the veterans generally maintained their high standard, but there was a concerning gap in the middle in which no one came to the fore.
Port has arguably done enough to win all four of their games, so the consistency in effort across what has now been sixteen quarters of footy is pleasing, but familiar failings are reappearing. It could be argued the forward-line is yet to find the right mix, but a propensity to give away easy goals is raising the amount of scoring required to perhaps unmanageable levels.
Meanwhile, Boak and Rockliff are in inspired form but they could do with a few more elevating to their level. The positives are that fine margins have been responsible for consecutive losses and thus fairly simple recalibrations could rectify the issues, but until such time Port will remain the heartbreak kids.