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“Can’t kick, can’t mark, can’t play” As I heard someone yell this out at Matthew Lobbe last Saturday night against the Demons I turned around to see if Joe the Cameraman was sitting next to me but Joe was nowhere be seen. Matthew Lobbe is an extremely easy target to be criticised and some may say the continual targeting from both supporters and the general football public is unfair. But unfortunately the results are hard to ignore.
On the eve of the season I wrote a piece on Matthew Lobbe and if he had the ability to take his chance to be the number one ruckman at Port Adelaide in 2016. While I was hopeful Lobbe could prove the doubters wrong, it was hard to look at the overall record and have complete faith. http://thepageofpower.fansunite.com.au/2016/03/09/29147/can-matthew-lobbe-deliver-in-2016 As I reflect on this pre-season article many of the doubts that existed before the season has unfortunately come to fruition.
Those in the pro Matthew Lobbe camp will point to the fact Lobbe suffered a knee injury earlier in the year and this certainly has to be taken into account in the interest of fairness. But what also has to be taken into account is Matthew Lobbe suffered this injury while playing in the SANFL where he was dropped for poor form. In the opening 5 rounds this year at AFL level he averaged 8 disposals, 2.2 marks and failed to kick a single goal. Along with poor ruck work which is a primary role of Lobbe it was simply impossible to keep him in the side any longer. It followed on from 2015 where Lobbe was also dropped for unsatisfactory form.
Reports from Alberton certainly confirmed Lobbe was working hard in his rehabilitation while injured and he returned to competitive football via the SANFL in round 16. It was certainly a work in progress. 8 disposals against the Eagles and then a mini-showdown the following week in which Lobbe was comprehensively destroyed by Reilly O’Brien from Adelaide.
Matthew Lobbe played his best game of the season against North Adelaide a fortnight ago with 19 disposals, 12 hit outs, 11 tackles and a goal. While it was a great game it was also against the 2nd bottom team in the SANFL and a team that has now lost 7 games in a row. Still you have to give credit where it is due and it was the first time Matthew Lobbe had positively contributed and he got his chance back at AFL level last week.
Watching Max Gawn toy with Port Adelaide Saturday night it was difficult to know how to react. Should we be critical? Should we feel sorry for Matthew Lobbe? Do we need to have more patience? I can understand patience being required for a new recruit finding his feet at AFL level, Matthew Lobbe is 27 years of age and been at Port Adelaide for almost 10 years. Many point to Lobbe’s 2014 season as proof he is a good footballer. But is this proof? Wouldn’t one year of good output in ten years suggest this is an aberration?
Port Adelaide has no choice but to play Matthew Lobbe this week because they will look foolish otherwise. Dropping him will be a final admission of guilt they have lost all faith. This Saturday Matthew Lobbe may possibly come up against Sam Jacobs who has missed the last three weeks with an ankle injury. Port Adelaide will be hoping Jacobs is a little rusty after his lay-off. The recent stats for Lobbe vs Jacobs do not make for pleasant reading if you are Port Adelaide. Jacobs has generally had the better of the duel, dominating in more recent times and has also won two Showdown medals for best player on the ground.
Every Port Adelaide supporter wants Matthew Lobbe to succeed but time is running out. Port Adelaide will welcome back Paddy Ryder next year and again more questions than answers have been provided in 2016. Lobbe still has a long term contract and trading him might not be particularly straight forward. The decision to not trade Matthew Lobbe last season to the Western Bulldogs for a first round draft pick on offer is very much a decision that may end up being one of the worst Port Adelaide has made in recent history.