Port press flag case as bulletproof Pies keep firing: Key takeouts from round 10

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Port Adelaide d Melbourne

Port Adelaide’s engrossing four-point victory over Melbourne at a wet and wild Adelaide Oval rubber-stamped the Power’s claims as a genuine premiership contender. Friday’s hard-earned triumph followed a similar path to most of the others Port have conjured across their seven-game winning streak. After a commanding first half, the Power were swamped in the third term and fell in a hole before rising again under pressure in the fourth. The Power have had to fight back in six of their eight wins this season – only their victories against lowly West Coast and North Melbourne could be considered routine. But they keep finding a way. It can’t be considered a fluke. Zak Butters (41 touches, two goals) dominated, producing the finest game of his burgeoning career. Averaging 30.3 disposals during Port’s winning streak, Butters has joined the upper echelon of AFL midfielders. The Demons certainly shouldn’t be dismayed by the defeat. In difficult, slippery conditions which curbed the anticipated impact of captain Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, and with Christian Petracca relatively well held for a half, Melbourne can take solace in the fact they succumbed by less than a kick despite really only turning up for a quarter. However, they are likely to be without star mid Clayton Oliver for up to a month with a hamstring injury. – Steve Barrett

Zak Butters has joined the top echelon of mids.Credit: Getty Images

Sydney d North Melbourne

When the pain and anger from the heartbreaking defeat (and interchange stuff-up) subsides, North fans should be encouraged by their team’s performance. They delivered a much more competitive display, and their kids played important roles. Harry Sheezel impressed again, though would dearly love to have kicked a third goal to ice the game in the last term.

George Wardlaw gives North fans reason for optimism.Credit: Getty Images

On debut, George Wardlaw matched it with some hardened Swans with six clearances among his 16 disposals. Will Phillips, another top-end draft pick, had five centre clearances in one of his best performances. Callum Coleman-Jones should derive plenty of confidence. The Kangas will trouble a lot of bottom-10 sides if they play with this purpose. And don’t let the Swans’ great escape fool you. They have some serious problems in the midfield they need to quickly rectify if they are to make a run at the eight. Yes, injuries have hit them hard, but they still fielded 17 of their grand final 23. Without Dane Rampe, Tom and Paddy McCartin, the Swans do not have the tall timber in defence to cover their centre square deficiencies. The Swans were outscored by 28 points from stoppages, and lost the clearance count for the seventh time this year. Too much is resting on the shoulders of Luke Parker and Chad Warner. Callum Mills is injured. James Rowbottom is better than he’s shown. Perhaps Errol Gulden, Braeden Campbell and Ollie Florent need to play greater roles in the guts. A serious ankle injury to ruckman Peter Ladhams places further strain on their midfield set-up. This win at least keeps them in touch with the eight. – Andrew Wu

Western Bulldogs d Adelaide

Handsomely thwarted in the centre square and off-kilter in front of the sticks, the Western Bulldogs found a different way to get the job done. Their fifth successive victory was in no doubt from halfway through the opening quarter, leaving Luke Beveridge’s men knocking on the door of the top four. Best-on-ground Bailey Smith, Bailey Dale, Tom Liberatore and Caleb Daniel all helped themselves to 30-plus touches, quite incredible given Adelaide repeatedly fashioned first use from stoppages. The Dogs completed the rout by running the Crows ragged on the outside. Captain Marcus Bontempelli appears to have avoided a knee injury after a second-quarter scare but 2016 premiership teammate Jason Johanissen wasn’t so fortunate, likely to miss a large chunk of footy after suffering a serious hamstring injury. Adelaide were never in the hunt, entering the match without their best forward (Taylor Walker, managed) and best defender (Tom Doedee, concussion). They were repeatedly undone by poor skill execution and a pedestrian approach to defence. The Crows remain in the mix for a drought-breaking finals berth but not if Saturday’s Mars Stadium washout suddenly becomes the norm. – Steve Barrett

Best on ground: Bailey Smith in action.Credit: Getty Images

Fremantle d Geelong

The Cats again find themselves in trouble, a 29-point loss to surging Fremantle in Perth leaving them with a 5-5 record. While skipper Patrick Dangerfield and ruckman Rhys Stanley cannot return from injury quickly enough, coach Chris Scott opted for a calm approach after the Dockers’ relentless pressure flattened his men. “I’m sitting here feeling pretty optimistic about what we can do. We completely understand, especially the last few weeks, we’ve been playing with a different team, which leads to some cohesion issues,” he said. Dangerfield hopes to return from a hamstring injury against the Giants on Saturday at GMHBA Stadium, while Cam Guthrie (toe), Gary Rohan (hamstring) and Sam De Koning (face) aren’t far away. Jack Henry, sent forward, made a strong return from injury, but Jeremy Cameron was unable to have the influence he wanted. The Dockers, having won three straight, are reborn with a more attacking brand. Gun midfielder Andrew Brayshaw was superb with 33 touches and 10 tackles, while Nat Fyfe was dynamic until he was subbed off in the third term. In key talls Jye Amiss, Josh Treacy and Luke Jackson, the Dockers will challenge even the best of defences. Jackson has a big date on Saturday against his former club at the MCG. – Jon Pierik

