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Supporters and pundits do not like to hear excuses for poor performance and that includes the injury and suspension excuse, but it is a reality for Port Adelaide. Certainly Port Adelaide has created many issues of their own doing this year with issues around team selection, individual performance and match day coaching and structures. But it cannot be underestimated the loss of Paddy Ryder in 2016.
The expert commentary around Paddy Ryder certainly seems mixed. While Port Adelaide was a kick away from playing in a Grand Final in 2014 they identified an obvious weakness in the team and that was height. Matthew Lobbe was really the only recognised ruckman and if Lobbe were to become injured then ruck became a significant issue. It was also identified Port Adelaide needed more key targets up forward. Port Adelaide often played with Jay Schulz who was approaching the twilight of his career towards 30 years of age and Justin Westhoff as the main key forward targets with Westhoff also spending significant time all over the ground. Paddy Ryder was a player who could help fill both needs and was traded into the club at the end of 2014.
Some experts rated the trade last year as a failure because after making a Preliminary Final in 2014 Port Adelaide failed to improve on this and play finals or make a Grand Final. But is this down to Paddy Ryder or are other factors to blame? Many saw Paddy Ryder as the “missing piece” of the Premiership Puzzle but these were the views of the experts. This comment was never made by Port Adelaide.
Did Port Adelaide feel Paddy Ryder would help improve the team? Well the answer is yes, but isn’t that what the trade period is for? In theory every player a club trades for is a missing piece of the puzzle or offers something the club feel will help improve the team. Very few clubs look to draft or trade players into the organisation to serve crackers and cheese around the club.
Again it cannot be dismissed how difficult the beginning of 2015 was for Ryder. Not only trying to find his feet at a new club but the Essendon supplement saga continued to be the gift that kept on giving. Both Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries were unable to play in a single NAB game and subsequently had no pre-season matches leading into the start of the regular season.
Despite the interrupted start Paddy Ryder still played 18 games last season. The statistics in 2015 certainly illustrate Ryder was more than serviceable. Averaging 11.7 disposals, 3.8 marks per game, 23.6 hit outs per match and importantly contributed on the scoreboard with 18 goals. It was no coincidence that Port Adelaide played their best football for the season with Ryder in ruck in place of Matthew Lobbe and Ryder was starting to find his best form in the latter stages of the season when Port Adelaide won 6 of their last 7 matches. The clearance work with Ryder in ruck was certainly trending in the right direction.
The performances of Jackson Trengove this year in ruck have certainly been a positive in a difficult season. Where this leaves Matthew Lobbe next season and beyond no one is really sure. Lobbe has averaged 8 touches and less than 2 marks a game in the last 2 seasons and also doesn’t have the ability to impact the scoreboard like Ryder. That will be another issue for Port Adelaide to worry about but when it comes to selecting the starting line-up in 2017. But don’t underestimate Paddy Ryder who will be a very important addition and will also be looking to make up for lost time and prove a few critics wrong along the way.