Ah, the old jumper debacle.
Port Adelaide finished their Marsh Community series with a ten-point victory over the Western Bulldogs in sunny yet windy conditions in Whyalla on Saturday to go two from two during their pre-season campaign.
Having been impressed last time out against the Lions, I was expecting a similar performance with both Robbie Gray and Scott Lycett both returning from State of Origin. Although Gray was a late scratching it was the pair’s first hit-out in Power colours with Ken Hinkley selecting virtually his best 22 minus the injured Ollie Wines.
During pre-season games I very rarely worry about the result but more about the performance, game style and ball movement as well as any draftees to see how Port’s youngsters fare.
Todd Marshall looked lively for most of the day finishing with 11 disposals and 2.2, which should have been more but he is one that simply has to nail down a spot in Port’s forward line. He has been on the list for a few years now and despite being only 21 this has to the year he takes that next step. On Saturday he showed glimpses of why he was a high first-round pick but now needs to string together performances like this regularly.
Connor Rozee looked at his best already, clean with ball in hand and a smooth and classy mover as he finished his day with 14 touches and a goal as he spent more time in the midfield, which is something I can see happening more and more as he develops throughout the year.
Port’s pick 18 from the 2019 draft Mitchell Georgiades had a strong finish to the game, crashing packs and going for his marks. Despite finishing with only seven touches and a goal, his performance was much more than that as he went at 100 per cent disposal efficiency. He is one I am really exciting about this year as you can see his aerial threat on show on Saturday as he was not afraid to fly with Charlie Dixon in packs.
The one player who really impressed me on Saturday was Sam Powell-Pepper. The young raging bull was at full pace all day and gave everything like it was the regular season. He finished with 25 disposals going at 72 per cent with eight of them contested with five tackles, three clearances and six inside-50s to go with his solid outing. This is the type of game Power fans want to see week in and week out from him this year as he looks to take his game up a level this year after a disappointing year last year.
Dixon has looked great in his two outings during the pre-season as he managed 2.3 from his eight touches before his day was ended prematurely. I, like every Port fan, was holding my breath when he hobbled of in the third quarter with his adductor injury but my fears were allayed during Ken Hinkley’s post-game presser that he should be good to go for Round 1.
Travis Boak and Darcy Byrne-Jones were among the Power’s best as they finished with 29 and 26 touches respectively in their final pre-season match before facing the Suns.
The biggest thing to take out of this game was that when the Dogs pulled out to a 20-point lead halfway through the last quarter, all I was looking for was Port Adelaide’s fighting spirit because even though it is a pre-season match you still don’t want to get blown out. With Dixon and Lycett both out the game, I did have my doubts as Port have been known to lay down on occasion. But those doubts faded quickly as Port’s young guns took it upon themselves to get their side back into the game and eventually win it with the breeze at their backs.
Confidence is high at Alberton after finishing with two wins from two against sides from last year’s top eight. With injury fears over Dixon and Lycett somewhat allayed, Port is shaping up to have a strong start to the season, but pre-season form means nothing when the real stuff rolls around in a couple of weeks.