How fantastic Freo has burst into the flag fight and Rozee’s resurgence is key to Port’s season


It’s time to take Dockers seriously.

A 35-point victory over Carlton in front of a home crowd who are beginning to believe it was never really contested, outside of a wayward first term and a brief surge by the Blues in the last term. After a string of soft kills against Essendon, GWS and West Coast, that was the statement they had to make.

We didn’t necessarily know how good Dockers are. We do it now.

If you’re going to talk about Fremantle under Justin Longmuir, you can’t start anywhere but in defence. It was on the bottom that Longmuir began to build the Dockers squad we see today – securing an undersized group on Grade A talent and with a slew of injuries to rank fifth in points against in of its inaugural season.

Since then, the improvement of the rest of the pitch has continued to follow. Their midfielder, who made the bottom four for eliminations in 2021, is now in the middle of the table, while their number of tackles has exploded from last year to fourth at this stage of 2022. This means fewer opportunities for their rivals to send the ball. inside 50, while many odds for the Dockers themselves.

There have been some bright highs and crushing lows in 2021, but the 2022 Dockers look stable enough to make it to the Finals. And, just maybe, even more than that.

Interception kings Brennan Cox and Luke Ryan were terrific against the Blues, especially the former – ensuring an injured Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow had virtually no impact apart from a brief push over the course. of the last term. Equally crucial was the midfield, whose pressure and refusal to give in to a Blues group that has been unstoppable at times in 2022 has seen them translate a 34-32 clearance advantage into a 37-53 gap at home. interior of 50.

Trailing in the quarter thanks to some traditional Freo kicks for the goal – they led inside 50s 13-9 but threw 1.4 – they started to make the most of their control of the game from there.

The worm suddenly and brutally turned on the Blues – after failing to concede a goal on Freo’s first 12 starts inside the 50, the Dockers would slap five of their next 11.

With options opening up everywhere on offense, Lachie Schultz and Michael Walters particularly dangerous with a pair of goals apiece, the Dockers began targeting small on the runs rather than bombing long, where Jacob Weitering had mopped up in the first term. . The result was deep, and just two goals from six inside the 50 saw the Blues efficient but outmatched in the competition.

The rout continued in the third, with Rory Lobb’s height and scoring power beginning to worry the Blues. With three marks inside 50, the sometimes temperamental spearhead would really kick everyone. While Carlton remained deadly from rebounds from the center, they didn’t have enough chances to stop the margin from exploding.

When the Blues surged last season, it came from a drop in intensity from Docker. Suddenly, the Blues started running in waves down the middle as Freo grew tired – five of their six scores for the Chains game starting in defensive 50 came in that quarter.

But the Dockers were rarely threatened, with three of the last four goals ensuring the margin reflected their control over the proceedings.

He’s a Fremantle who wants nothing. Alex Pearce, Cox and Ryan couldn’t do much more in defence, the Will Brodie and Andrew Brayshaw combination in midfield was good enough to start speculating that Nat Fyfe would play forward when he returned, and a line forward previously thought light on power suddenly blessed with kick options to spare.

If anyone is going to challenge Melbourne this year, why not the Dockers?

Will Brodie celebrates a goal with his Fremantle team-mates. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Young Gun’s midfield move is key to Rozee Power’s future

We’ll soon find out if Port Adelaide’s 84-point win on the West Coast was the Power that finally woke up after a nightmarish start to 2022, or, you know, because they were playing on the West Coast.

But after a first term that was just as lousy as the five weeks leading up to it, there was a lot to like about Port’s performance, and enough to keep Ken Hinkley still believing his team might just have a pulse this season. .

It was an absolute procession after that first struggle – the Power ended with 76 more takedowns, 11 more center clearances and a staggering 31 more inside 50s (65 to 34). Better defenses than the injury-ridden Eagles, the group without Jeremy McGovern would not have been able to stop this deluge.

It should be noted that this is not a one-off display: the Power did the same with a more skilled side at Carlton in the second half last week. The key to this turnaround, and even better today, was the same player: Connor Rozee.

Moving the 2018 draft pick five to the middle should bring deserved kudos to Hinkley, a man not exactly known for his innovation by Port fans. He injected much-needed class into a midfield full of bulls, while his speed and ability to work in space helped the power flow endlessly.

Finishing with 31 kills and seven points, and hitting 83% efficiency, Rozee is exactly the creative ball user Power was looking for. Considering he averaged less than 10 kills per game over the first four rounds stuck in the footy graveyard that is the half-forward flank, his sudden influence is remarkable.

