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.
Port Adelaide defeated North Melbourne 12.16 (88) to 11.6 (72) on Friday night at the Adelaide Oval, and here are my key takeaways for the Power, starting with the top five players.
Immense. Colossal. Borderline unstoppable in current form.
Boak had a match-leading 38 touches, 11 clearances and 618 metres gained in a behemoth of a game.
He is the dominant player in the competition over the first six rounds and the stats support that statement if you care to look them up.
Boak won the Peter Badcoe medal for the third time and rightfully so. Such an important role model for the young men at the club.
With four goals and 28 touches, Gray could feel aggrieved to not attain best-on-ground honours, but such was the chest-pounding dominance of Boak’s performance I’m sure Sammy would have graciously tipped the hat.
Kicking three snapped goals on your non-preferred leg is no mean feat, but Gray did so with aplomb.
His brilliant holding-the-ball tackle on a raging Ben Cunnington was inspiring and his work ethic and repeat efforts should be heralded.
His career has taken the hard road and it was the making of him. Port Adelaide’s own atomic ant.
Rozee is one of those players who you need to see live to fully appreciate.
He is constantly making dangerous runs and popping into pockets of space, straining on the end of the defender’s leash.
Halfway through the third quarter, Rozee turned on the style and then the jets as he burst through Kangaroos defenders to pick up soccered pass and calmly centre to Boak. What you probably didn’t see on TV was the run started at the half forward line.
Then just a few minutes later, as a high ball came in, Rozee launched skyward to mark and goal in special circumstances.
The chant of ‘Rozee’ cascading down from the Southern Stand, in just the boy’s sixth AFL game, was a poignant moment.
A rampaging performance from Powell-Pepper, who sets the tone for hardness and work ethic.
He batters down bodies, breaks away from packs and chases lost causes in a blitz of ferocious human endeavour.
If he could combine moments of calmness in possession with the more manic norm, he could become a truly elite player. But in the mean time I’ll take the battering ram.
Tom Rockliff earned a mention and Dougal Howard was the yin to Houston’s yang down back, but Dan had the slightly more damaging game.
He took a couple of big intercept marks, including a stunner that excited the whole ground.
Houston’s raking kick is such a weapon coming out of defence and he appears to be elevating his game.
When Jasper Pittard had the ball deep in defence at the start of the last quarter, the crowd had a moment of rare enjoyment as a player who was a lightning rod for frustration while at Port acted out something of a banana-skin routine and put the ball out on the full.
Enjoyment turned to doubt and a few cries of “he is no chance” rang out as Scott Lycett was handed the resulting kick in the pocket.
The big man proceeded to seamlessly put through a check-side in response and put the Power out of reach.
The game plan last year was slow and uninspiring to watch, which combined with a focus on mature-age recruits to dampen hopes.
This year, the recruits and the game plan appear to be aligned and are offering excitement and hope by the spadeful.
When Willem Drew handballed aggressively off his knees to Zak Butters in space, the skinny young fella appeared to be about to be steamrolled into the ground by big North Melbourne bodies.
Instead, he pirouetted out of the grips of a looming defender and sent a high ball over the Roos defence, creating a launchpad for Rozee’s terrific mark.
The questionable brain department
Having established an unassailable lead in the last quarter, Port kept sending the ball forward but poor decisions and goal-kicking ensured the Kangaroos were able to rebound quickly and mount a comeback of sorts.
Goal-kicking and game management remain an area where improvement is required.
Returning home after their most impressive performance of the season, Port led all day and largely impressed without ever looking at their absolute best.
This represents a sign of development: achieving an expected result in largely expected fashion.
There were many solid performers, including a back line that responded confidently to Tom Jonas’ late withdrawal, with younger leaders emerging.
When the rare talent of Chad Wingard left Port Adelaide, fans expected to miss the special nature of his gifts.
Who would have thought Port would have unearthed three special talents in one draft, including another No.20 who’s already capable of filling Chad’s shoes: Connor Rozee.
Port’s potential no longer appears limitless. Its outer bounds were arguably approached in the aggressive destruction of West Coast, but as Port Adelaide supporters can sense, Rozee’s potential just might be.