Round 10 – Melbourne v Port Adelaide: Familiar Territory

Familiar Territory

Melbourne versus Port Adelaide

1.40pm, Saturday 28 May

Traeger Park, Alice Springs

Mike Hugo

The idea of selling home games to the Northern Territory to both expand the reach of the AFL and attract new fans is a clever idea. Territorians have made a great contribution to Australian Football, but the reality is the AFL is more likely to set up a third club in Sydney before we see anything up North. With these noble pursuits in mind and the need to beef up the bottom line, Melbourne have played nine ‘home’ games in the NT since 2010 – six at Darwin’s Marrara Oavl  and three at Traeger Park in Alice Springs. But what started as a successful venture (beating Port in the first two games at Marrara) will now have Dees fans wondering whether it’s all worth it.

Saturday’s loss to Port was Melbourne’s third in a row in the annual Indigenous Round fixture, and the seventh loss in a row in the NT. Melbourne’s record for the six-year Territory expedition stands at 2-7 (18%). And before you say “well, their record at the MCG probably isn’t much better”, it actually is at 23-1-46 (33%). But Port Adelaide’s dominance in most areas of the ground (bar the ruck contests) would have seen them victorious regardless of where this was played.

The result really should’ve been a lot closer given these two teams were sitting in ninth and tenth, and battling to keep up with a growing pack of teams that will potentially be top eight by season’s end. With Melbourne showing signs of improvement and considered to finally be on the way up, Dees fans would have been disappointed with their effort and lack of a ‘plan B’.

As Port showed against Brisbane a few weeks earlier, the opposition’s ruck dominance doesn’t necessarily affect the scoreboard. I have heard a commentator say in the past that the result of the ruck contest doesn’t matter as much if you already know you are going to lose it. That said, Max Gawn was back to his dominating best and was Melbourne’s stand-out player collecting 48 hitouts and kicking two goals.

Gawn’s domination meant little as Port stifled the Dees’ usually active midfield, with Brad Ebert keeping Jack Viney to 18 disposals. Jasper Pittard and Darcy Byrne-Jones (who is surely due for a Rising Star nomination) created dashing ball movement out of the Power’s back half, collecting 45 disposals between them.

Charlie Dixon continues to build as Port’s key target up forward, kicking five goals for the game. While four of these came in the first half, Dixon’s work rate from siren to siren was impressive. Chad Wingard looks to be getting back to his best after an injury interrupted season, and probably would have been BoG had he converted more of his shots, kicking 2-4. At the other end, Jesse Hogan played his role but also missed several easy shots on goal, kicking 3-4.

While Port had done much of the ground work for its victory in the second quarter (kicking 6.2 to 2.2), the Demons had managed to hold their own in the third and were still in with a real chance. An opportunity to put Port up by five goals at the last break went amiss when third-gamer Dougal Howard dribbled the ball into the post instead of opting for the easier, more conventional kick. Within two minutes the ball had gone down the other end and a Max Gawn goal put the Dees within striking distance. Fortunately for Howard, Port came out and kicked the first five goals of the last quarter and put the result beyond doubt.

On the occasion of the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, it is worth noting that this game featured seven Indigenous players – the highest of any game this weekend. With Port Adelaide’s five the highest of any club.

Melbourne        2.7       4.9       9.12       10.16     (76)

Port Adelaide   2.4       8.6       12.11   18.13   (121)

Goals: Melbourne: Hogan 3; Watts, Gawn 2; Neal-Bullen, Garlett, Kent.
Port Adelaide: Dixon 5; Young, Wingard, Impey 2; Hartlett, Boak, Howard, R.Gray, Byrne-Jones, Krakouer, Neade.

Best: Melbourne: Gawn, Jones, Hogan.
Port Adelaide: Ebert, Dixon, R. Gray, Wingard, Westhoff, Byrne-Jones, Pittard.

Umpires:           Hay, Findlay, Mollison.   crowd 5,146

Malarkey Medal:       Dixon (Port) 3, Ebert (Port) 2, Wingard (Port) 1.

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About Mike Hugo

Occasional contributor, illustrator of Footy Places and other things (see my web store below).

Comments

  1. Brad Carr says:

    On the ‘selling’ home games point, the bit I struggle to understand is why Port is a constant as the ‘away’ team in Alice Springs.

    Taking the occasional game to the parts of the country without a local team is a moral must in my view, and I think all Victorian clubs should be required to take a home game somewhere,, as part of evening up the travel burden – but those Victorian clubs should have the right to have a rotating opponent, so that they at least have greater familiarity than their opponent for what is still their ‘home’ game.

    Eg. (and on the assumption that Melbourne want to takes games that would be low-drawing in Melbourne to the NT), why not play a rotation of WCE, Freo & GC at Alice Springs, and Adel, Port & GWS at Darwin? Or include some Victorian clubs in that rotation, such that Melbourne would be taking games where they have negligible home ground advantage anyway.

    Just seems strange that it’s Port in Alice Springs every year.

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