Connor Rozee, Jason Horne-Francis and Zak Butters were exceptional as Port Adelaide romped to a 69-point win over Essendon at Adelaide Oval, after Brisbane finally got their first win with a 70-point triumph over North Melbourne.

Get the full match reports below:

Look back at how the action unfolded in our live blog.

Key events

Final scores

That’s it from the blog for tonight!

Two Friday Gather Round games, two absolute floggings.

Brisbane cruised past North Melbourne as many expected they might, but that Port Adelaide win over Essendon will be the talk of the town for some time.

That’s where I’ll leave it for tonight, but I’ll be back tomorrow arvo as Gather Round heads to Mt Barker, with West Coast and Sydney first up on Saturday. We’ve got another full slate tomorrow, so we hope you’ll join us again then.

Match report: Port Adelaide 17.9 (111) def Essendon 6.6 (42)

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Essendon coach Brad Scott admits his midfield was given a “wake-up call” by Port Adelaide’s high-powered engine room as he counts the cost of a worsening injury list.

Archie Perkins became the latest Bomber to go down with a soft-tissue injury when he hurt a hamstring during the 69-point shellacking from the Power at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

The blow came as Essendon were taught a lesson by Port’s star pair Connor Rozee and Jason Horne-Francis, who spearheaded a crushing 19-6 tally in centre-bounce clearances.

The Power’s dominance in that crucial area came despite the Bombers winning hit-outs (34-23) and set the tone in a one-sided affair.

“In the end it’s a good wake-up call for our guys,” Scott said after his side’s 17.9 (111) to 6.6 (42) defeat.

“We’re only four games into the season but it’s been a strength for us.

“Sometimes, it’s just a bit of a perfect storm. Whatever we changed made it worse.

“Rozee and Horne-Francis were just totally dominant in that part of the game and around the ground.”

Scott said the key now is how Essendon (2-2) respond ahead of a round five clash with the Western Bulldogs at Docklands.

“Part of the message is Port right now are where we want to be and they gave us a good lesson tonight,” Scott said.

“You can be clearly very frustrated and disappointed but you’ve got to learn your lesson and progress from there.

“There’s parts of our games that have been a strength in our first three games and it clearly wasn’t tonight.”

Perkins appears set to miss multiple weeks, joining former best-and-fairest winner Jordan Ridley (quad), Matt Guelfi (calf) and Zach Reid (hamstring) on the list of players sidelined by soft-tissue injuries.

Scott confirmed Ridley has had another setback and won’t be available next week as planned, while Guelfi is not recovering as quickly as expected.

Star midfielder Darcy Parish also missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury and Scott admits the trend is cause for concern.

“We’ll just have to go and be really diligent in assessing what’s happening there,” he said.

“We run a really thorough medical program but at the moment we’re being hurt by some soft-tissue injuries.

“In a full-contact sport there are some unavoidable injuries but you’d like to think the soft-tissue ones are the ones you can do something about.

“We’ll need to go to work on that.”


Key Event

Port Adelaide’s magnificent midfield trio

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I know it’s all I’ve talked about all night, but I am still awestruck by what we just saw from Connor Rozee, Jason Horne-Francis and Zak Butters. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Connor Rozee – 36 disposals, three goals, five clearances, 654 metres gained, eight score involvements
  • Jason Horne-Francis – 31 disposals, 10 clearances, 624 metres gained, seven score involvements
  • Zak Butters – 26 disposals, seven tackles, five clearances, three goal assists, seven score involvements

They are so electric, and complement each other so well. They’re different to but in the same bracket as Petracca-Oliver-Viney, slightly closer in style to Heeney-Warner-Gulden and Green-Coniglio-Kelly. And if you think I’m going over the top, take Cameron Ling’s word for it over mine:

A defensive edge was added tonight, which Horne-Francis’s return helped, but they are just so dangerous going forward. Who knows what heights they could propel Port Adelaide too.

Key Event

FT: A brilliant Port Adelaide demolish Essendon by 69 points

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I reckon we just got a look at Port Adelaide at their best, and it was pretty damn impressive.

After quarter-time, this game was a total bloodbath. The centre clearance work by the Power was astounding, as good as you could see. They put that dominance on the scoreboard and totally shut down Essendon’s attempt to counter-attack.

This is a real setback for the Bombers, and after their first three weeks the manner with which they meekly collapsed is a bit of a surprise. They won’t be the last team to be torn to shreds by this Port midfield, but that was a total walkover. Brad Scott will be deflated, as there was no Essendon edge in sight tonight.

Port Adelaide fans can enjoy the rest of Gather Round with a giant smile on their faces.

It’s another for Mitch Georgiades! Port by 69 points

Do you reckon he’s enjoying his return to AFL footy? You can’t wipe the smile off Mitch Georgiades’s face.

