On exposed form in 2018, the Port Adelaide that arrives at Etihad Stadium on Saturday is an extremely different beast to the one North Melbourne faced at Adelaide Oval in 2017.
Port has made two changes this week; Dom Barry and Aidyn Johnson in for Hamish Hartlett and Lindsay Thomas.
I’m flattered by the reception from the Goldstein, Mitchell and centre bounce setup post from earlier in the week. Thanks for all the kind words and if you haven’t read it, you can do so here.
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How does Port play?
The simplest way to explain it is to look at two statistics – uncontested possessions and marks. In four out of five matches, Port has had way, way more of both than its opponent. In essence, it means the Power are attempting to control the tempo and play the game on their own terms.
Has it been working?
To take a page out of Reverend Lovejoy’s book; short answer ‘yes’ with an ‘if’. Long answer, ‘no’ with a ‘but’ – and in recent weeks it has trended towards the latter.
What does ‘yes with an if’ mean?
If Port has been allowed to find the corridor quickly with this short kicking game plan, it has found success. Think of what we watched Hawthorn do in the third quarter last Sunday, and you’ll have the ideal blueprint for what the Power want to do when they have the ball.
The closest Port has come to that against a quality opponent this season was the third quarter against Sydney at the SCG, but it was partly dictated by the conditions which meant a slight departure from the normal game style.
What does ‘no with a but’ mean?
But without some of the first-choice tall personnel, all too often Port has looked hesitant when attempting to move the ball, particularly out of its back half. This results in excruciatingly slow possession, and allows the opposition to clog up the middle, move the Power out wide and force either a stoppage or turnover.
If you didn’t watch Port v Geelong on Saturday night, think of Essendon’s attempts to move the ball in the third quarter on ANZAC Day as a comparison. Not as bad as Essendon’s though, just to be clear. Few things this season have been.
Who are the Power missing?
Paddy Ryder went down in the season opener with an Achilles injury, which has forced Port into a ruck-by-committee solution. All of Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff and Dougal Howard have spent time in there at certain points.
Todd Marshall is on indefinite leave after the passing of his father. Add it to his mum passing away from cancer late last year and it’s a double whammy no 19-year-old should ever have to experience in such short order. Family comes before everything, and hopefully he’s given the time and privacy to grieve properly.
On the field, his absence was keenly felt against Geelong, even though he’s only played seven AFL games. It’s one less marking option up forward, and when you combine it with either Dixon or Westhoff spending time in the ruck, there are simply fewer options when the ball slows down – which gets to the heart of why Port can get bogged down at times.
Elsewhere, Sam Powell-Pepper, Lindsay Thomas and Matthew Broadbent are all best 22 or fringe players who are unavailable for Saturday.
Come back to The Shinboner on Saturday morning for the Five Questions preview piece, and then on Sunday morning for the review piece. Until next time, catch me over on Twitter at @rickm18.