Essendon coach James Hird has talked down Paddy Ryder’s impact, despite his key role in Port Adelaide securing a crucial AFL win.
Ryder kicked four second-half goals, including three in the last term, as Port won by 13 points on Saturday night.
It was Ryder’s first game against his old club since the controversial move late last year to the Power.
Essendon fans loudly booed Ryder whenever he had the ball.
When Hird was asked how hard it was to watch Ryder’s performance, he noted his former player only had four possessions to three-quarter time.
“Paddy was held pretty well for three quarters,” Hird said.
“Certainly the free kick (that led to) the goal he kicked with (Ariel) Steinberg on him, it was a lucky free kick.
“He kicked one off the ground.”
Power coach Ken Hinkley was rapt with Ryder’s game.
“He’d be really proud and his family would be really proud of him tonight,” Hinkley said.
While there was a lot to like about Essendon – particularly the performances of several young players – Hird bit his lip about the umpiring.
Ruckman Shaun McKernan in particular was on the wrong end of several mystifying free kicks.
“The CEO (Xavier Campbell) is sitting in the room tonight, because I think he’s worried about what I’m going to say about free kicks,” Hird said.
“So I will just be quiet, because he’s looking at me right now.”
Hird admitted he felt Essendon had been “unlucky” with free kicks.
He also strongly defended McKernan, after plenty of talk during the week that Essendon should have played fellow ruckman Jonathan Giles.
“Shaun rebounded well – was he the best player on the ground? No. Did we get beaten for hitouts? Yes,” Hird said.
“But I thought Shaun rebounded and gave us an effort in the contest after a pretty difficult week.”
Essendon are 14th with only five wins but they pushed Port and had their chances to pull off an upset.
Nick O’Brien had easily his best game for Essendon, while fellow youngsters such as Kyle Langford and Jayden Laverde also showed good signs.
“We’re playing a style of football and a group of players that are exciting for the future,” Hird said.