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Monday, June 4, 2018

Mark Duffield: It’s make or break time for Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide’s season will go on the line over the next six weeks.
Ken Hinkley’s team plays Richmond (home), the Western Bulldogs (home), Melbourne (home), Carlton (away), St Kilda (home) and Fremantle (away).
The Power are inside the top eight by the barest of percentage now.
If they can’t win a minimum of four of those games, their finals hopes may be all but gone and their great list load-up over summer will look like a great waste of time.
No club signalled their 2018 intentions more strongly than Port.
They had narrowly missed the top four in 2017 and then lost a heart-breaker in extra-time against West Coast in a home elimination final.
Out went Jarman Impey, Jackson Trengove and Brendon Ah Chee.
In came Jack Watts, Tom Rockliff, Steven Motlop, Trent McKenzie, Lindsay Thomas and the other Jack Trengove.
This was a club which believed it could win a flag and this was the list top-up the Power believed could put them in the window.
On Saturday against Hawthorn in Launceston, Port kicked the first four goals of the match and took a 24-point lead to quarter-time, but walked off the ground three-point losers against a team that had lost its past three games and is no certainty to make the eight itself.
Launceston is a tough place to play the Hawks. There is no getting away from that.
Before the weekend, the Hawks had won 22 and drawn one of their past 24 matches at the ground, but Port lost one they could barely afford to.
The three key recruits for Port are clearly Watts, Motlop and Rockliff.
Rockliff has had a slow start at his new home. Neither of Watts and Motlop has been horrible. But neither has made a big difference often enough to catapult this team into flag reckoning either.
Watts had 16 disposals for three goals on Saturday, Motlop had 21 disposals but 17 of them came before half-time and just four after when the game went on the line.
He did have one huge magical moment in the showdown against Adelaide with the winning goal in the last minute, but other than that it has been a solid rather than spectacular start for him at his new club.
Watts has kicked 13 goals from 10 games, but as he did at Melbourne, he tends to promise more than he delivers.
In fairness to Port, the top-up took advantage of free agency and they did not sell the farm.
They traded a second-round draft pick to land Watts and got Motlop, Trengove and Rockliff for nothing.
But the top eight is on the line now. Port only slid into the eight on percentage after Adelaide’s loss to Greater Western Sydney at home last night.
It wasn’t a great weekend for South Australian teams.
The Crows, coming off a hiding from Melbourne in Alice Springs last Sunday, lost an epic to GWS, themselves coming off four consecutive losses and facing a moment of truth.
It was one of the best matches of the season, but the Crows lost it.
They still have injury issues, lost Tom Lynch to what looked like a rib injury last night and are struggling to get their best team on the park, let alone put their best foot forward.
The Giants were magnificent.
They were in danger of sliding out of contention altogether, but are now just half a win from eighth spot with games against a terribly disappointing Gold Coast (home) and Brisbane (away) ahead of them.
Given what we witnessed over the weekend from the two Queensland sides, the Giants are likely to start short-priced favourites in both encounters.
Led by three goals from Ryan Griffen, driven home by the run from Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel and Callan Ward, and clutch last-quarter goals from Jeremy Cameron and mature-aged WA recruit Zac Langdon, this was the Giants team we had hoped to see more of.
If they repeat this brand of football and get the likes of All-Australian Toby Greene, running machine Tom Scully and silky veteran Brett Deledio back into the side, they might still be a force to be reckoned with at the business end.
What yesterday illustrated is that the Giants’ best is extremely formidable.


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