PORT ADELAIDE 5.3 11.7 16.13 19.19 (133)MELBOURNE 3.1 7.2 7.3 8.6 (54)GOALS: Port Adelaide: Schulz 4, Monfries 3, P Stewart 3, Hartlett 2, Moore, Heath, Wingard, Pittard, Westhoff, Cornes, Wines. Melbourne: Howe 2, Clark 2, Pedersen, McKenzie, Viney, Byrnes. BEST: Port Adelaide: Hartlett, Boak, Wines, Brad Ebert, Schulz, Wingard, Cornes. Melbourne: N Jones, Viney, M Jones, Grimes. INJURIES: Melbourne: Clark (ankle). UMPIRES: Pannell, Ryan, Farmer. CROWD: 22,924 at MCG.
If ever there was a portent for the toe-curling torture that was to come, it lay in the first alarming statistic of the day: Melbourne did not register its first kick until almost six minutes into the game. At that point the Demons were only a goal behind; arguably, they looked better when they weren’t getting the ball.
The reason for this was the answer to the question no one in the Demons rooms could find. Why were they so bad? Because Port Adelaide brought a relentless pressure from first siren to last, and the Demons simply couldn’t cope.
Port coach Ken Hinkley admitted he was conscious ”there will be days where it won’t go as good as it went today for us”. And how. As bad as this was for Melbourne, this had the sense of a landmark afternoon for Port and its new coach.
”Constant pressure builds and it keeps building and … at some stage, there’s going to be a little break somewhere,” Hinkley said.
He was speaking specifically of a third quarter in which no goals came until 14 minutes in, whereupon the Power kicked five to kill the contest. But really, his assessment applied to every chunk of a game that was not so much forgettable for Melbourne, as all-too sickeningly familiar.
Port had six players wearing its colours for the first time, and three on debut. Melbourne had seven new Demons, and similarly three total newbies. That Jack Viney and Matt Jones acquitted themselves so well wasn’t lost on coach Mark Neeld, who couldn’t understand why more seasoned teammates could not sustain their efforts.
”We talk about who’s a competitor and who’s not, and the general feeling in the room was that everyone’s a competitor – at times,” Neeld said. ”There weren’t too many who were able to get up in front of everybody and say, ‘I thought you competed all day’.”
For all its layers, football remains a game of basics, and Neeld was equally mystified as to why his players got so many of them so horribly wrong. The second quarter was emblematic, as two of Port’s six goals were Easter Sunday gifts, wrapped and delivered by foot errors coming out of defence from Tom Gillies and Lynden Dunn. In a third, Paul Stewart had time to fumble, recover and stroll in to goal.
At times the home team applied so little pressure it looked like it was saving itself for next week.
Mitch Clark was underdone and fortunate not to be hobbled by another leg injury, escaping a third-quarter scare with a rolled ankle. Viney had a tremendous first half before tiring, and still finished with a game-high 16 contested possessions. Both Joneses, Matt and Nathan, gave their all, and captain Jack Grimes stood up in the third-quarter heat.
But there the glimmers went dark. Not so for Port, which had upside everywhere, not least in the manly figure of Oliver Wines, who saw Viney’s impressive debut from close quarters and raised him.
”They don’t rely on too much of the other stuff in football, they just rely on their work and their hardness at the footy,” Hinkley said of Wines and Viney.
Lewis Stevenson and Jake Neade also showed good signs, but it was the three- and four-year players who hold the key to hopes of a Power surge back to the competition’s upper reaches.
Hamish Hartlett is maturing into an elite on-baller, Jasper Pittard a top-notch defensive launchpad. Travis Boak revelled in his first game as captain, Chad Wingard offered spring-heeled surprise.
High flying provided the only facet of the game where Melbourne almost competed, Jay Schulz’s second-quarter hanger immediately followed by Cam Pederson’s at the other end. Both happened on the goal line, were reviewed, and allowed to stand, although Schulz seemed so out of play he was lucky he didn’t land in the cheer squad.
Geelong’s Steve Johnson had tweeted pre-match congratulations to Hinkley, declaring his arrival as a coach long overdue and describing the former Cat as the greatest influence on his career. On this evidence his imprint on Port will be just as spectacular.
THE KEY STATS
■Port’s winning margin of 79 points was its biggest interstate win since the 2005 elimination final against North Melbourne, when the Power won by 87 points.
■Oliver Wines and Jack Viney were best mates growing up and they both had outstanding debuts. Wines finished with 24 disposals, 16 contested possessions, five frees for, six inside 50s, three clearances and three score assists. Viney finished with 22 disposals, 16 contested possessions, six clearances, one goal and one score assist.
■The Power ran away with the game in the third quarter, winning the inside 50 count 16-7 across the term. It finished with 35 disposals inside the forward 50, while Melbourne had just two – only one of which was effective.
■Port Adelaide grabbed twice as many marks inside 50 than the Demons, winning the count 18-9. It finished with 18 scores from set shots and Melbourne recorded just seven.
■Travis Boak dominated around the stoppages, winning 11 clearances, including nine out of the centre. He also finished with a game-high nine inside 50s.
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