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After the siren: Port's moment of footy perfection

Ashley Browne  July 30, 2017 8:53 PM

The 10: round 19's best moments Another thrilling weekend of footy with some brilliant highlights

HAS THERE ever been a set play to finish a football game in such thrilling fashion as at Adelaide Oval on Saturday evening?

Paddy Ryder's tap to Robbie Gray, who sprinted to 50m and kicked the winning goal with 19 seconds to go was a piece of football artistry.

There have been other last-gasp wins this year – Fremantle over Richmond, Greater Western Sydney over Richmond and Sydney over Essendon spring to mind – but in terms of one in which the final play was executed to perfection, it is hard to go past the Ryder-Gray goal, which served the dual purpose of keeping Port's hopes of the double chance alive and dealing a savage blow to St Kilda's finals bid at the same time. 

Ryder has been the best ruckman in the competition this year and his work at the death on Saturday night is ample proof of that. Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer and Hawk Ben McEvoy have enjoyed fine seasons, but when it comes to the All Australian team, it should not take the selectors all that long to pencil Ryder's name in. 

Like former Essendon teammates Michael Hurley and Michael Hibberd, the 12-month enforced break because of the WADA suspension has been a blessing and he has returned to the game and played some of his best football. 

As for Gray, it was another moment to add to an already glittering highlights reel. Twenty-seven possessions, 15 of them contested, as well as five clearances represented another outstanding game.

Perhaps the 29-year-old doesn't get enough recognition for how good he is. 

Is Gray among the game's very top echelon, the elite, the superstars? This column witnessed a vigorous workplace discussion last week about which players deserve the 'superstar' moniker. As of this week, the list included the following: Patrick Dangerfield, Lance Franklin, Dustin Martin, Marcus Bontempelli, Eddie Betts, Nat Fyfe, Gary Ablett and Dustin Martin. This column believes Cyril Rioli should be included, as should Gray. His influence on games can be profound, he hits the scoreboard and his acts inspire his teammates.

Port Adelaide superstar Robbie Gray? No problems here with that one. 

Paddy Ryder's tap to Robbie Gray for the match-winning goal. Picture: AFL Photos
1_19PASt17MT05670_1.JPG

Mitch shows Pies what they're missing

As if Port Adelaide didn't deliver enough drama for South Australian football fans, Adelaide came within a whisker of completing its greatest-ever comeback when it snatched a draw against Collingwood on Sunday with the last kick of the game after trailing by 50 points early in the third quarter.

The comeback was based on what the Crows do best – pressuring their opponents into error and then moving the ball with speed and confidence down the corridor to their various marking forwards.

Not lost in all the drama is that the Crow who delivered his team the precious two points was Mitch McGovern, out of contract at the end of the season and whose future in Adelaide is unclear.

West Coast, alongside his brother Jeremy, shapes as the most logical home for McGovern if he does leave Adelaide but the fantastic contested mark he took in front of goal at the death would have left the Collingwood list management team drooling with anticipation. He is precisely the sort of player the Magpies need, parked close to goal and feasting on the work of a strong and prolific midfield.

Having said that, it wasn't a bad day for the Collingwood recruiters. Their decision to bring Daniel Wells to the club is looking better by the week and the silky midfielder was instrumental in the barnstorming first half and important again in the final quarter when the Pies slipped away to a 21-point lead.

WATCH: Wells at his very best

What was clear on Sunday is that the Pies are playing for their coach and the decision facing Collingwood about Nathan Buckley's future is looking more complicated by the week.

As for the Crows, that's two wins and a draw from three trips to the MCG this season. If they play their cards right, they won't return there until Grand Final day and certainly, it won't hold any fears for them. As they demonstrated after half-time against Collingwood, their game plan stacks up pretty well at the place where premierships are decided. 

Oh, and there's the not insignificant matter of a Showdown to close out next weekend's round of footy. It's going to be a big week in Adelaide. 

Nine things we learned from round 19

Beware the rejuvenated Bulldogs

Some are saying Dogs coach Luke Beveridge is channelling his former boss Alastair Clarkson by drastically moving his players around the ground. But as we noted here last week, when he first arrived at the Whitten Oval in 2015, he moved erstwhile dour backman Liam Picken to the forward line, where he has been a revelation.

But he dived into his bag of tricks on Sunday to switch Jason Johannisen, who has been struggling to deal with tags, to the forward line and against the Bombers he responded brilliantly with four goals, three of which came from outside 50 metres, to help deliver a huge win for the Dogs in what was an eight-point game at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The Bulldogs shared the love with 12 goalkickers and it was a performance that, perhaps more than any in what has been a difficult season, most resembled how they went about their footy last year.

Around the state leagues: Who starred in your club's twos?

