AFL 2021 preliminary final: Port Adelaide demolished by Western Bulldogs – as it happened
What a narrative-rich match this Grand Final will be. Two hard-luck stories of football. Melbourne, without a flag since 1964, and so many seasons near the bottom of the ladder. The Bulldogs, winning their second flag ever in 2016, and only four grand finals in their entire existence. Either would be a crowd-pleaser, and it will be tough to see who can underdog who in the push for a flag.
But the really exciting thing? They’re both playing so well. Neither prelim final was interesting as a contest, with one side dominant in each. But two teams playing this well could treat us to a really memorable decider.
They’ve got two weeks to think about that, with the new season format that gives the week off before the big match, rather than at the end of the regular season. Two weeks to rest up, train up, load up. Absorb the idea, work on their plans, heal their niggles. Then launch into the final contest.
Looking forward to it. See you then.
The goals tonight:.
Bulldogs: Bailey Smith 4, Mitch Hannan 3, Marcus Bontempelli 2, Aaron Naughton 2, Jason Johannisen, Josh Schache, Anthony Scott, Roarke Smith, Adam Treloar, Laitham Vandermeer.
Port: Charlie Dixon 2, Ollie Wines, Todd Marshall, Dan Houston.
The Bulldogs are in the Grand Final - 17.14 (116) to Port 6.9 (45)
They’re back, baby! The fairytale in 2016, but they’ve proved that it wasn’t a one-off. It wasn’t a match for the neutrals after half time, the Dogs kicking five goals to three in the second half, but there was plenty worth watching in the first half as they unloaded a dozen goals against a bewildered Port Adelaide side. The final margin is 71 points.
4th quarter, 4 minutes remaining: Time for another for Bailey Smith, number four. Long kick in after a quick turnaround. Two on two inside 50. The ball was touched so all players knew they couldn’t mark it. And once more, it’s a Bulldogs player who is first to the ball when it spills over the back. He goes off the ground, about 20 out, and skids it through.
Port 6.9 (45) to Bulldogs 17.13 (115)
4th quarter, 11 minutes remaining: A downfield free kick is paid to Charlie Dixon - there was late contact after the ball was kicked to him. He’s about 30 metres out and he kicks the goal for Port. Very muted reactions from that team.
Port 6.8 (44) to Bulldogs 16.12 (108)
4th quarter, 14 minutes remaining: Loooong launch from Bailey Smith! He marks about 60 out from goal, on the boundary line, and we’re expecting him just to set up a kick towards the goal square. Instead he runs around, launches on the right, and it carries the goal square by plenty. He’s got three tonight.
Port 5.8 (38) to Bulldogs 16.12 (108)
4th quarter, 19 minutes remaining: Ken Hinkley’s disgusted face is getting a work out. It’s raining as play restarts. Quick kick forward from the centre bounce. It skids through the pack, Anthony Scott is at the back, and with his first kick in a final the young player kicks a goal from the left pocket. Happy days in the West.
Port 5.8 (38) to Bulldogs 15.12 (102)
3rd quarter, 0 minutes remaining: Another intervention just before the break. Six seconds before quarter time, the Bulldogs kicked a goal. Six seconds before three-quarter time, Schache marks on the lead. But messes it up by missing his set shot after the siren.
Whatever. They’re up by 58.
Port 5.8 (38) to Bulldogs 14.12 (96)
3rd quarter, 1 minute remaining: Another one in quick time. A turnover from Port on the halfback flank. The kick over the top goes to Treloar, who looks around and realises he has time to run inside 50 and slot it uncontested. Does it. Both Port goals to start this quarter have been cancelled out.
Port 5.8 (38) to Bulldogs 14.10 (94)
3rd quarter, 3 minutes remaining: Finally, the Dogs get one in the third. Liberatore’s precise kick into the pocket finds Schache up against the line. He’s in the right pocket, has to kick around the corner on the left, but does it to perfection.
Port 5.7 (37) to Bulldogs 13.10 (88)
3rd quarter, 7 minutes remaining: This is interesting. Port have shut down the amount of space available to the Bulldogs. The Port defence has started to become more effective at defusing forward entries. The Dogs have kicked one point in the third term, after 12 goals in the first two. But Port haven’t been able to take advantage of this by scoring themselves. Only those two early goals. A stalemate suits the Bulldogs fine.
Port 5.6 (36) to Bulldogs 12.9 (81)
3rd quarter, 11 minutes remaining: Another one touched through by the Dogs defence. Good movement from Wines through the centre, winds up with Motlop at half forward, who sets sail for home but Gardner on the line gets a fist to it. Nothing going for Port.
Port 5.6 (36) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
3rd quarter, 15 minutes remaining: Marshall marks again, and goals again. Port win possession in the centre and lump it forward, and he shoves Bont out of the way to claim it. Except... that wasn’t a goal. Very belatedly, the video review shows that Bont make good, leaping up while he was standing the mark to get a fingertip to the ball as it went over his head.
