If history has taught us anything it is not to be alarmed by results and the individual form of players in pre-season games. Teams like Carlton won the NAB Cup in 2005 and finished last at the end of the regular season. In 2007 the Blues won the NAB cup again, going on to finish the season in 15th position. While some clubs have used the pre-season as a springboard for the season proper, this model does not necessarily work for all clubs with different clubs having different priorities in their preparation for round 1. So should Port Adelaide be pushing the panic button on the form of Matthew Lobbe when the season is yet to officially start and having played one pre-season game?
The short answer is no. Many players are at different phases in their preparation and the last hit out before the season this Thursday against Richmond will hopefully see a more polished performance from Lobbe. But there were concerns with the performance of Matt Lobbe against Max Gawn in the loss to Melbourne just over a week ago and they are legitimate concerns that have been present for some time.
It was summed up well by Kane Cornes covering the game for 5AA when he made the point if Lobbe is going to get beaten in ruck and Port Adelaide are going to get beaten in clearances, Lobbe needs have an impact elsewhere in the game. Two kicks, four handballs and no marks are not having an impact.
The loss of Paddy Ryder in 2016 cannot be underestimated; to put it bluntly he is a better footballer than Matthew Lobbe. But Port Adelaide played finals football in 2013 and 2014, with Lobbe doing the lion share of the ruck work. While Lobbe had a career best year in 2014 and Port Adelaide fans got caught up in the hype of almost reaching a Grand Final, the performances of Matt Lobbe in the finals series was probably one of the catalysts for Port Adelaide deciding to recruit Paddy Ryder with Port Adelaide needing more big man power.
The 2014 finals series saw Lobbe finish with possession counts of 5, 5 and 6. No marks against Richmond, 1 mark against Fremantle, 2 marks against Hawthorn and no goals in any of the finals matches. Lobbe’s direct opponent in all games had higher possession counts. While Matt Lobbe is considered a work horse and someone who gives 100% it raises the question whether just being a ruckman who does not get the ball in general play enough in modern AFL football? Certainly Lobbe has had games when he has looked an A-grade level ruckman, but can he do it consistently?
2016 is shaping up as the most important season in the career of Mathew Lobbe to date. Lobbe is well respected within the inner sanctum at Port Adelaide and Lobbe was Vice Captain for the 2015 season. Different media pundits seem to have different stories on whether Port Adelaide wanted Lobbe to move to the Western Bulldogs at the end of last season while Lobbe chose to remain at Alberton. Port Adelaide has no choice now but to put their faith in Lobbe, and Matthew Lobbe has a chance to prove to Port Adelaide and the football world he is capable of carrying the Port Adelaide ruck stocks.