Port regroups for a Kangaroo hunt
CRITICISED for dud recruits, a misfiring forward line, dog acts and off-field misdemeanours, Port Adelaide is copping it from all quarters entering Saturday's clash against North Melbourne.
Power midfield manager Michael Voss noted the fickle nature of the AFL industry defending the value of recruits Jack Watts, Steve Motlop and Tom Rockliff following a 34-point loss to Geelong.
"We heard a lot of comments about how important they were in the first two weeks and in two weeks that has changed," said Voss.
"We have a large portion of our group that need to improve but to single out I think it largely premature."
Complicating Port's task to win and stay in the top eight against third-ranked revelation North Melbourne is the absence of leading goalkicker Todd Marshall on personal leave.
Star midfielder Powell-Pepper will miss a third and final game in an AFL sanction for inappropriate behaviour at an Adelaide bar. Port must replace another forward, Lindsay Thomas, serving a collective four-match ban for hits on Cats siblings Scott and Joel Selwood at Adelaide Oval. Selwood labelled Thomas's bump on brother Scott a "dog act" at the AFL tribunal.
Second-year forward Marshall has booted nine goals followed by Watts (seven), Sam Gray (six), Chad Wingard and Charlie Dixon (five).
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd this week criticised Wingard's "disappointing" form and apparent lack of fitness while nominating Charlie Dixon's lacklustre stretch as a "barometer" for Port Adelaide.
The Power must also cover the loss of experienced half-back warrior Hamish Hartlett who suffered a serious knee injury at training yesterday.
Voss noted the Power became discouraged when it failed to capitalise on 52 inside 50 entries against the Cats.
Port retained just 45 per cent possession from 52 forward entries to kick 7.8 against the Cats who retained 64 per cent of 53 forward entries.
"We haven't been able to complete our plays through midfield, going inside 50 or finishing our goals," he said.
While Voss says the hit-outs to advantage statistic is overrated, Todd Goldstein's return to imperious influence in ruck could exploit a Port side struggling without injured Paddy Ryder.
Port has had offensive issues but it's defence will encounter Kangaroo colossus Ben Brown in career-best form.
Power defender Jack Hombsch said preventing supply to the spearhead who has a league leading 19.4 this season was critical.
Winning clearances 49-44 against the Cats provides Port a platform for improvement.
"He's in great form, he had a great year last year and he's started off really well again," said Hombsch of Brown.
"It will be more of a team effort, you have got to limit the ball getting to him and the quality of ball.
"He's going to kick goals on anyone if the midfielders are streaming out and kicking it to him one-on-one so you've just got to try limit the ball up the field and the quality of it coming inside 50."
Port had 58 long kicks and 98 short kicks against the Cats which was indicative of static ball movement when pinned to the wings.
Ken Hinkley's side will have to find a direct route to goal at Etihad where it has won 19 of 50 games.
"Speed of ball movement is our main issue I think," said Hombsch.
"Credit to Geelong we didn't really have an opportunity to get it going.
"That is something we do have to rectify, we have a lot of good personnel in our forward line so if we can get it to them in a one-on-one contest it goes a long way to winning."