Port 5.5 (35) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
3rd quarter, 16 minutes remaining: Two in a row for the Power! Cutting the lead to 44 points. Marshall out on the lead after fast movement forward and again there’s space for that lead. A straightforward conversion from 35 out, slight angle.
Port 5.4 (34) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
3rd quarter, 18 minutes remaining: Port kick the first goal of the second half. That’s something. Fantasia with a forward entry, Motlop gets in the way of the second defender with plausible deniability, giving Dixon a clean run at the ball. Marks in the left pocket and kicks the long set shot.
Port 4.4 (28) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
Half time: Port 3.4 (22) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
Port have time to get Fantasia a shot from the right pocket after the siren, but he hangs it right and only just scores a point. They’re cooked, Port Adelaide. They have not been in the contest from the first minute of the match, which is when the Doggies first put a goal past them.
The margin is 58 points, and even at half time we can say that it’s a Melbourne-Footscray grand final.
2nd quarter, 40 seconds remaining: Again, they score just before the break! Amon turns it over with a kick towards half forward. Caleb Daniel sends it back. Vandermeer dishes off again at the 50 metre line, and Bontempelli - the captain who might not have played this week with a sore knee - sets sail from the paint!
Port 3.3 (21) to Bulldogs 12.8 (80)
2nd quarter, 3 minutes remaining: It’s definitely been less open and flowing footy, more of a scrap, in this quarter, but the Dogs still look like the team whose quality will tell in the end. Johannisen again influential up forward, making a contest just inside the 50 and winning the ground ball. Back towards goal, Naughton bringing it down with his back to goal, Schache handballing out to Roarke Smith and he kicks it. “On his birthday! On his birthday, Peter Siddle.” (Replace Peter Siddle with Roarke Smith.)
Port 3.3 (21) to Bulldogs 11.8 (74)
2nd quarter, 9 minutes remaining: A big switch of play finds Connor Rozee, it feels like I haven’t heard his name all night, but he scrubs his kick forward and it looks like the chance for Port has gone. But there’s some luck as holding the ball gets paid at half forward. Little pass sideways to Riley Bonner who finishes on the run from 40 out.
Port 3.3 (21) to Bulldogs 10.6 (66)
2nd quarter, 10 minutes remaining: All the big Dogs involved in that passage, just about. Bont wins it at half back, spins out of a tackle, dodges another and dishes off. Treloar takes four bounces down the wing, getting a shepherd from Bailey Smith. Naughton gets the loose ball after it’s kicked into the forward line, hands to Johannisen, who hands to Hannan, snapping on a tight angle near the left-hand behind line.
Port 2.2 (14) to Bulldogs 10.6 (66)
2nd quarter, 11 minutes remaining: A few scrappy minutes, some behinds kicked, and then the same pattern repeats. A crowded contest at half forward. A sudden kick forward. Again, the Port defence don’t kill the ball. There’s no intercept mark, no fist to the line. Jason Johannisen is the Dog on the ground at the front of the pack, and he picks it up and rams it through.
Port 2.2 (14) to Bulldogs 8.2 (60)
2nd quarter, 17 minutes remaining: Scrap the Port comeback. Straight down the other end from the centre bounce, Hannan coming up to the arc to win the loose ball, spinning and delivering to Naughton at full forward, who marks. Simple shot from the top of the goalsquare.
Port 2.2 (14) to Bulldogs 8.2 (50)
2nd quarter, 18 minutes remaining: Not happening for Port. Dixon kicks a set shot that looks good for a while but fades right, from the leftward side of goal near the arc. Then a bit of fortune does go their way. Houston marks and shapes to handball. Treloar, on the mark, moves to block it. But Houston hasn’t moved off the mark, and Treloar isn’t allowed to. The 50 penalty is paid, and Houston scuffs through a dodgy kick just inside the left post.
Port 2.2 (14) to Bulldogs 7.2 (44)
Quarter time: Port 1.1 (7) to Bulldogs 7.2 (44)
Just like last night: one team has come out playing dream football. The transitions have worked, the links have linked, the ball has fallen the right way, and they’re playing like they’re just having fun.
The other lot look confused, a bit dazed, and... it’s not even that they can’t make anything work, it’s that they can’t even get possession to try making things work.
1st quarter, 6 seconds remaining: Another for Hannan right on the bell! It’s that long ball inside 50 again. It has done over Port repeatedly tonight. Over the back of the contest in the pocket, spilling free, little give to Hannan who waited down, and he skips into an open goal for his second.
Port 1.1 (7) to Bulldogs 7.2 (44)
1st quarter, 1 minute remaining: A moment of brilliance from Robbie Gray, with a run-down tackle in the forward pocket to stop an escape and win a holding-the-ball decision, but he misses his shot from a tight angle too. Kicks it narrow, out on the full. And the Dogs make Port pay. Treloar booms a kick down to half forward. Vandermeer reads the contest better and picks up the ground ball outside 50. Hands it across to Bailey Smith, and the Mullet goals on the run from 40 out!
