AFL Round 4 – Gold Coast v Port Adelaide: Port harnesses the one-trick pony

By Tim Webber

If the respective credentials of the opponents are not manifest, this game had you wondering whether you will always be safe backing the team with history against the one created to satisfy a perceived market.

Each of Port and the Suns stood to create a season starting precedent – four in a row for Port, or two from four for the Suns.

The appearance of much respected Suns assistant coach Ken Hinkley in a long-awaited senior coaching role against his former employer added spice.

The first quarter was the beginning and end of it for the Suns.  And as beginnings go, it was good.

Straightaway Ablett was apparent, with the first kick of the game in a foray forward.

Fourteen possessions followed for him in the quarter, as did an impressive ten to lively forward pocket Matera.

But for that pair’s endeavour, others were astray, Hunt and Harbrow particularly. The men in teal pounced – out of a scrimmage Port’s Broadbent went to Wingard, who goaled.  We are underway.

Turnovers to each other followed and then suddenly Ablett- even  Ablett – erred in kicking in danger and one of the growing band of AFL Ned Kelly lookalikes in Port’s Westhoff took the free for Port and kicked truly.

Harbrow responded in kind, around the corner, and then the monstrous May goaled from miles out; 13 all.

Advances in kicking length and skills were shortly in evidence, as for Port the highly promising Wingard got hold of a prodigious Stevenson hoof and goaled with an in-swinging leg-cutter of a kind that Richard Hadlee might once have fed a tangle-footed Dean Jones.   Port 20, Suns 15.

Zac Smith, enlarged for 2013 purposes and for years to follow, then goaled from a free.  Matera next.

Suns 27, Port 20.

Local hopes were high.

Only for a moment though.

Not for the first time this season, the second quarter sees the Suns fall apart.  Ablett is blanketed, and there is abundant truth in the commentariat’s assertion that the Suns remain a one trick pony.

Port runs rampant and shuts out the Suns with a 9 goal blitz – its most productive performance in a quarter since 2010, Round Ten.

The remarkably improved Westhoff (four for the term), Neade (every bit as promising as Wingard), Hartlett (of the James Hird physiognomy but with an infinitely tidier haircut) all feature.  Westhoff in particular is on fire:  lovely handballer, manoeuvres beautifully running backwards and kicks long.  Note too Hartlett’s extra strong kicking leg – the bloke could kick the caboose off a steam train.

For the Suns, resistance dripped from too few – Jaegar O’Meara, the tenacious Karmichael  Hunt, and Jared Brennan, but that’s about it.  Injuries to Swallow (one of a new breed of the habitually hurt?) and young Palm Beacher Joel Wilkinson haven’t helped.

In the third term it gets no Sunnier.

Port’s disciplined structuring in defence exposes the Suns lack of speed, cohesion and desperation.

Now the hitherto quiet Port full-forward Schulz does the shining; no Suns do.  Big Jay is a spearhead in the classic mould:  tall, strong, great hands and an as good as perfect kicking technique.  He brings down the house with a magnificent speccy over the shoulders of a hapless Sun and goals.  This mark will surely feature as one of the year.

In contrast, the Suns field kicking has become dreadful. That the drop-kickers of the Warragul Seconds I once jumpered up with might have made a better fist of it says all that needs to be said.

Few other than their own Ginger Meggs, Southport native Rory Thompson, are effective.  He goals after an excellent mark, but to maintain the Meggsian metaphor, there are far too many Eddie Coogans on the other side tonight.

Surprisingly, the Suns win the last quarter, but this will sometimes happen after an opposition has done its job.

Ginger Meggs gets a poster, then makes amends with his second straight one fifty out on an angle.   Aaron Hall becomes prominent, and is rewarded with a goal from a free.

But Swallow is already off injured, Warnock looks like he’s dislocated his shoulder as he departs, and Ablett’s suspect hand is worrying him again.

Schulz, Monfries and Cassisi are standouts Port, and their side’s kicking to position remains significantly superior to that of the Suns.

Before this game commentator Barry Hall was heard to state that Port were the good news story of 2013.

On the evidence of their Round Four performance, Hall has had no cause to consider retracting his statement.

Good luck to new broom Port President Koch and his administration and to new no nonsense coach Hinkley for whom a win against his old mob must have tasted sweet.

Perhaps Port Adelaide, as steeped in history as any team in the competition, really are building towards creating a little more of the stuff.

But for the Suns, a club in desperate need of a string of wins, making real history, the kind that rises above a catchy slogan on a bumper sticker, remains a dream as elusive as it’s ever been.

GOLD COAST          4.3      5.4      6.8      9.12 (66)
PORT ADELAIDE   3.2     12.5     15.8   16.8 (104)

Gold Coast: 
Thompson 2, Brennan, Matera, Harbrow, Hall, Smith, O’Meara, May
Port Adelaide: Schulz 4, Wingaard 3, Westhoff 3, Hartlett 3, Neade 2, Renouf

Gold Coast: 
Ablett, Thompson, Matera, O’Meara, Dixon
Port Adelaide: Thompson, hall, Hunt, Shaw, Matera, Ablett, Rischitelli

Gold Coast: 
Wilkinson (ankle), Warnock (shoulder), Bennell (hamstring replaced in selected side by Russell)
Port Adelaide: Nil

Umpires: Ryan, Findlay and Fisher

Official crowd: 11,332 at Metricon Stadium

3:  Westhoff  (Port)

2.  Neade (Port)

1.  Hall (Suns)

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