AFL Round 22 – Fremantle v Port Adelaide: A crazy year

By John Kingsmill

Port ditched Carlton out of the eight in Round 13 and those two clubs have been locked in eighth and ninth position ever since. It’s been a miraculous run for the Swampies. They became a basketcase under Mark William’s last throw and stayed there under Matthew Primus’s reign.

In one dizzy year, they’ve become this year’s gatekeeper of the eight. Ken Hinckley hasn’t stopped smiling for two months while Mick Malthouse’s hair has turned a paler shade of despair.

But last week, Carlton beat Richmond and Port’s two-game buffer shrank. Port had to beat Freo today or Carlton next week to stay in the eight. The camp was tense. Essendon looked as if it was going to court. Ninth wouldn’t be good enough.

In the first quarter, Freo started with big bangs from little guys. Two goals each from serial pest Hayden Ballantyne and another dangerous flea, Michael Walters, put Port on their back foot. Justin Westhoff, Robbie Gray, Travis Boak and Brad Ebert gathered much of the ball but little of it was effective. In contrast, Freo’s machine looked slick, well-oiled and menacing. Lachie Neale, Nathan Fyfe, Ryan Crowley, David Munday and Christopher Mayne had it on a string.

Freo filled the back half crowding every Port possession, forcing the spill, and then breaking and spreading for easy runs through the centre. Port couldn’t go with them.

If the little guys gave the Port defenders the shits in the first quarter, Freo’s scary big men came into the play in the second. Zac Clark kicked one from the goal square in the second minute, Matthew Pavlich kicked two beautiful long goals from outside fifty and Michael Barlow kicked a long one, too.

The only comic relief in the first half (although Port didn’t laugh) came when Walters tapped the ball towards goal in front of Ballantyne’s path. Ballantyne chased it, waving his foot at it, trying to soccer a goal. He tripped, fell over and tried to backheel it into goal. Many thought that he missed it on at least four occasions but the goal umpire gave him two stars… I mean two flags… for effort.

At half-time it was ten goals to one. Port’s only goal had come from an angled dribble-kick from the boundary by Jake Neade late in the first quarter. It was one of those kicks along the ground with a bounce and spin that the players claim they practice. Yeah, sure. I’d like the Australian Skeptics to investigate their claims that they know exactly what they are doing.

Port’s 1.3 for the half was the club’s worst start since Jack Cahill played in the under sevens. Lachie Neale was playing a blinder; Barlow had a big quarter and Mayne and Fyfe had complete control of traffic. Pittard and Monfries were the only two Port players who coughed up anything in the second quarter.

In the third, Freo maintained its rate of five goals per quarter although, to their credit, Port kept them goalless for twenty minutes and managed three of their own through Chad Wingard, Ebert and Jay Schulz. Wingard had ten disposals for the quarter but was subbed off with a slight groin strain. Later Hinkley conceded that Port couldn’t get back the game and he wanted Wingard on ice as soon as possible.

By the last quarter, the game had died but no-one told the players. It was an eleven-goal quarter with honours shared. The defenders were too tired to care and the forwards needed goalkicking practice.

Fremantle moved to third on the ladder and, with the news of Carlton’s loss to Essendon, Port walked off the field knowing they were now bedded down in eighth. At the MCG post-match conference, James Hird conceded for the first time that his club would face sanctions. After its worst loss for the season, Port flew home in a better position than when it left. Port has secured seventh spot and will face the sixth best team in the comp in its first final, rather than fifth.

This is a crazy year.

FREMANTLE 5.4 10.4 15.7 21.8 (134)
PORT ADELAIDE 1.1 1.3 4.4 9.6 (60)

GOALS  Fremantle: Ballantyne, Pavlich 4; Walters 3; Clarke, Sheridan 2; Crowley, Barlow, Hannath, Neale, Johnson, Sutcliffe.
Port Adelaide: Neade, Wingard, Ebert, Schulz, Monfries, Mitchell, Young, Gray, Moore.

BEST Fremantle: Neale, Fyfe, Ballantyne, Mayne, Walters, Barlow, Johnson, Mundy, Clarke.
Port Adelaide: Gray, Lobbe, Westhoff, Boak, Moore.

UMPIRES  Margetts, Dalgliesh, McInerney. CROWD 35,565
OUR VOTES  Neale (F) 3, Fyfe (F) 2, Gray (P) 1.


  1. boak was invisible

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