Port beat Richmond in field play even if it was not as accurately reflected on the scoreboard. Charlie Dixon sprayed a few gimme goals, there was an untimely half-time siren that stopped Robbie Gray as he was about to put the ball to his boot alone in the goal square. Richmond showed a dogged determination to stay in a contest even when play was running against them, and that kept the margin tighter than it might have been.
True, it was at Adelaide Oval with a small but vocal crowd, and it was a below-strength Richmond side without Cotchin, Edwards and Houli. But there is a maturity in the way Richmond plays that tends to compensate for personnel. Besides, Shai Bolton and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith are more than adequately deputising in their roles.
Port’s method as much as the result was what was persuasive. In a season that has laboured through some turgid games it is of note that the teams at the top of the ladder are playing some of the most exciting and fast football. None better than Port, West Coast and in large part St Kilda and Richmond. Geelong, too, has had its moments.
Charlie Dixon did not kick accurately on Saturday night but he was the most magnetic forward on the ground. In the second half, as Pete Ryan observed, he made Noah Balta look like the other Alex Rance that Damien Hardwick spoke about.
The emergence of Pete Ladhams cannot be underestimated. This was the first time Hinkley had gone with Ladhams and Scott Lycett in the ruck and forward and it worked well. Ladhams has only played a handful of games but he already looks an accomplished AFL player. Few teams have been able to find that genuine target forward who can comfortably ruck, or the genuine ruck who can be more than a lumbering nuisance as a forward. Ladhams has to date suggested he is good at both.
They still have Todd Marshall to come back which will now present a query for Hinkley.
Travis Boak and Ollie Wines who both entered the season with queries on them in different ways are playing the best football of their careers. Boak was superb against Richmond and Wines is finding a better balance in his game working with the outstanding Zak Butters, and Darcy Byrne-Jones off half back. Connor Rozee is still also to come back into the team.
Port has previously been good for long periods of the year and tapered off, but there seems more balance to this team. All Power to them.
A BREAK BEFORE THE BIG DANCE?
The AFL could look at a Superbowl-style bye before the grand final this year as a concession to border restrictions and quarantine requirements.
It seems only a matter of time before the formality of abandoning the MCG occurs, which opens up possibilities in every state.
The two-week quarantine in WA presents the idea that if the decider was to be played there, the AFL could look at a week off before the grand final. In a pushed-back season that is already running finals in October, planning around such a contingency might mean more rounds in the home and away season need to be concertinaed to make space for a break in the finals.
NO AWARDS FOR PLAY-ACTING
On Saturday night, second-gamer Boyd Woodcock threw himself backwards to exaggerate a free kick for high contact in the opening minutes of the game. You could see his sheepish expression almost immediately as he tried to almost take back what he had done. There was no free, no harm done and play moved on.
Maybe that incident, and not the failure of the MRP to fine Callan Ward for his last-minute theatrics, was the point to be drawn out of the AFL’s fine of Tom Papley.
Woodcock checked his behaviour. Ward didn’t, but admitted he should have. As for the other nonsense that followed for Ward on social media we’d rather the comments of a lank-haired mouth-breather tapping his lonely man’s rage into his computer with his Twistie-stained fingers were ignored not amplified.
CAT OUT OF THE BAG?
Geelong coach Chris Scott kept the news until late in his press conference, but Nakia Cockatoo could be back in the senior team as soon as Friday.
He has been a frustrating – and frustrated – missing piece of the Cats puzzle.
A player of genuine class he has been denied by injury, but if he gets a chance and finds some form in these finals rounds he could be an important difference.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.