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 were defeated by Collingwood on Friday night 15.8 (108) to 10.9 (69), as a fast-starting Collingwood did enough damage in the first quarter to push the game well out of Port’s reach.
Here are my key takeaways for the Power, starting with the top five players.
Boak wasn’t at his best and most damaging but in his 250th was one of the few players to stand up, kicking Port’s opening goal and accumulating thirty-two touches.
Unfortunately, his team couldn’t produce anything like their best on a milestone night for the former captain, though he remains a champion of the highest order.
The veteran battled hard all night and tried to pull his team back into the game in his usual all-action role, gathering twenty-nine touches and eight marks. Unfortunately, couldn’t quite find his 300th AFL goal, having a wayward night in front of goal kicking 1.3.
Like the rest of the team started poorly but did work hard to respond and ended up having twenty-eight touches.
Wines gave away several horrible turnovers, including one he was absolutely filthy at himself for, but in a night where many went missing, he at least kept on fighting.
Might seem strange to see Byrne-Jones on this list considering the manner in which his direct opponent Jaidyn Stevenson ripped the game open in the first quarter, but Darcy responded strongly.
In the second quarter Bryne-Jones became a key offensive force for Port, running off Stevenson to assist in wresting the momentum and holding the game breaker to one more goal for the rest of the quarter.
Scott Lycett and Paddy Ryder
Ryder and Lycett were obliterated in the first quarter as Brodie Grundy put on a clinic and to add insult to injury Lycett fumbled a key opportunity in the goal square which might have stemmed Collingwood’s early momentum.
However, from then onwards Ryder and Lycett battled back to end up edging Collingwood in the hit-outs and kicking three goals between them, to arguably be the only area of the ground Port won or broke even.
When Westhoff drifted out the back and cleverly baited a Collingwood player into smothering fresh air, his goal put Port within twenty-four points at half time and within potential striking distance.
Unfortunately, that was to just about be the high-water mark of the game and the mountainous lead and momentum Collingwood gained in the first quarter would prove a bridge too far.
Port seemed to stem the bleeding in the centre and find their rebound play in the second quarter, exemplified when Xavier Duursma went down the wing to Westhoff in space leading towards the boundary with seven minutes remaining.
Westhoff did his customary wheel around and went long to Karl Amon who spilled the ball forward to Connor Rozee, in turn deftly pushing the ball with his foot to Brett Ebert who sent a handball out just in time, as two Collingwood players converged, to find Lycett free to run into goal and reward some smart play.
It was an excellent team goal which displayed a fleeting glimpse of Port at their best but ultimately it proved a false dawn, as Nathan Buckley and Collingwood wrested back control after half-time.
Port were convincingly beaten in many areas but the uncontested possessions were particularly surprising as Collingwood shaded Port 273 to 200, with their disposal efficiency running at 76 per cent compared to Port’s 69 per cent.
Under the roof at Marvel has long been an all too familiar bane for Ken Hinkley’s Port teams; they appear to get outrun, but it is getting caught out of position by poor disposal which is the cause of most of their issues against higher grade teams at this venue.
Port ultimately put up a poor performance as Collingwood showed them the power of the fast start to steamroll their way to a forty-five point quarter-time lead.
If you exclude the West Coast game, the slow start has been a recurring feature of Port this season and Collingwood exploited this weakness in the way you would expect a quality team to do so.
However, in a 22-game season, to paraphrase the Rocky who doesn’t ply his trade at Alberton, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
Port did have the far younger list in this game and certainly some younger players went missing as you might expect.
Yet, no amount of handwringing or wallowing in the treacherous mud of defeat is going to assist in next week’s challenge: a Crows team who has suddenly found some form, at Adelaide Oval.
In a game where you must win or learn, the hope will be Port and their new recruits can learn at light speed.