AFL Round 3 – Port Adelaide v Adelaide: I blame Justin Westhoff

Showdown week is always a big week in South Australia, but truth be told the last few haven’t quite had the same edge as Showdowns past. Port’s struggles and Adelaide’s successes last year meant there was a gulf between the two.

This one was different though. Port Adelaide had started the year with two wins, and looked, for the first time in a long while, like a serious football outfit. They were up and about. Their fans were beginning to chirp.  The Showdown once again had a real coin flip sense about it. In the eyes of the neutral public, tipping either side was a realistic proposition.

Meanwhile I wanted every Port Adelaide fan to feel stupid for even daring to have drawn a shred of hope from the opening two weeks. They beat the Demons and the Giants. That is like beating an orange traffic cone in a one hundred metre sprint, and then demanding the world build giant gold statues to commemorate the achievement. They were convinced they were good, when in reality they had only just climbed out of the “offensive to the notion of football” bucket they’d occupied alongside Melbourne for the better part of a decade. This Showdown was going to bring them back to Earth. Somewhat regretfully though. If only there was some way we could make reality dawn on them while also allowing them to just drift off into space. With any luck they’d drift into one of those Alien inhabited planets and Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be around. Alas, we will just have to go on tolerating their presence on our planet.

I swear I’m normally a nice guy.

Despite the bravado of the previous paragraph I was not supremely confident. Adelaide has displayed a severe lack of intensity so far. Then there is fact Port has Justin Westhoff. Let me tell you about Westhoff. He is an okay footballer who plays like Gary Ablett Senior whenever the word “Showdown” is involved.

***

The ball is about to be bounced. It’s a beautiful day and there isn’t a tarp in sight. The game begins in a flurry, with the Power having the early running. They kick the first two, before Walker and Sloane respond. The siren sounds and Port possesses a four point lead, which didn’t really reflect their opening salvo. They had the ball in dangerous areas much more often than the Crows did. The problem, for Port, was the few times Adelaide did manage to break through, they scored. Three of their first four forward fifty entries resulted in goals.

The Power had the best of it in the middle, and only Dangerfield and Sloane were offering any real fight. Dangerfield is a majestic human being. Legend has it at the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold. Legend is wrong. At the end of the rainbow is the mere opportunity to establish eye contact with number 32. This is a far greater prize.

The second quarter began much like the first ended, with Port controlling general play and peppering the sticks. Their first chance at goal comes as a result of a stupid decision in the middle from Richard Douglas. This is something he is alarmingly prone to doing. He has a Masters in Momentum Killing. His error allows Monfries to answer with Port’s first of the new term. Instead he misses in an eerily Tippett-esque fashion.

Port had kicked five behinds in a row when Adelaide finally won clean possession past halfway. Henderson sends it forward to a Sloane v Hartlett one on one. Hartlett wins the battle of the air and attempts to punch it through for a behind. The ball sits on the line however, allowing Sloane to tap it through. Adelaide somehow leads by nine.

Westhoff misses another set shot, while at the other end Johncock kicks truly with his. Port Adelaide is being punished for their wastefulness. Soon the guys in black have eight behinds in a row. Captain Momentum Killer, aka Douglas, redeems himself with a great dribbling goal from the boundary. This is the difference between the sides. Monfries ends the run of behinds shortly before the close of the half, but Adelaide goes into the long break leading by fifteen. Port is on top in most areas, but is not taking advantage of their opportunities. The Crows meanwhile are taking full advantage of theirs, but are failing to create as many as their opponents. A rare case in which both sides could feel disappointed as they walked into the rooms.

The third begins with aplomb for the Crows. They kick the opening three goals, blowing the lead out to 31 points. No Adelaide fan could reasonably be content though. They support a side that has lost more games from that position than any other over the past decade, and in most of those they’d actually been playing well before the collapse took place. The same couldn’t be said on this occasion.

And so the foreseeable meltdown begins. Westhoff responds with two goals in quick succession. The second comes tight from the boundary. Dwayne Russell is clearly barracking for Port Adelaide now, and declares it an all-time classic. He probably felt the same about Speed 2: Cruise Control. I have decided the only thing I dislike more than Justin Westhoff is having to listen to Dwayne Russell barrack for Justin Westhoff.

