The nearly sold-out Showdown XXXIV holds the potential to be the one of the most hotly contested matches of round three. Adelaide were in blistering form in the 2012 season, one heart-breaking goal short of making a Grand Final, while Port Adelaide’s season was over well before September, having lost the majority of its games and it’s coach.
Fast forward to 2013 and Port Adelaide have two wins on the board, arguably not against the stiffest competition but nevertheless they have played impressively winning by margins large enough to keep them comfortable ensconced in second place on the ladder. The Port Adelaide of last year not only lost to GWS but they never managed to kick such impressive scores; last week the Ken Hinkley coached squad downed the competition’s newcomers by 56 points.
Adelaide by contrast, have not recaptured its scintillating form under its second year coach in Brenton Sanderson. The Crows let slip a heavy lead against Essendon in Round 1 to go down by 35 points, and while they clawed out a 19 point win against Brisbane in Round 2, the match was up for grabs until the final minutes of the game, when Dangerfield kicked two clinch goals to steal the win.
Hinkley and Sanderson both come from the culture of success that still exists at Geelong today, and the men are friends and familiar and similar in their expectations of their squads. Both men have a focus on contested football, an aggressive attack complemented by hard-running defensive pressure and a gritty determination to make every contest count.
Port Adelaide has a potent attack with Jay Schulz, Justin Westhoff, Chad Wingard and Paul Stewart combining for 19 goals so far this season. Westhoff, who works hard but has arguably underperformed for his talents in his time on the list, has flourished under Hinkley’s guidance. His new found confidence saw him boot five majors against GWS, which could have easily been seven if not for two easily missed shots. First year player, lightning quick Jake Neade leads the Power with six goal assists, and two goals to his name. Neade is complemented by the grunt of new recruit Angus Monfries, with five goal assists and three goals.
Adelaide’s attack has the potential to be utterly devastating, however so far in 2013 they have failed to deliver to their potential, with Taylor Walker, Jared Petrenko, Richard Douglas, Jason Porplyzia and Josh Jenkins only combining for 15 goals. Adelaide’s midfield has not contributed consistently to its scoring output, with Dangerfield’s two goals for the season coming last week. If the Crows are going to increase their attack, their midfield needs to contribute more scoring pressure.
The centre square will be an important component of the Showdown, and while arguably, with Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloan and Matthew Wright and the masterful tap work of Sam Jacobs the Adelaide midfield looks to have more class, the statistics for the season tell a different story. Adelaide are currently ranked 17th in the AFL, managing an average of 12 a match, compared to Port Adelaide, ranked 15th, who have managed an average of 15 a game. Port Adelaide have been punishing teams on the turnover this year and Adelaide’s poor average disposal efficiency of 67.6% (ranked 16th) will provide the fast running Power team with plenty of opportunity to score. By comparison, Port Adelaide are ranked 4th in the AFL with an efficiency of 72.3%, the big test for the Power will be to see if they can maintain their clean use of the ball with the added pressure the Crows will bring to the field.
However, this pressure is often prompted by tackling which was a troublesome component for Adelaide in 2012 and the worrying trend has continued this year. The Crows are managing an average of only 53 a game, compared to the Power’s 58.5, which leaves both teams ranked near the bottom of the AFL and a far cry from the top tackling team in Fremantle who manage an average of 75 tackles a game.
While Adelaide may go in as favourites based on its form in 2012, the statistics clearly show that if Port Adelaide continue to play to the potential it has shown this year, that it will not only push Adelaide to the brink, but beyond running out victors. Form and statistics are never really the true benchmark of a Showdown, as the added pressure and intensity of a media saturated weekend in Adelaide have resulted in both Power and Crows losing games in the past that they were expected to win.
No matter who takes home the four points, the true winner this weekend will be the AFL fan, with both teams showing suspect defensive capabilities this year, and a propensity to leak goals, it should be a high-scoring match, with plenty of great goals on display, and a raucous capacity crowd at AAMI stadium providing plenty of atmosphere.