As North Melbourne have the second youngest list on average, with an average age of 23.5 per player going into AFL season 2022, the expectations of them shouldn’t be too high for the upcoming season.
Rarely does a Friday night game get lost in the round, but with two big games in the two days preceding it, that’s the case tonight.
North Melbourne might be grateful for that.
These sides head into this game after polar opposite performances.
The Roos are coming off one of the worst losses of the year – up there with their Round 1 disaster against Fremantle. They were completely overwhelmed by the Bombers on Good Friday.
Just a few hours later Port Adelaide put in one of the most impressive displays of this young season.
While much of the talk was about the Power’s bold ball movement and ability to negate West Coast’s marking players, it was their cleanness that I was most impressed by.
It made sense that big-bodied midfielders Travis Boak, Tom Rockliff, Sam Powell-Pepper, Brad Ebert and Ollie Wines had the confidence and composure to stay strong over the footy until it was secured, but youngsters Willem Drew and Zak Butters also got in on the act.
Perhaps it was just one of those nights when everything and everyone clicked, but whatever the reason, it was stunning.
Those aforementioned Power ball-winners will likely present similar problems for the Roos tonight – Boak, in particular, has never looked better than he does right now.
Too much is left to too few for North in the middle of the ground. You know what to expect from bull Ben Cunnington, but his strength is somewhat wasted without a bit of class around him.
Shaun Higgins has oodles of it, and Jared Polec offers plenty – and will be keen to play well against his ex teammates – but it drops away quickly after that.
Skipper Jack Ziebell was invisible last week, and probably should have chased the footy for a bit even if only to get him involved in the game, but it’d be papering over the cracks to permanently move him from the forward line, where he is most dangerous and has the greatest impact on games.
The reality is the Roos probably aren’t much good and perhaps 2018 was a bit of an outlier. After all, they played off in a final-round match to avoid the wooden spoon only a season earlier.
Brad Scott has made three changes to the team that got touched up by Essendon. Luke McDonald returns from suspension, top-ten pick Tarryn Thomas is back in the side to play his fourth game and big man Nick Larkey will play his third match, and his first since 2017.
The outs are a little disheartening, with Paul Ahern, Bailey Scott and Jy Simpkin all dropped.
There’s no point crushing the confidence of young players, but it does seem like a bit of a cop-out to axe youngsters. And the less said about Paul Ahern’s season the better for the health of North Melbourne supporters.
Unsurprisingly, the Power are unchanged after one of their best wins in years.
Last time these sides met was in this same round last season, where the Power won by 33 points at Docklands. Polec earned the three Brownlow votes that day for his 34 touches, 12 tackles and a goal. So I guess it’s good news for the Roos that he’s on their side this time around.
The Roos managed just ten goals in that loss. Ben Brown booted four and Jarrad Waite kicked three. Waite’s loss has been a big one, he was still an excellent footballer whenever he could get on the field.
Port Adelaide are No.1 for inside-50 differentials after five rounds. The sample size is still small, but it’s not meaningless. Their midfield strength is translating into territory.
They’re also No.1 for clearance differential, and by a lot – they’re +45 on the season with the Demons No.2 coming into Round 5 with a +22 differential.
North are ranked 12th for clearance differential, and 15th for inside-50 differential. It’s going to take a dramatic change for them to negate Port’s midfield power.
Port Adelaide have won the past four encounters between these sides, and the last time they met at Adelaide Oval it was ugly, with the home side winning by 70 points.
I don’t think it’ll be that messy tonight, but Port should extend that streak to five games with a six-goal victory.
That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?
You can stream all of today’s AFL action between Port Adelaide and North Melbourne on Kayo with a 14-day free trial.