Jamie Kloeden and Janet Linn reporting from Australia
It has been a big off-season for both Carlton and Port Adelaide. The Blues lured one of the biggest name free agents on the market in Dale Thomas who made the move from Collingwood while Port brought in Jared Polec from Brisbane. Port Adelaide faces the added pressure of being the big improvers of season 2013 and will now be expected to not only maintain that high level of performance but take it to the next level and be genuine contenders for the Premiership title.
After the first bounce, Carlton hit the ground running and it was the navy Blues looking like the team to give the season a shake. Thomas looked sharp and managed to kick a goal with his first kick for his new club as they dominated the scoring early. By the time Hamish Hartlett kicked Port’s first goal 11 minutes into the game, his team was already 14 points in arrears and looking like a shell of the team that tasted Finals action last year. Justin Westhoff was playing a lone hand for the Power as their only successful defender. As good as he was, he couldn’t be everywhere and Chris Yarran found space then speared a pinpoint pass onto the chest of David Ellard. Adding insult to injury, a 50 meter penalty ensured an easy goal and when Ellard kicked another just four minutes later Port was in major trouble with a 21 point margin to overcome.
Whatever coach Ken Hinkley said at quarter time, it achieved the desired outcome. The Power kicked the first three goals of the quarter. Westhoff was once again starring but this time up forward. Anytime that the ball went near Westhoff and teammate Jay Schulz it looked like a certain mark. Carlton fell to pieces and dropped off the contest - a complete turnaround after their first quarter blitz. Although the Blues managed two more goals before half time through Ed Curnow and the classy Bryce Gibbs, the quarter was owned by Port. While the half time scoreboard still showed Carlton ahead by nine points it was the Power with all of the momentum.
Robbie Gray evaded a couple of tackles to get the second half scoring underway with a great goal and the margin came back to just three points. Hartlett kicked his second soon after to give Port the lead and when Schulz set up Ollie Wines for a goal from the pocket, it was a ten point margin and Carlton was in danger of letting the game slip away. Bred Ebert kicked his first goal to extend the lead but three late goals through Jarred Waite and Yarran brought things back to a contest. A couple more chances went begging late in the quarter as the Blues tried to keep their chances alive but inaccuracy in front of goals prevented them from taking back the lead. At the final break a six point lead to Port set up a great finish to the game.
Matthew Kruezer missed the first scoring opportunity of the final quarter and the match went from bad to worse for Mick Malthouse and his men. Port Adelaide started to dominate play and after a couple of misses of their own, they piled on the next five goals in a row including a fourth for Robbie Gray and a fifth for Justin Westhoff. Polec showed why the Power worked so hard to ensure he ended up with them and not the crosstown rival Crows as he set up multiple scoring chances with his dash and dynamic kicking into the forward line. Jeff Garlett managed a consolation goal for the Blues but it was too little too late as Port picked up an impressive 33 point win.
Both teams have the next week off as Round One continues but Round Two sees both teams play blockbusters. Carlton will match up against traditional foes Richmond at the MCG while Port Adelaide will host the Crows in the first AFL game at the revamped Adelaide Oval. The city of Adelaide will come to a stand still for the first “Showdown” of the season.
Scoreboard Carlton: 4.4 8.8 11.13 12.15 (87) Port Adelaide: 1.0 7.5 11.7 18.12 (120) Best Players Carlton: Gibbs, Simpson, Murphy, Henderson, Curnow, Port Adelaide: Westhoff, Polec, Wines, Gray, Cornes, Boak, Wingard
Article last changed on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 9:13 PM EDT