This time it was Horne-Francis who stepped an opponent and picked out his teammate with a bullet inside 50. Just in case Butters and Rozee were hogging all the limelight.

Archie Perkins has injured his hamstring

After such a bright first quarter, this night has totally unraveled for Essendon and that injury news rubs salt into the wounds.

Perkins had been excellent so far this season, but he looks a rather unhappy young man with ice on his hamstring right now.

Darcy Byrne-Jones has a third!

But I’m going to do it again.

Zak Butters.

He just charged through a pack, picked it up with one touch, sidestepped into space, drew the defender and dished off the hands to Byrne-Jones in the goalsquare.

They have just been scintilating out there tonight.

Darcy Byrne-Jones kicks his second, and it’s still one-way traffic

Without labouring the point, the kick from Zak Butters through forward-50 traffic to find Byrne-Jones was incredible.

And I guess Darcy’s set shot was good too. This margin could get really ugly if the Bombers aren’t careful.

Jed McEntee gets on the scoreboard as Port’s lead grows

Willie Rioli was again streaming inside 50, and would have been well within his rights to go for his fourth goal. Instead he was always looking inboard, and eventually lasered a squaring pass to McEntee’s chest.

The lead is out to 50 points.

Get your Gather Round footy record!

(ABC News: Daniel Litjens)

Tierney has been selling AFL Record magazines outside the matches for 18 months, and normally gets one shift a week at the Adelaide Oval.

“I’m working a lot this weekend. It’s good, rather than just the one three-hour shift,” she said.

“I’m working all four days, so I’ve got five shifts…all five games at Adelaide Oval.”

Tierney said she loves selling Records because it allows her to interact with fans streaming into the ground.

“It’s just easy, you get to interact with people…interacting with the customers, and seeing how they all get so excited about the games,” she said.

Reporting by Daniel Litjens

Key Event

3QT: It’s party time for Port, who lead the Bombers by 44 points

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Adelaide Oval is abuzz now, reveling in a Port Adelaide display that will put the rest of the league on notice.

And the stars of the show have been those midfielders. The overall clearance numbers favour Port Adelaide, though not by an overwhelming amount. But when the ball gets back to the middle, Port are owning the centre clearances 14-6 and have scored from heaps of those.

Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Jason Horne-Francis in full flight might be unstoppable. The goals have come from Jeremy Finlayson and Willie Rioli, and the defence has held up even though the Essendon threat has petered out. Basically, it’s all good news for Port.

Oh, except for an injury to Travis Boak. He was subbed out earlier. Not sure the extent or specifics of that yet.

Wonderful finish from the pocket by Harrison Jones

He’s been a rare bright spot for Essendon tonight. He’s marked the ball well, and showed his goalkicking ability there with a stellar drop punt from tight to the boundary.

It’s been a disappointing three quarters for Essendon but there is still time to find positives from the evening.

Jeremy Finlayson hits right back

This Port Adelaide midfield is too good. It’s too quick, too powerful out of the middle. This time it wasn’t Rozee, but Horne-Francis and Butters absolutely exploding out of the guts.

Ball went in long, Finlayson grabbed the crumbs and snapped from the top of the square. This is an ominous performance from Port.

Jade Gresham ends Essendon’s goal drought

The new recruit has three of Essendon’s five goals, and there’s barely a celebration to go with that one.

Dan Houston got a rotten bounce over his head, meaning the ball fell into Gresham’s hands inside 50. He was poised with his sidestep and finished nicely off one step.

Willie Rioli has a third! Port Adelaide running away with it

He’s the best crumber in the AFL. It’s a tough field, but nobody finds himself in the right position and reads the play out of contests quite as well as Willie Rioli.

Plus he can snap goals like that, around the corner from the pocket without ever looking at the goals. He’s playing a blinder on what is turning out to be a big night for Essendon.

Honestly, Connor Rozee is playing an outrageous game

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It might serve Essendon to pay this bloke some attention. He is absolutely killing the Bombers tonight, racking up the touches but running and carrying and really hurting Essendon with every disposal.

Plus three goals and a bunch of clearances and about 550 metres gained. There have been some good games by great players so far in 2024, but I’m not sure I’ve seen one as good as this.

Ivan Soldo kicks another for Port Adelaide! It’s a big lead now!

The Bombers absolutely had to kick the first of this third quarter, but the same problems that plagued them in the second are still evident after half-time.

They’ve been well beaten at ground level inside Port’s forward 50, and even the big ruckman is getting hands out the back to snap goals.

The lead is 42 points, and it ain’t looking good for the Bombers now.

Good to have JHF back

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The third quarter is underway, and already Jason Horne-Francis is making his presence felt. He’s been fantastic so far on return from injury, and I really do think Port missed him last week against Melbourne.

He’s the perfect foil for Butters and Rozee. What a trio they will be for many years to come.

David Koch on Josh Carr’s potential as next Port coach

The president says a lot to ABC Grandstand here without saying much at all: