Player switch proves pivotal as Power downs Dogs
YOU wouldn't know it from looking at the stats sheet but Port Adelaide young gun Sam Powell-Pepper may have been the club's most influential player in its 17-point win over the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat.
Powell-Pepper performed a negating role on the Dogs' most damaging ball winner, sacrificing his game to ensure his side kept its top-four hopes alive.
At half-time, Bulldogs midfielder Jack Macrae had racked up 23 disposals at an incredible 91.3 per cent efficiency. On top of that, he had accumulated seven clearances, fives tackles and three inside 50s.
Ken Hinkley and the Port Adelaide coaching staff knew they had to somehow quell Macrae's influence. Enter SPP.
The first-year bull shadowed Macrae with every step, limiting him to just eight disposals in the third term.
Port Adelaide assistant coach Michael Voss said the move had already reaped dividends at the last break.
"He was getting away from us in that first half," Voss told Fox Footy at three-quarter-time.
"(Marcus) Bontempelli was copping a lot of attention, but for him to be able to go to (Macrae) and get the result was good.
"We've put ourselves in a good position, now we just need to finish it off."
And that's exactly what Port Adelaide did, kicking the last four goals through stars Charlie Dixon, Chad Wingard, Robbie Gray and Jared Polec to dash the Western Bulldogs' premiership defence.
HARTLETT'S BEEF WITH BOB
We don't know what was exchanged between Hamish Hartlett and Bob Murphy at half-time, but we can take a fair guess.
Murphy - who announced his retirement earlier this week - was awarded a free kick after the siren, with his shot hitting the post to give the Bulldogs a six-point lead at half-time.
Hartlett beelined Murphy, sparking a heated exchange between a mass of players from both sides.
THE DAHLHAUS EFFECT
Poor Luke Dahlhaus can't take a trick.
Last week he copped Toby Greene's studs to his face in the Bulldogs' loss to GWS.
This week he got bowled over by Port Adelaide's Tom Jonas.
Replays showed Jonas elbowing the Bulldogs' midfielder in the upper neck region.
There were no reports laid on the spot, but the Bulldogs were awarded a 50-metre penalty. And Jonas was subsequently booed every time he went near the ball for the remainder of the match by the 10,087 strong crowd.
Expect to see this incident reviewed by the Match Review Panel come Monday.
Port Adelaide's first pick at last year's draft, Todd Marshall, had a prickly introduction to AFL.
The tall forward collected a solitary handball in the opening quarter, before dropping an uncontested mark in the forward line in the second term.
The 18-year-old quickly made amends, however, edging out an opponent just outside 50 to take a mark that should have resulted in a goal assist, were it not for a teammate's fumble.
Lewis Young, another 18-year-old, lined up on Marshall for most of the match, perhaps giving us an insight into a battle we'll see many more times to come.
JAKE ON A STRING
Footy had barely gone 10 minutes in Ballarat before the match had its first casualty - and for the Western Bulldogs it was a big one.
Jake Stringer limped towards the race, favouring his left hamstring, after making a positive start to the match.
Minutes later the premiership forward emerged and headed straight to the bench to have his upper right leg iced. His day was over.
With Jack Redpath (suspension) and Tom Boyd (mental illness) out of the side, added pressure was heaped on Travis Cloke as the Dogs' lone tall forward.
Cloke responded, kicking two goals to half-time.
LONG SLEEVE COUNT
With forecasts of rain, hail and even snow, you could have forgiven both sides for mandating long sleeves.
But in the end only four players chose to don the warmer option.
From Port Adelaide, it was Chad Wingard, Justin Westhoff and Robbie Gray, although Gray was sporting more of a three-quarter look.
Young gun Lewis Young was the only Bulldog to cover up.