Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A second finals chance

- By ZOE MCMAUGH ~ with Michelange­lo Rucci, Port Adelaide Power content creator

Deni AFL product Todd Marshall will take another shot at a grand final appearance with Port Adelaide Power this year, starting with a qualifying final against the Geelong Cats at Adelaide Oval tonight.

Marshall and Power have a bit of a history against their qualifying opponent.

It was against the Cats in June this year that Marshall suffered a concussion, after a heavy collision with Geelong defender Lachlan Henderson.

He was taken from the field in the first quarter, at about the 17 minute mark.

And as he heads in to the qualifying final against the Cats tonight, the results of last year’s qualifier against the same team will surely be front of mind.

In that 2020 match, the former Deni Rams junior played a huge role in steering his side to victory and a place in the preliminar­y final.

He bravely battled through it despite a heavy fall on his right shoulder in the first quarter.

Unable to move his arm, Marshall went off the ground and into the rooms.

Despite a quiet game, where he was mainly used to keep rotations on the bench, Marshall proved his worth in the dying stages of the last quarter.

Port were leading by just 12 points with 41⁄2 minutes left on the clock when Marshall marked unconteste­d inside his forward 50.

He went back and nailed the goal from 50m out, sealing the win for the Power, who recorded a 16 point victory.

That effort was undone in the next game though, when Port succumbed to the Richmond Tigers in the preliminar­y final and their chance to contest a grand final slipped away.

Marshall said the team is hungry to better that result, starting with tonight’s match.

‘‘Geelong have probably been the most consistent team all year, and they have a pretty unique game style,’’ Marshall told the PASTORAL TIMES.

‘‘They love controllin­g the ball and making us defend.

‘‘So we will be looking to stop that as best as we can.

‘‘Hopefully we can repeat last year’s final and beat them again, and hopefully go one step further than last year.’’

Port Adelaide finished second on the AFL ladder at the end of the home and away season, with 17 wins and five losses.

But the Cats were close behind, finishing third with 16 wins and six losses.

When the teams met in round 13 this year it was a tight contest throughout, with the Cats gaining the ascendancy and coming out on top, 17.10 (112) to Port’s 14.7 (91).

Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas believes his team is better placed to win AFL finals this year, saying its record in tight games that mirror finals speaks for itself.

Port Adelaide have won all six games decided by 13 points or less this season, including the most recent match that came

down to two points against the Western Bulldogs last week.

And the experience of last year’s finals — which ended with a six-point loss to eventual premier Richmond in the preliminar­y final — has Jonas and his crew on a sound footing for tonight’s home qualifying final.

‘‘On the back of the experience of last year's finals series, we might feel we are a bit better placed,’’ Jonas said.

‘‘Last year, we had players in their first finals. Having that under their belt, having felt the energy and excitement of the buildup to a final, they will be better for that.

‘‘We also have continued to improve our game.

‘‘We have shown great resilience this year, and the ability to win close games. That is something we have been working on for a few years.

‘‘There was a time when we felt we were on the other end of tight games. Now we have found a way to win them.

‘‘We feel like we are perfecting that ‘red time’ play and at the same time we are finding resilience to stay in games and not be blown off the park.

‘‘While the finish to matches is strong, the

question lingers on the seemingly false starts.’’

Tonight’s team selection was not finalised until after the PASTORAL TIMES went to print yesterday, but Marshall is an almost certain starter.

He’s spent more time on the field this season than any other since since his 2016 recruitmen­t and 2017 debut at AFL level and has been in the line-up for 19 games this year (beating his career record of 14 in 2020), missing only some early games because of an injury.

‘‘I missed two rounds early in the season with an ankle issue,’’ Marshall said.

‘‘It took a little bit longer to recover from than I thought, so that was a little annoying, but since then I’ve had a decent run except that concussion against Geelong the last time we played them.

‘‘I think my role for the team is important as I can impact the game in a number of ways without the ball, and the goals are a bonus.’’

The 198cm key forward has also beaten his 2020 stats this year, doubling his 11 goal haul from 2020 already this season.

A career highlight came in the round 20 match against the Greater Western Sydney

Giants, where Marshall’s 50th game milestone was accentuate­d with win — 15.10 (100) to 11.7 (73)

Marshall kicked a goal in the match, and had 16 disposals.

‘‘It means a lot for me and my family to reach 50 games, and it’s a milestone I never really thought about until it happened that weekend.

‘‘It snuck up on me,’’ he said.

One stat that’s higher than those signalling Marshall’s on-field performanc­e is the number of COVID-19 tests he’s had to take as the AFL continued to operate through outbreaks, lockdowns and rule changes.

‘‘COVID has impacted on us as a team, in that when we travel to Melbourne, or another state, when we arrive there we have to isolate for 48 hours until we receive a negative COVID test.

‘‘Then once we arrive back to Adelaide we have to isolate again for 48 hours, until we get another negative COVID test.

‘‘I reckon I’ve had between 60 and 70 COVID tests this year, all up.’’

 ?? Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner. ?? Todd Marshall during the round nine match against Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval.
Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner. Todd Marshall during the round nine match against Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval.

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