The strangest season in AFL history is about to get real for the following 10 teams, but only eight of them will play finals football and in turn give themselves a chance to take home the Premiership Cup. AFANA runs the slide rule over where your club can finish after what should be another crazy round of footy. If your team isn’t mentioned below, it’s time to start thinking about next year…
Port Adelaide Power
Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray sensationally kicked the game winning goal after the final siren to snatch victory from a gallant Carlton in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. With a three-point deficit and time ticking down, Gray marked on a tight angle 40 meters out from goal with the final siren blaring before taking his kick. Having missed a much simpler attempt just minutes before (as did two of his teammates in Charlie Dixon and Kane Farrell), Gray showed no sign of nerves as he split the center with a magnificent drop punt to seal the 64-61 win and strengthen the Power’s grip on top spot of the AFL ladder.
The fact that Carlton led into the final minute of the game seemed most unlikely in the early going as Port notched the first three goals of the game with some early midfield dominance. Carlton hit back through some Eddie Betts magic who helped Michael Gibbons register the Blues first goal. That was followed by another from second year star Sam Walsh, en route to one of his most notable performances for some time. Jacob Weitering was holding down the fort in Carlton’s defense while Port appeared less organized in their usually well-structured back six, allowing the Blues to score through multiple turnovers which led to a one-point Carlton lead at quarter time.
Port Adelaide Power continued their bright start to the season with a convincing win over the West Coast Eagles. Port Adelaide played rugged no-nonsense physical football, where they used their muscle to crunch the opposition in the packs; and then distribute the ball to their unheralded outside players, who moved the ball quickly to unsettle opposition defenses. West Coast were hoping the fine conditions would finally allow them to play their possession and clean delivery game; however, the Power rarely gave them space and dictated the game from within the packs.
Big forward, Charley Dixon, dominated the air in the Port forward line and finished with six goals. To the casual observer, it may seem that Dixon was a one-man band, but it was a team effort.
A powerful second quarter, in a deluge of biblical proportions, was enough for Port Adelaide to set up a commanding lead over the Fremantle Dockers. The young Dockers challenged Port in the first quarter but were easily pushed aside during the waterlogged second term. The bigger bodied Power played hard-nosed wet weather football and the Dockers watched. The bruised Dockers steadied in the clear conditions after halftime but were unable to make inroads on the Port lead.
The Dockers began the game with plenty of pluck, matching Port in the packs in the first quarter. Two goals to Matt Taberner and singles to Travis Colyer and Brandon Matera saw the Dockers lead by a goal at the first break. As the match progressed, the undermanned Dockers
Port Adelaide kept a firm grip on top spot on the AFL ladder with a rampant 75-point win over crosstown rivals the Adelaide Crows on Saturday night at Adelaide Oval.
With the season’s first batch of fans – 2240 in total – present at the ground, the Power completely outclassed a struggling Crows outfit that lost defender Jake Kelly early to concussion, then Captain Rory Sloane with a thigh injury that kept the Adelaide favorite sidelined for all of the second half.
The winning margin was the highest by Port against their local rivals while also restricting the Crows to their lowest total score in all previous “showdowns”.
Early in the first quarter there was no indication of the drubbing that eventually took place as Adelaide produced eight of the first nine entries inside the 50 meter arc, resulting in goals to Rory Sloane and young forward Darcy Fogarty. That was where the joy ended for the underdog Crows as Port completely dominated proceedings from then on, finishing on the positive side of the ledger for a total of 57 entries inside 50 compared to just 30 for the shell-shocked Crows.
Port was continually first to the contested ball, and it was the young guns that once again shone for the Power just as they had done in 2019. Connor Rozee (17 disposals, 8 clearances, 6 tackles) continues to play at a level that belies his experience, Xavier Duursma (17 disposals, 3 goals) is on fire and Zak Butters (21 disposals, 7 marks and 8 tackles) completed the domination of the second year Power draftees.
After quarter time when Adelaide trailed by just 13 points, it was one-way traffic with the Power brushing aside the Crows with ease. Half time saw Port’s advantage balloon to 32 points as the Crows showed frustration in giving away two late 50 meter penalties that resulted in Port goals.
When the Port Adelaide veterans decided to join the party, there was no stopping the boys wearing the old-school “prison bar” jumpers made famous by the original Port Adelaide that dominated the South Australian Football League back in the day. Justin Westhoff and Charlie Dixon chipped in with three goals each while Steven Motlop added two more plus the mark of the day with a screamer that had the 1,400 odd and spaced out Port supporters in raptures.
The second round of the season will see limited fan attendances at some games. GWS and Sydney received approval from the New South Wales government to allow a limited number of people into their matches against North Melbourne and Essendon respectively. Fans, members, and patrons will be allowed in several function areas of GWS stadium and the SCG. It is believed only 350 people will be allowed to attend each of the two games. The club will continue to work with the necessary agencies to ensure the stadiums comply with state protocols.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that the AFL season will resume on June 11th. Just prior to the announcement, teams were permitted to begin non-contact training in groups of no more than 10. Teams will now be allowed to begin full contact training on the 25th. However, training will be limited to two sessions per week. Players and officials from all clubs will be required to be tested 24 hours before each training session. When matches do resume, umpires will also be tested. Testing will continue for all for the duration of the season.
The league is still working on the schedule for the season but is expected to have that by the end of the month. In making the announcement, McLachlan said, "Today is a significant step in getting footy back ... as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to ... adapt ... while ... we continue to prioritize the health and welfare of our players, staff, and the wider community and ... don't place any burden on the public health system."
On the day the AFL began COVID-19 testing of AFL players, its hopes of restarting the competition were rocked by a letter from the South Australian government. The AFL intended to have a three-week training period for all teams, in a lead-up to the first AFL game in mid-June. The league looked set to announce an opening game on June 11th, between Collingwood and Richmond, but those plans may now be derailed. The South Australian government has ruled-out an exemption for AFL teams entering its closed borders without a mandatory 14 day quarantine. The Crows and Power were planning to fly in and out of South Australia on a weekly basis, to play in Victoria. In a further blow, the South Australian Government has also stipulated that no football players in South Australia can train in groups of more than ten (and training must be non-contact) until June 8th. The Crows and the Power will now have to find a training base at an east coast location, as soon as possible, if the league is to meet its mid-June restart date.
It is currently the free agency period for the AFL. This period runs until November 22 and allows clubs to pick up delisted free agent players. In late October, soon after they were delisted, Wylie Buzza (Geelong to Port Adelaide), Jack Newnes (St Kilda to Carlton), Kaiden Brand (Hawthorn to Sydney), Sam Gray (Port Adelaide to Sydney), Harley Bennell (Fremantle to Melbourne) signed with new clubs.
The improving Fremantle Dockers held Port Adelaide Power scoreless in the final term and raised questions about Port Adelaide’s ability to make the finals. The inconsistent Power have been on the road collecting frequent flyer points in recent weeks; where they lost to Hawthorn in Launceston, Tasmania and then won against the Saints in Shanghai, China. They came to Perth with confidence, having beaten the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium in Round 5.