Aliir Aliir and Lachie Jones feel worse for wear during the R20 match between Port Adelaide and Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on July 29, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

PORT Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has defended the club's decision to allow star defender Aliir Aliir to return to action minutes after coming off following a heavy collision with teammate Lachie Jones that brought play to a stop at Adelaide Oval. 

While Jones underwent a head impact assessment and was cleared of a concussion but ruled out with a migraine at half-time, Aliir wasn't put through a concussion test by veteran Power doctor Mark Fisher. 

CROWS v POWER Full match coverage and stats

The All-Australian defender returned in the second quarter and finished the game on Adelaide veteran Taylor Walker, who produced one of the best performances of his career, booting 7.4 from 20 disposals and 15 score involvements to win the Showdown Medal.  

"Mark Fisher is an incredibly experienced doctor and he makes the right decisions that he needs to make. The doctor made the right decisions based around both players. He was really, really clear and certain to me," Hinkley said on Saturday night. 

"I sat and spoke to Aliir and Aliir was clear as he could be. The doctor was very, very comfortable that the situation was well and truly OK and he was able to go back on. He went back on and played the whole game, so I don't think there were too many problems with Aliir other than he got beaten badly. 


"I can understand from your point of view because as soon as he came off I was absolutely surprised myself how clear he looked and how bright he looked. I don't think Aliir had an issue himself. He was the same Aliir that I was talking to before the game as I was talking to when he was on the bench.

"Lachie didn't fail a concussion test, but he didn't come back on and we subbed him. In fact he was subbed out with a migraine. He'd done the concussion test and he passed the concussion test. That's about all I can give you."

Port Adelaide came under scrutiny in June last year when Tom Jonas and Zak Butters clashed heads against Richmond and came from the ground, before returning in the loss to Richmond without undergoing concussion tests. 

After winning 13 games in succession to cement a spot in the top-four, the Power have dropped three games in a row and now have a fight on their hands to hold on to a top-two finish, which would guarantee a home qualifying final.


Port Adelaide remains a game clear of third-placed Brisbane after the Lions were upset by Gold Coast in the QClash earlier on Saturday, but could be only a game clear of Melbourne if the Demons beat Richmond at the MCG on Sunday. 

"Fortunately, the ladder looks the same. Yes, we've had a patch where we haven't been near what we were for 13 wins, but we played seven days ago a really good, really strong game of footy. But tonight, we just didn't handle it to give ourselves a chance. There weren't many players tonight that played for Port Adelaide that would be pleased with their performance," Hinkley said.

"It was clear we were off and we were a long way off. They were right on. They played a powerful brand tonight and we weren't up to matching it. That was a really disappointing performance. 

"No, I can't understand exactly why it would happen. It does happen and you've got to get over it and do your best to rectify it on review and get your next opportunity and make sure it is way better than that. A week ago was much better than tonight, but the two Showdowns were disappointing. The Crows were better, you can't sugar coat it."


On a night where a loss could have ended Adelaide's season, Crows coach Matthew Nicks expressed his pride in the immediate aftermath of a 47-point win where his side led from start to finish to make it two Showdown wins from two in 2023, levelling the overall win-loss ledger at 27 wins apiece.

"I'm so proud that our guys rose to the occasion again. It was a huge turnout. We wanted to challenge the best, we've been wanting to do that all year, and we've been able to do that consistently," Nicks said.

"Really proud of these guys and really proud of our supporters that came out because the atmosphere was electric. It was a fantastic effort across the board. We were just rock solid. There wasn't one player that didn't contribute today. 

"Matty Crouch was huge inside, he brought a harder, stronger body and we needed that on the night. He wasn't the only one; Lairdy [Rory Laird] coming back in; I thought Daws [Jordan Dawson] was huge in that area; that area was critical for us getting it done tonight. We challenged the group and they stood up big time tonight."


Nicks has been reluctant to play Crouch in the same side as Laird this season, but was rewarded for backing in the 2017 All-Australian alongside the reigning best and fairest winner, who returned from a shoulder injury. 

Crouch finished second in the Showdown Medal after amassing 32 disposals, 15 contested possessions, 12 clearances, 10 score involvements and seven inside 50s in just his third appearance of the season.

"It is unquestionable what he's done this year in challenging circumstances, he is an experienced player that wants to play and he's had guys playing ahead of him at times. For Matty, it's hard, but he has done outstandingly well," Nicks said.

"He has worked with younger guys at SANFL level, played at the level every week and said I'm ready to play. when the opportunity presented itself, he has come and played really well two weeks in a row."


Adelaide lost key defender Nick Murray to a knee reconstruction during the week and could be without Jordon Butts for the rest of the season with a suspected fractured foot, after he was subbed out of the game in the second quarter. 

Walker closed the gap to six goals between himself and Carlton star Charlie Curnow in the Coleman Medal race, moving within three goals of 600 career goals and three away from eclipsing his season record of 63 he booted back in 2012.

Sitting next to Nicks in the press conference on Saturday night, Walker conceded his mates had been reminding him about his Coleman Medal chances, but a return to finals is of greater importance to the champion forward who signed a new deal for 2024 earlier this week.

"They are relentless my mates," Walker said. "Even if I don't look at it, they'd tell me. It would be nice; I'd be lying if I didn't think it would be nice, but for me I just want to play finals again. It has been a long time since this footy club has played finals. It's what we play footy for. If we can do that I would be more content doing that."

Adelaide hosts Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval next Saturday before away trips to face Brisbane and West Coast around a home game against Sydney.