A star is born; AFL’s new bump normal is revealed: The 3-2-1
An injury-ravaged Essendon outfit has fallen to a rampaging Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, with the Power cruising to a 18.11 (119) to 9.11 (65) win in Round 2.
The Bombers were up against it heading into the match, with skipper Dyson Heppell ruled out an hour before the contest, then suffered injury blows to Jye Caldwell (hamstring), Sam Draper (leg) and Dylan Shiel (knee) in a brutal second half, but still managed to grind out the game.
Port Adelaide looked impenetrable for much of the contest, dominating general play from the opening bounce and keeping the Bombers at bay for the remainder of the match.
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Orazio Fantasia, facing his old side for the first time, kicked two goals and looked lively once again as he continued his impressive start to life as a Port Adelaide player.
Mitch Georgiades, a late inclusion for Todd Marshall who had back soreness, kicked four goals in an imposing display that’s set to give coach Ken Hinkley headaches at the selection table next week.
Young gun Zak Butters was phenomenal through the midfield, finishing with 36 touches and kicking a major in a display that left the Fox Footy team salivating at his future.
For Essendon, Jordan Ridley was composed in defence despite an attacking frenzy from Port Adelaide, while Zach Merrett and Andrew McGrath were once again the two leading disposal winners for their side’s midfield brigade.
Cale Hooker and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti combined for six goals, while recruit Peter Wright was largely absent in front of goal.
THE 3-2-1 (by David Zita and Ben Waterworth)
3. PORT’S NEW LEADER OF THE YOUNG GUN TRIO
He’s perhaps the least flashy of Port Adelaide’s three young guns, but is Zak Butters the best of them at this stage?
The 20-year-old and former Pick 12 was classy with his 16 disposals last week, booting a couple of goals, but in Round 2 he burst out of the blocks, racking up nine touches and a goal in the first quarter.
While Connor Rozee and Xavier Duursma’s highs are exhilerating, the level and consistency of Butters had St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt making a big call on where he sits early on in their careers.
“I think he’s gone past him (Rozee) at this stage of their careers,” he said at quarter-time.
“He’s a really complete player. He does the brilliant things that we all associate with his games but there’s a level of toughness as well he doesn’t waste a touch.
“Already he’s up to the nine disposals, kicked a goal and he’s used the footy really well around the ground.”
As Butters continued to dominate, Adelaide legend Mark Ricciuto was in awe watching on.
“I’m not sure there’s anything Zac Butters can’t do - he’s the complete player at the moment,” he said early in the third term.
“If he can go into the midfield and take it to another level which he looks like doing he is going to be a star of the competition if he isn’t already.”
Butters finished with 36 touches at 86 per cent efficiency, a goal and seven score involvements.
2. A SEEMINGLY SIMPLE BUMP HIGHLIGHTS THE NEW NORMAL
In the second term, a well-executed but late bump on Hamish Hartlett by Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti gifted Port Adelaide a free kick.
While neither player was worse for wear after the incident, there were eerie comparisons with Patrick Dangerfield’s bump on that very oval a week before, which left Jake Kelly with concussion and a broken nose and Dangerfield with a three-week suspension.
Watching on from the boundary, Crows great Mark Ricciuto noted that, while there was no harm done by Saturday’s bump, it would’ve gone against what coaches would want from their players now.
“The danger with the Tipungwuti hit there is, like Dangerfield last week, any sort of bad luck or head clash there and he could be out for weeks,” he said.
“I’m sure the coaches are already drilling into them don’t bump, it’s not worth the risk, you have to tackle now or do nothing.”
Jason Dunstall agreed, adding there could’ve been trouble for the Bombers star “even if he (Hartlett) hits his head on the ground after the bump with the whiplash effect.”
1. THE POWER ARE ‘ROLLING THE DICE’ – AND IT’S SCARY TO WATCH
If you weren’t a believer in the Power being a premiership contender last week, you would’ve been slightly more convinced on Saturday.
The Power were the best forward-half team in the competition last year, thanks to their ability to lock the ball in the area forward of centre and generate repeat inside 50 entries.
But in 2021, Ken Hinkley’s men are thriving as a team that generates scores predominantly from the back-half, showing their ability to adapt to the changing nature of the game.
Last week 10 of Port Adelaide’s goals against North Melbourne were launched from the defensive half.
On Saturday against Essendon, eight of Port Adelaide’s 11 first-half goals were generated from the defensive half of the ground, compared to one from the forward-half (the other two came from centre bounce clearances).
“We’re seeing the changing nature of the game – and it’s never been more evident in the style some of the teams are playing,” Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall told Fox Footy at half-time.
“All of a sudden, Port Adelaide who are great at forward-half turnovers last year, they’ve had no goals from forward-half turnovers in the first half. That never happened in any half last year. All of sudden, their goals are coming from defence.
“They weren’t a big transition from one half to the other (team) last year, (but) they were No. 1 last week in terms of transitioning from back to forward – and they’re doing it again today.”
St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt added: “No one has been good at taking the ball from one end of the ground to the other. That’s been the hardest thing to do in the game. But a combination, we think, of the change in rules but also a change in mindset – teams are holding their players deeper in the forward line, teams are taking off.
“Port Adelaide players are rolling the dice, getting forward of the ball in the event they do win it.”
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