PORT ADELAIDE 17.9 (111) d ESSENDON 6.6 (42)

Connor Rozee shrugs off a diving tackle from Ben Hobbs.

Connor Rozee shrugs off a diving tackle from Ben Hobbs.Credit: AFL Photos

KEY POINTS

ROZEE RATTLES DONS
Power midfielder Connor Rozee had earned three Brownlow votes in each of the two games between Port Adelaide and Essendon in 2023. So the Bombers knew his capability. But they went nowhere near stopping him at any point of the match. He set the tone as captain with his dominance at centre bounce and it rattled the Bombers. At half-time he had kicked three goals from 20 disposals. After half-time Jason Horne-Francis – who returned from a hamstring injury – decided to join Rozee. The future star stormed through the front of the centre square regularly in the third quarter to embarrass the Bombers midfield. Of course, Rozee will demoralise many opponents throughout his career with his fast feet and composure.

POWER GIVE LESSON AT CENTRE BOUNCES
Rarely is a team given such a comprehensive lesson at centre bounces. The Bombers were destroyed and had no answer for Rozee, Horne-Francis, Willem Drew and Zak Butters. That quartet were too strong, had too much pace and ran straight out of the front of the centre bounces repeatedly. That will hurt the skipper Zach Merrett and his sidekick Darcy Parish while leading to questions about the crop coming through in the midfield. Ben Hobbs has been playing as a high forward but he should be forcing out Will Setterfield – who was good in the first two rounds – while Jye Caldwell has not yet had the impact the Bombers hoped when they grabbed him from the Giants. It was a battle of mediocrity versus brilliance and brilliance won by a mile.

Jade Gresham.

Jade Gresham.Credit: AFL Photos

THE ESSENDON EDGE BLUNTED
The Bombers have lost their edge. It lasted two weeks, if that. They will be disappointed they could not apply pressure after quarter time. It gave their defence no chance and it was a credit to recruit Ben McKay that he battled hard to defeat Port forward Charlie Dixon. It was one of the team’s few wins on the night with Jade Gresham’s three goals also handy. But this is a night that will cause some reflection at Essendon as to how they can replicate Port Adelaide and build a list that has class throughout.

KEY STATS

Mercurial forward Kysaiah Pickett will miss Melbourne’s Thursday night clash against Brisbane at the MCG after being hit with a one-match ban for a high bump on Adelaide’s Jake Soligo.

It is the third time in 26 games that Pickett has been suspended for leaving the ground and making contact with an opponent’s head.

Melbourne’s Kysaiah Pickett delivers a high bump

Melbourne’s Kysaiah Pickett delivers a high bumpCredit: Channel Seven

Match review officer Michael Christian graded the second-quarter clash as careless, high and medium impact.

The high bump and ensuing suspension have become a worrying trend for the dynamic small forward across the past year.

He copped two games for taking Western Bulldogs superstar Bailey Smith high in last year’s opening round then received two weeks for a high hit on Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps in the finals.

Pickett initially left the ground to smother Soligo’s attempted handball but as he came down, he tucked his arm in on the follow-through and collected the young Crow’s head with his shoulder.

Power coach Ken Hinkley spoke to the media post game.

Could you have scripted a better response after last week from what you saw tonight?

It was a really strong performance tonight. Even last week I thought we played good footy against a high-quality team. But tonight was really pleasing defensively, really sound after quarter time, only give up 21 points to a team that really can attack. Strong performance.

Dan Houston (middle) and the Power celebrate the win.

Dan Houston (middle) and the Power celebrate the win.Credit: AFL Photos

What was that key message at quarter time and what did you see that allowed you to lock them down and choke up their footy?

We think Essendon are aggressive in the way they play and move the ball. We were mindful they were going to be sharp at the start and they probably should have been in front nearly to quarter time. We are a pretty good defensive team most of the time. We restrict marks and disposals and I think when you can get that going you can go back at them and put them under a bit of pressure.

Where does that first half rank for Connor’s career?

I’ve seen him play some good games already but not that good, not in the first half. It was outrageous what he was doing. A great young captain.

How has he taken that on? I think he’s said performance has been the number one goal.

We’re clear that leadership is about performances on game day and that is something that Connor and Zak and Drew and Houston and Pep is a part of that group. They’ve really taken it on board that that is their critical moment for performance on game day. Then they’re growing into leadership away from those days.

The centre clearances were dominant. Have you seen that performance from that centre square for a while?

I am not quite sure, to be honest. They were strong tonight. But as I said last week we went plus-15 at clearance two. Not all centre clearance two. Not all centre clearance. They’re just trying. He and Josh are doing a great job of growing the mids. Drew stepped up as well. The three get noticed a fair bit and I think Ollie is back in some form too.

What about Jason? He’s had a couple of weeks off and puts together a game like that.

Can we give him a couple of weeks off more often? No, we can’t afford to do that. He’s too important to us.

Power midfielder Zak Butters has backed veteran star Ollie Wines to return to the side next week despite a stellar night from their midfield.

Wines missed with a hamstring injury and the Power said if this game was on Sunday, he likely would have played.

Willie Rioli is hugged by Jackson Mead and Zak Butters.

Willie Rioli is hugged by Jackson Mead and Zak Butters.Credit: Getty Images

Butters was asked if Wines would still have a place in the side.

“I think Ollie will be pretty right,” Butters told Fox Footy.

“He helps us boys out [in the midfield] and gets his hands dirty.

“I think he was pretty close, he was pretty stiff not to play tonight. I’m sure he will be back next week.”

