BLOCKBUSTER BREAKDOWN – ROUND 12
The SANFL's Zac Milbank previews
this week’s Match of the Round
CENTRAL DISTRICT (5th, 5-4) v PORT ADELAIDE (6th 4-5)
At Playford Alive Oval, 2.10pm Saturday
Radio – 5RPH 1197AM
The stats sheet
Played 134 – Central 54, Port 82, Drawn 1
At Playford Alive Oval – Played 51: Central 27, Port 23, Drawn 1
The last three
Round 6, 2013 – Central 18.7 (115) d Port 11.6 (72) at Alberton Oval
Round 17, 2012 – Port 16.14 (110) d Central 7.9 (51) at Alberton Oval
Round 12, 2012 – Central 13.8 (86) d Port 11.5 (71) at Playford Alive Oval
Why is it such a big game?
For starters, both clubs are coming off big wins against premiership contenders Norwood (Port) and North (Central). Secondly, they are desperate to stay in touch with the competition’s pacesetters after enduring slow starts to the season. With Central sitting fifth and Port in sixth, winning this sort of encounter could be pivotal in securing a finals berth.
Where will it be won?
Easy to say but it has to be the midfield. One theme which has become evident during Port’s purple patch of good form has been the outstanding performance of young midfielders Sam Gray, Zane Kirkwood and Daniel Kulikowski. If all three of these players can produce the same high work-rate as they have in the past three weeks, the Pies will be tough to beat. It will also help negate the fact they are averaging just 43 inside 50 entries per game (eighth in the league) compared with the Bulldogs averaging 47 (second in the league).
James Boyd (Central) v Sam Gray (Port)
This duel alone would be worth the admission alone should it eventuate in the middle of the ground. Boyd and Gray are arguably the two best genuine rovers in the SANFL with their ability to get in and under and rack up the possessions. Not surprisingly, they were both selected in this year’s West End State team and should also be around the mark come Magarey Medal time.
Justin Hardy (Central) v Josh Thurgood (Port)
Both of these players have an ability to play nearly anywhere on the ground such is their versatility. But of late, Thurgood has found a home in attack due to the absence of Power-listed John Butcher while Ken Farmer Medallist Hardy has been pushed into defence with success. As a result, there is a strong chance the flexible pair could end up standing each other in what promises to be a pivotal duel.
Seb Guilhaus (Central) v James Meiklejohn (Port)
If Guilhaus wants a guide to where he’s at in terms of development, he’s going to get it on Saturday. The former Eagles and Glenelg ruckman has been ultra-consistent in his return to SANFL ranks this season and now he gets an opportunity to wrestle with one of the strongest men in the league. The presence of Crows rookie Ben Dowdell, who transferred from South Adelaide to Central before round 11, should ensure Guilhaus can remain fresh. Conversely, the lion-hearted Meiklejohn is virtually playing a lone hand in the ruck.
Roy Laird (Central): ‘’They (Port) have beaten North and Norwood so their form must be good. But we got a first-hand glimpse of that a while ago when we played them (in round six). They led us comfortably at Alberton, they were playing some really good footy so we are well aware of their capabilities and the need for us to perform ourselves.
‘’They’ve taken on a different dimension with their positioning changing up a bit. Gray’s been an on-baller who has been consistent. Summerton is a lad who gets a lot of the footy and uses it well; down back they look really solid with Kory Beard playing some good footy. Their AFL-listed contingent are also gelling well with (Brendan) AhChee, (Justin) Hoskin and (Aaron) Young all playing well on the ball so their depth looks good now.
‘’Both (Graham) Johncock and (Josh) Thurgood looked very dangerous against us last time so we are very mindful of what they can do but at the same time, we think we can play better ourselves and if we can do that, then we think we will be hard to beat.
‘’We had a couple of little areas where I thought we needed to maintain our concentration (during the last quarter against North in round 11). We worked incredibly hard, we tackled great and our pressure was outstanding. We have come out of the game feeling confident.
‘’ (Justin) Hardy has gone back (into defence) for the last three or so weeks and has been really solid for us while Corey (Reichert) has been really consistent all year against bigger types (of opponents) at times. But he (Reichert) is a really good negator.’’
Ken McGregor (Port): ‘’We’ve got confidence in our game plan but it will definitely be a big challenge playing against Central which has won its last five games straight. It will be a very tough match and they will be in a similar mindset to what we are at the moment.
‘’It’s (regaining competitive spirit) about the leadership group. There are a few guys there in the captain Jimmy Meiklejohn and the vice-captain Luke Slattery who know they are getting closer to the end of their career. About a month ago they decided near enough wasn’t good enough and have led by example with the way they have gone about it. Then the next tier of leaders has jumped on that which has allowed us to get on the right side of the equation.
‘’All three of those guys (Sam Gray, Daniel Kulikowski and Zane Kirkwood) are in some fantastic form. Not just in terms of using the ball well but also in terms of our pressure and intensity. We will be backing those guys in to do their thing but like last week, they have got a massive challenge in front of them in terms of the personnel they will be squaring off against.
‘’I don’t think we would be the lone wolf in terms of teams which haven’t won there (Elizabeth) for a while. We’re not thinking about where we are playing. We know we are playing against Central and we know how good they are so we’ve got to hope we have improved enough to have the intensity and determination to win the game.
‘’They’ve got talent forward and back but I think it is their midfield which has turned the corner for them. The midfield is generating enough space and ball to their forwards that they will kick a winning score for themselves. So that (midfield) is the key area for them without taking anything away from their forwards or backs. A large part of the game will be won in the midfield.’’
Zac’s Tip – Central by 17 points
|Last time they met: At Alberton Sunday May 5th... Vice Captain Kyle Jenner, one of Central's prime movers fires out a handball.|