AFL 1 year ago

The Bassett Factor

  • The Bassett Factor

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Nathan Bassett looks on during the 2014 AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium on October 2, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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It has been well documented the frustrating season that Port Adelaide has had. Injuries, suspension and form issues have all been present in an inconsistent 2016 season. While last Saturday’s victory over North Melbourne keeps the slim chance of finals football alive it cannot be underestimated the brilliant job that defensive coach Nathan Bassett has done with an undermanned Port Adelaide defensive unit.

When Bassett joined Port Adelaide at the end of 2015 it was certainly viewed as a good addition to the Port Adelaide coaching staff by most experts. Bassett had enhanced his coaching reputation by coaching Norwood to two SANFL Premierships and spent time at Essendon as an assistant for two seasons under difficult circumstances before returning to Adelaide. Of course it can be difficult to win over the Port Adelaide faithful and when you have coached a rival in Norwood and played 200 plus games for the Adelaide Crows then some supporters already had a scapegoat lined up when Port Adelaide started the season poorly. But Bassett certainly deserves his share of credit for the role he has played in difficult circumstances.

Early in the season Port Adelaide came under heavy criticism for goals conceded and I was certainly critical with the defensive press implemented. After five rounds Port Adelaide conceded over 100 points in four out of five games.  This included both Adelaide and Western Sydney kicking 22 goals each in the space of three weeks.  Even St Kilda in round one was able to get multiple goals out the back with Port Adelaide players pushing high up the ground.  One thing that is vital with this type of defensive structure is the ability to use the ball well because often turnover leaves the back line exposed and this was a significant issue earlier in the year.

The last couple of months however have seen a much stronger defensive performance from Port Adelaide. Since the round five loss to Geelong the highest score by the opposition is 101 points scored by Hawthorn.  The opposition has only cracked the 100 point mark in two out of the last eleven games.

Against North Melbourne the defensive back six included Logan Austin, Paul Stewart and Darcy Byrne-Jones who all started the year at SANFL level. Along with Tom Clurey who was injured on the eve of the season and also started his 2016 campaign in the SANFL.

If Port Adelaide supporters were told at the start of the season these players would be in the starting team then concerned might be a word that came to mind.  Alipate Carlile has struggled with injury and only played two matches in 2016. Injury and suspension has forced Jackson Trengove into ruck duties. After serving a six match suspension Tom Jonas is currently injured and Jack Hombsch has not played since round 10.

Rising star nominee Darcy Byrne-Jones has been a revelation since his AFL debut in round 3. Jasper Pittard would not only be high in the Port Adelaide Best & Fairest but must be in the frame for All-Australian selection.  Without some big names it highlights the importance of team defence and Nathan Bassett must be commended for his role in uniting the Port Adelaide defensive unit. In a difficult year the improvement and development of players in the back line is a massive positive Port Adelaide can take into next season, regardless of whether Port Adelaide play finals football this year or not. 

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