A Storming Port
Watching Josh Smith and his Kangaroo mates dismantle the standalone Port Melbourne in the 2008 VFL grand final I couldn’t help but wonder whether a standalone side would ever win a grand final. The commonly held view was that Port had assembled a team right for its TEAC home but lacking the speed for the wide spaces at docklands. And some wondered, as I did on the night, whether the Port coaching box had been sharp enough when the pressure emerged and a counter to Smith and Roosters ruckman, Orren Stephenson had to be found. Little did anyone know that some twelve players – match winner Robin Nahas was among them - had received pain killing injections before the game. Was this the real reason the Boroughs struggled at Etihad Stadium, we now ask?
In the grand final rematch last Saturday Port’s game was truly mesmerizing. I can’t recall a past VFA/VFL team with more discipline or a handballing strategy as precise as Port’s. Whereas many teams are forced to use handball to escape a quandary, Port’s handball regime is quintessentially attacking. Again and again the ball ends up with a player in the very best position to deliver it by foot to a forward. And with three towering forwards, Adrian Bonaddio, Adrian Deluca and David Fanning – who also rucks - close to goal, this game plan becomes lethal. As much as North Ballarat tried to zone up – a sometimes problematic form of defence, I reckon – there was no stopping Port’s march. The midfielders simply kicked the ball long and high, leaving the zone defenders standing like tourists under an avalanche.
Nahas will be missed, but the acquisition of Nathan Batsanis, Blake Grima and Deluca and improvement in Sam Dwyer (best on ground), Toby Pinwill and Chris Cain will be a godsend. No one who watched the game could have been left with any doubt as to Port’s capacity to again challenge for the premiership. Whether Port is revisited by the curse of a handful of AFL players destroying its dreams, only time will tell. What’s patently clear is that Gary Ayres is coaching as well as ever. And despite having experienced just about all a person could in football he’ll have learnt something from 2008 defeat. And there’s an old adage about grand finals. You have to lose a grand final to know just how good it is to win one. For captain John Baird and the boys who tasted defeat that part of the equation has been taken care of. What they now need is one more tilt at the flag.
The power of the camera
The death in a car accident of filmmaker and former AFL footballer Rob Dickson was yet another sad moment for the football community. It was kind of ironic that Dickson’s death should have come in the wake of the controversy of the Kangaroos’ video. There’s no doubting the capacity of the movie camera (and the use of YouTube) to bring people or events to life. Dickson loved nothing more than capturing the beauty of football.
If I’d ever spoken to Rob I’d have put forward a case for a documentary on the VFA/VFL. Just for the record I have my own YouTube channel, http://au.youtube.com/PhilClearyMP and have short VFA videos dotted across my website.
Anyone with a Mac computer and a video camera – as the boys at Arden Street showed - can make and edit films. With AFL support the ABC – given its access to the rooms, coaches and players - could bring VFL games to life by way of short documentaries. Contemporary vision coupled with old highlights would make for a powerful marketing tool. And if you’re engrossed with friends in a debate about whether the game is losing its theatre and umpires are too precious click here –www.philcleary.com.vfl.html
Frank Vergona didn’t report in this game but he made up for it – as he explained on radio SEN last week – the next year.