Takeaways from the second Ashes Test, South Sydney's struggles and making sense of a wild Bledisloe series
After one of the all-time great weekends in sport, sit down with Episode 37 of the Game of Codes
For so long Good Friday was deemed off limits by the AFL, and now we’ve got a double-header. Excellent.
Since a Round 1 slip-up against the previously impressive Lions – yikes, what was that they served up last night? – West Coast have looked every bit the reigning premiers.
Port Adelaide started impressively but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag since. After winning a scrappy home affair against the Blues, they’ve lost close ones to the Lions and Tigers, oh my.
Both of these sides have shown a desire to control the footy – which is a bad thing, according to some in the media – with West Coast ranked fourth for mark differential and Port Adelaide fifth.
The Power, though, look the most dangerous when they can move the ball quickly.
Their midfield looks rejuvenated, with Tom Rockliff and Travis Boak both playing some of their best footy, and both are averaging better than 33 disposals a game.
Ryan Burton has slotted in seamlessly since his move from the Hawks – he’s had at least 15 kicks and 21 disposals in every game.
Scott Lycett is another new recruit who has fit straight in with his new side.
Lycett’s 33.7 AFL player rating points in Port’s Round 2 win against Carlton was the best game by any player this season according to those ratings, and the West Coast premiership ruckman might need to put in a similar performance against his former side tonight if the Power are to make a contest of this.
Up front the Power don’t have an obvious target with Charlie Dixon sidelined, but they do have an interesting collection of options.
Four-gamer Connor Rozee is their leading goal-kicker with seven – five of those coming in one game – followed by Robbie Gray and Brad Ebert with six each. Justin Westhoff has five, all of which came in the Round 1 win against Melbourne.
They’ve scored more points than the Eagles this season, and yet on paper it looks like an area of weakness.
No such concerns for the Eagles.
Jack Darling, coming off a career-best year, leads the way with ten, and Josh Kennedy and youngster Oscar Allen are next with seven.
Kennedy’s seven goals have come in just three games and the Eagles are now an incredible streak of 16 wins and one loss in the 17 games he has played since the start of 2018, the one loss coming against Sydney at the SCG in Round 15.
The two-time Coleman medalist has kicked a goal in each of his past 59 games. Jeremy Cameron has the next longest streak at 22 games, thanks to Ethan Meldrum. He’s damn good and the Eagles are damn good when he plays.
Most consecutive games without going goalless:
59: Josh Kennedy
22: Jeremy Cameron
21: Tom Hawkins
15: Jake Melksham
Incredible how far ahead Kennedy is.
— Ethan (@ethan_meldrum) April 17, 2019
Tom Jonas is an extremely good defender, but he’ll have his work cut out for him tonight whether he goes to Kennedy or Darling.
In the midfield Boak, Rockliff and co. will be greeted by Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed and Jack Redden. Andrew Gaff hasn’t missed a beat since his return to the side, notching 35 touches in each of his two games this season.
Nathan Vardy will no doubt be keen to take on his former teammate Lycett in the ruck, and both sides have more than capable big men handling No. 2 ruck duties.
But with all due respect to Tom Hickey, the Power should have the edge in that area when they can bring in 2017 All Australian ruckman Paddy Ryder as backup.
Last time these sides met was a thriller at the Adelaide Oval. The Eagles scored a four-point win thanks to a late goal from superstar defender Jeremy McGovern in a game that, for Port and their fans, was cruelly similar to the 2017 elimination final at the same venue.
Shuey fittingly got the three Brownlow votes thanks to his 31 disposals and 11 clearances ahead of Yeo, who had 25 touches, eight clearances and a goal. The umpires adjudged Jonas as Port’s best player for his 30 disposals and nine rebound 50s, giving him the last vote.
But perhaps of greater relevance to tonight’s match is how things went when these teams last clashed in Perth.
In Round 7 last year the Eagles cruised to a seven-goal win, with Kennedy booting four and Darling another three. Redden got the three votes for his 32-disposal, eight-clearance, one-goal effort.
Unfortunately for Port, we can expect a similar outcome tonight. I’m tipping the Eagles by six goals.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?
You can stream all of today’s AFL action between West Coast and Port Adelaide on Kayo with a 14-day free trial.