Port Melbourne was unable to bounce up the ladder despite the impact of several new recruits.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 6-12 (84.0%)
Players used: 40
Played every match: 4 – Anthony Anastasio, Tom Hird, Ethan Phillips and Harry Stubbings
Debutants: 8 – Zach Adams, Harley Bennell, Kyle Borg, Angus Curry, Jordan Lane, Oscar Roberts, Lachlan Smith and Kyle Viccars
Best and Fairest: 1st: Harvey Hooper, 2nd: Fraser Rosman, 3rd: Tom Hird, 4th: Dylan Clarke, 5th: Ethan Phillips
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Harvey Hooper (17), Archi Manton (7), Sam Naismith (6)
Coaches MVP votes: Dylan Clarke (25), Harvey Hooper (25), Archi Manton (20)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Nil
Goalkickers: Archi Manton (30), Jake Gasper (28), Matthew Signorello (20)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Harvey Hooper (25.2), Dylan Clarke (22.5), Nash Holmes (22.1)
Kicks: Harvey Hooper (15.4), Tom Cameron (15.2), Fraser Rosman (13.6)
Handballs: Dylan Clarke (16.2), Nash Holmes (11.3), Josh Green (10.9)
Marks: Ethan Phillips (8.6), Fraser Rosman (5.8), Zach Adams (4.7)
Tackles: Dylan Clarke (6.3), Nash Holmes (5.2), Tom Hird (4.2)
Hitouts: Sam Naismith (37.1), Tom Hofert (17.0), Felix Flockart (11.8)
Clearances: Sam Naismith (5.4), Nash Holmes (5.3), Harvey Hooper (5.2)
Inside-50s: Harvey Hooper (6.7), Anthony Anastasio (3.5), Nash Holmes (3.5)
Rebound-50s: Tom Cameron (8.8), Fraser Rosman (3.8), Tom Hird (3.3)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Borough recruited well in the off-season, with some of those signings playing key roles in what shaped as a promising season early on. Tom Hird and Harry Stubbings played every game, with Fraser Rosman, Hird and Dylan Clarke finishing in the top four of the best and fairest behind star skipper Harvey Hooper. Sam Naismith was dominant in the ruck, so much so he this week earned an AFL lifeline from Richmond in another boost to the programs of the standalone clubs. Ethan Phillips also backed up his Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal win from 2022 with another strong campaign in defence despite playing a more man-on-man role. Kyle Viccars won a spot on the list mid-season and showed himself to be a natural at the level. Oh, and Anthony Anastasio will be back to terrorise rivals once more.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Running Werribee and Box Hill Hawks to 23 points showed they could compete against the top teams, but they were also capable of heavy losses, including against eventual premiers the Gold Coast Suns and finalists Collingwood, Williamstown and Footscray, with the Good Friday thrashing by the Seagulls being particularly chastening. Coach Adam Skrobalak made a statement after that game by dropping five senior players and two of them did not play again. The Harley Bennell experiment did not work as he managed just five games before returning to Western Australia.
There is certainly plenty to work with at ETU Stadium. Hooper is a star of the competition, his midfield colleagues have class or grunt (or both), the defence worked well together most weeks, although they will be looking for replacements for at least two of them including star interceptor Phillips. They had three key forwards in Archi Manton, Jake Gasper and Matt Signorello who were all capable of big days but couldn’t do it at the same time. Losing both experienced ruckmen creates a void to fill – are Tom Hofert and Felix Flockart ready or do they look to bring another experienced giant in? Good enough to push for the top 10 next year.