Freshly crowned Coleman Medalist Tom Hawkins kicked six goals last time these sides met. He had six shots at goal again today, but for a starkly different outcome.
Tomahawk outplayed his direct opponent Trent McKenzie, taking seven marks, but early misses played on his mind with detrimental consequences.
He would kick 0.5, and you could tell his first two misses – albeit from tight angles – hurt his confidence when he tried to unsuccessfully snap around the corner from almost straight in-front with his third shot.
Set-shot kicking’s a contagious beast, and Hawkins’ teammates followed suit. The Cats kicking 1.7 from set shots, and finishing with 17 scoring shots to 13 in the 16 point defeat.
Crucially, the Cats were beaten at the coalface. Led by Ollie Wines (24 disposals, five clearances), Tom Rockliff (22 disposals, five clearances), and Travis Boak (22 disposals, four clearances), Port won the clearance battle 39-31, and they win over 90% of games when that’s the case.
Port’s concrete set-up behind the ball proved the ultimate difference, but it was a flurry of goals on either side of the main break that broke the game open.
Brad Ebert (two goals) nailed a set-shot after the half-time siren, whilst Connor Rozee and Steven Motlop (three goals) wasted little time stretching the lead to 14 once the second-half began.
Motlop hit his straps against his former side
It would become a 21-point lead before Patrick Dangerfield (22 disposals, six clearances, seven inside 50s) finally broke Port’s structure-induced shackles with Geelong’s first goal of the half on the cusp of three-quarter time, bursting through their last line of defence at the centre of the ground and dashing at least 70-metres to the top of the goalsquare.
A Rhys Stanley goal that willed its way over Hamish Hartlett’s outstretched fingers and skipped through got Geelong within 7, but it would be their last hoorah.
Todd Marshall iced the game with the final goal, symbolic of Port Adelaide’s brave and courageous night after he battled through a suspected AC-joint injury that forced him from the field in the first quarter.
Bruising clashes and sickening blows became a theme throughout the high-intensity contest. Late in the second quarter, incumbent All Australians Dangerfield and Darcy Byrne-Jones collided at full-speed, Dangerfield emerging with a bloodied face.
In the third quarter, 20 year old Xavier Duursma was left face-down and motionless for a terrifying few seconds, replays revealing he’d copped the full brunt of Rhys Stanley’s hip and elbow upon landing. Whilst Duursma couldn’t return to the field, he appeared ok, the 9.4.58 to 5.12.42 victory would’ve lifted his spirits.
Seconds before disaster
Port’s first finals win since 2014 marks their first Preliminary Final berth since 2014, whilst Geelong will face the winner of West Coast vs Collingwood next weekend in a sudden-death Semi Final.