Great news everyone! We have finally arrived.
Arrived where, you may ask?
Well, I could be going for the early crow here, but I think tonight we are about to be treated to one of, if not the best game of the home-and-away season.
There have been quite a few good games this season and as we edge closer towards the end of what has been an unforgettable season, the competition pacesetters have really emerged.
Geelong is one of those. Port Adelaide is another. They’re both coming off two straight victories and tonight we will see just what each team is made of.
Let’s start with Geelong.
I feel as though the Cats are seriously underrated, which seems strange to say about a side who finished on top of the ladder at the end of 2019 and played in its third preliminary final in four seasons.
I suppose that’s the thing with Geelong. They spoil us (and tease their fans) year in, year out with outstanding skill, pace and game plan. They are a quality side and continue to show up in the home-and-away seasons, often win a final or two, but can’t seem to take that last leap into the grand final.
But after watching the Cats play so far in 2020, the answer to their 2019 preliminary final “failure” seems clearer.
No Tom Hawkins and no Mitch Duncan, meaning Patrick Dangerfield had to do pretty much everything in the middle and up forward and playing All-Australian defender Tom Stewart on the wing.
Yes, it really is that simple.
After 11 games, Hawkins is equal first in the Coleman race with 24 goals. He makes an enormous difference, especially when he’s in ripper form the way he is now.
The Cats boast the best defence in the competition, with an incredible ability to clear the ball so easily out of the defensive 50 and transition it quickly from end to end.
Heading into Round 12, they’re also the number one clearance side in the completion and fourth for inside 50s.
They are incredibly well rounded.
But so are Port Adelaide, who have bucked their trend of playing really good football up until the halfway point of the season and find themselves sitting pretty in the top four before falling off, falling down the ladder and out of finals action for another season.
Credit to Ken Hinkley, he’s done a superb job with his troops this season, particularly with his star-studded second-year trio in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma.
But the real key to Port’s success is similar to that of Geelong’s…in the shape of an in-form key forward. Just like Hawkins is having another great year for the Cats, Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon is fit, has played every game since Round 2 and is in sensational form.
After 11 rounds (and ten games), Dixon sits equal third on the Coleman leader board with 21 goals. It certainly helps Charlie’s cause that his side is the number one team in the competition for entries into the forward 50.
Going into Round 12, Port Adelaide has entered their attacking 50 527 times, ten more than the next best (Brisbane) and 45 more times than the one after that (Suns).
So we’ve got the best defence in the competition going up against the team that enters their forward 50 the most. Makes for an incredibly interesting (and hopefully entertaining) game.
I think this is a serious 50-50 and I don’t think if we’ve had too many of them this season. Or maybe we have and I haven’t given enough sides credit where it’s due? Who knows really? 2020 has been wild.
Clearly, disposal efficiency is going to play a huge part in this game.
But where I think Port Adelaide might have the edge is their intensity and pressure around the football and how that could force an often clean and accurate Geelong to cough up the football and make uncharacteristic errors.
Going into Round 12, they’re the number one team in the competition for tackles (625), with Tom Rockliff, Travis Boak and Sam Powell-Pepper all getting involved.
But it’s more than that.
The pressure coming from players in the forward half of the ground is making a huge difference as well.
Rozee, Brad Ebert and Todd Marshall are all rated above average or elite for tackles inside 50 or pressure acts. They’re giving themselves and their fellow forwards the best opportunity to score.
And I have to make mention of Mitch Georgiades, who has been an exciting and energetic addition to the Port Adelaide lineup over the past five games and I am always on the edge of my seat, waiting for what magic he’ll make next.
I really rate Port Adelaide and what they have been able to do so far this season. They’ve got a great spread of talent in the team and while you can always rely on someone like Boak or Robbie Gray to step up and perform, it’s refreshing to see some of the kids contributing consistently as well.
In 2019, we saw sparks of their potential and just what they can do, but now they’re starting to develop and mature as players and it shows.
It’s hard to argue with a side sitting a game clear on top of the ladder. Port have my tip tonight.
That’s my Friday forecast. What’s yours?