AN Adelaide radio station pointed to its coverage of Saturday afternoon's Port Adelaide-West Coast game finishing its promo with the line: "Port Adelaide is top ... for now."
Well, Port Adelaide is still top - unbeaten in four AFL premiership matches that includes a 2019 finalist as a scalp; with no defeat in six AFL-sanctioned games this year; and certainty to remain the league leader beyond this week.
Some scriptwriters in radio land truly do have their wires crossed.
Some of the AFL's agenda writers also might - after being bitten by Port Adelaide's slip-ups in the past two years - choose to hold their verdicts until this week's grudge match with Brisbane at the Gabba. But the 48-point win against 2019 finalist and 2018 AFL premier West Coast at Metricon Stadium should reflect on how Port Adelaide played and won rather than who Port Adelaide played and beat.
So far - in four games against Gold Coast, Adelaide, Fremantle and West Coast - Port Adelaide has worked to differing themes and adapted to various challenges (of weather and opponents) to show coach Ken Hinkley does have a potent mix with a mature and an enterprising playing group.
Week by week, a new edge has emerged.
Week by week, another motive to believe Port Adelaide is rising from the no-man's swamp just outside the AFL top eight has stood out.
This week it was forward of centre with the glaring beacon in the six-goal performance from key forward Charlie Dixon. And there is something about second-year player Zak Butters ....
But on the weekend Port Adelaide wanted to honour its ultimate team man Brad Ebert in his 250th AFL match there is a more appropriate note from Hinkley's new playbook. It is the team game - and system - to get the ball into Port Adelaide's forward 50 and tactfully lock the play in this attacking arc with strong defensive measures. This cannot be ignored amid the constant reflection on Port Adelaide's first four opponents.
The 12-week shutdown to AFL football clearly did not hurt Port Adelaide nor blunt the momentum that was generated by a perfect pre-season.
Port Adelaide is, after the longest "first month" of premiership football, the only unbeaten team in the 18-team race across 17 "home-and-away" rounds to the top-eight finals.
Port Adelaide last shared top spot with a 4-0 win-loss record in 2013, with percentage sorting Essendon and Geelong as the other unbeaten teams. It was Hinkley's first season at Alberton - as the "right man standing" after the protracted search for a senior coach - and the Port Adelaide players were living up to Hinkley's vow to not be outrun by any rival.
There is much more substance to version 8.0 of Hinkley's Port Adelaide - as detailed in this week's match review below.
The AFL premiership ladder is moving into its three traditional brackets - pacesetters led by Port Adelaide at one extreme and also rans at the other. And in between there is a pack that is about to break itself, particularly this week when some top-eight forecasts will be tested with Collingwood (fifth) v Essendon (eighth and with a game in hand) and Carlton (12th) v St Kilda (seventh).
What will be said of Port Adelaide now? The reviews cannot diminish the 48-point win at Metricon Stadium by focussing on the state of the crumbling West Coast empire that ruled the AFL as the "defending champion" last year.
The Monday night analysts surely will note there is more depth to Port Adelaide now.
"Huge growth in the way they play their football," said Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson from the Fox Footy desk on Saturday when there was still a quarter to play.
Indeed there much more to this team that has been cast as brittle, a one-trick pony, a band of downhill skiers, front runners etc etc in the past two years.
Port Adelaide's first "home" win against West Coast since leaving Football Park at the end of 2013 - and after five losses at Adelaide Oval - is all about how Ken Hinkley set up a playbook that dented the best of the Eagles and revealed the best of his team.
From the opening bounce - with that much-anticipated ruck duel between Port Adelaide lead ruckman Scott Lycett and his former West Coast team-mate Nic Naitanui - the game was played to Hinkley's agenda.
That patient control of the ball to keep it out of West Coast's hands, out of the Eagles' preferred path in centre corridor - and that deep surge to the three talls in the Port Adelaide attack ... a complete game theme.
"Huge growth in the way they play their football." Well noted Mr Johnson.
Pre-game everyone - including the Eagles - wondered what response there would be from the West Coast midfield ... and how Port Adelaide would deal with it. The relevance of this micro-forecast was evident at the start of the third quarter when West Coast, with Geelong recruit Tim Kelly sparking a revival, won repetitive clearances to set up three quick-fire goals to take a 27-point half-time deficit to 11.
