Three strikes: Why Port’s plight is more than that

The Power only lost three times in the 2020 home-and-away season. After nine rounds they have the same record, as defence coach Brett Montgomery reveals why they are in this situation.

Port Adelaide defence coach Brett Montgomery says it is “lazy and easy” to label the Power as flat-track bullies, but has conceded that the Western Bulldogs showed up their depth around the ball.

The Power’s 19-point loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday night has led to questions over whether Port are a contender in 2021, with the defeat at Adelaide Oval adding to losses to West Coast in Perth and Brisbane at the Gabba.

This leaves the Power with a 1-3 record against top eight opponents in 2021 and while Montgomery said he got why Port were being labelled as flat-track bullies he maintained it wasn’t as simple as that.

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“I understand where they are coming from with that but I think it is lazy and easy to title and label that,” he said.

“I think we have been beaten by better teams at the time and we are still working on our game and to tighten up a few things and to make sure we are growing.

“But when you talk about West Coast, Brisbane, the Bulldogs we are talking about some top-end talent here and if we are guilty of beating teams that we should beat I think that’s pretty unfair.”

The Power only lost three times in the 2020 home-and-away season as Ken Hinkley’s side sat on top of the ladder for the entire season.

Montgomery said losing the same amount of matches before Round 10 in 2021 was a mixture of the Power slightly down this year and rivals improving.

“Probably a little bit of both, I think our form has been a bit up and down,” he said.

“It’s slightly different to the game that we played last year and I think while we are aware of that we are addressing that week to week.”

As with the losses to the Eagles and Lions, the Power started slowly on Saturday night and were smashed by the Dogs in the contested ball.

But Montgomery said while there were similarities with the other two losses, there was something that stood out from defeat to the Dogs.

“I think when it was at its most rawest after the game it was pretty clear,” he said.

“When I go back to the Brisbane game where we were beaten around the ball and our contest wasn’t as strong as theirs … there were some similarities with this game but it was different.

“We were beaten for a little bit of depth around the ball, not just hardness and hunt.

“We were beaten for a bit of depth and spread and I think what the Dogs did show is that they have elite handball skills that if you are not right on in the contest they will expose you.

“There are some similarities but this one is different.”

Montgomery said there were a number of factors that had to be looked at for the Power to address this.

“I think it is a bit of everything to be honest, and I wouldn’t leave desire or appetite out of that as well. I’m not saying our players don’t come with that I’m saying that there are lapses in that,” he said.

“It would be impossible to deny that (whether that contributed to the first quarter) because that game looked as if we were having to play catch-up for a bit.

“And that catch-up was good … but to be perfectly fair I think we were beaten by a better team at this point in time.

“Are they going to be a better team than us at the end of the year, will they finish higher and go onto greater things? I don’t think so and I have full belief in what we are doing.”

Compounding the loss further was a broken jaw to defender Tom Clurey.

He has had surgery, and will be out for around six weeks with Trent McKenzie now set to get a run in the side after dropping out when Aliir Aliir came to the club from Sydney.

“I would have thought so,” Montgomery said.

“When we had Aliir come to the club, Tom Clurey in great form and Tom Jonas as an outstanding captain it was always going to be tight for spots and with Trent McKenzie having a limited preparation coming off a fifth in the best and fairest and our most improved even at his ripe old age he was pretty stiff to miss out.

“He will add something, most people see that he has elite footskills … but his contest is what sets himself up from the others when he is in really good form.”

CAN PORT’S ‘GREAT’ DEPTH COVER ANOTHER BLOW?

Port Adelaide’s depth will be further tested with key defender Tom Clurey set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines after requiring surgery to repair his broken jaw.

Clurey was left bloodied and with a missing tooth after he collided with Bulldog Mitch Hannan at the 12-minute mark of the second term in the Power’s loss on Saturday night.

Port was in front by five points when Clurey was subbed out of the game and taken to hospital.

Only a week earlier, the 193cm backman was among the Power’s best as they swept Adelaide Oval with the Crows, but now, his name is added to Port’s injury list as it prepares to turn the loss to the Bulldogs — Port’s third loss to a top-eight side this season — when it takes on Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday.

Port’s development coach Matthew Lokan said defenders Trent McKenzie and Jarrod Lienert were among the candidates to come into replace Clurey.

“The positive out of it is we’ve got some guys in good form in the SANFL who would come in and play (Clurey’s) role, McKenzie and Lienert have been really solid all year at the SANFL level and they’ll get their opportunity now,” Lokan told ABC Grandstand.

“We’ve obviously got some important players out at the moment, which any side has to cover, but we think our depth is great.”

Lokan said the club would be hoping to welcome back Dan Houston after a week off with a shoulder niggle and youngster Lachie Jones was recovering well from his ankle injury.

Port’s injury list is now about nine-deep, with Ollie Lord having to undergo surgery to remove his appendix and at least 2-3 weeks away from a return, while both Xavier Duursma (knee) and Tom Rockliff (knee) are at least six weeks away and Zak Butters (ankle) remains a wait-and-see.

Lokan conceded the Power’s mid-forward line was missing the young guns in Duursma and Butters.

“We’re not going to use it as an excuse, but those two guys are really, really important for our footy team,” he said.

“Zak’s ability to play in the front half and put pressure on and kick goals and still go through the midfield is really important, and Xavier’s ability to be able to get back and support our defence from that wing is crucial to the way that we play.”

He said if there was one area Port would need to improve against the Magpies it was in the contest.

“The game is won or lost in the midfield and our contested possession against those good teams has been down, and it was again (on Saturday) night,” Lokan said.

“We know it’s pretty clear that when we’re playing good football our contested style of football is really good and good enough to compete with those good sides, so we know we need to be strong in that area.”

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