Round 3 – Port Adelaide v Essendon: Wise words from a Port legend

Port Adelaide v Essendon

8 April 2016

Round 3

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

 

Last night’s game between Port Adelaide and Essendon at Adelaide Oval reminded me of something Port legend John Cahill said to me once while discussing Port’s dominance of the SANFL in the 1980s. He said while it was easy to get into the team when they didn’t finish a team off like they should have, he erred on the side of caution – it takes a lot to win football matches regardless if it’s by one point or 100. While Port last night should have won by plenty more than the 61-point final margin, any club would take a 10 goal win any day of the week. And let’s not sell the Bombers short (much like the commentators tried to do last night).

Port’s first quarter last night in Adelaide was terrific, albeit with the occasional foot and hand errors that have marred the early part of the season. They smelt victory early, were engaged in the contest and wanted to make amends for a poor showing last week against the Crows. Hinkley, questioned by me last week, had a good night and his week-long pep talks to motivate his troops did the trick. The players looked hungry and this time they stuck to the structure that wins games of football.

Again Robbie Gray performed the usual heroics, acts of greatness that Port fans and the wider AFL community are getting quite used to seeing. Early Brownlow favourite again? Perhaps that’s the kiss of death, again.

Jasper Pittard, maligned but so essential to Port’s run and carry from defence was excellent, and is having a good season now that he has all but eradicated his weekly brain fades and matured as a player. The defence were very good, keeping Essendon to a low score and keeping the above-mentioned structure so the Bombers couldn’t easily score over the back like St Kilda and Adelaide had. Port’s run and risky football returned, at least in parts, and Jared Polec was back to his best after a lean 12 months of injury and low confidence.

The second half wasn’t pretty, and Essendon weren’t bad, but this was a victory sealed within the first 20 minutes of the match. Much like many of those great Port victories in the ’80s under Cahill’s helm. Good sides don’t need to always play brilliantly for four quarters – for Port last night one was enough before the second half dogfight.

Port are sitting 2-1, in the eight and look to face a resurgent GWS in Canberra next weekend. Another challenge, but another opportunity to grow. And regardless of the margin, Port’s firm and only aim should be to secure the four points. Cahill would wholeheartedly approve.

 

CHRIS MICHAELS

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