Port Adelaide finished the term with a four-goal surge - Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall, Justin Westhoff and Karl Amon each contributing one goal - to make it "game over" with a 37-point lead.
Transition - or connection - from Tom Jonas' defence to Charlie Dixon's goalsquare is stronger than ever ... so the microscope this week turns to a Port Adelaide attack that is shedding the image of being inefficient.
Port Adelaide did lose the key performance indicators that measure midfield batteries and on-ball units: 17-37 on hit-outs; 25-34 on clearances; 7-14 with centre clearances; and 18-20 on stoppage. Someone needs to put an asterisk on that saying, whoever wins the midfield wins the match.
Port Adelaide won the possession count. And it won the inside-50 count, 48-35.
Quarter by quarter, there was something on the Champion Data statistical screens that highlighted something from the Port Adelaide attack that was critically decisive in shaping this game.
First quarter: For a game that started with enormous defensive pressure - and no goal until Charlie Dixon kicked the first of his six after 12:25 minutes of play - Port Adelaide was not going to rely on frustrating West Coast's ball movement to gain the upper hand in this game. The 13 inside-50 entries stood out as the indicator Port Adelaide intended to blitz as much as it strangled.
Second quarter: The critics' eyes noted Port Adelaide was holding the play inside its forward-50 arc. Champion Data confirmed as much with its counter on "tackles inside-50" significantly favoring Port Adelaide 10-2. Ten in a quarter, 19 in the first half - and the competition average is 13 for a match.
Third quarter: The "heat map" revealed West Coast - even after that three-goal response at the start of the term - was hemmed for most of the game inside Port Adelaide's forward 50.
At Adelaide Oval, this has not bothered West Coast coach Adam Simpson when his Eagles have intercepted marks at Port Adelaide's goalfront and quickly rebounded to the damaging leads of key forwards Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling.
It is a pity not even widescreen television can reveal just how the Port Adelaide midfielders blocked the West Coast defence - and how the Port Adelaide forwards seized on the second guessing of their rivals.
Fourth quarter: To finish with 21 scores from 48 inside-50 entries - and a serious contender for the Coleman Medal as the AFL's leading goalkicker in Charlie Dixon - puts the spotlight appropriately on the Port Adelaide attack.
Dixon's 6.2 mark his best score for Port Adelaide since kicking five straight in the 77-point win against Brisbane in round 7 (May 8), 2016 at Adelaide Oval - his first season at Alberton after leaving Gold Coast.
The 6.2 is one goal off his career-best 7.2 with Gold Coast against North Melbourne in 2015. This follows his 2.2 against Fremantle and 3.0 against Adelaide in Showdown XLVIII (after missing the season-opener against Gold Coast with injury).
The 11.4 has Dixon in top position on the Coleman leaderboard, a goal ahead of Tom Papley (10.6 from his four games with Sydney this season).
And Dixon's form - in a comeback from serious leg injuries suffered against West Coast at Adelaide Oval late in the 2018 season - underline just why Hinkley was so determined to have the 200cm power forward follow him from the Gold Coast to Alberton ... and torment defences rather than crash into ruckmen.
Combining Dixon with the promise (and perceptive touch) of Todd Marshall and the experience of Justin Westhoff puts significant new dimension to the Port Adelaide attack.
In a season of shortened quarters - 16 minutes rather than 20 - the comparisons with Port Adelaide's scoring in recent years becomes distorted. But take note Port Adelaide is (after four shorter games) averaging 86 points after putting up an 82-point average last season and 81 in 2018.
QUOTE OF THE POST GAME
"Magnificent work by Ken Hinkley. A lazy six (goals) for his monster full forward who he leaves at home deep in the forward line. Hope it's permanent and catches on. Amazing the fast, attacking footy you can play when you always have someone to kick to."
Scott Cummings, Port Adelaide's inaugural AFL goalkicker.
TAKE IT TO THE BANK
(Five things we learned in round four)
1) VALE JOHN KENNEDY. "A particularly significant positive impact on the game of Australian football." This is the definition of a "legend" in the Australian Football Hall of Fame charter. In the past month Australian football has lost two men who were greats as players, coaches and administrators - first Bob Hammond, the last South Australian to serve on the AFL Commission; and during the lead-up to round four, John Kennedy. The tributes that have come for both men highlight their positive mark on Australian football to merit their place in the Hall. Kennedy's elevation to legend status in this year's inductions is underlined by all that is being said of the man who in all he did - and thought - leaves a legacy well beyond the Hawthorn Football Club.
