THURSDAY - fly to Brisbane and play. Friday - return home and pick the next squad. Saturday - rest. Sunday - light training but no major session. Monday - play again.

It is a tight schedule.

But when Port Adelaide produced the perfect response to a home defeat - with a 51-point win against Melbourne at the Gabba on Thursday night - it might well be best to just keep rolling on.

Port Adelaide stays top, advanced its win-loss count to 7-2, lifted its percentage to 146 - and, critically, did not add to its injury list.

It revealed the promise of last year's No. 18 draftee, 18-year-old West Australian key forward Mitch Georgiades. His three goals added to the perfect script on a night that needed a new threat in the Port Adelaide attack to ease the burden on power forward Charlie Dixon and to cover the loss of Todd Marshall (broken thumb).

And some key players - in particular vice-captain Ollie Wines and veteran Justin Westhoff - reacted after being put under the spotlight in the wake of the loss to St Kilda. There also was that bone-crunching moment from Robbie Gray in the last term when men with less pride in their performance would have avoided a hot spot while there was a 10-goal buffer on the scoreboard.

All this appropriately on the 150th anniversary of Port Adelaide's first competitive game on July 30, 1870.

Port Adelaide had 21 days to prepare for the second match against Young Australian ...

There is no such luxury in this compressed portion of the AFL's truncated 17-round qualifying season.

04:40 Mins
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Game Film: Round 9 | PTV

An inner sanctum look at our big Thursday Night Footy win.

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The AFL "festival of football" - 33 games in 20 days - has Port Adelaide at home on Monday to play a smarting Western Bulldogs; go again at Adelaide Oval against 2019 AFL premier Richmond five days later and return to Queensland to face Geelong six days later to close its festival stand.

There are less questions about Port Adelaide's capability to come out of this four-game sprint holding an AFL finals berth - for the first time since 2017. It can eagerly aim for a top-four ranking at the end of the home-and-away series for the first time since holding second spot in 2007.

There is still the question of how Port Adelaide works its squad through the sprint. But there is confidence in the quantity and quality of depth at Alberton, all being honed without the second-tier platform of the SANFL this season.

Port Adelaide football chief Chris Davies is confident in the progress of midfielder Willem Drew, who last played in the AFL in the season-closer against Fremantle last year; 20-year-old small forward Boyd Woodcock, the No.76 call in the 2018 AFL national draft; teenager Miles Bergman, Port Adelaide's first call (at No.14) in last year's national draft; and father-son draftee Jackson Mead.

Selection options for Monday's clash with the Western Bulldogs will increase with the anticipated return of defender Trent McKenzie (back) and possible comeback of ruckman Scott Lycett (knee).

ROUND 9

Port Adelaide 12.11 (83) d Melbourne 4.8 (32) 

The beautiful thing about the season is to see a team come together as they get to know each other in the spring and summer. You then go through adversity together and see how you respond. The teams that can respond in a positive way are the teams that are going to be there in the end.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl-winning quarter-back.  

SOMETHING is building ... 

It has been 18 months in the making - and based on the way Port Adelaide has twice responded strongly to defeat this season, it is going to hold up. Such an emphatic response to the St Kilda loss at home with the 51-point win against Melbourne at the Gabba on a five-day break is - as NFL star Aaron Rodgers would say - the sign of a team that is going to be there in the end.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley demanded a response from his players, in particular the midfielders. They needed to stand up in the contest after being soundly beaten in this critical facet of the game against St Kilda at Adelaide Oval in round 8.

And at the opening bounce - against a Melbourne midfield loaded with bulls and working to the dominance of ruckman Max Gawn - the example was set by vice-captain Ollie Wines charging at the first loose ball with a manic desire to win the clearance. Or at least not be beaten.

It drew the line in the white sand of Queensland.

"Beaten on the inside; beaten on the outside," said Melbourne assistant coach Alan Richardson.

It was the complete workover of an opponent. Port Adelaide was tough in winning the ball on the inside; Port Adelaide was smart in how it moved the ball on the outside, particularly when it switched play to space. The playbook at Alberton has more depth this season.

05:09 Mins
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All the Goals: Round 9 | PTV

All the goals from our Round 9 win over Melbourne.

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Also impressive was how Port Adelaide held up Melbourne or outnumbered its opponents at critical field and marking contests.

Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn, as expected, did dominate the ruck contests against Port Adelaide novice Peter Ladhams, as the statistic sheets tell with the 43-13 advantage Gawn set up on the hit-outs. But Port Adelaide came within one of break-even on clearances (29-30) and dominated the inside-50s (47-31).

"Max Gawn is a premier ruckman - and what we asked of Pete was that he just compete," midfielder and former Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak said. "We asked him to get the ball to ground - and from there the mids got to work."

So it was at the scene-setting first bounce. The ball came directly to ground, rather than off Gawn's hand to open space - and Wines charged to live up to the image of being a midfield bull. The Port Adelaide midfield had rolled up its sleeves.

It was impressive work in all three sectors from goalfront to goalfront, but most of all in a midfield unit needing to atone for its failure in round 8.  A true blue-collar work ethic set up the most-commanding game Port Adelaide has produced on the road this season; and a dominating result to match the overload of Adelaide in the derby at Adelaide Oval in round 2 on the restart after the COVID-enforced shut down in April and May.

01:17 Mins
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Play of the Day: Round 9 | PTV

Some slick ball movement against the Dees is our RAA Play of the Day.

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Port Adelaide had six goals on the scoreboard before Melbourne scored its first goal in the last minute of the second term, from Christian Petracca's brilliant read at a boundary throw-in.

