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Coaches agree Ryder "the best ruckman in the AFL"

Football

West Coast coach Adam Simpson reckons Paddy Ryder is a lock for All-Australian selection this season after the Port Adelaide ruckman played a starring role in yesterday's 32-point win over the Eagles.

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The Power looked to be in trouble after West Coast booted seven unanswered goals to open up a 24-point lead in the second term.

But Ryder put on a rucking masterclass to inspire Port Adelaide to the 18.12 (120) to 13.10 (88) win.

Ryder finished with 17 disposals, 39 hit-outs, six tackles and two goals in a best-on-ground display.

His herculean performance helped Port Adelaide’s midfield dominate when the game was there to be won, with the Power dominating the inside-50m battle 37-14 in the second half.

Ryder missed all of last season to serve a doping ban emanating from Essendon’s 2012 supplements scandal.

It meant 197cm utility Jackson Trengove was forced to shoulder most of Port’s ruck load in 2016.

But Ryder has made up for lost time this year, playing a crucial role in Port Adelaide’s surge into fourth spot.

Simpson conceded his team’s ruck pairing of Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy had their colours lowered in the ruck by Ryder.

“Ryder is the No.1 ruckman in the comp at the moment,” Simpson said.

“He would be an All-Australian straight up walk-in selection in my eyes.”

Power coach Ken Hinkley was equally glowing in his praise of Ryder.

“He’s a pretty special player. I love him,” Hinkley said.

“He’s the best ruckman in the competition and we’re lucky to have him back in the team this year.

“He is dominating games week in, week out.”

Port Adelaide went some way towards shaking off their ‘pretenders’ tag with their fighting win in Perth.

But Hinkley knows there’s still plenty of work to do if his side is to secure a top-four finish.

The Power host North Melbourne on Saturday, before facing off against finals aspirants Melbourne, St Kilda, and Adelaide in the following three weeks.

Young midfield gun Sam Powell-Pepper is expected to face the Kangaroos despite injuring his right shoulder against the Eagles.

Powell-Pepper was clearly distressed while he sought medical attention in the second quarter after laying a heavy tackle.

But he was able to return to the field in the second half without any issues.

Port booted the first four goals of the match, but found themselves trailing by 24 points during the second term as West Coast went on their seven-goal blitz.

But a five-goal haul to Charlie Dixon – combined with Ryder’s ruck masterclass – lifted Port Adelaide to victory. They now find themselves in fourth spot on the ladder with a 9-6 record and a healthy percentage of 132.

Hinkley couldn’t help but have a chuckle when asked whether the win over West Coast would finally banish the pretenders tag.

“Does it?” he asked.

“It seriously doesn’t matter. We’ve won some big games away, and we’ve still got another seven games to set ourselves into a position we want to be.

“There would be 12 teams today thinking that could win (the flag) if they get it right this year.

“That’s never been like that. Any of those 12 teams you play, they are big wins.”

While Port Adelaide are now dreaming of a double chance come finals time, the Eagles face a bitter fight just to make the top eight.

West Coast (8-7) have now lost three of their past four games at home, and face a crunch derby against Fremantle on Sunday.

Mark LeCras bounced back to form with four goals, while Jack Darling produced a big first half to kick four himself.

But they could be without Drew Petrie after the veteran laid a head-high bump on Matt White.

“The positive is our best is good enough,” Simpson said.

“But the thing we need to work on is how to do it for four quarters. And until we do that, we won’t play finals.”

-AAP

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