AFL Preliminary Final – Hawthorn v Port Adelaide: “Sometimes you kick. Sometimes you get kicked.”

Teams that rocket up the ladder from nowhere need to be carefully scrutinised.

Some are shooting stars, all bluff and bluster. Their performances and accompanying razzamatazz are footy’s one hit wonders. They last about as long.

But some are just seriously good.

After Port Adelaide did an absolute number on Richmond two weeks ago, the only thing I could salvage from the wreckage was the hope that the Power would prove to be in the latter category and that we hadn’t just been blown away by a flat track bully.

The Fremantle game last week confirmed that Port is no flat track bully.

They might have been lucky to be in touch at half time, but you don’t put 12 goals through a Ross Lyon defence in Perth in a half of footy without a fair dose of steel and class.

So I was fascinated to see how they would go against a real competition benchmark. Hawthorn. At the G. In a Preliminary Final.

Suffice to say, I’m convinced. 75,000 of us were.

The Port crowd set the tone. Noise, excitement and the visceral thrill of being here. That’s what finals are about.

By comparison, two weeks ago, Hawthorn and Geelong supporters assumed the air of a couple of old gentlemen at the club. “Oh, we’re here again, are we? Jolly good show.”

Then it was the players’ turn. Port’s manic forward pressure prevented a Hawthorn “inside 50” until nine minutes had elapsed. Boak latched onto a defensive fumble to boot Port’s first, but thereafter, the mania translated into missed opportunities.

Hawthorn, to their credit, remained relatively calm in the face of the onslaught and two goals in a minute from their first forward thrusts briefly ensured an improbable lead.

But Port continued to play with the intensity of 21 Duracell rabbits and by quarter time had 12 scoring shots to five. Only trouble is, nine of them were points. This profligacy would surely have consequences.

It did.

Hawthorn’s response was akin to a good solid motor mower after a long stint in the shed. It needed a few attempts to sputter to life, but once going, the machine was familiar and reliable. Six straight goals from the Hawks must have felt like six daggers after Port’s wayward brilliance. Gunston, Duryea and Suckling capitalised on Port mistakes and penalties and exacerbated missed opportunities from White and Westhoff. In a matter of minutes, Port’s playmakers, Gray and Boak were caught and smashed in tackles, a none-too-subtle reminder that finals pressure can get to even the best.

On a night of ebbs and flows, Port’s great ability was to keep finding something from players who were, for the most part, subdued.   Just as Hawthorn looked set to take control, Schulz and Neade bobbed up from nowhere to restore Port’s lead. Until Roughead and Smith restored it back again.

Late in the quarter Matthew White hared down the southern wing and pinpointed Schulz with a great pass. For a Tiger supporter that hurt. But Schulz missed – again. Then Burgoyne emulated White and spots up Roughie who doesn’t miss. For Port supporters, that would hurt more.

A two goal lead at half time feels bigger. Hawthorn has responded to the challenge as top teams do. Nervous Hawks fans around me crave the opinion of a calm neutral. Basking in this rare moment of authority, I suggest the first ten minutes after half time will decide it.

It actually took 12 but by then, Hawthorn doubled its lead and looked set to take control.  Roughie dobbed his 5th after a clumsy flurry of Port bodies resulted in a costly turnover – Ebert, Carlile and Hartlett appeared to be angrily remonstrating at one another. Not a good sign.

Yet still Port dug in. The hitherto unsighted Monfries courageously marked running with the flight of the ball and goaled. The equally unsighted Westhoff added another. Some stirring end-to-end footy followed, until Hale, from a ruck contest, and Roughie’s sixth, soccered, provided Hawthorn with two surprisingly soft goals to finish the quarter.

“In the bag”, I proffer confidently to the eager questioners. For a few moments I have cause to doubt, as Gray snaps a goal from a clumsily spilled marking contest, then Lobbe hauls in a strong mark – but misses.

As they’d done all day, Hawthorn steadied with poise through Smith and Gunston and led by 29 points with 18 minutes gone. Lewis had been subbed off, but Hodge, Mitchell and Langford had been superb and Stratton had obliterated Wingard.

Then Monfries is gifted a free against Gibson that looks for all the world like a belated umpires’ consolation prize. He goals. Ho hum.

Wingard finally breaks the Stratton hold and banana’s another.

Polec marks outside 50 and improbably shoots for goal. A flurry of arms on the line. Score review. Goal!

Monfries marks and goals. Four points the difference and, I hear, three minutes on the clock.

Where the hell has this come from?

Hawthorn rattled, panicked and out on their feet, somehow prevail.  As maturity and experience so often do.

Hawthorn’s ultimate story will be told next week.

But whatever had transpired in those last frantic minutes, the headlines must be about the Power from Port.

This team has been remarkable in what it has achieved in two years. Their last appearance at this venue against the Hawks resulted in a 27 goal annihilation.  The club was in every respect, a basket case.

I’ve no doubt that it will learn plenty from such remarkably defiant performance and will continue to flourish in the years ahead. As Geelong was in 2007, this is a team of breathtaking skill and run with a preparedness to take the game on in any circumstances. They have been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale top group of teams.

My one and only criticism is towards those Port supporters whose way of exulting in the success of this fine, young team is to continually slag off about the shortcomings of former players. Even Shaun Burgoyne, a brilliant Port Premiership player, has copped this infantile treatment. This sort of retrospective, chip-on-the-shoulder stuff is frankly disrespectful of the current playing group and what they are achieving.

The past failings of this club were far greater and more deep-seated than the limitations of a couple of individuals. That’s what makes this turnaround even more remarkable. You ought to appreciate what is emerging and enjoy it for what it is.

HAWTHORN                 2.3       8.4       13.6     15.7 (97)
PORT ADELAIDE         3.9       5.11     8.13     13.16 (94)
Hawthorn: Roughead 6, Gunston 2, Smith 2, Hale, Langford, Suckling, Duryea, Hodge
Port Adelaide: Monfries 4, Gray 3, Neade, Wingard, Westhoff, Boak, Schulz, Polec
Hawthorn: Roughead, Hodge, Mitchell, Langford, Smith, Hill, Stratton
Port Adelaide: Boak, Ebert, Gray, Hombsch, Jonas, Monfries
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Schmitt
Official crowd: 74,856 at the MCG
My votes: Boak (P) 3, Roughhead (H) 2, Langford (H) 1

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. Good wrap up Stainless, Port is well and truly on its way. There are one of three sides in this year’s competition that look a cut above the rest. The Hawks, Sydney and Port. In the end, the maturity of the Hawks won through, but only just. I was drained by game’s end. I could hardly sing the song. But we are on our way to the big game and I’m a happy Hawker!

  2. Very good write up of the match. I have watched he last quarter again with he article in front of me and this article puts you there.
    A question though: why does everyone use a new paragraph with each sentence nowadays?

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Stainless a good report until the last bit you really think the Hawthorn supporters are not going to get stuck in to buddy this week, Please .! Every clubs supporters gets stuck in to a player when they leave your club and play against you . In relation to
    Troy Chaplin I would say he is easily the least respected player with in the football industry from the stupidity of the emails he sent the port players to the way he carried on when the tigers beat the power earlier in the season would not be tolerated at a top club . The football karma bus got him in a big way in the final a couple of weeks ago , he’ll even tiger supporters were joining in , Chaplins a wanker
    Some things in footy will never change bagging ex players is one of them . It was a great game the powers poor kicking for goal cost then dearly but there young talent is frightening and the hawks resilience was v good

  4. Great wrap up. I was at the game last night and as a Hawks supporter I was in awe of Port They’re scarily good. Very upset that Burgoyne got jeered, he didn’t deserve that. And upset with the Port supporter that tried to pick a fight with my friend on his way out of the ground.
    However, all that aside, what a game it was! So happy that the Hawks are through to the grand final and I’m nervously excited about next week.
    Need to get my voice back. :-)

  5. I reckon the maggots slaughtered Port. So did bad kicking.

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