Douglas again shows off the benefits of his Masters degree, missing everything when streaming into goal. Petrenko gets a steadier shortly afterward, but before I’ve even processed it Port Captain Travis Boak notices an empty goal square and takes advantage.

Things start to go downhill for the Crows. Dangerfield leaves the field with a bloody nose. Walker squanders an absurdly easy chance at goal. Their stupidity extends to the backline, as Westhoff kicks his third after three Crows muck around with the handball at the goal front. After the next centre bounce young Neade hits up an open Wines with the outside of his boot. He kicks truly, and the margin shrinks to seven.

The most egregious horror is yet to come. Wright takes a mark 45 out in front of goal for the Crows, and decides on a quick handball to Jaensch, who is immediately tackled. The ball travels down the other end where Boak kicks a mammoth goal. Dwayne Russell is practically squealing with every Port Adelaide touch. Scores are tied heading into the final term. Port has all the momentum, while the Crows seem to have forgotten how to play footy.

The fourth term begins. Schulz has the first chance of the final stanza, and his behind puts the Power in front for the first time in a long while. Wingard begins to take control of the contest. He kicks two impressive goals and extends his side’s lead. Adelaide’s tackling pressure is appalling as per usual.

Boak and Westhoff, the two best players on the ground, combine to add yet another Power goal. Lead out to nineteen. Westhoff performing out his skin in Showdowns has joined death and taxes. Every single touch of his enrages me. His wiry frame. His beard that bears a resemblance to road kill. He is to Adelaide what the Holy Grail was to Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. An ugly deliverer of our ugly demise. I begin contemplating taking up poetry. You thought Sylvia Plath was a downer?

Speaking of touches, Dangerfield hadn’t had one since his bloody nose. Walker creates a goal for Douglas, and nearly does the same for Johncock, but he misses across the face. Amidst Adelaide’s desperation to win the ball they suffer an abhorrent defensive breakdown. Three Port players find themselves unmarked inside fifty. There isn’t a single Crow within fifty metres. Wines waltzes in and gives his side a three goal lead. Port fans are beginning to remember what happiness feels like.

Things go from bad to worse. Vince flattens Wingard after a mark, a cheap shot that earns a report and a fifty metre penalty. He kicks his third of the term and puts the Power up by 24. The Crows snag a few, and a Dangerfield goal as the siren sounds means the margin is only nine. It’s one of the worst nine point losses I’ve witnessed. A call back to the good old Neil Craig days. Lead by five goals. End up losing. I’ve seen this movie before, and it’s worse than Speed 2.

Port was electric in the second half and thoroughly deserved their victory. Boak and Westhoff were the standouts, but Wines, Hartlett, Wingard and Monfries weren’t that far behind. Despite trailing at halftime, the contest had been in their hands all day, and it was only their failure to put their control on the scoreboard that allowed the Crows to hang around.

Adelaide on the other hand has a collection of footballers with questionable decision making ability, and a couple who could be accused of front running to boot. Their start to the year has been dreadful, and if they don’t improve their attitude they won’t be returning to the finals.

Too few are doing too much of the work. Dangerfield’s absence coincided with Port’s game changing surge in the middle of the third. This is not a coincidence. Rory Sloane was one of the few who looked like he cared, whereas everyone in a Port jumper played like it mattered. This was the difference.

My insides hurt. I blame Justin Westhoff.

 

Port Adelaide: 5.2 6.9 12.13 17.16 (118)

Adelaide: 4.4 9.6 13.7 16.3 (109)

GOALS

Port Adelaide: Westhoff 4, Boak, Wingard 3, Monfries, Wines 2, Schulz, Broadbent, Neade
Adelaide: Walker 3, Douglas, Sloane, Jenkins 2, Johncock, Reilly, Porplyzia, Dangerfield, Otten, Petrenko, Henderson

Best

Port Adelaide: Westhoff, Boak, Hartlett, Wines, Wingard, Monfries, Cornes, Heath

Adelaide: Sloane, Dangerfield

Umpires: Craig Fleer (2) Justin Schmitt (17) Sam Hay (20)

Official crowd: 40,707

Our Votes: 3 Westhoff (PA), 2 Boak (PA), 1 Wingard (PA)

 

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. Ben Footner says:

    Ah Adam, you echo my post Showdown thoughts almost to the letter. I swear Westhoff only plays 2 good games a year. As for Vince, time he had a break, forced or otherwise.

