Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray kick-started his team's Semi-Final victory over the Fremantle Dockers and was the difference between the two teams, scoring four goals in the third quarter. Along with brilliant support crew Ollie Wines and Chad Wingard, who threw everything they had at the Dockers, the Power got sweet revenge after being defeated by Fremantle for a Top Four finish just two short weeks ago.
Fremantle started with dash and played on at every opportunity. This strategy backfired on too many occasions with Port’s clever defensive positioning pressuring Fremantle into trouble as Port blocked the ball in their defensive zone and smothered forward kicks. In an odd twist, Port soon found themselves in trouble running the ball forward and clearing their back half. Mid-quarter Fremantle started to get on top with ferocious tackling. Every time Port got possession there was a purple swarm around them and they were not given the freedom to play their signature brand of running football. Despite this advantage, Fremantle were not convincing in their scoring, bungling easy shots on goal and not putting decisive scoreboard pressure on their opponents, giving them an opportunity to chase the lead down.
Coach Ross Lyon must have been beside himself with frustration. Here was a team doing everything right in his game plan, everything that is except putting the goals on the board. Fremantle had 17 shots on goals to eight at the half time break and, although they held a comfortable 24 point lead, there was a lingering feeling that they had not delivered the knock out blow when they had the chance.
Fremantle has experienced this problem before in Finals, notably in the 2013 Grand Final when they could not kick straight to save the match. Their inaccuracy and poor foot skills came back to haunt them in this game, recalling the infamous “Colliwobbles”, a term coined when Collingwood made Finals in past years and stumbled on the big stage.
After the half time break Port awoke from their slumber and proceeded to whittle back the lead. Coach Ken Hinkley must have managed the right combination of motivation and blistering feedback to fire the players up. Port's small forwards jumped out quickly and scored three goals before Michael Walters chimed in with a goal from an impossible angle to steady the Dockers down. Port’s coast to coast running was back and their confidence was lifting by the minute. Danyle Pearce made a terrific tackle to win a free kick but turned the ball over with a foolish centering pass across goals. His poor kick was the turning point as Fremantle fans' hearts sank and Wingard had his third goal. It seemed that Port would not go gently into that good night and Fremantle began to panic even more and rush their kicks.
At the other end of the ground, Walters was single-handedly keeping Fremantle in the game but there was a sense of a tsunami coming and the Dockers were only armed with buckets. Come the deluge did and once Port had gained the lead there was no stopping them. Wines took his turn rubbing salt in the wound and his sharp kicking at goals soon had the Dockers looking for any port in the storm except the Port facing them.
Port Adelaide steamed home and cameo goals to Jay Schultz and Jared Polec had the faithful Power fans who had made the trip west singing the club song. Port's fast and exciting run on style was back with a vengeance for the Finals. The Power players fully deserved their fighting win and will go on to meet Hawthorn to play for a berth in the Grand Final. Fremantle will again be dismayed by their inability to kick straight in finals and will go back to the drawing board over a long summer .
Scoreboard Fremantle: 3.5 6.11 8.13 11.16 (82) Port Adelaide: 2.2 3.5 9.9 15.15 (105) Best Players Fremantle: Neale, Fyfe, Walters, Sandilands, Barlow Port Adelaide: Gray, Wingard, Wines, Carlisle, Hartlett
Article last changed on Monday, September 15, 2014 - 11:19 AM EDT