Port Adelaide arrived in Ballarat on Friday afternoon and within minutes of stepping onto Mars Stadium got a taste of the Ballarat conditions.
Drizzling rain hit the ground, which is in outstanding condition ahead of Saturday’s clash with Western Bulldogs, as the players inspected the stadium for the first time. But assistant coach Matthew Nicks said the wet and windy conditions would not alter its game plan.
Nicks said the unique conditions and elements-affected sections of the ground had been discussed given how much of a role, similar to Kardinia Park, the conditions can play at regional facilities.
“We try to not overdo it. Nowadays, you don’t get mud on ovals anymore at AFL level, you play on decks like this where the grass is perfect,” Nicks said.
“We try not to change too much.
“We think if you change too much in your game plan you become a bit one-dimensional.”
Nicks praised the condition of the ground as well as the stadium itself.
“The stadium looks amazing, the surface is outstanding.”
He added that while much of the build-up had centered around the arrival of AFL in Ballarat, this was a huge game in the context of its season.
Nicks said the Bulldogs would have the majority of the crowd support and will draw upon the must-win attitude its ladder position offered and emotion from the recent retirements of Robert Murphy and Matthew Boyd, but he assured Port Adelaide fans they had just as much to play for.
“It’s huge for both. For the Bulldogs, they have to win to keep the finals alive, for us, we want to win to make sure we’re in there too.
“It’s going to massive...they’ve got a bit to play for, our guys are in the exact same boat.”
Having been a part of the AFL’s first international home and away fixture, Port’s venture to Ballarat is another slice of history the club helps create.
“We travelled to China and played the first game ever internationally.
“I think it’s exciting.”