‘Cost them a game’: Port defender Esava Ratugolea’s mistake ‘just dumb football’

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Port Adelaide’s Esava Ratugolea might need a refresher in AFL defence after committing a cardinal sin in his side’s clash with Melbourne on Saturday night.

The Power kicked the first three goals off the game to get off to a flyer at Adelaide Oval but the Demons fought back to head into halftime with both teams tied on 7.3 (45).

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Melbourne’s comeback was helped by a pair of mistakes from Ratugolea led directly to straightforward goals.

Ratugolea misjudged a marking contest near Port’s defensive 50 and instead of spoiling the ball to safety, it bounced off him straight to Melbourne’s Bayley Fritsch.

Eddie Betts said on Fox Footy simply said: “He’s just got to punch that ball forward.”

In the second quarter, Ratugolea was the last line of defence on the goal line when Melbourne’s Kysaiah Pickett kicked a snap from a set shot around 30m out from goal.

Pickett’s kick dropped right on the goal line but instead of spoiling the ball forward or marking it in front of the goals, Ratugolea went for the chest mark and dropped it behind the line — giving up the goal.

The unfortunate mistakes led Fox Footy’s Ben Dixon to say: “Ratugolea is now ‘Ratugol-error’.”

Betts joked he would have liked to have seen Port Adelaide coach’s Ken Hinkley’s reaction to the goal line blunder.

“This one, I wanted to see Ken’s reaction,” he said.

“You’re a tall forward! You’ve got to extend your hands.”

Footy journalist Rohan Conolly wrote on X: “OMG Ratugolea on his own but takes mark behind the goal line, that’s a sizeable sort of blunder!”

CODE Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy said: “Esava should have E-saved that one.”

Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton said: “Come on big fella. Step one step forward and touch it there. Or even mark it, a novel idea.

“We’re even and he’s given up two goals.

“Yes he is a good player. Yes he’s still learning the position, we cut him some slack for that.

“But that’s seriously IQ footy stuff. That is just dumb football.”

Betts added: “That could cost them in a game like this.”

Ratugolea, 25, joined Port Adelaide in the off-season after playing 77 games for Geelong as a swingman between forward, ruck and defence.

He hobbled off the field early in the fourth quarter against Melbourne with a leg complaint.

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