Rick Browner reporting from Patersons Stadium, Subiaco, Western Australia
Two teams representing the port towns of Perth and Adelaide met in Round 7 with much on the line. Port Adelaide Power has a good record at the “House of Pain”, Patersons Stadium, winning more than they have lost there against the Fremantle Dockers. The Dockers believe they are finalists this year and would be expected to flex some muscle against their struggling opponents, if only to show the competition that they are genuine contenders. Giant ruckman Aaron Sandilands was back from injury for the Dockers, while Danyle Pearce had been dropped due to lack of intent for Power. David Rodan was back after having previously suffered the same fate.
John Butcher got Port off to the perfect start after the game started with a rush and he kicked the first goal but it was a long time coming. Both sides were working hard up the ground and scoring was tight. Ryan Crowley soon evened up for Fremantle when he sprinted from the center and kicked a booming 60 meter wind-assisted goal. Power forwards are dead-eye dicks when taking set shots and Matthew Broadbent was true to form when he took a mark 20 meters out to give Port its second. The crowd was hushed when Paul Stewart kicked a remarkable scissor kick over his head while laying flat on the ground right on the goal line. Fremantle players looked flat and were paying the price. At this stage of the game Port Adelaide was in command with great kicking efficiency and by hunting in packs. They were prepared to chase hard from behind and this put inferred pressure on the Dockers. Even though the Dockers had their fair share of the ball in front of goals they were not converting their scoring opportunities. At the end of the quarter scores were even but the Dockers had had ten scoring shots to Port’s five.
A knock to the knee had Fremantle’s captain Matthew Pavlich starting the next quarter late with his knee heavily strapped but the captain was quick to earn a free kick and convert it to a goal. Fremantle’s work rate was up as they tackled hard and kept the ball locked into their forward half. Port’s back line was under pressure and Domenic Cassisi, along with his seasoned teammate Kane Cornes, were working overtime to keep their team in the game. Tendai Mzungu, working in a phone box on the edge of the ground, managed a clever kick to Hayden Ballantyne who marked and goaled to ratchet up the screws on Port. The Power players were under the pump and their kicking efficiency which had been sparkling in the first quarter fell away to only 40%. This allowed Fremantle to find another gear that resulted in a goal to Clancee Pearce. Instead of looking forward when they had the ball, Port players were going sideways at every opportunity and were turning into their own worst enemies. When Pavlich kicked his third major for the game, it was crystal clear that Port was struggling. In fact they did not score a goal, managing a meager two behinds for the quarter.
It was a scrambling and ugly start to the third quarter with both teams handball happy. There were scrums and untidy periods of play. Justin Westhoff took a strong mark and kicked Port’s first goal since the opening quarter. In a low scoring game it was gold and had them back with a sniff. Matt De Boer had the instant reply to maintain the lead for Fremantle. He was unmarked and ignored at the top of the square when he took a courageous mark and kicked truly. Brad Ebert, who is no stranger to Patersons after playing for a couple of seasons for West Coast, was on the end of a great counter-attack by Port and his goal lifted them off the canvas again. Players were tired now and the game was starting to open up with more free flowing movement of the ball by foot rather than run and handball. When the quarter ended, Port, despite showing great enthusiasm, had crept only one point closer.
So far in the game the Dockers had had 44 to 26 inside 50 meters and 22 scoring shots to 10. It was the old chestnut. Had they kicked straighter, the game would have been decided earlier. However the breeze had freshened up and the Power had the wind advantage to close out the game. Fremantle kicked the first three goals of the final term and effectively put the contest on ice then and there. Chris Mayne was as accurate as ever and his two goals had him achieve the enviable statistic of kicking 13 straight goals so far this season. The game was unfortunately stopped for a short period of time when a flashback to the 70s occurred. A streaker ran onto the ground and the tackle count was increased for the match when a security guard felled him with a wrestle that would have earned the respect of both the coaches. In another comical moment, the goal umpire was knocked flat on his back when a sharp kick, traveling at head height, took him on the forehead. That was the only goal to Port for the quarter and they limped towards the final siren on life support. The highlight of the game was when Matthew Pavlich, the “Purple Heart” of the Dockers, kicked his 500th career goal, becoming the 51st man in the history of the AFL/VFL to do so. Fremantle ran out comfortable winners by 40 points.
No doubt there will be renewed pressure on Matthew Primus as coach of Port Adelaide as this is the second week in a row they have had fadeouts during crucial parts of matches that were winnable. Fremantle takes on Hawthorn in Tasmania next week and that will be the litmus test of how far the Dockers have improved this year. Port will play North Melbourne at home in a must win contest to claw back some pride in their team.
Check out Dave Woodley’s photos of the Round 7 encounter between Fremantle and Port Adelaide at:
Scoreboard Fremantle: 2.8 6.9 8.14 12.15 (87) Port Adelaide: 3.2 3.4 6.4 7.5 (47) Best Players Fremantle: McPharlin, Pavlich, Johnson, Mayne, Hill, Spurr Port Adelaide: McCarthy, Cassisi, Trengove, Chaplin, Broadbent
Article last changed on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 9:16 AM EDT