Nobody gave Port Adelaide any chance against the Sydney Swans at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday. I did a couple of days before the game. Why? because of the return of key ruckman in Paddy Ryder and the 200th game of the heart and soul of the Port Adelaide football team, in skipper Travis Boak. The Sydney Swans also looked weaker on paper in the rucking department. Sam Naismith might be a proficient ruckman, but against Ryder, I know who I’d chose to win that match-up. Sure the Swans won the hit out count (49-42), but it’s how the Port on-ballers were able to harass and pressure Sydney in the contest. Port Adelaide won the contested ball count 161 to 139 and it was a clear illustration of just how committed they were to the football.
It’s only round one, but if I was in the Sydney Swans strategy camp, I’d be seriously making major adjustments to their game plan because they have been sussed out big league. I’m sure Port coach Ken Hinkley watched the 2016 Grand Final tape of how the Western Bulldogs pressured Sydney at nearly every contest. When it counted the Swans were ineffectual and were forced into errors by the tenacity of the Power team. The JLT pre-season form is merely a modern day sporting MacGuffin. You cant read too much into what has been put on display. Power coach Ken Hinkley has spoken in recent weeks about being frustrated at his side’s inability to implement his game plan, but on Saturday, the whole team played as a well drilled, motivated unit.
Throw in the milestone game of skipper Travis Boak who led his side out for his 200th game. Whilst coach Hinkley said after the game it shouldn’t be a sole motivating factor, It did have an impact on the attitude of the Power players. Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert, Chad Wingard and Jared Polec got plenty of touches. Travis Boak was sensational with 26 disposals and 2 important goals. Port Adelaide played three debutantes and one player that stood out big league was Sam Powell-Pepper who kicked two goals. His first AFL kick was a goal and then later he booted a massive punt that sailed through the goals. Tall forward Charlie Dixon started to show the potential he has of becoming a potent forward target. He kicked two goals and was a handy presence in the 50 metre zone.
For Sydney it was a very welcome return to the AFL for forward Sam Reid. He marked strongly and kicked 3 goals. He provided good support to Lance Franklin who kicked 4 goals, who we thought was Sydney’s best player. His game wasn’t an easy one as his Port opponent in Tom Clurey made him compete for every mark and possession. It was a very entertaining match-up. New Swans captain Josh Kennedy also played a great game. He had 28 disposals and kicked a goal. Kennedy’s leadership skills are outstanding. His example of commitment to the football makes him the perfect fit to be the captain of Sydney for 2017. Luke Parker had plenty of the ball with 25 disposals and Harry Marsh chimed in with 24 disposals. Dan Hannebery had an average game with only 18 disposals and couldn’t add any real effective drive to the Swans offensive game.
The key to Port Adelaide’s victory was how they had a player in support around the contest. They found their men with accurate kicking or quick handball give offs. Everyone on the Power side looked out for each other and it was an inspiring 28 point victory.
Next week Sydney head to Melbourne for the Grand Final replay against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night at the Docklands, whilst Port Adelaide head home to face Fremantle next Sunday at the Adelaide Oval.
SYDNEY 4.3 8.5 10.6 12.10 (82)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.2 9.3 14.4 17.8 (110)
Sydney: Franklin 4, Reid 3, Robinson, Kennedy, Jones, Tippett, Jack
Port Adelaide: Young 3, Wingard 3, Boak 2, Powell-Pepper 2, Dixon 2, Trengove, Byrne-Jones, Amon, Polec, Hartlett
Sydney: Franklin, Kennedy, Reid
Port Adelaide: Boak, Wingard, Ryder
Sydney: Dan Robinson (shoulder)
Port Adelaide: –
Umpires: Brendan Hosking, Shaun Ryan, Jacob Mollison
Official crowd: 33,129 at the Sydney Cricket Ground