Port Adelaide defeated West Coast 13.17 (95) to 8.5 (53) on Good Friday at Optus Stadium, and here are my key takeaways for Port Adelaide.
Let’s start with my top five players.
Wines gets the nod as my best on ground. He was good early but really grew into the game to become the dominant force on the ground.
Port fans have been questioning if he was underdone, but the big-bodied midfielder carried a huge load on his broad shoulders.
Wines had the most touches (35) on the ground, the most inside-50s (ten), and the second most clearances (seven) and metres gained (636).
Kicked a huge goal to put the final nail in the West Coast coffin.
The Rocknaissance continues, with Rocky being excellent all night with 32 touches and six clearances.
He finds the ball and gets it forward as best he can. If he has time, he’s an excellent kick, but if he needs to throw it on the boot, that’s what he does.
Does what he needs to time and time again. Important link man when the Port get their handball game going as well.
Credit where credit is due. Last week Gray responded to widespread derision with three goals and this week he collected another two to go with 26 touches and five tackles in a hard-working performance.
In addition, he had the second most inside fifties (seven) on the ground and chipped in with four clearances playing largely forward.
Certainly not a fashionable player, but a cunningly clever one who works hard and has gelled well with the new recruits. He has ‘Port Adelaide player’ written all over him.
Had an excellent start to this game, opening the scoring in impressive fashion.
His stats belie the impact he had on the game, as he battered into bodies, chased like a madman and showed Eagles players a clean pair of heels repeatedly.
After an average start to the season, he has elevated his running game and it was on show on Friday.
At times it looked like he was running on air while Eagles players struggled through treacle, shown by his 513 metres gained for the night.
Boak set the tone early with his herculean efforts.
In the second quarter, Mark Hutchings switched to more of a shut-down role on Boak, showing the influence he was having, but attempts to close him opened space for others.
Travis ended up with 23 touches and a game-high clearance total of eight in another crucial performance.
Connor Rozee had a quieter night stats-wise, but is already a player who makes every touch count.
Late in the third quarter, Scott Lycett created a contest in a two-on-one at half forward.
The ball tumbled out the back and a charging Rozee pounced on it without even breaking stride, burning off first Shannon Hurn and then Liam Duggan – while taking a bounce in the wet – and slotting an effortless snap from 35 out.
This was the moment that sent significant numbers of despondent Eagles supporters to the train station at three-quarter time.
The inside-50 count closed as a shocking blow-out for Port, 71 to 38, summing up the one-sided dominance that no-one saw coming.
Coach Ken Hinkley resisted calls for more widespread changes and stuck with his young guns, and they rewarded him by running through brick walls for him all night.
Meanwhile, the veterans and middle-tier players played at a shockingly high level.
For their second goal in the first quarter, Port put together a stunning play that summarised the night.
Having regained possession, Port went to Todd Marshall in the centre square, he handballed to Zak Butters, who sidestepped Jack Petruccelle.
He thumped a handball to Brad Ebert, who immediately unloaded hands to Powell-Pepper charging through the centre square.
He then found Gray with a neat little kick at half forward, who cleverly put a left-foot snap over the oncoming Eagles player to find Xavier Duursma breaking into 50 alone.
Duursma ran in to coolly slot the goal – his kicking technique on the run is a thing of beauty.
Wild youthful talent combined with more experienced heads in an unexpected mix right out of the mad scientist’s lab.
In one of the upsets of the year, Port applied huge pressure while taking the game on in exciting fashion.
Forget never giving up, this was never letting up. And for a team with so many young players, on a ground Port had never won on, it was seriously impressive.
Port suffocated the Eagles with their full-team press, while ruthlessly exploiting turnovers in direct and devastating fashion.
This was a shock-and-awe performance that no-one saw coming.
By the end of the night, there was not an area of the game Port didn’t dominate against the reigning premiers on their home deck.
Port have not just escaped the straitjacket of the expectations they were forming, but they have knocked down the padded walls and launched themselves into the stratosphere.
Where they will land is still anyone’s guess, but like an addict who has guiltily gorged themselves on too much of a good thing, I am remorselessly requesting more of the same please.