We entered season 2019 on the back of a strong preseason and only a handful of players unavailable through injury. Selection saw three new faces in the league team in Jade Cleeland, Pat Levicki and Dallas Willsmore. I though each contributed soundly on the night. It was also pleasing to have emerging players Elliot Duncan, Gibson Turner and Lachlan Evans be rewarded for strong preseason form, whilst we welcomed back Chris Schmidt and Will Snelling.
The first quarter was reasonably even. I felt Port had some good scoring opportunities early, on the back of some easy stoppage takeaways and some loose checking of direct opponents around half back. A couple of poor kicking options through the middle of the ground were also costly. However, once we settled, we also generated our own scoring opportunities through controlled ball movement.
Against the breeze in the second term, I thought we defended reasonably well, particularly in contested ball in the back 50m. However, with ball in hand, we became a little too predictable in b50m which ultimately limited our inability to transition the ball from defence in an effective manner. On occasion where we found space on the outer side, I felt were looked dangerous and so we take some learning from this. After minimising the oppositions scoreboard impact for most of the quarter we had a poor few minutes. We again lost some critical stoppages and our backs were caught out with some positioning. Two late goals were disappointing however this again presents another learning opportunity- we simply must play out quarters.
Port hit the scoreboard early in the 3rd however I was pleased with our response. We had our most productive period of the game, signalled by winning the contested ball in the middle of the ground and some strong ball movement from the b50m. We were able to open up Port’s defence and our forwards looked dangerous. We also found some scoreboard impact from f50m restarts which was pleasing.
We entered the final term just a few points behind however kicking into a reasonable breeze. We aimed to modify our ball movement slightly in response to our second term. Again, our ability to transition the ball from a turnover was productive and Ken Karpany scored his third goal to see us hit the lead at the 4min mark. We then held sway for another 3-4 mins before a very poor period. For the following 7mins we failed in two key areas: skills and contested ball/stoppages. Unfortunately, we turned over four balls in b50m and lost every contested ball and stoppage. We simply could not get our hands on the ball or the opposition. Port found some efficiency on the back or some easy stoppage takeaways and made us pay. Very quickly the game was taken away from us. I was pleased that we responded and played out the game strongly however the damage had been done in a very short period. Our response to such momentum swings needs to improve.
Overall, I thought there were some very positive signs. Our ball movement, skill level and defensive structures were sound. We will review our stoppage work and expect an improved outcome here. Our ball movement against the wind is also a focus area.
I thought it was a very even team performance. I was generally pleased with our back line as I thought they were resilient in the 1V1 contests. Gibson Turner and Ken Karpany was both rewarded for their work rate and intensity. I thought Jono Beech was also important contributor across half forward. John Noble and Murray Waite both found plenty of the mid through the midfield and were consistent across 4 quarters.