PORT Adelaide has made a huge statement in its season opener, producing a committed and skilled performance to topple last year’s grand finalist Sydney by 28 points at the SCG.
The Power seized upon their opportunities throughout a high-quality contest, kicking with remarkable accuracy to beat the stunned Swans 17.8.(110) to 12.10.(82) and register their first win at the SCG in 11 years.
Sporting three debutants and ruckman Paddy Ryder playing his first game since 2015, leaders Brad Ebert, Ollie Wines and Travis Boak - playing his 200th game - spurred Port to a famous win, just their second victory over Sydney in their past 15 meetings.
"I'm really proud that they stood up for the skipper, and you don't need milestone games to stand up, but it's pretty special for a bloke like Travis (Boak), who has over his journey made some courageous decisions to be a part of this footy club," Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said.
"I think he got a fair bit of payback today which is good."
The teams went toe-to-toe during the first half, but Port’s tenacity in pulling back Sydney’s two big streaks - a 19-point run in the first term and 20 points in the second - hinted at their intent.
Port’s gutsy four-point half-time lead, 9.3.(57) to 8.5.(53), was built on dominance in contested possession and clearances, traditional power-bases for the hosts.
Sydney’s potent forward line - under the recent tutelage of the great Tony Lockett - continued to offer hope for the Swans, but Port would not be intimidated.
Throughout the third quarter they made every post a winner. Port worked furiously in defence and punished Sydney’s mistakes to open up a 22-point lead. Light drizzle during the term made controlling the ball increasingly hard, adding to Sydney’s challenge.
Lance Franklin’s fourth goal, in the third minute of the final quarter, offered Sydney a lifeline, but Jared Polec’s flowing left foot strike back a minute later typified Port’s combination of effort and execution.
Hamish Hartlett’s goal in the 25th minute and Chad Wingard’s third two minutes later sealed a great win for Hinkley’s men.
"They kicked the last two goals just before halftime and then probably after half time they got a couple of really simple ones that they shouldn’t have been able to get, through missed tackles and just basic things that we didn’t get right," Sydney coach John Longmire said.
"We didn’t have a lot of players win their positions, and that includes our experienced players. Maybe some of the younger kids struggled a little bit. But we didn’t have a lot of winners the whole game, really."
Sydney: 'New' might not be the most likely word to describe a player in the final year of a five-year contract. But given Sam Reid missed all of last season with a series of injuries, his towering presence must have felt like a gift for the Swans. Reid delivered, providing another huge forward line option and swinging back to play a key role in defence. He kicked three, had 13 disposals and defended hard.
Port Adelaide: Port had three debutants, but Sam Powell-Pepper is the one to watch. The big, strong 2016 first-round draft selection registered a goal with his first kick at AFL level, a long-range set shot from beyond the 50m arc, and another booming thump in the third term, which opened up an 81-65 lead. Powell-Pepper had 19 touches and looked right at home.
Sydney: Callum Mills left the field in the opening term due to the blood rule but soon returned. Dan Robinson went off with a shoulder injury just before half-time.
Port Adelaide: Robbie Gray was left groggy after a clash with Sydney big man Sam Naismith but returned to the action.
The Swans make their first trip to Melbourne and face the Western Bulldogs in a rematch of last year's Grand Final. Port Adelaide has an eight-day gap before hosting Fremantle at Adelaide Oval.
SYDNEY 4.3 8.5 10.6 12.10 (82)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.2 9.3 14.4 17.8 (110)
Sydney: Franklin 4, Reid 3, Robinson, Kennedy, Jones, Tippett, Jack
Port Adelaide: Young 3, Wingard 3, Boak 2, Powell-Pepper 2, Dixon 2, Trengove, Byrne-Jones, Amon, Polec, Hartlett
Sydney: Kennedy, Franklin, Jones, Grundy, Parker, Reid
Port Adelaide: Wines, Boak, Ebert, Wingard, Powell-Pepper, Ryder
Sydney: Dan Robinson (shoulder)
Port Adelaide: Nil
Umpires: Hosking, Ryan, Mollison
Official crowd: 33,129 at the SCG
More to come.