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Like the Port Adelaide team collectively the form of Justin Westhoff in 2016 can be best described as sporadic. Ken Hinkley and the players have publically not given up hope of playing finals football in 2016 but eventually they will join the rest of us in reality and just like last season Port Adelaide will not be part of the September action.
Ken Hinkley has always been brutally honest and his assessment after the Carlton loss in round 8 was spot on. “We are a 50-50 team, not consistent enough” With a win- loss ratio now at 6-7 this assessment would not have changed. While many players need to lift their output the consistency of senior players has certainly come into question at different times this year such as Travis Boak, Hamish Hartlett, Brad Ebert and Justin Westhoff among others.
In 2016 we have seen the best and the worst of Justin Westhoff. You only need to look at the 13 games Westhoff has played this season and the disposal count to see how inconsistent his output has been. 3 games with over 20 disposals, 6 games under 15 disposals and 4 games between 15 and 20 disposals. Averaging 16.5 disposals a match it is the lowest season average for Westhoff since 2012.
In 5 games Westhoff has kicked 2 goals or more, 4 games has kicked 1 goal and in the remaining 4 games not troubled the scoreboard. The last match against Fremantle was a prime example of the Jekyll and Hyde Westhoff. A solid second half in which he contributed with 2 goals, but unfortunately a first half in which Westhoff was completely not existent with only one kick to his name. This type of form is symptomatic of Port Adelaide this season, not only is game day performance a lottery but Port Adelaide fans have no idea what they will see from one quarter to the next.
Injury has certainly taken its toll on Port Adelaide this season and Justin Westhoff has had to play a variety of roles. Supporters do not like to hear injury as an excuse but the suspension of Paddy Ryder in particular cannot be underestimated. The return of Jay Schulz this week will not only take some of the pressure off Charlie Dixon, but may free up Westhoff who has been a jack of all trades spending time forward, through midfield and time in the back half when Port Adelaide are struggling.
So is Justin Westhoff in any danger of being dropped? The answer is most likely no and if Ken Hinkley wanted to make an example of dropping a senior player such as Westhoff for a poor game then it would have been done by now. Jared Polec is one of the few players who have been held accountable for poor performance and Matthew Lobbe was dropped back to the SANFL before injury earlier this year. Are the expectations on Justin Westhoff too high given the amount of roles he is asked to play?
Justin Westhoff is certainly a fan favourite and he will have an important role to play Friday against Richmond. It is debatable whether it is a strength or weakness of Ken Hinkley that he puts so much trust and faith in his senior players.
What cannot be disputed is that Justin Westhoff has had a very good career at Port Adelaide. The 29 year old will play his 200th game this season after being drafted with pick 71 in the 2006 draft. Westhoff has been an extremely durable player and has played over 20 games every season since 2010.It is a return any club would be pleased with. But for all the moments of Westhoff brilliance you cannot help but feel there could be more. Does Justin Westhoff get a pass mark so far in 2016?