Christian Petracca celebrates a goal against St Kilda in R17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE is nothing good about Clayton Oliver missing a massive chunk of the 2023 season.

But there may be a positive outcome for his equally famous teammate Christian Petracca on Brownlow Medal night.

In the past three years, Oliver and Petracca have compiled seasons worthy of success in the game's highest individual honour, but have adversely impacted each other because of their sustained and combined brilliance.

That Oliver has missed the past six matches, and will almost certainly miss at least three more, has given Petracca a chance to 'hog' the votes assigned to Demons matches. His name would likely have been written beside the three or two votes that umpires would have formally submitted on Saturday night, after booting four goals in the Demons' defeat of St Kilda at Marvel Stadium. Typically, and as always humbly, Petracca on Sunday stressed full-back Steven May was the best player afield against the Saints.

The Oliver-Petracca combo has polled an extraordinary combined 137 Brownlow votes in the past three seasons - 70 to Oliver, 67 to Petracca. Working backwards from 2022 to 2020, Oliver has finished fourth, third and ninth, and Petracca sixth, ninth and third.

Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver after Melbourne's win over North Melbourne in round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The two were again in supreme form before Oliver pinged a hamstring late in round 10 against Port Adelaide. Even in that game, a loss, he compiled 30 disposals, and has only twice in the season finished with less than 30. He will again, no doubt, in that period have 'stolen' Brownlow votes off Petracca, who has played all matches and been in typically high-end form.

Of course, Petracca would not be bothering with any thoughts of a Brownlow Medal. His only focus would be on embracing his new requirements in the back half of 2023 as a semi-permanent forward and ensuring the Demons stay in the finals double-chance slot.

WHO WILL WIN CHARLIE? Check out our Brownlow Predictor

And Collingwood's Nick Daicos may have done enough already to be nearly unbeatable on Brownlow night, anyway.

But, in Oliver's absence, Petracca is at least nicely placed to have his name added to a very special list, which currently boasts just seven names. Judd, Bartel, Williams, Martin, Black, Hird, Buckley - players to win both Norm Smith and Brownlow Medals.

Power depth tested again as Pies loom

ONLY 13 more sleeps, and I will be crossing the days off like a five-year-old in mid-December.

Well, maybe not, but I do have genuine excitement about what is going to happen at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night, July 22, when Port Adelaide hosts Collingwood in round 19.

The breakaway ladder leaders after round 17 - Collingwood at 14 wins, two losses, percentage of 137.1, and Port Adelaide at 14, two and 119.9 – have lit up the 2023 season with stunning brands of football.

Nick Daicos celebrates a goal during Collingwood's clash against the Western Bulldogs in round 17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Both had to fight hard in the just completed round 17, the Pies out-grinding the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, and Port overcoming a lethargic first half against Gold Coast on Saturday night.

Overcoming unavailability of key players as well as 'holes' in key structural parts of the game has been a theme for these two sides, too.

On paper, Port Adelaide has glaring problems in the ruck and backline. Scott Lycett struggled early in the ruck and has been injured since round 14. Sam Hayes, Dante Visentini, Brynn Teakle and Jeremy Finlayson have all covered in this position, all assisting in various ways to the team's 13 consecutive wins.


Captain Tom Jonas has been left out of the team since round 10, leaving Trent McKenzie and Aliir Aliir with the main big-man responsibilities down back. The two have been very effective, but with McKenzie rolling an ankle on the weekend, there is every chance he will need to be replaced by Jonas for Saturday's game against a resurgent Carlton.

The really good teams simply find a way to cover absent mainstays. Collingwood has been doing it all year. When Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox were injured early in the season, Ash Johnson and Dan McStay were required to cover.

Port Adelaide's Trent McKenzie after injuring his ankle against Gold Coast in R17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Crucial defender Jeremy Howe horrifically broke his arm in round one, and wasn't back until round 15. In between, Billy Frampton, Oleg Markov (who wasn't even officially listed as a Magpie until February this year), Trey Ruscoe and Nathan Kreuger filled the Howe hole. The Pies barely missed a beat.

There may have been private moments inside both Collingwood and Port Adelaide this year which suggested concern at loss of key personnel. But publicly, there has been nothing but positive outlooks.

Next Saturday, the Pies have got Fremantle (at the MCG), and the Power the Blues (at Marvel Stadium). Both will be heavily favoured to stay on the winners' list. And then they get to prepare for the most anticipated match of the season.