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Opinion

Steven Motlop soars back to his roots

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19th June, 2020
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Sometimes a moment can encapsulate a game. On Saturday night in Port Adelaide’s 75-point Showdown win at the Adelaide Oval, Steven Motlop’s soaring mark represented a rejuvenated player and team.

Now 29 years old and having failed to hit his straps as a player since arriving at Port Adelaide, many would have been forgiven for thinking Motlop’s trek might be coming full circle.

Instead, Motlop rose again in a Showdown to capture the headlines.

With the Power having established a 45-point lead early in the third quarter, the ball broke outward from a contested pack at centre half forward to Hamish Harlett, who sent out a high ball into the inside 50 flank, with the diminutive Motlop caught behind Crows defender Paul Seedsman.

Unlike his brother Daniel, Steven is not renowned for his aerial efforts, but on this occasion he channelled his brother in more ways than one: soaring before using Seedsman as a perch, with outstretched arms, recalling the muk muk, the mighty sea eagle, which forms the crest of the brothers’ home-town club.

The mark was indicative of a performance in which Motlop appeared to wind back the clock to something like his electric best, coupling his airborne effort with a game of devastating run-and-gun footy.

Steven Motlop

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Wriggling and squirming out of tight spaces and showing a burst of pace I thought might have deserted him, Motlop appeared athletically reinvigorated.

Indeed, reinvigorated is a word that appears representative of Port Adelaide’s fortunes as a whole.

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This Port team is quickly emerging from the ashes of a failed Ken Hinkley build based upon trading for senior players, of which Motlop was one.

Formerly seen, from the outside at least, as part of the problem, he is establishing himself as part of the solution: a mixture of experienced heads and precocious young talents.

Perhaps the exuberance and flair of Port’s exciting young brigade is reminding the Northern Territorian of his footballing upbringing.

Steven and his brothers Shannon, Daniel and cousin Marlon (who still works with the Port Adelaide Academy) all grew up playing for the Darwin-based Wanderers Football Club, a founding member of the NTFL, before becoming AFL players.

The footy in the Northern Territory has a slightly different feel. Despite the heat it is devastating and attacking going forward with plenty of flair and athleticism, while being a little more lax on the defensive side.

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It was in these conditions that the mercurial talents of the Motlops were formed and still, reputedly, are infrequently showcased.

I have it on good authority that Steven still occasionally turns out for his boyhood club when he returns during the off-season, as do older brothers Daniel and Shannon, now 38 and 41 respectively.

Steven is by all accounts one of footy’s genuine nice guys, a role model whose influence upon the next generation is clearly valued.

If he can continue recapturing his best form, that value is exponentially multiplied.

And yet how do we value the significance of a moment in time?

I have one encounter with the magnificent muk muk, the sea eagle, seared into my memory.

As a child in Kakadu National Park I watched a sea eagle, with a white breast and black wings descend into a flock of magpie geese scattering them in all directions, flying through the eye of the feathery storm without ever losing sight of its target.

At the Adelaide Oval on Saturday night, Motlop rose with similar majesty and focused intent, the black and white of Port’s historic prison-bar guernsey symbolising two proud traditions. Ties that bind.

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Sometimes the moment aligns with the journey in unexpected ways and, to me at least, a muk muk on the Port appears anything but out of place.