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Talking points: Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide

Dinny Navaratnam // AFL MEDIA  August 19, 2017 7:12 PM

AFL 2017 Round 22 - Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: Jordan Roughead of the Bulldogs and Paddy Ryder of the Power compete in a ruck contest during the 2017 AFL round 22 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Port Adelaide Power at Mars Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

 

1. Dogs facing finals-free September
The reigning premiers are just about cooked after falling short against Port. Even a win against Hawthorn next Friday night is likely to see the Dogs fall short. Nevertheless, round 23 is set to be exciting, with as many as five teams entering the last week on 44 points, although Melbourne is expected to beat the Brisbane Lions on Sunday afternoon to lift itself to 12 wins. Meanwhile, the Power moved into fourth, although that was with Richmond yet to face Fremantle. If Ken Hinkley's side can cling to the top-four slot after next weekend, expect to see a blockbuster Showdown between the Crows and the Power in week one of the finals.

MATCH REPORT

2. Jonas under the microscope again
Port Adelaide defender Tom Jonas isn't new to controversial hits, having copped a six-match ban last year for a high hit on West Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff. He will again come under scrutiny after a hit on Luke Dahlhaus in the third quarter at Mars Stadium. It wasn't of the same magnitude as when he got Gaff, but Dahlhaus was caught unaware well off the ball, turning around and being collected by a shoulder from Jonas. The timing couldn't be much worse, with just one game until September action begins. Jonas' possible absence will be a problem for Port coach Ken Hinkley but another issue will be dealing with the bye. If he is suspended for one match, he won't have played for three weeks come Port's first final. Trying to shake off rust in the heat of September action would be far from ideal.

3. Footy strikes gold in Ballarat
It was the first time Ballarat had hosted a home and away game, and despite early concerns there might be snow, it turned out to be a great day for footy. It was chilly at ground level but Mars Stadium was bathed in sunlight for much of the contest, and two desperate teams fought out a great game. Flags representing the Dogs were given to spectators, making for an even more partisan feel in front of a crowd of 10,087. The sight of parts of the crowd sitting and standing on the grass made for a throwback to a different era and gave the game a community feel, and with the reigning premiers in the first of a five-year deal to play at the ground, there should be plenty more exciting moments to come in future years in the regional centre.

4. Dixon and Ryder take control
It was a tight contest but the aerial dominance of Charlie Dixon and Paddy Ryder in the final term helped Port pull off the victory. Dixon took advantage of an undersized Bulldogs backline to take a couple of contested marks in the last quarter and slot two goals while Ryder was very important in helping his side win the ball back, also taking two contested marks in that term. Ryder's ruck dominance over Jordan Roughead all day was massive, and brought him a step closer to a maiden berth in the All Australian team.

5. Brave Dog's remarkable return
It was less than a month ago when it seemed like one of the Dogs' premiership heroes, Dale Morris, would have his career ended when he suffered a nasty injury in a fall against Gold Coast. Displaying the amazing powers of recovery he has had to call upon throughout his career, including when he suffered a badly broken right leg in 2011, Morris returned against the Power and stiffened up a defence that lacked height and strength in one-on-one contests. Showing his versatility, Morris spent time on the likes of Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray. The 34-year-old continuously put his body on the line, going back with the flight of the ball with little regard for his body, showing the desperation that has made him one of the more underrated defenders of the past decade. If the Dogs are wondering whether Morris should join Robert Murphy and Matthew Boyd in retirement, this game might have made them reconsider.

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