PORT Adelaide has its eyes on the premiership, Essendon has its eyes on 2021.
It's remarkable to think that a year ago, these sides could hardly be split as they fought for the final spot in the top eight. Twelve months on, their completely opposite trajectories were brutally exposed in a 50-point Power mauling.
POWER v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Challenged early on Saturday evening, Port Adelaide then put its foot down to highlight the great strides it has made this season on its way to a convincing 11.13 (79) to 4.5 (29) victory that edges the club ever-closer to the minor premiership.
But on the other hand, only poor kicking – with the Power failing to capitalise on 15 more scoring shots and 13 more inside 50s amid a downpour of rain at Adelaide Oval – prevented disappointment turning into embarrassment for a hapless Bombers side.
If Port Adelaide could afford to switch its focus to finals midway through a cruisy victory, Essendon was conversely powerless to avoid being overrun in a defeat that finally puts to bed any mathematical hopes of the club keeping its season alive.
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Tom Rockliff (30 disposals, one goal) relished the wet conditions, with his influence particularly telling throughout a second quarter when the Power kicked five unanswered majors to assert their authority on the contest.
The inclement weather set in soon after that, stopping the game from reaching any great heights as a spectacle, but not preventing Ollie Wines (28 disposals, one goal) and Travis Boak (26 disposals, one goal) from continuing their fine run of form.
But where Port Adelaide had a number of quality contributors, Essendon's were few and far between. Promising young defender Jordan Ridley (23 disposals, four marks) was serviceable, but ultimately outgunned.
ROUNDS 17-18 Check out the full fixture
With just one win from their last nine matches, another sour loss puts the Bombers out of their misery. It's a far cry from the scenes inside the Power camp, where a fifth straight win next week – against Collingwood in the final game of the home and away season – will confirm top spot heading into the finals.
Big Charlie monsters poor BZT
You had to feel sorry for Brandon Zerk-Thatcher. With the experienced Michael Hurley out with an injured ankle and Cale Hooker dropped, the daunting task of facing the man mountain Charlie Dixon fell on the youngster's shoulders. A full 21kg in weight separated the pair, with Dixon kicking 2.3 from 10 disposals and six marks in a dominant display. Port Adelaide had perhaps been too dependent on Dixon early, targeting the key forward eight times from their first nine entries inside 50. It led to Dixon kicking five of the side's first eight scoring shots. But eventually, when they spread out the opportunities, Dixon was able to isolate Zerk-Thatcher and make his afternoon as difficult as possible.
Rockliff has earned his Power place
Tom Rockliff's Port Adelaide career once again looked in a precarious position when he was dropped on form for three games earlier this year. However, he has well and truly cemented his place as an important role player in the club's push for the premiership. In the type of wet, tough conditions he has relished throughout his career, Rockliff was sensational on Saturday. He finished with 30 disposals, seven score involvements and six tackles, setting the tone with his bullish work in contested situations and kicking a nice snapped goal to complete his evening's work. If Ken Hinkley had questioned Rockliff's ability to fit into this side's premiership plans in July, by September those doubts are well and truly gone.
Defeat in reverse for sorry Dons
After last week's early horror show against Geelong, where Essendon trailed by 59 points at half-time, there was a lot of focus on the club's start on Saturday. The Bombers, who hadn't won an opening term in 13 games going into this clash, came out with ferocity and intensity and made sure they weren't the victims of another disappointing slow start. Indeed, they finally bucked that first-quarter trend to lead by five points at the first change. But, ultimately, it did little to impact the final result. Instead, it was a similar story in defeat – only in reverse – as Port Adelaide kicked the next five goals to cruise to a comfortable win.
PORT ADELAIDE 1.2 6.7 7.13 11.13 (79)
ESSENDON 2.1 2.3 3.3 4.5 (29)
Port Adelaide: Dixon 2, Ladhams, Powell-Pepper, Ebert, Gray, Rockliff, Wines, Boak, Duursma, Motlop
Essendon: Parish, Clarke, Cutler, Ham
Port Adelaide: Rockliff, Boak, Wines, Rozee, Amon, Gray, Bonner
Essendon: Ridley, Saad, Merrett, Smith, Parish
Port Adelaide: Nil