Brisbane d Gold Coast

It was another mature performance by the Brisbane Lions, who put the pedal to the metal when it mattered to smash the Suns in the last quarter. Lachie Neale led the midfield, but if anything – despite not racking up quite the same numbers – he’s a better player for the arrival of Josh Dunkley, who allows him to do more damage. Neale himself said after the game that Joe Daniher might now be leading the Lions’ best and fairest count, with the big forward again pivotal to the outcome. For the Suns and coach Stuart Dew, a dicey month looms, with games in Darwin against the Bulldogs and Crows, then Carlton, Hawthorn and Collingwood after the bye. For a team desperate to play finals but with only four wins, they’re in a delicate position, to say the least. – Andrew Stafford

Joe Daniher is in the hunt for Brisbane’s best and fairest.Credit: Getty Images

Essendon d Richmond

Essendon’s hopes of keeping Sam Durham’s development “under wraps” have been foiled by his game-winning goal against Richmond on Saturday night. But on a broader point, Bombers coach Brad Scott said Durham, a 2021 mid-season draftee, was yet another example of the raw talent available outside the AFL.“There are plenty of good players around the country, it’s just a matter of them being identified and developed well,” Scott said. “Sam has all the attributes of a really good player and our development coaches have worked really strongly with him. We were trying to keep him under wraps, but now everyone knows who he is.” Richmond must get more from their key forwards as Tom Lynch is expected to be out for several more weeks and Jack Riewoldt is playing under duress. “If I’m being honest, Jack probably shouldn’t be playing at the moment, he’s incredibly sore and he’s just tough. He’s putting his hand up to play because I need him,” Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said. Samson Ryan is still developing but Hardwick wants more from him and his other forwards. – Roy Ward

Hawthorn d West Coast

After Hawthorn’s demolition of bottom-placed West Coast, the Eagles are looking more likely to claim the wooden spoon and have first crack at looming No.1 draft pick Harley Reid. It was a 116-point drubbing on Sunday afternoon at the University of Tasmania Stadium, led by Mitch Lewis’ six goals. Sam Mitchell gave credit to a rejuvenated midfield post-game, which included Will Day, tagged by Eagle Xavier O’Neill but still finished with 24 disposals, nine of those contested. Adding to the woes of West Coast, another name entered the injury list. Jamaine Jones was substituted off with lower leg issue in the second quarter. In a positive note for the Eagles, Dom Sheed was prolific and led the disposal count with 30 touches, along with Sicily and Nash. Hawthorn now have the daunting task of playing St Kilda, Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions. – Marnie Vinall

Collingwood d Carlton

Not only does the ladder tell us the Magpies are the AFL’s best team, but they are playing like it, too. Unlike last season, when then-reigning premiers Melbourne cruised through a soft draw with some unconvincing football to be 10-0, Collingwood look bulletproof. Captain Darcy Moore is in rare form, even by his standards, but they have contributors everywhere. Veterans Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom are enjoying excellent seasons, as is Jordan De Goey; the Daicos brothers rarely, if ever, play a bad game; and Brody Mihocek has never had it better up forward.

And how about the underrated Nathan Murphy, the man who allows Moore to freely fly for intercept marks? They have bottom sides North Melbourne and West Coast across the next fortnight before a titanic King’s Birthday clash with the Dees. As for Carlton, every player besides Charlie Curnow, Sam Docherty and Adam Cerra would be disappointed with their output on Sunday. They are a team bereft of confidence – obvious enough from their chaotic, flawed ball movement – and the public messaging from coach Michael Voss is confusing at times. Asked if he believed they could turn their form woes around in time to challenge for finals, Voss replied: “I concede nothing and expect nothing at the same time, so that’s probably where we sit.” – Marc McGowan

St Kilda d GWS

The Saints expect Mitch Owens to be sidelined for at least three weeks after a serious concussion that saw him slip and be accidentally collected in the back of the head by an opponent’s knee. Owens has been one of St Kilda’s best this season and he will be kept out for longer if needed. Coach Ross Lyon said his young star may only miss one match if his recovery goes to plan. “Theoretically, this might have come at the right time as he will miss Hawthorn, get the bye and hopefully be OK. It was a big knee to the head, it could have been worse and, at least, it didn’t get him frontal. We will take every precaution, won’t push anything, hopefully, it is just three weeks. We will take no risks as that is a pretty special young player we have got.”

Key forward Max King’s first game of 2023 netted four goals and Lyon saw benefits for his youngsters like Anthony Caminiti and Mattaes Phillipou. “I just spoke in the rooms about his return was a credit to his eight-month rehab. He had a setback with a hamstring tendon and he never wavered and he got due reward today. He will get better and better. He really helps Caminiti play a little bit better as well.” – Roy Ward

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