On Friday evening before the game I sent a text to Joe in Launceston, a lifelong Tiger.
At 7.22pm he called. He was not in Launceston. He was not near a TV. He was walking the Overland Track, and had just arrived at Narcissus Hut after a big day walking 28km, with a 20kg pack. He had one bar on his phone, battery nearly flat. I said I’d send him score updates.Embed from Getty Images
Holy hell, what a game! The pressure was insane. It was raining, the ball was soap, and each player receiving it was just intent on moving it on asap. The ball was booted off the ground and out of midair countless times, but there were also incredible contortions to get the ball from hand to foot before the inevitable tackle.
Port were on top early but their entries inside 50 were terrible. They had a clear chance with Marshall galloping free and he kicked out on the full. I haven’t seen a lot of this kid but I marked him as a weak link. Grimes seemed to have his measure. Tiges didnt make a scoring chance until 8 mins in when Lambert stripped Mackenzie of the ball but he dribbled a point. There was no actual Port pressure on him at the time (from my vantage point on the couch 885 nautical miles away) but I know the air around him was just pinging with perceived pressure.
Grimes was copped high and with his free kick chose to slow things down, take a really good look and send a considered long ball to the top of the square. Jack brought it to ground, Dusty roved it at top speed and hooked it back on his right for the game’s first goal. Jack has started really well. Duursma is one of Port’s young stars and Jack ran through him in the centre. Soon after Jack was smacked across the chops by Jonas and put the resulting free kick through for a goal. We were using our chances better than Port.
Then Marshall set up a goal for Rozee. OK maybe I was wrong about him. Robbie Gray, one of the most balanced modern players you’ll see, gathered with one hand as he wheeled around with his back to goal, and with great vision hit up Duursma. The kid’s a very good player but his archer stuff is dumb. Sort of masturbatory. You can image he’d feel at home at Narcissus Hut.Embed from Getty Images
He ran 50 metres to have a yap at Lynch afterwards. Port ahead 2.3.15 to 2.1.13 at quarter time. Best sight of the first quarter was Balta galloping out of the backline – he’s blanketed Dixon.
Rozee kicked a goal from the Eddie pocket. Burne Jones is on Martin and like most humans, has no hope. We are a goal down but I feel we are winning the 50/50s down low and we are dominant in the air. It’s going to turn. Nank kicks to Shai in space, but his set kick doesn’t make the distance. BT does his nana about Shai turning his back to goal, but I reckon he was looking for a runner to dish it off to.
Next minute Shai runs down Lycett for holding the ball and just picks it up and skips away from him.Embed from Getty Images
Burne Jones tried some kind of body stuff on Martin and missed him entirely, leaving him in space to mark and goal. It’s 21-21 now and the score doesn’t move for a long, LONG time. I suddenly remembered I had to text Joe.
We are getting an OK run with the umpires – they are giving deliberate OOBs all over the place but its consistent. Pickett is working into the game after a dud first quarter. I feel like every Tiger has had vital moments.
Duursma dropped a chest mark. Rioli tries to just bowl the ball between his legs to escape a tackle. Balta gets away with a big shove on Dixon. Graham goes off sore. Powell-Pepper is trying to crash through packs and its not working. A promising move forward goes to Prestia and he puts it OOF.
Half time score 3.3.21 apiece.
For the rest of the game I had Joe in the wilderness hanging on my texts. It really added something extra to a game that was already totally engrossing.
After a lovely clean move Bolton out it across the face for a behind. Lynch outmarked two to put us in front. Houli is in everything, a low-to-the-ground ball-promoting machine. I don’t know about stats but Nank is the dominant ruckman on the ground. He’s the greatest tackling ruckman the game has seen. He pings Gray. Baker has quelled Rozee.
Suddenly Lycett is galloping free. Motlop finds him and he goals from the set shot. Port are getting some rough decisions and the home crowd are baying for blood.
Joe is on the verandah now trying to get reception. It is -7°C.
I’m just going to tell the rest of the game in our texts. I am yet to rewatch the last quarter but this is how I saw it.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
In these last minutes Nank took two crucial marks in defence. He ended up with ten tackles.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Port Adelaide 2.3(15) 3.3(21) 4.4(28) 6.4(40)
Richmond 2.1(13) 3.3(21) 4.6(30) 6.10(46)
5: Nankervis – “Nothing flash, just effort down low. Pushing, shoving, tackling, clearing paths, getting it, giving small handballs. Work.” – Matt Zurbo
4: Martin was unstoppable. He is unstoppable.
3: Balta beat Dixon. Played on the edge but huge contribution.
2: Lynch worked so hard all night.
1: Lambert’s two quick goals finally put our slight edge up in black and white on the scoreboard.
18: Grimes, Vlastuin, Graham
10: Riewoldt, Baker, Edwards
9: McIntosh, Prestia
6: Soldo, Lynch
5: Higgins, Eggmolesse-Smith, Chol, Nankervis
1: Castagna, Astbury
Maurice Rioli Grip of Death Trophy for Tackles
Lambert, Pickett 64