Port 1.1 (7) to Bulldogs 6.2 (38)
1st quarter, 4 minutes remaining: Naughton takes another sensational mark, this time all the way up on the wing, back with the flight and stealing it from the opponent camped under it. It travels quickly forward, where Vandermeer tries to dodge Lycett in the pocket but gets absolutely mashed. Down the other end, Boak gets a set shot and misses it left. Then Dixon gets a shot on his left foot from the boundary line, right forward pocket near the 50, and misses all of it. Port have at least got into the contest late, even without scoring.
Port 1.1 (7) to Bulldogs 5.2 (32)
1st quarter, 8 minutes remaining: Aliir takes a strong intercept mark, and just about gets Port out of defence despite a very wobbly kick. A rare couple of inside-50s for the Power but they’re both hard against the boundary line and forced out. Second time around, Wines roves the pack, juggles possession, and launches from 55 metres. They’re on the board!
Port 1.0 (6) to Bulldogs 5.2 (32)
1st quarter, 11 minutes remaining: Call it off! Send us all home early! The Dogs have the first five, and it’s Bont - who couldn’t kick straight last week - getting one in the first quarter. Bailey Williams this time with the forward entry. No mark this time, it goes to a contest and Aliir manages to spoil, but there are Dogs at ground level. Bontempelli has a couple of little nudges with the boot to push the ball through traffic, runs onto it himself, picks it up and snaps another. Port still haven’t scored.
Port 0.0 (0) to Bulldogs 5.1 (31)
1st quarter, 13 minutes remaining: Another quality entry, Port’s defence can’t make any impression on the game at this stage. Hunter has possession in the centre square, looks over his options, puts it into the left forward pocket and Mitch Hannan runs onto the mark. Takes a set shot from 40 and lands it. Four in a row!
Port 0.0 (0) to Bulldogs 4.1 (25)
1st quarter, 15 minutes remaining: We compared the Dogs to the Demons - the Dogs are starting like the Demons! Except they didn’t even concede a solitary goal first. Another raking kick forward from the left forward flank, and Naughton is the freight train coming out from full forward. A big mark at the apex of his leap, and a finish from a simple set shot.
Port 0.0 (0) to Bulldogs 3.1 (19)
1st quarter, 17 minutes remaining: Important early intervention from Bontempelli. Gets a hand in, knocks the ball free to Treloar, who drives long towards goal and Vandermeer marks it falling backwards from a contest. On the behind line. Runs around and snaps truly!
Port 0.0 (0) to Bulldogs 2.0 (12)
1st quarter, 19 minutes remaining: That’s what the Demons did all night on Friday. Win the stoppages, knock it to advantage. Tim English gets the hit out in front of goal, a handball finds its way to Bailey Smith, and the Flying Mullet snaps it.
Port 0.0 (0) to Bulldogs 1.0 (6)
Western Bulldogs team
Full-back: Easton Wood, Ryan Gardner, Taylor Duryea
Half-back: Caleb Daniel, Zaine Cordy, Bailey Dale
Centre: Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter
Half-forward: Laitham Vandermeer, Aaron Naughton, Adam Treloar
Full-forward: Jason Johannisen, Tim English, Mitch Hannan
Followers: Stefan Martin, Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli
Bench: Josh Dunkley, Josh Schache, Bailey Williams, Roarke Smith
Medical sub: Anthony Scott
Port Adelaide team
Full-back: Ryan Burton, Trent McKenzie, Aliir Aliir
Half-back: Steven Motlop, Tom Jonas, Darcy Byrne-Jones
Centre: Xavier Duursma, Ollie Wines, Dan Houston
Half-forward: Karl Amon, Todd Marshall, Zak Butters
Full-forward: Robbie Gray, Charlie Dixon, Connor Rozee
Followers: Scott Lycett, Travis Boak, Orazio Fantasia
Bench: Miles Bergman, Riley Bonner, Willem Drew, Peter Ladhams
Medical sub: Sam Powell-Pepper
Team 1 is into the Grand Final - Melbourne’s well tuned Demons await. Now to see who they will meet. The Western Bulldogs versus the Power from Port Adelaide, a match that unusually for 2021 is being played at the home ground of one of the teams. Adelaide Oval will be heaving - up to its covid limit of 26,500 people.
The Doggies have had a Demons kind of a year: looked red-hot for half the season, had a dip for a while in the middle, and now have rebounded to their best form. They also had an absolute stunner of a semi-final against Brisbane to win at the Gabba by 1 point, becoming one of the rare teams to win through into a preliminary final from outside the top four. Of course, that’s what they did in their flag campaign of 2016. And beating one home favourite on interstate turf will have them believe they can do it again.
Port, meanwhile, have been building towards this moment. They finished top of the ladder last year and lost at preliminary final stage. They’ve had some good fortune this year with South Australia staying largely virus-free, meaning less disruption than some. And they dusted the Cats comfortably in the first week of finals.
These two teams had a very close one earlier in the season, too. We could be on for a repeat tonight.