ADELAIDE'S disappointing 52-point loss to Port Adelaide has been compounded by a serious knee injury to midfielder Wayne Milera.
Scans after the game confirmed the 23-year-old, who played just two games last year due to a stress fracture in his foot, suffered a ruptured patellar tendon. He will undergo surgery to repair the damage and faces a long stint on the sidelines, putting his season in jeopardy.
In a battle of last year's minor premiers and wooden-spooners, the Crows stuck with their more-fancied opponents for the first half, but fell away very badly after the main break, conceding five goals in seven minutes in the third.
It was a free-wheeling game of footy, with Port Adelaide kicking 18.17 (125) to Adelaide's 11.7 (73) in warm conditions at Alberton Oval. The sides played four 30-minute quarters without time-on.
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Without the Crouch brothers (Brad now at St Kilda and Matt out with groin soreness) Adelaide generally stuck with the same midfield mix of Rory Sloane, Rory Laird, Ben Keays and Jackson Hately, with Paul Seedsman also having a run in the middle.
But the Power's engine room dominance through Zak Butters, Karl Amon, Ollie Wines and Travis Boak made life extremely tough for Adelaide's defenders.
Without Tom Doedee (groin) and Daniel Talia (knee), young Crows key back Jordon Butts had a tough task against All-Australian Charlie Dixon (three goals), who covered the ground well and was an integral focal point in attack.
But it wasn't just Dixon who feasted in front of goal, with Port Adelaide recording 12 individual goalkickers throughout the game, including three from Xavier Duursma.
Adelaide ruck Reilly O'Brien was tireless against Scott Lycett and occasionally Peter Ladhams, playing long minutes on the ball (relieved by Billy Frampton, who impressed up forward with three goals) and finding plenty of the footy around the ground.
The products of Port Adelaide's busy off-season, Aliir Aliir and Orazio Fantasia, had flashes of prominence throughout the game. Aliir didn't have much to do after half-time when playing in defence, while Fantasia – playing in the forward pocket – had a purple patch in the second, kicking two goals. Crows recruit Jackson Hately played in the midfield but didn't find much of the footy at all, out-muscled by an experienced Power engine room.
Adelaide opted to play most of its draftees in the SANFL trial match prior to the seniors, and pick No.2 Riley Thilthorpe starred with four goals and gave off a couple more. The one newbie who did play in the senior game, James Rowe, found life tough with limited supply up forward, but positioned himself well when the occasion called for it. He pounced on a loose ball in the fourth and converted cleanly.
Round one bolters
Young Port runner Miles Bergman missed the first half of 2020 with an ankle injury, and was unable to break through for a game in a strong line-up. Drafted as a forward, he played primarily on the wing and ran hard both ways, featuring at both ends of the ground. While not a bolter as such, Crow Harry Schoenberg, who played eight games in 2020, looked lively at times with some smart choices with the footy and should feature early this season.
It was quite a standard game, with not too many players in new roles. Zak Butters spent a fair bit of time on the ball and used the footy with pace and creativity. Rory Laird looks set to continue his late-season midfield role in 2021, attending the majority of centre bounces, with Brodie Smith slotting into the subsequently vacant rebounding role.
First-year Power defender Lachie Jones' date-of-birth needed to be checked several times throughout the match, with the draftee looking like he'd had several pre-seasons already under his belt. He played with confidence and composure at half-back. Ben Keays found plenty of the footy, running hard to boot two goals, and looks set to feature heavily in the Crows' plans in 2021 after a breakout 2020.
On the comeback trail
Port Adelaide detailed a new foot injury to Connor Rozee during the week, saying the dangerous forward will need to be managed throughout the year, but the star moved with pace and agility. Willem Drew has battled his own foot injuries throughout his career but was given the opportunity as a starting midfielder against the Crows.
Aside from Milera, Todd Marshall suffered a head knock in a marking contest, while Luke Brown was sore after smothering a ball with his head. The Crows had a handful of senior players already sidelined for the scratch match. David Mackay suffered a concussion in last week's intraclub match, while Tom Doedee is now back running after a groin complaint. Daniel Talia (knee) is aiming for a round two or three return. Port Adelaide had three senior players out: Tom Jonas (managed), Robbie Gray (cut lip which required stitches), and Sam Powell-Pepper (hand, on track for round one).