We often hear the phrase “Poor kicking is poor football” For Port Adelaide it is a very accurate statement after they finished with a score line of 11.20 in a 58 point loss to the Adelaide Crows. If bad goal kicking is bad football then bad skills, bad game plan, bad structures, bad decision making and bad coaching on top certainly doesn’t make for a pleasant game of football if you are a Port Adelaide supporter. Essendon is the next challenge Friday night and will be full of confidence after a surprise victory over Melbourne. A lot of work needs to be done by Ken Hinkley and the coaching staff to prepare for the Bombers. But after a result like the Showdown, where does Hinkley start?
The clearance work of Port Adelaide in 2016 thus far has been nothing short of disgraceful. Two games for the season and two games losing the clearances. Who is to blame? Well it is a combination of ruck, midfielders and the coaching staff. Matthew Lobbe was outplayed in both NAB Challenge games and last week was smashed by Tom Hickey who played his best ever match at AFL level for St Kilda. For consecutive weeks Lobbe’s direct opponent Sam Jacobs had more of an impact around the ground with 15 touches and was also involved in 8 score involvements while Lobbe had 8 touches himself.
Port Adelaide has known for some time clearance work has been an issue so it must be asked, what was done in pre-season? Lobbe is not a tap ruckman who provides the service that Paddy Ryder does, so what planning was put into place? When Lobbe did get his hand to the ball the Crows midfield enjoyed the ball going directly down their throats as they ran the ball out with ease. Can Lobbe hit the ball anywhere else? Does the midfield need to change their positioning? Either the coaching staff is not identifying the issues, or the players are unable to adapt and learn.
The current defensive structure can only be described as diabolical. Is new defensive coach Nathan Bassett completely to blame for the defensive press? It is probably unfair to make this assumption given some of the scores Port Adelaide let in last season. Against St Kilda last week multiple easy goals were scored out the back as Port Adelaide pushed up the ground and again today Adelaide exploited the press with easy Joe the goose goals as they walked into multiple goals without pressure. One thing that is vital with this type of defensive structure is the ability to use the ball well. The ball use at the moment will have Ken Hinkley losing what little hair he has left. Turnovers in the middle of the ground leave players out of position and exposed badly. We all enjoy Christmas and receiving presents but Christmas is over and Port Adelaide need to stop handing out goals to the opposition.
Against the Crows Port Adelaide had 15 more inside 50s in a 10 goal loss. It confirms the forward line structure did not work. Kicking the ball long to Dixon when one out with his opponent is one thing, but kicking it long and high is another when he is surrounded by five opposition players. Port Adelaide got away with it last week, but got taught a lesson today by a far more committed Adelaide.
Aaron Young was the surprise packet with 4 goals but Port Adelaide will need more of a contribution from others moving forward. With Jay Schulz unavailable Charlie Dixon failed to register a goal along with Justin Westhoff who Port would have been banking on for a scoreboard contribution. Jake Neade is an interesting case study, many admire his pressure and tenacity around the opposition but two games into the year has failed to register a single goal.
Consistency was an issue in 2015 and fans will be hoping 2016 is not going to be more of the same. Many players will feel embarrassed with their performances. Certainly it is the worst game Jared Polec has played for the club. Many leaders and senior players let the club down but Robbie Gray was certainly best for Port and a couple others contributed. But it was certainly too far and few between. If today is an example of brave, attacking Port Adelaide football then I never want to see it again.
While it can seem all doom and gloom after such a result it is certainly not year over. A win next week and Port have two wins out of three. But the team will not be challenging for Finals unless things seriously change, and everyone needs to take ownership of the current problems and the unacceptable performance today. Over to you Port Adelaide.