Does Port Adelaide get ahead of itself after a good win?
After a season-defining win over flag favourites Geelong a week earlier, Port Adelaide came crashing back to Earth on the weekend in a shock loss to the Western Bulldogs. For Power fans, however, it is a theme that is becoming all too common, writes Dave Lloyd.
A conversation over heard at a local pub on Saturday afternoon:
“Hey Dave, Port’s win easy tonight?”
“We should, but these are exactly the ones we’re capable of losing”
“Rubbish, you’ll touch them up, no problems”
“Wish I was that confident”
As I’m walking across the Adelaide Oval footbridge in steady rain, I discover that both my boots have a split in the sole and by the time I enter the Southern Plaza a steady *squelch squelch* is making its way up from my feet through my entire body to my ear drums.
In all reality I should have turned around and gone home then.
I didn’t for one thing I am not is fair weathered and there’s around 23,000 Port fans who are in the same boat.
When our crowds drop you can almost be assured there’s a core of around 23,000 who are the same people there win, lose or draw, rain, hail or shine.
It’s those people who, like me, went home Saturday night soggy and angry and probably woke up angry, hopefully not soggy.
I’ll cop being beaten by a better side, I’ll cop losing when you know you’re outclassed, but one thing I won’t cop is being outworked, and when Port lose its typically on the back of poor work rate.
Like every side we’re capable of turning the ball over under pressure and getting hurt on the rebound, that’s how the modern game is played and that cursed us through ’16 and ’17.
We tidied that up a bit last year and this season we’ve taken another step towards rectifying that.
But on Saturday night it wasn’t skills that let us down, it was work rate and the Bulldogs were harder and hungrier on the inside and worked harder and smarter on the outside.
This made me angry.
Some of our game play on the weekend was baffling.
Ollie Wines, 6’ 3” and 100kg, is built for the conditions.
He’s built for ‘see ball, get ball’, he’s never really played a tagging role but what is he asked to do on Saturday night?
He’s asked to quell the influence of Marcus Bontempelli in a role he’s unfamiliar with.
It didn’t work on two fronts: Bontempelli killed us on the inside and the outside and Wines had no impact on the game as he spun around looking for the Bont instead of playing on instinct and winning the ball.
I’m getting angrier now.
It was always going to be a night to play in front in general play.
So, what did we do in general play?
We spent most of the night behind or zoning off as one scrubber kick after another landed in the lap of an unchecked Bulldog playing in space in front of his man.
I talk about our defensive zone locking down on opponents when we win the territory game, as we did on Saturday night, but that zone bit us on the arse when we lost possession, as loose men for the Dogs scrambled the ball forward and we played off them in a zone.
It had to be man on man and we didn’t adjust at any point.
I’m really angry.
Again, we win the inside 50 count by 20 on the night, no less, and had some 24 more through the second and third quarters.
It wasn’t a night for leading up marking forwards, it certainly wasn’t a night for pack marking, but what did we do?
We bombed it onto Dixon and Ladhams’ head time after time expecting one of them to mark it.
It wasn’t going to work, and it didn’t.
At the foot of the pack we were constantly outnumbered, outworked.
Smart players in these conditions hang out the back as the ball invariably slips off hands and carries the pack and our plan was to leave Caleb Daniel out the back on his own like a cleaner mopping up the water coming out of my boots.
Now I’m livid.
I could go on.
The worst part of this diabolical loss is that to a man/woman that core of 23,000 I mentioned above would not have been one bit surprised by it.
Too often we’ve been let down and I didn’t walk away from the game disappointed, I walked away angry.
I walked away angry in cold, wet socks with driving rain and howling wind smashing me in the face but in a strange twist that wasn’t the worst part of my night.
Dave’s best: Hartlett, Lycett, Boak.
Changes for next week:
Dougal Howard and Karl Amon become available after serving their suspensions, Tom Rockliff and Justin Westhoff should earn a recall with their form in the SANFL.
Zak Butters, in particular, has had a few down weeks and should make his way out.
Steven Motlop, again, should be cast aside and Ladhams probably makes way for Howard.
In – Rockliff, Amon, Westhoff, Howard.
Out – Drew, Butters, Motlop, Ladhams.