OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between powerhouse South Australian and Victorian clubs, in the Port Adelaide Magpies and Dandenong Stingrays respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood champion and current coach Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide), and fan favourite goalkicker Brendan Fevola (Dandenong).
These clubs are seeded third (Port Adelaide) and sixth (Dandenong) respectively, with the competition getting as tight as ever. Our proposed Stingrays squad outvoted Central District and West Adelaide, while Port’s path to this stage came through Peel Thunder and the Gippsland Power. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either South Fremantle or the Geelong Falcons.
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THE DEFENSIVE STRUCTURES:
You’ll be hard-pressed to not only find a pair of defences with more talent, but also two sets of six with a better balance than what Port and Dandenong have to offer. They match up so well in size, skill, and versatility, with not one player out of place.
A big tick for the Magpies’ selections is the amount of class apparent, with the flankers and pocketmen all sublime users of the ball. Brownlow medalists Gavin Wanganeen and Andrew McLeod are both just as capable further afield, but fit in nicely alongside Geelong great Corey Enright and Crows cult figure Graham Johncock. Aside from the Wakelin brothers up the spine, the only real knock on Port’s defence is its lack of height, though the defensive combativeness of Enright and Johncock makes up for it.
Dandenong’s back six ticks a lot of boxes too; with a couple of true key position players who can also swing up the other end, a small lockdown option, a runner, a sharp user by foot, and an enforcer. Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch are the tall options, with Adam McPhee providing added physical presence, while Austinn Jones and Chris Newman are club favourites who can both break the lines and mop up at ground level. Add Michael Hibberd‘s classy ball use on the rebound, and you have a pretty complete defence.
While Port Adelaide’s troops may just take our vote on a pure player-to-player comparison basis, Dandenong’s mix makes them difficult to look past. This is a tough one.
SILK VS. RUNNING POWER:
There are many effective ways to quickly gain meterage, whether it be through efficient disposal, pure running power, or a combination of the two. In reviewing some of the outside movers on either side, it seems they may differ slightly in their attacking methods. For Dandenong, the likes of Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully, and Travis Johnstone all provide a great mix of speed and endurance, able to transfer the ball forward or provide outlets in transition through sheer gut running. Treloar, Shiel, and Johnstone in particular are known to carry the ball, while Scully is your outside endurance machine, and Whitfield boasts arguably the best balance of the lot.
For Port, it’s the silk that shines through. The near-untouchable pairing of McLeod and Wanganeen can carve up the opposition and set up attacks from the back half, combining their speed with phenomenal skill. Enright, too, has a good balance in his game to provide a similar rebounding quality. The quality remains further afield, as both Burgoyne brothers are prolific decision makers with ball in hand, and Byron Pickett a damaging momentum generator. If that kind of class can’t get them through, the Magpies can match Dandenong’s run through midfield too, with Buckley and Craig Bradley able to accumulate and break lines all day long.
THE FORWARD BALANCE:
The ledger may be quite even in an array of areas, but finding small flaws is key to separating such well-matched sides. When viewing the Dandenong forwardline, it may seem like a high-level bunch on paper, but to us it’s only half-perfect. The twin talls in Fevola and Tom Lynch make for an elite combination, especially with Stephen Milne at their feet. But the remaining forwards – Treloar, Shiel, and Shane Savage – just don’t fit the bill in their given positions, despite being great players elsewhere.
This is especially evident when compared to Port Adelaide’s balance, which boasts two true key position targets, but a more complete array of ground level players. Alan Didak and Lindsay Thomas are very crafty in front of goal, while Peter Burgoyne and Brett Ebert are much more true half-forwards. It makes for a better structure up forward, and gives the Magpies a big tick in that department despite Dandenong’s weight of talent on paper.
There is plenty to like about both sides, which is exactly why they both feature among our top six seeds. A superior ruck department and serious running power steals some points for Dandenong, but we feel the greater balance and overall class of Port Adelaide’s team is enough to nab our vote in this matchup.