    Our midfield work is the thing of most concern, particularly at the centre bounces. Sanderson and co have their work cut out for them.

  2. Ben Footner says:

    I should add though that it was nice to see the Showdown return as one of the premier dates on the SA football calendar. That crowd was heaving last night, it seems to be at a constant roar for 4 quarters.

  3. What is your reading on Tex, Adam? I always thought that the twin towers was a challenge for defences, but now its more one dimensional.
    Last year I thought you had the best midfield and clearance team around. Sam Jacobs? Scott Thompson – is age catching up with him like it is with Kerr?

  4. Ben Footner says:

    If I could weigh in on Adam’s behalf Peter – I would say that Tex has done supremely well with limited supply so far this year. His mates in the midfield are letting him down terribly at the moment.

    Where he can he has been working up the ground capably to provide some assistance, but ultimately it’s his teammates in the middle that need the kick in the pants IMO.

    They lost every key stat on the weekend and when they did win the rare footy they insisted on trying to plop the thing on his head instead of delivering it to him with any sort of advantage.

  5. Adam Ritchie says:

    I think Ben is on the money here. Adelaide’s forward delivery has been fairly atrocious so far this year. A lot of senseless bombing going forward. Walker especially is great on the lead, but more often than not it has been put on top of his head rather than in front.

    That isn’t to say Walker couldn’t perform better. I think he needs to lead more often and force the guys in the middle to honour it. Overall though he is very low on my list of concerns. The Crows need some small forwards. Callinan is really the only one they have. Johncock plays like a third tall. Petrenko is a defender playing in the forward line. If Walker or Jenkins don’t mark it then we are unlikely to score. If Jaensch is to remain in the side, then I’d like to see him tried up forward. His ability to defend is highly questionable.

    Jacobs is more concerning. He doesn’t look the same force so far in 2013. I’m unsure if the new ruck rules are playing a significant role in this, but he is the type you would assume would be disadvantaged. I’d back him to turn it around, but he was a big part of our clearance excellence last season, so we need him to sooner rather than later.

    Thompson is still getting the same types of touches he usually does, they’ve just been less effective than usual. I think this is down to our stoppage work dropping off significantly. In the opening three rounds they’ve been getting first possession a whole lot less, and when they do win it they are nearly always outnumbered and set upon, more often than not resulting in possession being lost. I can’t remember too many clean wins from the centre bounce this year, whereas last year we’d normally get several a game where the opposition was no where near it.

    Down back is another concern. Eerily similar to the forward line in that the key position players are fine, but the smalls leave a lot to be desired. Talia was mauled by Westhoff on the weekend, but he is generally a safe bet on his opponent. Rutten is still trucking along, and Otten has been one of the few bright spots in the opening rounds. The smaller types, like Jaensch and Reilly, are okay when attacking, but generally get exposed when they are forced to defend an opponent. Brown is good, but young, so he is going to have subpar games like he did on Sunday. I believe he needs to be persisted with. Brodie Smith returning will be most pleasing. I think the club probably had their eyes on integrating him into the midfield/wing a lot more this year, but I think the problems down back may see him return there first.

    The good news is Adelaide have quite a few youngsters performing well in the SANFL at the moment, and if the team continues to stagnate some could be brought in to change the feel of the squad. Kerridge, Grigg, Lyons, and Riley, though he is injured at the moment, are all likely to play at some stage this year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if, gulp, Tambling is brought in and given a shot down back.

    All in all though, the Crows are not playing smart football at the moment, and aren’t showing enough desperation for my liking. They need to address this first and foremost.

  6. Adam Ritchie says:

    That is a lot more words than I intended to write…

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