Port Adelaide midfielder and former Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff also announced his retirement. Rockliff, 31, has had a horror run of injuries this year. Early in May, he landed awkwardly during a SANFL match, damaging both knees. He was confined to a wheelchair in early May after surgery. Just a week later, he was hospitalized after complaining of acute calf pain. He was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis and the doctors found blood clots on his lungs. He has been on blood-thinning medication since, and he was barred from taking part in any contact drills when he returned to training duties several weeks ago.
The AFL has announced their annual life members and the winners of the Jack Titus Award for service to the game. The life membership awards will officially be presented at the league AGM in March. Nine players and coaches qualified automatically by reaching the total of 300 games as either player or coach, including preseason games and international rules.
Just days after Stratton, Puopolo and Simpson decided to bow out, so did Port forward Justin Westhoff. He will see out the season. Westhoff, 33 and the father of four, is in second spot for games played with the Power. After Round 18, his game tally is 281. He said of his retirement and career, “I’m not getting any younger ... and it just seems to be the right time ... Having a young family, I don’t want to miss much more of what my kids are doing, so it just felt like the right time.
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’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 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.
Round 22 was full of stories. There was heartbreak in Adelaide as the Crows and Power likely blew their chance at playing finals, but there were also two of the season’s greatest games played between four of the league’s best teams. Both of those incredible games were physical, skillful contests that came down to one kick for goal that separated the winners from the losers. Brisbane’s last gasp win over Geelong in front of a rampant Lions home crowd came courtesy of a potential “Mark of the Year” by Lincoln McCarthy who goaled for a one point win, while it was Richmond’s favorite rascal in Jack Riewoldt who snapped truly to give his Richmond team a meritorious win against a gallant West Coast Eagles on Sunday at the MCG. All four teams will no doubt play a big part in September.
Other big winners in a stunning round of footy were the Western Bulldogs who followed up 21 consecutive goals the previous week against Essendon with a dozen in a row against a disappointing Greater Western Sydney who let their home fans down.
The big three in Collingwood, Geelong and Greater Western Sydney all had wins over the weekend to strengthen their positions on the AFANA AFL Power Poll and put themselves in great shape as the season moves into round eight. The Magpies dominated Port Adelaide early in the Friday night game to cruise to victory, while Geelong was never threatened by a disappointing Essendon at the MCG on Sunday.
Welcome to the first AFANA AFL Power Poll for 2019, and what a crazy couple of rounds of footy we have witnessed to kick off the season! If what we have seen so far is any indication, Aussie rules football fans are in for a crazy ride in 2019. Nothing should surprise us given the last three premiers have come from 8th, 13th and 6th on the ladder in the year prior to taking out the big one.
Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
After a weekend of big wins, more injuries and the previously sole remaining undefeated team going down, there have been some big movers on the AFANA AFL Power Poll this week. Port Adelaide once again failed to handle Essendon on the fast deck at Etihad stadium, taking their first loss of the season in the process. Big wins to Richmond