PORT ADELAIDE 17.9 (111) d ESSENDON 6.6 (42)

Connor Rozee shrugs off a diving tackle from Ben Hobbs.

Connor Rozee shrugs off a diving tackle from Ben Hobbs.Credit: AFL Photos

KEY POINTS

ROZEE RATTLES DONS
Power midfielder Connor Rozee had earned three Brownlow votes in each of the two games between Port Adelaide and Essendon in 2023. So the Bombers knew his capability. But they went nowhere near stopping him at any point of the match. He set the tone as captain with his dominance at centre bounce and it rattled the Bombers. At half-time he had kicked three goals from 20 disposals. After half-time Jason Horne-Francis – who returned from a hamstring injury – decided to join Rozee. The future star stormed through the front of the centre square regularly in the third quarter to embarrass the Bombers midfield. Of course, Rozee will demoralise many opponents throughout his career with his fast feet and composure.

POWER GIVE LESSON AT CENTRE BOUNCES
Rarely is a team given such a comprehensive lesson at centre bounces. The Bombers were destroyed and had no answer for Rozee, Horne-Francis, Willem Drew and Zak Butters. That quartet were too strong, had too much pace and ran straight out of the front of the centre bounces repeatedly. That will hurt the skipper Zach Merrett and his sidekick Darcy Parish while leading to questions about the crop coming through in the midfield. Ben Hobbs has been playing as a high forward but he should be forcing out Will Setterfield – who was good in the first two rounds – while Jye Caldwell has not yet had the impact the Bombers hoped when they grabbed him from the Giants. It was a battle of mediocrity versus brilliance and brilliance won by a mile.

Jade Gresham.

Jade Gresham.Credit: AFL Photos

THE ESSENDON EDGE BLUNTED
The Bombers have lost their edge. It lasted two weeks, if that. They will be disappointed they could not apply pressure after quarter time. It gave their defence no chance and it was a credit to recruit Ben McKay that he battled hard to defeat Port forward Charlie Dixon. It was one of the team’s few wins on the night with Jade Gresham’s three goals also handy. But this is a night that will cause some reflection at Essendon as to how they can replicate Port Adelaide and build a list that has class throughout.

KEY STATS

Connor Rozee and Jason Horne-Francis spoke to Channel Seven post game.

How happy are you with this result?

CR: It’s awesome. We felt like we played some good footy for the start of the year but a bit inconsistent, so it was nice to put together the four quarters and see some guys grow in confidence was brilliant [points to Horne-Francis]. So pretty good start to the year.

Jason Horne-Francis.

Jason Horne-Francis.Credit: AFL Photos

Midfield group, you two had 15 clearances between you. Just the synergy seems to be growing each and every week that you come out on the ground?

JHF: Definitely. I feel like we’re learning about each other each week and we’re letting players utilise their strengths and helping them out around them. It’s really good to be gelling and playing some good to be gelling and playing some good footy together.

Connor, the way you’ve taken to the captaincy has been like a duck to water.

CR: It’s been an adjustment but it helps when you have a supportive group. So we’re learning on the job a little bit with the whole new leadership group. I am loving every moment of it at the moment. The support from my fans and everyone in general has been great. Just trying to learn on the job and looking forward to the rest of the year.

Take us within the four walls. This guy is the youngest captain in the AFL. What is his leadership style like?

JHF: You can just see him growing each week, each and every week, he is getting more confident and getting around more guys, it’s really good to see him grow and he is doing a tremendous amount of work for the footy club a at the moment. So we really appreciate what he does and can’t thank him u enough.

Gather Round – how much have you enjoyed the build-up, the week and ploy Playing in front of a bumper ground?

CR: It’s been outstanding. We’re both South Australians so to see everyone come over and embrace South Australia and see different parts they wouldn’t normally see has been awesome and another great turnout tonight.

The Power were too good for the Dons tonight storming to a 69-point win at Adelaide Oval.

Connor Rozee has shown he is as good a midfielder as the competition has this season while Jason Horne-Francis, Zak Butters and many others stood tall.

Essendon sadly were well off the pace. Zack Merrett was tireless and Jade Gresham kicked three goals from limited chances while Archie Perkins has injured his hamstring.

Connor Rozee.

Connor Rozee.Credit: AFL Photos

The fans have turned out in big numbers at Adelaide Oval tonight with 47,641 the official crowd.

Harrison Jones receives encouragement from fans at Adelaide Oval.

Harrison Jones receives encouragement from fans at Adelaide Oval.Credit: AFL Photos

Bryne-Jones has become the fifth player to reach three goals in this match after snapping one from close range.

Zak Butters put him into goal with a lovely close handball.

Rozee, Finlayson, Rioli and Gresham all have three goals.

Seven reports that Archie Perkins has a hamstring injury which will likely keep him out for some time but the severity is not clear yet.

Power 104, Dons 41 with seven mins to go.

Todd Marshall of the Power marks in front of Jayden Laverde of the Bombers.

Todd Marshall of the Power marks in front of Jayden Laverde of the Bombers.Credit: AFL Photos

Nick Hind has summed up Essendon’s night as he worked hard to get free on the 50m arc and ran into an open goal only to be in two minds about kicking or passing.

He ended up pulling his kick wide of the goals.

Seven reports Archie Perkins is benched for the night and having ice put on his hamstring. It’s not clear if he has an injury or is managing an existing problem.

Power 97, Dons 41 with 10 mins to go.

Jed McEntee has joined the goal kicking list with a set shot after a lovely centring pass from Rioli.

This last term is a little flat right now, hopefully Essendon can give it a little spark.

Power 91, Dons 41 with 16 mins to go.

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