IT HAD been a while since Port Adelaide graced the MCG, but on Saturday night's evidence it might want to get used to playing there.
Stepping onto the iconic ground for the first time in 637 days, its 28-point victory over Carlton was both a demonstration of its finals quality and of its determination to soon return to the home of footy for that last Saturday in September.
The Power were ruthless in their 15.6 (96) to 9.14 (68) win, with their array of potent weapons in the forward line providing the ammunition to put a lacklustre Blues outfit to the sword.
BLUES v POWER Full match coverage and stats
Tall timber Mitch Georgiades and Charlie Dixon marked everything in the air and combined for five goals, while the mosquito fleet of Robbie Gray and Orazio Fantasia proved just as dangerous on ground level to share five more between them.
All the while, Ollie Wines (32 disposals, seven clearances) and Travis Boak (29 disposals, seven score involvements) did the damage from midfield as Port Adelaide improved its record on the season to 4-1 with relative ease.
Sam Walsh (29 disposals, eight clearances, one goal) battled hard. But for Carlton, this was a brutal reality check after successive wins over the last fortnight had briefly rekindled some positivity.
Even before the fight had been sapped from the Blues, their foot hold in the match had appeared on shaky ground. On multiple occasions in the first half, the Power looked threatening without stretching their advantage much beyond three goals.
But a 50m penalty against co-captain Patrick Cripps enabled Scott Lycett to finally convert Port Adelaide's control over the contest into dominance on the scoreboard, extending the advantage to 23 points at half-time.
Carlton's problems were compounded when key defender Jacob Weitering was forced off for an extended period in the third term with a head knock, allowing Georgiades and Dixon to continue having their way with an outgunned Blues backline.
Weitering eventually returned, but four straight Port Adelaide goals to finish the third quarter had put Carlton out of touch. It meant that while Matt Cottrell's stunning snap to start the final term wowed supporters, it mattered little to the final result.
Magnets were flipped, with Mitch McGovern going back and Tom Williamson moving forward, but by that stage the only thing the Blues could win was respectability on the scoreboard on what was an otherwise comfortable night for the Power.
Three-headed beast has Port firing
Port Adelaide has long flirted with unleashing Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades together for a consistent period and was afforded the opportunity to continue their partnership on Saturday night. It proved a masterstroke, with the key forward trio working strongly in tandem and each hitting the scoreboard in a resounding win. Georgiades provided the high-flying, kicking three goals from 15 disposals. Dixon provided the brute force, clunking a series of big marks and finishing with two majors. Marshall then provided the link between midfield and attack, with his one goal complementing 19 disposals and nine marks. Try stopping this forward line as it continues to develop and improve.
Life in Robbie's legs
Robbie Gray didn't appear to mind the pesky youth of Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma being out of his 50m arc on Saturday night, with the 33-year-old winding back the clock in the absence of the club's gun youngsters. Gray had three goals to half-time, dominating as the Power cleared the forward line for their veteran star. Whether it was through his work on ground level, or his supreme finishing ability in front of goal, Gray was the game's most influential player as his side built its early advantage. His impact might have faded after half-time, but the damage had been done. He finished with three goals from 16 disposals on another impactful night.
Blues keep McGovern on his toes
A head knock to Jacob Weitering, which forced Carlton's reigning best and fairest winner from the field in the third quarter, made for a tricky 20 minutes for the returning Mitch McGovern. Playing his first game for the year, McGovern had spent the first half playing forward before being shifted into a defensive role on Todd Marshall when Weitering was undergoing a concussion test. It made for a mildly amusing scene at the three-quarter time huddle, when McGovern joined the defensive group only for Weitering to trot from the rooms and motion to his teammate to go back to the forwards meeting. McGovern finished with one goal from 13 disposals and five marks on his return from hamstring and back issues, continuing to push into the backline even after Weitering returned.
CARLTON 3.3 4.5 6.10 9.14 (68)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.2 8.4 14.5 15.6 (96)
Carlton: Casboult 2, Fogarty, Walsh, McKay, McGovern, Cottrell, Newnes, Pittonet
Port Adelaide: Gray 3, Georgiades 3, Fantasia 2, Dixon 2, Lycett, Marshall, Amon, Woodcock, Rozee
Carlton: Walsh, Cripps, Saad, Docherty, Casboult
Port Adelaide: Byrne-Jones, Wines, Marshall, Georgiades, Amon, Gray, Aliir
Port Adelaide: Houston (shoulder)
Carlton: Dow (unused)
Port Adelaide: Drew (replaced Houston)
Crowd: 32,893 at the MCG