Port Adelaide had 26 shots on goal for 12.11 plus three out-of-bounds on the full - and two of the 11 behinds were from touches on goal-bound snaps from Kane Farrell and Connor Rozee.

Georgiades' three goals - and trademark excitement in marking contests - set a benchmark to beat for the round 9 Rising Star nomination.

Attack was superbly balanced by defence, particularly by the work of Hamish Hartlett, Dan Houston and Darcy Byrne-Jones - not the tallest men in the Port Adelaide defence. The threat posed at selection by Melbourne loading up with tall forwards was countered by three not-so-tall defenders creating pressure-loaded blocks and rebound before the 50-metre arc.

Whatever was in doubt in defeat to St Kilda was put away with a sound response against Melbourne - just as Port Adelaide responded on the road against the more-favoured Greater Western Sydney after losing to Brisbane at the Gabba in round 5.

Something is building ... and on a strong foundation. 

QUOTE OF THE GAME 

Our pressure was unreal.

- Port Adelaide defender Sam Mayes

TAKE IT TO THE BANK

(Five things we learned in a short week)

1) CONFUSED STATE. Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley's point on the confusion that had his club's fans jeering the umpires in the home clash with St Kilda at Adelaide Oval is backed up by AFL figures that suggest the umpires are also bewildered since the in-season adjustment to the holding-the-ball rule. The AFL has found - in round 5, after Hawthorn premiership coach and AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan took issue with the interpretation of holding-the-ball, there was a 51 per cent increase in holding-the-ball free kicks on the back of AFL football boss Steve Hocking issuing new directions to the umpires. Before the Clarkson outburst, an AFL game had on average 6.7 holding-the-ball calls with 82 per cent deemed correct on review. Since the AFL reaction to Clarkson, the holding-the-ball average has risen to 9.6 with accuracy falling to 80 per cent.

2) NOT SO DUSTY. Sometimes the numbers do say it all. Dustin Martin, the Brownlow and Norm Smith Medallist, in his performance against the Western Bulldogs at Metricon Stadium on Thursday night: Three goals, 26 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 77 per cent efficiency, 43-57 spread of time in defence and attack respectively while spending 87 of 100 minutes on the field, four clearances with three in the centre, eight inside-50s and three tackles. Umpires had an easy job on settling the three Brownlow Medal votes.

3) WHEEL TURNS. Any Victorian-based AFL team qualifying for a home final in the top-eight major round in October is - barring a much-needed change in the COVID status in Melbourne - facing the prospect of playing on neutral or away territory. And it is increasingly unlikely that the AFL grand final will be at the MCG. There will be quite a few West Australians and South Australians who will note the pain they endured in being denied home finals - in particular preliminary finals in the 1990s - is to spread this season. 

4) IN THE DARK. Football's sprint with 33 AFL games in 20 days does bring greater attention to what is in reserve at every clubhouse, particularly if there has to be changes not just for injury and form but also to manage the loads on susceptible players, as noted by Melbourne with the resting of Harley Bennell on Thursday night. But there is no second-tier competition - be it the SANFL, VFL or NEAFL - crowded with AFL players finding form. This has left the fans in the dark. One Port Adelaide player who should draw attention is Jack Watts, who has not played an AFL game since early last season when he suffered a shocking leg injury while remaking his name as a defender. Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said during the week: "By his own admission, Jack said 'I'm still getting there. I'm not as clean as I'd like to be'. But he is in a really good space. He now feels his body is okay and that is the biggest hurdle to overcome after a significant injury."

5) ECHO IN THE ROOM. In 2017, when Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams told his former assistant to seek a new club after guiding Hawthorn to four AFL flags, Alastair Clarkson said he would ignore "external noise" and quoted Bruce Springsteen saying, "Hard times come, hard times go." Now, amid another demanding patch at Hawthorn, Clarkson says: "Tough times don't last; tough people do."

00:36 Mins
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Mark of the Week: Round 9 | PTV

Mitch Georgiades plucks one amongst the trees.

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NEXT

Port Adelaide v Western Bulldogs

Adelaide Oval

Monday, August 3, 2020

6.40pm (SA time) 

BACK home at Adelaide Oval - and back-to-back matches with two of the 2019 top-eight finalists. Two games in six days - starting with the smarting Western Bulldogs on Monday night and 2019 AFL premier Richmond on Saturday night.

The Western Bulldogs were to have been a top-four challenger this season, but the 41-point loss to Richmond at Metricon Stadium on Thursday night has put Luke Beveridge's team at 5-4 and challenged to find greater consistency.

Richmond has advanced to a 5-1-3 win-draw-loss record ... and sent out a warning that, after being challenged by its own patchy form, it will not simply abdicate from the premiership throne.

It is another meaningful brace of games for Port Adelaide.

ANNIVERSARY NOTE

Port Adelaide is to complete its first season since 1976 without playing for premiership points at Alberton Oval, the club's home since 1880. It is not the script Port Adelaide expected in its 150th anniversary year.

And many Port Adelaide fans will be surprised that for the first decade at Alberton Oval, the run from goal to goal went along an east-west line rather than north-south:

The long-promised alterations at Alberton Oval are being slowly proceeded with. Last year two acres of ground adjoining on the east side were let into the oval, and this season for the first time the goal posts will run north and south instead of east and west as formerly. The boundary chains have been altered to admit to this. The pavilion, however, still remains in the old position. Under former conditions its site was not particularly good, but under the altered circumstances it will be far worse. A proposal to change this is under consideration. The alteration of the bearing of the goal posts is a decided gain. With the prevailing westerly winds which blow across the oval to have the support of the wind was a decided advantage, but under new arrangements the gain will not be so pronounced.

South Australian Chronicle, May 7, 1892