Connor Rozee celebrates a goal during Port Adelaide's clash against Essendon in round four, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WHEN Port Adelaide appointed Connor Rozee as the AFL's youngest captain at the end of last season, his first aim was to focus on his own performance remaining at a high level. Four games in – so far, so (very, very) good.

Rozee was brilliant in Port's 69-point win over Essendon on Friday night, with a standout showing from the new skipper, two-time All-Australian and an early Brownlow Medal contender for this season.

POWER v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

The midfielder had a career-high 36 disposals against the Bombers and kicked three goals as he ran amok in the midfield as the Power completed a 17.9 (111) to 6.6 (42) victory at Adelaide Oval. The 24-year-old's first half in particular was probably the best of any half played this season, with his three goals, 20 disposals and four clearances as the Power set up the win with a commanding second term.

The win saw Ken Hinkley's side bounce back from its tight loss to Melbourne last week and start its season 3-1, with the Bombers back to level pegging at 2-2 with the on-the-road defeat that will leave a sour taste after a promising start to the season. Archie Perkins' hamstring injury further added to the pain for the Bombers on a poor night. 


Jason Horne-Francis will push Rozee for the three votes as well with a dominant display in his return from a hamstring injury.

The No.1 pick replaced Ollie Wines, who was out with a hamstring strain, and was a powerful force throughout the night, collecting a career-best 31 disposals as well as 10 clearances and five marks, also showing some of his talents in the air around the ground. 

Jade Gresham got the Bombers on the board early with two first-quarter goals, but Rozee was just as busy, with the Power superstar gathering 13 disposals in the opening term and also kicking a goal. 


Rozee's dominance was central to Port's effective forward forays but the Bombers squandered some entries and trailed by three points at the first change despite a strong presence with their inside 50 tackling. 

The early combative nature of the game faded in the second quarter as the Power flexed their muscle to kick six goals to one for the term and extend their lead to 35 points by half-time.

GATHER ROUND 2024 All you need to know about the Festival of Footy in SA

Horne-Francis was a crucial piece in his return, with the gun midfielder tallying 16 disposals in the half and showing his power around the ball. But it remained the Rozee show, with his groundball pick-up and classy snap from the 50-metre mark late in the quarter seeing him slot his third goal before the main break. 

The rout continued in the third term as Port's transition game cut up the Bombers, with Zak Butters' turn of speed, bounce and long kick that led to another goal for Jeremy Finlayson quashing any Essendon revival after Gresham had slotted his third.


Holy trinity fires
Where do they rank as the best midfield trio in the AFL? Connor Rozee and Zak Butters' credentials are right up there among the best in the competition as a one-two punch but the 2018 draft graduates have another in the group with Jason Horne-Francis. Horne-Francis is the point of difference as well and it says plenty about the quality of the trio that Butters had 26 disposals against Essendon and played a strong game but was the third wheel of the group on the night as Rozee and Horne-Francis led a midfield domination. 


Power load up
Port Adelaide debuted its four-pronged tall forward attack for the first time this season as Mitch Georgiades returned to the senior side after his knee reconstruction last year. Georgiades added a different element to the mix and kicked two goals, with Todd Marshall, Jeremy Finlayson and Charlie Dixon combining for three goals. It was in contrast to the Bombers, who lacked targets forward of the ball with Peter Wright missing through suspension. 

Old faces, new places
It was the trade deal that went down to the final minutes of last year's exchange period as Brandon Zerk-Thatcher left Essendon for Port Adelaide and Xavier Duursma joined the Bombers in the swap. Duursma was terrific last week against St Kilda and returned to Adelaide Oval to little averse reaction from his old fans to pick up 26 disposals, while Zerk-Thatcher continued his more than solid start to his career at Port Adelaide in the back half. One of Zerk-Thatcher's better moments came in the third quarter as his chase denied what looked like being a certain goal for Ben Hobbs, managing to stop the Bomber from gaining possession and helping the Power clear.


PORT ADELAIDE          4.0     10.3     13.7     17.9 (111)
ESSENDON                   3.3      4.4      6.5        6.6 (42)  

Port Adelaide: Rozee 3, Rioli 3, Finlayson 3, Byrne-Jones 3, Georgiades 2, Soldo, McEntee, Marshall
Gresham 3, Stringer, Perkins, Jones

Port Adelaide: Rozee, Horne-Francis, Butters, Finlayson, Rioli
Gresham, Merrett, McKay, Duursma, Caldwell

Port Adelaide: Boak (back)
Perkins (hamstring)

Port Adelaide: Jase Burgoyne (replaced Travis Boak in the third quarter)
Nick Hind (replaced Jye Menzie in the third quarter)

Crowd: 47,641 at Adelaide Oval