Sport AFL Port march on, Gazza’s Brownlow in doubt
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Port march on, Gazza’s Brownlow in doubt

Gary Ablett
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There’s plenty to smile about at Port. Photo: AAP

Port Adelaide reaffirmed its bona fides for the few remaining doubters, Gary Ablett may have unravelled his seemingly-unstoppable thrust toward a third Brownlow Medal, and Jack Riewoldt showed that catching the train is not such a bad thing in footy, and good for the environment, too.

The Port triumph before a South Australian record 52,233 at the cauldron of Adelaide Oval was the most significant single result of round nine, since the Power stay a game clear at the top of the ladder and now must be considered a premiership contender if not the outright favourite.

Hawthorn lost no friends either, battling on and challenging Ken Hinkley’s team in the absence of five key Hawks – Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli and Brian Lake.

But Port is becoming everyone’s second team, with the breathtaking skill of Chad Wingard, the flat-out class of Travis Boak and the exponential improvement of the likes of Matthew Lobbe and other unheralded players. Zippy Jared Polec might be the recruit of the year, and a pain in the side of Brisbane Lions, who lost him along with their credibility.

Hinkley has a powerful formula at work, and at the very least his team is going to be terribly tough to toss at the ‘Portress’, where the crowd is worth three or four goals to them.

The Hawks were heroic at times but this result showed Al Clarkson that even with the best depth in the competition, there is a tipping point with injuries that makes it impossible to beat the very best teams.

Gary’s grievance

Gary Ablett’s amazing form had him one of the shortest-priced Brownlow Medal favorites in history. After all, we know full well that he polls; he has won it twice already.

But in throwing a right elbow at his tagger, Liam Picken, while the pair lay on the ground alongside each other on the Gold Coast, Ablett has seriously threatened what was thought to be a certainty.

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Jack enjoys the taste of success. And Reece Conca. Photo: Getty

It will matter not a bit that Picken drove him to distraction all day, and that other Western Bulldogs took opportunities to bowl him over. My take is that Ablett is in trouble. If the extra vision that should turn up this week shows that elbow hitting Picken in the head – and that is what the initial vision suggests – then he deserves to be suspended, pure and simple.

Any base penalty over 100 points means that he is ineligible for the Brownlow Medal, and the bookmakers will be chuffed. All but the one or two who already paid out on an Ablett hat-trick! The Suns, meanwhile, ploughed on with another home victory to move into third place on the ladder.

Jack’s back

Footy is full of robots and cliche-peddlers. Then there is Jack Riewoldt, whose fit of honesty last week when he talked about Richmond’s game plan found him in trouble with his club.

Riewoldt was silly in talking about in-house matters. But the competition needs him, as he showed with a career-best 11-goal haul against Greater Western Sydney Roadkill in Sydney.

Maverick Riewoldt kicked 11 straight goals before three-quarter time which was something in itself. Here was another Richmond game plan, based on something out of the Tom Hafey era, with long kicks to the big forward. Riewoldt could have threatened the club record of 14 but he missed twice in the last quarter, and once passed off to captain Trent Cotchin from close range.

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Kade Simpson battling Rory Sloane. Photo: Getty

His coach praised him for that act and his defensive intensity, moreso than for the 11 goals. That’s modern footy, I guess, just a little hard to figure out at times.

Magpie magic

Nathan Buckley used a good old-fashioned footy word to describe the way his Collingwood held off a dogged West Coast at the MCG. He said they deployed ”ticker”, and he was right.

The Pies lost two tall backs, Nathan Brown and Jack Frost, to injuries and had to cope with an Eagles team that has a Jarrah forest of tall forwards at their disposal. But they found a way. The competition has few more honest teams, and if Travis Cloke could find a way through his malaise, they might be quite dangerous.

In praise of Simmo

Footy people love to find ‘underrated’ players, and Kade Simpson is a classic case. Simpson is highly rated at Carlton; he won the Nicholls Medal as club champion in 2013. But outside of the club he finds it difficult to get due praise.

At the MCG against Adelaide Crows Simpson went back with the flight and took a front-on shot from Taylor Walker’s big foot to the thigh. He limped off and had his thigh strapped, then came back on.

He was sore but he pushed through it, and ended up with a game-high 37 disposals and a goal in Carlton’s five-point win. Kade Simpson is as good a definition of toughness in football as you would find. He is a small man but he uses his body as a battering ram, never complains or stays down.

No wonder they love him at Princes Park.

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