Putting the ball in Rozee’s hands also had a huge impact on Port’s 50th birthday. Where against Melbourne and Hawthorn they resorted to long bombs for an undersized and overmatched forward line, here the options found themselves with room to lead and precise passing to hold on to.

The result was a whopping 19 points inside 50, with Jeremy Finlayson and Todd Marshall suddenly looking like Wayne Carey and John Longmire with five goals apiece. The little ones, too, were visibly more confident, with the Power making 28 tackles at 50 to three with Sam Powell-Pepper, Steven Motlop and co. suddenly found themselves with chances to make an impact.

Equally important were the veterans: Ageless Travis Boak played a more outward role like a duck to water, running hard all day and even finding a way to have nine clearances when on the ball. Ollie Wines watched every square inch of the defending medalist Brownlow with his typical bull power in a tight and incredible work rate in space, traits that were sorely lacking against the Blues and in the second half against the Demons.

There’s still a lot to do for Port Adelaide – while a backline that has conceded just four goals may seem shaky, theirs has been shaky early on at times. Aliir Aliir is still finding his touch, and each time Charlie Dixon returns, the team will clearly be better off. An ill Zak Butters was barely seen and can be excused, while another injury setback for Robbie Gray is a blow.

A litmus test is also due to take place next week against St Kilda, where the Power will see their improvement truly judged. One miss there, and they’ll be exactly where they were before crushing the Eagles.

But as long as there is life, there is hope. And Rozee will be the key to what’s next.

Brave crows prove themselves, but what about dogs?

Forget the one-point margin. Forget the “controversial” center rebound error in the closing seconds. It was a complete victory for Adelaide over the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat.

In just about every stat, especially those that are barometers for the Dogs in their prime, the Crows held their ground. 15 more in the 50s against a team that relies on massive dominance of territory to thrive. Only three fewer eliminations and only five fewer authorizations. Four more contested possessions against – supposedly – ​​the deepest midfielder.

Only goal-kick accuracy – the Crows’ set pieces were literally hit and miss all day – and several slashed third-term chances kept the margin as close as it was. It would have been a travesty if the Dogs had pinched him.

Little praise has been received by coach Matthew Nicks during his two-and-a-half years in charge of West Lakes, but it’s time to give credit where it’s due. Luke Beveridge is no slouch tactically, but he has been thoroughly overwhelmed and planned by the Crows boss.

With frantic pressure, the Crows negated the Dogs’ greatest strength – their fast handballs into midfield. Chip kicks from the baseline were repeatedly cut, with the visitors making the Bulldogs’ passes look decidedly pedestrian with an almost clairvoyant ability to read the game. Not that their job was made all that difficult by the Dogs.

Dominating early with 13 touches in the quarter, Bailey Smith’s run and carry was put down from there. Never given space to run outside, the Bulldog would still finish with 29 touches, but spent much of the past three quarters surrounded and forced into hacking kicks rather than the penetrating runs that carved out the north from Melbourne on Good Friday.

Forcing the Dogs into a corner meant playing to their greatest strength – the Crows ruled the skies all day. Billy Frampton was titanic in the defensive half, finishing with nine marks and ten interception possessions, while ruckman Reilly O’Brien grabbed the mixed pack with deft taps to his little men at ground level. Jordan Butts, meanwhile, had the measure of Aaron Naughton all day. The loss of Tim English to a hamstring injury during the week was, in hindsight, the killer blow.

The result was 16 marks inside 50 to just eight, with many Crows coming from defensive half turnovers. In this, Shane McAdam and Lachlan Murphy played key roles, with the latter’s entries under 50 in the last term being delightful.

Then, of course, there was Taylor Walker, who rose to the occasion last term after being beaten by Ryan Gardner, and finished with three goals in his crucial final performance.

The Dogs’ biggest concern, however, remains the midfield. That a group as star-studded as the Bulldogs’ on-ball brigade, even with Marcus Bontempelli again well ahead, could be beaten by a relatively blue-collar group of Ben Keays, Sam Berry and Rory Laird is a major concern.

There were times in the last quarter when the Crows looked like Melbourne in the 2021 Grand Final, such was how easily they came out of the center circle with the ball in hand.

Forget missing Josh Bruce. Don’t forget Alex Keath. And don’t forget English. It falls to the likes of Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Adam Treloar – all in good shape to start the year – to right this ship.

Otherwise, it is possible that the Dogs are in a situation as perilous as Power. Which are now just a win worse.




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