Got you: Port’s Travis Boak tackles Hawk Brad Sewell at Adelaide Oval. Photo: Getty Images
Port Adelaide is all the rage this season, having beaten last year’s top three sides - Hawthorn, Fremantle and Geelong - and sitting a win clear on top of the ladder, but Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is not convinced.
“Each team has played nine rounds now so they are certainly a very good football side and have proven that to all and sundry that have played against them,” he said.
“But they are no means unbeatable, as we have shown.”
Clarkson gave no hint of any excuses for losing to Port by 14 points before a hostile record South Australian AFL crowd of 52,233 at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night, but it was obvious a near-strength Power played at its best and beat the Hawks, who had six of last year’s premiership players missing.
Among the players missing were Jarryd Roughead, who returns from suspension against Greater Western Sydney at the MCG on Sunday, Sam Mitchell and Cyril Rioli. Also missing were key defenders Brian Lake and Josh Gibson.
When asked whether Port was the new benchmark, Clarkson said it was too hard to say, pointing out that Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley liked to use an extra man in defence, a tactic that Clarkson said was not foolproof.
“If you can control the ball like we did at different stages throughout the course of the night, you can cause them a fair amount of grief,” he said. “But you need to make sure that you use the footy well back the other way.”
Port is also more vulnerable as far as big players are concerned, with Matthew Lobbe expected to carry most of the ruck work.
Having lost Jarrad Redden with a season-ending knee injury, Port’s third-choice ruckman, Brent Renouf, a premiership player at Hawthorn, has also been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in the SANFL on Saturday.
In the same match, former Sydney player Campbell Heath also suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Lobbe was outstanding against the Hawks, and post-match Hinkley praised the young ruckman for his approach to his game. Hinkley revealed that, like most games this season, Lobbe watched the umpires practising their bouncing of the ball before the game.
"The first thing he needs to know is how the umpires are going to bounce it,” Hinkley said. “If you watch the umpires, you will see some will get the ball really high and some might not get it as high, so it is significant for him to get his timing right.
“He just likes to have a look, and I think that’s a really smart thing to do. He is a pro the way he goes about everything. No one would work harder than 'Lobbes'.”
Clarkson said he was pleased with Hawthorn’s endeavour. “We’ll work out where we can improve,” he said.
“It was good exposure for a lot of our young players. They are getting good game time, good experience and it was a great opportunity to play at this stadium. It was a really hot contest against a really good football side, so we will learn a lot out of the game.
“We will lick the wounds a bit and start preparing for the next game.”
Hawthorn was without ruckman Ben McEvoy (corked thigh) after half-time against Port, but is expected to play against the Giants.
Port Adelaide forward Angus Monfries suffered a slight ankle strain, but should play against Melbourne in Alice Springs on Saturday.