I remember watching Port Adelaide’s first game this year against Fremantle and feeling very disappointed at the end of it. As the team many were tipping to win the flag this year, I was gutted that Port led all game only to fall short at the end. Of course, that’s before Fremantle won their first nine games in a row and started having the season the Power were expected to have. While the Dockers have blitzed nearly everything in their way, Port’s season has turned into a slog.
The problem is, of course, that when we’re good we’re very very good (v Hawthorn – that opening quarter!) and when we’re bad we’re horrid (v Brisbane). Sitting at 9th on the ladder with five wins from 10 games is not where we’d hoped to be. We absolutely have the toughest draw in he AFL but whinging about it won’t change anything and at the end of the day, you’re pretty much gonna have to beat everyone if you’re gonna win the flag. But I switch on a game every weekend and rather than sitting back, relaxing and enjoying it, I’m always nervous and concerned – which Port Adelaide is going to show up?
Last weekend wasn’t much different. The 38-point win over the Bulldogs belied what a tough, close and grinding game it was for the first three quarters. While Port led at every change, the highest quarter break margin was only the 16-point lead we had at half time. I never had the ability to settle in because I was always a few seconds away from panicking we were going lose this. Nothing like living on the edge, right? Most of the contests involved hard tackling and subsequent stacks on of players jostling for the ball until the game looked like nothing more than a series of throw ups from the umpire.
Port aren’t back at it’s best but to use the key word again, we’re grinding there. I think the loss to Brisbane was particularly damaging for our confidence and often we seem to forget that we know how and are capable of playing good footy. Sure, other teams have probably figured us out a bit this season and we’ve lost the element of surprise, but we’re just not looking as consistently free flowing and assured as we have been in the past couple of seasons. The last quarter we regained a bit of that, kicked straight, and did the requisite damage on the score board. It was nice to see a bit of percentage added on and the boys run out eventual clear winners.
Wingard had an absolutely magic game and was best on ground for mine. I liked his effort all night and he competed well, tackling, setting up other players and kicking a couple himself. He’s just got the cliché silky skills. Wines had a cracker, as did Westhoff and Boaky did well even with two Dogs tagging him. Robbie Gray again, man… Just a pleasure to watch. I’m not sure I’ve ever appreciated him so much as I have this year and what he brings to our team is almost immeasurable. I’ve called him the Rolls Royce before and honestly, sometimes it’s like watching a race where the Rolls is lining up against the Datsun 180Bs. He’s just that good.
We play Geelong this Friday night in Adelaide and are favorites with the bookies, though the churning in my gut hasn’t subsided. Still nervous. I’m not sure you can take much from the Cats’ 69-point demolition of Essendon as an indication of how they’ll come to play against Port but clearly they’ll be feeling OK going in. And will both teams sitting at five wins for the season this will be a crucial scalp for Port to capture – all the while I’ll be shredding my hands to pieces and hoping for the absolute best.