There were signs in the past fortnight against Carlton and Gold Coast that the defending champs were finding their mojo once more, but on Sunday they withstood a blistering Bomber opening and countered more Joe Daniher brilliance with some of their own from Johannisen and Marcus Bontempelli for easily their best win of the past three weeks. They look dangerous again and not a team you'd want to face over the remaining four weeks of the season.

North's year of going south might be paying off

Suggestions that North Melbourne has been tanking are laughable and full credit to the coach Brad Scott and chairman Ben Buckley for addressing such suggestions in the strongest possible terms.  

For that reason alone, you couldn't begrudge the Kangas for their win over Melbourne on Saturday, which snapped a seven-game losing streak and remarkably, took their winning streak against the Demons to 17.

John Howard was Prime Minister the last time Melbourne beat North. There was no Twitter, no iPhone and not much reality TV. That's how long ago it was. 

Saturday's result also demonstrates how much of a fortress Blundstone Arena has become for the Kangaroos. It is the most windswept playing venue in the AFL and North played it beautifully once again, keeping the Demons at bay with two goals apiece in the final term despite the visitors kicking with the aid of a howling gale. 

A difficult period for the Kangaroos might nearly be coming to a close. This time last year they were grappling with the difficulty of how to gracefully retire four decorated servants of the club, but they have been clear with their direction to play the kids and despite the mounting losses, they have been competitive many more weeks than not.

Lingering issues that remain include the future of ruckman Todd Goldstein and as well the coach, who is making all the right noises about remaining with the club in the long term, but who would face a major decision should another club come calling with a long-term deal.

They are cashed up and in the market, with Josh Kelly and Dustin Martin in their sights.

But even though North made the finals in 2016, stumbling in as it did, the club is in better shape now than then, notwithstanding some tough calls still to be made. Getting one or both of Kelly and Martin would be an unbelievable fillip and would transform the club instantly.

Other observations

1. The race for the finals is tight, but so is the battle for the Coleman Medal. Six goals to Daniher took him to 53 goals for the season and the outright lead. Josh Kennedy kicked six against the Lions to move to 49. Lance Franklin had a relative 'mare against the Hawks, kicking just one goal and he sits between them on 51, alongside North's Ben Brown who kicked four on Saturday. Daniher has been in a rich vein of form in the second half of the season and might win it, but it would be great to see Brown push him all the way.

2. We've spoken about optics before, and it didn't look great when Swans captain Josh Kennedy returned to the ground on Friday night against Hawthorn with a heavily strapped hamstring. He is a Kennedy after all, famous for their belief that injuries don't really matter, but if the scans come back on Monday revealing any sort of damage, then questions should be asked as to why he returned to the ground. Sydney was a bit battered and bruised on Friday night and might be starting to pay the price for the miraculous recovery from the 0-6 start.

The run home: Your club's road to September

3. The enigma that is Hawthorn's James Sicily was on show for all to see at the MCG on Friday night. There was the 50m penalty that gifted Lance Franklin a goal at a critical stage of a desperately tight game, which left Hawk legend and ABC commentator David Parkin calling for him to be dropped from the team next week. But then came the brilliance of his last quarter where his intercept marking and composure under pressure helped preserve a great win for the Hawks. The post-script? Sicily got the three votes in the ABC Footballer of the Year Award.

4. Melbourne and St Kilda were all the rage at the start of the season but if the weekend's results confirmed anything, it is that both clubs are at least a year away from premiership discussions. The Demons didn't have enough tricks in their bag to take advantage of the gilt-edged opportunity to beat the Kangas in Hobart, although yet another setback to Jesse Hogan is a wretched blow. This year truly has been an annus horribilis for the Melbourne spearhead. The Saints had their first look at life after Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna and would feel far from discouraged, but the lack of organisation at the end could well cost them a finals berth this year.

Forecast the road to the flag with the AFL Ladder and Finals Predictor

5. It was only the lowly Carlton whose backline he plundered, but Tom Hawkins picked a great time to return to form with six goals and a career-high 27 disposals. The Cats bat deeper across the ground than they did 12 months ago, but Hawkins in that sort of form could enable them to play until very deep into September. He needs to back it up against the Swans on Friday night, however.

WATCH: Tomahawk sharpens up against Blues

6. What was shaping as a danger game for the Tigers without Jack Riewoldt proved anything but once Steven May and Gary Ablett were late withdrawals. Toby Nankervis, Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna filled the gap admirably with three goals each, but with the Hawks and Cats to come, they'll be hoping Riewoldt will be back and they can revert back to the forward structure that has served them well all year.

7. Lance Franklin and Patrick Dangerfield will both be cleared to play on Friday night by the Match Review Panel. But we'll be furiously refreshing our Twitter feeds around 3pm Monday.

ANALYSIS: Danger's tackle one out of the box