2) SURE BETTS. Not even the footy gods dared to rain on Carlton hero Eddie Betts' emotive week of being a match winner against Geelong and then a society leader with his statements against racism. The game's spiritual masters must have had their hand on Essendon forward Jacob Townsend's shot on goal in the last three seconds at the MCG on Saturday night- after the Bombers started their end-to-end sweep from a kick-in on the back of a 50-metre penalty imposed on Betts (a contentious call that passes into the ether by Carlton holding on to a one-point win for the Madden Cup). For the record, Betts says the umpire claimed he breached a "new rule" while running into the kick-in area - and the 50-metre penalty was more like 90.
3) DAM WALL OR DAM BUSTERS? Is defence the best form of attack? Or, as the Americans would say, is "the best defence is a good offence"? Collingwood continues to make a fascinating study while it carries the league's best defensive record, having conceded an average 43 points in this season's shortened matches. But Collingwood has drawn against defending premier Richmond and lost, in round four, by two points to 2019 grand finalist Greater Western Sydney. Certainly no-one needs to ask Hall of Fame Legend Malcolm Blight who last year crossed swords with Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley on the look of the game. "It's rubbish," says Blight of the defence-first playbook. "This is my pet hate in football."
4) RISING SUNS. Who has Port Adelaide beaten? First up was Gold Coast, a team now on a three-game winning streak after beating West Coast (44 points), Adelaide (53) and Fremantle (13) while treating the masses to its player of a generation - Rising Star certainty Matt Rowell. The No.1 draftee can now add shrugging off a tackle from Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe to his impressive highlights clips.
5) FRANCHISE PLAYER. No team, no club should be built on one player ... no matter how great that player is. But - there always is a but - the Western Bulldogs have an extraordinary player in captain Marcus Bontempelli. The inevitable comparisons with their original Footscray legend, Ted Whitten, are becoming stronger and stronger. Many rivals are certainly believing - as noted with the Greater Western Sydney obsession with Bontempelli in round three - that the "Bont" is the heartbeat of the Western Bulldogs.
BEFORE the AFL closed the debate on making its grand final follow the road-show ways of the American football Super Bowl and European football Champions League final with the big match at a different venue each year, the argument for staying at the MCG was based on the 100,000 seats at the Melbourne venue.
Whatever incentive was on offer to other cities to invest in infrastructure was immediately lost two years ago when the Victorian State government put a $500 million cheque on the table to lock the AFL grand final to the MCG until 2057.
But if the original argument was on getting as many fans as possible to the grand final, surely the AFL - as it has done before - negotiates for an exemption this season if the MCG will be at reduced capacity for this year's premiership play-off on October 24.
If the 60,000-seat Perth Stadium or 83,500 seats at Sydney's 2000 Olympic complex offer more than the MCG can this season, the AFL Commission should look at offering to push out the MCG deal to 2058 and use 2020 as a "gap year" from Melbourne. Surely the bidding between Perth and Sydney would deliver a much-needed bonus to the AFL's strained coffers?
v Brisbane, Gabba
League-leading Port Adelaide against in-form Brisbane in the Saturday night "match of the round". Some time has passed since this was said ... Round 17, 2003 (Saturday, July 26) to be precise - and at the Gabba too.
Port Adelaide was top; Brisbane was fourth. And the game lived up to expectation, particularly with the finish. Port Adelaide won by one point with midfielder Roger James scoring the last two behinds of the match.
Port Adelaide closed its 48-point win against West Coast with no injury - and no reason to rethink its 22.
Brisbane advanced its won-loss count to 3-1 on the back of a 37-point against the last-ranked Adelaide at the Gabba on Sunday when the Lions were wasteful (10.23) of their 61-28 inside-50 dominance. The cost from the win is the continued difficulties for midfielder Dayne Zorko, who limped out of Sunday's match during the second term with a lower right-leg injury.
The major drawcard duel - with the Gabba open to 10,000 fans - is the match-up of Brisbane's 2019 All-Australian defender Harris Andrews and Port Adelaide's 2020 All-Australian contending forward Charlie Dixon.