Port Adelaide's Jake Neade celebrates a goal against North Melbourne on Saturday. Picture: Graham Denholm
Port Adelaide's Jake Neade celebrates a goal against North Melbourne on Saturday. Picture: Graham Denholm

Port Adelaide cut Big Ben’s supply to turn off the Roos

KEN Hinkley was only half-joking when asked pre-game what sort of plan Port Adelaide had crafted to combat Ben Brown, the man who led the Coleman Medal heading into this round.

His answer was simple. Keep Brown away from the ball.

The Power coach might have been re-thinking his strategy less than a minute into the clash with the Kangaroos at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

A first tap from Todd Goldstein zeroed in on Ben Cunnington, who handed off to Jy Simpkin, and the young gun's long ball into attack ended with Brown rewarded with a free kick after interference from Tom Jonas.

Brown was never going to miss.

If Hinkley twitched in his chair in the coach's box as the Kangaroo forward slotted the ball through for his first goal of the game, he didn't show it.

 

Ben Brown battles with two Port Adelaide defenders. Picture: Michael Klein
Ben Brown battles with two Port Adelaide defenders. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Neither did he waver on the plan, as he backed Jonas in to block, harass, shepherd and corral his opponent away from the Sherrin as much as he could - much to Brown's and the Kangaroo crowd's chagrin.

Brown never had an easy pathway, but credit to him, he kept on trying to find a way, even if frustration set in at times as Jonas and a handful of his teammates did everything in their power to keep the dangerous forward away from the contest.

For the most part, effectively for three quarters of this game, it worked, before Brown finally found some space with two final-term goals, making it 4.1 for the game.

Given his frizzy hair, his strong hands, and his deadly accurate shooting for goal, Brown has never not attracted attention, except for his inexplicable omission from the All-Australian team last year after kicking 63.30 in a team that won only six games.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old rarely had a clear pathway to the football.

Brown's teammates - as hard as they tried to get him into the game - didn't help him, or Jarrad Waite (three goals), as they bombed the ball in too often without seeking an easier option.

 

Brown's 23.5 for the season shows his importance to the team, but he knows he will start getting even more attention from opposition teams now that he is backing up that 2017 form.

The Kangaroos trailed at every change and couldn't manage the sort of form they showed last week to defeat Hawthorn, eventually going down by 33 points.

In contrast, this was a very different Power outfit than the one that meekly surrendered against Geelong and Essendon in the past fortnight.

It had been an emotional week for the Power for a variety of reasons - a war of words with the AFL over the Sam Powell-Pepper suspension, the serious knee injury suffered by Hamish Hartlett at training and the death of Todd Marshall's father, Robert.

They responded in the best possible way, other than the hamstring injury suffered by Chad Wingard. It will likely keep him out for the next three weeks.

Chad Wingard grabs his left hamstring. Picture: Michael Klein
Chad Wingard grabs his left hamstring. Picture: Michael Klein

Part of Hinkley's other plan was to go in with a small forward line against the Kangaroos' tall timber of Robbie Tarrant and Scott Thompson, and for the most part that worked too.

They got first use from midfielders such as Jared Polec, Brad Ebert and Travis Boak, and stand-in ruckman Charlie Dixon had the better of Kangaroos' big man Todd Goldstein.

In attack, Sam Gray booted four goals, Justin Westhoff was outstanding, and Jake Neade provided plenty of lively antics, kicking two goals.

In the end, Hinkley's plans worked - restricting Brown to only seven touches and four marks (albeit with four goals) by keeping him away from the ball.

Now he has to work out a plan for Josh Kennedy, with the Power to take on West Coast next Saturday in Perth.



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