Friday, June 12, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Adelaide Oval, watch on Seven, Fox Footy
Port Adelaide: 5-5-0
Port Adelaide: LLLWW
IF you’d have told us Port Adelaide and Geelong would be outside the eight after 10 rounds in 2015, we’d have laughed you out of town.
But that’s exactly the situation ahead of the Power and Cats clash at Adelaide Oval on Friday night, despite both sides being pegged as potential top four finishers this season.
Separated in ninth and 10th by just 2.3 percentage points, both teams sport mediocre 5-5 records.
And our recommended online bookmakers, CrownBet.com.au, WilliamHill.com.au and sportsbet.com.au are all offering the same odds on the game. the Power are $1.48 favourites, with the Cats rank outsiders at $2.65.
Port managed to overcome the Geelong hoodoo early last season, after dropping 10 straight to the boys from Kardinia Park.
Geelong will have it’s eye on Port leader Travis Boak, who had 32 touches in that win and Chad Wingard booted three goals.
The Cats just cannot get it out of the middle, even though gun captain Joel Selwood is unbelievably fourth in the competition for that stat.
He’ll be hoping for a bit of help from his colleagues, especially with Port ranked fourth in the league for clearances, but only 11 for contested possessions, while the in and under Cats tend to win it in close, ranked second.
At least both will be buoyed by a pair of wins that will give them confidence heading into this clash.
The Power were pushed to the limit by a Western Bulldogs side that has fast earned the respect of the AFL community, relying on a six goal final term to hold off the plucky boys from Whitten Oval by 38 points, 16.4 (100) to 9.8 (62).
Beastly midfielder Ollie Wines continued his meteoric rise, racking up 33 disposals that featured 11 clearances and a goal in a best on ground performance, while Justin Westhoff ripped down 14 marks on the way to 25 touches and goal, and Brad Ebert had 12 tackles to go with his 22 possessions.
But the game buster was the uber talented Wingard.
The versatile midfield forward has struggled to fulfil the promise of 2014 this season, but was a monster against the dogs, booting three goals with 23 disposals and six marks.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley called his side “grubby” but was proud of its ability to lift in the last quarter and ensure the points.
“Persistence, I think that’s what it was,” Hinkley said after being asked the difference between the two sides.
“We were prepared to stay pretty grubby for a while.
“We said a couple of times in the coaches’ box ‘hang in there, hang in there – let’s make sure we support what we’re coaching’.
“We were able to stay in the game – that’s the sort of game that we’re able to play that strong four quarters when we’re in good nick.
“We haven’t been in great form but we were able to keep ourselves going and it was a pretty strong performance at the end.”
Hinkley lauded Wines’ performance and will be looking for something similar against the Cats, saying his side’s midfield “works better when Ollie’s a part of it”.
“He’s been pretty important, there’s no doubt about that,” Hinkley said.
“They (the midfield) relies on each other a little bit and that’s a team.
“if they stick together and play their role together, someone on a night will pop up and do the job that we need to do.”
Meanwhile, the Cats’ inspirational superstar Selwood had a welcome return to form with 26 disposals, two goals and six tackles in Geelong’s 69 point drubbing of a haplessly undermanned Essendon, 19.8 (122) to 7.11 (53).
Selwood wasn’t alone in the midfield, with fellow veteran James Kelly having a big 28 possession game, but it was Harry Taylor who was almost all the difference.
Some say he’s the best defender in the game and it’s hard to argue when he produces performances like this.
It’s not like the Bombers’ forward line is elite, but Taylor absolutely wrecked them, collecting 33 disposals with 10 marks, the majority of those intercepts that broke up attack after attack.
Geelong mentor Chris Scott said tomorrow night’s game was almost do or die for his charges, giving them a potential chance to creep into the top eight.
Running ruck man forward Rhys Stanley pulled out last week before the match, but is hopeful of playing this weekend, while towering forward Mitch Clark is out.
Scott said his side had cover when talls went down.
“We’ve got about 25 ruckmen on our list and we’re back to Josh Walker and Mark Blicavs again,” Scott said.
“We played the last two finals series with those two.
“We think that they can be important players for us, but our preference is not to play them in the ruck but out of necessity they did it against Essendon and did it pretty well.
“What we do have is a bit of variety in our game which we think over the course of a couple of seasons is going to make us harder to read.
“Those young guys bring a skill set that we haven’t necessarily had over the last couple of years.
Match result: Port Adelaide Power wins ($1.48 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: Port Adelaide -13.5 with ($2.65 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Consistency has been something that’s eluded the Cats in 2015, unable to string winning streaks together, mixing strong performances in with ugly, uncharacteristic footy. There’s no doubt the dynasty is over, but the Cats still possess a dynamite midfield, experience and a pair of book ends – Taylor and Hawkins – that is the envy of every other club in the AFL. That makes them dangerous. Having said that, it’s not as if travel has been kind to Geelong. The Cats only two interstate trips this year have produced massive losses against both Sydney and West Coast. We think the Power will be the next team to inflict a bit of damage on the once mighty Cats. It’s a real test for the Power. AFL clubs have worked out how they play footy and have put in place measures to stop them. They haven’t adapted well enough, but this game will give an indication as to whether they are contenders or pretenders. We think they’re a finals prospect that no one will want to play and we’re expecting them to put it all together and smack the Cats under lights at the cauldron that is Adelaide Oval.
First goal scorer tips
Chad Wingard ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
Had a very welcome return to form with three goals against the Doggies last week and you get the feeling it might be a turning point, not just for Wingard, but for the Power as well. As his side just rounds into form, the talented goal kicker will find he has more chances in front of the big sticks. While he may start around the middle, he is the prototypical goal kicking midfield of the future, tall, strong, talented and super quick, Wingard has all the tools needed to play AFL football at the elite level… and to kick the first goal against the Cats.
Jay Schulz ($8 with sportsbet.com.au)
Who would have thought after leaving Richmond, Jay Schulz would one day be one of the most feared forwards in the game. Not quite in the class of Hawkins or Travis Cloke in terms of a target man, Schulz gets everything out of himself and makes up for it with a supreme talent for kicking for goal. He never misses, so if he can burst out and take the first grab of the game in front of the big sticks, you can just about count your money before he kicks it.
Tom Hawkins ($8)
A regular in our first goal scorer tips for good reason – he delivers. Is one of the biggest and best forward targets in the AFL and just seems to kick the first goal more often than not. If it comes out of the middle going Geelong’s way, you can bet whichever Cat has the footy in his hands, the first person he’s going to look for is the big Tomahawk streaming out of the square. With his vice like hands, superior body strength and a vastly improved kick for goal, Hawkins is the default pick for first goal every week.
Joel Selwood ($26 with sportsbet.com.au)
Captain courageous seems to be kicking more goals as he improves with age. Bagged a couple last week and we reckon the Cats’ forwards are going to need all the help they can get to get over the line here. This is the sort of game that Port wins by 10 goals, but Selwood still nabs a Brownlow vote with a brilliant, staunch, courageous performance that makes journos write nice things about him. You only need a tiny drink to make some nice bank on this bet with those odds.
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