AFL round eight: All the scores, stats and news out of Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs
With three wins on the jump and the cellar dwelling North up next, Port Adelaide have turned their season around and are now deservedly back in the finals conversation.
Port Adelaide have won three on the bounce, the struggling North Melbourne are next, and the Power’s most important player Charlie Dixon is nearing a return.
The Power’s critics still might not be convinced, and the questions around Ken Hinkley’s side still have probably not been answered.
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But after a 0-5 start the Power are now back in at least the conversation for finals following a 17-point win over the Western Bulldogs.
So how have the Power turned their season around?
After eight games of the season, Port’s campaign can be broken into two sections - before halftime against Carlton and after the main break against the Blues.
Because since the halftime break at the MCG in Round 5 we have seen a different Port Adelaide to the one that was playing in the early matches of 2022.
After the win over the Bulldogs Hinkley said not too much had changed for his side in that halftime break to breathe some life into their season.
“I keep repeating it and as boring as it sounds we just had to stick with what we were doing and the processes we were following,” he said.
But two of the Power’s recruits said it was down to improved contest work.
“We just really wanted to bring the contest a bit more,” wingman Trent Dumont told The Advertiser.
“Carlton had just so many uncontested possessions, they were just able to use their spares to the contest.
“So we were able to put teams into the contest a bit more and we were able to come into our own.”
Key forward Jeremy Finlayson said that showed what the Power could do in 2022.
“I think it was down to just our workrate and contest,” he said post-game on Channel 7.
“That second half, and then we had a big sit down after going 0-5 as a group.
“We went from there and it is paying off.”
Over the last five weeks the Power have been No. 1 in the AFL for pressure applied.
“They’ve saved their season through effort and intensity,” St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt said on Fox Footy.
Over the past two years, as they have made consecutive preliminary finals, the Power have played a territory game, and tried to lock the ball in their front half through repeated entries with a big emphasis on attacking through the corridor.
But has the Power changed this up.
After they scored an incredible 60 points from their defensive half against the Bulldogs, Brisbane great Jonathan Brown declared that the Power was a “boundary team”.
“It seems like there has been a dramatic shift in the way Port Adelaide move the ball,” he said
“I reckon after four or five weeks Kenny has walked in and said “righto we are going to become a boundary team”.
“If we do turn it over it is going to be harder for us to score against.
“It takes guts for a coach to do that after they have worked on something else in the pre-season, but it has worked for them.
“It has been in really good shape over the last month of football and they moved it beautifully against the Bulldogs.”
Former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon said the Bulldogs could not cope with the way the Power moved the ball.
“You worry if the Bulldogs just focused too much on defending the corridor,” he said.
Hinkley said the Power were just executing better.
“Not too much has changed but we are executing it better,” he said.
“Lets not forget that two of those three games we led by four goals, we led Brisbane by four goals at the Gabba.
“But yeah we had a 0-5 start, but we had to stay in the moment.
“There are certainly always adjustments and we had some people come back with helps.”
All of a sudden Hinkley has a bit of a selection problem.
Dixon returns to football through the SANFL and will be pushing for a spot in the AFL side as soon as possible.
Todd Marshall is continuing his good form this year, with his contested marking in the third quarter key in the Power’s win, Finlayson had three goals and Mitch Georgiades just needs to be accurate to cap a good game from his end.
So what does the Power do with their four key forwards.
“I’d rather have that problem than not have that problem,” Hinkley said.
Criticised as too Charlie-centric in recent years, and for just kicking it to a contest and relying on Dixon to either take a strong mark or get it to ground for their smalls the Power were extremely efficient in the way they went forward against the Bulldogs.
They took 21 marks in their forward 50 on Friday night, they have averaged 9.6 per game so far in 2022.
Marshall, Georgiades and Finlayson were able to either get themselves isolated against the Bulldogs defenders or get some separation.
It helped their forward 50 efficiency be an impressive 65.9 per cent, way above their season average of 46.3 per cent.
“Some of the bonuses of not having Charlie there is that the three boys who are playing there as talls have played a bit of footy together now,” Hinkley said.
“They are gelling with each other, understanding their teammates better and I think they are growing individually, no-one could question Todd Marshall’s growth I think it has just been outstanding.
“And when he needed to step up he has shown the faith that we have put in him over the journey has more than been justified.
“I think they have had OK games, Todd has been good, Mitch has had a lot of shots and Jeremy has been up and down but when he has played well he has played well.”
Interestingly Dumont said the potency of the forward line was key in the Power being able to fight back after the Bulldogs started the game strongly and race out to kick the first two goals of the game.
“They certainly jumped us a little bit the Doggies and that has been a bit of an issue in the first quarters,” he said.
“But we rectified that really quickly in the first quarter which was great and we were able to outscore them even though the game was quite even.
“And that was because our forwards were so potent and we were able to get so much space.”
The last time the Power had a prime-time fixture at Adelaide Oval, against Melbourne in Round 4, they were woeful going inside 50 and just seemed to bomb it to a Demons defender.
Dumont said the way the forward line played against the Bulldogs was a reward for the work the Power had done on the training track.
