25/04/2024
Dante Visentini. Picture: Jack Hudson

Dante Visentini. Picture: Jack Hudson

The ‘pre-season showdown’ delighted the packed Alberton Oval on Friday night. Port walked away as winners in a six-quarter thriller.

Injury Front

On the injury front, Mark Keane got a whack in a tackle toward the end of the first term. He would come off the ground and go straight down into the room.  He was later ruled out with concussion. 

Sam Powell-Pepper, who landed the bump on Keane, was reported.

Rory Laird had a “couple of corkies,” according to assistant coach Scott Burns., while for Port, Jackson Mead had a poke in eye and some blurred vision, “but should be right”, according to assistant Chad Cornes. 

Questions ahead of the Community Series

Ahead of the AFL community series, there are a number of talking points from the match simulation on Friday night.

Hinkley’s Wing Battle

Former Port skipper Tom Jonas was on Fox Footy’s coverage on Friday night. He mentioned the battle for Port’s final wing position is up for grabs. 

While Boak looked settled on one wing, Josh Sinn, Jase Burgoyne, and Miles Bergman, among others, are doing battle for one of the final spots in the 22 at Alberton.

“We saw him (Bergman) to real damage of the wing and half back last year, he’s open to the move, (to the wing).  We are experimenting with what the lineup looks like, but he’s one that could fill that wing spot for us,” Chad Cornes said.

“Sinny only just came on, but he played really well last week.

“He’s developing really well, obviously been so frustrating for him with injuries.  He’s got some real weapons we’d love to put on display.

“Jase Burgoyne is another one who’s had a really strong preseason, does some great stuff. Still working on his disposal and finding a target by foot, but he’s putting himself right up for selection.”   

Port’s powerful midfield

New Port captain Connor Rozee looks likely to run riot with Butters and Horne-Francis.  The big three had strong showings and were dangerous as the game progressed in both the midfield and forward rotations.

Each gave something to the Power outfit in the match simulation. Rozee’s goal sense was on full display when he got his goal in the first quarter. This has always been one of the Port captain’s greatest strength, even back when was playing at North Adelaide as a junior.  

Horne-Francis was able to use his elite distribution to kick inside forward 50, setting up multiple scoring shots. 

Meanwhile Butters elite running ability was able to help in both attack and defence. He was especially dangerous on the transition, and will give opposition coaches headaches wondering how to stop him.

Chad Cornes also mentioned the big three,

“Butters really sparked us, toward the end of the first period, and got us going.  He does things I haven’t seen to many footy players do. When you’ve got Connor (Rozee) and Horne-Francis and Ollie (Wines), it’s a pretty solid midfield,” he said.

Despite the bump on Keane, Powell-Pepper was also very busy across the day’s play.  In the second term, he came bursting through the middle of the ground, delivering the ball inside forward 50. 

He was a massive part of a Port midfield that lifted as the game progressed. Powell-Pepper also hit the scoreboard to go with his midfield dominance, a great goal that he snapped from the boundary line.  

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Crows’ tall forwards look dangerous

It was the Crows with the fast start, Keays getting the ball forward to Thilthorpe for the first out of the middle.  Darcy Fogarty goaling minutes later, the Crows tall forward line looking very dangerous moments into the game. 

Thilthorpe’s impressive form would continue in the third term, taking a strong one-handed mark and goaling to give the Crows the lead. While Fogarty did not miss out either, joining the multiple goal kickers list in the third quarter. 

“He’s putting on size and strength, and still maintaining some pretty good running times,” Burns said.

“It’s not easy for a big fella, he’s already played a handful of games and managed to kick two bags of five already. I think if you look at his contested marks, they’re amongst the top 10 in the league.”

Former Cat a defensive pillar at the Power

For large parts of the game, Esava Ratugolea had the job on Taylor Walker. Often playing the spare defender role at Geelong, it would need a massive adjustment from the former Cat.

Tex was involved in a couple of scoring chances early for the Crows, leaving Esava on the back foot.  However, Walker was goalless at half time as the battle raged on. 

Elsewhere in the defensive end for Port, Aliir was a brick wall.  All day, he took defensive intercept after defensive intercept to stop Adelaide as they entered their attacking 50. 

“They showed some signs, but I think they will learn a little bit as well.  Some of their positioning in the third period in particular, they’ll learn from.  But they have had a really solid pre-season, they are working really well together,” Cornes said.

The way Port set up there defensive structure will go a long way to deciding how 2024 unfolds for the Alberton based club.

Zerk-Thatcher and Ratugolea were brought across to help Port at the back. It will be interesting to see how they work with each other and the Power’s other talls.

Former Sun not losing his shine

Former Sun Izak Rankine isn’t one to miss out on a highlight reel.  He kicked a goal from the pocket, drilling the ball from the boundary line to wow the fair number of Crows fans who had the journey into enemy territory.    

The Crows over the summer mentioned that both him and fellow forward Josh Rachele are looking likely to play more midfield minutes in 2024. This no doubt, will be tested against the Eagles on Saturday.

Ben Keays unlocking the midfield

After a strong 2023, it looked like Ben Keays was prepared to go again in 2024.  Keays was winning the ball in the middle, and had the first clearance of the game, ending in a goal for his team. 

He also kicked two goals himself. Adelaide’s number two rotated between forward and midfield, a display that put him in the conversation for ‘Best on Ground’ honours.  

The question around his position in the best 22 might become clearer after Saturday’s game, as the Crows look ahead to the Suns in Round One.

Adelaide’s Curtin Call

Dan Curtin entered the arena for his first taste of AFL football toward the end of the second quarter.  The West Australian was wearing the number 6 for the Crows.  As the game progressed Curtin would get a couple of touches and show some positive signs for Adelaide.

“It’s hard for a young fella to come in when you should be coming in at three-quarter-time, and then all of a sudden, you’re thrown in early in the game,” Burns said.

“As the game went on, I thought he handled himself very well.  It’s not easy to play your first game, and then under the circumstances, it shows his maturity and what he’s capable of doing. 

“He’s been good, (around the club in the preseason).  He had a little niggle and missed a few weeks training, but he’s been terrific.”

Curtin’s season will no doubt be one of learning. It looks likely he will play SANFL to start. Despite playing six WAFL league games next year, last year’s pick eight will still have so much to learn about playing on bigger bodies. That said, it appears he will, at some point in 2024, debut. He is one to watch for the future for Adelaide fans.

Port Adelaide’s ruck battle

Ivan Soldo, Jordan Sweet and Dante Visentini all played at some point over the six periods as they battled it out to be Port’s number one ruck. It seems likely that Port will use Friday night against the Dockers to finalise the ruck plans heading into Round one against West Coast. 

On Friday, Chad Cornes elaborated on the three players. Soldo started in the ruck and “did some good stuff” while Sweet was “solid” as well. 

He also thought that when Visentini entered the game in the fourth period, he showed positive signs. Stating he had “a big impact early.” 

The 2004 premiership player also said that they “competing really well against each other at training and that it’s really close battle all preseason”.  

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