BLOCKBUSTER BREAKDOWN – ROUND 19 Port v Central
The SANFL’s Zac Milbank previews this week’s Match of the Round:
PORT ADELAIDE (6th 6-9) v CENTRAL DISTRICT (5th 8-7)
At Alberton Oval, 2.10pm Sunday
Radio – 1197AM 5RPH
The stats sheet
Played 138 – Port 83, Central 54, Drawn 1
At Alberton Oval – Played 47: Port 30, Central 17
The last three
Round 12, 2013 – Port 8.5 (53) d Central 8.3 (51) at Playford Alive Oval
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
Why is it such a big match?
This is Port Adelaide’s last crack at staying in the race for a top-five berth. The sixth-placed Magpies are already two wins behind the Bulldogs so if they drop this contest on Sunday, they can virtually call an end to their hopes of playing in September. Conversely, Central would still be smarting from losing to Port by just two points in their last meeting during Round 12 this year.
Where will it be won?
Port’s effort level during the third term will be critical. In two of their past three outings, the Magpies have dropped off considerably after the main break. In fact, Ken McGregor’s charges have kicked just one goal after half-time in their contests against North and Norwood. In the other match against Glenelg, Port showed considerable fight albeit against much weaker opposition. If Central can put the foot down in the second half on Sunday, it could be well on the way toward sealing fifth spot.
Graham Johncock (Port) v Josh Waldhuter (Central)
Retired Crow Johncock looms as a major threat to Central given his ability to create something from nothing inside Port’s attacking 50m arc. The experienced campaigner has kicked 34 goals this year to be sitting third in the race for the Ken Farmer Medal. Waldhuter, enjoying his most consistent season in defence, could be thrown the task of standing the crafty Port forward. This could be an excellent test in the left-footer’s development.
James Meiklejohn (Port) v Seb Guilhaus (Central)
Two of the SANFL’s most consistent ruckmen will be pitted against each other in what should be an entertaining duel. Meiklejohn continues to play a virtual lone-hand for his side, emphasised by him tallying 30 of Port’s 41 hitouts against Norwood last Friday night. In contrast, Guilhaus – one of the recruits of the season – is not only the leading hitout winner in the competition, he is benefiting from the presence of Crows rookie Ben Dowdell.
Zane Kirkwood (Port) v Jarrod Schiller (Central)
This could be a match-up which may eventuate as the game progresses. Should Kirkwood continue to get a mountain of the ball as he has done all season, Central coach Roy Laird could be tempted to place a tight tag on the Magpies’ ball magnet. While Schiller has certainly developed the offensive side of his game in recent seasons, Laird will know he also has the ability to sacrifice this for the betterment of his team.
Ken McGregor (Port): ‘’Obviously if we lose, we don’t have a chance of making it (into the top five). If we win, we still have a chance. That will provide a lot of motivation for our guys to play the best sort of footy we can.
‘’They (players) know how important it is and they know they want to play finals so they don’t need me to drum that into them. If don’t have a good effort this week then that dream is dead so I am sure the guys will provide a lot of internal passion to make sure they play well this week.
‘’We haven’t been getting the results we’ve wanted to get (in the past three weeks). I think Glenelg played better than what they had before then but last week there were some issues with the way we played. Norwood is such a quality side; they didn’t let us play any good footy so we have got to be better than what we were last week. We definitely think we are a lot better than that and we feel we can show that this week.
‘’I thought we were pretty competitive for most of the third quarter against Norwood but we have let games go. When teams have got a few goals in front of us, we haven’t been fighting to the very end and that is not a positive trait.
‘’He (Kory Beard) is very likely to play (after having hamstring tightness). We will give him a fitness test on Saturday but I’m hopeful he will be fine. He’s very important for us as he is one of the best defenders in the league. Last week we obviously missed him and he is probably in our top two or three players so they boys will be very happy to have him back, especially for a crunch game like this one.’’
Roy Laird (Central): ‘’We’re coming off an effort which we felt was good for us. We played a strong, physical brand of footy which we have been striving to do all year. So what we need to do desperately is back it up no matter what the circumstance of the game. Our training has been good but it’s all about performance and consistency is the sign of a good team. We’re hungry for our own success, not what it means for Port Adelaide.
‘’No doubt consistency has been a problem. It’s been two steps forward, one step back too often this year for us so we are hungry to play well.
‘’It was a team effort. I think we only had one player with more than 20 possessions (against North on Saturday). It was a really even spread, not reliant on individuals which we have been at different stages this year. So we want the same again. Our midfield was terrific; we were really competitive in there.
‘’He (Justin Hardy) was pretty good on the weekend. I’ve just got to be constantly throwing him and others around to make sure we get our forward mix right. Port has looked dangerous up in their forward line the couple of times we’ve played them this year so we’ve got to get the match-ups right. Justin has importantly added that versatility for us and he was able to play a role for us (in attack) on the weekend.
‘’He (Alan Obst) will play in the reserves. He got suspended and then during that suspension we had scans on his ankle that was giving him a problem. He had minor surgery on it then to clean it up. In the lead up to last week, he was going all right but he just had a bit of a setback so we chose to take it slower with him. Aerobically, he is a strong bloke fitness wise so it won’t take it long for him to get back in (at league level). He brings a real physical component to his game and therefore ours so if we can get him as fit as we can, he has got a major role to play.’’
Zac’s Tip – Central by 19 points