Deniliquin Pastoral Times

GRAND FINAL CHANCE LOST

- ~ Match report from AFL.com and Port Power content creator Michelange­lo Rucci.

Todd Marshall’s chance to finish off an AFL-career best year with a grand final appearance was taken away from him by the Western Bulldogs in Adelaide on Saturday night.

In what was Port Power’s most significan­t defeat all year, the Bulldogs were run away winners with 17.14 (116) to Port’s 6.9 (45).

Marshall — who was unavailabl­e to speak with the PASTORAL TIMES before this edition went to print yesterday — played his role in the match up before injuring his hamstring, contributi­ng one goal and one behind to the Power’s total score.

He had 13 disposals, nine kicks and four handballs during his time on the field, and took three marks.

His performanc­e in the preliminar­y saw him end the season with 24 goals and 12 behinds, bringing his career totals to 57 and 34 respective­ly.

Marshall spent more time on the ground this year than any since his introducti­on to the AFL in 2017.

The former Deniliquin Ram laced up the boots for 21 games this year, including the preliminar­y final and a successful qualifying finals appearance two weeks earlier.

His career best before this season was 14 games played last year, up from 10 in 2019, seven in 2018 and three in his first year with Port Power.

On Saturday night it took the Western Bulldogs just 10 minutes of mayhem to seal their spot in an all-Victorian grand final, blowing Port Adelaide away with an opening burst for the ages.

The Bulldogs had five goals on the board before the shellshock­ed home team blinked, leading by 37 points at quarter-time, 58 at the half and running out victors.

The triumph sets up a grand final with Melbourne at Perth's Optus Stadium on September 25, a fitting finale that will feature the two teams that dominated much of the home and away season.

If the Demons looked the runaway premiershi­p favourites after dismantlin­g Geelong by 83 points on Friday night, the Bulldogs did all they could to match it in their 71-point demolition.

Their start was as high a level of football as we’ve seen in 2021, a red, white and blue tsunami that ran the legs off Port.

Semi-final hero Bailey Smith was at it again, starting the carnage with a goal inside 60 seconds after some lovely work from Tim English in the air and then at ground level to set the third-year dynamo up from close range.

Smith would finish with four goals to go along with 23 disposals to add to his monumental finals campaign.

Laitham Vandermeer, Aaron Naughton — courtesy of a towering pack mark that split about six players — Mitch Hannan and Marcus Bontempell­i followed Smith with goals in quick succession and Port were stunned.

Following a brief moment of parity, the Dogs extended their advantage with Smith and Hannan adding their second goals respective­ly and the game was as good as over by the first change.

The Bulldogs owned the footy, winning the contested possession count by a whopping 23 in the first quarter alone, and dominating the clearances 15-6 for the term.

All the big names stood tall, with Jack Macrae (36) going past Tom Mitchell for the most disposals ever in a season, Bontempell­i (20 and two goals) showing no signs of a knee injury he carried in, and Adam Treloar (23, a goal and match-high 13 score involvemen­ts) back to his blistering best following a quiet semi against the Lions.

Alex Keath (hamstring) and Cody Weightman (concussion) somehow have to come back into this team, while Vandermeer sat out the final term with a tight hamstring.

Port were nowhere near it all night, a disappoint­ing finish to a season that promised so much after bowing out to Richmond at the same stage of 2020.

Riley Bonner (32) was a standout, while Echuca’s Ollie Wines (38) battled hard after the early onslaught.

Saturday’s result marks the biggest finals loss for Port Adelaide since the 2007 AFL grand final that went to triple figures.

Port Adelaide gave up its biggest score of the season (116 points), suffered its biggest loss of the year (almost 12 goals) and put up its lowest score of the 24-game campaign (6.9).

And the barometer that has defined Port Adelaide all season was battered by a hefty differenti­al (30) in the contested-ball count (lost 136-166).

That penultimat­e step to the summit of football glory has proven too much for Port Adelaide in 2014, last year and now. The narrow defeats to eventual premiers Hawthorn and Richmond in 2014 and 2020 stung hard.

Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas' parting words for season 2021 at Adelaide Oval — ‘‘We will be back bigger and better next year’’ — set up the challenge to work harder in a competitio­n that demands more and more to claim the premiershi­p.

 ??  ?? Todd Marshall consoles Charlie Dixon and Travis Boak, in tears following Saturday’s preliminar­y final loss. Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner.
Todd Marshall consoles Charlie Dixon and Travis Boak, in tears following Saturday’s preliminar­y final loss. Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner.
 ?? Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner. ?? Todd Marshall kicks a goal under pressure from Will Hamill in the round 8 match against Adelaide.
Photo by AAP Image/Matt Turner. Todd Marshall kicks a goal under pressure from Will Hamill in the round 8 match against Adelaide.

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