“We are always working on that stuff (forwards getting isolation and separation) and what you probably saw was a bit more continuity with our forward group,” he said.
“It’s been like that for a few weeks now, Jeremy Finlayson is starting to look more settled and Toddy is playing some great footy.
“George was great, he just needs to go to goal kicking practice and he will kick five next week.”
Finlayson said simple had proven to be better for the Power.
“Those first few weeks, Boaky (Travis Boak) and (Ollie) Wines were getting their hands on the ball but we were mucking around with it too much,” he said.
“We’ve really knuckled down in our forward 50 entries.”
Power’s sweet revenge but Port, Dogs count injury cost
Port Adelaide’s recovery from a poor start to the season continues to gather momentum with Travis Boak starring as the Power made it three wins in a row with a 17-point victory against the Western Bulldogs.
The Dogs belted Port the last time the sides met in last season’s preliminary final, but Ken Hinkley’s men led at every change this time around to score a 12.14 (86) to 10.9 (69) win at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.
The Bulldogs, who were without rested skipper Marcus Bontempelli, traded blows with Port in an entertaining first half but couldn’t stay with the home side in a pivotal five-goals-to-two third quarter.
After a shock 0-5 start to the season, the result improved the Power’s win-loss record to 3-5 while the Dogs are still yet to win back-to-back games this season and slip to 3-5.
Boak was outstanding with 30 possessions, with Ollie Wines and Connor Rozee also influential around the stoppages, and Jeremy Finlayson booted three goals.
Aaron Naughton led the charge for the Dogs with four goals and Jack Macrae had 32 touches and 10 clearances.
The Power had won just one first quarter heading into the clash and alarm bells were ringing when the switched-on Dogs leapt out to a 14-point lead.
However, any concerns that mental scars remained from the 71-point preliminary final belting at the same venue last year soon evaporated.
The Power burst to life with Robbie Gray kicking the first of three goals from just three inside 50s in a little over five minutes.
Naughton started in fine form and returned fire with two goals, but Gray added a second with two seconds left in the quarter to put his side up by two points.
Port went inside its attacking 50 nine times to the Dogs’ 17 in the opening term, but made the most of those entries with five goals straight.
Seven of the home side’s first eight shots at goal split the big sticks before that accuracy started to wane later in the second quarter with Buku Khamis mobbed by teammates after he kicked his first career goal to help bring Port’s advantage back to four points at the main break.
Both were influential, particularly in the third quarter when the Power made its move.
Powell-Pepper booted his second goal a minute after the restart and Boak hit the scoreboard 10 minutes in to spark a run of four unanswered goals.
The Western Bulldogs’ lengthy injury list has grown, while Port Adelaide will be sweating on the extent of an injury to an increasingly-important young defender.
Both sides have had to activate their medical subs in their Friday night clash at Adelaide Oval.
Tim O’Brien came from the ground with a calf complaint and despite the work of the Bulldogs’ medical staff he was substituted out of the game for Hayden Crozier.
Soon after, the Bulldogs copped another blow when Laitham Vandermeer looked to have suffered another hamstring injury.
Only back in the side in last week’s win over Essendon with hamstring tightness Vandermeer had to be helped from the ground by trainers in the third quarter.
To make things worse for the Bulldogs, electrifying young forward Cody Weightman had his arm in a makeshift sling in the fourth quarter.
Weightman laid a big bump on Power ruckman Sam Hayes.
He quickly left the field and was on the bench with his arm in a sling in his jumper.
They add to a Bulldogs injury list that includes captain Marcus Bontempelli, ruckman Tim English, key defender Alex Keath and gun forward Josh Bruce.
Before the game Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said there was no guarantees that Bontempelli would miss just the one week.
“He’s just had this cyclical thing of ankles and that going off,” he said on Fox Footy.
“Off a five-day break it was just the smart thing to do and hopefully he only needs the one off.”
The Power haven’t been spared.
Riley Bonner also had to be helped from the ground after suffering an ankle injury.
The halfback had found a consistent role in the Power’s defence this season.
PORT ADELAIDE POWER 5.0 7.4 12.8 12.14 (86)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.4 6.6 8.8 10.9 (69)
JASON PHELAN’S BEST
POWER: Boak, Rozee, Finlayson, Wines, Byrne-Jones, Bonner
BULLDOGS: Naughton, Macrae, Smith, Dale, Liberatore, Treloar
POWER: Finlayson 3, Gray 2, Powell-Pepper 2, Marshall 2, Motlop, Boak, Dumont
BULLDOGS: Naughton 4, Smith 2, Khamis, Liberatore, McNeil, Dunkley
POWER: Bonner (ankle)
BULLDOGS: Vandermeer (hamstring), Weightman (shoulder), O’Brien (calf)
Umpires: Fisher, Broadbent, Fleer.
Crowd: 29,290 at Adelaide Oval
JASON PHELAN’S VOTES
3 — T.Boak (Port)
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2 — A.Naughton (WB)
1 — C.Rozee (Port)
Originally published as AFL round eight: All the scores, stats and news out of Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs